House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Do not use that word. He will get upset.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

I only quoted a highly placed employee in the ministry of finance of the Government of Ontario who called it a bribe to the governments of the Atlantic provinces. That will already take a significant proportion of that built-in reserve.

Let us say it will still be worth $2.5 billion. What we are talking about is $5 billion that is put into the budget as a source of income which the government has no right to have in there. By definition, including the contingency reserve, the government will not meet its target. I ask myself: Why is the contingency reserve there? In case something bad happens.

We heard many witnesses in the finance committee say that almost certainly within the next two or three years the United States economy will slow down significantly. Expansions never last forever and it has already had an expansion of almost seven years.

The contingency reserve on spending was put in there because there might be another upheaval in capital markets outside Canada like there was in Mexico. The contingency reserve was put in there because we might find there may be a little disturbance in Canadian capital markets because of political developments in Quebec.

Put that on top of the dilemma in which the government finds itself of having used to achieve its targets money that is not meant for that use. There will be very serious questions raised about the budget. These are questions which I did not raise before. After all, it is one thing for special interest groups, for the representatives of employers and workers, to come before human resources development and make their case.

It is now serious because the Minister of Human Resources Development has added his very influential voice to all of those who have said that money should not be used for the purpose for which it is being used. It reveals that the government has not had the courage to do on the spending reduction side what is necessary to save the country from bankruptcy. Please do not shoot the messenger. Sooner or later the media would have discovered that anyway.

Interest rates may rise because people will find out that a minister who comes to Wall Street and says we are right on target, we will be at 2 per cent per year, will be found either not competent, that he did not know he could not keep that $5 billion, or that he may have been misleading them deliberately. I do not know what the answer is but I would not be surprised if sooner or later that question came up. How do you think the capital markets will react?

I do not want to be a doomsayer. For the sake of Canada, for the sake of the Minister of Finance, for the sake of the government, I hope everything I said can be in practice truly brushed aside as ideas and analyses produced by an obsolete academic economist who does not know what he is talking about and has ventured into the arena of politics and is out of his depth.

For the sake of Canada I hope I am right, but I have the feeling that what we have coming is a major problem for the government.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5 p.m.

St. Paul's
Ontario

Liberal

Barry Campbell Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of my colleague, the hon. member for Capilano-Howe Sound.

Because I have such respect for him as an economist who has happened into politics for a time I am saddened he had made some of the suggestions he has with respect to the government's budgetary policy as reflected in the budget implementation act, which we are considering today, Bill C-31.

I digress from my prepared remarks for a moment to respond. It reminds me a bit of Chicken Little and the old story that the sky is falling. He is always on his feet, armed with all of his experience and knowledge, to say in somewhat typical Canadian terms things will get a whole lot worse.

It is startling that he suggests that once again he is right and everyone else is wrong. Third parties have looked at the budget and have commended the minister and the government for the achievements of it, and yet the hon. member for Capilano-Howe Sound is saying: "Everyone is wrong, the analysts the wrong. They are all wrong. Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute is wrong. I wish they would call me so I could get them to correct the error of their ways".

My biggest regret is with his suggestion that somehow the government is stealing something from the workers of Canada, failing to remind the House and anyone listening to his remarks that when that UI account was in deficit it was Canadian taxpayers through the consolidated revenue fund who stood ready with funds to deal with the deficit in the account.

The president of the treasury board's remarks provided a cogent and compelling explanation of the government's fiscal policies and the framework for this legislation, the budget implementation act before us today.

He made it particularly clear why the government is introducing certain measures in this bill. These measures will help the public service help us to meet our commitment to Canadians.

I would first like to reiterate some aspects of our financial situation.

There is a timely reason for this repetition. Our record of fiscal responsibility and progress sets the context for one of the key measures of the bill, the implementation of long term funding for the Canada health and social transfer.

As the Minister of Finance pointed out in his budget speech in March, our ongoing spending reductions, real spending reductions, combined with those in previous budgets will ensure our deficit targets are secure; that is, 3 per cent of GDP for this fiscal year and 2 per cent next. For the following year, 1998-99, the measures we have introduced in the last three budgets will deliver an addition $28.9 billion in savings. Deficit reduction will continue.

