Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here, or least to be with the House virtually. It is always an honour to rise on behalf of the good people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.
I would like to thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for her leadership in this Parliament on this issue. God knows we need these issues brought up because, in some cases, the issue around pension reform and the need to resolve it is long standing and has happened over periods, not just of governments, but of decades.
We have two issues in this particular space when it relates to pensions. One is legacy pensions, which is broadly what we are dealing with today. The other one is new ones, meaning that fewer companies are deciding to use the standard defined benefit pension plan. I am just going to take a quick moment to share a few reasons why that is.
Obviously the business environment has changed. Technologies have come in. We have seen new business models operating that challenge the status quo and have created all sorts of issues for legacy businesses as technology continues to change things.
The government tried to deal with this by bringing in Bill C-27 in its first mandate, but that particular bill went nowhere because the government probably did not do its homework and got hung up over one particular area that people were contesting around conversion, the conversion of a defined benefit to a target pension plan.
The reason why I raise this issue is because the government has failed when it comes to addressing both legacy issues, as well as trying to invoke new methods for bringing in benefits, whether they be a target-based benefit or a defined benefit. If we want to see more people having secure retirements, then that is part of the solution. I do not think the government has done a very good job, which brings me back to legacy issues.
Defined benefit pensions, those are usually handled, most of the time, by the companies themselves. There is no legislation that says that when they are in a surplus position, who actually owns that. Is it the actual company or is it the pensioners or the current workers? That problem, unfortunately, does not happen that often because it is very seldom that these particular private, defined benefits are running at a surplus. In fact, it is the opposite.
We have seen cases such as Sears. I represent a riding that has a large percentage of seniors. They rely on that income. It breaks one's heart when one finds out that they are no longer going to be receiving the benefit they paid into.
There has been inaction on this by the Liberal government since it came into office, but I would not put it all on them. If we just look to those who are fortunate enough to have a pension program, and it is usually in the public sector, the answer has already been given by successive governments over the decades. If there is a shortfall, the taxpayer will fill that gap. However, for these private pensions, that has not been answered.
Unfortunately, we have seen recessions. We have seen where stock markets have been hit hard, in the early 2000s, obviously in the financial crisis in 2008-09, and the subsequent great recession, and now we are looking at where there is a lot of talk about a possible recession. This is the worst time to be bringing these things up.
When these issues happen, when scarcity is abound, this is where everyone tightens up and demands to have what they are owed. The member for Sarnia—Lambton has been trying, struggling through the process of a private member's bill, working through committee, to put a new balance in place that would at least address this.
We do have the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Bill C-27 that I referred to earlier did talk about having more rules and oversight in place that would force new target benefits to come up with plans to bring themselves back into a surplus position when there is a drop.
That is really important because joint-sponsored pension plans often have these things where they will, on a temporary basis, cut some secondary benefits to smooth things out, and once the plan comes back into balance, then the regular benefits continue. Those kinds of tools, where a pension plan can smooth out those outflows to make sure there is always a plan to get back into surplus, work. It has been shown in joint-sponsored plans, and it could work in defined benefit programs as well, but the government has a responsibility to start the discussion.
Unfortunately, the government seems to have taken the opinion that, if one touches it, one has basically bought it. It has, so far, decided not to enter into this space since its retreat from Bill C-27. Again, this country deserves better. It deserves to have both certainty for the existing legacy pension plans out there in the federal space and, I believe, an overall discussion on provincial plans. So far, when it comes to that kind of discussion, successive ministers of finance, whether it be former minister Morneau, who is the minister no more, as I like to joke once in a while, or the current Minister of Finance, they have not made this a priority. Thus, this is where members of Parliament need to fill the gap.
The superpriority, although it is an essential process that has been pointed out by the Canadian public, where they feel that if the government cannot put in place a framework that assures them of that, then, by goodness, they should receive superpriority in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act at the very end. It is an option that will have trade-offs in the corporate side, where it will make it in some cases harder for corporations to receive financing for their bonds. However, in the absence of better leadership by the government, members of Parliament have been forced to do this.
It is terrible that we have a government in office that votes down, or I should say denies, unanimous consent. Members of Parliament wanted to see the superpriority component of this bill included. For the Liberal government to continually say no and use whatever tools it can just shows the government is completely opposed to anything in this space. That is lamentable because ultimately it is Canadians who do not have an assured pension, such as public servants or most of us, if we are vested, do.
I would encourage the government to come clean. I would encourage Canadians to talk to their members of Parliament. Most of all, I would encourage the government to start taking this issue seriously, put forward consultations with both provincial governments and the Canadian public on how it intends to deal with legacy issues if it is not going to go forward with the Bill C-228 provisions presented by the good member for Sarnia—Lambton.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak today and wish all of my colleagues a good day.