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Financial Sustainability

University Pension Plan Ontario updated info available

Queen’s University, University of Guelph and University of Toronto, together with their faculty associations, the USW and other staff groups, have been working together to develop a new, Defined Benefit pension plan that would cover employees at all three universities – the University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP).

New information, including a fact sheet and a summary of key features on the University Pension Plan Ontario, is now available on the Pension Services webpage as well as on the University Pension Plan Ontario website.


Statement from Principal Woolf on provincial budget

Government of Ontario releases 2018 budget.

The 2018 Ontario budget proposes to continue the government's commitment to enhancing access to post-secondary education through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), as well as further investments in the renewal of university and college classrooms and facilities, mental health services, skills development, and experiential learning.

Universities play a critical role in preparing the highly-skilled workforce that Ontario needs to remain globally-competitive. Queen’s will continue to encourage the government to make further investments to ensure the quality of education at Ontario’s universities and to support faculty renewal, innovation, and the development of new experiential learning opportunities for students.

Changes to capital project approval policy

Changes to the Capital Project Approval Policy and Procedures were approved at the March 2, 2018, meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Updates to the policy and procedures include an increase in the threshold for which Board of Trustees approval is required from $2.5 million to $5 million. Capital Projects with a budget between $2.5 million to $5 million will now be approved by the Vice-Principal’s Operations Committee, thus expediting the approval process. Other updates to the policy and procedures include earlier engagement with senior university leadership for major capital projects, as well as simplified processes and templates. Changes were informed through consultation with a number of internal stakeholder groups and external experts.

The revised policy improves the governance of major capital projects with early engagement of both internal and external governance bodies,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance & Administration).  “The updated procedures also streamline the approval process and promote robust reporting practices for approved projects.”

For more information about the updates to the policy and procedures, check out the University Secretariat website or contact John Witjes, Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities).

University Pension Plan update

Queen's University is moving forward with plans to create a new type of pension plan for the Ontario university sector, along with partners the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. Once it is up and running, it will be available to other Ontario universities as well.

University administrations, faculty associations, unions and other staff groups at all three institutions have been working diligently to develop a shared pension plan for employees at all three universities.

This new University Pension Plan, would be a multi-employer jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP), a contributory defined benefit plan in which the employers and pension plan members share responsibility for plan governance and funding.

joint communication on the University Pension Plan Ontario can be found on a new University Pension Plan Ontario website. The website will provide all the latest information and other resources on the University Pension Plan.

Additional information specific to Queen’s employees will be made available over the next few months.


Report updates Queen’s Pension Plan deficit

New actuarial valuation estimates the pension plan’s ongoing deficit, while work continues on a University Pension Project.

An actuarial valuation on the Queen’s Pension Plan (QPP) has been completed as of August 2017 and will be presented for approval to the Pension Committee of the Board of Trustees at their upcoming meeting in March.  This report updates the results from the previous report issued in early 2015, as of August 2014.  Under provincial regulations, actuarial valuations must be filed with the provincial pensions regulator every three years.

The valuation examines the financial state of the pension plan on both a “going concern” basis, which assumes the plan continues to operate normally, and a “solvency” basis, which assumes the plan is closing today. As the plan sponsor, the university is required to make special payments into the plan if a deficit exists under either approach.

The 2017 valuation results set the QPP’s going concern deficit at $32 million, a large decrease from the $175 million in the 2014 report.  Much of this improvement is due to strong investment gains on pension plan assets over the past several years.  The solvency deficit remains significant, increasing slightly to $313 million from $285 million in 2014.

Under the solvency relief provisions, the university’s estimated annual special payments are expected to be $19 million per year starting in 2018, down slightly from the current $20.7 million per year.  Annual special payments of approximately $50 million per year would be required if no solvency relief program was in place.

“It’s important that Queen’s has a viable pension plan for all current and retired employees and Queen’s has been taking the necessary steps to ensure that the long term financial sustainability of the plan is being addressed in a responsible manner,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “At the same time, the university will continue to benefit from partial solvency relief from the province which will allow us to address our ongoing pension obligations while investing in other important university priorities, such as faculty renewal, inclusivity and diversity initiatives, and deferred maintenance.”

The university has been building a special reserve fund over the past three years to offset the impact of future solvency deficit payments or to potentially ease the transition to a new university sector jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP). Contributions to the pension reserve will continue during the 2018-19 fiscal year, with a decision on future years to be made as part of the 2019-20 budget process.

