NDP opts to debate pension security

Last week, the New Democrat caucus had one of the allocated “opposition days” in Parliament, where one of the opposition parties can choose the topic of debate, present a motion that can be voted on, and then discuss the issue of their choosing with the other parties.
Instead of choosing a contentious motion that could trigger an election, which no one wants, the NDP caucus chose to debate the issue of pensions and pension security in Canada.
The New Democrat opposition day motion was as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, in light of the legitimate concerns of Canadians that pensions and their retirement security may not be there for them in their retirement years, the Government of Canada should begin to work with the provinces and territories to ensure the sustainability of Canadians’ retirement incomes by bringing forward, at the earliest opportunity, measures such as:
(a). expanding and increasing the CPP/QPP, OAS, and GIS to ensure all Canadians can count on a dignified retirement;
(b). establishing a self-financing pension insurance program to ensure the viability of workplace sponsored plans in tough economic times;
(c). ensuring that workers’ pension funds go to the front of the line of creditors in the event of bankruptcy proceedings;
(d). in the interest of appropriate management of the CPP, that the Government of Canada immediately protect the CPP from imprudent investment practices by ceasing the practice of awarding managers performance-based bonuses; and
(e). take all necessary steps to recover those bonuses for 2009, ensuring managers in the future are paid appropriate industry-competitive salaries.
Since the debate on our motion lasted a full day, I was able to give a 10-minute speech on the issues. While I obviously agree with all the points of the motion, I would like to share an excerpt of my speech regarding the third point, or (c) as it is listed above.
That point, in particular, is of great concern to all AbitibiBowater and Buchanan Forestry Product workers, so I used a portion of my speech to share with other MPs what I heard at our recent town hall meetings.
This is the first chance I’ve had to put your concerns on the record, as I promised to, and I want you to know I will continue to raise your concerns until we get some action from this government.
An excerpt from my speech on the New Democrat motion:
“I come back now on behalf of the constituents of Thunder Bay-Rainy River to the third point of the New Democratic motion on pensions.
“New Democrats are bringing forward a motion to ensure that workers’ pension funds go to the front of the line of creditors in the event of bankruptcy proceedings. We know this is right. We know this is justified. We know this is necessary. We know this must be done.
“I recently held town halls on this very issue and others as it relates to the forestry sector. Here is what my constituents had to say on the matter.
“Herman Pruys, Leon DeGagne, among others at the Fort Frances meeting, just want to be paid for the work that they and their colleagues have already performed. In case honourable members do not already know, pensions are really deferred payment for work completed.
“Herman and Leon are owed money for work done over a long period of time and this motion would ensure that they get it, no matter what.
“At the Thunder Bay meeting, constituents rightly pointed out that the workers had to fight tooth and nail for the benefits that had been in collective agreements over decades in some cases. They lament that companies today seem to think that such collective agreements are just a piece of paper to be ignored.
“The actions of Conservative and Liberal governments over the last decade have allowed companies to disrespect these agreements and ignore those obligations.
“Buchanan Forestry Products is out of business and AbitibiBowater is struggling to regain solvency. As a result of the failure of these companies, I have seen first-hand the hard-earned pensions of men and women lost or put to the back of the line when a company declares bankruptcy.
“I speak these words and offer my support for this important motion today on behalf of the workers and their families of the riding of Thunder Bay-Rainy River. I thank the New Democrat member for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek for tabling it on behalf of all Canadians.”
Editor’s note: The NDP motion came up for a vote yesterday and received all-party support.

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