An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans and group insurance plans)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Marilène Gill  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Second reading (House), as of June 7, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to ensure that claims in respect of unfunded liabilities or solvency deficiencies of pension plans and claims relating to the cessation of an employer’s participation in group insurance plans are paid in priority in the event of bankruptcy proceedings.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Pension Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 22nd, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
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Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, many expressive words come to mind as I rise to speak to Bill C‑228 today in the House, a few hours before voting at third reading. My words are “privilege”, “honour” and “pride”.

Why? As parliamentarians we play a part in history. We have the opportunity to do something historic, namely to correct an injustice that has existed for far too many years by protecting retirement funds, the nest eggs of workers and retirees, in the event of a bankruptcy.

I do not think there should be any hesitation tomorrow when it comes time to vote. We should all stand up unanimously in the House to tell all workers and the unions that have been lobbying for years to convince parliamentarians to remedy this situation that we will finally do them justice. That is my plea today.

I would also like to commend the Conservative member for Sarnia—Lambton and thank her for her bill and for the work that was done on it across party lines with the NDP and my colleague from Manicouagan. It is really something when we are able to work together to advance the rights of workers. I really encourage the Liberals to join us. I heard the parliamentary secretary say in his speech earlier that he was still undecided about tomorrow's vote. What is there to be undecided about? There should be no hesitation on this issue.

If even just one company were to go bankrupt today, the human suffering would be terrible. A company going bankrupt results in job losses, relocations, unemployment and complete reorganization. When, on top of that, a company puts itself under creditor protection and pension plans are insolvent or have not been properly funded, retirees are faced with enormous losses to their pensions.

Consider the Cliffs mine on the north shore, or Nortel, or Aveos. There are situations like these—and this is a long list—where workers and retirees have seen all the savings they socked away during their working years melt away like snow on a sunny day.

We must remember one fundamental thing. Retirement is a deferred salary, compensation that is deferred until retirement. When a company goes bankrupt and that fund is unprotected, thousands of workers are put at risk. This concerns many workers in Canada.

I also really want to commend all the work done by my colleague, the member for Manicouagan. When Cliffs' mine on the north shore went bankrupt, she went to bat, took a stand and worked hard to introduce a bill that would protect pensioners and to ensure that this never happens again. There was one hour of debate, but at least there was debate, because, at the time, the government was against this idea. It made people aware of the fact that this should never happen again. Since then, there have been many such bills, but not one of them has passed and actually fixed the problem.

The latest bill on this subject was introduced by my colleague from Manicouagan in 2021. It was Bill C‑372, which passed at second reading and received the committee's unanimous approval. Unfortunately, it died on the Order Paper because a pointless election was called.

I said the passage of this bill would be a historic event. Fortunately, battles for pension funds are already being waged in the context of collective bargaining for unionized workers. This often causes conflict, because employers would like to make cuts to pension funds.

How many battles, strikes and disputes have hinged not only on pay, but also on pension funds? This is a difficult struggle for workers. Some workers have been left to fend for themselves after giving a company 30 or 40 years of their lives and contributing to a retirement fund. This kind of thing happens because we have never been aware of their reality or done enough to take a stand and fix the problem.

We have an important role to play as parliamentarians, because it is up to elected officials and the government to change things and bring in a safety net for our workers. The purpose of this bill is not to make pension plans priority creditors, but rather preferred creditors. The status of preferred creditor for wages is currently maintained in the event of bankruptcy.

I really must emphasize that there is no reason to hesitate. I often hear the Liberals say here in the House that they are there for the workers, that they will never let them down and that they want to protect their pension funds. Well, now is the time to walk the talk. Beyond the rhetoric, if they really want to protect workers, it is important to strengthen labour rights and protect pension funds in the event of insolvency or bankruptcy. That is what needs to be done. This should not even be a question.

It is also important to pass anti-scab legislation. Workers have been calling for this for years. It should have been brought in years ago. Labour disputes persist because, once again, employers under federal jurisdiction take advantage of the current situation to hire scabs, and this keeps the disputes going. One day, we are going to have to stand up for workers on this issue as well. It is time to stop consulting and start taking action.

Employment Insurance also needs to be reformed. The Canadian Labour Congress, the United Steelworkers and major labour organizations regularly come to the Hill to lobby to talk to parliamentarians about the reality of the working world today and to convince them to fix the situation. I do not even understand why the government is still dragging its feet on this.

The bill to protect retirement funds seeks to provide a guarantee in the event of misfortune such as an economic crisis, a recession or even a pandemic. In such situations, there are losses. In the case of Cliffs Natural Resources, even though the United Steelworkers managed to get a bit of money to the North Shore through legal means, pensions were still slashed by 9%.

A worker or retiree who is currently 80 is not going to go back to work. They end up using all of their savings just to survive. We cannot leave a single person in such a situation.

Canada is known for protecting basic rights and workers rights in the event of a bankruptcy. We have to protect their nest egg. I think it will be to our credit to adopt this bill unanimously. I want to acknowledge all the unions and every parliamentarian who decided to stand up and make this possible.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

June 15th, 2022 / 6:10 p.m.
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Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my esteemed colleague, the member for Sarnia—Lambton, for introducing Bill C‑228 and for working across party lines throughout the process, working with all the opposition parties on a bill that matters very much to the Bloc Québécois.

I would also like to express my appreciation to my colleague from Manicouagan, who began working hard on Bill C‑228's precursor in 2015. She has really done some outstanding work.

We are here to talk about Bill C‑228, which amends the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. The amendments would:

...ensure that claims in respect of unfunded liabilities or solvency deficiencies of pension plans and claims relating to the cessation of an employer’s participation in group insurance plans are paid in priority in the event of bankruptcy proceedings.

It also amends the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 to provide that an employer may provide financial security in the form of insurance for any portion of the contributions that they are required to pay under subsections 9(1.‍1) and (1.‍2) of the Act....

Basically, this means that the enactment: authorize the administrator of [a potentially] underfunded pension plan, in certain situations [including bankruptcy], to transfer or permit the transfer of any part of the assets or liabilities of the pension plan to another pension plan. The amendments also provide for the tabling of an annual report respecting the solvency of pension plans.

I would like to begin by providing a bit of context. My hon. colleague from Joliette touched on this.

One important factor in the history of all the bills on this issue is of course the bankruptcy of the American company Cliffs Natural Resources. The two Canadian subsidiaries operating its facilities, at Bloom Lake in Pointe-Noire and in Wabush, were placed under the protection of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in 2015.

As a result, Cliffs Natural Resources announced plans to reorganize its operations with a view to closing down its operations in eastern Canada. This restructuring had serious repercussions for Cliffs' employees, as well as for its retired workers who lost much of their pension and group insurance.

