House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was child.

Topics

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

This very good letter outlines some facts. It said:

I was puzzled to read reports in which you defended the latest Senate appointments as necessary to allow your Government “to move forward on [y]our tackling-crime agenda.” You accused the Liberal opposition of having “obstructed that agenda in the Senate.”

If members knew Senator Cowan as I do, they would know that he always assumed the most purest of motives about anybody. He said:

I can only assume that you have been misinformed as to the progress of anti-crime legislation. In fact, as I am sure your Cabinet colleague, Senator Marjory LeBreton, would tell you, the overwhelming majority of your Government’s anti-crime bills had not even reached the Senate when [the] Prime Minister...chose to prorogue Parliament. Indeed, an honest examination of the record compels one to acknowledge that the greatest delays to implementation of your justice agenda have resulted from your own Government’s actions--sitting on bills and not bringing them forward for debate, delaying bringing legislation into force, and ultimately, of course, proroguing Parliament. That action alone caused some 18 of your justice-related bills to die on the Order Paper.

He goes on in his helpful way to further enunciate the status of those bills. He says:

Your Government introduced 19 justice-related bills in the House of Commons. Of these, 14 were still in the House of Commons at prorogation. Of the five justice bills that passed the House of Commons and came to the Senate:

two passed the Senate without amendment;

one (the so-called Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime bill) was tabled by your Government in November in the Senate but not brought forward for further action after that;

one was passed with four amendments and returned to the House of Commons which did not deal with it before Parliament was prorogued; and

one was being studied in committee when Parliament was prorogued and all committee work shut down.

He goes into a bit more detail on exactly what happened with the government's alleged tough on crime agenda.

There have been a number of initiatives and we have been supportive of just about all of those bills. However, we have had concerns because some of the bills have come to us with very little or misleading information. I think about what we could do for the health of our children. One of those, in fairness to the minister, is to deal with it in the way that Bill C-54 would.

When we look at any societal problem, we need to do two things. We need to ask if there are regulations in place that ensure we are protecting our children from being exploited or hurt in this manner. There not only needs to be a legislative response but also a response that looks at the causes of the issue that we are trying to prevent.

If we could invest more money in the boys and girls clubs, we would need less prisons. If we could invest more money in early learning and child care, we would need less prisons. The studies on the impact of early learning and child care on criminal behaviour are absolutely amazing. If we want to reduce the amount of money that we need to spend on prisons, then we should invest in reducing poverty.

Just this week, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development snuck in a totally inadequate response to a poverty report done by all members of this House, including members of her own party. We have heard from people like Don Drummond and just about every social policy organization, including the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. We have seen the impact that can be made on reducing criminal justice by investing in reducing poverty. We would see huge reductions in health costs as well. A report organized by the food banks in Ontario, which Don Drummond was part of, said that by reducing poverty we would reduce criminal justice costs in Ontario alone by some $600 million in a year.

We are on a failed course in terms of criminal justice. Those who the government emulates on criminal justice, who are the hard right Republicans in the United States, have had an epiphany, a change of course.

Newt Gingrich, who will be running for president in 2012, was one of the architects of this new tough on crime agenda. It was part of the contract with America in, I believe, 1994. The Americans were saying that they needed to invest in prisons, that they needed to spend money on our prisons, that they needed to put people behind bars because that is how to deal with these situations.

On January 7, 2011, Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post titled “Prison reform: A smart way for states to save money and lives”. This is an amazing document that repudiates the alleged tough on crime agenda of the eighties and nineties that put so many Americans behind bars. The article reads:

There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential. We spent $68 billion in 2010 on corrections--300% more than 25 years ago. The prison population is growing 13 times faster than the general population. These facts should trouble every American.

Our prisons might be worth the current cost if the recidivism rate were not so high, but...half of the prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison within three years. If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane, effective alternatives, it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.

That is a pretty powerful statement.

