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Pensions and Benefits
Pensions and Benefits

McInnes Cooper is Atlantic Canada’s leading law firm in pensions and benefits law. Our Pensions and Benefits team is the largest and most experienced in Eastern Canada. Every member of our team has a substantial practice in this field. We are rated by Best Lawyers in Canada and Lexpert as leading practitioners of Pensions and Employee Benefits Law. Drawing on the expertise from a large Labour and Employment team and our Tax lawyers as well, McInnes Cooper’s Pensions and Benefits lawyers offer a depth of experience and service that is unparalleled in the region.


McInnes Cooper enjoys an extensive involvement in pension plan matters on a regional and national level. We handle pension plans for companies, universities, municipalities, unions, and associations. Plan sponsors, trustees, employee groups and administrators frequently seek our counsel. We advise on the various legal and regulatory issues that arise in private and public plans, jointly trusteed plans and multi-employer plans.


Representative Work


Services we provide to our clients include:


  • Drafting, negotiating, interpreting pension plans and trust agreements
  • Ensuring compliance with pensions standards legislation
  • Litigation over benefit entitlements, surplus issues and other matters
  • Class Actions – responding to or advancing them
  • Tax Planning and Advocacy with Canada Revenue Agency
  • Policy and procedure drafting as part of a plan’s administration
  • Governance advice, including reviews and audits
  • Human rights and collective agreement advice
  • Contract Reviews with plan suppliers and agents
  • Keeping clients apprised of proposed regulatory changes
  • Representation to regulatory authorities provincially and federally
  • Capital accumulation plans expertise, including advice on defined contribution plans, group RRSPs and deferred profit sharing plans
  • Supplemental plans – negotiating, drafting and reviewing their terms
  • Merger and wind-up of Pension plans
  • Corporate reorganizations and downsizing
  • Risk Management and insurance advice
  • Advice on Individual Member Issues


Reported cases include:


Police Association of Nova Scotia Pension Plan v. Amherst (Town), 2008 NSCA 74


Melanson v. New Brunswick (Attorney General), 2006 CarswellNB 694; 2007 NBCA 12


White v. Halifax (Regional Municipality) Pension Committee, 2007 CarswellNS 68 (CA)


Atlantic Oil Workers Union, Local 1 v. Imperial Oil Limited, 2006 CarswellNS 371


Halifax Regional Municipality Pension Committee v. Nova Scotia (Superintendent of Pensions), 2005 CarswellNS 36


Graymont (NB) Inc. v. New Brunswick (Superintendent of Pensions) 2004 CarswellNB 622


Cape Breton Development Corp. v. UMWA, 2004 CarswellNAT 4607


Dalhousie University v. Moger, 2003 CarswellNS 89


Central Guaranty Trust Company (Liquidator of) v. Spectrum Pension Plan (5) (Administrator of), 1997 CarswellNS 246 (C.A.)


Hawker Siddley Canada Inc. v. Nova Scotia (Attorney General), 1994 CarswellNS 341



A vital element of our practice involves the increasing amount of private investments made by Atlantic Canadian pension plans. In this regard, we establish special purpose corporations to carry out this activity and we advise on compliance with pension standards legislation and the Income Tax Act. We also advise on structured transactions to meet investment objectives and legislative and regulatory requirements.


Staying ahead of the pack


To stay abreast of new trends and developments in this industry, we maintain professional memberships and participate in the International Pension and Employee Benefits Lawyers’ Association, the Canadian Pensions & Benefits Institute, the Association of Canadian Pension Management and the National Pensions & Benefits Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association. We frequently present on current issues in the field to industry groups, pensions organizations and our peers.


McInnes Cooper recognizes the importance of pension fiduciaries understanding the nature of their role and obligations and remaining current with respect to important developments in the pension field. With this in mind, we distribute to our clients periodic newsletters regarding legal developments we believe would be of interest to you.


Click here to download our full Pension and Benefits Brochure.


Legal Alert: NS Takes One More Step Toward Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPP)
September 14, 2015

On September 10, 2015, NS took one more step toward moving Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs) from theory to practice in NS by seeking public input on draft Pooled Registered Pension Plan (PRPP) Regulations and related amendments to the Pension Benefits Regulations. NS may see the provisions regarding PRPPs proclaimed in force by early 2016.