During the 42th Parliament, that is from 2015 to 2019, my esteemed colleague, the member for Manicouagan, introduced Bill C‑372, a bill to protect workers' pension funds. Debated for just one hour, the bill, which was intended to prevent injustices like the injustice done to Cliffs workers, sought to ensure that this would not happen again and that other retirees would not lose the pensions they worked for all their lives. Unfortunately, the bill was never acted upon because the Liberal majority government at the time did not implement it.

Throughout the last Parliament, the Bloc Québécois worked very hard, particularly with the other opposition parties, to protect pension funds, but unfortunately that work did not bear fruit. To buy time, the government appointed the former minister of seniors to hold a consultation and, again, that led to absolutely nothing. Since then, we have also seen the bankruptcies of Sears and Groupe Capitales Médias.

With the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, there is every reason to believe that there will be more bankruptcies and that workers must be protected to ensure that, in the event of a bankruptcy, they have access to a pension fund.

I would like to take this opportunity to quote a very important part of the press conference my esteemed colleague from Manicouagan gave, in collaboration with the esteemed member for Sarnia—Lambton: “A pension fund is deferred wages resulting from an agreement between workers and a company. When a company decides to breach that contract and pay off its debt by using that money, that is theft, plain and simple.”

While all the opposition parties have introduced a bill to protect workers' pensions, we have the opportunity, as parliamentarians, to move quickly through each stage of the legislative process to ensure that pension plans are protected as soon as possible. We have this opportunity because we are in a minority government. For once, the opposition parties can join forces, set partisanship aside, and get this bill passed to help these workers.

No one will be surprised to learn that the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C‑228. Currently, when an employer declares bankruptcy, what they owe the pension fund is considered an unsecured claim. Also, once secured creditors and preferred claims are paid, there is practically nothing left to replenish the undercapitalized pension funds. The result is that pensioners end up with reduced pensions, sometimes drastically so.

The overall objective of Bill C‑228 is quite similar, in that it is designed to better protect pension funds in the event of bankruptcy. When a company is being restructured in accordance with the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act or when it is being liquidated in accordance with the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, Bill C‑228 would designate pension plans as preferred creditors, as was proposed in the Bloc Québécois bill that died on the Order Paper when the election was called before it reached report stage.

Bill C‑228 is, however, missing one of the provisions in the Bloc Québécois's bill, a provision that would have also designated group insurance plans as preferred creditors. We are prepared to accept this omission to ensure that this bill is passed. It does not provide the same level of protection for workers, although it is an improvement over what we have now.

Bill C-228 also contains amendments to the Pension Benefits Standards Act of 1985 that were not included in the Bloc Québécois bill. These changes only affect federally regulated businesses, such as telecommunications companies, banks and interprovincial or international transportation companies, or about 3% of Quebec's workforce. These changes provide some flexibility to the administrator of a pension fund. The bill allows an employer to purchase insurance to cover all or part of the pension fund's deficit. This provision harmonizes the federal legislation with the Ontario legislation, where there is an insurance fund for pensions. This is a good measure. Quebec should use it as an example.

When Capital Media went bankrupt, the retired workers from various local daily newspapers lost part of their pension, while those from Le Droit, based in Ottawa, managed to hang on to nearly all of theirs. Under this legislation, instead of emptying the pension fund upon bankruptcy, the administrator of the fund would be allowed to transfer it to another one. This measure does raise some questions. Does it salvage anything, or does it prevent the fund from being bailed out by the employer's assets? This would have to be examined.

Generally speaking, the bill is a step forward in protecting seniors. After all, a retired worker's pension is deferred wages, as my colleague fromManicouagan said. There is no reason why salary should be considered a priority claim, but not retirement.

Once and for all, we must put an end to this measure that is burdening Quebec workers and retirees. We must guarantee them the financial security they deserve. Once again, this bill draws heavily on former Bill C-253, which was introduced in the House.

We must lead by example. Workers' interests must come before partisanship. That is what we are doing today.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2022 / 2 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C‑228, which was introduced by my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton. I want to officially thank her. I may also have done so during my comments. I have thanked her personally but wanted to do so in the House. This is the kind of collaboration that allows us as parliamentarians to go even further, and this was confirmed in all of the questions and comments we have heard.

I do not think anyone in the House will be surprised to hear that I took a serious look at this bill. Again, there is absolutely no partisanship here. As my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton pointed out, I have introduced two bills on similar topics: Bill C‑372 in 2017, the same day that Sears declared bankruptcy, and Bill C‑253, during the previous Parliament, which has become Bill C‑264. It is an endorsement of everything going on in the House, because there is really a movement to get this bill passed.

Before I get to the matter at hand, I want to thank the people who worked on this bill, and I am sure my colleague will agree with me on this. This bill really affects everyone, Quebeckers and Canadians, in all types of businesses. We heard about Sears, but in my region this happened with a multinational mining company called Cliffs Natural Resources. I say “my region”, but there were also other areas affected.

Many people worked on this bill. Individuals, workers and retiree organizations all testified. My colleague mentioned some who have been supporting this bill since 2017. This bill is supported by approximately four million people across Canada, Quebec included, as well as by associations representing retirees and seniors. When we think about it, four million people out of approximately 40 million is a large proportion of the population that is asking the House of Commons to take action to protect pension funds.

I would particularly like to thank Gordon St‑Gelais, Kathleen Bound, Mario Levac, Nicolas Lapierre, Dominique Lemieux, Sandra Lévesque, Manon, Claire, Pierre, Ghislain, Anthony and Serge. There are so many others. I do not have time to name them all, but they are the ones who breathed life into this bill.

I repeat, my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton's bill really affects everyone. That is clear because, in my case, the very idea for the bill came from Cliffs Natural Resources retirees. That is real proof. Sometimes there is cynicism in politics, but this bill takes some of that away, because the bill really comes from the people. It shows that institutions can work properly when the will is there. I wanted to point that out to show that an MP is nothing without their constituents. If we want to represent them properly, then we need to listen to them.

Let me get right into it. Bill C‑228 should have no trouble getting to committee and then to the Senate. It should not even have any trouble getting through the upcoming vote. It has already gone through significant study in committee. For example, it was very important to me that there be protection for insurance. That was removed from Bill C‑228, but other mechanisms were added, and we will have to take a close look at them because there are still a lot of unknowns despite all the studies. Even so, I think everyone who supported Bill C‑253 will support Bill C‑228. I say everyone because all four parties were on the committee, so I do not see how anyone could be against this bill.

Why not fast-track it?

We could move it all the way through to royal assent pretty quickly. A number of senators were interested in my bill, so they will also be interested in the bill introduced by my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton. I really think things will move along very quickly.

