House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-48.


Contraventions Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to debate Bill C-38 on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party.

I will begin by asking a question. What is the motive behind the government bringing this bill in at this late stage? As most of us in the House know, there are probably another four weeks left before the House rises, at least that is the rumour we hear. Is this part of the Prime Minister's legacy? We are not sure. This is serious business we are dealing with right now.

Another point that needs to be brought out is that we cannot legislate or create legislation based upon popularity or trends, especially when we are dealing with a topic as serious as this one. We need to spend a lot of time debating and doing research because something like this will have an an effect on future generations, beyond the time that members in this House spend on it in this session.

The Supreme Court has three cases right now on which it will render decisions in terms of answering the question as to whether Parliament has the power to control such substances as marijuana. There is no reason that this topic cannot wait until after the next election. I also heard that the crown prince in waiting has a different attitude toward marijuana than the current government.

As far as we are concerned, the Progressive Conservative Party would like to see this topic put to rest. We can deal with it in the next Parliament.

Bill C-38 sends the wrong message to current users today. I think people need to be concerned that, yes, there are a lot of adolescents and young adults using marijuana, if not on a daily basis certainly recreationally. What it would do is reduce the severity of the activity from a Criminal Code breach to that of a parking ticket, actually less than a speeding ticket.

We call it decriminalization but in essence it is the first step to legalization. We are decriminalizing it because we are taking one part of an action out of the Criminal Code and saying that under such conditions it is all right to go ahead and do it. In other words, it sends the wrong message.

We need to deal with this subject from a broad perspective. We need to look at the whole realm of drug use, with marijuana being one of them. We need to decide whether we want to legalize marijuana. It is like the problem we are dealing with now of solicitation and prostitution. Little chunks here, little bits there, a little band-aid here does not really work. Maybe in the short term it will make some people happy, the ones who are toking up, but in the long term, when we look at the benefits to society, it probably is not the way to go.

In fact, some basic questions need to be raised. Will Bill C-38 decrease the prevalence of harmful drug use? Will Bill C-38 decrease the number of young Canadians who experiment with drugs? Will Bill C-38 decrease the incidence of communicable diseases related to substance abuse? Will Bill C-38 increase the use of alternative justice measures, such as drug treatment courts? Will Bill C-38 decrease the illicit drug supply and address new and emerging drug trends? Will Bill C-38 decrease avoidable health and socio-economic costs?

The reality is that if the use of marijuana is treated like a parking ticket, there is no doubt that the marketplace will still exist. We must remember that use is driven by market. Where there is demand there will be a supply.

Bill C-38 really does not deal with the big picture. We cannot deal with just the user and forget about the supplier of the marijuana. We know that in recent times the Americans have criticized Canada for being a little too liberal regarding the use of marijuana, especially in comparison with their zero tolerance drug policy across the line.

The fact of the matter is it does affect the trade movement, the movement of goods and services, as well as the movement of people between our two countries. The Americans certainly do not perceive us in a positive way knowing that the drugs laws in Canada are very liberal and easy. I think we need to assess the impact it has on the country as a whole.

The legislation creates a series of fines, as I indicated. The fines are for possession of thirty grams or less of cannabis or one gram of cannabis resin. However the fines for each offence are not being uniformly applied. Adult fines are higher than those for use, which does not make any sense. As well, if the fines are not high, there is hardly a deterrent.

A concern also exists for reducing fines applicable to youth, especially as the federal government is actively trying to educate young people not to smoke cigarettes or marijuana. That is the irony here. Even with the use of cigarettes and tobacco today, retailers have to hide their supply behind a curtain so kids who go into the store cannot see them. If a retailer sells cigarettes to a minor, the fines are monstrous. With alcohol we have the same kind of controls that have been mentioned.

In terms of the system of fines being the same as a parking ticket, what happens if people do not pay their parking tickets? Obviously the tickets pile up. How the system collects will be a huge challenge, not only locally but across provincial boundaries.

It is easy to say we will write tickets and hopefully they will be paid. What if they cannot pay it? What if a youth is caught and cannot afford to pay the ticket? Is that ticket just thrown in the garbage?

