Pensions in Canada

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP has one of Canada's foremost pensions and benefits departments, with lawyers across the country being able to advise clients on specific local jurisdictional issues, as well as those at a national level. In a recent standout highlight, Kathryn Bush worked with members of the litigation and insolvency teams to advise Morneau Shepell in its capacity as plan administrator of the Sears Canada pension plan. Bush jointly leads the practice with Jeffrey Sommers, who has over 20 years of experience advising clients on all aspects of the taxation, implementation, funding, administration and wind-up of pension, group benefit and profit-sharing arrangements. Both practitioners are Toronto-based, as is Jeremy Forgie, who acts for some of the largest pension plans and pension fund investment managers in Canada. Natalie Bussière is the name to note in Montréal, combining pensions and employment expertise. Sean Maxwell in Calgary acts for clients such as Suncor Energy and Nutrien. At associate level, Adam Ngan stands out in Toronto.

Practice head(s):

Kathryn Bush; Jeffrey Sommers

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP's reputation as a leading firm for pensions and benefits advice is reflected by the fact that it acts for clients such as Canada National Rail, Toyota Canada and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. The team handles a full spread of matters for clients, with notable strengths in areas such as pension de-risking, innovative plan design, plan restructuring and pension litigation. In 2020, the group's highlights included closing the first ever conversion of a single employer pension to plan to a jointly sponsored pension plan for the Board of Trustees of Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Insurance Board Pension Plan; this matter was jointly led by senior figure Paul Litner and up-and-coming partner Jonathan Marin. Andrea Boctor, who took over from from Litner as chair of the department in March 2021 (having joined from Stikeman Elliott LLP in 2020), focuses on pension administration, fiduciary duty and governance, and issues arising from bankruptcies and insolvencies. The aforementioned lawyers are all based in Toronto. In Montréal, Julien Ranger is noted for his pension litigation expertise, as well as his support on corporate matters. Associates Omar Sunderji and Olivia Suppa are also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Andrea Boctor

Torys

Torys has a standout reputation advising clients on pension plan investments in Canada, with its team being highlighted for its ‘strong substantive knowledge and practical advice.’ The group advises major pension funds on both domestic and international investments, and it also provides complex strategic structuring advice. Mitch Frazer, who chairs the firm's pensions and employment department, has a broad practice covering all aspects of pensions work. Desribed by a client as 'fantastic to work with', Susan Nickerson is a leading figure in the national market, and is regularly sought out by governments and policy makers for advice on emerging pension rules and regulations. Scott Bell acts for clients such as CPP Investments, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board and Omers. Associate Tom Stevenson is another notable contact.

Practice head(s):

Mitch Frazer

Testimonials

‘Exceptionally responsive.’

‘Strong substantive knowledge, practical advice.’

‘They stay actively involved with regulators and advocate on behalf of plan sponsors and administrators. As a client, this ensures that you are getting the best support and legal advice because they are current with changes in the regulatory environment.’

‘Susan Nickerson is fantastic to work with. She is very approachable and practical in her advice. She works closely with her clients to give them the support they need. You can call to get her perspective on legislative issues given her active participation in ACPM. She has been invaluable as we have been working through some governance/strategic items the last year.’

Key clients

Duo Bank of Canada

Norbord

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board

Stone Canyon Industries Holdings

Omers Infrastructure Management

CPP Investments

Bank of Montreal

Saskatchewan Municipal Employees Pension Plan

Abbott Laboratories

Enercare

National Silicates

Work highlights

  • Acted for Stone Canyon Industries on its $2bn acquisition of the business of Kissner Group Holdings.
  • Assisted Norbord with its CA$4bn sale to West Fraser Timber Co.
  • Advised Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, as part of a consortium including a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the management team of Equis, in connection with the consortium’s $1.25bn investment in Equis Development Pte.

Dentons

Dentons‘ pensions, benefits and executive compensation team is jointly led by Mary Picard in Toronto and Scott Sweatman in Vancouver. Reflective of the growth of the practice, it won work from new clients recently, including names such as Certus Oil and Gas and Metro Vancouver Transport Police. The group’s experience spans a variety of pensions matters, which range from plan administration and investment strategy to pensions litigation. Picard is noted for her experience of handling insolvencies, restructurings, financings, and corporate transactions. Sweatman assists clients with establishing and sustaining pension, benefit and deferred compensation plans, and counts a number of professional athletes as clients. Taylor Buckley is another key individual.

Practice head(s):

Mary Picard; Scott Sweatman

Other key lawyers:

Taylor Buckley

Key clients

Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada

3s Health

Humber College

Greyhound Canada Transportation ULC

Certus Oil and Gas

Vitro Flat Glass Canada

Work highlights

  • Advising Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada on an ongoing basis regarding governance of the Toyota Retirement Income Plan.

Fasken

The pensions and benefits group at Fasken has a longstanding strength in pensions litigation and is increasingly seen as a go-to for advice on plan governance, as well as the pensions aspects of M&A. Practice head Ross Gascho, who is based in Toronto, advises clients on all aspects of the implementation, administration, funding, governance and wind-up of pension, group benefit and profit-sharing plans. Michael Wolpert divides his time between Calgary and Toronto, while Dominique Monet works at both the Ottawa and Montréal offices. The team was strengthened in March 2021 by the addition of associate Allyson Marta from Stikeman Elliott LLP.

Practice head(s):

Ross Gascho

Key clients

Kellogg Canada

Avient

Sazerac

The Co-Operators Life Insurance Company

TC Energy

Avon Canada

New Avon

Sobeys Capital

Work highlights

  • Advising Avon on a proposed class action proceeding by Avon retirees claiming that Avon breached its contract with them when it terminated their post-retirement benefits effective January 1, 2020.
  • Acted for Sazerac in its first defined benefit plans, being an assumption of seller’s defined benefit plans when it bought the related business.
  • Advising TC Energy on a wide variety of issues regarding both plans, including governance, investment, trust, foreign employee matters, beneficiary issues, and day to day administration.

McCarthy Tétrault

McCarthy Tétrault's specialist pensions, benefits and executive compensation group is 'practical, solutions-oriented and knowledgeable', according to a client. It advises a broad spectrum of clients on all aspects of designing, managing, administering, and providing services to pension and benefit plans. Investment structuring and working with multi-employer pension plans are noted areas of expertise. Randy Bauslaugh has national and cross-border experience across a variety of matters, including pension litigation, and he is also noted for fund investment work. He jointly leads the practice with the 'outstanding' Deron Waldock , who is experienced in assisting with the pensions aspects of complex transactions. Gregory Winfield is another key contact, as is associate Kelleher Lynch.

Testimonials

‘The practice is diverse, both in terms of the range and complexity of the matters it is capable of handling, as well as its ability to staff an associate or partner with an appropriate level of experience and knowledge to address issues ranging from the more straightforward to the truly complex. Where pension questions crossover to include areas such as employment, tax and securities regulatory issues, the pension team integrates seamlessly and is able to provides holistic advice.’

‘Kelleher Lynch is outstanding. We work in a fast paced environment where we need answers quickly and Kell is able to provide practical, effective advice on short turnaround times. He is also able to pull in other areas of his firm effectively when coordinated responses are required. He has taken the time to learn our business and its unique features and tailors his advice to our particular circumstances.’

‘McCarthy’s pensions/labour & employment team is very practical, solutions-oriented and knowledgeable. We rely on this group extensively to assist with pensions/L&E matters on a day to day basis, as well as in relation to complex and challenging situations and projects. They never disappoint us in their service and outcomes attained.’

‘In the pensions practice, I have worked with Deron Waldock who has been a lifesaver for us Americans in Canada. He is incredibly responsive and understands our real world problems. He is outstanding.’

‘The team was extremely responsive – very timely and very detail-oriented. The team was able to leverage support from other practitioners in the firm seamlessly. The team demonstrated great flexibility with last minute changes. The team was able to provide examples from past experiences to help guide us through analogous situations.’

‘Kelleher Lynch was our contact in the team. His availability was top-notch. His willingness to dive into the matter and cross-reference information and re-draft items was excellent. He was open-minded and considerate of different opinions. He was respectful to and professional with opposing counsel.’

‘Willing to listen to the client’s concerns.’

Key clients

Brookfield Asset Management

Lawyers Financial (Formerly Canadian Bar Insurance Association)

Rayonier Advanced Materials

Jamieson Laboratories

Fortive Corporation

Stifel Financial

Royal Bank of Canada

University of Windsor

Omers

Bell Canada

Aon

Credit Suisse

Brewers Retail

Climate Change Law Initiative

Christian Schools Pension and Benefit Plans Boards of Trustees

Lawyers Financial

Wells Fargo

Nestlé

Work highlights

  • Advised HPS Investment Partners on loans to businesses with several very large pension plans, many in some deficit positions.
  • Acted for Omers Realty in its CA$400m private placement offering of 1.298% Series 12 debentures due September 22, 2023.
  • Acted for Lawyers Financial on the negotiation of an affinity agreement with the $13bn CAAT Pension Plan, fund, to enable law firms to join as participating employers in the scheme.

Bennett Jones LLP

Bennett Jones LLP's pensions and benefits work is a core part of its wider employment services offering. It advises on the design, establishment, administration and investment of registered and non-registered pension plans. The team is also knowledgeable about pensions and benefits issues arising from M&A and other corporate transactions. Its roster of clients includes names such as Canada Medical Association and Dayco Canada. Susan Seller chairs the employment services group. Jordan Fremont and associate Jaspreet Kaur are other key contacts. All named lawyers are based in Toronto.

Practice head(s):

Susan Seller

Other key lawyers:

Jordan Fremont; Jaspreet Kaur

Key clients

Canadian Medical Association

Canadian Utilities/ATCO Group

Dayco Products/Dayco Canada

De Havilland Company of Canada

Bird Construction

Kissner Group Holdings/Stone Canyon Industries Holdings

Dye & Durham

Riverstone Holdings

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Work highlights

  • Advising Canadian Utilities on a wide variety of regulatory compliance, pension governance and pension fund investment matters, including plan mergers, amendments and restatements.
  • Assisted Cenovus Energy with the pensions aspects of its CA$23.6bn merger with Husky Energy.
  • Advised Gateway Casinos on pension and executive compensation matters regarding a $200m loan made available by Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corp. (CEEFC) under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF).

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP‘s cross-practice pensions and benefits group comprises of lawyers whose experience spans employment, corporate, finance, tax and litigation. Its areas of strength include pension plan and fund governance, plan transactions, and support on corporate and commercial matters. Andrew Harrison leads the department from the Toronto office, which is the base for most of the team. Sonia Mak acts for a range of stakeholders, including employers and their non-Canadian parent companies. Scott McEvoy is another name to note in Toronto. Frédéric Massé is a key contact in Montréal.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Harrison

Work highlights

  • Assisted Hewlett Packard Enterprise Canada with bringing a court application for directions as to which of two competing individuals should receive a pre-retirement death benefit payable in respect of a former employee’s participation in its pension plan.

Stikeman Elliott LLP

Stikeman Elliott LLP's practice is led by Toronto-based partner Natasha vandenHoven, who advises clients on pensions and benefits issues relating to corporate transactions, creditor/debtor agreements, and bankruptcy and insolvency matters. The team also assists with day-to-day pensions matters. Clients include Air Canada, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Via Rail Canada. Counsel Mark Firman, who advises on all aspects of pension and executive compensation law, splits his time between Toronto and Montréal.

Practice head(s):

Natasha vandenHoven

Other key lawyers:

Mark Firman