I have 10 pages of notes and I am only on the second one, but if I can at the very least convey my enthusiasm and my hope that everyone votes in favour of this bill, I will consider that a success.

I could get into the more technical aspects of the bill because people are always interested in the scope of a bill. The spirit of my colleague's bill is the same.

What we are really trying to do is save the retirement nest eggs of workers who have accumulated a salary for years, what we call deferred wages. I always feel compelled to remind people of this, because I sometimes hear surprising questions in the House. I think I even heard some answers today with references to CPP, which has absolutely nothing to do with this bill.

What we are talking about here is really a pension fund. Workers pay into a pension fund and agree to give up part of their salary for a certain period of time. Instead of receiving $25 an hour, for example, they will receive $22 an hour. The union and the employer negotiate this so they can build up a pension fund for the employees' retirement. In other words, this is something they have already paid for, but when a company files for protection under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act or the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, they could lose it.

For example, back home in my riding, the Cliffs pensioners lost roughly 25% of their pension fund. I should mention that pension funds are not indexed. If a retiree had $1,000 in 1995, it no longer had the same value in 2005 or in 2015, and that value will be different in 2025 too. This is already a loss for those people, and it can become enormous in some situations.

Insurance is also very important to me because when these people lose their insurance, they are often older. At 65, 70, 75 or 80 years old, it is harder to get insured. They often need more care and drugs—such is life—but they cannot get the same care they used to get. By the way, this may be the part of the bill I agree with the least, because this issue is very important to me. I have talked to people who have experienced hardship, like people with cancer who cannot afford decent care because companies went bankrupt.

We are not talking about small businesses, but multinationals. These are companies with significant revenues that should have managed their pension fund better in order to hang on to it.

I have spoken with people who lived through these tragedies. I think of them every time we talk about these bills in the House and study them in committee. This is very much a human issue, and I think we can do something about it. This bill is not calling for huge changes. It is not calling for all of the money to be returned to retirees and for nothing to be given to the creditors. That is not what this is about. This is a reasonable bill.

As I said, everyone in the House is in agreement, but even in the different sectors, companies agree on the principle of placing retirees higher on the list of priorities, without making them the only priority. I point this out because that exaggeration is one common criticism of this type of bill.

In closing, I would like to express my appreciation for everyone, including my House of Commons colleagues, who is working or wants to work to advance a bill like this one. I want to applaud the strength of people in my riding and other ridings, particularly people from MABE, Sears, Nortel, Cliffs and Eaton, which we talked about earlier. I thank them for their ongoing work because they are the ones supporting what we are trying to get done here and they are the reason we here are so aware of this issue and on the verge of passing a bill. There are just a few steps to go.

I also want to highlight the level of solidarity people have shown. Our parties do not always see eye to eye, but we have found a way to rise above our differences, work together and come to a compromise. Being an MP means making compromises, not compromising who we are, but seeking compromise, and that is something we can do. For me, it is also about respect. We respect one another, just as we respect workers and our constituents. All that makes me very excited about the the idea that we can get this bill passed.

I would once again like to express my support to my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton. I think she is doing amazing work. We will certainly get this legislation passed, whether it is this bill or any other bill along the same lines, such as mine. Why not?

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 23rd, 2021 / 1:30 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

moved that Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans and group insurance plans), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to my bill, Bill C-253. I want to start by thanking my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville for her invaluable support, both practical and symbolic, in the development and drafting of this bill.

I must admit I am experiencing some déjà vu. In 2017, during the previous Parliament, I introduced Bill C-372, which was very similar to the one we are debating today. The House was unfortunately dissolved before Bill C-372 could be put to a vote, but I hope to see this new version get passed.

For a bit of background, I will have to go back in time to talk about how Bill C-253 came to be. Cliffs Natural Resources, a wealthy U.S. multinational mining corporation, once had affiliates in my riding, in Sept-Îles and at Bloom Lake near Fermont. The company employed many of my constituents and people from Labrador, and it was part of the lives of many North Shore workers for many years.

In 2015, the company filed for creditor protection for its Sept-Îles and Bloom Lake affiliates under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. After declaring bankruptcy for these affiliates, the company announced it was ending group insurance for its pensioners and slashing their retirement fund. By discontinuing contributions to the pension fund, Cliffs Natural Resources ran up a $30-million solvency deficit, which was taken from the workers.

Some 700 pensioners, people from my region and from my riding, lost their group insurance and nearly 25% of their pension fund in the Cliffs Natural Resources disaster, but that is not all. These people were forced into an extremely tenuous situation. They expected a peaceful, secure retirement but suddenly found themselves on the brink of ruin. They had no inkling that financial worries and trouble would come back to haunt them.

Fortunately, the Cliffs Natural Resources pensioners, or their widows or spouses, as the case may be, did receive compensation. It was thanks not to the House's legislative efforts but to the tenacity of the Cliffs pensioners' association and the support of United Steelworkers that they were partially compensated for the money that was stolen from them.

The purpose of Bill C-253 is to make sure we never see another tragedy like the ones that have happened in our community, or with other companies, such as White Birch, Mabe Canada and Sears Canada, or even like the ones that the COVID-19 crisis is causing right now.

Canadian law does not adequately protect workers' rights, so it is our duty to end this injustice as soon as possible before history repeats itself and the rights of workers and pensioners are once again trampled upon.

The Bloc Québécois has always been a voice for workers and defended their rights in the House. Bill C-253 reflects our commitments and our actions. Driven by a relentless sense of justice, the Bloc Québécois will never stop stepping up to protect the rights of workers and to prevent them from being cheated, particularly through such unfortunate bankruptcies.

The solution to the problem is perfectly simple. I would like to draw the attention of the House to two points that are the very pillars of my bill.

First, it is vitally important to recognize pensions for what they are: deferred wages, negotiated between the employer and employees through the union and recognized by both parties. Accordingly, pension plans must be considered preferred claims, and paying them out must be considered a priority. To stop the looting, companies must be forced to live up to their commitments to workers.

Second, pensioners must be compensated for the loss of their group insurance, which has obvious negative repercussions for them and their families. Going back to the example of Cliffs Natural Resources, the workers and pensioners were unfairly penalized for a bankruptcy for which they were in no way responsible. They were deprived of money they had worked for. It was their due.

The Liberal Party of Canada just held their convention. I was pleasantly surprised when the Liberals adopted a resolution recognizing that pensions are deferred wages. I hope they will also be pleased when they remember that this was in both Bill C-253 and its previous version, Bill C-372. Logically, the Liberals cannot deny that slashing pension plans during a company bankruptcy constitutes theft, so they will surely vote for Bill C-253.

Of course, Bill C-253 was drafted with the Cliffs pensioners and their spouses in mind. The bill reflects their life stories and the misfortunes they had to contend with.

