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

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

Sponsor

Marilène Gill  Bloc

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

Status

Report stage (House), as of June 21, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-253.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 12, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans and group insurance plans)

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

June 22nd, 2021 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, my esteemed colleague and seatmate, the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, is a tough act to follow. Since he was a teacher, he knows that repetition is the key to success, and that is what we need to do. My husband, who works in advertising, would say the same thing, so that is what I am going to do today.

It is with excitement for the end of the year that I rise today to speak to Bill C-30 at report stage. Many of my colleagues and I have said it before, so the House already knows that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill to implement certain measures in the 2021 budget.

However, as the Bloc Québécois critic for seniors, I want to remind the House that we first voted against budget 2021 because the federal government was not responding to our two main requests, which remain essential.

Before the House adjourns for what might be an indeterminate period of time, I want to reiterate those requests. First, the Government of Quebec and the Canadian provinces are formally requesting adequate, recurrent health funding. Second, seniors are calling for an increase in old age security for those aged 65 and up, a request brought forward by the Bloc Québécois.

The government continues to ignore Quebec's request. I know because I recently met with many elected members and employees at the National Assembly of Quebec, who speak to me about this regularly. This is a unanimous request from the provinces, Quebec, the National Assembly, and even the House of Commons, which adopted a Bloc Québécois motion last December that called on the government to significantly and sustainably increase Canada health transfers.

The government refuses to increase the current level of health transfers from 22% to 35%. Instead, Bill C‑30 offers only a one-time increase in health transfers, as announced last March. At the time, I showed that the amounts were clearly insufficient.

In this speech, which will quite probably be my last before the summer break, I will address our key requests for health and for seniors, as well as our requests for businesses and business owners. I will finish with a few wishes for the future of this Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois has made sensible choices in the best interest of Quebeckers. The deficit announced in budget 2021 is lower than expected: $354 billion instead of $382 billion. The difference happens to be $28 billion, the exact amount that Quebec and the provinces are asking for. With the government clearly gearing up for a massive spending spree, by refusing to increase transfers, Ottawa is making a political choice, not a budgetary choice, to the detriment of everyone's health.

The saddest part, however, is that Bill C‑30 is strictly an election budget. It merely repeats the Liberals' 2019 campaign promise to seniors to increase old age security, but only for those aged 75 and over and by only $766 per year, or $63.80 per month. This increase, which will not take effect until 2022, is not enough for seniors or for the Bloc Québécois. More importantly, it leaves those aged 65 to 74 out in the cold, which is practically half of the current beneficiaries of old age security. Let us also not forget the one-time $500 payment to made in August 2021, also only to those 75 and older.

That is why I continue to keep talking about our support for seniors. The Bloc Québécois will continue to demand a substantial increase, namely $110 more a month, for all seniors aged 65 and over. We do not accept the Liberals' argument that financial insecurity begins at age 75 and that younger seniors can just go to work.

For that reason, I am currently sponsoring petition e-3421, which was put online by Samuel Lévesque on behalf of his grandparents. Several seniors' groups have also sent letters in support of this request that comes from the entire House, except the Liberals, who continue to be isolated.

Ottawa is not doing as we asked and is creating two classes of seniors. Seniors' groups and seniors want to know why only seniors 75 and older are getting this increase and why it only starts in 2022. There are testimonials posted on FADOQ's web site showing that the lives of seniors 65 to 74 can also be difficult, and that they have needs that cannot wait until they turn 75.

For the Liberals, vulnerable people 65 and over do not deserve their attention. For the Liberals, insecurity only begins at 75. Naturally, we are not against the idea of a good number of seniors, about 50%, receiving the help they need, which is what Bill C‑30 would do.

In terms of the economy, I am elated to know that Bill C‑30 has finally rejected the foundation for creating a pan-Canadian securities regulatory regime, which the Bloc Québécois and Quebeckers strongly opposed. I would like to congratulate my colleague from Joliette for this important win and his hard work on this file. Ottawa could not be allowed to centralize securities regulation in Toronto. This is a big win for Quebec.

