Proposed Amendments to Nova Scotia Pension Benefits Act Largely Mirror Ontario's Recent Reforms

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On November 15, 2011 Nova Scotia introduced Bill 96, An Act Respecting Pension Benefits, for first reading. If passed, the current Nova Scotia Pension Benefits Act would be repealed and replaced in its entirety by Bill 96.

Bill 96 introduces significant changes to Nova Scotia’s pension regime. Many of these changes closely mirror the amendments recently made to the Ontario Pension Benefits Act by Bill 236 and Bill 120, including:

• defining “retired members”, thereby creating rights for a new group of plan participants;

• introducing immediate vesting;

• permitting plans to offer phased retirement options;

• permitting prescribed employers to use letters of credit to fund solvency deficiencies;

• allowing for the use of jointly sponsored pension plans and target benefit plans;

• allowing employer contribution holidays when the plan is in surplus, unless prohibited by the plan or the funding documents for the plan;

• clarifying the requirements with respect to asset transfers between pension plans;

• providing that surplus may be paid to an employer when it has reached an agreement with two-thirds of the plan members (or a union on behalf of such members) and a prescribed number of former members, retired members and others or by court order; and

• permitting the payment of “reasonable” plan administration expenses from the plan fund unless such payment is prohibited or the payment of fees and expenses is otherwise provided for in the plan or funding documents for the plan.

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