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House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Do we have unanimous consent?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

There is not unanimous consent.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

If the hon. member wishes to continue debate he still has time.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

I will continue very briefly, in view of the refusal of some hon. members opposite to even consider having this bill debated. I did not at this time expect it to pass. I am really quite astonished that any government calling itself Liberal would oppose the protection of workers or oppose the effectiveness of the charter of rights of freedoms.

Hon. members opposite are all fully protected by their gold plated MP pension plans which ordinary working people governed by the Canada Labour Code cannot count on. I find this reprehensible. With that, I will end my remarks.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.

Liberal

George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I will attempt to assure the hon. member that I am not totally opposed to his bill. However, I have some things I want to say tonight. I congratulate him for bringing forward this bill.

So that all hon. members are clear on what this legislation proposes, I will begin by expressing my understanding of this bill. In essence, the hon. member is asking that the House of Commons amend the Canada Labour Code to provide employees, who at the time they are laid off from their job and are entitled to a pension under a duly registered pension plan, would have the right to severance pay.

This request seems reasonable enough. However, as with many other things in life, the member's proposal is not as simple as it would appear.

To begin with, passage and implementation of the bill would alter the legal notion of severance pay by introducing elements of a deferred wage. It is not advisable to undertake the changes of this nature without full consultation with those who are affected.

For clarification, the hon. member is asking that the House replace section 235(2) of the Canada Labour Code with the following:

For the purposes of this division, except where otherwise provided by regulation, an employer shall be deemed to have terminated the employment of a employee, when the employer lays off that employee.

Section 235(2)(b) of the code already contains a similar provision that considers employees who are entitled to a pension when they are laid off not to have been terminated.

As well, section 236 of the code deals with the power of the governor in council to make regulations with regard to severance pay. The hon. member is requesting that the House amend section 236. Besides replacing a portion of the section, he is asking the House to add a subsection that would read: "Notwithstanding paragraph 1(a), where an employer lays off an employee who immediately, on being laid off, or before that time is entitled to a pension under a pension plan, contributed to by the employer that is registered pursuant to" and then the section names the various plans. It concludes with: "The entitlement to such a pension shall not be prescribed under paragraph (1)(a) as circumstances in which the layoff of the employee shall not be deemed to be a termination of the employee's employment by the employee's employer".

I have explained in detail the amendment proposed by the member because I think it important that my colleagues in the House understand fully the consequences.

The problem is that including this provision in this section does not make sense. The reason is it would result in confusion as to whether or not the provision constitutes an exception per se or whether or not it provides the enabling power to adopt the regulation to make that exception.

At present under the Canada Labour Code, severance pay is considered to be compensation for long and loyal service by an employee. It becomes payable to the employee if termination is initiated by the employer and is due to reasons other than just cause.

Furthermore there is nothing in the way this concept is currently presented in the code that could be construed to mean that severance pay is tantamount to a deferred wage. In fact, the main purpose of having a provision requiring an employer to pay severance to an employee is to ensure that employers share in the social costs of labour adjustment. There are numerous circumstances where this provision is of great assistance. It can go a long way in helping the employer's former employees when it comes to financially bridging the gap between jobs.

I am not questioning in any way the hon. member's good intentions in presenting this legislation to the House. I am positive the hon. member perceives an injustice and believes that elected officials of the Parliament of Canada should address it. However, as I have attempted to explain, the matter is more complex than it might appear on the surface.

Labour standards and labour relations have many facets and must always be looked at as part of the whole picture. For anyone who thinks otherwise, I would suggest that they read "Seeking a Balance", the recently published review of part I of the Canada Labour Code. To illustrate my point I would like to quote from the report of the task force which carried out the review. Of course part I of the code is concerned with labour relations. While not specific

to the proposal in the hon. member's bill, the concerns are similar and most certainly related.