There are no provisions for repeat offenders and no increasing fine scale. Each time offenders are fined they simply pay the set amount. If the fine is not paid, then it is turned over to a collection agency. That is a joke. This is hardly an awe inspiring deterrent. Imagine breaching the Criminal Code, receiving a fine and then the fine has to be sent over to a collection agency.

Some U.S. states that have decriminalized simple possession seize an offender's driving licence for failure to pay fines. That makes a lot more sense. As well, some states have increased penalties for repeat offenders.

The aggravated provisions are a maximum penalty of $1,000 or six months imprisonment. However, there are only three aggravated provisions: possession while operating a vehicle, not driving while drug impaired but simply having marijuana in a car; possession while committing an indictable offence; and possession in or near a school. More aggravated provisions could have been added such as possession in or near a sports or community centre.

The MADD organization has serious concerns about Bill C-38, as well as the police organizations in the country. There is a lot more than just saying a person has smoked, he has been caught but we will not make him a criminal. Canada expects more from the House of Commons. We need to put more time into the bill, rather than rushing it through the House at this time.

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak in the debate about Bill C-38. It has been a long time in coming. We have had this sort of strange situation where on the one hand it appeared that there was a lot of emphasis to get this bill moving, yet we are only today now debating it and sending it off to committee.

I would concur with the comments of the member from the Conservative Party who questioned what the government's real intention was with the bill and whether it would ever see the light of day in terms of something being acted upon, given the time frame in which we are operating. It is sort of politics in the twilight zone.

That aside, decriminalization as a measure to recognize the failure of our prohibitionist policies is something that many people now accept. For sure it is better to have a fine than to end up being in jail and having a criminal record. However there are a number of problems with the bill.

While decriminalization is something that we could see as a progressive step forward in dealing with the failure of prohibitionist policies, the bill as it is presents a very contradictory and confused approach. On one hand it offers a measure of decriminalization. On the other hand the political rhetoric that has been surrounding the bill, and we heard from the minister today, and the system of penalties outlined in the bill actually point to a tougher and a wider enforcement stance.

I want to put forward the remarks made by Eugene Oscapella from the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy. He has said that the bill really perpetuates the myth that the criminal law can resolve problems related to drugs. That is one concern we have. The bill relies upon the premise that somehow if we end up even with a system of fines and it is still within the criminal law that marijuana is still an illegal substance, then we are controlling the drug and controlling the use of it.

As was shown in the special committee report on the non-medical use of drugs, of which I was a member, it became very clear in the evidence that we had that whether a substance was legal or illegal had virtually no impact on its use. In fact we would be far better off providing real education for Canadians about drug issues, about the potential health issues related to drug use and focusing our financial and educational priorities on that.

As we know with smoking, for example, it is not illegal. The decrease in smoking has not come about because smoking is illegal. It has come about because it has been highly regulated and because we have spelt out what can and cannot be done. A vast amount of education has been given to people individually and within society as a whole to make them aware of the dangers of smoking. That is with a legal substance.

The argument of prohibition as a tool for dealing with drug use and the harms that can flow from drug use has been shown to be a failure.

The Senate report on marijuana came out in September 2002 and it was a very wide-ranging and excellent report. The report pointed out that 30% of the population has used cannabis at least once. That is approximately 100,000 Canadians daily. In fact of the over 90,000 drug related incidents that are reported annually by police, more than three-quarters of those incidents relate to cannabis, and over 50% of all drug related incidents involve possession of cannabis. That is from the Senate report.

Given the magnitude of that problem and the use, we have to ask ourselves whether the regime as presented in this bill will respond to the reality of what Canadians are actually doing. Certainly one concern we have with the bill is that it does not contain any provision for personal cultivation. The special committee on the non-medical use of drugs recommended that there should be some provision not only for possession for personal use but also for cultivation.

Unfortunately the government chose not to do that so we have this contradictory position where the government is saying that people will get a fine for possession of marijuana if it is 15 grams or less, but they cannot go out and buy it anywhere because it is an illegal act.

In fact, as Dan Gardner, a critically acclaimed journalist from the Ottawa Citizen , pointed that out in a series of articles he did on the drug issue. In his article on May 28, he said:

Criminologists have often found that lowering, but not eliminating, a punishment results in more punishment. It's called the “net-widening effect.”

Replace charges with fines, and people the police would have let off with a warning and a wave under the old system will instead by hit with a fine. In other words, decriminalization could lead to more people being punished, not fewer.

