Bill C-481 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code (mandatory retirement age)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Raymonde Folco Liberal
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
March 24th, 2011 / 4:15 p.m.
Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the member for Mount Royal.
I rise today in the House to take part in the debate in response to this government’s very disappointing budget.
The media, the business and academic communities have all reached the same conclusion as we have on this side of the House. This is a lame duck budget and we give it a failing grade.
This budget is being called “a kind of half-hearted effort, incremental in nature, designed for political effect”.
These are not my words, these are the words of Christopher Dunn, an academic at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. He went on to say that there was some nominal social spending targeted at specific voters to “leave an impression of a government that hadn't forgot about average voters without actually doing that much for them”.
The official opposition leader put it very succinctly in his question to the government yesterday when he said:
Mr. Speaker, spending billions of dollars on stealth fighters, corporate tax cuts and mega prisons means the Canadian family has to be shortchanged.
There is nothing in the budget on affordable housing. There is nothing in it on child care. There is nothing to support our health system. These are the priorities of Canadian families.
Why is the Prime Minister out of touch and out of control?
How does the government fail to support Canadian seniors? On page 109 of the budget document, low income seniors are expected to get a guaranteed income supplement of $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. Single recipients with an annual income, other than old age security and guaranteed income supplement, of $2,000 or less, and couples with an annual income of $4,000 or less will get the full amount of the benefit.
What is shocking about this is that the government is not making these increases permanent given that the benefit will be clawed back when the annual income level reaches $4,000 for singles and $7,360 for couples.
Residents in my riding of Laval—Les Îles pointed out to me that in real dollars, eligible seniors would receive exactly $1.20 per day. Obviously the Prime Minister has not gone grocery shopping for a long time. Otherwise, he would have noticed that milk costs $3.79 and sometimes up to $5.00. So, $1.20 will not even be enough to buy a quart of milk.
Let us imagine the Prime Minister or any of his cabinet members trying to live on that type of income with bread an average $3 a loaf; eggs, $2.69 a dozen; apples at $3.34 a kilogram; canned salmon at $3.15 for 213 grams. These were average prices in 2010.
What is the government's real commitment to supporting families and communities? The budget documents says:
The Government recognizes the contributions seniors have made and is committed to ensuring that they continue to have a good quality of life.
I am quoting the finance minister's own words.
Let me congratulate the finance minister and his team for co-opting my private member's bill, Bill C-481, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code (mandatory retirement age), which was reported to Parliament last Monday, as one of their priorities within the budget.
The budget indicated that the government clearly supports my bill, since the Minister of Finance wrote on page 112 of that document that:
The government proposes to introduce amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to prohibit federally regulated employers from setting a mandatory retirement age unless there is a bona fide occupational requirement. This would allow Canadians to choose how long they wish to remain active in the labour force. The government will review other acts to further this objective.
If the government truly believes what it says, why does it want to introduce a new bill when my private member's bill has already gone through committee?
Why the delaying tactics? I strongly urge the government to pass the legislation through Parliament and the Senate as quickly as possible, instead of waiting to create a new piece of legislation. Let me take the opportunity at this time to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour, members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and my colleagues on both sides of the House for their support in getting this bill as far as it has gone in the legislative process.
I want to remind the government that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, on which I am a member, undertook a major study on poverty in Canada. The report, which contained 59 recommendations, was tabled in the House on November 17, 2010. How did the minister respond? The government's response was to refuse every recommendation the committee proposed and it is a government that purports to value families.
The budget could have been a golden opportunity to state clearly that the government would immediately implement recommendation 3.1.1 of the standing committee's report and put in place a federal action plan to reduce poverty in Canada. Instead, we have a budget that ignores families and a budget that ignores children. Canadian parents are still waiting on the promised 250,000 child care spaces for their children, which have never materialized.
A Liberal government will return corporate tax rates to 2010 levels and tackle the deficit while strengthening Canadian families with investments in the following measures: a real family care plan, with a six-month family care EI benefit, and a new refundable tax benefit for working families worth up to $1,350 per year.
The Conservative budget provides no EI benefits, but rather a paltry tax credit that does nothing for low-income caregivers and is worth only $300 a year.
We are also proposing improvements to public pensions, by strengthening the base Canada Pension Plan with gradual increases to benefits and creating an option for topping-up savings with a new supplemental CPP, instead of just a modest GIS benefit that works out to only $1.20 per eligible senior a day.
