House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bankruptcy.

Topics

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was waiting patiently for you to get to that and I thank you for belatedly recognizing it.

I see that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is here and also waiting patiently to reveal to us what exactly he intends for the business of the House. Specifically, perhaps the government House leader could enlighten us, as he reveals what he intends for the government's legislative agenda over the next week or so, as to whether he ever intends to give the opposition their supply days before November perhaps.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to lay out the business for the next week.

We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-55, which is the wage earner protection program. Then we will proceed to the second reading of Bill C-57, the financial institutions bill, followed by second reading of Bill C-54, which is the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act.

Tomorrow we will consider report stage and, if possible, third reading of Bill C-25 respecting Radarsat. I understand as well that there are some ongoing discussions about the disposal of Bill C-63, amending the Canada Elections Act. We would also like to deal with Bill S-38 respecting the spirits trade and Bill S-31 respecting autoroute 30.

On Monday we propose to commence report stage of Bill C-11, which is the whistleblower bill. We would like to give this bill priority all week in the hope of completing all of the remaining stages.

We would then return to any business left over from this week and, if there is time, begin consideration of Bill C-44, the transport bill; Bill C-28, the food and drug legislation; Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention; Bill S-36, the diamonds bill; and Bill C-52, the fisheries bill.

With respect to the business of supply during the present period, Mr. Speaker, I will reconfirm that you confirmed to the House that there will be seven allotted days during this period. In response directly to the opposition House leader's question, as per our discussion at the House leader's meeting this past Tuesday, we understood we would schedule the supply days after the Thanksgiving break.

In any event, it will be a topic that I look forward to discussing with House leaders at our meeting this coming Tuesday, so that we can in fact schedule all the required opposition days.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

September 29th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, given the item on today's Order Paper for private members' business, I ask to raise an objection concerning the amendment proposed to this item by the member for Joliette. We believe this amendment is out of order.

Motion No. 164 reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should establish, in compliance with international agreements, a policy of assistance to the textile and clothing industries in order to enable the industries to compete throughout the world, particularly by broadening the TPC program to include these two sectors.

At the conclusion of the first hour of debate, the member for Joliette proposed the following motion, and I quote:

That Motion M-164 be amended by inserting the following after the words “in particular”:

by maintaining the tariffs on imported clothing and the types of textiles produced in Canada;

by establishing, as required, quotas on Chinese imports under the protocol on China's accession to the WTO;

as well as ten other proposed requirements.

This amendment was proposed at the end of the first hour of debate and this is the first opportunity to seek your ruling on whether this amendment is in order.

According to the authorities, it is clearly not acceptable for an amendment to a substantive motion to expand the scope of the motion to deal with a new question or proposition.

Erskine May states at page 343 in the 22nd edition that:

The effect of moving an amendment is to restrict the field of debate which would otherwise be open on a question.

Marleau and Montpetit states at page 453 that:

An amendment is out of order procedurally if:

it is not relevant to the main motion (i.e. it deals with a matter foreign to the main motion or exceeds the scope of the motion, or introduces a new proposition which should properly be the subject of a substantive motion with notice).

Beauchesne's at paragraph 579 states that:

(2) An amendment may not raise a new question which can only be considered as a distinct motion after proper notice. (Journals, October 16, 1970, p. 28).

Private members's motions are “substantive motions” and the precedents on substantive motions are clear.

Speaker Fraser ruled on December 17, 1987 that an amendment to an opposition day motion which puts a new proposition to the House should be put forward as an independent motion on notice.

On January 16, 1991 Speaker Fraser ruled that a subamendment to a government motion on the middle-east conflict was out of order since it went far beyond the terms of the motion by introducing “a variety of entirely new concepts.”

Speaker Fraser noted that while the concepts involved were “perhaps germane” to the issue, they were nonetheless new and therefore not in order.

On March 26, 1992, the Speaker ruled out of order an amendment to an opposition day motion on health care, since the intent of the amendment was to expand the scope of the debate.

That is also the case here. The main motion deals with the issue of assistance to textile and apparel industries.

The amendment lists a whole series of issues which are broader than assistance to the textile and apparel industries, including assistance to elderly workers, the increased transfer of training programs to Quebec, restrictions and quotas on international trade, and foreign policy such as labour standards and environmental policy.

The government has sought to be cooperative with the member on this important issue and is prepared to support the initial motion.