The Quebec National Assembly adopted four unanimous motions calling on the federal government to abandon this idea. Seldom had we seen Quebec's business community come together as one to oppose a government initiative. A strong financial hub is vital to the functioning of our head offices and the preservation of our businesses.

As we have seen with the pandemic, globalized supply chains are fragile and make us entirely dependent on other countries. We must develop our own chains and restore economic nationalism. Some measures in the budget are good, and we support them and support implementing them. For example, the budget will extend some essential, albeit imperfect, assistance programs, such as the wage subsidy and rent relief, until September 25, 2021. This is a positive because businesses, especially the ones back home that made good use of these programs, need some predictability in the programs they will have access to in the coming months. I should point out that this extension comes with a gradual decline in the amounts provided, which is a concern.

The Bloc Québécois will ensure that our businesses have access to programs that meet their needs for as long as they need them, particularly in the sectors that will take more time to get back to normal, such as tourism and small- and large-scale live events. These sectors are very important to Shefford, which relies on Tourisme Montérégie and Tourism Eastern Townships, and, of course, on many cultural events, such as the Festival international de la chanson de Granby. I could go on.

The bill also introduces some measures to combat tax evasion, but it does not go far enough. The government is presenting these measures as a massive campaign against corporate tax evasion, but in reality, these are just some highly specific, minor changes connected to ongoing litigation. The fight against tax havens will have to wait, even though it is a very important aspect of building tax fairness to enhance social justice.

Another thing to highlight is the creation of a new hiring subsidy program for businesses that are reopening. It could be useful. Bill C-30 would create this new program to encourage businesses to rehire their staff. We know that the hiring subsidy will come into effect in November 2021. Businesses will then have the choice of applying for either the hiring subsidy or the existing wage subsidy, whichever works out better for them. These are measures that could be very useful.

Since my time is running out, I will try to cover everything quickly. I have a wish list. I would have liked to see more investments in social and affordable housing in this budget. This problem continues to affect my riding in particular, especially the city of Granby, which is otherwise considered a great place to settle down. Businesses in my region are experiencing a labour shortage and need housing to attract workers with families so they can try to recruit them, but they have nowhere to house them.

There are also some bills that will not receive royal assent. That really saddens me. I would have like to see the Émilie Sansfaçon bill passed to allow people who are suffering from a critical illness to have 50 weeks of leave instead of 15 weeks. It is a matter of recovering with dignity.

I would have also liked to see the House pass my colleague from Manicouagan's Bill C-253 regarding pension protection and for it to receive royal assent. People who worked hard their whole lives have the right to enjoy the fruits of their labour. This bill would help them age with dignity.

I would have liked a budget with more support for our farmers. That is so important in my riding, which is part of Quebec's pantry. I would have liked to see a greater willingness to help the next generation of farmers. I want to point out that, right now, farmers are suffering because of frost and a lack of precipitation. They need better risk management programs and more precise traceability programs. Farmers are also feeling the effects of climate change.

I would have also liked to see tougher environmental measures for a greener recovery. For example, the government should invest just as much in forestry as it does in the oil industry. My Bloc Québécois colleagues and our political party established a comprehensive plan to focus more on renewable natural resources to get out of the crisis and to drive our regions' economies.

In closing, I would like to add one last thing. It goes beyond the budget, but as the status of women critic, I cannot give my last speech before the summer break without mentioning the crises that have been affecting women in particular since I arrived in the House. We commemorated the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique attack, but the issue of better gun control has still not been resolved because too many people are not satisfied with Bill C‑22. Femicides are on the rise. There have been 13 just since the beginning of the year. Quebec is calling for transfers with no conditions and fewer delays to provide better funding for women's shelters. Quebec knows what to do. There are also the cases of assault in the Canadian Armed Forces. The Deschamps report needs to be implemented.

In short, there is still a lot of work to be done. Let us reach out to one another and work together. The federal government's paternalism and interference needs to stop. We need to take action. There is still so much to be done.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 21st, 2021 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, entitled “Affordability and Accessibility of Telecommunications Services in Canada: Encouraging Competition to (Finally) Bridge the Digital Divide”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in relation to Bill C-253, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act regarding pension plans and group insurance plans.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with an amendment.