What Mr. Gingrich is calling for is a Conservative response to what the Conservatives caused in the last two or three decades with this “tough on crime” approach, which has not reduced crime. In fact, the article goes on to say:

Some people attribute [this] to more people being locked up. But the facts show otherwise. While crime...some of those with the largest reductions in crime have also lowered their prison population. Compare Florida and New York. Over the past seven years, Florida's incarceration rate has increased 16 percent, while New York's decreased 16 percent. Yet the crime rate in New York has fallen twice as much as Florida's. Put another way, although New York spent less on its prisons, it delivered better public safety. Americans need to know that we can reform our prison systems to cost less and keep the public safe.

Asa Hutchinson was quoted recently in the Globe and Mail on March 3 talking about these same issues. Part of that article reported that:

Because of tough criminal justice policies in the United States, one in every 100 American adults is behind bars--up from one in 400....

Mr. Hutchinson was also stated:

The United States has five per cent of the world’s population but 23 per cent of the world’s recorded prisoners.

That was an admission that there was a failed policy brought into the United States to jail more people and spend more money on prisons. The problem is that it did not reduce crime, but it cost a lot of money. We know the condition of the American economy and the situation that it is in.

The case is very clear. In all cases, throwing more money into prisons and locking more people up does not work. We are not be looking at the causes of crime and the root issues that create criminal intent in our young people. We are not investing in early learning and child care. We are not doing very much to equalize out the opportunity. It does not need to be all kinds of government spending. It could be targeted support for our wonderful Boys and Girls Club.

Tomorrow I will be bowling in Halifax for the Big Brothers Big Sisters. Let us think about the work it does to reduce crime in our communities and the work it does to mentor young Canadians so they do not, as a first instinct, think about becoming a criminal but instead think about the dignity and self-worth they have as individuals. Those are the kinds of things we should be investing more in if we are going to be reducing crime.

I appreciate the minister's indulgence in being here for the discussion on this debate. I commend him on this bill but, overall, I think the justice agenda of the government is taking us in a wrong direction. We cannot even get the exact costs of what the government is proposing in terms of building these mega prisons. It seems that building more prisons is the Conservatives' answer to a national housing strategy but it is not. If we want to keep people out of prison, one way to start is to ensure people have a roof over their heads when they go to sleep at night. We need to provide those kinds of supports that Canadians need.

I am pleased to support this bill. Our Liberal critic, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, has worked very hard on these issues and will also support the bill. It is a sensible bill under the circumstances. We worry about our kids and we want to give them all the tools they need to be happy, healthy and productive adults. From a government point of view, there is a responsibility on us as legislators to recognize that the world is changing.

I support Bill C-54 and I urge other members to do the same.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-54, which pertains to minimum sentences for sexual offences against children. This bill would amend the Criminal Code.

On March 22, my grandson will be 18 months old. Grandparents are always proud of their grandchildren. There are grandparents who are watching today and I know that they are proud of their grandchildren. I cannot remain unmoved by a bill introduced in Parliament that pertains to minimum sentences for sexual offences against children. If anyone touched my grandson, I would have difficulty abiding by the law; however, I would, as all citizens are obliged to do.

Bill C-54, which is well-intentioned, must be examined. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill at this stage and feels it should be sent to committee. When it is reviewed in committee, we can ask witnesses questions. The fight against crime is of the utmost importance, particularly when children are the victims. However, it must be said that, in Quebec, as in the rest of Canada, the crime rate has been declining for the past 15 years or so. The measures set out in Bill C-54 warrant our attention. This bill creates new offences and imposes new restrictions on offenders. However, the bill also provides for minimum sentences.

We must hear from legal experts on the matter. When the Conservatives introduce crime bills, they do so to satisfy their own ideology rather than to improve society. They have that annoying tendency of trying to do what the justice system should do. When minimum penalties are brought in, we tell the judges what they have to do. Our parents and grandparents passed on a legacy of the rule of law and a justice system in which judges look at offences on a case-by-case basis and assign penalties in accordance with precedents that have been developed over years. In short, looking at case law means looking at what has happened in the past and giving similar penalties for similar crimes, so that justice is balanced.

When minimum penalties are brought in, it changes this balance that was passed on to us by our parents and grandparents. I am a grandfather to a boy who will be 18 months on March 22, and I would not want to leave him a justice system that completely disregards our history and the foundation of our society.