Then I have an image in my head of the Prime Minister in one hand holding a joint and in the other hand holding his fine. What is this actually saying? Are we saying that somehow by having a fine we are trying to give people the illusion that we will be preventing them from using marijuana? We have the Prime Minister saying, “Oh well, this is the way you do it. You smoke a joint, you pay your fine and away you go pretty happy”.

What is the purpose of the fine? If it is there as a deterrent, then again the evidence will show that as a deterrent it simply has no use. All it becomes is a source of revenue and a widening of police enforcement on the basis that municipalities will now see a way to collect more money.

I did want to respond to the question put forward by the Canadian Alliance that we had to be very careful about this bill and that we would have to talk to the Americans because it had to do with the borders. I know that some Liberal members have been off courting the drug czar and getting all the arguments from the drug czar about why this is so bad.

I truly believe the objection of the Americans to this bill has nothing to do with border crossings. It has everything to do with their political war on drugs, which in effect is a war on poor people, and the fact that they do not want to see Canada take a different kind of approach, an approach that has been successful in Europe in terms of decriminalization. That is what their objection is truly about. I really do not think it has anything to do with the border. It has to do with them not wanting to see another approach that will show the gaping holes and their own failure on the war on drugs.

We very much look forward to the debate at the committee. There obviously will be a whole variety of amendments. The NDP members will be introducing amendments because we have questions about the lack of provisions around cultivation. We have questions about the fines system. We have questions about the enforcement that underlies this, the fact that it continues this prohibitionist policy and that somehow the criminal law will deal with this issue.

We certainly look forward to what goes on in the committee and hearing from the witnesses. Hopefully the bill can be improved to better reflect the reality of what Canadians want to see, given that the use of marijuana is very prevalent in our society. I think there is a very common understanding that we do not want to see Canadians criminalized.

One other issue we will be bring forward is why there is not an amnesty provision for the approximately 600,000 Canadians who have a criminal record for simple possession. There is nothing in the bill that would give relief to people who live under the negative effects of a criminal record, for example, who cannot go across the border.

I know constituents in my own riding have faced terrible situations because they have a record from simple possession. We want to see some of these issues addressed, and we look forward to the debate in the committee.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place among all parties and the member for Churchill concerning division on Motion No. 400, scheduled for later today at the conclusion of private members' business. I think that you would find unanimous consent that if a recorded division is demanded at the conclusion of the debate on Motion No. 400 today, it be deferred until Tuesday, October 28, at the beginning of private members' business.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the House
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties and I believe that you would find consent to re-defer the recorded division demanded on Motion No. 197 until Tuesday, October 28, at the beginning of private members' business.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Dan McTeague Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sorry that I only have three minutes to debate such a substantive issue but such is the case when one tries to rush debates and provide select committees to put important legislation before the Canadian public without proper knowledge of what is occurring.

I just heard the member and her concern about poor people. I think we are all concerned. However the hon. member, like many in the House, is completely oblivious and ignorant to the fact that in one out of four marijuana grow ops in this country, of the estimated 50,000, children live in those homes.

We understand the implications of those who are farmers and those who are forced to cultivate this product, people who come from other parts of the world and have to pay off the money they owe to the people who brought them to this country, many of whom are of Asian descent and who are kept in a position of enslavement.

I am willing to talk about this issue, but I think it is important that we understand some of the very important implications.

In its most recent document Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario states that there are some 15,000 grow ops in the province of Ontario and 50,000 across Canada. They produce approximately three million to six million kilograms of marketable marijuana. The price tag is about $12 billion a year. If that is the case it would appear to be the largest single cultivation of agriculture product in this country.

Who controls it? Organized crime.

Clearly, when we consider that for a $25,000 investment we can have a return of $600,000 on a given home, is there any wonder there is a proliferation?

The legislation is deficient. It does not provide minimum sentences. It is one of the reasons that the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada, just a few weeks ago, as the same the Globe and Mail and others were deriding us because we happened to meet with the American officials to talk about a cross-border problem, pointed out that organized crime was leaving the United States in favour of Canada because we want to have some kind of, relatively speaking, easy legislation as it relates to marijuana.

It is nice to give people a fine for possession. My concern is about the infrastructure of this industry.