At the same time, Queen’s is continuing to work with two other universities, including participating employee groups, and the provincial government on the creation of a multi-employer, jointly sponsored pension plan for the university sector in Ontario.  Queen’s, the University of Toronto, and the University of Guelph are now looking to finalize the outstanding design and governance elements of the project. All Ontario universities will have the option to join the JSPP once established.

More information about the Queen’s Pension Plan is available on the Human Resources website. Anyone with pension related-questions may contact Bob Weisnagel, Director, Pension Services by email or at ext. 74184.

Stepping up cybersecurity at Queen’s

New online Cybersecurity Awareness Course now available for faculty and staff.

Through the ever-expanding internet, people at Queen’s can connect with peers around the world and find information to help with their research and other professional endeavours. But along with all this opportunity, comes exposure to some serious risks.

Universities have become targets for cyberattacks as they own vast amounts of valuable research and financial information. Universities are also often vulnerable as they are designed for collaboration and have a high volume of employees who bring their own devices to work.

Most of these attacks are launched by organized crime, state or nations, hacktivists, or insiders. Over the last few years, Queen’s along with several large Canadian universities have fallen victim to damaging cyberattacks, including the University of Alberta, Carleton University, and the University of Calgary, which paid $20,000 in ransomware after some of its computers were hijacked.

It’s why stepping up cybersecurity is an important priority at Queen’s. The university’s information technology system underpins all of our academic and research activities, and is crucial to our financial sustainability. To safeguard it, Queen’s has been implementing a number of new cybersecurity measures behind the scenes recently, and next up is the launch of a new online course.

The Cybersecurity Awareness Course is now available for all full-time or term employees who have a continuing relationship with the university. The course takes about 45 minutes to complete and features modules on phishing, ransomware, and mobile security.

“Everyone at the university has a role to play in preventing cyberattacks and this course will give faculty and staff the latest information to help them protect their devices and all of their professional, research, and personal data from being hijacked, stolen, or even destroyed,” says Jennifer Doyle, Chief Information Officer. “As we’ve seen in other cyberattacks in Canada and the U.S., a cyberattack can cause significant financial and operational damage.”

To promote the course, members of the cybersecurity awareness project are now beginning to meet with faculties and departments across campus to talk about who should take the course in their area. Everyone identified will then receive an email invitation with a link to the course webpage.

“Everyone at the university has a role to play in preventing cyberattacks and this course will give faculty and staff the latest information to help them protect their devices and all of their professional, research, and personal data...”
                                                                             – Jennifer Doyle, Chief Information Officer

“Each area of Queen’s is unique, and this customized approach will allow us work closely with large and small teams across campus to answer people’s questions and encourage them to participate,” says Denise Ernst, Information Security Officer. “Our goal is to reach an 80 per cent participation rate by the end of 2018.”

A few weeks after completing the course, users can expect to be part of an interesting follow up exercise. They will be sent spoofed emails to see if they can avoid being “phished.” If all goes well, they will identify the email as phony and report it to abuse@queensu.ca.

“The phishing exercise is a safe and timely way for us to measure the effectiveness of the awareness course and to reinforce the course material by reminding people of what they learned,” says Ms. Ernst.

Meetings with different areas are now being scheduled but the course is already available online for anyone who would like to log in and take it now. It can be accessed at the following ITS security webpage.

New provincial workplace legislation enacted

Queen’s working to assess and implement any required changes in the new Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act

After a lengthy review, the provincial government recently passed into law Bill 148, also known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. The Act will have an impact on universities across the province as it makes amendments to the provincial Employment Standards Act, Labour Relations Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Act is perhaps best known for its changes to the general minimum wage. It will rise to $14 per hour starting on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to $15 per hour in January 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation. The Act also includes other changes that affect how employees are compensated, scheduled, and granted special leaves. Many of these changes will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, however, certain changes will come into effect this coming April, or in January 2019. In some cases, the changes may come into effect later where they affect the terms of a collective agreement already in place.

Changes to the length of statutorily protected parental leave came into effect on Dec. 3, 2017 to coincide with changes to Employment Insurance benefits announced by the federal government in the March 2017 budget. Eligible parents can now choose between Standard Parental EI Benefit and an Extended Parental EI Benefit. 

A change to the definition of “Chronic Mental Stress” under WSIB policy will come into effect Jan. 1, 2018, following the passage Bill 127, the Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act 2017.

“The Human Resources department has been preparing for this new legislation and will be supporting units across the university with implementation of the required changes,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “All managers are encouraged to attend an information session on these legislative changes.”  