I want to sincerely thank the Cliffs pensioners' association, which demonstrated ingenuity, empathy and tenacity in the face of the colossal problems that their former employer's bankruptcy caused for them. I want to give a huge thank you to Gordon, Cécile, Daniel, Rodrigue, the other Rodrigue, Serge, and also Nico, as well as all of the others I cannot name in the House, for their invaluable contributions. They know who they are. Their hard work served as the inspiration for this bill. They are proof that the voice and will of the people can be heard loud and clear in Parliament. This is their space, and I sincerely hope that their fight will inspire others, so that no one else has to go through what they did.

Before I conclude, I want to comment on another rather surprising action that the Liberal government has taken to amend the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

At the beginning of the week, a private member's bill to amend the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in connection with the situation at Laurentian University was introduced by the member for Sudbury. That bill excludes post-secondary teaching institutions from the definition of company. I am confused. The government had an opportunity to significantly improve the legislation — I say an opportunity, but it has had several — but all it did was add a simple exception to make itself look good and restore its image after what happened at Laurentian University.

Bill C-253 goes much further and truly protects those who need protection for the long term, not the creditors, not businesses and even less so the government, but the workers and what they are planning to live on, the money to fund the retirement they have looked forward to their entire lives.

Bill C-253 proposes real change by amending the order of priority of companies' creditors. Bill C-253 ensures that workers will not be penalized if their former employer declares bankruptcy. It reassures those workers by promising that they will not lose their deferred wages, meaning their pension plans and group insurance.

We have seen hundreds of tragedies where workers have lost their money. Sears, Capital Media Group and Cliffs are just a few of the many examples, and I want to reiterate that the current pandemic is only going to result in more cases like these.

Urgent action must be taken to end these injustices once and for all and to protect our workers' nest eggs. I am asking my colleagues to pass this bill quickly so that other pensioners, who dream of a secure retirement, do not have their modest dream shattered. They worked hard for a comfortable retirement.

On behalf of the workers, pensioners and seniors for whom I am speaking today, I urge my colleagues to share my concerns about laws that do not provide proper long-term protection for our workers. We have a duty to act and make real, much-needed changes to bankruptcy laws in order to protect pension plans and group insurance.

Let us vote for our fellow citizens. Let us vote in favour of Bill C-253.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2020 / 3:50 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans and group insurance plans).

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and proud to introduce today in the House, seconded by the hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville, a private member's bill that seeks to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

This bill reaffirms my unwavering commitment to workers and retirees, a commitment that is shared by my colleague and the Bloc Québécois. It is a commitment that I made in the House on October 17, 2017, by introducing Bill C-372 to defend the rights of workers, which I feel should be inalienable.

Under the existing legislation, when a company is restructured or goes bankrupt, the workers' pension funds and insurance are not properly protected, even though they belong to the workers. It is part of their salary that they negotiated and agreed to defer. My bill seeks to correct that injustice.

When we think about former workers at Cliffs Natural Resources, Mabe, La Pointe-de-l'Île or even Sears stores all across Quebec, my bill is there to protect what belongs to workers. I urge all my colleagues to support my bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2019 / 2 p.m.
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Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I know my grandchildren, my grandson and granddaughter are watching. I want to say hello to Oliver and Lena while I have the chance.

I rise today to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-372, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, pension plans and group insurance plans, sponsored by the member for Manicouagan.

First I would like to thank the member for bringing the bill forward. Like my Bill C-384, and like former Senator Eggleton's Bill S-253, the bill would bring about legislative changes needed to protect the economic well-being of Canadian workers and their families.

As members in the House will know, I have invested a great deal of my time advocating for the protection of workers' pensions and benefits. I have been pushing the government for over three years to bring forward legislation. However, no, the government is too afraid to offend its corporate friends. It hides behind fancy words like “unintended consequences” and consultations meant only for show. The government has made it very clear what side it is on, and it is not the side of Canadian workers, retirees and their families.

I have been a member of the United Steelworkers Union for 35 years, 25 of those years spent on the shop floor at Stelco in Hamilton and for 10 of those years, acting as president of my local union at the Stelco plant called Stelwire.

In 2004, I was part of the negotiating team that spent two years working through the first bankruptcy restricting procedure under the CCAA and just two years go watched as my former union wrapped up negotiations in its second go-around on the restructuring under the CCAA.

As members can imagine, the inequities and difficulties caused by the inadequacy of Canada's bankruptcy and insolvency laws are of great interest and concern to me. I have seen the damage caused by our inadequate laws, and I am determined to see them changed. The rights of workers to fair and stable pensions and secure benefits has been a concern to me my whole working life.

This is why I am so happy to see legislation that secures workers' pensions and benefits finally come to the floor of the House of Commons. Make no mistake, I would have rather seen my own bill, Bill C-384, up for debate first, but there is enough in common between this bill and my bill that I and the rest of my caucus colleagues will support its passage.

I salute my colleague from Manicouagan for bringing forward a bill that will protect Canadian workers, retirees and their families, and I say “merci beaucoup”.

Many Canadian companies use Canada's bankruptcy laws to effectively gain concessions from their employees and escape responsibility for often huge pension deficits they themselves have created. Workers are then left with the threat of reduced pensions and health care benefits.

Large multinational corporations are also using Canada's inadequate bankruptcy laws to take money meant for workers' pensions and divert it to pay off their secure creditors, which are often their parent companies. This is organized theft. Pensions are, after all, deferred wages, plain and simple. Diverting, withholding or seizing those funds should be illegal. Changing Canada's inadequate bankruptcy and insolvency laws is all about fairness for workers.

It is important to point out that the Liberals campaigned on a promise to improve the income retirement security of all Canadian seniors, but have refused to take any meaningful action. Changes proposed in recent budget legislation encouraging parties to act in good faith and clarifying the discretion of judges in CCAA proceeding does nothing concrete to protect workers' pensions and benefits.

Chris Roberts, policy director at the Canadian Labour Congress, had this to say about pension provisions in the government's budget implementation act. He said that modifications brought to Bill C-97 on the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act as well as to the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act “are inadequate and represent a missed opportunity to prevent” members of a defined benefits program and retirees from being the victims of injustices that would result from losing their benefits when businesses became insolvent.

What is even more disheartening is that the government refused to even acknowledge the grim future of the workers and retirees involved in recent bankruptcy proceedings like Sears, Stelco, Wabush and Cliffs mines.

This bill would amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the CCAA so that companies would have to bring any pension plan fund to 100% before paying any secured creditors. It would also make amendments to require companies to pay any termination or severance pay owing before paying any secured creditors.

