P.E.I. pension reforms pass as legislature closes

Teresa Wright
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Lt.-Gov. Frank Lewis, seated closes the fall sitting of the Prince Edward Island legislature Friday, Dec.6, as pages, clerk Charles MacKay and Speaker Carolyn Bertram look on.

The Ghiz government’s controversial pension reforms passed Friday in the P.E.I. legislature as the fall session came to a close.

The pension legislation was the most substantial and contentious bill debated in the House during the 16-day session.

Premier Robert Ghiz said he knows the changes were controversial among some unions in the province.

“We did our best in negotiating for 16 months to try and get everyone to agree, unfortunately that didn’t happen, but we’re very confident that this is the best way to go,” Ghiz said.

“At the end of the day it’s not something that we want to do, it’s something that we have to do.”

The Union of Public Sector Employees (UPSE) was leading the charge against the changes, alongside the Canadian Union of Employees (CUPE). They felt the reforms went too far and wanted government to adopt an alternate plan – one that would have included joint trusteeship of the pension fund.

But the P.E.I. International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) says it was never interested in joint ownership of the fund.

The IUOE issued a news release Friday saying government’s changes are more desirable than the alternate proposal put forward by UPSE and CUPE.

“Their counter proposal is built around the concept of ‘joint governance’.  Joint governance may look like a simple and fair solution to the problem but on closer scrutiny, it has many drawbacks. One is that it exposes our members to significant cost increases,” said Lisa Ferguson, president of IUOE Local 942.

“I realize this has been a difficult exercise for all of us but our union believes that the steps being taken today by government will prove to be in the best interests of our members and their families for many years to come.”

Opposition Leader Steven Myers says he still believes the pension reforms anti-democratic.

“We still believe we did everything we could to stand for democracy and stand against the government’s plan to take democracy away.”

On Thursday evening, Myers tried to amend the pension legislation to exclude current retirees and those close to retirement.

He also tried to remove a clause in the act that gives government immunity over any future grievances or legal action over the pension changes.

Government defeated both amendments.

Aside from the pension bills, most other legislation was mainly minor bills of a housekeeping nature.

Ghiz said he felt it was one of the best sessions for debates on important issues. Addictions, lobster prices, treatment of autistic children in schools and educational outcomes are real issues of concern and worthy of debate, he said.

“It was a very constructive questioning in terms of where the government’s at and where we’re going.”

“Around addictions, just the debate on the floor, I think, was very important. It’s a very passionate issue… we made an investment this fall of $1.2 million and it’s something that we definitely want to deal with.”

Myers reiterated his disappointment that government will not commit to a youth addictions facility in P.E.I., but said they will continue to push the health minister on addictions.

“He now knows that he needs to start taking some action on this file, and simply talking about it isn’t going to be quite enough.”

During this session, Ghiz had a more conciliatory tone with the Opposition, often acknowledging criticism on any given issue as the Opposition simply doing its job.

He said this wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, but rather the issues raised were of importance to many Islanders.

“I said to our caucus every day that I felt it was a very responsible-type session, the questions that were coming forward, while they were critical of government, I thought that they were going to lead to a better province.”

The Opposition Tories had fewer members this session, after losing Hal Perry to the Liberals and kicking former party leader Olive Crane out of caucus.

But Myers said he felt they remained pointed with their questions and were able to effectively get their issues across.

“Everybody came with a plan on how they were going to handle their portfolios… I think they did a really good job of doing that and taking government to task for some of their shortcomings.”

After her first session as an Independent MLA, Crane said she felt she did reasonably well. She didn’t have much airtime in the house, but tabled over 100 written questions.

“These questions primarily focused on issues that impact Islanders’ everyday lives,” Crane said.

The fall session lasted less than a month and saw a total of the 26 pieces of legislation passed.

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

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  • Round and round and round we go . . .
    December 07, 2013 - 17:40

    The idea of contingent indexing is very interesting; it's certainly revealing. For example, if I can't pay my taxes because my pension doesn't cover my expenses can I refuse to pay them - sort of make it contingent upon the sufficiency of my pension?

  • don
    December 07, 2013 - 14:05

    the only reason why it passed was do to a few dumb brain dead liberal voters giving them full BULLY power. if they get back in again and this island goes bankrupt well liberal voters you had better plan on bailing us out. and it will happen and we all know wes will not have a balanced sat of books.

  • Fed up
    December 07, 2013 - 08:55

    As we say....no democracy left on PEI as long as Ghiz and puppets are remaining. If they ca take OUR paid in money...AND give themselves a raise?!?! I hope those who elected them are proud!

  • I Got A Idea
    December 07, 2013 - 08:43

    Let's save some money for Wes's bottom line , close down province house , for the amount of use it get's and the foolishness that goes on when sitting . We are just throwing money to the air . 16 day's work , hell a conference room would do just as well at a lot less money . This is just another useless waste of our money that PE Islanders can't afford . Goverment today is not what it is suppose to be any more . This property is just a waste now .

  • Has to be a way
    December 07, 2013 - 08:27

    Has to be a way for ISLANDERS to DEMAND an election in 2014. Has to be a way for ISLANDERS to DEMAND Ghiz govt step down.

    • huh
      December 07, 2013 - 11:33

      Yet, as per recent polling, the Liberal government would be re-elected if an election were held today.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    December 06, 2013 - 15:53

    I have an idea, let's rename the province "LITTLE DETROIT" as they JUST TOOK ABOUT 80% of their employees pensions through a similar bill. Contracts mean nothing to this government. Laws mean nothing to this government as they just arbitrarily DICTATE whatever they wish. Everyone should vote for only INDEPENDENTS as all parties are corrupted. This is the attitude of party politickers "My gang is bigger than yours so we can do whatever we want." Well that would be ok if the next bunch we vote into office actually REPEAL THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENTS LAWS. Otherwise, nothing changes and the agenda of the power brokers keeps progressing. So party politics doesn't work if all of the gangs are the same. They continue to turn the screws down on the economy tighter and tighter. But they turn the screws just enough to ALWAYS AFFECT THE POOREST OF THE POOR, so as not to upset the majority. Surely you all must realize that eventually you all will be in the bottom class. The people in the middle do not mind this AUSTERITY BUT THE POOREST AMONG US ARE SUFFERING.

  • Anger
    December 06, 2013 - 15:34

    "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." We will remember the Liberal legacy.

  • Round and round and round we go . . .
    December 06, 2013 - 15:20

    Google: robert ghiz election promises. A few years ago the CBC did a good synopsis on how the government performed, and what kind of job the opposition did in holding the Liberals to the promises they made. Read it and weep.

  • DEAR SANTA
    December 06, 2013 - 13:19

    Could you bring PEI an honest government that cares for other things besides their own bank accounts. We really could use help with the outrageous taxes that we pay here, the inadequate education system, and last but not least please remove these arrogant a@@es that feel they are above the law and have no decency whatsoever. Any help at all would be more then we get now.

    • don
      December 07, 2013 - 09:35

      well we can have an honest government if olive crane would start her own party. some of you may not agree but she was booted out as leader and then cowardly booted out as a pc member. and why because she was honest and stood up for what she believed in. now to me that is an honest politician. now if you want an honest government then stand behind olive and tell her to start her own party. but i know if she starts her own party and wins she has a long way to rebuilt this island from what ghiz and wes is DESTROYING.