History of SFPP
1979 – 2018
The Special Forces Pension Plan (SFPP) was established in 1979 after breaking away from the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP). Although it became a stand-alone plan, contributions to SFPP were invested in the larger Government of Alberta Pension Fund.
In 1991, the Government of Alberta divided the Pension Fund amongst the participating plans, giving them responsibility for their individual financial assets. However, the Government of Alberta continued to be the official trustee and administrator of the plan. The President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance retained authority of the system as a whole and had final approval on changes to the pension plan, including benefits.
From that point until March 1, 2019, the Special Forces Pension Board (SFPB or the Board) operated under provincial legislation, processes, and procedures to oversee the business and affairs of the SFPP. The Board was made up of seven members: three employee nominees, three employer nominees and one nominee from the Government of Alberta who provided strategic guidance over the Plan. The Board was responsible for important decisions regarding the Plan such as setting contribution rates, funding, investments, and Plan design. Changes required government or cabinet approval, which created a limited scope and reduced decision making ability for the Board.
The Board met regularly with a group of sponsor delegates, which included employer and employee representatives. Though not a formal part of the governance structure at the time, the sponsor committee was an important group by which the Board could elicit input on Plan issues such as communications, risks, funding, and Plan design.
The Joint Governance of Public Sector Pension Plans Act was passed on December 5, 2018, coming into effect March 1, 2019. The Joint Governance of Public Sector Pension Plans Act gave employers and employees an equal say in how their pension plan is run; employee and employer groups will share control of plan design and responsibility for the financial health of the plan. This meant that plans will be regulated by Alberta’s Superintendent of Pensions and the Employment Pension Plans Act, but all future benefit plan changes will be determined by a sponsor board made up of employees and employers, not government.
Benefits of joint governance
- Clear roles and responsibilities
- Sponsors responsible for financial health of plan and plan design
- Shared trusteeship of plan assets
- Equal representation of employer/employee groups on the boards
- Improved accountability
- Service provider choice
- Protections for plan members affected by a restructuring
In early 2019, under the Joint Governance of Public Sector Pension Plans Act, the SFPP Sponsor Board and SFPP Corporate Board were established in order to prepare for the March 1 switch to the new joint governance model. To ensure a seamless transition, work was done to build the Plan Text, the service agreements with APS and AIMCo, the codes of conduct for the Sponsor Board and SFPP Corporation, roles and responsibilities, and other rules of engagement ahead of the March 1 deadline.
On March 1, 2019, the SFPP Corporation became the trustee and administrator of the Plan. This meant the Government of Alberta no longer had responsibilities, functions, obligations, duties, or liabilities in relation to administration of the Plan. Under the new joint-governance structure, future benefit plan changes will be determined by the SFPP boards, not government, and will be subject to discussion and agreement between employer and employee sponsors. Employee and employer sponsors also share responsibility for the risks associated with funding defined benefit plans, including the risk of investment losses that may require changes to contribution rates or benefits.