Eleanor Clitheroe, who made millions at the helm of Hydro One Inc. before being fired, is arguing it is "pure vindictiveness" for the government to limit her pension.
Ms. Clitheroe, who was dismissed in July, 2002, after weeks of controversy over executive salaries at the province's publicly owned transmission utility, is suing Hydro One.
Ms. Clitheroe is arguing she is entitled to $33,644.21 a month - slightly more than the average Hydro One pensioner gets annually.
Her pension is capped at $25,637.08 a month - or $307,644.96 a year - due to legislation passed by the government limiting executive salaries at the utility, but Ms. Clitheroe is arguing she should receive $464,133.84 per year.
The lawsuit was originally dismissed, but in appealing it Ms. Clitheroe notes she worked 16-hour days and earned bonuses for her performance and is the only income earner for a family of four.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario is set to hear arguments on Tuesday.
Ms. Clitheroe earned $741,000 in 1999, $1.4-million in 2000, $1.7-million in 2001 and $1.5-million in 2002.
In 2001, her last full year of work at Hydro One, she took home more than $2.2-million, including $174,000 for a car and $172,000 for vacation.
She has since become an Anglican priest.
Her lawyers suggest Ms. Clitheroe's move to the public sector from CIBC was largely because of an attractive pension package, saying that except for pensions, compensation in the private sector far outstrips that of the public sector.
Ignoring this fact deprives Ms. Clitheroe of her Charter right to "life, liberty and security of the person," her lawyers argue in court documents filed in advance of the hearing.
"Over the course of 13 years she committed herself, through hard work, to her choice and had every expectation that the deferred income represented by the pension would be honoured," they write in court documents.
In June, 2002, the Ontario legislature passed the Hydro One Directors and Officers Act, which contained a section imposing a maximum on amounts that senior officers could claim as a supplementary pension.
Ms. Clitheroe's lawyers argue that section of the act should be struck down, calling it "pure vindictiveness."
"There is no justification for the government to abrogate vested pension rights, retroactively, of a single person," they write.
However, Hydro One lawyers say the trial judge correctly held restricting Ms. Clitheroe and others' pension entitlements is not an infringement of Charter rights.
Even with the restriction on Ms. Clitheroe's pension it is still "well in excess of the pension income of the average Canadian ($14,800 a year) or even the average Hydro One employee ($33,122 a year)," they write.
Ms. Clitheroe's lawyers argue the act doesn't contain "clear and specific words" that mean she isn't entitled to two years of credited service for each year worked and to an unreduced pension starting at age 55.
But Hydro One lawyers argue it is within the legislature's "unquestioned power" to interfere with vested rights as long as the language is clear and unambiguous, which in this case they say it is.
"The power of the legislature to do so has repeatedly been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, and cannot be questioned," they write.