Under the heading "The Limits of Legislative Reform" the task force said: "Legislation cannot fix every problem. Neither the Canada Labour Code nor the Canada Labour Relations Board can solve every labour-management situation. The parties themselves must do that. The Canada Labour Code leaves the parties, employers and employees acting through their unions, responsible for the quality and much of the content of their day to day working relationships. They can act co-operatively to solve problems or they can be confrontational. They can ignore their position in the economy or they can work together to meet their competition and thrive. They can pay attention to social issues that are important to workers or they can suffer the long term consequences of avoiding them".

In conclusion, the hon. member's bill has merit but the issue should be looked at in consultation with the affected employer and employee organizations. It should be examined in a comprehensive fashion, taking into account the broader issues associated with the right to severance pay.

The labour program of Human Resources Development Canada is currently reviewing part III of the Canada Labour Code, the part that deals with severance pay. I assure the hon. member that the matter he raises in his bill will be examined along with other issues concerning termination and entitlement to severance pay.

I thank the hon. member for putting forth this bill, but I must ask him to be patient. In the light of the current review of the Canada Labour Code, it is inappropriate at this time to support this bill. Consequently I urge all hon. members not to support the bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I find it regrettable to say the least that the government did not agree to hold a vote, and I want to say that if the government so wishes, we will be pleased to oblige. Since there is already a subcommittee on labour, it would be very easy to look at the hon. member's bill and to give it the attention that it deserves.

Madam Speaker, I do not forget that I must look at you when I address the Chair, as is our rule.

I want to thank the hon. member and remind him that we have all met, in our offices, with workers who had been laid off. If we represent a riding located in a large Canadian city, particularly a city that has undergone an intense industrialization process, we are all the more likely to find ourselves in the situation described by the hon. member and to meet with workers experiencing a loss of qualification process that is often related to age.

The hon. member clearly showed the existence of a two tier system which discriminates against those who are losing their qualifications in the labour market, and also against those who must pay, since these people are entitled to a public or private pension.

We are talking here about an amendment to Part III of the Labour Code. The Canada Labour Code is made up of three parts. The first one deals with grievances and the whole issue of collective bargaining and collective agreements. The second part deals with occupational health and safety. The third part is the equivalent of a minimum employment standards act and lists, among others, the obligations relating to severance pay.

The Canada Labour Code is an important tool which concerns about 15 per cent of the labour force, including all those who work in banks, interprovincial transportation, hauling, or any of the areas that come under the jurisdiction of the Canadian government.

The third part of the Labour Code is important because it deals with employees' rights, employers' obligations, hours of work, minimum wages, equal wages, annual vacations, general holidays, maternity leave, severance pay, unjust dismissal and the recovery of unpaid salaries.

The Minister of Labour recently asked a task force chaired by the Mr. Sim, which produced the Sim report, to determine what amendments should be made to the Labour Code. It is agreed that, in its present form, the Labour Code is not adequate to meet the major challenges of the labour market.

Again, it would have been very appropriate, in my view, to support the hon. member's bill, since we have reached the point where the Labour Code must be reviewed.

I find it unfortunate that party politics prevent us from considering a bill based on its merit. There is no doubt that, beyond any partisan consideration-you know how much I have disagreed with what the Reformers have said in the past-the fact remains that the bill before us today is relevant, in that it will help workers, and older workers in particular. The government's partisan motives are unfortunate.

What are we dealing with? We are dealing with the requirement, under section 236 of the Canada Labour Code, which is quite clear and specific, to pay an employee whose employment is terminated severance pay. Provided the employee has completed twelve of employment with the same business or establishment, the employer is required to pay the employee either two days wages at the employee's regular rate of wages for his regular hours of work in respect of each completed year of employment or five days wages

at the employee's regular rate of wages for his regular hours of work.

This is an explicit provision and it is clear that, in a context of globalization, in which the labour market is changing rapidly and the use of technology is growing, with machines gradually taking the place of workers, loss of qualification and thus layoff are not unusual.

