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?