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Action urged on Sears pensions: Northumberland activist signs CARP petition

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

NORTHUMBERLAND -- Local social and health activist Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas is among those who have signed the Put Pensioners First petition issued by Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP).

Last week, CARP took its campaign to Parliament Hills, lobbying MPs, including local riding MP Kim Rudd who said she attended the rally. The focus was the need for protecting pensions following the bankruptcy of Sears Canada with requests for specific changes at the federal and provincial government levels.

MacKenzie-Nicholas says she signed the petition to stand up for those losing their financial security.

"As people retire, they simply run out of time to make up for financial losses," she stated in an e-mail interview.

A long-time Sears store in Cobourg closed last spring, not only putting people out of work, but chain-wide, paying over $9-million in bonuses to executives while leaving those with pensions, about 16,000, in limbo.

"Sears made a commitment to their staff, so Sears needs to follow through on that commitment when it comes to their employees' pension," MacKenzie-Nicholas says.

"If Sears won't do it, or any other corporation, then the government needs to find a way to develop legislation that makes retirees and their pensions priority No. 1 in the line of creditors to be paid in Sears' cases, and all other cases," she continued.

"We need to stand up for retirees, these are people who worked for a living, who paid their taxes and they deserve better. They deserve to be able to retire with the dignity of financial security that they earned and depended upon."

MP Rudd would not confirm whether she has been in touch with any former Sears employees but says she has received e-mails around Sears Canada's insolvency.

"Obviously, I feel grieved for those who are losing their positions, many of them having worked there for many years."

Asked about her position on pension reform in light of the Sears situation, the MP said the federal government is discussing it. She noted in an e-mail that "most private-sponsored pension plans in Canada are overseen by provincial regulations, such as (for the) Sears Canada's pension plan."

The CARP petition, as outlined on its web site (www.carp.ca) is specifically "requesting an amendment to the Federal Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act so pensioners rank ahead of secured creditors in priority of repayment of obligations" and also demanding that the Provincial Government "make company funded pension insurance mandatory for all provinces. Ontario retirees have some protection. All pensioners should have at least as much."

vmacdonald@postmedia.com

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