Toronto, ON – The message has been simple since the inception of Scott Duvall’s Stop Pension Theft travelling road show, change the bankruptcy laws in Canada so that pensioners are first in line, not last. When it came to Toronto Wednesday night, the audience at the Steelworkers Hall were all ears.
The author of private member’s Bill C-384, NDP Finance Critic Scott Duvall, MP for Hamilton Mountain, is very focused and determined to change our bankruptcy laws. Introduced and given first reading in the House of Commons in November 2017, Duvall’s bill amends the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). It puts a stop to what Duvall terms legalized theft. “When it comes to creditors, workers are at the bottom of the list. The lenders get their money, the shareholders are compensated and the executives get their bonuses but the workers get nothing,” he told an audience of 80 people. “Remember these pension plans are deferred wages on money that was earned, it’s the workers’ money, not the employers.”
As he crosses Canada promoting his Private Members Bill on changes to Canada’s Bankruptcy laws, Hamilton Mountain MP and NDP Finance Critic Scott Duvall, says Canadians are waking up to the fact that their pensions need protection.
The bill is designed to ensure that claims in respect of unfunded liabilities or solvency deficiencies of a pension plan are accorded priority in the event of bankruptcy proceedings. It also provides that an employer has to maintain group insurance programs that provide benefits to or in respect of its employees or former employees. Most Canadians, unaware of the provisions of CCAA, were shocked last year when Sears Canada closed its doors and the employees were left with nothing due to an underfunded pension while executives received bonuses. “It was an eye opener and it disgusted Canadians,” said Duvall.
The Canadian Labour Congress is promoting mandatory Canada-wide pension insurance, a national fund to rescue stranded underfunded pension plans, similar to Ontario’s Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund. This provides workers and pensioners a guarantee when companies go bankrupt. Created in 1980, the Ontario fund guarantees pensions to a maximum of $1,000 per month. “The fund is only as good as the governments who provide it,” warned Paul Miller, Ontario NDP Pension Critic and MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. “The current Liberal government in Ontario was supposed to increase that amount to $1,500 per month but with an election coming they haven’t moved on it. We say that’s simply not enough, it should be $3,000.”
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP and Ontario NDP Pension Critic, Paul Miller says Ontario’s Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund should triple its maximum pension guarantee saying the current $1,000 is not enough.
There were more than a few raised eyebrows in the audience revealing that they knew nothing of Ontario’s Fund and that was one of reasons for Duvall’s travelling show which has crisscrossed Canada to educate the public and raise awareness of the flaws in our bankruptcy laws. “When we lobbied 189 MP’s and Senators in Ottawa this February about this issue, I was stunned at how many of them didn’t know there was even a problem,” said IAM Political Action Grand Lodge Representative Lou Pagrach. “It explains why pension theft has been allowed to continue for so long. The people who must make the change don’t even know this problem exists!”
IAM Political Action GLR Lou Pagrach says the public is not alone in its lack of knowledge of the shortcomings of Canada’s Bankruptcy laws. He told the audience at the Steelworkers Hall, the bulk of the 189 MP’s and Senators lobbied in Ottawa in February, we’re unaware there was even a problem.
Duvall encouraged the audience to contact their local MP’s or MPP’s to change our bankruptcy laws. He travels to Sudbury and Thunder Bay before returning to Ottawa on Monday.