Purpose of PSSA was to ensure public servants’ financial security when they retired

Federal court | Pensions | Federal and provincial pension plans | Federal pension plans

Parliament enacted Public Service Superannuation Act (PSSA) in 1985 to establish pension plan for various categories of employees within federal public service. Taxpayer began to work for spacecraft assembly and testing center that belonged to Government of Canada in 1983 and taxpayer was not hired under Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), but through third party private company that provided center with staff. Taxpayer received training, instruction and everything he needed for his work by center and to center’s clients, taxpayer was employee. Taxpayer received salary through third party company but had no interactions with company as part of his work, and taxpayer’s salary was based on public service pay scale. Taxpayer left center in 1995 and was hired by public service in 1997 and taxpayer sought to buy back his years of service from center, submitted application but Minister refused to recognize existence of employer/employee relationship during years taxpayer worked for center. Taxpayer brought application for judicial review. Application granted. It was found that Minister’s decision was unreasonable in finding that taxpayer had no employment relationship with center. Reasoning adopted by Minister was complete perversion of test for establishing employment relationship, as purpose of test was to determine whether genuine employment relationship existed beyond formal legal relationships parties put into place. One could not rely on those formal relationships to conclude that test was not met, because that was circular reasoning and if review of contract and reality showed existence of employment relationship, fact that parties acted in accordance with contract was not bar to such conclusion. Moreover, position adopted by Minister lead to absurd results, because it rewarded breach of contract, as it even allowed parties to manipulate results of exercise by drafting contract that did not reflect reality depending on desired result. Purpose of PSSA was to ensure public servants’ financial security when they retired but, in this case, there was every indication that center wanted to hire taxpayer as employee, but that apparently to avoid certain administrative constraints, center put in place tripartite relationship involving certain private businesses.

Céré v. Canada (Attorney General) (2019), 2019 CarswellNat 457, 2019 CarswellNat 458, 2019 FC 221, 2019 CF 221, Sébastien Grammond J. (F.C.).

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