Demonstrators Bring Pension Fight to Ontario MPPs

May 21, 2009, 9:30 AM EST

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Thousands of workers and pensioners staged four simultaneous demonstrations outside the offices of MPPs in southwestern Ontario on May 14.

Protestors demanded immediate government action to support and fund the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund, the fledgling provincial pension safety net that Premier Dalton McGuinty announced is ill-prepared to cover a major corporate bankruptcy.

The CAW-led demonstrations brought retirees to the doorsteps of Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's constituency office in Windsor as well as the offices of Attorney General Chris Bentley in London, Transportation Minister James Bradley in St. Catharines and MPP Wayne Arthurs in Pickering. Retirees occupied the constituency offices until they had a chance to speak with their elected official.

"This government must realize that workers will not bear the responsibility for a crisis they didn't create," said CAW Retired Workers Advisory Executive Chairperson Len Harrison.

Following a two-day demonstration in Windsor, Minister Duncan addressed the crowd, thanking them for continuing to raise public awareness on the issue and gave assurances that he would try to find a solution to their pension concerns through new legislation set to be introduced in the fall.

CAW Local 444 Financial Secretary and Windsor and District Labour Council President Gary Parent said he appreciated Duncan's comments but indicated that it is still unclear how the government will respond.

"I commend Dwight Duncan for that and I just hope the rest of his colleagues in government agree with his commitment," said Parent, as quoted in the Windsor Star.

Each of the four MPPs issued some address to demonstrators following the protests.

CAW Local 1090 Retired Workers Committee Chairperson John Gatens considered the demonstrations a success and further proof that pension protection is an issue of critical importance for thousands of Ontarians.

"Our members are committed to keep the pressure on government to ensure their pensions, and the pensions of all Ontarians, are protected in the face of this devastating crisis," Gatens said.

This was the second major pension demonstration staged in Ontario over the past month. In April, 15,000 demonstrators lined the grounds of Queen's Park calling on government and corporations to protect public and private pensions.

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