The Bloc Québécois is generally in favour of the principle of sending a bill to be studied in committee. There, we can hear from witnesses and make any necessary amendments to the bill. The purpose is that when the bill is passed, it helps develop society. The sole objective should not be to replace the justice system that was passed down to us by our parents and grandparents with the new system that the Conservatives and their ideology are trying to impose.

Quebeckers and people from the rest of Canada can trust the Bloc Québécois to maintain that balance. We have always done so in the House and we will continue to do so. The principle of the bill is very interesting and we want to develop it and discuss it.

The bill would create two new offences. The first offence would prohibit anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child. This hybrid offence would carry a mandatory prison sentence of 30 days imprisonment and a maximum penalty of six months or a mandatory prison sentence of 90 days.

The second offence would prohibit anyone from using any means of telecommunications, including a computer system, to agree or to make arrangements with another person for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against a child. This provision was part of former Bill C-46, which was introduced in the previous parliamentary session but was not passed because of the last election.

The Bloc's goal is to help society evolve. This bill would prohibit the use of telecommunications. Our parents knew nothing about these kinds of things. I am getting older, and my father never saw such things, nor did my grandparents. Laws need to be adapted, and I think this is a step in the right direction. Once again, at this stage in the discussions surrounding Bill C-54, the Bloc Québécois will support the bill.

Next, we need to proceed with this bill so that the legal and criminal aspects of our society, passed down by our parents and grandparents, will evolve and be more suitable for our grandchildren. That is the challenge that the Bloc Québécois has taken on. We will bring the necessary witnesses forward and we, along with the other parties, will try to move this bill forward to achieve the final goal of helping society move in a positive direction and not towards a right-wing conservative ideology as has happened with the U.S. Republicans and in totalitarian societies in the world. There needs to be a balance, and that is what the Bloc is here for.

At this stage, the government can count on the Bloc's support.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-54 today. I know my hon. colleague, the member for Niagara Falls, the Minister of Justice, and I lived through a horrific period of time a number of years ago, with Paul Bernardo and the luring of who were then ostensibly children. He and I have intimate knowledge of that, living in the area at that time and knowing the consequences of the actions of that couple.

The minister knows that I was more than pleased to work with the Minister of Public Safety to ensure that one of the perpetrators, Karla Homolka, did not receive a pardon, when she came to the end of her sentence. I was extremely pleased to work with the government. I thank the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice for their work with me to ensure it did not happen. It was immensely important, not just for the people who live in Niagara where those heinous crimes were committed, but for all Canadians across this land who believed that justice would not be served if it happened.

When we talk about child luring for the purposes of sexual exploitation, all of us in the House agree it has to be one of the most repulsive and heinous acts committed against the most vulnerable and cherished in our society, our little ones. As the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said earlier, whether we have little ones or not, we must protect them. As my mother always says to me, I am always her little one. I am not sure how that happens with my size and age, but I guess I am always her son. I have a son who is six foot five, but he is still my little guy and he always will be.

There is no greater thing in this world that we can do than protect those little ones. No matter how old they get, they are always our little ones and we want to protect them. That should be, by extension, not just for family but out across the broader community, across this province, across the country and around the world. They are the folks we cherish most. They are put in situations where they are vulnerable and we cannot allow folks, who have the wherewithal, to make decisions to go ahead and try to lure those little ones.

The New Democrats actually brought forward a bill on child luring through the act of using communications as various methods. In fact, I congratulate my good friend and colleague Dawn Black who has now moved on to British Columbia's legislature. She initially put two bills before the House to deal with this very subject.

I want to congratulate the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam who has taken them on himself to ensure that the work started by Dawn continues to go forward. That is how we feel in this party about the importance of it and how we ensure we protect our little ones.

Also, I give a great deal of thanks for our member for Windsor—Tecumseh who is our critic for justice. He gives yeoman work when it comes to debating the bills and ensuring they are crafted in such a way when they get to committee, with amendments and good questions, and calling good witnesses. It was in second reading that my friend from Windsor—Tecumseh said that part of the failings of the initial part of the bill was around the sense of what was “telecommunications”. He highlighted the point that the definition was too narrow when it came to telecommunications.

