Pensions in Canada
Operating at the forefront of pensions law, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s highly regarded national practice continues to lead the way in complex regulatory matters, particularly on the governance and de-risking fronts. On the investment side, the firm remains a top choice for leading funds, including Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and OMERS Administration Corporation. Toronto-based practice co-head Kathryn Bush has an impressive record in advising provincial governments on pension plans and other benefits. Jeremy Forgie, also based in Toronto, is highly sought after for his experience in plan and fund governance and transactional matters. In Calgary, Sean Maxwell is an increasingly prominent figure and recently advised Kinder Morgan Canada on the pension aspects of its high-profile sale of the Trans Mountain Pipeline system and expansion project to the Government of Canada.
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.
- Advised the Government of Alberta on public sector governance reform, including on issues relating to transitioning three of its major government pension plans.
- Acted for Morneau Shepell, as plan administrator of the Sears Canada Pension Plan, in Sears Canada’s CCAA proceedings.
- Acted for WestJet Airlines on its C$5bn acquisition by Onex Corporation,
- Advised Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan on its equity partnership with IFM Investors and British Columbia Investment Management in GCT Global Container.
- Acted for The Washington Companies on its $1.5bn acquisition of Dominion Diamond Mines.
Koskie Minsky LLP
Pensions law is a key pillar of Koskie Minsky LLP’s firm-wide offering. Indeed, the union-side specialist is routinely engaged by unions, employees, retirees, trustee boards and other administrators of multi-employer, private and public sector plans. The Toronto-based boutique, which specializes exclusively in labour, pensions and benefits and litigation, houses a full-service pensions practice with expertise in administration, transactional matters, investment and bankruptcy-related issues. Senior partner Murray Gold is widely acknowledged as a leader in the field; he was selected as one of three members of the Pension Asset Expert Advisory Panel appointed to examine public sector pension accounting issues for the Ontario government. Mark Zigler is another highly recommended contact.
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
A popular choice for complex strategic governance issues, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP is widely recognized as a leader in pension plan administration. From innovative plan design to pension de-risking and investment matters, the group advises corporations, boards of directors and pension committees on the full range of contentious and non-contentious matters. Alongside its standalone pensions offering, the group also teams up with other departments in the firm, particularly the M&A and restructuring departments, to handle sophisticated transactional matters. The practice group is led out of Toronto by Paul Litner, and also includes Toronto-based Jana Steele, who is noted for her expertise in plan design, and Montreal-based up-and-coming partner Julien Ranger. On the more junior end, Jonathan Marin is a recommended senior associate in Toronto.
Ontario Pension Board
The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP)
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
Royal Bank of Canada
IBM Canada Limited
CAAT Pension Plan
City of Saint John Shared Risk Plan
Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA)
City of Toronto
- Advised OPTrust on ‘OP Trust Select’, a new jointly sponsored, defined benefit product offering for modest income earners.
- Acted for Alberta Health Services in the transition of the Local Authorities Pension Plan from a government plan to an independent jointly governed plan.
- Advised Sunlife on an innovative defined contribution product called ‘Target Income Plan’.
- Assisted Scotiabank with the pensions and benefits issues associated with the divestiture of its banking operations in nine markets in the Caribbean to Republic Financial Holdings.
- Advised Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan on various aspects of plan administration and compliance.
Torys LLP climbs a tier this year on the back of its growing profile in the administration space, which sees it routinely advise key clients such as Scotiabank and Navistar (as well as several major public sector pensions funds) on a litany of day-to-day pensions matters; however, the firm remains best known for its dominant investment offering. Complemented by its ability to draw on top-tier corporate expertise and premier institutional relationships, the group routinely advises Canada’s most active pension funds, including OMERS, on domestic and multi-jurisdictional M&A, joint venture and investment transactions. Mitch Frazer chairs the department and is recognized for his broad practice focus. Also recommended are Susan Nickerson and senior associate Tom Stevenson, who is currently chair of the Ontario Bar Association Pension and Benefits section. Named lawyers are based in Toronto.
‘The Torys pensions practice has an unsurpassed sub-specialty in pension fund investment, as well as being excellent in all other areas of pensions and benefits administration.’
