Teachers’ Pension Plan Update: Sustainability in These Times

Here are some highlights of the recently released 2019 Annual Report of the Teachers’ Pension Plan:

Some comments are included in italics:

  • Net assets: $31.5 billion
    • This is an increase from $28.4 billion at the end of 2018.
  • Annual rate of investment return: 13%
    • Five-year annualized return: 8.4%
    • Ten-year annualized return: 9.1%
  • There will be an actuarial report at the end of 2020. The fund needs a five-year annualized return of at least 6% to pay the pension promise. The returns for 2020 are likely to be lower than 6% because of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. However, it appears unlikely that the 2020 returns will drag down the 5-year annualized return below the required 6%.
  • The plan was 102.5% funded at the last valuation which means that there is money in reserve to carry the plan through some difficult times. These factors indicate that our pension is secure and sustainable.
  • Total plan membership: 100,400
  • This includes active, deferred and retired members.
  • Growth of active members in the past year: 1.4%
  • Growth of retired members in the past year: 1.8%.  This is a reversal from last year where there was a higher increase in the number of actives than the number of retirees.
  • Total pensions in pay: 39,146
  • Pension benefits paid in 2019: $1.2 billion. This money returns to the BC economy where it supports businesses and services in our communities where we also pay taxes.

Cost of Living Increase January 2021

Each year our pensions receive a cost-of-living increase based on the Canada-wide Consumer Price Index that compares September over the previous September. This year the increase was .5% and following the approval of the Pension Board of Trustees, our pension payments will increase by 0.5% beginning in January 2021.

Once awarded, the cost-of-living increases become part of our guaranteed pension.

Cost-of-living increases are not guaranteed. They are paid out of a separate account – the Inflation Adjustment Account – which currently is also in a sustainable, surplus position.

Gerry Tiede
Chair, Pensions and Benefits Committee

Pension Report Highlights November 2020

10-year Annualized Return Remains Well Above Target

The 2019 Annual Report on the Teachers’ Pension Plan showed a return on investments of 13% during that year.  While we can expect a much lower return during 2020 because of the financial strain caused by the pandemic, the 10-year annualized return was 9.1%.  That means our pensions are secure as there is a comfortable cushion in investment returns; the plan needs to earn 6% per year, on average, to pay the pension promise.

During 2019 $1.2 billion was paid to the 39,146 pensioners in our plan.  That money returned to support the BC and Canadian economy as we purchased goods and services and paid taxes here at home.

The Consumer Price Index for Canada was 0.5% for September 2020 over September 2019.  This means that we may expect to receive an increase in our January pension payment of .5% although that has not been formally approved by the Trustees yet.

Submitted by Gerry Tiede, Chair, Pensions and Benefits Committee

BC Pensions Outperform Benchmarks

The British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), which is the investment agent for several pension plans including the Teachers’ Pension Plan, had an annual combined pension return, net of costs, of 6.1 per cent for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2019. This return surpassed a combined market benchmark of 4.5 per cent and generated $2 billion in added value for BCI’s pension plan clients. The excess return was largely driven by the outperformance of its private assets, finishing the fiscal year with significant returns from both income generation and capital appreciation. Its managed net assets increased to $153.4 billion from the previous year, reflecting investment gains of $9 billion, partially offset by $1.2 billion of client distributions.

“Our results reflect solid performance from all asset classes despite the uncertainty and volatility in the markets,” says Gordon J. Fyfe, CEO/CIO of BCI. “These contributions signal the success of our strategic focus since 2015 of adopting an active, in-house approach that emphasizes private markets.

Note: this data refers to all pension plan returns and is not specific to the Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Source: Pension and Benefits Monitor News

Target Versus Defined Benefit Plans

Target Benefit Plans and Defined Benefit Plans: What is the Difference?

Dale Lauber answers a BCRTA member’s question about the real import of Bill C-27, which proposes to create a means where employers can convert Defined Benefit Pension Plans to Target Benefit Pension Plans. Get more information at https://bcrta.ca/target


I still do not know what a targeted benefit plan is. I think it has something to do with retirement funds that are not working well? We are always being assured the BCTF pension fund is doing well, so do not know if this would affect retired teachers in BC, nor can I find anything on the BCTF website. I would appreciate a very simple, understandable statement about what a TBP is and how it could affect BCTF retirees.