As many of us know, the art form of telecommunications moves at a horrendous speed, which makes it very difficult for us to keep up. Modern telecommunications could be yesterday's telecommunications within less than a year or even months in some cases. He has pushed for that, and I am sure he would want let the minister know that the committee has broadened the sense of what “telecommunications” is and what “communications for child luring” is. He has made it more accessible and not a narrow definition but a broad one. Therefore, we will not have folks escaping the very net we are casting to catch those who would lure our children for sexual exploitation.

All of us believe they need to be punished. I do not believe anyone would say they should not be. We need to find ways to not only to reduce what happens to our young people, but to find ways to stop it.

What do we want to see happen? I believe the bill accomplishes a fair amount, but it unfortunately leaves parts out. My friend for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour articulated issues around poverty and the things that we ought to do that might be helpful at the preventative level so we would not see young people get lured and then engaged after the fact.

Part of the aspect that is missing is this sense of how we treat those offenders. As I read through the committee transcript, there were some eminently qualified witnesses, psychiatrists and psychologists, who talked about the types of offenders who committed and perpetrated these crimes. They are not exactly as we think they might be. The witnesses explained that they fell into three different categories. It is not for me to try to explain it because they are the experts. They quantified the numbers included in there. For one category of offenders, there was great hope that with certain forms of treatment, there was the possibility that they would not reoffend, and the treatment would be successful.

Therefore, the sense is not that they should not be apprehended and punished. They should be. However, we do not want to just simply end it with that and allow them back out to reoffend. If they do reoffend, it is not simply a question of saying that because they have reoffended, we will put them back in jail to punish them again. The person who has really suffered the greatest is that child. Accordingly, if we can catch the perpetrators and find ways to get them into treatment, and experts have told us there are ways to do this in the vast majority of cases, hopefully when they get out, they will not reoffend. That would set us on a path to reducing child luring, child exploitation and child molestation. However, to send them back out to reoffend does not make any sense.

I hope the minister and the government will look at this and decide that perhaps they ought to spend a few dollars to do that.

Let me be abundantly clear that all New Democrats feel revulsion when it comes to child luring and child exploitation. All of us want to put an end to it to ensure our children are protected.

Therefore, for all of the above reasons, we will support the bill as it goes forward. We have heard that from my other colleagues in the House. Let us put an end to the exploitation of the most vulnerable citizens in our communities, our families and across our country. It is our obligation to do so and we take that obligation seriously.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today on behalf of this. I hope, once and for all, some day in the not too distant future, we will not have to talk about a subject like this again because we have put ourselves on the road to ensure it will not happen to our most vulnerable.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 1:30 p.m.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Shall I see the clock at 1:30 p.m.?

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act
Private Members' Business

March 11th, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

moved that Bill C-624, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (providing protection for beneficiaries of long term disability benefits plans), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-624, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (providing protection for beneficiaries of long term disability benefits plans).

Before I tell members of the House what the bill does, let me them what it does not do. First, it is not about pensions. It is about long-term disability, LTD, and that only.

Second, the bill is not about Nortel, although that situation precipitated the bill. It is about the over one million employees in Canada who can be affected now and in the future if they find themselves in similar circumstances with respect to LTD plans.

The purpose of the bill is straightforward. It is to protect employees on long-term disability, but while its focus is narrow, it speaks to larger issues, of fairness, justice and respect.

It aims to correct a situation that leaves the most vulnerable of our workers in the most desperate of straits and reaffirms the simple principle that people who pay their dues and play by the rules have the right to expect that they will receive what was promised to them.

At the moment, approximately 1.1 million employees in Canada have disability benefits that are self-insured by their employers. If a company with self-funded long-term disability benefits goes bankrupt, its employees who depend on these benefits, are given the same standing as an unsecured creditor. When a company goes bankrupt, they should be first in line.

In 2001, Amy Stahlke in Benefits Canada magazine wrote about the impending problem. She said:

In Canada, there has been little regulation of self-insured plans. There is no requirement that employers set aside adequate reserves to cover future liabilities arising from these plans. If reserves are set aside, there is no restriction on how those funds are invested. There is also no obligation to keep funds in trust to protect them from creditors. This means that a bankruptcy could spell the end of the benefits plan, including benefits for individuals already on disability.