While I am on that subject, the fact that there is in this country today, and in this legislation, no provision to provide the equivalent of a breathalyzer test is, in my view, unacceptable. It sends the wrong message to individuals. It does not protect motorists. It does not protect people.

Studies have pointed out very clearly, and I am reading here from several sources, that research has indicated that 5% to 12% of drivers may now drive under the influence of cannabis and this may increase as much as 25% as a result of this legislation. It is clear to us that if we want to prevent the carnage we need to do something to address the issue of no protocol as it relates to people who drive cannabis impaired.

The cross-border issue is a serious one but I am more concerned with the issue of organized crime. These people do not have fanciful discussions about benign products, about the utilization of marijuana. They are in fact there to make money. That money winds up in various other forms of exploitation of the poor, of people who are down and out, of individuals who have no choice but to follow the dictates of organized crime. When one considers $12 billion--

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry to interrupt but the hon. member will have seven minutes when we resume debate on this motion.

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion.

Bankruptcy Legislation
Private Members' Business

October 9th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for Churchill for bringing this very important issue before the House.

I expect all hon. members are interested in better protection for the wages and pensions of Canadian workers. Employees play a vital role in growing and sustaining a company's operations. They put their hearts and souls, often during the best years of their lives, into making the business viable. Through their faith in their employers, workers often invest significant portions of their paycheques into company pension plans.

I believe that all sides of the House can agree that it is unacceptable for a company to shirk its moral obligation by neglecting to pay employee wages and pension benefits.

I have had the misfortune of being on the losing end of deals before and I can assure the House that it is no fun. As parliamentarians, if we are in a position to protect workers from suffering this hardship, then it is my opinion and the opinion of my esteemed colleagues in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada that we should make sure to take the steps necessary to offer Canadian workers that protection.

This speaks to a sense of fairness that I believe can be found in virtually all Canadians, and that transcends party lines. All too often employees are left in a vulnerable position, both leading up to and during bankruptcy proceedings. Business owners often make the decisions that ultimately lead to bankruptcy. This fate is often as a result of circumstances beyond the control of the business owner, to be sure. However, as individuals charged with carrying out rather than directing company policy, many employees are not in a position where they can adequately assess the risks associated with their continued employment. When a business finally does declare bankruptcy, those same employees are equally at a disadvantage when it comes to assuming those risks through lost wages and pensions.

In my home town a number of years ago a particular furniture company went into bankruptcy. Some of the people who stayed on, employees of 30 and 40 years, to see the receiver through the bankruptcy portion of that company were deprived of their pensions when they finished. Some of those who had quit or retired four and six months earlier received their pensions. It just seemed totally unfair to me.

In this debate the House is being reminded that secured creditors are first in line to claim a company's assets during bankruptcy proceedings. Next in line are the preferred creditors, a group that is further subdivided into categories of preferred creditors. Employees currently stand fourth in line as preferred creditors when it comes to claiming that which they are rightfully owed. Employees also face strict limitations when it comes to exactly how much they can claim.

Current laws in Canada allow for the scenario where an employee has worked his or her entire life for a single company that then declares bankruptcy, leaving that employee with nothing. Now all of a sudden the employee has lost not only whatever wages remain outstanding, but also a lifetime worth of contributions to the company's pension plan.

Clearly, improvements in this area can and should be made. However, in making such improvements, we must be conscious of the unintended consequences of our actions. An unintended consequence of this very motion is that it may make it more difficult for start-up businesses and expanding businesses to obtain credit. We all know that entrepreneurs need capital in order to enter the market and grow their business. Most often this capital is obtained through a combination of equity and credit.

In making the necessary loans, creditors assess the risks associated with the business owner's ability to pay back the loan. If we were to change the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act by downgrading a secured creditor's ability to recover the loan, creditors may react by further restricting the availability of loans by increasing the rate of interest that would apply. This could potentially lead to very serious and negative repercussions on our economy.

Canadians rely on businesses to drive our economy and provide us with new jobs. Without available credit, businesses risk losing the opportunity to expand their operations and hire new employees.

While it is clearly the intention of the motion to protect employees, it is quite possible that Motion No. 400 could actually have a profoundly negative impact on workers across Canada by indirectly limiting their opportunities to secure employment.