June 17th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Shall the title of the bill carry?

(Title agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)

Shall the bill as amended carry?

(Bill C-253 as amended agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)

Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?

(Reporting of bill to the House agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)

Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the use of the House at report stage?

(Reprint of the bill agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)

With that, folks, we've finished our first bill.

Congratulations, Ms. Gill.

We've moved the witnesses we were supposed to have today to next Tuesday, so we are good, folks. I think this is the first time that we will actually be able to have lunch today on our own.

I want to thank everyone. Thank you so much for your assistance in this. We're delighted to—

June 17th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Welcome to meeting number 47 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

We're meeting today at the request of four members of the committee to discuss the request with regard to completion of the committee's study of Bill C-253.

With that, I just wanted to make a proposal. I think we all want to see this bill finished, so if it's the will of the committee, I'd like to propose that we start exactly where we left off, on the CPC amendment, so we can get this done today. I don't know about you, but I would like this thing finished.

If it's okay with everyone—if it's the will of the committee—can we start right away where we left off?

I'm seeing agreement. Okay, great.

We were on the CPC amendment. If anyone has any questions on it, please raise your hand and I will recognize you.

Go ahead, MP Jaczek.

Members Not Seeking Re-election to the 44th ParliamentGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2021 / 8:25 p.m.
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NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today as the proud member of Parliament for my community of Hamilton Mountain. It has been my immense privilege and honour to serve my constituents over the past six years as their MP, and for nine years before that as their city councillor for Ward 7. I have spent more than 15 years serving the people of Hamilton Mountain as an elected representative. It has been an exciting and rewarding experience to hear from my community, advocate on their behalf and fight for Hamiltonians as their representative at city hall and here in Ottawa.

It is now time for me to leave room for others to continue this important and great work. After leaving politics, I plan on spending time with the people I love deeply and care about, and will volunteer to help seniors in need. I also want to work with my grandchildren in my shop to help them build things.

This may be one of my last opportunities to speak in the House, so I want to take this opportunity to talk about what my caucus and I have championed over the six years during my time in Ottawa and what prompted me to run in the first place.

I came to Ottawa to fight for the people of Hamilton and for Canadian workers and pensioners. I am a proud steelworker, and my roots in the labour movement advocating for workers is why I am a New Democrat. Given my time at Stelco on the production line, then as a union steward and then as president of USW Local 5328, the labour movement has been my life. Protecting workers has been a priority during my time as an MP.

What we have seen in the House shows why we need a strong voice fighting for workers and for labour. We have seen several efforts by the government to legislate striking workers back to work and damage their ability to bargain for a fair deal with their employers. We have seen the government refuse to act on scab labour. We have seen the government refuse to protect the pensions of workers during bankruptcy and insolvency, and instead put big banks and investors at the top of the list. This is why it is so important that we continue to fight for workers in this place.

I went through the bankruptcy at Stelco back in the day, and I will never forget Judge Farley's advice, because I thought it was disgraceful how workers were being treated in the bankruptcy protection process. He said, “I don't like doing this, Mr. Duvall, and if you want to change it, go to Ottawa and change the legislation.” That is another reason I am here.

We have all seen an effort by the government to create a two-tiered system of “junior seniors” and “senior seniors” by only giving an increase in OAS payments to some and not others. We have also watched them fail to act to protect single seniors and allow them to continue to pay substantially more taxes than seniors in a couple with the exact same income. During my time in Ottawa, it is has been my priority to fight for seniors, to advocate for them and to push our government to do better.

In the House, I have sponsored a number of bills and pushed forward many initiatives. I have championed antiscab labour legislation aimed at protecting unions during labour disputes and preventing employers from undermining their collective bargaining. I have fought against government action to legislate striking workers back to work, taking away one of the strongest tools they have at their disposal to collectively bargain for a fair deal. I have pushed to protect the pensions of workers during bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and to make sure that payments of the unfunded portion of pension plans come before payments to big banks and investors.

