CARP is the latest organization to call for legislative reforms to better protect pensioners working for private sector companies that file for insolvency.

CARP, formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, held discussions on the issue with members of Parliament, senators and other government staff on Parliament Hill on Wednesday. The organization is asking the federal government to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act so that pensioners would rank higher than secured creditors in terms of repayment obligations.

Read: NDP launches End Pension Theft campaign, proposed changes to bankruptcy laws

In September, the New Democratic Party launched a campaign proposing similar changes. And on Oct. 17, Bloc Québécois MP Marilène Gill introduced a private member’s bill to amend the acts mentioned by CARP. Bill C-372’s stated purpose is to“ensure that claims in respect of unfunded liabilities or solvency deficiencies of pension plans and claims relating to the cessation of an employer’s participation in group insurance plans are paid in priority in the event of bankruptcy proceedings.”

CARP also wants to see regulations that make company-funded pension insurance mandatory in every jurisdiction. While Ontario retirees have some relief through the province’s pension benefits guarantee fund, CARP argues pensioners in other provinces should have at least as much protection.

The developments come amid the ongoing saga at Sears Canada Inc., which as part of its insolvency filing announced it would be stopping special pension payments and ending retiree health benefits.

“Pensioners today are dually exposed: companies aren’t fully funding their pension obligations, and bankruptcy law relegates pensioners to the back of the line when it comes to collecting unfunded amounts,” said Wanda Morris, vice-president of advocacy at CARP, in a press release.

“Canada’s bankruptcy laws must change to recognize that after employees, pensioners have top claim to any remaining assets until their pensions are fully funded,” she added. “Just because a company fails doesn’t mean its current and future pensioners should lose their retirement security, too. All Canadians bear the costs when pensioners lose retirement income.”

Read: Sears liquidation a vindication for pensioners’ move to force DB windup

At an event on Wednesday on Parliament Hill, about 60 MPs and senators came to discuss the issue, Morris notes. “We’re going to continue working with this until we solve it,” she says.

And with the NDP and the Bloc Québécois in support of reforms, Morris says CARP is now hoping to see the Liberals and Conservatives come on board. “One thing that we’re pretty good at is holding politicians’ feet to the fire,” she says.

“Yesterday was a blaze of glory, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t disappear into history. So we’ve committed to provide some information, and the government has committed to do some further research, so we’ll give them a chance to do that.”

In the wake of the recent moves, the Liberals are showing some willingness to address the issue. According to The Canadian Press, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said on Wednesday that the federal government would consider legislation to protect employees’ pensions when a company goes bankrupt.

“This is a legitimate issue and a legitimate challenge,” The Canadian Press quoted Bains as saying.

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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