Except that, in the case of a layoff, the employer is not required by law to give severance pay even if the employees being laid off are entitled to a public or private pension. Given that this provision applies to pensions under the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, the Old Age Security Act, including the guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance, as well as retirement pensions under the Canada pension plan or the Quebec pension plan, what the hon. member is suggesting is that we put an end to an unfair, discriminatory and all too common practice.

It is important to understand what our colleague went through. He received a worker with 28 years of service who was laid off by an established business in his riding, a capital and labour intensive business. This is not an exceptional situation. Government members who refused their consent to their colleague should bear in mind that it could have been their own brother or father.

It could be my father. He has been working in the same textile factory for 30 years. He is 58 years old and works in a vulnerable sector. Given the changes the textile sector is experiencing, my father may well be laid off some day, despite being an honest worker and valued employee. If our parents, our friends who are a little older are employed by a company working in any sector subject to the federal code, they may be laid off and deprived of severance pay.

I think it is very important to remind the House that severance pay is earned; it is not a privilege. It is a right linked to seniority, to services rendered. It is not optional.

Not only must the Labour Code be reviewed and improved as proposed by the hon. member from the Reform Party, but we as parliamentarians must reflect on this some day. The Labour Code must be tightened. What is needed is legislation on plant closings and layoffs, as there is in Ontario and other provinces across Canada.

There are some regions in the country where it costs a business almost nothing to lay off workers. This is what is unacceptable in a system such as ours.

All this is to tell you that it would have been preferable for the government not to indulge in party politics, to recognize that we all have older workers in our ridings, that this provision in the Labour Code is outdated, that it is a provision that does not respect workers. Without wishing to offend my friend in the Reform Party, I would go even further. This is a bill that could have been tabled by the NDP. It is a bill tabled by an MP who cares about workers, who respects people who, in the environment of large and small businesses, are experiencing situations of discrimination.

Once again, I repeat, this is an ideal time to approve this sort of proposal, because we are going to be making commitments in the wake of the Sims report. And the parliamentary secretary knows very well that the labour minister is now conducting consultations, that he is going to visit five major cities across Canada, and that a subcommittee on labour has already been created. It would have been a simple matter for this subcommittee to receive the bill, to hear witnesses, and to move very, very rapidly to recognize the relevance of the bill that has been introduced.

With my time running out, and my energy with it, because it is already 6 o'clock, I ask you again if you would seek the unanimous consent of this House, in light of the information I have provided, to have this bill deemed votable and sent to a committee. I ask the parliamentary secretary, in all humility and kindness, to give his consent, because it is a bill that will serve workers.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is there unanimous consent?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Guy Arseneault Liberal Restigouche—Chaleur, NB

Madam Speaker, with all due respect, I believe the question had been put earlier that the bill be made votable. It was refused and it has been refused again.

Looking at the subject matter, severance pay, and knowing the bill has some very positive features, maybe it would be permissible to refer the subject matter to committee. The committee would then determine if there is an injustice in this regard, which there seems to be, and could look at it in a positive way. Then the member could make his presentation to the committee.

I believe the question of making the bill votable has already been put twice and it has been turned down. I think a more positive approach might be to refer the subject matter to committee. That might receive unanimous support.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Madam Speaker, will you rule on the request for unanimous consent to send the subject matter to committee?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

My understanding is that the parliamentary secretary made a suggestion to the hon. member. Therefore there is no formal proposal before the House.

Resuming debate.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to follow up on some of the points made by my colleague, the hon. member for Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia.

With Bill C-219 the hon. member is trying to remove a clause in the Canada Labour Code which clearly discriminates against employees under federal jurisdiction on the basis of age. What we are talking about is clearly a matter of fairness.

My colleague has already pointed out that section 235 of the labour code allows a company to deny a terminated employee the severance pay which would normally be due him or her if that employee were not entitled to early withdrawal of a pension plan.

Let me read the exact words as they appear in section 235:

An employer shall be deemed not to have terminated the employment of an employee where, either immediately on ceasing to be employed by the employer or before that time, the employee is entitled to a pension under a pension plan contributed to by the employer.

