© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Passerby Dave Cudmore walks past Province House in Charlottetown Wednesday, Dec. 4, as a storm of a different sort raged inside: question period.
A winter storm may have shut down most of Prince Edward Island, but the provincial legislature was open as usual Wednesday in Charlottetown.
During question period, Opposition Leader Steven Myers called on government to put off its pension changes until the spring.
He alluded to comments made by Finance Minister Wes Sheridan, who has said some details of the pension reforms, including governance, will continue to be negotiated – after the legislation is passed.
“Will you allow democracy to work and hold this bill over to the spring when all the changes could be shown together?” Myer asked.
Premier Robert Ghiz refused, saying they have already spent 16 months negotiating with unions on the pension changes.
“No, this is legislation that is necessary to put forth right now.”
Sheridan also said government must make these changes during this legislative session. Otherwise, the actuarial review done every three years of the province’s pension funds will show a $450 million liability on the province’s books related to those funds.
Myers then pointed to the fact Sheridan is now saying he is willing to look at joint trusteeship of the pension funds with the unions, while he has also said this would not go forward anytime soon.
“Will he admit today that his promises are just a bait and switch for absolute power?” Myer said.
Sheridan said he has always told unions governance of the fund would change with his government’s reforms.
“Whenever there’s a greater sharing of risk, which is taking place inside our plan, there needs to be a change in governance. That’s what is taking place in January, we promised the unions that would take place, we said it at the outset.
“It’s very important that we’re working hand in hand here to make a sustainable pension plan for Islanders."