Gamechangers

Trudeau stands with billionaires as Sears pensioners pay for CEO’s megayacht

Sears CEO Eddie Lampert got his yacht. Sears workers got screwed.

And, as with SNC, Kinder Morgan and Big Pharma, Justin Trudeau is on Lampert’s side, making life easier for the rich and harder for everyone else.

The Fountainhead is Eddie Lampert’s $100 million megayacht. Its existence is profane. It’s a testament to Lampert’s greed – and Trudeau’s political cowardice.

In the few years before Sears was bankrupted, the company’s board authorized $2.9 billion in special dividends to be paid to shareholders – including Lampert, who was the company’s CEO, board chair and largest investor.

The largest special shareholder dividend, approved by the Sears board in 2013, paid out $509 million – even though the company was running a $188 million operating loss and the pension fund was $133 million underfunded, according to court filings.

When Lampert finished bankrupting Sears, 18,000 Canadians workers were left paying his yacht tab. Their pension had a $260 million unfunded liability and their retiree health benefit plan was $421 million short. Sears workers have had their pensions – money they earned and trusted the laws of Canada to safeguard for them – cut by 20 per cent.

Former Sears employees have launched a class action lawsuit against Lampert and some other former Sears board members in an effort to restore their savings. The suit argues Lampert and others acted contrary to their duties and pilfering Sears into bankruptcy.

While that lawsuit winds its way through courts, the Trudeau Liberal government have made no effort to restore justice for Sears workers – or even ensure no other Canadians have their pensions taken from them in the future.

Under federal bankruptcy law, people and companies who are owned money from a bankrupt company are divided into two major classes – secured and unsecured creditors. A court-appointed trustee first pays out whatever funds are remaining in the company to secured creditors – governments, banks and other financial institutions.

At any time in the past four years the Trudeau majority government could have passed a bill to add workers as secured pensioners. They could have passed legislation stopping companies from paying shareholder dividends when pension funds run unfunded. They’ve done none of it.

In the House of Commons Singh’s NDP – and NDP MP Scott Duvall in particular – raised Sears workers’ issues frequently and gave the Trudeau Liberals ideas on how to help Sears workers. Conservatives, of course, did nothing. When it comes to making life easier for rich people and harder for everyone else, Liberals and Conservatives are a tag team.

Nothing could be a clearer statement of what is wrong with our federal government. The Canadian people deserve so much better than another Prime Minister for the one per cent. But after so many promises to be different, it’s disheartening for many Canadians. And that’s why it’s so important that we keep imagining a government that works for Canadians.