The HR department will be holding a series of information sessions for managers over the coming weeks to give them guidance on the legislative changes and to answer questions. The sessions will take place in the Lecture Theatre of the Faculty and Staff Learning Facility (Mac-Corry, B176) on the following dates:

  • Dec. 13, 2017 – 9:30 am to 11 am
  • Dec. 14, 2017 – 1:30 pm to 3 pm
  • Jan. 11, 2018  – 9:30 am to 11 am
  • Jan. 17, 2018  – 9:30 am to 11 am

Please register by visiting the Learning Catalogue.

A working group that includes representation from academic and shared service units has been set up to provide input to the HR department throughout the implementation process.

To learn more, visit the HR department’s Legislative Policy Changes webpage.

Executive Compensation Program available for comment

The draft of the program will be open for feedback for 30 days.

After an eight year pay freeze, the Ontario government has recently put in place a new framework for executive compensation that applies to a range of public sector organizations, including universities, colleges, hospitals, school boards, and several other public bodies. It also has in place new requirements for how salary increases are reviewed, approved, and communicated with the public.

At Queen’s University, the new executive compensation framework applies to the Principal, Provost, and four Vice-Principals. Over the past year, the Board of Trustees has been carefully considering the new requirements of the Broader Public Sector Executive Compensation Act (2014) and the subsequent Regulation 400/17 that came into effect in November. The Queen’s draft Executive Compensation Program ensures that the university is compliant with these requirements. As part of the consultation phase, members of the Queen’s community are now being invited to comment on the program.

As an institution, Queen’s mission is to advance research excellence, leadership and innovation, as well as enhance Queen’s impact at a national and international level. Both Queen’s and its Board of Trustees are committed to maintaining a competitive, effective and responsible approach to managing executive compensation, with the following core principles in mind – competitive with the talent market, support the university vision and Strategic Framework, accountability and be reflective of the academic compensation model.

To help create a responsible and effective executive compensation program, the province requires universities to compare their top executive compensation packages to those in place at comparable organizations. Queen’s used salary data collected by the Council of Ontario Universities and selected peer universities with medicals schools and high rankings for research that are also members of the U15.  These universities also reflect a cross-section of the Canadian talent market in which Queen’s competes for executive talent:

University of Alberta                           University of British Columbia

University of Calgary                          Dalhousie University

University of Manitoba                        McGill University       

McMaster University                           University of Ottawa

University of Saskatchewan               University of Toronto

University of Waterloo                        University of Western Ontario

These comparative figures were used to establish a salary cap at the 50th percentile for each comparable role. Queen’s executives all have salaries well below these caps, and as indicated in the program, increases are limited to 5% of the pay envelope of the Principal and Vice-Principals, and may be distributed differentially.  

“Queen’s is committed to ensuring that there is a balance between managing compensation costs while allowing the university to attract and retain the talent needed to support the academic mission of the university. The university’s success requires well-rounded and expert leadership. Thoughtful consideration in support of our academic mission has been given to build the most appropriate Executive Compensation Program for Queen’s in order to preserve that success,” said Donald Raymond, Chair of the Board of Trustees, in his letter to the Queen’s community.

This balanced approach will contribute to the financial sustainability of Queen’s and help ensure the university can continue to invest in top strategic priorities such as the faculty renewal initiative, the creation of new buildings and academic spaces on campus, along with expanding research opportunities and internationalization.

Members of the Queen’s community can comment on the Executive Compensation Program document up until Jan. 4, 2018 by emailing exec.comp@queensu.ca. For further information on the Queen’s Program, please visit the Office of the University Secretariat website.

Early positive results for electronic procurement system

Since being rolled out across the university earlier this year, acQuire, the new electronic procurement system for Queen’s, has seen a number of successes.

First and foremost is increasing user adoption.

acQuireSince going live in May, user adoption has been high and continues to climb. There are now more than 800 unique users accessing the system each month and the system has processed more than 6,700 orders, with 5,600, or 83 per cent, of the requisitions turned into a purchase order and released to the suppliers in less than 24 hours. Combined, that’s a total of more than $85 million in spending. 

Those are big numbers and, as a result of acQuire, the university is seeing increased efficiencies in the procure-to-pay process.

“Using acQuire has turned out to be a refreshingly straightforward process. I think that people will come to appreciate that switching to acQuire was worth the time investment of learning a new system that is far more user-friendly than PeopleSoft,” says Kaede Takami-Brooke, Research Associate, Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit, and an early user of acQuire.