Thank you,

Retired BC teacher


Defined Benefit pension plans, like our Teachers’ Pension Plan, define (calculate) your pension according to salary, years of service, and an accrual rate. This pension promise can be calculated at anytime during your years of contributing to the pension plan. That pension promise is guaranteed. When you retire the calculation is finalized and that pension is guaranteed. The lifetime pension can not be reduced at any time in the future. This is a very important part of our pension plan.

Target Benefit plans are a lot less secure. The plan has a target that it attempts to pay to you on retirement. However, if the pension plan has some years of poor investment returns the pensions promised to workers can be reduced and even pension being paid to retirees can be reduced then or at any time in the future. Quite shocking to retirees when that happens.

Bill C-27 applies to all Federally regulated pension plans – federal government workers, RCMP, soldiers, airlines, railways, ports and banks. This bill would allow Defined Benefit pension plans (which have guaranteed pension) to be converted to Target Benefit pension plans (which have benefits that may be reduced).

The province of Manitoba has already followed the outline of Bill C-27 and proposed a similar process of eliminating Defined Benefit plans and replacing them with Target Benefit plans for workers in that province. We do not want this ‘disease’ to spread to BC and our Teachers’ Pension Plan. Because Bill C-27 has not yet been passed in the House of Commons we want Members of Parliament to know that we are opposed to this surrendering of Defined Benefit plan rights to Target Benefit plans (the word ‘surrender’ is used 14 times in C-27).

Bill C-27 does not directly affect us but it could, if passed, start a trend of Target Benefit plans replacing Defined Benefit plans across Canada and in our province.

Dale Lauber is a member of the BCRTA Pensions and Benefits Committee. He as been a member of the BC Teachers’ Pension Plan Board of Trustees since 2001.

The TPP Cost of Living Increase is 1.6%

While the Board of Trustees hasn’t approved any cost of living increase to our Teachers’ Pension yet, the Canadian Consumer Price Index showed an increase of 1.6%, year over year, for the month of September. Since we know that the Inflation Adjustment Account has a healthy balance we can predict that our pensions will be increased by 1.6% beginning at the end of January. And once cost of living increases have been made they become part of our guaranteed pension.

How is it possible that our pension is in a healthy, sustainable position when the government and news reports that Defined Benefit Plans, like our, are unsustainable? Active teachers and their School boards contribute sufficient funds during the active member’s career. When that money is invested prudently over the life time of each member it becomes enough to pay the lifetime pension. You might be surprised to know that about 80% of the pension money you receive comes from investment income. About 10% for your pension is your original contribution coming back, about 10% is your employer’s contribution coming back, but the huge majority of your pension is investment returns. Our pensions are not subsidized by the taxpayers.

Interestingly, another Defined Benefit Pension Plan – The Canadian Pension Plan – has recently been shown to be sustainable for the next 75 years.

Sustainability of the CPP has been examined in this report: http://www.cppib.com/documents/1457/CPPIB_Sustainability_Backgrounder_Nov2016EN.pdf

So why is Bill C-27 still on the agenda of the federal government? Read https://bcrta.ca/target/