Section 235 does not say the terminated employee actually has to apply for the early withdrawal of his pension, he only has to be entitled to do so. The terminated worker may have every intention of looking for another job and may not want to take a cut in the pension which early retirement would entail.

Most pension plans in Canada, 87 per cent, entitle an employee to early withdrawal of pension benefits at age 55.

In most cases under federal jurisdiction the age 55 is when an employer is legally entitled to terminate a person while saying: "Forget the severance pay. Forget the termination pay in lieu of sufficient notice and forget the gold watch for that matter".

I have to admit I am feeling a little bit uncomfortable right now, as 55 is not that far off in my case. I am just getting started in my view. I am not ready to be put out to pasture and I do not think many other 55-year-olds are for that matter.

Just because a plan states you can retire if you want to does not mean you are actually ready to throw in the towel. You might still have an awful lot to offer. I submit that most people do, even past 65 in many instances. I would guess most members of the House would agree with me on that issue. Some of us have just figured out how to get the best seating plan to get the camera angle, and so I would not want to have an early retirement at this stage.

Any employer in Canada can terminate an employee whenever he or she feels like it. There is no legislation that guarantees anyone the right to work. What an employer is required to do is give the employee a reasonable notice of termination of employment. Failing that, the employer is required to make a payment equal to what the employee would have earned had he worked for that notice period. This is referred to as pay in lieu of notice or termination pay. The employer is also required to pay any money, such as vacation pay, owed to the employee at the time of termination.

The federal jurisdiction of the Government of Canada and the province of Ontario are the only two jurisdictions in Canada that have a statutory provision for severance pay in addition to notice of termination requirements.

Ontario requires that employer, upon termination, give an employee one regular week's wages for each year of employment to a maximum of 26 weeks. Some may argue that is pretty generous. Perhaps that was put in by an NDP government in Ontario. In theory, if an employee earns wages of $1,000 per week that employee will be entitled to 26 weeks of severance pay, $26,000.

The severance pay provisions in a federal jurisdiction are not quite as rich as that. The employer must pay two days for each year worked or five days' wages, whichever is larger. The federal severance provision is less than half of what it is in Ontario.

However, it begs the question who might be affected by this draconian legislation? There are some 700,000 people in this category who are affected by the Canada Labour Code. These people work in the banking industry, telecommunications, transportation, grain handling, ports and broadcasting. We know full well that because of our changing environment in terms of how long people are employed at different jobs this will become a major factor down the road.

Some of these sectors, like many others in the economy, will be looking for considerable downsizing over the coming periods. That is fine. That happens. Companies need the flexibility to increase or contract a number of employees according to individual situations or as technology develops.

Private member's Bill C-219, by removing section 235 from the Canada Labour Code, will ensure all terminated employees in those sectors are treated equally. Employers will not be able to terminate older employees just because it is cheaper to do so. Whether a worker is 55 years old plus a few months or 55 years old minus a few months will not make a difference.

What we want is equality. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that every individual is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. This means government rules, regulations and programs must not discriminate or cause others to discriminate on the basis of individual characteristics such as age.

Section 235 of the Canada Labour Code is an anomaly which allows, in fact enforces, companies to discriminate on the basis of age. Age should be a factor here at all. I am sure members on the other side of the House will agree that section 235 is completely unfair. I have difficulty understanding why unanimous consent would not be given to allow this to be a votable motion. However, I hope some compromise can be reached such as what has been

suggested. This is an unfair section which needs to be reviewed and removed from the Canada Labour Code.

Any terminated employee entitled to a pension should also be entitled to receive severance and termination pay just like his or her younger co-workers or the younger former co-worker, as this case would suggest.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rex Crawford Liberal Kent, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak in complete and full support of Bill C-219, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, severance pay, put forward by the member for Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia.

