Monday, September 10, 2007

It is Time to Resolve the Teacher's Unfunded Pension Issue

As school starts for a new year in Alberta the old issue of teacher’s unfunded pension liability is working its way through the political system. Premier Stelmach took the position during the PC leadership that the issue of pensions and contract negotiations were separate issues. He was then, and still is, keen to resolve the unfunded pension liability…if for no other reason it is still a real debt hanging over the head of the province and it is a significant burden on young teachers.

There is lots of history here and divided opinions – mostly based on ideology rather than logic. Some recent blogger and media commentary is available. For full disclosure, a few years ago I helped the ATA in their attempts to get the Klein government to revisit the unfunded pension liability issue with some moderate success but nothing conclusive. The efforts eventually paid off became it was a key issue in the PC leadership campaign. Many of the candidates took policy stands saying it needed to be resolved as a priority issue.

This is a key public policy issue that demands political leadership and there has never been a better time to resolve it. The issues are well understood and the solutions are obvious. To go through the current exercise of a province wide consultation on this matter is not going to add any light on the issues. The solution is to be found in the exercise of some pure political will and leadership. The current round of public consultations is no reason to delay a Government of Alberta decision on resolving the unfunded liability issues either.

It is time to get the unfunded pension liability issue dealt with and behind us. Then the system can move on to deal with the outstanding teacher contract concerns right afterwards. Nothing is really standing in the way of this resolution happening, except some old attitudes and personal grudges of a past Minister arising out of the 2002 teacher's strike.