The numbers speak for themselves. In 1993-94 federal program spending stood at $120 billion, almost 17 per cent of GDP. By 1998-99 the money we spend on programs will be down to $105.5 billion, 12 per cent of GDP.

It is important to note that progress on deficit reduction is not restricted to the federal government. The financial situation of provincial governments is also undergoing a significant improvement. In 1992 the combined deficits of Canada's federal and provincial governments on a national accounts basis reached 7.4 per cent of GDP. This level was double the G-7 average, behind only Italy in that group of large industrialized countries.

However, this year Canada's total government deficit is expected to fall below the G-7 average and come in as the second lowest in the group, behind only the United States. Based on each country's current plans we should have the lowest next year.

Clearly and fortunately fiscal responsibility has now become a governing facet of our national political culture. We have stopped acting like adolescents with credit cards, and this sense of financial maturity will ensure a more secure and prosperous future for us all.

The hon. member opposite and some of his colleagues may say, as they always do, it is not good enough and it is not enough. I suggest we are simply their worse nightmare because we are doing the job and getting it done, as I have said on other occasions in the House, fairly, reasonably and without tearing apart the country in the process. The proof is in the pudding, the high marks this and previous budgets have been given by all third party commentators.

Through these three budgets we are ensuring the economic sovereignty of Canada. Foreign borrowings by Canadian business and governments have been cut from $29 billion in 1993 to $13 billion last year. Our reliance on foreign borrowings will decline dramatically as governments continue to reduce their deficits.

Obviously we are making real progress, something that drives the members opposite crazy. The 1996 budget is another instalment, another significant step in that direction.

As the Minister of Finance put it, and I will repeat it because members opposite have probably forgotten, this budget is about consolidating the gains we have made. It is about managing ahead, continuing to put in place new building blocks for security and prosperity.

Some of these building blocks are contained in Bill C-31, the legislation before us. As we move ahead, one of our highest priorities, one surely shared by the vast majority of Canadians but not necessarily by all members opposite, is the preservation of the country's network of social programs. To help achieve that end the bill before us amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. This amendment will provide secure, stable funding for what has come to be called the CHST, the Canada health and social transfer, for an additional five years.

I remind the House, because some here have short memories, of the background of this transfer program.

In its 1995 budget, the government replaced the Canada assistance plan and established program financing with a new mechanism: the Canada health and social transfer.

This consolidated transfer represents a new, more flexible and mature approach to federal-provincial relations. It gives the provinces more manoeuvring room to design and administer their own programs while protecting social programs Canadians count on and support.

This year the budget calls for an extension of the CHST funding framework through 2002-2003 and puts in place a formula for increasing this transfer in the later years of that five year plan.

Under the bill before us total entitlements will be pegged at $25.1 billion annually for 1998-99 and 1999-2000, equal to the level already in place for next year.

We are determined to support the provinces' activities in the areas of health, education and social assistance for those in real need. Despite sustained reduction in federal program spending, the total amount paid to the provinces under the transfer will not decrease during this period.

In the three fiscal years beginning in April 2000, CHST levels are projected to rise. By 2002-2003-

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Money we do not have.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened attentively to the hon. member opposite. I will try to ignore the interjections.

By 2003-2003, total CHST entitlements are expected to be $2.3 billion higher than the level set for next year, 1997-98. This funding arrangement will mark the first growth in transfers to the provinces for social programs. That is the first additional funding that can go to medicare, education and welfare since the era of restraint began in the mid-1980s.

Furthermore, as a result of this funding the cash component of the CHST will never fall below $11 billion. We expect the cash transfer to grow by the end of the period to provide additional assurance to Canadians.

However, this legislation sets a floor, an ironclad guarantee that cash transfers will be maintained above the $11 billion level. This proposed legislation also provides a new formula for allocating the CHST among provinces.