These amendments would inject some fairness and protection into a process that often sees the interests of workers, retirees and their families placed behind all others in a bankruptcy, liquidation or restructuring process.

The recent collapse of Sears Canada has focused attention on the injustices inherent in the Canada bankruptcy and insolvency laws. These amendments would help to fix these imbalances and provide Canadian workers, retirees and their families with the protection they expect and deserve.

Our current bankruptcy laws give priority to investors, banks and parent companies over workers' pensions and benefits. Time and again, proceedings under those laws have resulted in the interests of workers being overshadowed by the interests of rich investors and banks. Workers often lose severance pay benefits, pension benefits and health benefits. People in management also make out like bandits, giving themselves huge bonuses while cutting off the benefits of workers and retirees.

This is an equity issue. At a time when 82% of the wealth in this country is going to the top 1%, and we see executives at Sears being paid over $6.5 million in bonuses while the workers are denied severance or termination pay, have their benefits cut off and see their pensions reduced, we have to recognize and work to eliminate the growing gap between the haves and have-nots in this country. It is a matter of basic decency and human rights. Every Canadian deserves no less.

It is important that I point out one significant difference between my bill, Bill C-384, and the bill before us. I also have to say that I hope it is a difference that can be addressed at committee through what I would like to think would be a friendly amendment. In my private member's bill, there is a clause that would prevent a company from stopping the payment of any retirement benefits during any proceedings under the BIA or the CCAA. This is a fairly common practice, and it causes great hardship for workers and retirees. The exclusion of any language dealing with this problem is the only substantial difference I can see between my bill and the bill before us today.

These legislative changes would inject some fairness into a process that often sees the interests of workers, retirees and their families placed behind all others in a bankruptcy, liquidation or restructuring process. Canadians know that it is wrong to allow pensions and benefits to be stolen and are demanding that our inadequate bankruptcy and insolvency laws be changed to protect workers, retirees and their families.

I have gone across this country to many town hall meetings to listen to people who are concerned. Many people do not know that in our bankruptcy laws, their pensions can be reduced. They think it is a shame. They cannot believe that it is even happening in our country.

What I am trying to get at is that people want to see a change, and they are sending a strong message. In Hamilton, in 2015, I made that commitment to my constituents in Hamilton Mountain and all Hamiltonians. When I crossed the country, I also made that commitment to Canadians. I made a promise that I would fight in this House to make sure that we no longer lose. This is our money. It is deferred wages. When I made that commitment, I know that many others made that commitment and promise, especially all the members from Hamilton. I am going to keep my promise. That is why I am supporting this bill. I expect the other members from Hamilton to support this bill and keep their promise to Hamiltonians also.

In closing, I want to thank the sponsor of this bill. I believe that it is time to change. We have to stop the fearmongering by big corporations that say that they will not get investments. That is just false. We have to turn the tide to make sure that retirees and workers get the money they negotiated all through their lives and that it is not stolen by corporations that want to unload their liabilities because they made mistakes in running their companies.

I thank the members for the time. I hope everyone supports this. We made promises. Let us keep them.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2019 / 1:50 p.m.
See context


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to give a speech on this bill. I would also like to thank the member for Manicouagan for her bill on this very important topic.

Retirement security is a very important issue. Seniors' overall financial security is an even more important issue for Conservatives.

I agree that there is a problem with our pensions at the moment, but I do not agree with the solution put forward in this bill.

I do not support this bill because it will create more problems for businesses in financial crisis.

Last year, I introduced Bill C-405, which deals with this issue. Neither the Bloc Québécois nor the other parties supported my bill, which is a shame because my bill did not create problems for small businesses.

There were fewer problems with Bill C-405, which I introduced, because while we can agree that there is a problem with underfunded pension liabilities for pension plans, not the contribution-based plans but the defined benefit plans, when the pension is underfunded, we know it is a problem if there is insolvency of a company.

If we changed the bankruptcy laws to a point where we caused more companies at risk to become insolvent, to liquidate, the solution being proposed by the Bloc would actually be worse than what they are trying to cure, even though we are in agreement.

My bill tried to address the issue of underfunded pension liabilities without the impact that changing the bankruptcy laws for Canada and the insolvency laws in the CCAA would do.

My bill would have ended the unfairness of excessive payments that exacerbate pension shortfalls. It would have helped protect workers wanting to retire by giving administrators options to protect and improve the pension funds.

Furthermore, my bill would have increased transparency and accountability by improving the national reports on the solvency of pension plans. It proposed a lot of solutions, without any of the problems caused by Bill C-372.

There is a way to tackle the public policy challenges of underfunded defined contribution pension plans without causing harm to businesses that are in financial distress, which will not be able to receive financing if they have an underfunded pension, because they will not be loaned money by creditors. I agree with the MP's public policy issue here, but we have to have a solution that does not cause disruptions in her province, in my province and across the country.

One interesting point the member may not know is that Ontario has a pension benefits guarantee fund. We have talked a lot about Sears employees. Some of the Sears employees, in Ontario at least, will get assistance from the pension benefits guarantee fund. Other provinces do not have that, so it would be unfair to Ontario, which funds and backstops a pension benefits guarantee fund, to change national insolvency legislation.

I worked as a lawyer on the insolvency and the protection process for Air Canada, which I know that member thinks highly of as our national carrier, based in Montreal. I was at the law firm Stikeman Elliott, which represented Air Canada in its restructuring, and it successfully restructured, as many MPs will know when they take Air Canada back to their provinces later today.

CCAA puts a focus on restructuring, not on liquidating. Restructuring a company saves all the jobs; saves the pension by keeping it a going concern; makes all the suppliers whole, for the most part, or tries to; and keeps that business operating. In the case of Air Canada, restructuring kept it in place to provide an important service that a lot of Canadians use. Therefore, our focus when companies are in trouble must be to help the company survive.

If the company survives, the pension fund is fine. If the company does not survive, then the liquidation will take place, and even if we applied superpriority to pensions, with most companies it would still only amount to pennies on the dollar or a much-reduced pension outcome. My bill, Bill C-405, tried to give pension administrators the ability to keep that fund going within another fund so that the pensioners who were stranded could get the upside of an existing fund through the pooling of resources and the ability for their returns to go up.

In an insolvency, all the pension administrator can do is buy an annuity. As a result, those pensioners will be locked into a far lower annuity payment amount, because that annuity has to be purchased at a time when the markets are likely bad, and it will basically guarantee a bad outcome for pensioners.

What is the solution? It is to keep companies operating. CCAA's focus is on maintaining those companies as going concerns, as well as their pensions and their employees.