‘Torys provides the comfort I need to make decisions and bring forward fully thought-out recommendations to our pension committee. They advise on all avenues and potential outcomes on initiatives — unknown or surprise items don’t pop up following their thorough consultation.’
‘Torys’ pensions team consistently delivers on time, respecting our need to move items quickly.’
‘Mitch Frazer is an advisor extraordinaire and demonstrates top leadership.’
‘Mitch Frazer is, by far, the most knowledgeable lawyer I’ve worked with in the pensions space in Canada. He has incredibility deep knowledge of the pensions landscape, is very thoughtful in his approach and is solution-focused and listens to his clients.’
‘Susan Nickerson possesses exquisite skill and knowledge, and has excellent client communication skills.’
‘Tom Stevenson has great research and writing skills.’
The Bank of Nova Scotia
Morneau Shepell Inc.
Navistar Canada, Inc.
Federal Express Canada Corp. and various subsidiaries
Morton Salt Company
Oxford Properties Group
Rogers Communications Inc.
- Advised Scotiabank on its C$2.5bn acquisition of MD Financial Management from the Canadian Medical Association, which involved complex pensions arrangements.
- Advised Morneau Shepell on the administration of Stelco’s pension plans following US Steel’s insolvency and restructuring.
- Advised Navistar on partial pension plan wind-up litigation proceedings regarding the hourly pension plan at its now-closed assembly plant in Chatham.
- Advised Oxford Properties Group, the real estate investment arm of OMERS (the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System), on pension fund investment and regulatory matters regarding its A$3.4bn acquisition of the Investa Office Fund portfolio in Australia.
- Advised Rogers Communications on day-to-day general pension and fiduciary advice.
Brown Mills Klinck Prezioso LLP
Brown Mills Klinck Prezioso LLP’s exclusive focus on pensions, benefits and executive compensation sees it involved in major industry mandates, where it advises on all the key pillars of administration, plan design, de-risking and investment matters. Elizabeth Brown, who acts for both public and private sector employers, is noted for her strong experience in regulatory and governance issues, including litigation.
Lawson Lundell LLP houses Western Canada’s leading pensions practice, which routinely advises employers in the natural resources, financial services, manufacturing and public sectors on strategic pensions matters. Though the team is particularly well versed in complex pensions litigation, it also handles administration, governance and investment matters. Murray Campbell, who heads the group from Vancouver, is highly sought after for plan design and modernization mandates.
McCarthy Tétrault fields a robust practice group, which acts across all stages of pensions law, from plan creation and implementation, to administration and investment. The group also consistently teams up with other departments in the firm to provide support on transactional matters. The national practice group is led in Toronto by Randy Bauslaugh, but also has a presence in Calgary and Vancouver.
Morneau Shepell Ltd. in its capacity as the administrator of the Canadian registered pension plans of Nortel
Brewers Retail Inc.
Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS)
Axalta Coatings Systems
Direct Energy Marketing Limited
Board of Trustees of Christian Schools International Canadian pension and benefit trust funds
Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Pension Plan
- Advised Morneau Shepell, as administrator of the Nortel Canadian Pension Plan, on Nortel’s cross-border insolvency proceedings.
- Advised Lawyers Financial on the development of a multi-employer target benefit and collective defined contribution pension scheme for law firms and accounting firms in Canada.
- Advised the Boards of Trustees of Christian Schools International Canadian Pension Plan and Group Benefit Plan on governance, design amendment and disputes arising under the multi-employer target benefit pension scheme.
- Advised Brookfield Asset Management on the C$4.3bn acquisition of Enercare by Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, including pensions matters.
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s pensions and benefits group sits within its market-leading labour and employment department and has a strong track record in pension governance matters. Headed by Toronto-based Andrew Harrison, the national group is also consistently involved in transactional support work.
Ville de Laval
Ville de Gatineau
Association Québécoise de la production médiatique
Zayo Canada inc.
Government of Canada and Canada Development Investment Corporation
Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services
- Advised municipality Ville de Laval on various litigation and grievances regarding the administration of pensions plans for unionized employees.
- Advised Zayo Canada on pension plan split, pension plan freeze and pension plan wind-up.
- Advised MD Holdings on Scotiabank’s C$2.5bn acquisition of the MD Financial group of companies.