As you no doubt know, changes in the existing transfer system created increasingly greater disparities in terms of individual rights. Most often, these disparities resulted from the ceilings imposed by the previous government on money paid to certain provinces under the Canada assistance plan.

In my opinion, Canadians agree that the wealthy provinces need less assistance than those less well off. This concern for the welfare of our fellow Canadians is part of our unique social contract.

At the same time, Canadians are firm believers in the importance of action that is balanced and fair. This legislation puts those values to work. Under the new allocation formula, which will be phased in over five years, disparities in per capita funding will be cut in half.

Allow me to point out to the members of this House that progressive implementation-funding of the transfer over five years-gives the provinces time to adjust and the assurance of accuracy in their planning activities.

Let me now turn to the changes the bill proposes to make to the Unemployment Insurance Act, changes that will bring insurance coverage more in line with the average industrial wage for 1996. Effective January 1 of this year, the maximum insurable earnings are to be reduced to $750 per week in comparison with the $845 level that would have resulted under current legislation.

Similarly, the maximum weekly benefit drops from $465 a week to $413. These measures will save $200 million in the second half of this year and reduce the UI payroll tax burden on working Canadians.

Some might try to claim these measures are regressive, but this attack rings hollow, resonating more to political grandstanding than accurate criticism.Let us remember that the UI program when considered in its entirety is progressive. Lower income contributors tend to draw more in benefits than they pay in premiums, while higher income earners tend to pay much more in premiums-

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I would like to have a little more order in the House so that at least the Chair can hear the member.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, thank you. As well, let me point out that claimants who qualify for the 60 per cent dependency rate prior to the coming into force of the new employment insurance act will not see a loss of that rate for their claims. To qualify for this rate, claimants must have dependents and show average earnings of $422.50 per week or less.

Allow me to digress to mention a housekeeping detail with respect to these measures. They were announced last December and tabled in Bill C-112. A companion bill, the proposed employment insurance act, was also introduced. It sets rates for 1997 and beyond.

Since both bills died on the Order Paper we have decided to set the maximum insurable earnings and benefits for 1996 in this legislation. As members know, the employment insurance act has been retabled as Bill C-12. This bill also amends the Old Age Security Act, the present bill we are discussing, to lengthen the period of time before newcomers to Canada become entitled to the full guaranteed income supplement or spouses allowance.

This is simply common sense. Under the current system, some immigrants obtain full benefits with as a little as one year's residence in Canada. Restricting this easy access will improve the fairness of the system and lessen the burden on Canadians.

With the new rules, eligibility will be phased in over 10 years for those who qualify for benefits through social security agreements with Canada. As well, sponsored immigrants from countries that have social security agreements with Canada will not be eligible for benefits for the period of their sponsorship since most older immigrants are allowed entry only because they have been sponsored by a family member.

Those who have already come to Canada will not be penalized. Individuals now receiving benefits or who landed in Canada before budget day and become eligible for benefits before January 1, 2001, will not be affected.

In continuing to address the content of the bill, which I hope members opposite would like to discuss some time during the course of this debate, let me address a number of measures in this bill which seek to further the agenda of getting government right, something they speak about a great deal.

These measures involve redefining and redesigning government programs and activities in three areas: grain transportation, student loans and radio spectrum licences. Today, in a time of tighter resources and taxpayer fatigue, there is no question that governments cannot act or think as they did in previous times. It must be recognized that in order to do a better job of meeting key priorities we should not pursue activities when others can do the job better.

That is why Bill C-31 will enable the Minister of Transport to dispose of the publicly-owned freight pool.

The government will consider any serious proposals that those involved may wish to submit and take into account the interests of producers, shippers and rail carriers in making a decision.

We will ensure that the required capacity for grain transportation is maintained. As well, freight rates can, on average, rise no more than 75 cents per ton to cover the cost of the acquisition.

We expect that over time the privatization of the grain hopper cars will make for a more efficient grain handling system with lower costs for the railways. This in turn will lower freight rates for grain producers.

