How secure are public sector pensions? And humanitarian Stephen Lewis on Nelson Mandela's life and legacy

Protesters carry a banner calling for Detroit's debt to be cancelled as people enter the federal courthouse for day one of Detroit's municipal bankruptcy hearings in Detroit, Michigan on July 24, 2013. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Protesters carry a banner calling for Detroit's debt to be cancelled as people enter the federal courthouse for day one of Detroit's municipal bankruptcy hearings in Detroit, Michigan on July 24, 2013. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

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First, humanitarian and former UN diplomat Stephen Lewis shares stories about Nelson Mandela. And then we switch gears to Motor City. One effect of Detroit's bankruptcy is that public service pensions may be rolled back. Public sector workers across the continent wonder if this is an aberration, a precedent, or inevitable. We look at what the bankruptcy of an entire city means for pensioners... not just there, but in Canada too.




This segment begins with an interview with humanitarian and former diplomat Stephen Lewis about Nelson Mandela's life and legacy. Mr. Lewis knew Nelson Mandela and remains friends with his wife Graca Machel. He is chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and is a former Ambassador to the United Nations. We spoke to him shortly after Nelson Mandela's death.

The sputtering economic engine of Motor Town looks about ready to run over more victims

Detroit's Mayor David Bing
sounded conciliatory earlier this week, but a ruling by a U.S. federal judge gives the city the greenlight to cut pensions. It's one measure the city is taking to try and survive the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, the man currently in charge of the city finances, says these cuts are painful but necessary to reduce Detroit's more than 18 billion dollar debt.

This ruling could mean that any Detroiter with a pension backed by the city may not get to use the pensions they had been paying into. Quinn Klinefelter is a the senior news editor and reporter with WDET -- Detroit's local NPR station. He has been covering the Detroit bankruptcy and its impact on residents of the city. He was in Detroit.

Detroit is in far worse shape than other U.S. cities. But the problems with its pension plans aren't unique. Chuck Reed is the Mayor of San Jose, California. He's  pushing for a statewide plan to give cities the ability to reduce future pension benefits as needed.

Canada is not immune to these concerns. For a sense of what the situation in Detroit might mean here, we heard from Bill Robson. He's the President of the C.D. Howe Institute and he was in Toronto.

This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott, Josh Bloch, and Suzanne Dufresne.


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