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McInnes Cooper’s Hugh Wright & Rhea McGarva in Taxnet Pro™: More Regulation – 9 Key Changes to NS Pension Regime Effective June 1, 2015
June  5, 2015

Our lawyers tell you not just what’s new; they also tell you how it affects you. In Hugh Wright and Rhea McGarva’s article, More Regulation – 9 Key Changes to NS Pension Regime Effective June 1, 2015 , Hugh and Rhea discuss the 9 key changes to the NS pension regime that take effect on June 1,

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Legal Update: More Regulation – 9 Key Changes to NS Pension Regime Effective June 1, 2015
June  3, 2015

On June 1, 2015, the new Nova Scotia Pension Benefits Act (and related Regulations), on the books since 2011, at long last took effect.  The new Act, principally modelled on the Ontario Pension Benefits Act (with some differences), introduces a higher level of regulation. The Act and Regulations increased from 161 to 267 pages, adding

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McInnes Cooper’s Kiersten Amos in Plans & Trusts – Building Momentum: Pooled Registered Pension Plans
March 30, 2015

Our lawyers not only stay current with the law as it it; they also stay current with where it’s going and how that will affect our clients’ businesses. In Kiersten Amos’s article, Building Momentum: Pooled Registered Pension Plans as published in Plans & Trusts, Volume 33 Number 1,  January/February, 2015, Kiersten takes a look at where Pooled Registered Pension

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Legal Alert: Pension Plans for SMEs – NS Introduces Pooled Registered Pension Plan Law
October 16, 2014

Note: On September 10, 2015 the NS government introduced draft PRPP regulations for public comment. Read McInnes Cooper’s Legal Alert: NS Takes One More Step Toward Pooled Retirement Pension Plans here.   On October 15, 2014, the Nova Scotia government introduced legislation that will, if passed into law, permit Pooled Registered Pension Plans (or “PRPPs”)

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Legal Alert: Nova Scotia Pension Regulator to Move to a New Provincial Department
August 27, 2014

Effective September 1, 2014, all Nova Scotia provincial pension services currently assigned to the NS Department of Labour and Advanced Education or its Minister, will be moved to the Department of Finance and Treasury Board or its Minister.   The NS Pension Regulation Division, which is responsible for administering and enforcing the Nova Scotia Pension

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Legal Update: Are “Target Benefit Plans” The Answer? Feds Announce Public Consultations on Target Benefit Plans
May  5, 2014

On April 24, 2014 the Federal Government announced  it is considering  changing the federal pension legislation (Pension Benefits Standards Act) to permit “target benefit plans” (TB Plans) as an option for federally regulated private sector employers and Crown corporations . The announcement has people thinking about TB Plans, and whether they are the answer:  

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McInnes Cooper’s Hugh Wright in International Pension Lawyer: Indalex – Navigating the Shoals of Conflict of Interest
February  6, 2014

Insolvent companies who administer defined benefit pension plans face unique legal challenges in reconciling competing duties to the beneficiaries of the pension plans and the stakeholders of the company. A recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada provides some guidance on how competing interests may be reconciled. The Court’s decision on the issue of

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Legal Alert: SCC OK’s Retirees’ Class Action Against Health Plan Sponsor
January 17, 2014

On January 16, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada certified a class action initiated on behalf of a group of retirees and their surviving spouses about their post-retirement health benefits.   In Vivendi Canada Inc. v. Dell’Aniello, Seagrams, the class members’ former employer, sponsored a post-retirement health benefit in which the proposed class members participated.

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Legal Alert: SCC Clarifies What Benefits are Deductible from Pay In Lieu of Reasonable Notice – and Pension Benefits Are Not One
December 17, 2013

On December 13, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada decided pension benefits, regardless of the type of pension plan, are not deductible from damages for wrongful dismissal.   Mr. Waterman was almost 66 years old and had worked for IBM for 42 years. IBM terminated his employment without cause and gave him 2 months’ of

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Legal Update: Contract Clause Doesn’t Cut It – Employer Can’t Reduce Post-Retirement Employee Benefits
September 16, 2013

On July 17, 2013, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice confirmed that in certain circumstances, employers can change post-retirement (non-pension) benefits – as long as the contract language allows it:   Context Counts. The starting premise favours employees: courts will take into account the employees’ objective, reasonable expectations of the effect of contract language giving

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Legal Update: The Changing Tide of Atlantic Canadian Pension Legislation
April  3, 2013