Two other clauses in this bill will remove the 10-year ceiling that was imposed on the repayment schedules of students who borrowed money under the Canada Student Loans Act. Lenders will be able to more flexibly match the repayment period to the financial circumstances of borrowers. While the borrowers must certainly benefit, I should point out that the government may actually save money with these new rules since the rate of defaults will clearly be reduced.

Another measure in this bill will amend the Radiocommunication Act allowing the Minister of Industry to auction off valuable radio spectrum licences.

I should point out that competitive bids will not be used systematically for issuing licences. This is however a very convenient mechanism that can be used whenever it becomes impossible to accommodate everyone within the spread of the spectrum.

Finally, there is a measure in this that does not flow directly from the budget but from an announcement recently made by the Minister of Finance and that is with respect to the GST. Bill C-31 provides for the paying out of approximately $960 million to the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador as adjustment assistance for initial revenue losses under the integrated value added tax regime that they have agreed to with the government, a harmonized tax I should incidentally point out which the Reform Party supported.

This money will be paid for over a four-year period. It is in keeping with the firmly established practice of providing assistance when federal initiatives entail major structural change for the provinces. Under the adjustment framework this legislation puts in place, the cost of harmonization will be shared with all provinces which experience revenue losses in excess of 5 per cent of their current retail sales tax revenue.

In addition to the three provinces previously mentioned, this would also include Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan when they enter into harmonization.

However, British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario would be excluded for a very good reason: their revenues would not be cut back enough to make them eligible to compensation under the formula.

Quebec of course has already harmonized its sales tax for the main part. But in light of the remarks made yesterday by the

opposition, I must point out that Quebec would no more be admissible to adjustment assistance today than it would have been in 1990, when it signed the memorandum of agreement with Ottawa, and this, to Quebec's greatest advantage, because harmonization was profitable to this province.

Returning to Bill C-31, the government firmly believes that given the benefits that will flow from harmonization, the total cost to the federal government is responsible and reasonable.

Under the formula, the federal government and the provinces will split almost half and half the cost of adjustment assistance over the four years. That is certainly a given. At the end of these fours years, the program will end, the provinces having had the time to adjust.

As the minister stated, the government has consistently acted on the principle that people and governments need to be able to plan and adjust to structural change. Where required the government has been prepared to provide help to those who face adjustment cost. For example, as members well know, payments were made to provinces to address revenue losses they incurred under tax reform in 1972.

Adjustment assistance was provided in each and every one of our budgets. For example, last year resources were provided to facilitate the adjustment flowing from elimination of subsidies under the Western Grain Transportation Act to the western provinces. I do not recall members of the Reform Party objecting to that. We also did the same with Atlantic freight subsidies to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, and I do not recall members of the official opposition objecting to that either.

Today the same precedent is being followed. I emphasize that this adjustment assistance will not jeopardize the deficit targets. They are secure.

I have taken up a fair amount of time because I wanted members to focus on the measures in this bill, not their pet peeves, and I hope members in responding and continuing the debate will speak to the bill before us and not something else.

Through the things that I have focused on this afternoon there is a common thread: fiscal responsibility and getting government right for Canadians. The actions we are proposing are those which Canadians are looking for and insisting on from this government. As their elected representatives we would be remiss if we did not do our part. With this in mind I have no hesitation in calling on my colleagues on all sides of the House to join with me in supporting this important legislation.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, we have been unable to reach an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to proceedings at the second reading stage of Bill C-31, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 6, 1996.

Pursuant to Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that, at the next sitting of the House, I will be moving a motion for the purpose of allotting a specified number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at that stage.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I was listening earlier to my Liberal colleague talk about the new GST agreement between the federal government and the maritime provinces. He forgot to mention that this agreement requires the federal government to pay close to $1 billion to the maritime provinces, a political compensation, as this billion dollars was used to pay off those provinces to accept a proposal that does not kill the GST.