The Liberals are also proposing support for learning and training, so that all Canadians who get the grades can get the skills they need to get quality, full-time jobs, instead of the paltry $34 per student that the Conservative government is offering. We are proposing quality, affordable early learning and child care, to give our kids the head start they need by offering working families a real choice when they need to find child care spaces for their kids.
What does the Conservative budget propose? It is offering just $75 per year for art classes.
My colleagues and I fully intend to vote against this budget.
Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities
Committees of the House
March 21st, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th and 12th reports of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, and Bill C-481, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code (mandatory retirement age). The committee has studied both bills and has decided to report each bill back to the House with an amendment.
I wish to thank all of the committee members for their work and collaboration in the course of this process.
March 8th, 2011 / 11:50 a.m.
March 8th, 2011 / 11:20 a.m.
Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
I have a point I want to raise with the committee. I'm going to ask essentially that this bill, Bill C-481, which deals with mandatory retirement, not proceed to clause-by-clause consideration today. I'm going to ask the committee to consider tabling it, because a number of witnesses, particularly FETCO, the Chamber of Commerce, and the pilots association, have raised what they have said are matters of considerable concern to them.
FETCO, particularly, when talking about pensions and benefits, said that they would like to have seen an amendment that would allow age differentiation with respect to what those who might continue working past a certain age would have to face with respect to how much they might pay to get into the pension, whether they would get moneys back at a different level, and whether they would be entitled to some of the benefit plans, whether it's medical, drugs, or whatever. They felt that this was an important exemption. They also mentioned that they would have liked to have seen an exemption that provided for more rigorous testing and so on as the age increases.
The pilots association has said that in the collective bargaining agreements that have been entered into, they've made some agreements between the pilots--the young and the old pilots--whereby all of them agreed that these would be the rules of the game. Essentially, younger pilots have to stay at the lower pay grade until they reach a certain age, and then they receive higher pay, more benefits, more privileges, and so on. They've indicated quite strongly that if you remove the mandatory retirement age altogether, what would happen is that the younger fellows who have been in the system and in the collective bargaining agreement would not be able to--
March 8th, 2011 / 11:20 a.m.
The Chair Candice Bergen
We're ready to begin the second part of our meeting.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Monday, December 6, 2010, we are now looking at Bill C-481, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code (mandatory retirement age).
We are proceeding to clause-by-clause consideration.
(On clause 1)
I will at this time call the first clause.
Go ahead, Mr. Komarnicki.
February 15th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.
The Chair Candice Bergen
To answer your question, we have until April 14 to get to Bill C-304 and report it back to the House.
We have so much to do, but that's why we have a work plan. Part of our problem is that we keep getting off our work plan, because we're quite reactive and I think we need to be proactive. I think we have a good work plan set until the Thursday after we get back from break. After that, there's nothing scheduled, so that's when we can finish Bill C-304. I would think we could finish Bill C-481. We also have an invitation out to the minister to come. Then we would also begin the disability study.
I think rather than being too reactive on some of these things, let's stick to our plan. It's amazing how we can actually get some things done if we do.
I hear you, Mr. Martin. We have a motion right now that we have to deal with. We're almost finished our time. Let's deal with the motion. Then I can get a consensus and we can maybe begin half an hour earlier on Thursday and at least see if we can discuss this and then finalize our plan. I'm not saying that we can get to Bill C-304 on Thursday, but we can decide what date we will look at Bill C-304 and what we will do after Mr. Lessard's study, unless Mr. Lessard is willing to give up that study. But I know that he was very adamant that he wanted to get to that, and that was what we had all agreed to.
Right now we're looking at March 3 to resume. That was the date you were looking at. Did you want to keep that date?
We are just about out of time. We do have a list of speakers.
Go ahead, Mr. Vellacott.
February 15th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.
Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Thank you for the opportunity to make my case here.
I'm in agreement with the motion by both Mr. Komarnicki and Madame Folco on Bill C-481.
I guess I'm looking for some advice from the clerk as to what a reference from the Speaker means in terms of the order of business of the committee.
We had a reference, before Christmas, of Bill C-304. We're very close to getting it done. If we put it on the agenda for Thursday, I think we could get at least that piece of business out of the way and get it back into the House, where it can be dealt with in a more fulsome fashion. Then we would have lived up to our responsibility here to respond to that kind of reference and to make sure that it in fact happened.
We have a whole bunch of things hanging out there now. The biggest priority for me, and at one point for this committee, is Bill C-304. At a meeting a week ago, we suggested--I believe it was Mr. Lessard--that we take half an hour before our regular meeting at some point. I thought that was going to happen over the last week or so. It didn't happen, even though I thought we had unanimous consent to in fact do that.
