A provincial government determined to hold down public spending is paying almost $24 million in higher pension contributions this year.
And that annual increase is liable to continue to rise, as more people retire by choice or buyout, and pension recipients live longer.
"We continue to keep our eye on this," Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said in an interview Wednesday.
Public-sector pensions are a frequent topic every time provincial finance ministers gather, Friesen said.
But, he emphasized, though some provinces have gone from the defined benefits plan Manitoba has, to a defined contributions plan, or some form of hybrid of both, he's not thinking that way, at least not yet.
Nor is Friesen about to do what the former NDP government did on occasion — borrow money and add to the province's long-term debt to cover employer contributions.
"We're simply not there in the conversation," said Friesen, who won't speculate how much more the government's employer contributions will increase each year or beyond.
The recently-released 2016 report of the Civil Service Superannuation Board shows the employer's contributions have increased this year by slightly more than $15 million to $351.4 million.
In addition, through an agreement reached decades ago, the province — and not school divisions — employs public school teachers for pension purposes. That's an additional $8.8 million this fiscal year.
All other public sector pensions — regional health authorities, Crown corporations, universities and colleges — pay their increasing employer contributions through ever-tightening budgets.
The province can't match private-sector salaries for many public employees, but can offer good pensions and other benefits, Friesen said.
"They're very enviable plans. Bottom line, people have worked hard," he said.
The CSSB report shows 296 fewer people paying into the plan in 2016 before budget cuts took effect, and 970 more pensions receiving payments. There are about three civil servants working for every two retired and drawing pension.
At one point, there were seven working teachers for each pensioner, and it's now around one-to-one.
"It is a concern. There are fewer workers now for retirees," Friesen said.
The CSSB plan was conceived in 1939.
"It did not anticipate people would live this long... retire as early as some do," Friesen said.
The provincial government's public-sector wage controls Bill 28 will not have a significant impact on employee contributions or future payments, he said. Rising interests, however, could boost the value of pension funds, since they rely on return from investments, including investing in mortgages.
Manitoba Government and General Employees Union president Michelle Gawronsky said civil servants are watching their pensions closely.
"The MGEU continues to monitor the Civil Service Superannuation Pension Plan and any recommendations made by the board to maintain and/or improve the sustainability of the plan," Gawronsky said.
"Employee and employer jointly-funded defined benefit pension plans have proven worldwide to be the most effective model in providing income security in retirement, thus reducing the reliance on government-sponsored pension benefits such as Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement.
"We continue to advocate for strong pension plans for MGEU members and Manitobans," Gawronsky said.