Ontario Teachers’ Pensions Prior to 1986

A Brief History of the Dryden STO/RTO/ERO

Part One: Ontario Teachers’ Pensions Prior to 1986

This summary is based on the information provided in Robert L. Lamb’s 1989 publication, “The First Generation: The Superannuated Teachers of Ontario [1968-1988]” which is a history of the creation and development of the Superannuated [Retired] Teachers of Ontario  [STO] and the Ontario Teachers’ Superannuation [Pension] Fund.

1853 – 1908 We can go all the way back to 1853 in Upper Canada [Ontario] when Edgerton Ryerson created the “Ryerson Pension Fund” which provided 500 pounds sterling [$ 2000] per annum  from the government to provide support for the “worn out Common School Teachers of Upper Canada”, an amount which was later doubled and then tripled. By 1860 the average pension amounted to $ 26.54. Working teachers were expected to contribute $ 4 per annum. The new plan of 1871 incorporated many of the criteria which are still in place today: service time, age, disability, refunds and survivor benefits. Linking pension benefits to quality of certification or kind of teaching post is now reflected in the greater salaries for teachers who have advanced academic qualifications (e.g. M.A.’s) and/or who hold positions of responsibility (e.g. Department or Program Heads, Principals, etc.). In 1885 the Fund was closed to all teachers except those who were already members. Teachers new to the profession from 1885 to 1917 had no access to the Fund, although individual school boards might have some sort of fund of its own.

1908 – 1965 However, efforts continued to develop a scheme to replace the “Ryerson Pension Fund” and an actuarial study was undertaken in 1908, but delays prevented realization until the Teachers’ Alliance (and others) brought sufficient pressure to bear on the Provincial Government for the Minister to appoint Prof. M.A. MacKenzie (Commission Actuary 1917-44) to prepare a plan acceptable to teachers and government. This plan proved to be very popular with teachers but it was still some time before all the needed signatures were in place and the “Teachers’ and Inspectors’ Superannuation Act” implemented in April, 1917. Teacher contributions of 2.5% of salary (raised to 3% in 1936 and to 4% later) were to be matched by the Treasurer of Ontario. The minimum pension would be $ 500 (increased to $ 1,200 in 1967 and $ 2,100 in 1970) and the maximum would be $ 1500 per annum, based on entire career average salary. The maximum limit was removed in 1953 and in 1954 the calculation was based on a person’s best 10 years, and in 1966 on the best 7 years.

1965 – 1970 In 1965 the Federal Government introduced the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Premier Robarts decided that the CPP should be “integrated into” rather than “stacked upon” the Teachers’ Pension Plan, i.e. that the amount of teacher pension, received by a teacher, would be reduced by the amount that the teacher received from the CPP when the CPP kicked in (i.e. at age 65). To sweeten the deal and have it be ratified by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF), the Premier implemented the “Best of 5” basis for pension calculation. When the Secretary of OTF, Marion Tyrrel, asked what could be done to improve the lot of teachers already on pension, and was told “nothing”, she suggested to Art McAdam [an OTF Governor from Toronto], that the retired teachers should get organized and together with OTF could apply pressure on the government.

McAdam, together with Norman McLeod [1st President of OTF, 1944], struck a committee of 10 retired teachers (2 from each affiliate) and in 1967 produced a report of the “Interim Committee for the Superannuated Teachers of Ontario” and on March 14, 1968 the first election of 20 Senators (4 from the retired teachers of each of the 5 affiliates) was held, establishing the organization known as the Superannuated Teachers of Ontario (STO). The first Senate was held in April and the executive positions elected with Art McAdam (President), Norman McLeod (Vice), and Marion Tyrrell (Secretary-Treasurer). A constitution was written which lasted substantially until 1973

1970 – 1984 In 1970 the “90 Factor” (age plus service) was introduced. Murdoch McIver wrote a new STO constitution in 1973 which allowed for the formation of districts and the power of those districts to elect one of their members (usually the District President) to the Senate, which was held twice yearly (spring and fall).In December, 1973, headed by Geoff Wilkinson of OTF, the teachers of Ontario staged a mass walkout [As a new “probationary” teacher at Dryden High School, who was not protected by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), until I received my permanent Ontario Teacher’s Certificate – usually after two years of teaching experience, I was quite nervous about repercussions if I participated, but I did walk out and joined my colleagues for a “study session” at the Legion Hall.] In 1975 the “Superannuation Adjustment Fund” was introduced to provide for escalation based on the cost of living (with a cap of 8%). In 1984 the “Best 5 Years” became the basis and retirement became possible for a limited time without age penalty for those lacking the “90 Factor” who were aged 55 and also for those who had 35 years of service.

1984 – 1986 In 1979 there were 29 Districts in STO and 12 Units and in 1987 there were 39 Districts. STO played a small part in the successful opposition raised by seniors to Brian Mulroney’s intention to scale down the benefits of seniors, in an effort to effect a balanced budge. The November 12, 1986 Newsletter of STO contained a synopsis of STO President Orser’s report to the STO Senate in which he acknowledged that STO members “have the best health care plan, the best travel plan, and the best pension plan in Canada”. In 1987 a window was opened until 1990 “to allow any teacher with 35 service years to retire without penalty despite not reaching the “90 Factor”. Other changes also made retirement more desirable, such as increasing the time in various categories which may be counted as “service” (such as maternity), job sharing, and four over five plans.

However, concern was expressed about the transfer of control of the actuarial valuation of the Fund from the Superannuation Commission to the Treasurer of Ontario. [As this was explained to me, for each real dollar that a working teacher contributed to the Pension Fund, the Provincial Government contributed a dollar (but only on paper) and the Provincial Treasurer could use this fund to build highways and overpasses in southern Ontario, i.e. the government contributed “funny money” and we contributed “real money” which was used for purposes other than that for which it was intended. Does this smack of “misappropriation of funds” to you? I believe this is why we fought so hard to gain control of our own Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund].