Pensions in Canada

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP is a top choice for the full range of investment, transactional and regulatory work in the pensions space. Jeremy Forgie is sought after to advise large pension plans, public corporations and fund investment managers. Kathryn Bush, who is an experienced litigator and is known for her work advising on jointly sponsored pension plans, co-chairs the group with Jeffrey Sommers. Sean Maxwell in Calgary handles a wide variety of matters in pensions and employee benefits law, including fiduciary duties and corporate insolvency. Lindsay Macleod is noted for her practice focused on regulatory compliance and plan administration issues. All named lawyers are based in Toronto unless otherwise stated.

Practice head(s):

Kathryn Bush; Jeffrey Sommers

Key clients

Morneau Shepell Ltd.

Hudson’s Bay Company

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

OMERS Administration Corporation

Cenovus Energy Inc.

Suncor Energy Inc.

Royal Bank of Canada

Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

Nutrien Ltd.

RR Donnelly

Alberta Government

Work highlights

  • Advised various large jointly sponsored and single employer-pension plans on corporate and pension and tax regulatory aspects of large investment matters, including hedge fund and real estate and investment management agreements.
  • Acted for Sears Canada Registered Pension Plan in a lawsuit against directors and shareholders in respect of a C$509m dividend.
  • Advised WestJet Airlines Ltd. on pensions issues related to its acquisition by Onex Corporation for approximately C$5bn.

Koskie Minsky LLP

Toronto-based boutique Koskie Minsky LLP—which concentrates on labour, pensions and benefits, and litigation—houses a full-service pensions offering, strong in administration and issues arising from bankruptcy. The group is known for advising unions, employees, retirees and the administrators of multi-employer plans, both public and private sector. Mark Zigler advises trustees of pension and benefits trusts as well as unions and groups of employees and pensioners. Murray Gold handles compliance and best-practice issues, and is experienced in pensions regulatory and judicial proceedings. Practice co-ordinator Andrew Hatnay has litigation experience representing clients in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Hatnay

Other key lawyers:

Murray Gold; Mark Zigler

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP is known for its expertise in pension de-risking, innovative plan design, pension plan restructuring and pension litigation. In addition, the group assists corporations, boards of directors, trustees and pension committees with regard to pension governance and pension fund investment matters. Julien Ranger in Montréal is experienced in pension and employee benefit litigation, including at the Supreme Court of Canada. He is also a name to note for transactional support, as well as for pension issues particular to Quebec. Contacts in Toronto include Andrea Boctor, who joined the firm in September 2020 from Stikeman Elliott LLP, and Paul Litner, who has expertise in pension issues arising from corporate transactions. Jonathan Marin, an integral part of the group's restructuring and insolvency service group, was promoted to partner in March 2020. Jana Steele was appointed to the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in May 2020.

Practice head(s):

Paul Litner; Julien Ranger

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Marin; Andrea Boctor

Key clients

OPTrust

Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan

Ontario Pension Board/IMCO Investments

CAAT Pension Plan

Royal Bank of Canada

Saint John Shared Risk Pension Board

Greater Toronto Airports Authority

BC Partners

Alberta Health Services

Work highlights

  • Acted as lead Canadian counsel to Barclays, as lead financial advisor and administrative agent, and the lenders in its financing of Onex Corporation’s acquisition of WestJet Airlines Ltd.
  • Represented BC Partners in its definitive agreement to acquire Rhône Group’s equity interest in GardaWorld in a $5.2bn recapitalization.
  • Advised Enterprise Holdings Inc. on the signing of an agreement to which its Canadian subsidiary will acquire Discount Car and Truck Rental.

Torys

Torys pension practice is best known for its expertise in pension fund investing, where it advises major pension funds both on domestic and international investments, and is also recommended for complex strategic structuring advice. Other key areas of work include transactional post-closing pension support, and a full range of plan drafting, opinions, governance structuring and maintenance. Mitch Frazer chairs the practice and is sought after for his expertise in pension administration. Susan Nickerson and associate Tom Stevenson are also noted. All lawyers are based in Toronto.

Practice head(s):

Mitch Frazer

Key clients

Enbridge Inc.

Morneau Shepell Inc.

Navistar Canada, Inc.

Federal Express Canada Corp. and various subsidiaries

Morton Salt Company

Rogers Communications Inc.

OMERS Infrastructure

Destination Canada

Work highlights

  • Advised Morneau on the ongoing administration of Stelco Inc.’s pension plans following US Steel’s insolvency and restructuring.
  • Advised Brookfield Annuity Company on the development of a new insurance product for the OMA’s new Advantages Retirement Plan.
  • Acted for Navistar Canada, on behalf of its pension plans, in its acquisition of group annuity contracts, valued at approximately $268mn (C$313m) in obligations and related assets of defined benefits plans in Canada, from RBC Life Insurance Company and iA Financial Group.

Brown Mills Klinck Prezioso LLP

Brown Mills Klinck Prezioso LLP has continued to develop its reputation as one of the most respected administrator-side pension, benefits and executive compensation boutiques in Canada. Bringing together 'expertise in all aspects of pension legislation' and 'excellent relationships with the relevant government departments', the team is instructed by all types of public- and private-sector clients and non-profits, advising on the structuring of new benefit plans and the restructuring of existing ones; pension governance and compliance; investing; and other pensions matters arising from corporate transactions or reorganizations. The group is also increasingly active in the conversion of single-employer pension plans to jointly sponsored pension plans. Toronto-based Elizabeth Brown co-chairs the group with Terra Klinck, John Prezioso and Lisa Mills, the last of whom is based in Ottawa.

Testimonials

I have worked with this team for many years, in particular over the past 4 years on the creation of the University Pension Plan (UPP) for Ontario universities. BMKP’s work – and in particular the leadership of Elizabeth Brown – has been outstanding. The team as a whole brings expertise in all aspects of pension legislation etc; they have excellent relationships with the relevant government departments (eg FSRA). They also have an excellent relationship with the key actuary who has been providing actuarial advice to the 3 Universities. I am absolutely confident that there is not another law practice in this province that could do what they have done over the past few years.

Elizabeth not only has superb knowledge of the legislative requirements for the creation of JSPP, but given that we are negotiating this with multiple unions, she also also understands the complexities that this raises. Lisa Mills has also been integral in that process, as have Jason Paquette and John Prezioso. We have total confidence in the advice we have receive.

Key clients

Stelco Inc.

The University of Toronto

The University of Guelph

Queen’s University

Toronto-Dominion Bank

Hydro One Networks Inc.

OMA Insurance

McMaster University

Vale Canada Limited

The United Church of Canada

Work highlights

  • Acted as counsel to the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph and Queen’s University in a joint retainer for the establishment of a new jointly sponsored pension plan for the university sector in Ontario – the University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP).
  • Acted as legal counsel to Hydro One Networks Inc. in its capacity as sponsor and administrator of its pension plan.
  • Advised Stelco Inc. in its CCAA restructuring proceedings and continue to advise it on a variety of pension and benefit matters.

Lawson Lundell LLP

Lawson Lundell LLP houses a strong pensions practice, its regional base in Western Canada giving it particular sector experience in energy, natural resources and forestry. The group also acts for financial services, manufacturing and public sector pension plans. In addition to handling governance, administration and investment issues, the firm has a strong reputation in plan litigation. Vancouver-based practice head Murray Campbell is a key contact.

Practice head(s):

Murray Campbell

McCarthy Tétrault

The team at McCarthy Tétrault sits within the firms wider pensions, benefits and executive compensation group, and is recognized for its wide-ranging expertise in multi-employer pension plans; high-value transactional and investment work; and its complementary experience of tax, executive compensation and litigation. Headed by Randy Bauslaugh in the Toronto office, the practice group has significant experience in de-risking strategies, pension fund investment and pensions disputes. Areas of particular focus include university pensions matters and ESG investing.

Practice head(s):

Randy Bauslaugh

Other key lawyers:

Gregory Winfield; Deron Waldock

Key clients

Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

Cineworld Group plc

Lawyers Financial (Formerly Canadian Bar Insurance Association)

Partners Real Estate Investment Trust

Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc.

CCMP Capital Advisors, LP

Jamieson Laboratories Ltd.

Fortive

Stifel Financial Corp.

Royal Bank of Canada

University of Windsor

Brookfield Infrastructure

Bell Canada

OMERS

Acuity Brands

Novacap

Morneau Shepell Ltd.

Cortland Partners LLP

Evolution Mining

FedEx Ground

Univar

Work highlights

  • Acted for clients in negotiating a detailed affinity agreement, in which Lawyers Financial would join the CAAT pension plan.
  • Advised OMERS on analysing and assessing the ability to undertake investment in streams of income in the nature of healthcare-related royalty payments.
  • Advised Enbridge on ongoing pension administration and investment work.

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

The pensions and benefits group at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP sits within the firm's wider employment practice, and has a strong reputation in governance and administration, investment, pension plan transactions, and due diligence and support following corporate transactions. Toronto-based practice head Andrew Harrison has broad experience across the space, with experience in design and product development.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Harrison

Dentons

Mary Picard and Scott Sweatman are the names to note in Dentons' pensions group. The team has experience across a range of pensions work, covering administration and regulatory matters, issues arising from corporate transactions and insolvency, and pension plan mergers. Picard is based in Toronto, and Sweatman is in Vancouver.

Other key lawyers:

Mary Picard; Scott Sweatman

Fasken

Fasken stands out for its strength in pensions litigation, boasting an excellent track record in complex disputes, including class actions. On the non-contentious side, the group handles pension fund management, governance, and issues relating to surpluses and deficits. Ross Gascho heads the team from Toronto; Michael Wolpert divides time between Calgary and Vancouver; and Dominique Monet is a contact in the firm's Montréal office.

Practice head(s):

Ross Gascho

Other key lawyers:

Michael Wolpert; Dominique Monet

Key clients

ArcelorMittal Dofasco

Kellogg Canada Inc.

SCI Group Inc.

Avon Canada Inc.

AT&T Global Services Canada Co.

Manulife Financial

Co-operators Life Insurance Company

Cities of Beaconsfield, Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Mont-Royal and Ste-Catherine

Work highlights

  • Represented Carleton University before the Supreme Court of Canada in an appeal of a decision of the Québec Court of Appeal confirming a Superior Court decision in favour of Carleton University, relating to the right of a pension plan administrator to recover overpayments.
  • Advised 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.
  • Advised Co-operators regarding the development of its “longevity insurance” product for pension plans.

Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP

Labour and employment boutique Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP  has a well regarded pensions group handling a full range of regulatory work with extensive experience in taxation issues. The firm also benefits from a robust litigation practice. Toronto-based Stephanie Kalinowski is the key contact.

Other key lawyers:

Stephanie Kalinowski

Stikeman Elliott LLP

The pensions practice at Stikeman Elliott LLP is particularly strong in pension fund investment, de-risking, structuring advice and pension issues arising from insolvency. Natasha vandenHoven heads up the pensions and benefits group from Toronto, and Allyson Marta is a recommended associate is the practice group. Michel Legendre is a contact in Montréal. Andrea Boctor left for Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in September 2020.

Practice head(s):

Natasha vandenHoven

Other key lawyers:

Michel Legendre; Allyson Marta

Key clients

Canadian National Railway (CN)

Investment Management Corporation of Ontario (IMCO)

Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo)

BWXT

Air Canada

City of Montréal Police Service

Université de Montréal

Wesco Distribution Inc.

Algoma Steel Inc.

Canadian Medical Association

Work highlights

  • Advised Canadian National Railway on the sponsorship and administration of its C$17bn, 35,000-member federally regulated pension plans.
  • Advised Essar Steel Algoma on the sponsorship and administration of its member pension plans of  around C$1.5bn in assets.
  • Acted for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Plan in relation to its proposed all-cash acquisition of Pattern Energy Group Inc., which has 28 wind and solar projects in the US, Canada and Japan, as well as development projects in Mexico.

Bennett Jones LLP

The pensions team at Bennett Jones LLP sits within the firm's employment services group and provides strategic advice to employers and other plan administrators, managers and trustees. The practice is best known for handling pension and benefits issues in the context of M&A, restructurings and insolvencies. Susan Seller in Toronto and John Gilmore in Calgary jointly head the practice.

Practice head(s):

John Gilmore; Susan Seller

Key clients

Canadian Medical Association

Canadian Utilities Limited/ATCO Group

Dayco Products LLC

De Havilland Company of Canada Limited

Devon Canada Corporation

Kissner Group Holdings LP

Longview Aviation Capital Corp./De Havilland Company of Canada Ltd

Solus Alternative Asset Management LP

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.

Willbur-Ellis Holdings II, Inc.

Work highlights

  • Provided pension and benefits advice on the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of the Dash 8 aircraft program by de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited and Longview Aviation Capital Corporation.
  • Advised Devon Canada Corporation on strategies to minimize post-close liabilities, including in relation to Canadian pension matters, following its $3.8bn sale of substantially all of its assets.
  • Provided Canadian Utilities Limited with specialist pension advice in connection with pension obligations in the context of the divestiture of its fossil fuels portfolio.

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP's pensions practice stands out for its expertise in private health service plans for professional organisations, particularly for unions in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. David Stratton QC splits his time between Edmonton and Calgary, and jointly heads the practice with Rachel Hamilton in Edmonton.

Other key lawyers:

Veronica Monteiro

Testimonials

David Stratton is professional, approachable, disciplined in his analysis and timely in his responses.

Key clients

Laborers’ Pension Fund of Western Canada

Asbestos Workers Pension Plan of Alberta

Ironworkers Health & Welfare Trust Fund of Western Canada

Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association and ARTA Health Benefits ‎Trust ‎Funds

Alberta Ironworkers Pension Fund