However, it appears that the Bloc now wants to try to widen the scope of the motion to include many new and complex issues which require much more analysis and consultation.

These matters may be considered by the House at another time, but they expand the scope of Motion No. 164, and are not in order.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's effort to render unacceptable the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Joliette. Unfortunately I cannot share his point of view. The amendment is exceptionally crystalline in its clarity.

On page 453 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice , we read:

An amendment must be relevant to the main motion.

Are the elements present relevant to the main motion? Absolutely. The main motion speaks of a plan to assist the textile industry. Each part of the amendment is a refinement of the assistance plan. This satisfies the criteria of an amendment on all points, since it is relevant to the main motion.

It must not stray from the main motion—

The proposal states that there will be an assistance plan, and each of the measures is part of that plan. This is consistent with the motion. Not only is the amendment relevant to the main motion, not only does it not stray from it, but it aims to further refine its meaning and intent. Nowhere does the text state that the amendment must further refine the meaning and intent, but in less than 50 or 10 words.

I challenge my honourable colleague to tell me which of the different parts of the amendment does not serve essentially to further refine the meaning and intent of the main motion. We are in fact talking about an assistance plan, and each part of the amendment is a refinement of what the assistance plan must be.

An amendment should take the form of a motion to:

leave out certain words in order to add other words;

insert or add other words to the main motion.

This is what the amendment does. I have trouble accepting what the deputy government House leader is saying. I do not understand his argument. The amendment is in fact relevant to the main motion, does not stray from it, further refines the meaning and intent, and utilizes the process of adding words or explanations to the main motion.

Nowhere in House of Commons Procedure and Practice is it stated that an amendment must not contain more than so many words. The only thing I can see that might be an element of my colleague's argument is the fact that the amendment is substantial. Well, it is substantial, quite simply, because it further refines the assistance plan.

The proposal satisfies on all points the definition of an amendment, however much that may displease my colleague. It is even a model amendment.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I have listened to the arguments presented by the Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Bloc Québécois House leader. I greatly appreciate their assistance on this matter. It was a bit tricky but I believe that there is another quote that may be significant on page 453 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice .

An amendment is out of order procedurally, if:

it is not relevant to the main motion—

That is not at issue here.

—(i.e., it deals with a matter foreign to the main motion or exceeds the scope of the motion, or introduces a new proposition which should properly be the subject of a substantive motion with notice).

What is at issue here is that the motion makes the following proposition:

That...the government should establish, in compliance with international agreements, a policy of assistance to the textile and clothing industries in order to enable the industries to compete throughout the world, particularly by—

That was one proposition. Now, we have an amendment that introduces 11 other propositions and eliminates the only proposition contained in the main motion. As a result, I have some reservations, particularly when we consider the propositions that are being made. As I mentioned, there are 11 of them, and they are much broader than and very different from the initial proposition, which was to broaden the Technology Partnerships Canada program to include these two sectors. I am concerned about that aspect.

Consequently, I am inclined to rule in favour of the argument presented by the hon. Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. In my opinion, the amendment is out of order. Perhaps another amendment will be made. However, it is my belief, to quote once again from House of Commons Procedure and Practice , it is because the amendment “introduces a new proposition which should properly be the subject of a substantive motion with notice”.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, you know I always respect your rulings, this one included. I would, however, ask you to go a little further, please.

This is why: an amendment makes it possible to delete part of a motion and replace it with something else. There is no indication anywhere in our procedures that the addition must be of a given length. If the amendment had contained only the first two elements of the aid package, no one would, I believe, have considered it not in order.

With reference to length, based on the wisdom of your decision, those in future who have to reach decisions on what constitutes an acceptable and an unacceptable amendment will read that, in 2005, the Speaker of the day—I cannot give your name, Mr. Speaker, but it will be cited in all the treatises—had decreed that length could influence the quality of an amendment and make it unacceptable and inadmissible.

What I would like to see added to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, perhaps after some reflection—it cannot stay the way it is—is “as seems reasonable in the eyes of a Speaker”. I would also like to see you indicate the point at which an amendment ceases to be reasonable and becomes unacceptable. If this afternoon or tomorrow I present an amendment in my capacity as House leader on the same motion, indicating that I wish to replace the term “notamment” with the following, and then give the first three paragraphs, I will have to ask myself this: according to the Speaker's ruling, is three paragraphs too long, or not long enough? Can I add four or five? This is a very serious matter. I have in fact, six or seven elements to add to the resolution, and am told this is inadmissible. So it is solely about length.