Leveraging capable teams in Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton, the national practice group at Dentons regularly advises on administration, regulatory issues and transactional support matters. The department is jointly led by pensions specialists Scott Sweatman and Mary Picard, who are based in Vancouver and Toronto respectively.
‘The Dentons’ team is very knowledgeable and professional and provides great customer service in general.’
Greyhound Canada Transportation ULC
British Columbia Nurses’ Union (BCNU)
Champion Pet Foods LP
Council of Forest Industries (COFI)
Concert Properties Ltd.
The Sound Research Crew Inc.
Babine Forest Products Limited
Employee Benefit Plan Board of Trustees (3sHealth)
British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA)
- Provided day-to-day pensions advice to Greyhound’s three federally regulated registered pension plans.
- Advised British Columbia Nurses’ Union on the creation of a new standalone BC Nurses defined benefit pension plan.
- Advised the Council of Forest Industries on obtaining an Order in Council for a change of its pension plan status to non-collectively bargained multi-employer plan.
Fasken is distinguished in part by its record in contentious matters, where it routinely utilizes the wider firm’s deep bench of litigators to handle complex disputes, including class actions. In addition, in the non-contentious space, the team advises on plan design, administration and restructuring. Former department head Peggy McCallum recently stepped down to counsel and Ross Gascho now leads the team. Michael Wolpert joined from Lawson Lundell LLP and splits his time between Calgary and Toronto.
Other key lawyers:
‘We can always reach someone at Fasken and have an answer quickly, if other resources are required Fasken always has an expert on site.’
‘Peggy McCallum’s successor, Ross Gascho, has slid into the role virtually seamlessly.’
ArcelorMittal Dofasco Inc.
Kellogg Canada Inc.
SCI Group Inc.
E.I. du Pont Canada Company
AT&T Global Services Canada Co.
Intact Financial Corporation
Co-operators Life Insurance Company
- Represented Carleton University before the Supreme Court of Canada in a case concerning recovery of overpayments made to a deceased pensioner.
- Represented Co-operators Life Insurance Company in defending a class action alleging it is responsible for a deficit in a pension plan to which it was a service provider.
- Advised the Trustees of the British Columbia Credit Union Employees’ Pension Plan in a claim that the administrator breached its fiduciary duties to members in amending the plan to increase normal retirement date.
Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP
Labour and employment specialist Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP houses a robust pensions and benefit practice, which is highly regarded for plan design and administration. The Toronto-based boutique is also consistently involved in regulatory and contentious matters. Dedicated pensions, employee benefits partner Stephanie Kalinowski chairs the practice group.
Bennett Jones LLP
Bennett Jones LLP’s pensions team forms a key part of its broader employment offering. Best known for its activity in transactional support matters, the group also advises plan administrators, managers and trustees on plan design, establishment and administration. Toronto-based Susan Seller leads the national pensions practice.
Board of Directors of Sears Canada Inc.
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL)
Canadian Utilities Limited/ATCO Group
Cenovus Energy Inc.
Dayco Products LLC
Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited
Klondex Mines Ltd.
Longview Aviation Capital Corp.
Schlumberger Production Management
- Advised Longview Aviation Capital on the pensions aspects of its acquisition of the Dash 8 program.
- Advised Klondex Mines on the pensions aspects of its acquisition by Hecla Mining.
- Provided general Canadian pensions advice to Canadian Utilities across a wide variety of compliance and pension fund investment matters.
DLA Piper (Canada) LLP
DLA Piper (Canada) LLP’s compact but effective practice has an emphasis on private health service plans. The multi-disciplinary group is also distinguished by its ability to bring lawyers experienced in pensions law together with industry experts in areas such as real estate and construction. Corporate and commercial partner David Stratton QC, who splits his time between Edmonton and Calgary, is the key contact.
‘Knowledgeable in all aspects of pension law. There are, at best, eight pension law practitioners in Alberta and three of them are at DLA Piper. As such, they are the only Alberta-based practice that has any depth in its pension practice.’
‘They are disciplined and rigorous in their approach to analyzing issues and have an in-depth knowledge of Alberta pension legislation and administrative challenges that plan administrators face.’
‘David Stratton QC is the partner in charge of the practice and has extensive experience and institutional memory relating to pension issues.’
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