Today I joined some of the people affected by Nortel's pension cuts, demonstrating our disapproval of the lack of support from the current Canadian government. If you count the spouses of the ex-Nortel employees—and so you should!—some 40000 Canadians have taken a direct hit, and even more upsetting is that this figure includes people whose disability benefits have disappeared. One of the speakers said, however, that 70% of the people to whom such payments are owed are too ill to know they have been neglected.
The demonstrators stood in the cold for about an hour and a half, while the organisers, high profile supporters and opposition party leaders (Gilles Duceppe, Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff) clustered together on the steps ahead of us and took turns to make the most of the microphone set up for them there. Layton seemed the most passionate of the three:
Well, sisters and brothers, are you ready to fight?
I'm not tall enough to make my living as a photo-journalist. Peering on tiptoes through the crowd I failed to snap a picture of Mr Layton as he told us that this was a fight for fairness, although I did later manage to get a shot of Mr Ignatieff who was allotted the grand finale.
The demonstrators' banners told much the same story in the same sort of rhetoric:
Bankrupt Nortel must not mean bankrupt pension plans.
Fix the bankruptcy act.
Workers get screwed!!!
Nortel pensioner mad as hell.
Pourquoi le gouvernement ne s'occupe pas des pensions?
Oppose legalised theft.
Give pensions preferred status.
MPs fiddle while pensioners get burned.
Don't give us the silent treatment. NORTEL us more lies. Act now, Mr Harper.
MPs, what if it was your pension?