I hope that before our Parliament is dissolved, quite possibly because of an unnecessary election call by the Liberals, we can pass through the House the best shot we have at protecting retirees and pensioners: Bill C-253.

During the pandemic, the time spent at home has reminded me of the importance of family and loved ones. As members of Parliament and as public servants, we are often forced to put our duties and responsibilities first and our families second. The toll this can have is immense, and I am so lucky to have had my family by my side the entire time.

I want to thank my wife Sherry; my kids, Laurie, Mandy and Megan; and my entire family and grandchildren. They have given me so much support and have made many sacrifices that have allowed me to do this important work and serve our community. I am so excited to spend more time at home with Sherry, and hope she will be excited to have me there with her, our family and grandkids.

I want to remind all of my colleagues in the House of the importance of our families and loved ones and the role they play in supporting our work. Our families and loved ones make just as many sacrifices as we do, if not more, to allow us to serve our community. We miss a lot of important moments in their lives while we serve, and when we leave public service, it is my belief that we owe it to them to make up for that lost time and to cherish our families.

I want to thank my incredible team of staff, both here in Hamilton and in Ottawa. In no particular order, I would like to say to Val, Rose, Bill, Tony, Kathleen and Aiden, and my former team members Chris, Erin and Jackie, that I thank them for everything they have done to support me, for their dedication and loyalty, our work throughout the years and their service to the people of Hamilton. Their dedication to our constituents shows how important it is for an MP to have a great team fighting for our community. They made me look good each and every day.

I want to thank the people behind the scenes supporting the whole NDP caucus, the team in the NDP lobby, particularly Anthony and Christian, who have made the time serving as a member of Parliament and being in the House so much easier and more effective. Their dedication is what allows us to be an effective caucus and do the work that we do best. They have provided so much guidance to us, and their contribution to our team is something I will never forget.

I thank my NDP caucus colleagues for fighting with me to protect workers, pensioners and seniors. I am proud to have served in a caucus that worked hard every day to protect people. I am grateful for all of their support, friendship and shared knowledge that made me a better MP.

I thank my leader, the hon. member for Burnaby South, for the guidance he has given our party. I cannot wait to see him become Prime Minister and demonstrate that an NDP government is the one that will put people first. Canadians can put their trust in New Democrats to fight for them.

I thank those in the labour movement who have supported my work and helped champion the causes I have taken on. In particular, I want to thank the incredible team at United Steelworkers, and Canadian director Ken Neumann and District 6 director Marty Warren for their faith in my fight to protect workers, retirees and pensioners. Their work and activism show that the Canadian labour movement is strong and will not quietly fight for the rights of workers across Canada, but will be loud until they are heard.

I want to thank the members of the Hamilton Mountain NDP and all the volunteers, supporters and activists who came out during each election and fought to make sure that Hamilton Mountain is represented by a New Democrat and by a party that will fight for them.

I also want to thank Monique Taylor, the MPP for Hamilton Mountain. From the time she was my assistant at City Hall to now, when we are working together representing Hamilton Mountain provincially and federally, we have been a great team. I am so proud of her work to fight for our community, and I cannot wait to see what more she does.

I want to thank the people of Hamilton. Without them and their support, I would not have had the honour of sitting in the House of Commons or the important duty of fighting for all of them. Every day that I spent serving the people of Hamilton was a privilege, and I was humbled by the trust they put in me to represent them.

I again want to thank my wife Sherry of 47 years. I am going to be home this time.

Mr. Speaker, it has been my greatest honour to be a member of Parliament. I thank you and I respect you.

I want to thank all the people in the House and I want to thank all the members. I have become friends with many of them. I really appreciate it. I have had a great time and I am going to miss a lot of people.

June 15th, 2021 / noon
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Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

My goal, as you can imagine, was to make sure that we could move on to clause‑by‑clause consideration. As a result, Mr. Duvall's presence is particularly significant as we move forward. Given the circumstances, I'll ask a question.

