The Calgary Municipal Building.
Leah Hennel / Postmedia
A Calgary labour advocacy group is pushing back after a city councillor proposed a review and potential reductions to municipal pension plans.Alex Shevalier, president of the Calgary and District Labour Council, says he’s concerned by a proposal being brought forward to city council Monday by Coun. George Chahal seeking a comprehensive review of pension plans for all municipal employees.Shevalier suggested the councillor is uninformed and taking advantage of Calgary’s economic doldrums to try to take pension benefits away from workers.“He’s using the opportunity where Calgary has gone through a collapse in the price of oil and high vacancies downtown, which has negatively affected the property tax rate, as an opportunity to try to look at taking away people’s pension plans,” Shevalier said Thursday. “Particularly during the boom, and even today, the only way the City of Calgary is able to attract and retain a lot of the talent that they have is because they have a pension plan.”Shevalier said Chahal’s statements earlier in the week questioning the long-term sustainability of city pensions were inaccurate since the vast majority of city staff are members of the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP), a multi-employer pension fund that is solvent and 104 per cent funded, according to a valuation conducted at the end of 2017.Shevalier said the city would be taking on “enormous” risk in contemplating a shift away from the LAPP, which is used by a number of Alberta municipalities and Alberta Health Services.“I view it purely as either posturing or attempting to bust a union pension plan, and if that’s the case, then he’s definitely going to be hearing from us a lot more and a lot louder,” Shevalier said.Since bringing forward his notice of motion Tuesday, Chahal said he has been hearing from city union members.The Ward 5 councillor said he remains concerned by data that suggests city spending on pensions has been increasing at a much higher rate than other types of budget expenditures. Chahal said the average annual growth for pension expenses was 11 per cent between 2009 and 2017, compared to six per cent for total expenditures.But Chahal pointed out Thursday that he’s not just interested in examining LAPP, but the entire suite of municipal pension offerings, including police and fire pensions, elected official pensions, as well as enhanced benefits offered to exempt city staff through the supplementary pension plan and the overcap pension plan.“They’re talking about LAPP only. We’re talking about the many pension plans we offer (and) we’re not suggesting that certain plans are currently in trouble. We’re looking at the entire solvency picture,” Chahal said.“The concern for us is that this costs the city over $200 million a year. We just want to make sure that we understand all the risks and mitigate anything along the way moving forward.”firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @mpotkins