` Columbia Journal - SHARE the Wealth And the Power
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SHARE the Wealth
And the Power

Ever wonder where Canada's billionaires and big corporations get all the money they have? Have you ever thought about who controls the pension, health and welfare and other retirement money you work so hard for? Do you know where it's invested and how it's being used?

Every day, every political decision rests in part on whether bankers and captains of industry will shift this capital in economically damaging ways. Most of this money, in one way or another, belongs to you.

A recently formed organization of fiscal experts, trade unionists and shareholder activists is trying to change this by educating workers and elected pension plan trustees on getting more decision-making control over their pension funds.

SHARE, the Shareholder Association for Research and Education, is assisting elected pension plan trustees to gain a better understanding of their members' money and how to invest it ways that are beneficial to the social, economic and environmental concerns of their members and retirees says Director Gil Yaron.

"We spend a lot of time educating trustees and plan members on how to administer their plans," he said. "We also speak at union events on basic investment fundamentals, look at the investment process and overseeing on how investments are made, fiduciary responsibilities, proxy voting and socially responsible investment strategies."

SHARE was set up in 2000 specifically to help workers organizations, growing increasingly concerned about how their money is so often used against their interests, get a grip on their members' funds and use them to democratize economic decision making.

In its brief history, SHARE has worked with over 100 plans across the country, and Yaron says interest among unions, ethical investors and community groups is beginning to flourish.

"Our mandate is to get trustees more active and put the labour movement's values into the investment process," he said. "There's a high degree of response. Lots of trustees want to learn more and take a more active role."

Yaron says SHARE also works for legislative and policy reform to democratize what are mostly hierarchical capitalist corporate structures, such as pushing for expanded shareholder rights, greater access to information and moving away from multiple voting shares toward a more equitable one person one vote system.

"This type of chance takes time," he admits, adding that the unfortunate tradition in Canada is that the control of workers' pensions and other funds has been left almost entirely in the hands of corporate bosses and money managers with little accountability. "Trustees have been unsure of their duties and generally don't have access to the information they need to make decisions. Most corporations are under tight control of a small number of shareholders, and we need to change that. We need to build confidence and educate people so they can get more involved."

With an estimated $600 billion in pension assets in Canada, Yaron admits that democratizing the control of these funds by giving workers a greater say could go far in shifting the balance of economic and political power away from elite investment agencies, corporate lobbies and bankers who control most of these now.

"There is a Modus operandi developed over the last 100 years, so it will take some time to change. These are not small things," he said. "But converging factors will bring significant change in future as shareholders and trustees get more active in freeing up of capital."

The Columbia Journal
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Canada V6B 3W8
Phone: 604-266-6552 Fax: 604-267-3342
Web: www.columbiajournal.ca
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