How would the passage of Bill C‑253 affect the government? We agree that there won't be any financial impact. Could it have other implications for the government, or is this purely ideological opposition from a party opposed to the bill?

June 15th, 2021 / noon
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

I will call this meeting back to order. We are still waiting for one of the witnesses to join, but I don't want to hold off any longer.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, May 12, 2021, the committee is meeting to continue its study of Bill C-253, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

I would like to now welcome our witnesses. They are here today as a resource for the committee during its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.

With us today we have Mr. Mark Schaan. Welcome back to INDU. He is the associate assistant deputy minister, strategy and innovation policy sector, and we are hopeful that Mr. Paul Morrison, manager, corporate, insolvency and competition directorate, will be able to join us.

I also want to give a little shout-out to our legislative clerk, Monsieur Jacques Maziade.

Welcome back to INDU, and thank you for your assistance.

(On clause 1)

We had a speaking list. In the last meeting, when we left off, Mr. Poilievre had the floor, and we had Mr. Ehsassi and Mr. Duvall on the speaking list.

I see Monsieur Lemire has his hand up as well, so I will add him to the list.

I am just going to check and see.

Monsieur Poilievre, you had the floor. If you still need the floor, the floor is yours.

June 10th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Good morning, everyone. I now call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number 45 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. So you are aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entirety of the committee.

The first hour will be spent on clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-253, and then we will move in camera for the second hour to review our report.

To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules to follow. Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting; you have the choice at the bottom of your screen of floor, English or French audio. I'll remind you that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are not speaking, your microphone should be on mute.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, May 12, 2021, the committee is meeting to begin clause-by-clause of Bill C-253, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

I'd like to now welcome our witnesses. Here to assist us today from the Department of Industry, we have Mr. Mark Schaan, associate assistant deputy minister, strategy and innovation policy sector; and Mr. Paul Morrison, manager, corporate, insolvency and competition directorate.

As this is the first time that INDU is doing clause-by-clause of a bill, I'd like to explain how today will go. I will introduce each clause and ask if any members have any questions or comments. If you do, please raise your hand, and we will keep track of the speaking order. I know that MP Lemire is in the room, so we'll try to make sure we can see him when he has his hand up.

Mr. Lemire, if I don't see your hand raised, please send me a message.

Thank you.

We will take care of the speaking order, and once we've finished any debate on a specific clause, I'll then turn it over to the clerk for the vote.

With that, I wanted to also introduce the legislative clerk who is with us in the room today, Monsieur Jacques Maziade.

Welcome to INDU.

June 8th, 2021 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Eady, I want to thank you for all the hard work you've done representing the Sears retirees. You're an amazing person, and so is the group you're working with. I know you guys have gone through a hard time.

Would putting the unfunded portion of the pension plan up to superpriority and ahead of other secured creditors, as Bill C-253 will be doing, have helped save the Sears pensioners?

June 8th, 2021 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I have one last question for you.

I understand that the ability to absorb negative effects is much easier for a bank, for example, than for a worker. In Bill C‑253, as preferred creditors, are banks affected, in your opinion?

June 8th, 2021 / 11:15 a.m.
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François L'Italien Coordinator, Observatoire de la retraite

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

My name is François L'Italien and I am the coordinator of l'Observatoire de la retraite.

Here are a few words about our organization, which has been in existence since 2014. Our organization has two main missions: first, to produce and encourage economic research on retirement to deepen knowledge on this issue of general interest; second, to contribute to the public debate on retirement by disseminating knowledge that is likely to raise the civic competence of Quebeckers on this issue.

We bring together 14 major institutional and organizational partners in Quebec, including fund managers, the major retiree associations and the main labour unions.

L'Observatoire de la retraite has been interested in the issue of the impact of corporate restructuring on retirees for several years now, since pension protection is a fundamental concern for us and for Quebec society.

We agreed to contribute to the work of the committee with respect to Bill C‑253 to highlight the existence of a structural problem with the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, namely, in our view, the overrepresentation of the interests of a particular group in the restructurings that are carried out under this act.

