If Islanders are feeling unsettled about the ballooning shortfall in provincial government pension funds, it would be no surprise. The shortfall is significant, and it's taxpayers' dollars that will have to be allocated over the next decade to address the problem.
Actuarial reports are performed on the province's unfunded liabilities every three years, and according to reports completed in June by the national independent consulting firm, Morneau and Shepell, the total unfunded liability for the civil servants' and teachers' pension funds stood at $436 million at April 1, 2011. Government says it has a plan - Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says that by committing to a $230-million repayment schedule over the next 10 years, government should be able to meet its legislated responsibility to keep the funds financed to 90 per cent of their total value. And he's confident the remaining $206 million shortfall will be recouped through market gains over the next three years.
Islanders can only hope the minister's optimism isn't misplaced. The markets have been anything but robust or reliable in recent years.
P.E.I.'s pension funds aren't the only ones that have taken a huge hit from the stock market's volatility. Other public sector and private pension funds have also suffered losses, and it's fair to say economists differ in their forecasts as to when the markets will rebound. In light of this, Islanders can be forgiven for any skepticism they may have and for wondering if the minister is being realistic in hoping that a resurging market will adequately address the shortfall in public service pension funds. Sheridan himself hints that further action may be needed if the market doesn't respond well and provide the gains he's hoping for. Government has struck a working group of government and union representatives to look at ways of mitigating future shortfalls. While that seem s sensible, it no doubt is unsettling for public sector workers who must wonder how their salaries or pension plan might be affected. It's imperative that government address the financial and human concerns surrounding public sector pensions.
An impressive run
Once again, crew members of HMCS Charlottetown have come through for the Children's Wish Foundation. Their run across the Island last week managed to raise $43,123 for the P.E.I. chapter of the foundation. That's impressive.
This is the 10th year the crew of HMCS Charlottetown has done the run and so far, more than $250,000 has been raised for the Island chapter of the Children's Wish Foundation. This must be gratifying for the foundation and the children whose wishes they strive to fulfil, but clearly crew members themselves also benefit. According to Lt. Jessica MacDonald, one of the co-ordinators of the run, many of the crew described the run as "the most rewarding thing they have ever been a part of."
The bonus here, too, is maintaining the bond between crew members and their vessel's namesake community. All frigates in the Royal Canadian Navy are named after a Canadian city and the crews like to keep in touch with the communities after which their ships are named. The Run 4 Wishes has proven year after year to be an effective way of doing this.