On the contrary, this proposal maintains the GST but makes the Minister of Finance look good by allowing him to say he took some action in this matter. It is Canadians from the other provinces and Quebecers who will have to pay for this $1 billion in political compensation. But it is not the only cost; by reducing the combined sales taxes-the provincial sales tax plus the GST-in the maritimes from around 19 to 15 per cent, the Minister of Finance has paved the way for an increase in equalization payments to the maritimes over the next three or four years. That is what will happen.

So the price to be paid by Canadians from the other provinces and by Quebecers is not only $1 billion; it is not true, as the Minister of Finance claims, that this will end after four years. In fact, the formula for calculating equalization payments to the maritimes shows that we will be paying more and more for this bad agreement that the Minister of Finance signed on our behalf.

The new deal between the federal government and the maritimes will cost Quebecers and Canadians outside the maritimes $1 billion. It is a high price for Canadians to pay for a bad deal, a political deal which maintains the GST. However, it is not the only

price. After four years Canadians will continue to pay compensation to the maritimes through equalization payments. When the taxation base is reduced, like the Minister of Finance's proposal, equalization payments intervene automatically.

Why did the Minister of Finance and the government not do with the maritimes what they have done with Quebec since 1991, that is to say, really harmonizing both taxes without it costing a penny to any Canadian? Why did they approve such an agreement? Why did they agree to take $1 billion from the pockets of taxpayers in Quebec and Canada outside the maritimes to pay for this agreement, which is not even a harmonization agreement, which does not even keep the original Liberal promise to kill the GST? Why? My question is directed to my colleague.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

He is incorrect. I did not fail to mention the matter of the adjustment announced yesterday. It is within my comments and he can check the reference in Hansard . To suggest otherwise is incorrect.

It is not a case of buying harmonization. It is a case of providing adjustment assistance, as as has been done on a number of occasions. I mentioned similar situations in the west. I need only mention the maritime freight rates, which have also benefited Quebec.

Underlying the suggestion that the taxpayers of one region should not help another region would clearly undermine a number of things that benefit Quebec.

With respect to equalization, I look forward to the day, vis-à-vis Quebec or the maritimes, when we see reduced equalization payments. One of the things that will be accomplished through this harmonization-

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Why not give Quebec a tax cut?

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON

-which is real harmonization, no matter what the member says it is not something else, will be a more prosperous maritimes. That I am sure is something that the member opposite would like to see, as would every one of us.

As for Quebec, it simply would not qualify under this formula, nor would Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

April 24th, 1996 / 5:25 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

moved that Bill C-219, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (severance pay), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour and pleasure to speak on my private member's Bill C-219.

The purpose of this bill is to remove from Part III of the Canada Labour Code that portion of section 235 which denies severance pay to employees who at the time they are terminated from employment are entitled to a pension under certain pension plans or legislation. Passage of this bill would end an injustice and would end the age discrimination which is now enshrined in the Canada Labour Code.

The Canada Labour Code governs the employment of 700,000 people in federally regulated industries, including transportation, telecommunications, grain handling and banking.

With the current wave of rationalizations, thousands of these workers are facing layoffs. Older workers are particularly vulnerable and workers entitled to a pension, even with reduced benefits based on early retirement, even reduced CPP benefits, are not eligible for any severance packages that their younger co-workers might receive.

Subsection 235.2(b), which this bill would rescind states:

An employer shall be deemed not to have terminated the employment of an employee where, either immediately on ceasing to be employed by the employer or before that time, the employee is entitled to a pension, under a pension plan contributed to by the employer-

In practice this means that if a company is laying off workers, it is not obliged to pay severance to older workers who are entitled to early withdrawal of pension benefits, even though they may be severely penalized for taking benefits before the normal pensionable age.

My interest in this subject arose from the misfortune of one of my constituents, Mr. Abe Peters of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, a 28-year employee of the now defunct trucking company, Motorways Limited. He was laid off along with hundreds of others on December 3, 1993. He was 58 years old at the time.

Employees were notified that they would receive the magnificent sum of two days' severance pay for each year of service. Someone should tell the Ontario public service workers about life in the real, cold hard world of federally regulated industries. In Mr. Peters' case, the severance package would have been $6,872.32.