Let us take out some of the abuse. Bill C-405 proposed to take out some of the abuse occurring through key employee retention plan payments, whereby companies give large executive payments that seem to drain the company of resources while the pension was underfunded. Bill C-405 also tried to work with provincial securities regulators to make sure that there was a national health report on pensions each year. Canada already produces one, but it does not collaborate with the provinces, where most of these pensions are administered. The federal government can change insolvency legislation, but these are actually, in many cases, provincial pension funds.

Sears Canada had its assets hollowed out by its main shareholder in the United States, thereby stripping out resources that could have been used for the pension. In cases like Sears, some of those actions could be prevented by securities laws and securities regulation, so my approach was also to have a report in which all levels of government and security commissions would look at ways to prevent the stripping out of resources.

A lot of people out there, including great people at the Canadian Federation of Pensioners, CARP and others, see changing our bankruptcy and insolvency laws as a magic bullet. It is not. I do not think anyone wants to see more companies driven into liquidation. We want to see them survive, but how can we backstop and preserve payments to these pensioners?

I think there is a way to do it without the negative consequences of superpriority, as it is called. Why do I know that this approach is better? It is because multiple governments at multiple levels have never fulfilled on pension superpriority, and even bills here in this Parliament are coming late in the session, because the studies have shown that more companies will go under as a result. We want the companies to survive so that the jobs and the pensions are preserved, which is what CCAA and restructuring legislation are about.

I want to thank the member for her bill and thank her for the opportunity to speak to the elements of the issue that I agree with her is an issue we have to tackle.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context


Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her bill and what she proposed earlier. I invite her to listen to my comments to clarify the situation and what amendments will be made to legislation.

Earlier, she spoke about the workers at Sears. I really empathize with Sears pensioners because a Sears store located in my riding shut down. That affects all members. Everyone here is very attuned to this issue.

All Canadians deserve peace of mind when it comes to their retirement security. Our government recognizes this, which is why it has taken a number of significant steps during its mandate to enhance Canada's retirement income system, including enhancements to the old age security program and the Canada pension plan.

At the same time, our government recognizes that recent corporate insolvencies, such as those mentioned earlier, have created challenges for workers, pensioners and even small and medium-sized businesses, such as contractors and suppliers. For this reason, our government committed in budget 2018 to undertake a whole-of-government, evidence-based approach to improve retirement security.

In 2018, our government held national consultations to seek comprehensive feedback on ways to enhance retirement security. We met with labour and pensioner groups, companies, lenders, experts, and more still. We also received formal submissions from many stakeholders. The public at large made its views known on these important issues as well, with more than 4,400 online submissions. People also reached out to their MPs, myself included.

After listening to Canadians, the government proposed a comprehensive package to enhance retirement security in its 2019 budget bill.

Bill C-372, however, is less ambitious in scope, proposing three changes to Canada's insolvency laws that could have disastrous and negative consequences on the Canadian marketplace and firm competitiveness.

Let us talk about Canadian insolvency laws. it is first necessary to briefly describe Canada’s effective insolvency system. Canada has two main insolvency statutes, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, which governs bankruptcies and restructurings for small businesses, and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, or CCAA, which governs the restructuring of larger corporations, with over $5 million in debt.

These two laws have clear and predictable rules regarding the order of creditor payment upon firm wind up and the negotiability of credit claims in firm restructuring discussions. These rules are specifically designed to support the core objectives of Canada’s insolvency regime, which include preventing a rush to the courthouse and promoting the restructuring of financially-distressed but viable firms, where possible, with the ultimate goal of preserving good jobs and economic value within Canada.

Under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act regime, for example, many insolvent companies have avoided liquidation that would have crystallized losses in underfunded pension plans and employee benefit plans and eliminated good-paying jobs. Instead, these firms were able to stay in business, preserve good middle-class jobs, and continue to fund pension and benefit plans.

In addition, our insolvency system contains certain checks and balances to protect pensions. First, pension contributions are held in trust for the sole benefit of pensioners. Second, unpaid past pension contributions are paid ahead of secured creditors. Third, all restructuring deals require both creditor and court approval to ensure fairness. What is more, courts often order the debtor company to provide at its own expense legal representation for pensioners and employees in the insolvency proceedings.

Bill C-372 proposes to change these laws in three ways that could undermine the system’s core objectives and have negative economic consequences.

First, it proposes to amend the BIA and CCAA to give unfunded pension liabilities and unpaid special payments a superpriority, meaning that these claims would be paid in full ahead of almost all other creditors in an insolvency proceeding.

An unfunded pension liability is the difference between a pension fund's current assets and future liabilities. Special payments are additional employer contributions that are sometimes ordered by pension regulators to compensate for fund deficits over time.

Second, the bill creates a preferred claim in bankruptcies to indemnify employee losses associated with group insurance benefit plans, such as life, disability, health or dental benefits, meaning that they would be paid before unsecured creditors but after secured creditors. The bill also requires these payments to be made in full in CCAA restructuring plans.

Third, the bill creates a preferred claim for unpaid severance and termination pay. I will now set out my main concerns.

The bill’s proposals would weaken companies’ ability to restructure. Pension deficits can be very large, in some cases in the billions of dollars.

An indemnity for employee benefit plans could also be very large. A superpriority that ranked such shortfalls ahead of all other claims, and a requirement that employees must be fully indemnified for benefit losses in CCAA plans, would reduce the incentives of all other creditors to support a restructuring deal. This would make a sale of the company as a going concern extremely unlikely. Companies could also lose access to interim financing, often essential to secure for a restructuring.

Instead of supporting a restructuring deal that could save the company, secured creditors faced with a pension superpriority could act strategically by reducing their exposure to these companies by requiring them to pay down their debts before the start of insolvency proceedings. Indeed, if the measures in this bill had been in place in the past, many successful restructurings under Canada’s insolvency systems would not have occurred, resulting in greater job and pensions losses.

Next, firms with defined benefit pension plans or group insurance benefits could see higher costs and lower availability of credit, as well as reduced competitiveness.

I had much more to say but I am nearly out of time. In closing, the bill before us today does not provide an evidenced-based, whole-of-government approach to enhancing retirement security. It would weaken the ability of companies to restructure to preserve jobs and pension benefits. Furthermore, it would hurt competitiveness, while at the same time not always helping workers and pensioners.

I am pleased to say, however, that the government's proposed measures will protect pensions and workers, while also supporting the central objectives of Canada's effective marketplace laws. We are ensuring that firms remain competitive and continue to employ hard-working Canadians throughout the country.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2019 / 1:30 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

moved that Bill C-372, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans and group insurance plans) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, on October 17, 2017, when Sears Canada announced it was declaring bankruptcy, I introduced Bill C-372, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. The 20,000 tragedies that were unfolding sadly echoed the 1,000 tragedies that Manicouagan experienced in 2015 and harshly but clearly illustrated the need for my bill.

