House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organized.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana for the Minister of Industry

moved that Bill C-55, An Act to establish the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, in the time that is left today, I am pleased to speak to a very important bill, Bill C-55, which is a balanced and comprehensive reform package for insolvency legislation tabled by my hon. colleague, the Minister of Industry. The proposed changes will modernize our insolvency legislation, ensuring that the system better responds to the needs of the marketplace.

Just as important, I want to talk about how the reforms will improve the protection of workers whose employers undergo restructuring or become bankrupt. I am very passionate about this topic. Under our current system, too many workers are vulnerable when their employers enter into a restructuring or file for bankruptcy. Canadian workers suffer lost wages, reduced pension benefits and uncertainty that their collective agreements may be unilaterally changed by a court.

The government has heard from Canadian workers about the need to ensure that they are more fairly treated when their employers suffer economic hardship. The reforms introduced by my colleague will do just that.

For example, we are proposing new measures, including the wage earner protection program, for the first time in our history which will provide workers with a guaranteed payment for unpaid wages up to $3,000. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 workers in every workplace across the country in both federal and provincial jurisdictions are left with unpaid wages or reduced pensions due to employer bankruptcies in Canada. These workers did not agree to become lenders to their employers when they were hired. They cannot afford to bear the risk of coming up empty-handed after they have done their hard work each and every day. They need to have their paycheques to buy groceries, to pay their mortgages and to pay their car payments.

Let me explain what the program will really mean for these workers. Under the current system three-quarters of unpaid workers in a bankruptcy receive nothing for their work, zero. The average payout overall is only 13ยข on the dollar. In Canada, existing federal and provincial labour laws protect the workers who perform work but are not paid by their employers. However, these labour laws cease to be in effect when a bankruptcy or receivership occurs, because currently, bankruptcy law supersedes labour laws in these cases.

The situation facing unpaid workers in Canada exposes a clear gap in our system. Clearly, changes are needed. That is why the government is acting on behalf of the workers of Canada. The wage earner protection program will apply when an employer goes bankrupt, or is put into receivership under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. These are the employees who are unpaid. The employees can apply to the program to have their wages paid, up to $3,000, immediately upon that occurrence.

The wage earner protection program will operate efficiently. It will be delivered seamlessly, building on the existing relationships between trustees and receivers and the employment insurance system.

This type of program is not radical or new, but it is for our country. Many countries already have a similar program to protect their workers, such as the United Kingdom and Australia. The cost of the program is only going to be $30 million a year. In the event of a dramatic increase in the number of bankruptcies, it could go as high as $50 million. That is not a big investment from the Canadian government to protect the working men and women of this country.

The government expects to recover up to half of the program payouts as a creditor to the employer. Under the wage earner protection program, the government will assume the workers' claims against their bankrupt employer's estate. This means that the government will recover a portion of its costs by making claims against the employer's estate and therefore, the employee does not have to do it.

The reforms will also amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to establish a limited superpriority for unpaid wage claims up to $2,000. Under the new limited superpriority an unpaid worker will be one of the first to be paid from the current assets of the bankrupt employer.

The limited superpriority for unpaid wages balances the risk of bankruptcy between the employees and other creditors of the bankrupt company. Right now the burden weighs too heavily on the employees. It will assist the government in recouping its costs for the wage earner protection program by making more assets of bankrupt companies available for the employees and wage claims. That is putting the employees first.

I will have more to say about this tomorrow morning.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The minister has 14 minutes and 46 seconds left for the continuation of this debate.

The House resumed from June 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-293, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-293.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from June 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-260, an act respecting the negotiation, approval, tabling and publication of treaties, be now read a second time and referred to a committee.

Treaties Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-260 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Treaties Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from June 27 consideration of the motion.

Age of Consent
Private Members' Business

September 28th, 2005 / 6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 221.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)