If we could get to Bill C-304 at some point on Thursday, I think we would be living up to our responsibility here of responding to the Speaker's referral of this very important matter to our committee.
February 15th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
February 15th, 2011 / 11:45 a.m.
Capt Paul Strachan President, Air Canada Pilots Association
Thank you, Madam Chair. It's our pleasure to be here today.
Members of the committee, it's nice to see you.
We're here, obviously, to speak to an important contemplated piece of public policy, which is Bill C-481. We support the intent of the bill insofar as it seeks to defend individuals from arbitrary or discriminatory practices, specifically termination of employment by virtue of age.
This is obviously a noble cause, and specific to our case, we agree that paragraph 15(1)(c) is too broad a provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act, because in our instance, there are some 3,000 Air Canada pilots, making up more than half the airline pilots in the country. So we could then unilaterally or de facto set a normal age of retirement for people in similar positions. If under the act that serves as justification for a different employer to terminate the employment of an individual who does not have the benefit of the robust collective agreement and pension provisions that our members do, then it is clearly not appropriate.
So while we agree that paragraph 15(1)(c) is too broad, we must implore the committee to consider careful exceptions to this bill for fear that this bill also is too broad. It's the role of Parliament to protect human rights, but we don't talk specifically here about individual rights. We're talking about human rights in the broad sense, and that includes collective rights of the members of an organization such as our own. So Parliament's task then is to find a balance between those rights that properly protects the interests of all.
Our members have negotiated, as I said, a robust collective agreement, of which its pension plan forms part. Our pension plan is a very generous one. It goes to the limits of the Pension Act and the Income Tax Act and then beyond. We have a supplementary employee retirement plan, and in fact incorporate a retirement compensation agreement into the overall scheme as well, so that the vast majority of our members expect to retire from their employment at Air Canada with a pension that places them still in the top 1% of income earners in the country, with pensions of six figures in the vast majority of cases.
Insofar as Parliament may seek to protect the rights of the individual, you must be cognizant of the fact that you will necessarily impact the collective rights of our 3,000 professionals, who have told us, by a margin of almost 85%, that they favour the current ability to retire at their negotiated age of retirement, which is 60.
Concomitant with our pension provisions, which I say are very generous, we have a true deferred wage scheme, and by that I mean we have a ladder of progression on our wage scale that starts very low--artificially low--in the early years of employment and ramps up over the course of one's career to in fact overpayment in the final years, which allows our members to maximize their retirement earnings, because their final average earnings, their FAE, are calculated on the basis of those five final years.
If you stall the progression up the ladder, it stagnates for some period of time, and the transfer of wealth that occurs is significant. Not only is a member now stagnating at some lower level on the ladder, but unless you're in the top 15% approximately, unless you've achieved your highest progression expected up that ladder at the point of stagnation, you will lose to some degree. In the case of our most junior members, the transfer of wealth is measured in seven figures, because not only are they suffering from the lack of progression in their income during the period of stagnation, but they lose the time value of that money and can never recover. So insofar as you're allowing those few individuals who might like to change the rules and stay longer, you're now impacting the rights of all those other members, because now you're forcing them to stay longer if they want to equalize their career potential and expected earnings, but you're also taking away the time value of that money forever. It's a zero-sum game, so you need to be very careful that this bill does not create unintended consequences.
So it's for that reason that we propose an amendment to this bill. Rather than strike paragraph 15(1)(c) from the Canadian Human Rights Act, it would be more thoughtful and appropriate to amend it to allow for specific exceptions such as in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Our proposal would be, then, that paragraph 15(1)(c) be amended to read that it is not a discriminatory practice if the termination of employment or refusal to employ is because of the terms or conditions of a bona fide retirement or pension plan, and that this is justifiable and balances the rights of the individual with the collective rights of a very large group of people.
February 15th, 2011 / 11:35 a.m.
Director, Parliamentary Relations, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Thank you, Mr. Komarnicki.
Essentially, we've recommended amendments in three areas. The first would be to explicitly permit federally regulated employers to apply mandatory retirement when there is an issue of risk to the safety of the public and/or other workers. The second area is to allow employers to continue to treat employees differently, based on their age, for the purposes of pension and benefits. The third area is to revise the proposed amendment that Bill C-481 proposes to the Canada Labour Code to explicitly state that in cases in which an employee is involuntarily terminated due to safety concerns and is eligible to receive a pension, no severance would be paid.
Those are the three areas. We'd be happy to submit that.