Unfortunately, a second notice was delivered by way of the teamster's union to all employees aged 55 or over, advising that they would not be eligible for even that pittance because they were entitled to a pension under the Prairie Teamster's pension plan. A total of 240 employees were excluded from severance pay. The great majority had never expressed any desire to retire and few, if any of them, will ever be able to find work at their age within their field of occupation.

Mr. Peters and others vigorously protested their exclusion, first to the Great Lakes regional office of Labour Canada. The assigned inspector ruled that on the basis of subsection 235.2(b), their complaint against Motorways was unfounded because the hands of the bureaucrats were tied by the code.

An appeal was then filed on behalf of 133 of the plaintiffs and in January 1995, more than a year after the layoffs, Jack Chapman, QC, of Winnipeg was appointed referee. Mr. Chapman's 21-page judgment rendered on August 31, 1995 hinged on the premise that laid-off employees need not actively seek or apply for reduced pension benefits in order to be deemed eligible.

He did not explore, and was not asked to rule on, the issue of whether or not section 235 constitutes age discrimination under the charter. Mr. Chapman ruled:

There is absolutely no question that the primary legislation of concern to section 235(1) and (2) of division 11 of part III of the Canada Labour Code.

The scheme of this legislation is to provide for termination pay for employees who have completed 12 consecutive months of service. The legislation specifies the amount to be paid on termination.

Subsection 2(b) provides that an employer is not deemed to have terminated the employment of an employee where the employee is entitled to a pension. The purpose of the legislation appears to be to prevent an individual from receiving a double benefit, severance pay and a pension. The text of the legislation is simply whether the appellants were entitled to receive a pension. They were. Accordingly I confirm the decisions of the inspector and dismiss the appeal.

After losing his appeal Mr. Peters took a reduced pension at age 60. He lives on $487 a month and he feels cheated out of the $6,872.32 that he would have received had he been three years and some months younger. While it is too late to help him, I propose that other workers be protected in the future by passing Bill C-219.

Under the Canada Labour Code severance pay is a statutory right. Pensions on the other hand are a negotiated benefit paid for by the contributions of employers or workers or both. The two programs serve different needs and they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. They should not be traded off one for the other, nor should the two be considered a double benefit. It is a patently unfair situation.

Former Motorways employees under age 55 received severance pay and their accrued pension benefits were protected, while those 55 or over received neither their severance nor their full pension. If anyone received a double benefit, and I would vigorously argue

that nobody did, it would have been the younger workers who were able to receive severance pay and have their pensions vested. They had the option of leaving their pension funds in the plan or rolling them into RRSPs, a course of action which was not open to anyone over 55.

Older workers deserve the protection of the Canada Labour Code. Bill C-219 would replace section 235 with a simple clause that explains the circumstances deemed to be termination of employment.

It would also add a clause to section 236 which would explicitly make it clear that entitlement to a pension cannot be used as an excuse to deny an employee severance pay.

All over Canada statutes and regulations have been or are being changed to conform with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Age discrimination is no longer acceptable. Denial of a statutory right to someone purely on the basis of pension eligibility is in my opinion to deny it on the basis of age. Statutory rights are rights.

There are two issues here. The principal issue is that it is unjust and makes no sense to deprive an employee of severance pay just because he or she is entitled to a pension or some small portion of a pension bought and paid for by contributions unrelated to the severance package.

The second issue is whether people 55 years of age or older are of less value or are entitled to less legal protection than people age 54 years and 364 days. These two very important issues deserve to be fully debated in committee and in this House. I hope that such debate will ultimately lead to the passage of Bill C-219.

There are no Reform, Liberal, Bloc or NDP fingerprints on Bill C-219. It is a non-partisan, housekeeping measure to bring the Canada Labour Code up to date and to protect thousands of older workers who face layoffs as downsizing continues in the federally regulated industries.

Therefore at this time I beg the unanimous consent of the House to make Bill C-219 votable and have it sent to committee at the end of this debate.