Real Pension Crisis Needs Attention

The issue of pension security is something that is of concern to every hard working Canadian. When people spend 30 years of their lives working 40 hours per week, deferring large portions of their pay to ensure a sustainable retirement, they need to be sure that the money they`ve earned isn`t going to be out of their reach if the companies they work for fall into insolvency.

When large companies fall on hard economic times, and industries are forced to restructure, pension security for employees is often thrown out the window. As we`ve seen with Nortel and Abitibi Bowater, employees are often placed on the backburner as these corporations attempt to restructure themselves, and the workers bear the brunt of poor economic performance, or worse, corporate mismanagement. Workers are often hit with a one-two punch of losing their jobs, as well as money they have earned and set aside for retirement, through no fault of their own.

New Democrats have been fighting for pension security reform long before it became fashionable. Bill C-501, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and other Acts (pension protection), sponsored by Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty, passed its crucial first vote in the House of Commons recently.

The bill would ensure that unfunded pension plan liabilities are accorded the status of secure debts in the event of bankruptcy proceedings. It would also amend the Canada Business Corporations Act to facilitate procedures for former employees of bankrupt corporations who are owed money to proceed with claims against its directors. In essence, the bill ensures that employees who are owed money by corporations are put in a position to reclaim the money that they`ve earned through years of work and dedication.

All opposition parties supported the first reading of C-501, while, once again, the Conservative Party voted in opposition to a bill that is in the best interest of Canadian workers. It seems ironic, since the Conservatives unanimously supported an NDP Opposition Day motion that stated pension funds should be put to the front of the line. Again, it seems that the current government has no problem making promises that they refuse to back up when it comes time to take real action.

According to Statistics Canada, this legislation will secure retirement for 6 million Canadians. Let`s keep the people who built this country in our hearts and minds. The people working in mining, forestry, health care, education, manufacturing...all workers... deserve to keep the money they`ve worked hard for all of their lives.

Those working at the front-end need our support more than those dealing through the back door. New Democrats have always recognized this, and it`s about time the Conservatives do, as well.