The story of the Special Assistance Fund

The creation of the Special Assistance Fund (SAF) is an interesting story. Its benefits come from a pool of money that has paid out millions in benefits for CBC retirees and employees for nearly 20 years.

The creation of the SAF is a story that demonstrates the power of co-operation between groups of employees and retirees and what a relatively small amount of money can do when managed well and creatively used.

At the CBC, a committee made up of retirees and employees meets regularly as the Consultative Committee on Staff Benefits (CCSB). The job is to oversee the various benefit plans and to make recommendations or approve changes.

Over the years a variety of staff benefit plans have come and gone or been replaced by newer or different benefits. The insurance industry has also gone through many changes.

Through all these changes, small pots of money primarily from returns on monies held in trust or premiums were created. Over time the sources of those monies were lost to memory and the complexity and cost of doing any sort of refund became impossible.

The money that later created the source for the Special Assistance Fund existed in a variety of these almost forgotten trust accounts held by a variety of insurance companies.

For example, more than a million dollars was held by Confederation Life from a plan once managed by Mutual Life that had been discontinued in 1977. It had resulted from a surplus created during the life of that insurance plan. In total more than $3.5 million sat in various trust accounts.

From time to time those on the CCSB who were aware of the existence of these various pots of money would bring individual hardship cases to the meetings of the CCSB to seek approval to financially assist those in need.

The approach was an arbitrary and ad hoc approach. In the late ‘90s, as a representative for the Guild, I wrote a discussion paper proposing the creation of the SAF. The proposal would bring together the various pots of money into a single fund that would be used to assist employees and retirees with costs for medical type expenditures not covered by employer or government insurance plans.

The CCSB, after seeking a legal opinion confirming its ability to disburse money and after seeking financial advice in investing the money, unanimously approved the creation of the fund.

The CCSB resolved to use interest earned to provide to create the SAF. The other key part of the proposal was to publicize the existence of the fund. Use of the money was also expanded to include national and local wellness initiatives.

Since its inception hundreds of retirees and employees have received assistance.  And even though millions have been spent for benefits and wellness projects the fund now has a value of nearly $6 million.

The Special Assistance Fund is a success story. Retirees, employees and their beneficiaries can qualify for up to a lifetime limit of $12,500 in assistance.

To qualify the expense must be one recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency as a legitimate medical expense. The application form and the guidelines are available on the PNA website at

Dan Oldfield
CBC PNA CCSB Representative