Pension legislation throughout Atlantic Canada is in a state of change. In less than a year, each Atlantic Province has taken steps – in some cases, bold steps – to change the way in which pensions are legislated in its respective jurisdiction:      PEI Takes Another Stab at Pension Standards Legislation. It appears PEI – the

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Legal Update: NS Extends Time to Fund Solvency Deficiencies for Defined Benefit Pension Plans
March  6, 2013

Effective February 12, 2013, the NS government amended the NS Pension Benefits Regulations to provide further relief from solvency funding for private defined benefit pension plans in NS.  Under the amended Regulations, employers who are sponsors of defined benefit pension plans may have 15 years, rather than only 5 years, to bring underfunded plans into a

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Legal Alert: SCC Delivers Indalex Decision With Significant Implications for Lenders, Pension Administrators & Unions
February  1, 2013

 On February 1, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in Sun Indalex Finance, LLC v. United Steelworkers, with significant and far ranging implications for pension administrators, lenders and unions:   Statutory Deemed Trust Over Full Pension Plan Wind Up Deficits.  In a split decision, the majority of the SCC decided that, with

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Legal Update: NS Court of Appeal Finds Employee Neither Eligible Nor Entitled To Plan Benefits
November 13, 2012

On May 8, 2012 the N.S. Court of Appeal confirmed that the Trustees of a pension and a welfare plan correctly interpreted the hours-based eligibility criteria when they refused the disabled employee’s application for a disability pension and for welfare benefits. The Trustees had decided that he was not a member of either plan because

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Newfoundland and Labrador extends pension solvency relief
February  6, 2012

Amendments to the Solvency Funding Relief Regulations under the Newfoundland and Labrador Pension Benefits Act came into force in December 2011.   The Regulations had provided funding relief in 2008 to defined benefit pension plans, other than multi-employer plans, with respect to solvency deficiencies determined between January 1, 2007 and January 1, 2009. The amended

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Additional Solvency Relief Provided under the New Brunswick Pension Benefits Act
January 17, 2012

New regulations under the New Brunswick Pension Benefits Act came into force in December 2011. The new regulations provide additional solvency relief for defined benefit pension plans with actuarial valuations having a review date between April 1, 2010 and January 1, 2012 inclusive. A plan administrator may request that existing solvency deficiencies be consolidated and

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Nova Scotia Introduces New Pension Benefits Act
November  6, 2011

Nova Scotia has moved forward with the next phase of pension reform, introducing a new Pension Benefits Act on November 15th, 2011, and releasing a further discussion document on proposed regulations that will be enacted under this Act. These reforms will affect all pension plans registered in Nova Scotia and parts of these reforms will

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Legal Alert: New Brunswick Updates Recognition of Same Sex Spouses and Common Law Partners
October  6, 2011

Amendments to the New Brunswick Pension Benefits Act in 2008 and 2011, which provided for benefits to common-law partners analogous to spouses and allowed for spouses to include a same sex spouse, were proclaimed into law effective October 1, 2011.   Also effective Oct. 1, the General Regulation under the Pension Benefits Act has been

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Further Changes Proposed to New Brunswick Pension Benefits Act
May  6, 2011

On March 31, 2011, the Government of New Brunswick introduced Bill 16, containing additional amendments to the Pension Benefits Act. Bill 16 modernizes the proposed definitions of common law partners, including same sex couples. It amends legislation passed in 2008, but never proclaimed, that addressed the same subject. Bill 16 will promote harmonization between provinces

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Legal Alert: New Brunswick Pension Task Force Requests Public Input
April  6, 2011

The Government of New Brunswick has established a task force to make recommendations on how to protect private pensions in New Brunswick and make them sustainable in the long-term. For more information, see McInnes Cooper’s November 2010 Pension Law Legal Update New Brunswick Embarks on Pension Legislation Review.   On March 25, 2011 the Government

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Supreme Court of Canada Upholds Age-Based Distinctions in Federal Public Sector Pension Plans
April  6, 2011

Administrators and sponsors of pension and benefits plans containing age-based distinctions should take close note of the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Withler v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 12. The decision means that age-based distinctions remain valid in certain circumstances. However, the fact that the case made its way to Canada’s highest

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Hugh Wright re-elected as Chair of Board of Directors of ACPM
September 22, 2015

McInnes Cooper would ilke to congratulate Hugh Wright on being re-elected as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Assocation of Canadian Pension Management. Hugh’s re-election was recently announced at the national conference held in Kelowna, BC.  The Chair is selected by the fellow board members each year and this year will mark the

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