I would therefore like you to give some indications in future when amendments are being made. If we add two paragraphs, that is fine, so are three, but four is just borderline, and five no good. We would need to know, Mr. Speaker. You would not like to see your name go down in procedural references as the speaker whose ruling added a grey area to the understanding of our rules. I would like to have that clarification.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your ruling.

I will point out to my honourable colleague opposite that the government only raised the fact that the amendment could not broaden the scope of the main motion, that it could only narrow it. There was no mention of the length. I do not think, Mr. Speaker, that you talked about the length in your ruling. This is about broadening or narrowing the scope of the initial motion.

We thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your decision.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I would not want to say something that the hon. Bloc Québécois House leader does not want to hear, but there is a problem here. The problem is not with the length, but rather with the number of proposals. There are 11 proposals as to what should be done. The length of the amendment is not the problem, but the number of proposals contained in the amendment. The argument is slightly different.

I realize that the hon. member asked how many proposals could be included in his amendment, should he wish to move it later today, during the debate on this motion. It depends on the topic.

For example, one of the proposals in the amendment states, “by establishing, as required, quotas on Chinese imports under the protocol on China's accession to the WTO”. That is completely different from the Technology Partnerships Canada program. That is where I can see a problem. This amendment contains so many things that were not mentioned originally that it becomes impossible to consider it in order.

If the hon. member wishes to consult the clerk before moving an amendment later this afternoon, he may do so. Perhaps he will find out how many of these paragraphs he can include in his amendment. I do not want to suggest anything at this time. It all depends on the individual paragraph. I am sure that, if he asks the clerks, the hon. member will receive an answer that will please him. I will probably accept their decision, whenever the question is put to a vote later today.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say one thing, if you will allow me. I appreciate your suggestion to consult with the clerks. It so happens that I did that before we brought forward this amendment. It was found interesting and acceptable by the clerks.

I do not want to get anyone into trouble, but who do you think I should turn to now, since I have already consulted with the clerks?

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I encouraged the member to consult with the clerks. Perhaps he has already done so. I am the one who makes the final ruling. However, this ruling may change sometimes on the basis of arguments presented in the House.

An argument was raised today. If the member so wishes, he may consult with other people later on. He will then obtain an answer, which will probably by accepted by the Speaker. I do encourage him to have these consultations before 5:30 p.m., which is when the debate on the motion in question will start. He will then be able to propose an amendment if he so wishes.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the matter that was just dealt with is very much relevant to another situation.

Since the Chair has taken the time to consider the rules, I refer specifically to Motion No. 135 that was dealt with by the House on September 27, and for which there was an amendment proposed later in the debate. The same question about whether it was in order came up. I am aware that the decision was deferred until some consideration could be given.

I have taken the time to look at some of the details and I have become aware of a couple of issues, certainly with regard to the discussion we just have had.

First, the motion in essence asked the government to consider selling the land on which the Queensway Carleton Hospital sits for one dollar. The amendment, with the appropriate wording changes, sought to change it all to say “continuing to lease” the land to the hospital for one dollar starting in the year 2013 because there was an existing lease. I do not have to explain the difference in the nature of a sale and a lease. The ownership interest is a significant change.

Also, it has come to my attention that there is an issue with regard to the laws governing the custodianship of National Capital Region properties, particularly the greenbelt which is what we are talking about, and the authority of the National Capital Commission to dispose of that property in any way, shape or form.

There are some other issues and the references that the deputy House leader gave with regard to Erskine May's 22nd edition, section 343, and the references that you made, Mr. Speaker, to the House orders.

With regard to the ruling on the admissibility of the amendment, I would hope that these additional items would be taken into consideration.

Point of Order
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for his submissions. I understand this matter is already under advisement and I will be back to the House in due course.

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to put some comments on record concerning Bill C-55. I will be speaking to three aspects of the bill: the creditors ranking aspect, RRSPs, and the student loans aspect. Bill C-55 is an act to establish the wage earner protection program act and to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

I will be sharing my time with the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.

Annually, more than 11,000 businesses and 100,000 individuals use the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. While business bankruptcies have declined in Canada recently, consumer bankruptcies continue to rise. When a personal or corporate bankruptcy occurs, the BIA provides a mechanism for insolvent or business debtors to avoid bankruptcy by negotiating arrangements with their creditors to reorganize the debtor's financial affairs.

