Pensions to go in front of Calgary city council Monday

Calgary city council will be debating pensions for councillors and city employees on Monday.
Calgary city council will be debating pensions for councillors and city employees on Monday. John Himpe / Global News

City of Calgary pension plans will be up for discussion when city council meets on Monday.

There are a pair of proposals that could change the way city employees and council members are compensated.

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Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal said he is going to ask his colleagues to back a thorough review of the pension plans offered by the city.

“What is the right mix of income and pension? I think that is what we need to look at,” Chahal said. “And what is sustainable moving forward so that those employees who do pay into the system have a pension when they retire?”

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Chahal said he wants to know if there are other plans that provide a better way of paying out pensions to city employees and members of council that are more affordable.

“I think we really need to take a look at the plan we’re offering to ensure that it’s sustainable and that it can provide for the employees moving forward,” Chahal said Tuesday. “But also that it is solvent moving forward — that we aren’t dealt with a major financial impact.”

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The Ward 5 councillor said the city spends 5 per cent of its budget on pensions and he’s concerned about the possible volatility that comes with pension liabilities, which could force the city to bail out the plans at the expense of providing city services.

Meantime, Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas says council should scrap the plan it has — which he calls a “golden pension” — and match the program in the City of Edmonton. Farkas says the Edmonton plan comes in at one-quarter of the cost of the Calgary pension plan for elected officials.

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“My thinking is that we don’t have the moral authority to stand on when council has a golden pension at about a 5-to-1 when ordinary employees pay about a 1-to-1,” Farkas said Tuesday.

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Earlier this year, council voted to freeze councillor pay for 2019.

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“[F]rom 2007 to 2016, Calgary City Council’s pension benefits through the Elected Officials Pension Plan cost taxpayers $6.1 million, while council members only contributed $1.2 million towards their pension benefits,” Farkas wrote in his notice of motion.

He also wants an end to the supplementary pension that is given to the mayor of Calgary. Farkas says no other city he can find provides a second, totally taxpayer-funded pension to the mayor.

“We need to follow the example that families and businesses have set in responding to the downturn,” the Ward 11 councillor said. “We need to take a look at ways to reduce expenses ourselves.”