Target Phone Call

Sample Script for a Phone Call to Your MP

  1. Hello, my name is _____________________________. I am a constituent in your riding. I’m very concerned about Bill C-27. I understand that it had first reading in October 2016, and it may be brought before the House for second reading at any time.
  2. I’m very opposed to Bill C-27 because it clearly threatens the security of defined benefit pension plans, which is the kind of plan I have as a retired teacher of BC.
  3. Here is why I am worried about Bill C-27:
    1. The language of the Bill emphasizes how secure defined benefit pension plans can shift to become target benefit pension plans which are riskier for employees and retirees. If this Bill is passed, employees and retirees will assume all the risk for any funding shortfall. The employer will be off the hook. The expected pension will be a target, NOT a guaranteed promise.
    2. If the Bill becomes law, employers will be able to persuade or put pressure on employees and retirees individually to shift from secure defined benefit pension plans to insecure target benefit plans. How can a lay person or ordinary person, unfamiliar with the complexities of pension plans fully understand the implications of switching to a target benefit plan? What kinds of “carrots and sticks” can be used by employers to get people to surrender their pension security? I think employers will be eager to rid themselves of their pension obligations to employees and retirees.
    3. The Bill says that retirees with defined benefit pension plans can choose to stay with those plans. But if all the active participants of the defined benefit pension plan surrender to a target pension plan, will the defined benefit pension plan remain able to pay the pension promise. Will the fund be adequate?
    4. Defined benefit pension plans are the strongest, most secure retirement system. Why is the government asking citizens to surrender the benefits they now have with their defined benefit pension plans? Bill C-27 uses the word “surrender” more than a dozen times. Clearly, something will be lost by employees and retirees. This is very frightening to us because we have planned our lives around the pension plans we have paid into and pensions that have been promised.
  4. Please oppose Bill C-27. As it stands it threatens the security of ordinary middle-class citizens who have paid into a defined benefit pension plan all their lives. They have faith in the promise made to them by their employers. Do not allow the pensions they depend upon to be clawed back.


Return to the Target Issue home page

Target Pension Plans

Bill C-27 has been in the news lately as Canadians have come to understand the real threats to the sustainability of their pension plans. Bill C-27 will allow plan sponsors to reduce future pensions, even for pensioners already retired.

Please contact your local MP right now to express your opposition to this Bill. BCRTA has provided the following documents to assist you:

When you do make contact with your MP, please report your interaction to Laurie in the BCRTA office: laurie@bcrta.ca

Make others aware of this issue – you can use the links below to share on Facebook, Google+ or by email.

Target Pension Plans – MPs

Contact Your MP

To assist you in working with other BCRTA members to contact your local MP, we have prepared a list of BCRTA branch contacts, cross-referenced with local MP information.

To access this information, please click here to view document.

Sample Letter Re Target Pension Plans

Sample letter to MP – short form



Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss Firstname A. Lastname,

M.P. for ________________________

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A6


Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss:

I am writing, as a member of the constituency of __________________, to express my opposition to the government’s Bill C-27 An Act to Amend the  Pension Benefits Standards Act.   I ask that you seek the withdrawal of this bill now.

I am concerned that this legislation would encourage employers to pressure their employees and retirees to surrender their defined benefit plans in favour of target benefit plans, thus leaving hundreds of thousands of Canadians facing income insecurity in their retirement.

I would encourage parliament, both government and opposition, to focus its energies on creating a legislative and economic environment in which defined benefit pension plans can thrive and expand.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  I look forward to your timely reply.




Bill C27 Backgrounder

There is “a sacred trust” for Government to protect citizens who have earned pensions as compensation for services rendered during their working lives. The promise made by Justin Trudeau just before the 2015 federal election states: “DBPs [defined-benefit pensions], which have already been paid for by employees and pensioners, should not retroactively be changed into TBPs [target benefit pensions].”

Yet, on October 29, 2016, just a year after their election, without any press release, with no advance notice to unions or pension plan members or retirees – with no prior public consultation – the Liberal Government introduced Bill C-27.

Bill C-27 seeks to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act of 1985. It signifies the first time a strategy has been articulated whereby vested guaranteed pension benefits can legally be converted to non-guaranteed, conditional pension benefits. It introduces a target benefit plan framework in Canada’s pension landscape, and it allows for secure defined benefits plans to convert to target benefit plans, where all the risks are transferred to plan members. Most of the language of this legislation is centred on enabling that conversion.

In plans such as the BC Teachers’ Pension Plan, which is an example of a defined benefit plan, both members and employers assume the risk and make contributions from time to time to guarantee pension amounts at the end of a member’s lifetime. The result is a large pooled amount of money, held for a long time, on which investments can be made. The returns pay for about 80% of the pensions.

