Dalhousie Pension Plan

Dalhousie University's defined benefit pension plan means a great deal to all of us. It’s part of what makes Dalhousie such an attractive place to work and allows our employees to be supported and more secure in their future retirement.

Dalhousie’s unique two-fund system is not the norm. Its current structure along with the Federal CPP enhancements announced in 2018 and new provincial pension plan funding requirements threaten the health and viability of the plan for all members. The cost of the plan for employees and Dalhousie is rising. Our plan is currently underfunded, and it has been underfunded for 18 years (since June 30, 2002). In the past 5 years, $30 million has been spent funding pension deficits — this takes money away from Faculties and departments that could directly support new hires, new initiatives, salary increases, etc. Dalhousie and plan members already pay a significant amount to maintain the plan and we know that the cost of Dalhousie’s plan will continue to increase.

Efforts to reform Dalhousie’s Plan over the last 10 years have been slow. The progress that has been made has been helpful, but deficits and irregularities persist. In 2019, Dalhousie’s Pension Advisory Committee (PAC) – a committee with representation from all employee groups who contribute to and benefit from Dalhousie’s Defined Benefit Pension Plan – struck a subcommittee to consider how to strengthen Dalhousie’s Defined Benefit Plan. For over six months, members of the subcommittee representing all employee groups in the plan met on a bi-weekly basis with the expert input of the Plan’s Actuary from Eckler Ltd. This group work has carefully analyzed one reform option that will save a significant amount of money without compromising Dalhousie’s strong pension benefit for faculty and staff. This reform option is called Cessation of Transfers.

Dalhousie’s defined benefit pension plan is a critical part of total compensation for faculty, employees and staff. It’s vital that our pension plan stays financially healthy, delivering returns that ensure it can fulfill its obligations to all plan members.

We all have an interest in our pension plan’s long-term viability – please stay informed and connected. The information, links and modules provided on this page and on HR’s Total Compensation page will continue to be updated for the benefit of all plan members and interested parties.

What is a defined benefit plan?

A defined benefit plan delivers a defined retirement income based on a specific formula related to your annual earnings.  And that income lasts throughout retirement, which makes budgeting for retirement much easier.

For more information on Dalhousie’s defined benefit plan , please see the pension summary section.

How is my pension calculated?

You earn your pension benefit at a rate of two percent per year of pensionable service in the plan. To calculate your pension benefit, this amount is multiplied by the average of your best three years of earnings at Dalhousie. 

Is my pension adjusted for inflation?

The plan adjusts pensions annually for inflation (referred to as indexing) when:

(i) it earns enough investment income (annual indexing), and

(ii) there is sufficient surplus to pay for it (discretionary catch-up indexing).

For a detailed description of how your pension will be calculated, please see the pension summary section.

How is my pension plan structured?

Currently, our pension plan is supported by two funds: one you pay into while working and one that pays out pensions for retirees. Dalhousie’s unique two-fund system is not the norm and negatively impacts our ability to fully fund the plan to 100 percent. 

How does the two-fund structure impact funding levels?

The two-fund structure, and the specific requirements regarding the transfer of dollars from one fund to the other, costs plan members and Dalhousie. The two-fund structure makes funding the overall plan to 100 percent unrealistic. In the past five years, Dalhousie has diverted $30 million from the operating budget in order to funding the pension shortfall.

The Pension Advisory Committee - a committee with representation from all employee groups who contribute to and benefit from Dalhousie’s Defined Benefit Pension Plan - has identified reform options that will save a significant amount of money without compromising Dalhousie’s strong pension benefit for faculty and staff. The reform options that will deliver significant savings include something called Cessation of Transfers, or simply put, eliminating our unique two-fund structure.

How is my pension plan managed?

The Pension Plan has many moving parts to ensure it continues to operate successfully now and into the future.

Dalhousie University has a structure in place for the governance and administration of the Plan that consists of the Board of Governors, the Pension Advisory Committee (PAC) and Fund Trustees.

  • The Board of Governors acts as the Administrator of the Plan, monitors the investment of the Plan assets, amends Plan rules subsequent to PAC recommendations, collects and deposits member contributions and contributions from the employer, as well as maintains all necessary administrative records.
  • Pension Advisory Committee (PAC) considers matters relating to pension benefits and the administration of the Plan and makes recommendations relating to the administration of the Plan and the Plan design. The committee also seeks to promote awareness and understanding of the Plan among its members.
  • PTF/RTF Trustees implement investment policies to align with the Plan’s obligations, oversee fund investment management and monitor the investment managers. The Trustees’ primary focus is on the actuarial return targets required to meet the benefit objectives. The investments have met and exceeded the respective return targets over the last 24 years since the plan last enjoyed a strong surplus position. The Trustees also review and consider discretionary or catch up indexing.
  • The Plan also utilizes the services of an actuary to determine the financial position of the Plan (how much money there is in the Plan (the Plan’s assets) and how much money the Plan needs to pay out the benefits promised (the Plan’s liabilities)). The actuary also establishes the minimum and maximum contributions to the Plan until the next valuation and ensures the Plan meets the statutory filing requirements under the Nova Scotia Pension Benefit Act as well as the Canadian Income Tax Act.