Since 2010, as you know, there have been many cases of company restructurings or bankruptcies that have led to pension cuts for pensioners, and these have often been in the media. We need only think of White Birch Paper, Sears Canada and Groupe Capitales Médias, to mention just a few. These cases not only showed the powerlessness of the retirees affected by the restructuring, but they also highlighted a legal process where those directly affected by the restructuring could not speak out or negotiate. It is a legal process that justifies an increasingly unfair distribution of the benefits and risks of financial restructuring.

With the hindsight provided by these repeated restructurings, the process, actors and effects of restructurings are becoming better documented and known, and make us see aspects of the legislative and legal framework of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act that the legislator probably did not see at the very beginning. The further we go, the more we see that a law that is intended to revive companies in difficulty opens the way to business strategies that have nothing to do with difficulties suffered. In fact, we are seeing the emergence, more and more, of a pattern in which defined benefit plans are being undermined.

The structural problem that we have to deal with in the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, which is I think the subject of Bill C‑253, is the fact that the best organized financial players, the privileged creditors, preferred creditors and business owners, who are by the same token the least vulnerable to financial shocks, emerge with a significant advantage in the restructuring process when compared to other stakeholders, including pension plans.

These financial actors may of course suffer losses in the process, that is not the point, but these are nothing like those of other stakeholders, starting with pension plan members who are at a very vulnerable point in their lives. Since the pension plan's claim against the company is not considered a priority claim or entitled to the same protection as employees' wages, resorting to the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act has virtually become a way to wind up the plans and this directly affects people's lives.

Unlike the large financial firms and business owners who file under the CCAA, who manage wealth and have large incomes, these are real people with limited financial resources at a time in their lives when they cannot financially recover.

The case of White Birch Paper was very clear in this regard. On the one hand, we saw that the CEOs of Black Diamond Capital and White Birch funds, who proceeded to buy the company, benefited from the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act by fetching more than $4.2 million in interest charges and $12 million in professional fees. On the other, we saw retirees whose pensions were cut by 20% to 30%.

This inequality between large financial organizations and pension plan members not only creates immeasurable economic consequences, but generates an increasingly widespread sense of economic injustice.

In addition, as the number of restructuring cases rises, trust in public institutions is beginning to fray.

June 8th, 2021 / 11:10 a.m.
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Tom Laurie Director, GENMO Salaried Pension Organization

Thank you.

GENMO is an organization that advocates on behalf of over 7,000 of GM Canada's salaried retirees, and we thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning.

Like most people, we thought government regulations protected pensioners. After all, defined benefit pensions are supposed to be guaranteed for life. Then, in 2008 and 2009, GM Canada came perilously close to bankruptcy. In fact, GM in the U.S. and Nortel both did file for insolvency. A vague potential pension problem became too close to being real for us.

Out of this situation, GENMO was born in May of 2010. We discovered that pension advocates are the only stakeholders making proposals to solve this problem. While other stakeholders all profess to understand that pensioners are unfairly treated and should be better protected, they haven't brought forward a single credible solution. We have to thank Madam Gill and Mr. Duvall for joining with pension advocates to try to correct this inequity.

The only credible solution on the table today is Bill C-253. It is opposed by some stakeholders. They claim it would put companies with defined benefit pension plans at risk by facing lending premiums that would lead to insolvencies. However, the Ontario Indalex ruling, which made pension deficits a deemed trust, stood for two years without any resulting wave of insolvencies.

Companies will operate within the legislative environment that governments set. Change this environment and companies will change their behaviour. Implementing Bill C-253 will likely have two major impacts on corporate behaviour towards pensions.

First, the pension obligation will be real, not something that disappears during an insolvency. Companies will better fund their pensions to maintain a good standing with all of their creditors. For example, when boards consider dividends, share buybacks and executive bonuses, they will consider their pension obligation more seriously.

Studies have shown that companies with defined benefit pension plans pay out far more out of the company than would be required to address their pension obligations. Sears, as an example, literally took hundreds of millions of dollars out of the company, while leaving behind a pension obligation in the millions.