Employees who are disabled, who cannot work, should not be shunted aside. Their needs are not over when their employer goes under. They still need their medication. They still need treatment. They still need rehabilitation. They still need all of the things that their long-term disability would have helped to provide.

The bill proposes to protect these beneficiaries under long-term disability plans by granting them preferred status. By bringing LTD claimants to preferred status, employees are more likely to get their full benefit coverage up to age 65 to be able to pay their medical bills and continue, which is very important, to live outside of poverty.

Some may have concerns about the cost, the impact it might have on credit markets and about the overall competitiveness of our businesses, but when we look at the evidence we see that not only can this be done but that many countries around the world are already doing it.

Thirty-four of the 54 countries studied by the OECD and the World Bank already have either super-priority or preferred status for employee claims in their bankruptcy laws, so 34 of 54 countries have better laws than we do, and that is for all pension claims, not just long-term disability. They have properly functioning credit markets and are still competitive with these in place, so the two are not incompatible. We can protect our most vulnerable employees and retain dynamic credit markets and stay competitive. We can do both. Other countries do and it has given stability for these people and these companies.

Also, at least 12 countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, require the payment of insurance premiums by their corporations to fund their public pension plans and disability income guaranty insurance programs.

The United Kingdom system goes even further. In 2004, it enacted the pension protection fund that states that if an insolvent company's long-term disability fund has been underfunded, the government will compensate the scheme to protect employees. The government backs it, but the government is not going to have to put in one red cent in what I am proposing.

Employees are therefore protected before an employer goes bankrupt because the government requires their company to fund the LTD funds. If there is a shortfall, the government will step in to cover it. In essence, the most vulnerable will be protected.

Even our friends south of the border in the United States, LTD employees have disability protection for pensioners through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Also, employees have legal recourse to go after LTD benefits after bankruptcy provided by their federal employee retirement income security act legislation. There is no such avenue here in Canada. They even have better protection in the states than we have in our country. They also have a more generous social security disability program, which pays more than twice what CPP disability pays the disabled in Canada. It is unbelievable that we treat sick employees this way.

Nowhere is the inequity of the present situation more starkly illustrated than in the case of the Nortel workers who live right outside Ottawa and in the surrounding areas. As that company goes about the business of divvying up its assets, over 400 of its employees on long-term disability are being cast aside.

Currently, the bankruptcy court has accepted an agreement for the dissolution of Nortel's health and welfare trust, pretty well taking it off the hook. The trust was set up to fund life insurance, long-term disability and other benefits for 18,000 Nortel workers. That fund has been underfunded for years and holds only 35% of the assets necessary to fund its obligations to all employees. This is a dire situation for Nortel's long-term disability employees whose average age is 54 years and may need benefits for many years to come.

I am going to tell a story about a lady who came to my office. She is not from my riding. She is from the riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. It is a very sad story. It is a story about Josée Marin. She was a lab technologist at Nortel and a single mom. She had been on long-term disability since 2002. She suffers from Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel condition, and scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune disorder. She is in rough shape.

This is how bad it is. Under this agreement, because of the chronic underfunding of the trust by Nortel, Josée will see her monthly average benefit which she received on long-term disability go from $2,143 to $433. Effectively, she will be receiving only 20% of the income replacement benefit she has been receiving since she became disabled.

To make matters worse, Josée also faces high health care costs which were paid through her medical benefits. No more. These benefits ran out in January of this year, which adds a significant burden. The Conservatives could have made it right. This bill was in the other place and it had a chance to make this right. She could still be receiving benefits.

What will happen, of course, is that employees like Josée will increasingly turn to social assistance and make greater use of social services. One could say that is what they are there for, but people will have to make heart-wrenching decisions because there is not enough money to live and pay medical expenses. They will have to make heart-wrenching decisions on whether to buy medication or food for their families, to get treatment for their illnesses or to pay rent. Those are the decisions they are faced with after working many years.

Effectively, Nortel will have downloaded these costs onto taxpayers while the company walks away from its responsibilities.

Josée does not want to become a burden to the taxpayer or to her family. She just wants to be able to live the remaining years of her life in dignity, or as she has starkly stated:

I want to die in the comfort of my home, not in my car or on the street.