The CCAA provides a legislative framework for the reorganization of insolvent corporate debtors under the court's supervision. Currently, secured creditors rank first in a bankruptcy. Consequently, a trustee takes title to a debtor's property subject to the rights of the secured creditors in that property while unpaid wages rank fourth in the list of creditors.

As we can see, it becomes very worrisome for the people who are working in the business involved when a bankruptcy occurs. The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act was up for review by Parliament in 2002. The Senate reviewed it, making 53 recommendations at that time. Recently the member for Winnipeg Centre introduced a private member's bill in Parliament that would allow employees to be paid before other secured creditors.

A CPC committee reviewed that private member's bill and proposed a CPC wage earner protection plan that would draw from the employment insurance fund. The government would pay employees up to two pay periods of unpaid wages before the bankruptcy was declared and up to approximately $3,000 in wages and vacation pay. The government would then assume that the employees would claim against the assets of the company.

Companies are encouraged to restructure rather than file for bankruptcy. There has been a problem with inequities in the treatment of personal bankruptcies and these will be addressed. Reforms will improve the administration of the system and several provisions in both the BIA and CCAA will be clarified and modernized.

The bill is a good first step. However, there are some concerns. Wages should be paid quickly, but the government should set up a separate fund to pay wages rather than change the ranking of those payments.

Also, the use of superpriority status interferes with secured transactions to some extent and is not a preferred course. The creditors who lose security over inventory, accounts receivable or cash are granted the equivalent of the workers' preferred status. This lacks the degree of certainty that secured creditors require.

Members on this side of the House support the quick payment of unpaid wages to employees; however, while this bill should have top priority, it should not be passed in a day. Hearings will be very important due to the complex nature of the legislation. Members on this side of the House anticipate proposing some amendments at the committee level and will seek to clarify the implications of the bill to all concerned.

Reform is needed in this area to better protect those adversely affected by the potential bankruptcy. Facilitating restructuring as an alternative to bankruptcy to save jobs and keep businesses viable is critical to an efficient marketplace. Restructuring can preserve employment and lead to better returns for creditors.

The bill also speaks to exempting all registered retirement savings plans and RRIFs from being liquidated on behalf of creditors should an investor declare a personal bankruptcy. Currently, many life-insured based RRSP products, such as segregated funds and employer sponsored registered pension plans, are exempt, while regular RRSPs are wide open to creditors. This poses a huge gap between employers who force their employees to save and those Canadian citizens who choose to do it on their own.

However, this does not mean that this legislation will give us a massive RRSP contribution one day so we can declare bankruptcy the next and pull out all the money a week later. The draft bill proposes that contributions made 12 months prior to bankruptcy will not be exempt from seizure.

Protecting RRSPs from seizure is consistent with the public policy of encouraging and helping Canadians to save for retirement. This is especially important to employees who cannot participate in their employer sponsored pension plan and for self-employed business people and professionals. This creates a level playing field.

The complexities of this bill merit public hearings and careful examination.

On the last point, I will speak about student loans. It is proposed that student loan debt will be eligible for discharge at bankruptcy if seven years have passed since the former student has terminated his or her studies. Currently, student loan debt can only be discharged after 10 years from the termination of studies. In addition, in cases of undue hardship, a bankrupt may apply to the court to obtain the discharge of the student loans after five years.

I will point out that the member for Newmarket—Aurora, just four weeks before leaving this side of the House to take up the post of Minister of Human Resources in the government, voted for a private member's bill that would have reduced to two years the waiting time before graduates would be permitted to apply for bankruptcy relief. The bill was defeated.

I must say that Bill C-55 is a very complex bill. It has many aspects. Many important aspects need to be reformed to assist in this very stressful time during bankruptcy and insolvency, so that both businesses and wage earners feel as if they have a future and so people can retain their homes and their lifestyles.

In conclusion, I very much look forward to hearing more about the bill and to having some input. on it. It is a top priority bill and the reformation is long overdue in this aspect.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague speak about this bill. She mentioned the idea of changing priority during a bankruptcy in terms of creditor priority. I am wondering if the member could elaborate in terms of how changing priority could actually be a counterproductive measure and how we could avoid doing that and still achieve our goal, which is worker protection in the event of an insolvency.