Wynne Liberals ignoring pension crisis, letting down Ontario Sears workers

QUEEN’S PARK – With Sears Canada in court this week applying to scrap its pension, Ontario’s New Democrats are calling on the Wynne Liberals to finally take action protect Ontario workers and pensioners during bankruptcy proceedings.

“The Sears pensioners are getting the rug pulled out from under them and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government is looking the other way,” said Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “Liberal and Conservative governments in Ontario have ignored and mistreated workers and pensioners so investors, creditors and banks could pocket even more money.”

In 2016, Jennifer French, then NDP Pensions critic, introduced a motion in the legislature calling on the government to amend bankruptcy legislation so that “benefits owed to pensioners [would] be given top priority in the event that a company files for bankruptcy.” The motion passed with government support. Currently, creditors like banks and big corporations get paid first, and people who worked for the company are pushed to the back of the line.

Since supporting the 2016 motion, Wynne has done nothing -- letting down workers whose pensions are in jeopardy, like Sears Canada staff and former staff, and Stelco employees in Hamilton.

“Earlier this year, Sears Canada filed for creditor protection and began the process of closing stores and liquidating assets. So far, 59 locations have been closed and nearly 3,000 jobs have been lost. We have a Sears in Oshawa, and our community is watching anxiously,” explained French this morning during question period. “Now, Sears Canada has filed a petition to terminate its vastly underfunded pension plan, leaving thousands at risk of losing their pensions. There are 18,000 retirees that depend on this pension plan.”

French pushed Premier Wynne to honour the 2016 motion.

“This government is failing pensioners. Last year, the premier supported my motion to protect pensioners by prioritizing them during bankruptcy proceedings. Now, the premier is saying that there isn’t a role for government,” said French. “Why did the premier go back on her word and decide that pensioners should be left to fend for themselves?”

“No worker in Ontario should be forced to wonder whether their pension will be there when they retire. Executives, big corporations and foreign creditors can wait – Ontario workers should get every penny of what is owed to them,” said Horwath.