Defined benefit plans constitute one of the strongest retirement income systems. They guarantee retirement security to their members, which contributes to national prosperity; the pension income cycles back to the economy through consumer spending and taxes, which, in turn, generate growth and employment; defined benefit plan retirees are less likely to rely on government assistance, such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS); and solid retirement income brings better health status and outcomes, reducing demands on the health system and inspiring volunteerism.

Target benefit plans, on the other hand, aim for a level of benefits but do not guarantee that level. Based on a percentage of a person’s salary and market performance, the expected benefits are a target, not a promise. In difficult financial times, target benefits can be reduced, which means less retirement security for plan members. Employers are NOT obliged to make contributions to guarantee benefits. Instead plan members (contributors) and former plan members (retirees) are left with the risks: it is they who bear the brunt of missed targets— in the form of reduced or clawed-back pensions. The risk in target benefit plans is shifted from employers and plan sponsors to employees and retirees.

Proponents of Bill C-27 contend that the establishment of target benefit pension plans, will “make retirement more secure” for some Canadians. Indeed, target benefit pension plans are better than defined contribution plans or no plan at all, but they are far worse than defined benefit pension plans.

Bill C-27 has provisions that legally permit employers to establish target benefits plans and to walk away retroactively from the pension promises they have already made to workers in defined benefit plans. The bill allows for pensions that have already been earned by Canadians, including Canadian senior retirees, to be changed retroactively.

C-27 would allow for target benefit plans to be initiated by federally-regulated employers and Crown corporations. Accordingly, we may feel safe because the legislation apparently does not touch us. But if Government presents the target benefit plan as a model for federal employees, won’t employers and plan sponsors in other national and provincial jurisdictions be tempted to convert to target benefit plans as well?

Employers, in fact, can reap huge advantages if defined benefit plan members can be persuaded to “surrender” their benefits; and, as such, target benefit plans are irresistible to employers with defined benefit plans: they can walk away from pension promises already made to employees and retirees if they can persuade members of secure defined benefit plans to convert to the riskier target benefit plan. They can present perks: work place training, promotions, salary raises, improved benefit packages. They can also make threats: job losses, reduced hours of work, reduced investment, fewer opportunities for promotion, scaled back benefits, lockouts, restructuring, or bankruptcy.

Much emphasis in Bill C-27 is placed on “individual” consent, and those who see no danger in the proposed legislation state that in order for an individual to convert to a target benefit plan, “informed consent” must be given. Furthermore, surrendering benefits from an existing defined benefit plan to a target benefit plan is optional. In other words, they say Bill C-27 is no threat: an individual can remain in a defined benefit plan if so wished. As mentioned, however, both “carrots and sticks” can be used to persuade members to surrender their secure pension benefits. These pressures may convince some employees to sacrifice their long-term financial security – their future pension – for a short-term gain.

Retirees often do not have a deep understanding of pension plans. When approached, they may be vulnerable to pressure, helpless before a persuasive plan sponsor, and they may be convinced that surrender of their rights will benefit current workers and contribute to the greater good. Furthermore, retirees do not have a union to provide protection; and even so, in Bill C-27, the role of unions in the “informed individual consent” process for converting from a defined benefit plan to a target benefit plan is ambiguous

In case of conversion, the viability of the remaining defined benefit plan will be at risk. If a large number of members are persuaded to switch to a TB plan, then the source of funding to correct a shortfall for those remaining, including the retirees in the defined benefit plan, will be inadequate to meet the pension promise. Their pension will be reduced.

The word “surrender” is used more than a dozen times in Bill C-27, underscoring the intention of Bill C-27 – the conversion of guaranteed defined benefit plans to risky target benefit plans.


As it currently stands, Bill C-27 threatens to erode the retirement security of millions of Canadians.

Learn more about how you can take action.


[1] A letter to Gary Oberg, Head of the Federal Superannuates ‎National Association (the National Association of Federal Retirees), July 23, 2015

[2] Tiede, Gerry. “Defined benefit pensions under attack again”. PostScript. Vol 21. Issue 1. Spring 2017. P 7

[3] https://www.federalretirees.ca/…/Federal-Retirees-priorities-for-the-2017-federal-budget.


[4] “Contributions are made by a member and the employer. The money is invested in an individual account with high investment costs. The member bears all the risks.”