For Queen’s users there is little change apart from that the system is online rather than the old combination of paper-based and PeopleSoft procurement and payment processes.

The benefits for users, including researchers and faculty, is a user-friendly point-and-click online ordering and payment, faster processing, increased transparency, and pricing comparison from the catalogue of suppliers.

By modernizing the procurement system, Queen’s can now gather and analyze more detailed information regarding purchases, and then apply the related insights to maximize the purchasing value for the university.

“With acQuire we have more information on what is being purchased which will help Strategic Procurement Services negotiate better supplier arrangements and pricing deals,” says Andy Green, Director, Strategic Procurement Services. “What are the repeat items we are spending our dollars on, who are the suppliers, and how do we make sure we are maximizing the returns for the investment.”

One significant change to the acQuire system starting in January is that suppliers will be responsible for onboarding their profiles through an add-on module called Total Supplier Manager. Through this Queen’s users will see several benefits such as an automated, streamlined process for requesting and adding new suppliers, as well as more accurate and complete supplier information including contact information.  Suppliers will also see a number of benefits such as being able to update their profiles with new information through a self-service portal, see the payment status of their invoices, and more effective and timely communication. Also, through the portal invoices can easily be sent and will leverage all of the useful workflow steps that have already been built into acQuire.

“From a supplier’s point of view, they can transact with Queen’s more efficiently and leverage the system that’s in place to process invoices,” says Mr. Green. “This also means that Queen’s users will no longer have to act as go-betweens for the suppliers and Strategic Procurement Services.”

The only visible change to Queen’s users will be a new supplier request form. It is important to note that existing suppliers will be available within acQuire just as they are now. Strategic Procurement Services and the acQuire team will be communicating with all acQuire users and training will be provided to explain to users how the new supplier request form works. Similarly, the acQuire team will be communicating with suppliers to notify them of the new supplier portal and will provide them with the training resources and support they need.

Further information on acQuire, is available on the Strategic Procurement Services website. Questions about the system can be sent to acquire@queensu.ca.

Funding powers sustainability efforts

University and city partnering to reduce energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) accepts a cheque from Sean Meleschuk, Vice-President of Utilities Kingston.
Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) accepts a cheque from Sean Meleschuk, Vice-President of Utilities Kingston, in recognition of Queen's University's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as energy and water consumption. (University Communications)

Queen’s is continually working to reduce its carbon footprint and on Thursday the university received more than $700,000 in funding from Utilities Kingston in support of a number of projects aimed at cutting energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The $717,915 in funding, provided in part through provincial Save on Energy programs that are powered by the Independent Electricity System Operator, accounts for grants and incentives for projects completed in 2017, primarily as a result of realized water and electricity savings. 

1,147 toilet retrofits
61 urinal retrofits
353 shower head replacements
1,523 faucet moderators installed
1,666 LED retrofits
1,364 upgraded ballasts
9,216 fluorescent tube replacements

Much of the funding is related to the university’s CAPit program, a $10.7-million comprehensive energy conservation project with international energy services company Honeywell. The project has a target of reducing the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by over 2,600 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 944 mid-sized cars off of Canadian roads.

“Queen’s has placed a priority on financial and environmental sustainability. This funding enabled the university to expand the CAPit project, reducing our utilities expenditures while, at the same time, significantly cutting our impact on the environment,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration).  “The CAPit program has been a success, and we thank Utilities Kingston for their contribution supporting these conservation measures.”

When complete this December, the CAPit project will have implemented more than 170 individual energy conservation measures in 66 campus buildings. These include the installation of low-flow fixtures to reduce water usage, upgraded lighting and building climate controls to reduce energy consumption, as well as heat recovery systems and improvements to building envelopes.

The measures are already having a positive effect.

By the end of 2017, Queen’s will have saved 185,000 m3 in water, enough to service 3,700 four-person homes for a year. Similarly, electricity consumption will have been reduced by 2.95 GWh, enough to power 295 average Ontario homes for a year.

"We applaud the university's commitment to reduce energy and water consumption, and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Queen's' efforts to install water and energy conservation measures help extend the useful life of municipal utility infrastructure and further our progress towards meeting provincially-mandated electricity conservation targets. All this, while making a positive impact on the environment," says Sean Meleschuk, Vice-President of Utilities Kingston. “Our unique multi-utility model provides our customers with one-stop access to water, gas and electricity conservation programs. We are proud to partner with local businesses and institutions as we help build a better community.”

The Queen’s Climate Action Plan is available online.

More information about the CAPit program is available on the Sustainability Office website.


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