I applaud the member for bringing this matter forward. As he has already mentioned, the bill is a direct result of his responding to his constituents, the purpose of private members' business. This is a non-partisan hour.

I have presented and debated many private members' bills in the House of Commons, some successful and others not. It is an important part of our work as representatives of the people. This bill is an important step forward in amending the Canada Labour Code which, at first glance at section 235, is full of age discrimination.

The Canada Labour Code, which should be leading the way in terms of work and labour force, is the only piece of legislation in the country that denies severance or termination pay based on an employee's eligibility for a pension. This is an inequity that must be addressed, and Bill C-219 does that.

Company pension plans, RRSPs and the Canada pension plan are all part of retirement. They are becoming increasingly important in the tough times ahead. According to Statistics Canada, 65 is the normal retirement age and 55 is when most people are eligible for early retirement.

As well, a reduced pension is the norm for early retirement. Even if an employee is not a member of a company sponsored registered retirement plan, severance could be denied at age 60 because they could receive Canada pension.

Some will say section 235 is there to disallow a double benefit, but comparing severance to pension is like comparing soya beans and apples. It is not a double benefit in my opinion. Supposedly the charter of rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom from discrimination based on age.

As we all know, demographically the population is getting older. Employers aged 55 and older could be targeted for layoffs to save companies money.

Bill C-219 comes at an important time. Termination of employment is now of considerable magnitude, especially when the economy is not as buoyant as it could be. Basically, an employer can terminate an employee whenever he or she feels like it. There is nothing in Canada that guarantees anyone the right to work.

What an employer is required to do is provide the employee with a reasonable notice of termination or payment equal to what the employee would have earned had they worked for the notice period, referred to as either pay in lieu of notice or termination pay, and any other money such as vacation pay which is owed to the employee at the time of termination.

The federal jurisdiction and Ontario are the only two in Canada that make statutory provisions for severance pay in addition to notice of termination requirements. Therefore in all other jurisdictions an employer may terminate an employee's service forthwith if the employer pays the employee an amount equal to the wages the employee would have earned in regular work hours for the period required by the notice provisions.

The purpose of Bill C-219 is to remove from part III of the Canada Labour Code section 235, which denies severance pay to employees. Passage of this bill would end an injustice and would end the age discrimination which is enshrined in the Canada Labour Code.

I have had similar situations with constituents in the past who offered the examples cited by workers in the riding of Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia.

As the hon. member has outlined very clearly, in 1993 Motorways Limited, an interprovincial trucking firm, closed its Canada-wide operation. Employees under the age of 55 on the closing date received two days severance pay for each year of service. However employees who were 55 years of age or over did not, regardless of their years of service. This to me was a flagrant injustice to people who had worked hard. Motorways was allowed to deny its former employees age 55 or older their severance because part III of the labour code, section 235(b) states:

An employer shall be deemed not to have terminated the employment of an employee, where, either immediately on ceasing to be employed by the employer, or before that time, the employee is entitled to a pension under a pension plan contributed to by the employer-

In practice this means very clearly that if a company is laying off workers it is not obligated to pay severance to those who are 55 years of age or older because those employees are entitled to early withdrawal of pension benefits even though they could be severely penalized for taking benefits before age 65.

The employees of Motorways filed appeals under the Canada Labour Code. In September 1995 the appointed appeals referee cited section 235 and ruled in favour of the company. He stated:

The purpose of this legislation appears to be to prevent an individual from receiving a double benefit; that is, severance pay and a pension. The text of the legislation is simply whether the appellants were entitled to receive a pension. They were. Accordingly, I confirm the decisions of the inspector and dismiss the appeals.

After losing the appeal, the hon. member's constituent took his pension at age 60, which meant a 5 per cent reduction. He gets $487 a month and he feels cheated out of the $6,872.32 he would have received had he been three years younger. We must make sure that this injustice does not happen again.

