The National Association of Federal Retirees (the Association), formerly known as FSNA, has a proud history of protecting pensioners’ interests, seeking improvements to their benefits and participating in the development of social policies for all seniors.
The Founding Convention in 1963 was attended by little more than 20 people representing some 1,600 members.
Early advocacy for retirees
From the beginning, the Association pressed for fully indexed pensions and in 1967, presented a brief to the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons studying pensions. In 1969, the government passed legislation to increase the pensions of retired civil servants and their dependants.
The early 1970s saw several of the Association’s objectives achieved: legislation in 1973 providing for full indexing of pensions, retirement at age 55 for employees with 30 or more years of pensionable service and representation on the Public Service Superannuation Advisory Committee.
In 1978, after the government announced its intention to replace fully indexed pensions with adjustments determined on a three-year basis, the Association tackled the demanding job of protecting existing benefits from those seeking to reduce or eliminate them.
Restraint in the 1980s
In 1983, compensation-restraint legislation was imposed on public sector pensions, as well as on salaries, family allowances, OAS, and income tax exemptions and brackets. The Association fought hard against this anti-inflation program that limited the cost-of-living increases to 6% (1983) and 5% (1984) at a time when inflation was running at double-digit levels. The Association obtained an additional 0.5% for federal retirement pensions.
In the spring of 1985, the government announced that the “current guarantee of unlimited inflation adjustment will be terminated.” The Association waged the greatest battle in its history. The legislation subsequently introduced, Bill C-33, was never passed. Indexing was saved, but there was no guarantee it would be preserved in the future.
In January 1988, FSNA was formally chartered. It started business as a non-profit corporation that June.
The 1989 federal budget that proposed to claw back OAS benefits caused the Association to embark on a campaign against this proposal. We continue to express our opposition to the OAS clawback and to lobby for income tax amendments.
Continued progress in the 1990s
Another step in the right direction was made when, in 1992, Bill C-55 provided an option to those who married after retirement to obtain, at the cost of a reduced annuity, a survivor pension for their spouses. This bill also increased the Public Service and Canadian Forces Supplementary Death Benefit paid-up amount from $500 to $5,000.
The Association was also instrumental in achieving other significant improvements such as enhanced government contribution to the GSMIP premiums and improved health benefits through this plan’s successor, the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) that was established in 1991.
In 1994, FSNA spearheaded the formation of the Coalition of Seniors for Social Equity. One of the Coalition’s aims was to ensure that the government consider all the implications before initiating any further changes to seniors’ income-security programs.
When the 1996 federal budget proposed to replace OAS benefits with a seniors benefits plan based on family income, the Coalition strongly objected to family income testing and played a key role in influencing the government not to proceed with this plan.
Pension reform legislation (Bills C-71 and C-78) was adopted in 1999 without providing the fair and equitable distribution of the pension surpluses the Association was requesting. This led the Association to participate in the court challenge of the pension surplus. These claims were dismissed in 2007. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal with costs.
Advocacy in a new millennium
Effective April 1, 2000, a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was reached by the Treasury Board, the bargaining agents and FSNA with respect to the governance process for the PSHCP. The MOU recognized the Association as one of the three Parties governing the plan.
After years of lobbying, FSNA saw the Pensioners’ Dental Services Plan (PDSP) come into effect on January 1, 2001. In the summer of 2010, the government announced that the cost-sharing ratio between the Government of Canada and pensioner plan members would be changed from 60/40 to 50/50. The Association then launched a letter-writing campaign and met with Members of Parliament to voice concerns about the PDSP contribution increases. This change came into effect on October 1, 2010.
In December 2006, as a result of two letters from our National President to the Ontario Premier and enormous pressure on provincial MPPs by branches and members, the Ontario government withdrew its plan to make the PSHCP first payer for federal retirees 65 and over who are members of PSHCP.
FSNA’s advocacy activities cover all matters of relevance to retirees as well as seniors in general. Through the Congress of National Seniors Organizations, we have advocated for creating a federal seniors’ secretariat that would develop comprehensive policies, programs and activities for the benefit of Canada’s aging population. In early 2007, the government established a National Seniors Council to advise it on seniors’ issues of national importance. FSNA’s former Executive Director was appointed as the first Chair of this council.
Our Association was among the seniors’ organizations lobbying the government for pension income splitting, which was implemented in 2007.
Spreading our influence
The Association executives have been appointed to represent pensioners on various government boards and committees such as the Public Service Pension Advisory Committee, Pensioners’ Dental Services Plan Board, PSHCP Partners Committee and PSHCP Administration Authority. These appointments provide a formal means to ensure that the concerns of pensioners are made known and considered.
As one of the three governing partners of the PSHCP, our Association’s responsibilities include a role in renegotiating the PSHCP agreement. In the fall of 2013, the federal government was considering non-negotiable changes to the PSHCP that have a direct impact on federal retirees’ health care and retirement income. The Association launched a campaign titled Honour Your Promise, urging the Government of Canada to honour the promises made to federal employees — both past and present — and shelve any plans that would be detrimental to the financial and health care security of federal retirees, including the changes reportedly being considered for the Public Service Health Care Plan.
New governance structure
In accordance with the new Canada Not-for-Profit Act, FSNA applied for the Certificate of Continuance on July 23, 2014. Industry Canada accepted the application in our new name “National Association of Federal Retirees.”
Keys to Success
Since it was established in 1963, FSNA (now the National Association of Federal Retirees) has grown in size from fewer than 2,000 members to close to 170,000. It has gone — in stages — from a strictly volunteer-run organization operating from the residence of the National Secretary-Treasurer in Victoria, to an Association with a national office, skeleton staff and volunteer research directorate to one that has a full-time professional staff, a role in the administration of plans relating to all federal public sector pensioners and recognition as one of the leading seniors’ groups in Canada.
The willingness of volunteer branch members to serve the interests of fellow pensioners has been a major reason for our success.
We are now close to 170,000 strong in 78 branches — and growing.