Great Lakes of cash

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
Canada offers teachers better pensions than the UK. Susannah Kirkman explains why

Emigration to Canada could be one solution for British teachers seeking better pension deals.

Thousands of teachers in Ontario are likely to retire early after their Pension Plan Board announced a record surplus. The Pension Plan has gained $8 billion in just over a year, thanks to shrewd investments.

Unlike the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme in the UK, a notional fund topped up by the Government, the Ontario teachers' pension fund is invested. The teachers control their own pension plan and have a say in the choice of investments.

The surplus means that about 10 per cent of Ontario's teachers are expected to retire next year, up to five years early.

Maurice Bourque, of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, says: "We are expecting a stampede. Right across Canada, teachers are feeling increasingly stressed because of the cuts in education."

When teachers in Nova Scotia were offered a similar chance a few years ago, more than 10 per cent took early retirement.

Meanwhile, same-sex partners of teachers all over Canada look set to win the same pension benefits as heterosexual partners after a recent court ruling in Ontario. The court declared illegal a section of the Income Tax Act which restricted pension benefits from superannuation schemes to partners of the opposite sex.

Following this judgment, Paul Boulais, the partner of a homosexual Nova Scotia teacher who died of Aids, has been awarded the same pension rights as a spouse. From this month, all partners of Nova Scotia teachers will be entitled to the same benefits, whatever their sexual orientation, and it is expected that the ruling will soon take effect all over Canada.

"Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is now illegal, according to Canadian human rights legislation," said Maurice Bourque. "It is an issue teachers feel strongly about."

Common-law spouses of Canadian teachers already have the same pension rights as married partners in virtually every province.

Unfortunately, the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme in the UK is lagging far behind its Canadian counterparts. "We are a long way off benefits for same-sex partners," says Marion Bird, deputy head of pensions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

She adds: "There has always been a lot of resistance to the idea. Benefits for common-law spouses will be the first hurdle we have to jump."

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