In January 2015, Cliffs Natural Resources, an American company operating in Fermont and Sept-Îles, Quebec, and Wabush, filed for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

Overnight, some 1,000 retirees lost nearly a quarter of their pensions as well as their group insurance. Through a negotiated, collective agreement, these workers agreed to forego part of their salary, to defer it to a pension fund. When Cliffs declared bankruptcy, that money was stolen from the workers. We have seen our share of tragedies back home on the North Shore.

These are human tragedies with faces and names. For nearly 30 years, Bertrand Thériault from Sept-Îles worked at the Cliffs pellet plant. For nearly 30 years, he held up his end of the contract, in the dust. Mr. Thériault and his wife were forced to sell their home. On top of that, Mr. Thériault had to come out of retirement and start repairing bikes at Canadian Tire.

The bankruptcy also affected Dolorès Chevarie and her husband, who is dealing with cancer. After Cliffs went out of business, the couple found themselves in a very tough situation when they lost their health insurance. These seniors racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills. They just wanted to be healthy. They did not have that kind of money. What are they being asked to do? Even though the multinational corporation went on turning a profit for its shareholders during and even after the bankruptcy process, it came at the expense of people like Bertrand Thériault and Dolorès Chevarie. True, our laws allow these tragedies to happen, but we, as legislators, have the power to change them. Politicians are often perceived as being powerless, but that is simply because they choose to be powerless. Today, I urge the House to demonstrate what politics can achieve by using the one thing that is at all members' disposal: our will.

What I am proposing with Bill C-372 is a fundamental change to the way our laws treat the pension funds of workers and retirees. At present, our laws define the unfunded liability of pension funds as an unsecured claim, on the same level as a phone bill or credit card debt. The same goes for funds intended to be used to compensate workers for losing their group health insurance.

Throughout their careers, workers give up a significant portion of their day-to-day wages to pay into a pension because they know this will make it possible for them to have some income when they retire. When the employer agrees to pay into a pension fund, it undertakes, under the terms of the collective agreement, which is a contract, to have workers receive what they have accrued once they have completed their years of service. Workers' wages belong to the workers. Workers' deferred wages also belong to the workers. No one would deny that.

If our laws rightfully assign a very high priority to unpaid wages as a liability, they do not assign this same priority to actuarial unfunded pension liabilities. The law is not consistent because it creates two categories of wages. We must correct this anomaly. The principle of deferred wages must be enshrined in law in a fair manner. I will repeat that a pension fund consists of deferred wages. Thus, by law, it must be returned in full to workers and pensioners.

Members will agree that this is a grave injustice. When this is acknowledged by Parliament, we as legislators will act to rectify it. What I am proposing with Bill C-372 is that we acknowledge the problem, take action and always strive for greater justice. My bill is very simple. It has five clauses that amend two acts. Clauses 1 to 4 amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and clause 5 amends the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

First, my bill ensures that, in the case of bankruptcy, no proposal in respect of an employer who participates in a pension plan, regardless of its nature, will be approved by the court unless it provides for the payment of an amount equal to the sum of all special payments. In practical terms, that means that workers' pensions will no longer be cut in the case of bankruptcy or restructuring, as has happened many times.

Clause 2 of the bill would turn this unfunded liability into secured debt against the employer's assets. Those who oppose this idea claim that such a measure would lead to higher credit costs for businesses and could prompt banks to no longer give out loans. In response, I would like to quote independent financial analyst Diane Urquhart, who stated the following before the Standing Committee on Finance in 2010:

...for those that are investment grade and have pension fund deficits...the impact on the cost of capital...[would be] 0.16%. This is an amount that is easily borne, and should be borne, when you consider the social cost that comes when these to enter bankruptcy for the purpose of double-dipping and making profit.

A single company's collapse would not put the big banks out on the street, but the inconsistency of our laws can do just that to our pensioners.

Clause 3 of the bill would ensure that, in the event of a receivership, special payments would also be guaranteed on the bankruptcy assets.

Clause 4 is innovative as it introduces the concept of protecting group insurance as a preferred claim. I think it is necessary to make group insurance a higher priority, because it is a benefit that is received through work and that deserves greater protection since, again, it is a part of the compensation package. Beyond that, our continued denial of these facts amounts to knowingly jeopardizing the security of our seniors as well as the rights that workers have fought for.

Lastly, clause 5 of the bill would amend the CCAA to ensure that, in the event of restructuring, the court could not approve a proposal that robs workers of part of their pension or fails to compensate them for the loss of their group insurance.

If passed, Bill C-372 will fix the injustice of brazen pension theft. It will protect this income for retirees so that no one else will ever go through the same ordeal as the Cliffs pensioners.

In closing, I should point out that the most-lobbied government member is the minister responsible for the CCAA. I know that all federalist parties support the report issued by the previous government, which proposed the status quo regarding the CCAA.

I know the banks will not like my bill. I know they can afford to pay a lot of lobbyists. I know they do not want Bill C-372 and they will do everything they can to kill it. I know all of that. Unfortunately, I also know that in a perhaps not too distant future, other companies will go bankrupt, since crises are bound to happen in a capitalist system. I also know that if my bill does not pass, more families will experience hardships, just like the ones in my riding did. My bill is not about taking an opportunity or having the privilege of making things better; it is about our duty to make a change.

When I vote yes on this bill, I will be thinking of the pensioners not only of Cliffs, but also Nortel, Sears, Mabe, Stelco and so many others, and I will know deep in my soul that it is the right thing to do. I hope all parliamentarians will think of them when it comes time to vote.

I hope all my colleagues will have their conscience perfectly in line with their moral principles, because after all, we were elected to represent our constituents. We must never forget that. I never forget it. I never will forget it, and I will always represent them with dignity and pride.

May 7th, 2019 / noon
See context

National Director, Social and Economic Policy Department, Canadian Labour Congress

Chris Roberts

That's certainly the position of the CLC and many unions, that this was a missed opportunity. Even if the government had been unwilling to grant straight-out superpriority status for the pension deficit claim, there are many ways in which the government could have entertained an evidence-based discussion about what changes to the order of priorities, the hierarchy of claims in bankruptcy and insolvency, might have been sufficient in future cases to have a meaningful impact on pensioners and plan members.

Given that there are private members' bills on this, namely Bill C-384 and Bill C-372, and a bill from the Senate as well, there's an opportunity to get the evidence on the table to really understand what opportunities exist within the existing statute, even short of superpriority, but we haven't seen that debate occurring.

PensionsOral Questions

October 19th, 2018 / noon
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it has been a year since I introduced Bill C-372 to protect workers' pension funds. It has been a year since Sears closed its doors. It has been three years that Cliffs retirees living on the north shore in Quebec have been fighting to recover their stolen pensions and insurance benefits.

