The UCP government in Alberta has made the unilateral decision to consolidate Alberta public sector pensions under the control of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, a crown corporation administered by the provincial government . According to an article in the Calgary Herald, “Unions blast provincial decision to shift billions in public sector pension funds” : “(The) government intends to reverse the option of public sector pension plans leaving AIMCo as a fund manager. Moreover, the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund, Workers’ Compensation Board and Alberta Health Services will be expected to transfer funds to AIMCo for management, reducing redundant administration.” More details appeared in “Government contemplates changes to management of more than 400,000 Alberta workers’ pension plans” in the Edmonton Journal (Nov. 1) which summarizes the opposition by the Alberta public sector unions on the grounds that the decision reverses a recent change that gave more than 351,000 public sector employees joint control of their pension funds, through a joint governance model that had been authorized by 2018 legislation and which only took effect in March 2019. The Edmonton Journal article also states that police and firefighter pensions might also be included in the government plans. “Alberta’s public unions prep for a fight, whether in the streets or the courts” is a broader overview from CBC Calgary which discusses the pension consolidation, as well as the wage cuts and workforce reduction included in Bill 21 of the new budget under the new UCP government.
The attempt to shift Alberta workers’ pension funds brings to mind the 2018 report, Canada’s Fossil-Fuelled Pensions: The Case of the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation by the Corporate Mapping Project. The report found that despite its statements that it was a climate responsible investor, BCI had actually increased its fossil fuel investments – for example, by boosting investment from $36.7 million in 2016 to $65.3 million in 2017 in Kinder Morgan, owner of the Trans-Mountain pipeline. And although the new publication by the Corporate Mapping Project, Big Oil’s Political Reach: Mapping fossil fuel lobbying from Harper to Trudeau, examines the power of the fossil fuel industry at the federal level, some might argue that its influence could also extend to Alberta’s pension management decisions.