The City of Surrey says it now has a “guaranteed” Group 5 pension benefits for police recruits.
That means Surrey police officers, if the transition is approved, will qualify for the same pension benefits that exist in other municipal departments,” according to the city.
However, a National Police Federation representative says that may not be enough to incentivize all officers who may be considering a transfer.
The Municipal Pension Plan (MPP) board of trustees approved the city’s application for Group 5 pension benefits on Nov. 20, according to a release Thursday (Dec. 12).
“Members in Group 5 have higher benefit accrual rate allowing their pension benefit to accumulate faster which provides for earlier retirement options for police officers than those in other MPP group plans,” the release states. “This decision also provides RCMP members with assurance they will receive full pension benefits provided to all Group 5 member police departments.”
According to the release, this builds on the approved pension transfer agreement for the current members of the RCMP announced in September.
However, National Police Federation co-director Brian Sauvé said that while it’s “good” that a defined benefit plan has been established, he said recruitment would still depend on each individual member’s financial situation.
“If you’re going to be attracting police officers from an existing municipal force in B.C., like New West or West Vancouver or Delta or Nelson or Port Moody, or even Vancouver, then for them it’s an easier calculation,” Sauvé said.
But Sauvé said, “you really get into the weeds on the accounting side.
“I do know if it’s the Vancouver model, their one year of service for them is greater in pension value than one year of service for us (RCMP),” Sauvé said.
In Vancouver, he said, officers contribute more while they serve.
“That’s one stark difference between the RCMP and Vancouver is the high contribution rates by the employees,” Sauvé said.
“As a member of the RCMP with 20 years of RCMP service, that does not equal 20 years of Vancouver’s service because I have not contributed enough to the RCMP pension to equal what a 20-year member of Vancouver would have contributed to their pension.”
Sauvé said a 10-year member of the RCMP might have $300,000 in pension, but a 10-year Vancouver Police Department member might have $450,000 in their pension plan.
“So for me to go over to Vancouver and maintain my 10 years of service, I would actually have to make up that shortfall of $150,000,” he said.
Sauvé said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has said officers can transfer their pension “dollar-for-dollar, which is not quite accurate.”
“Every individual member from any police service, or from the RCMP, that wants to go to a different police service or from a different police service who wants to come to the RCMP, has to have an individualized transfer agreement calculated to determine what dollar value equals what dollar value.”
Sauvé said if there’s a junior member with fewer than five years of service “that is not heavily vested in their RCMP pension plan, then the buy-in to the municipal plan might be a smaller dollar value.”
“It might be $40 to $45 to $50,000. And the ability to only do 30 years versus 35 years, that might make them say, ‘Yeah, that’s probably worthwhile and I can take out a line of credit or add onto my mortgage and I can pay back the extra money for the future benefit,” he said.
“But if you have a 20-year member, who’s looking at a $200,000-hit to move over to municipal… I don’t know if they can afford that.”
A City of Surrey release says the full pension portability for RCMP members, combined with the Group 5 approval, “means that the two most important pension issues for future members of Surrey Police have now been addressed.”
Asked what the other issues are, a city spokesperson said in an emailed statement that “in terms of pension matters, these two items are the most important pension issues and they are now both addressed.”