Retirees should be the top priority when a company goes out of business. We have been talking about this for decades, but the Liberals are not doing one single thing about it. In fact, they are still only thinking about doing consultations. It is high time we protected our workers and retirees from being robbed blind by multinational corporations.

Will the Liberals protect workers and retirees by supporting my bill?

Pension Benefits Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

October 17th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-405, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, pension plans, sponsored by the member for Oshawa. I want to thank the hon. member for acknowledging the bankruptcy and pension benefits act needs to be changed. However, this is the only thanks I will be giving him on this issue.

Over the last 10 years, we have seen an increased focus in the province with Canada's inadequate bankruptcy and insolvency laws. The cases of Nortel, Wabush Mines, Stelco and, most recently, Sears have brought into national focus the fact that workers at large companies that go bankrupt are offered very little protection from investors and banks. Sometimes international hedge fund operators make out like bandits.

As a solution to this problem to fix Canada's inadequate bankruptcy and insolvency laws, the measures outlined in the bill are in complete opposition to NDP proposals, policies, initiatives and values. The bill helps to make clear that the approach favoured by the Conservatives and ironically by the Liberal government is to protect the interests of large business and their investors, while throwing Canadian workers under the bus.

There are presently four private members' bills in Parliament that address the legislative crisis and present solutions for fixing those problems. Three are in favour of increasing protection for workers and retirees in the Canadian public. The bill stands alone as it focuses on protecting and increasing the advantages enjoyed by big business, the financial sector and well-off company executives.

Chris Roberts, policy director for the Canadian Labour Congress, sums it up neatly when he says, “Right now a number of private member bills in the House and Senate are trying to honour the pension promises made to workers and retirees. Bill C-405 is not one of these. This bill would make it easier for employers to walk away from their obligation, with the consent of only a minority of beneficiaries. This legislation goes in precisely the wrong direction.”

Many Canadian companies use our inadequate bankruptcy laws to effectively gain concessions from their employees and escape responsibility for often huge pension deficits they themselves have created. Workers are then left with the threat of reduced pension and health care benefits.

The bill would make it easier for employers to manipulate laws by allowing those with existing defined benefit pension plans to convert those plans to target benefit or defined contribution plans, which would transfer all the risk onto the employees. Employers would let off the hook and allowed to walk away from their responsibility to provide secure retirement benefits to their employees.

Workplace pensions are deferred wages that employees agree to put aside until their retirement. This is critical to understand. Allowing companies to walk away with these funds is theft, pure and simple. The measures in the bill are in stark opposition to the approach proposed by the NDP to fix Canada's flawed bankruptcy and insolvency laws that would actually protect the pensions and benefits of Canadian workers and retirees.

My bill, Bill C-384, Liberal Senator Art Eggleton's bill, Bill S-253, and the Bloc's bill, Bill C-372 present solutions that would actually protect the pension funds of Canadian workers and retirees when a large Canadian company goes bankrupt. Chief among the proposals presented in the two bills are measures to heighten the priority of paying back deficits to workers' pension funds to the same level as secured creditors. Currently those payments are only considered at the same level as unsecured creditors who often only receive pennies on the dollar for any monies they are owed.

One the most offensive things that happens during the bankruptcy proceedings is that executives give themselves huge bonuses. The very people who ran the company into the ground get big rewards and it is done because the law allows it to happen.

Nortel executives got over $200 million in bonuses. Sears executives got $9.2 million. Stelco executives got $1.2 5 million. When I tell that to people at the town halls I have been doing when I go across the country, people ask me if I am kidding them. I have to tell them that I am not, that this really happens because the law allows it to happen.

Canadians know this is not right and they are demanding that the laws be changed. Remember that this all happens while workers and retirees get their benefits cut off, employees lose vacation, severance and termination pay, and small suppliers get stiffed on money they are owed.

The proposals in this bill dealing with executive compensation would do nothing to prevent the excessive rewards handed out during bankruptcy proceedings. The many executives who are paid largely through stock options and bonuses would not be affected by the new rules laid out in this bill. Executive bonuses during bankruptcy proceedings should be outlawed, pure and simple. Why should executives get bonuses to begin with when workers are, at the same time, being asked to make concessions? This is so obvious to the majority of working Canadians and it is time that we change the laws to make this happen.

It is also time for the government to get serious about changing the laws it knows are hurting workers and retirees and are threatening the retirement security of Canadian seniors. This is not a new issue. The problem has been happening for decades. The Liberal Party even went so far as to pass a resolution at its last policy convention calling on its own government to provide pension security.

In 2009, at the height of the Nortel mess, the leader of the Liberal Party stood outside this building and told workers that he would do everything he could to make sure this kind of problem did not happen again, and during the 2015 election campaign, the current Prime Minister came to my city of Hamilton and told workers that he would use every tool in the tool box to change the laws and fix the problem. The Liberals did not tell the truth. They did not live up to their promises.

The disconnect between the government and the needs of Canadian workers is hard to understand. The innovation minister tells workers that he cares, but does nothing; the seniors minister tells Canadians she wants to come up with the right solution, but then refuses to consult anyone; and the Prime Minister has a “let them eat cake” moment and tells the Sears pensioners, who are losing 30% of their pensions, that they can rely on the CPP and El. They should be ashamed of themselves and the Conservatives should be embarrassed and ashamed to offer legislation that would further threaten the well-being of Canadian workers and retirees.

We were elected to the House to protect Canadians, not to allow their pensions to be stolen because of inadequate legislation. It is in our interest to prioritize the interests of Canadians when it comes to these bankruptcy proceedings to ensure that the company pays, not the pensioner and not the Canadian taxpayer. This bill would not do that, which is why the NDP cannot support Bill C-405.

PensionsOral Questions

May 1st, 2018 / 3 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 17, I introduced Bill C-372 to protect retired workers' pension funds and group insurance plans. The NDP tabled a similar bill. The Liberal Party convention voted in favour of similar measures. Even the Leader of the Opposition voted for a bill similar to mine in 2010. Let us put an end to injustice.

Since today is May 1, will the government pledge to protect our workers' pension funds before the next election? Yes or no?

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActRoutine Proceedings

October 17th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-372, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans and group insurance plans).

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to introduce my first bill in the House today, a private member's bill that seeks to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

This bill seeks to correct the injustice faced by retired workers whose pension plans and group insurance plans are not protected when their company goes bankrupt or undergoes restructuring.

I will do everything in my power to ensure that this bill receives royal assent, that way, we can help prevent retirees, like those from my riding who are here today to support me, from losing their pensions, and improve the existing legislation by giving pension plans' unfunded liabilities preferred creditor status, among other things. I hope my colleagues will be supporting this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)