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< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you | Contributors: Doug Moodie (CEO Nova, Scotia Pension Services Corporation) | Published: July 2, 2024

On October 13, 2023, the Public Service Superannuation Plan (PSSP) took a big step into the future. A bill, the Private Sector Pension Plan Transfer Act (PSPPTA), was introduced in the Provincial Legislature. It enables private-sector employers in Nova Scotia to apply to merge, in whole or in part, their existing defined benefit pension plans into the PSSP. A private-sector employer without an existing defined benefit plan—that is, with a defined contribution plan or an RRSP arrangement, or with no retirement benefits at all for its employees—is also now able to consider the PSSP.

The PSPPTA follows the University Pension Plan Transfer Act (UPPTA) and the Municipal and Other Authorities Pension Plan Transfer Act (MOPPTA). UPPTA was enacted in 2015, and MOPPTA was enacted in 2017. UPPTA enabled universities in Nova Scotia to merge their stand-alone defined benefit plans into the PSSP, and MOAPPTA did the same for municipalities and related authorities.

By the end of 2023, twenty-one universities and municipalities had joined the PSSP, and there may be as many as a dozen more joining in 2024. While the Province remains the largest participating employer, the PSSP has evolved into a true multi-employer pension plan, with over 60 employers now in the plan.

The PSSP has assets approaching $8 billion and about 43,000 total members. The PSSP’s vision is to be open to as many Nova Scotian employers as possible and to offer a meaningful, easy, reliable, and efficient retirement savings vehicle for Nova Scotians.

The PSSP is also designed differently than most, if not all, other ‘public sector’ pension plans in Canada. It is self-financing and self-regulating. The obligation of PSSP participating employers is limited to the payment of matching contributions. The Public Service Superannuation Act expressly states that there is no overarching responsibility on the part of any employer for the funded health of the PSSP.

The PSSP’s funding policy contains detailed mechanisms that mandate or permit, depending on the circumstances, contributions to be increased or decreased and/or future benefits to be augmented or reduced. The concept is to maintain a close eye on the Plan and to continually make needed adjustments to keep the funded status in a healthy zone.

The PSSP is self-regulating in that it is not subject to Nova Scotia’s Pension Benefits Act. The running of the Plan is left exclusively to the PSSP’s Trustee Board, within the parameters fixed by the Public Service Superannuation Act. So, for a participating employer, the only task is to remit contributions and employee data regularly—everything else is taken care of.

PSSP members are assured of a pension when they retire based on a simple formula of years of pensionable service multiplied by the highest average salary (based on the best five years). The pension entitlement accrues within the Plan and is not dependent on the status of the employer. So, whether or not a member’s employer exists in the future, the member will receive the pension they have accrued within the Plan. With the PSSP’s growing list of participating employers, an individual may move from one Nova Scotia employer to another, public sector and private sector, over the course of a career—all the while maintaining a seamless pension benefit. The PSSP also has generous survivor benefits and conditional indexing for pensions in pay.

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