That is a pretty strong statement.

Nortel employees are not alone. Long-term disability workers from Pacific Newspaper Group, which is owned by CanWest faced this uncertainty last year. Thank goodness CanWest survived the bankruptcy. However, if the situation had led to liquidation, as in Nortel's case, those employees would have seen their benefits cut off as well.

This problem is not new. We have seen this kind of thing play out before. In 1988, when Massey Combines Corp. went into receivership, 350 employees saw their disability payments vanish, gone. Ten years later, the bankruptcy of Eaton's resulted in hundreds more being left without benefits. Everybody else is getting their money, but not the people on long-term disability.

Long-term disability is based on a simple bargain, if workers pay the fees, they will be covered should anything happen that makes it impossible for them to work. That is what it is all about. It is very simple.

In the case of Nortel and others, that bargain has been broken. In the future, if no action is taken, similar bargains can be broken again and again. As I said, one million workers in this country could be under this threat and taxpayers will have to pick up the costs.

The bill before the House today attempts to end this practice. It declares in no uncertain terms, that promising long-term support and making short-term decisions that leave those promises in tatters is not just a matter of liabilities that are unfunded, it is a matter of practices that are unfair, unjust and unacceptable.

This bill will not only bring a greater degree of fairness in the bankruptcy process, but will help protect some of our most vulnerable citizens now and in the future or, as Josée Marin said:

These changes to the bankruptcy act are about human decency. They ensure a situation like the one I have been through for the last year never happens to any critically ill or disabled worker ever again.

As I am wrapping up here, this reminds me of a couple of years ago when I introduced a bill in the House for employees who get sick. Right now there is only 15 weeks unemployment. My bill, at that time, would have given them a full year of unemployment.

Across the floor, the Conservative government quashed it. It was a really sad thing. Not only opposition members believed in that bill, many of the MPs across the way believed in it. They had people coming to their offices. I have a list of all the ridings around Ottawa where the Nortel workers had visited MPs, of all stripes, especially the Conservatives. They came into the offices with tears in their eyes, wondering how they were going to pay their medical bills.

There is no need of it. There is no need of it in today's society. There is no need for this to happen. There is no need for a wealthy country like ours, or countries that are rich, where everybody takes off with the money and people cannot pay their medical bills. They are going to be dying in their cars. They are going to be dying on the streets. And it is because we are not planning any action here. It is a sad what happened in the other House, but we cannot let it happen here.

I urge all members in the House to vote for this bill. It is the right thing to do. We are very fortunate, the 308 of us here. We have a good job. We represent people. We have a pension. We are going to be taken care of if we have medical problems. Our families are going to be taken care of.

People are not being taken care of. Other countries are doing it. We are not doing it. Why are we not doing it? Why are we letting this happen when these companies go bankrupt? Why should these people not be the first up to get their money?

It shows meanness. We do not have to be like that. I want my Conservative colleagues to really think about this over the break week. I want them to go back and check with the people who do case work in their ridings. Check and see the situation. It is not just Nortel. There are companies right across Canada that are having this problem.

I will ask everybody to support this bill. It is the right thing for us to do. This situation makes a mockery of our country when we do not take care of the people who need help.

Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my hon. colleague across the way who spoke well on this subject but he somehow wants to put all the blame for this tragic situation on the government side of the House.

He has introduced a private member's bill, which I think he serious about. He wants to help solve a difficult issue facing Nortel pensioners. I do not disagree that they are facing a difficult situation.

However, this falls under provincial jurisdiction and it is the province's responsibility to fix this very difficult and tragic issue that affects the lives of many individuals. I would like an answer from the member but I do not want to hear about what the government has not done. I would like to know if he has talked to his provincial Liberal colleagues in Ontario and asked them to fix this tragic situation and help the individuals involved?

Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Benefits Plans Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Nova Scotia, who was an employer and an employee, knows what this is all about. He has bounced this back on to the province. We are talking about the bankruptcy act, which is a federal act, not a provincial one.

These people will be downloaded onto the province and they will expect the province to take care of them but the province does not have enough money to take care of them.

This issue has nothing to do with the province. This involves the federal bankruptcy act and we have the power in this House to make it happen.