During the appeal process, the decision to deny stated that a pension and severance pay are double benefits. This is a misnomer. Severance and termination pay are a statutory benefit. The details are regulated by law for all employers within a specified jurisdiction. Hon. members will be aware that a pension is a negotiated benefit. The details are part of an overall benefits package and can vary widely from industry to industry, employer to employer and even job to job.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Would the hon. member please conclude his remarks.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rex Crawford Liberal Kent, ON

Madam Speaker, in conclusion I fully support Bill C-219. Older workers deserve protection from the Canada Labour Code which is why I am pleased to advocate this bill. It would replace section 235 with a simple clause outlining the reasons deemed to be termination of employment. I urge all members to support it.

At this time I would like to ask the House for unanimous consent that Bill C-219 be withdrawn, the order for second reading be discharged and that the subject matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, I would certainly welcome this. As we review the Canada Labour Code we certainly will take a look at this very worthwhile subject matter.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

We have unanimous consent to have the subject matter referred to a committee.

(Bill withdrawn, and subject matter thereof referred to a committee.)

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I now ask the consent of the House to take a brief recess in order to prepare for the adjournment debate at 6:30 p.m.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, if you were to request unanimous consent, I believe that we would be prepared to go still further than you suggest and declare it to be 6:30 p.m., because those who will be speaking in the adjournment debate are, apparently, already prepared.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Debate

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Madam Speaker, last week when I rose in my place to ask a question about the future of Canada's national parks and historic sites, I was very concerned about what the Liberal government seemed to be doing. I was aware that the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the minister responsible for the national parks and historic sites system, was about to implement a plan developed by the bean counters in Treasury Board called the employee takeover program.

I was convinced that anyone who had had any experience in our national parks or at our national historic sites would never have agreed to proceed with this foolhardy program which called for one-half of the existing staff of Parks Canada to either quit their jobs or wait to be fired and then if they wanted, to form a business company, come back and bid on the contracts which would be let out on their old jobs.

There are of course numerous problems with this proposal, not the least of which is the threat this privatization makes to the entire parks and national historic sites system throughout Canada.

This scheme came to our attention during committee study of the government's spending estimates. There the members of the committee learned that the Department of Canadian Heritage wanted to reduce its workforce to 2,000 employees from 4,000 and remove roughly 24 per cent of its budget. The employee takeover plan was the scheme to achieve both goals.

Obviously people who worked in the parks system knew that this 24 per cent saving, or roughly $98 million over four years, was going to come at their expense. When they looked at the services they were providing to the public, they justifiably pointed out that the system would also result in lost services to the public.

Since then the dedicated people who work for Parks Canada have reviewed what little information is available to them. Almost unanimously from all parts of Canada they have reacted very negatively to the minister's proposal. In addition, neighbouring communities, their businesses and their leaders have commented negatively on the impact such activity would have on them.

I had said previously, and my words were coming back to me from these communities, that this scheme would result in increased costs, reduced service, lower wages and lost jobs for hundreds of dedicated long term employees of Parks Canada.

I had also said in a letter to the minister that similar situations were in existence in parts of British Columbia and the United States and except for the odd success story the overwhelming result of these existing experiences was failure.

I was concerned that should this scheme fail, which I was sure it would, there would be very little that could be done to correct the mistakes and that our parks and national historic sites were much too important to leave to chance. I asked the minister to postpone the plan to implement this scheme as of July 1 of this year and study much more carefully the implications of its failure.

I was pleased that the minister, who has a good understanding of the parks system thanks to her term as Minister of the Environment, said the program would be slowed down to look at other options. At the same time I remain concerned that the bottom line for the minister and the government appears to be the reduction in spending rather than the provision of services in a section of our economy that does not have much ability to generate its own revenue.

I appreciate the fact that the department will take some additional time to examine options other than the employee takeover program, which does nothing to address the circumstances in the parks.

I urge the minister to review the mandate of the parks system, establish a clearly understood plan to ensure the ongoing operational and development success of the parks and national historic sites and to put in place the type of funding that is necessary to secure the long term protection of our historic and environmental heritage.