Secondly, companies would improve their pension fund risk management. Company pension contributions come from two sources: cash from their continuing operations and money earned on the assets within their plan. There is an incentive for companies to take risks with pension assets to try to generate higher returns, thereby reducing the contributions from their operations. If they lose or miscalculate on this bet, what is the downside? They may get five, 10 or 15 years to make it up, and if worse comes to worst and the company goes out of business or fails, the debt literally vanishes.

In my case, in 2009, when GM Canada told salaried employees their pension was 95% funded, the reality was that after the market crashed, the pension fund was probably in about the 50% funded range. Was GM taken by surprise? Certainly. Was GM too heavily invested in higher-returning equities? Absolutely.

Under the tighter controls that followed, GM Canada reduced significantly the risks in its pension fund and actually brought it to over 100% funded. This is possible with the right motivation.

We hear lots of speculative claims about the consequences of superpriority. How would small businesses get financing? Who would be impacted? In fact, very few, if any, small businesses have defined benefit pensions.

What about other stakeholders during insolvency? If businesses make the adjustments I have discussed previously, there should be little impact. In any case, every other stakeholder has negotiated their risk. They have at risk only the unpaid portion of their contract. Pensioners actually have 20, 30 or 40 years on the table.

We also hear about deflection. You will likely hear witnesses say the solution is elsewhere, in tighter solvency regulations, limits on dividends, etc. However, these things are very difficult to deal with. The point is that while some of these ideas sound reasonable, they are a jurisdictional nightmare. They involve three areas of legislation—pension, business and tax—and they cross provincial and federal jurisdictions. It would take a lot of effort to do this.

The single point at which to address protection in Canada is insolvency legislation. Bill C-253 provides a reasonable solution.

Thank you.

June 8th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Good morning, everyone. I call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number 44 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. So you are aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entirety of the committee. The first hour will be spent on Bill C-253, and then we will move in camera for the second hour, to review a report.

To ensure an orderly meeting, I'd like to outline a few rules to follow. Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of either floor, English or French audio. Please select your preference now.

I'll remind you that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. When you are not speaking, your microphone should be on mute. If you have a tendency to move your microphone after you've spoken, please make sure you put it back in place prior to responding.

As is my normal practice, I will hold up a yellow card for when you have 30 seconds left in your intervention, and I will hold up a red card for when your time for questions has expired. Please keep your screen in gallery view, so that you can see the cards when I hold them up.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, May 12, 2021, the committee is meeting to continue its study of Bill C-253, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

I'd like to now welcome our witnesses.

From CanAge, we have Laura Tamblyn Watts, president and CEO, and Brett Book, policy officer. From the GENMO Salaried Pension Organization, we have Michael Powell, president, and Tom Laurie, director.

From l'Observatoire de la retraite, we have with us Mr. François L'Italien, coordinator.

From the Store and Catalogue Retiree Group, we have Kenneth Eady, Sears retiree and court-appointed representative of Sears retirees.

Each group will have five minutes to present, followed by rounds of questions.

We will start with CanAge.

June 3rd, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Thank you very much.

That's our time for this study today.

Before I go to MP Baldinelli, I would like to thank our witnesses for being with us today.

Thank you very much for your testimony. It will be very helpful to us in our deliberations on Bill C‑253.

With that, I will allow our witnesses to leave, and then I will turn the floor over to MP Baldinelli.

June 3rd, 2021 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Thornton, we've had a witness at committee who spoke to the matter of concerns around lending when it comes to the change of priority of claims during bankruptcy. In the case of Sun Indalex Finance versus United Steelworkers, the pension deficit was ruled to be a deemed trust by the Court of Appeal for Ontario. This ruling put pensioners higher than even what Bill C-253 is proposing. This ruling has stood for about two years. As far as we can see, the sky did not fall for borrowers and the sky did not fall for the lenders.

Can you share any past evidence of measures like those in Bill C-253 that negatively affected investors? Would we not expect investors to be able to easily adapt to this change that would bring fairness to workers getting their deferred wage?