The House would be well advised to consider this motion carefully. In seeking to help workers, we want to make sure we do not do more harm than good, a very real concern.

The House had a similar debate in the spring of 2001 when the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre introduced a private member's bill that would have amended the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act so that unpaid wages were ranked first in the order of distribution. In that debate, my colleague from Kings--Hants, who at that time was our party's industry critic, encouraged the House to consider the Australian model of employee protection during bankruptcies. I believe that suggestion is just as constructive and relevant today as it was then.

In Australia, various levels of government work together to provide workers with coverage during bankruptcies in an employment insurance type system. Given the current size of the EI surplus in Canada, it might make sense for us to consider extending employment insurance coverage to include a portion of back wages owed to employees during a bankruptcy. There are clearly other options available to us that would enable us to move forward in guaranteeing better protection to Canadians.

Progressive Conservatives recognize the need to better protect stakeholders during bankruptcies. As we move forward, we owe it to Canadians to carefully consider programs that are available in other jurisdictions. We must work to achieve a better balance between protecting access to capital in order to grow a stronger economy and protecting the ability of employees to secure wages and pension benefits that they have worked so hard to earn.

Bankruptcy Legislation
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure for me to try to find solutions to improve the situation of workers, and I congratulate my colleague from Churchill on her motion.

For some years now, ever since they started to cut employment insurance, it has become increasingly inaccessible. We know that only four people out of ten are now eligible. Things are also getting difficult for workers whose employer goes bankrupt.

When there is a bankruptcy—and I know what I am talking about, because I worked in this field in the past—the workers are lowest on the list of creditors who might benefit in some way from the proceeds of the sale of the company or its assets.

Very often suppliers are first to be paid, and the employees are pushed aside. We also know that the two-week EI waiting period still in effect also penalizes these people.

When workers lose their jobs suddenly because of a bankruptcy, they are penalized and at risk of losing a lot of money and having to give up possessions,. Their well-being suffers greatly as well.

It would therefore be very important for us to pass the motion of my colleague in order to stop employees from being penalized and to allow them to at least be the first to benefit from these two weeks, to be paid from the proceeds of the sale of the company or its assets. The first thing that should be done with those proceeds is to pay the employees their two weeks and then let them apply for EI.

Workers are not in any way responsible for what happened to the company. Bankruptcies are often the result of bad administration, and workers in a plant do not necessarily have anything to do with administration. Very often they have no idea of how the company is run.

We must be clear and we must be honest. I believe this motion readjusts the situation in favour of the workers. If there is no money left after the company or anything else is sold, then let them at least give as much help as possible to each employee to get them through this period in no man's land. They must be compensated as much as possible during those two weeks of the waiting period.

Private members' motions in support of workers do not seem to be very popular these days in this Canadian Parliament. I would like special attention to be paid to this one, as well as to all others relating to workers that will be coming before this House.

We have been trying for a long time to make things better through parts I, II and III of the Canada Labour Code. As my hon. colleague knows full well, we have often worked together to look for ways to improve the situation, on the basis of what is already in place in the provinces.

Some provinces like Quebec are well ahead of their time. In Quebec, the legislation and opportunities are much more rewarding, as well as fair and equitable to workers.

TheCanada Labour Code needs to be modernized. This would promote fairness for all workers. When people who have given 20 years of their lives to a company find themselves without work following a bankruptcy, this is not funny. When you are laid off temporarily while the company tries to get back on its feet, at least there is hope of being called back to work.

But once the company has gone bankrupt, that is it. It is the end. This often means having to find work elsewhere, and getting special training. Those affected really do not need to be further penalized by not giving them their two weeks, which, when you think of it, should be mandatory.

I think that turning to the EI program is not necessarily the answer either. It may not be the one that should pay the two weeks following a bankruptcy. Employers always get some money for the equipment or from the last contracts or what not. I think that an analysis could reveal some possibilities there.

Bear in mind also that it is increasingly difficult to qualify for employment insurance. These people are doubly penalized, and unnecessarily so. We must ensure that they can regain their dignity and re-enter the labour market without losing what they had because their employers were unable to run their businesses properly.

These are often not very well paid workers. Most of them are plant workers earning between $15,000 and $25,000. And $25,000 a year is often considered good money in some plants.

These are not people who can afford to put money aside in case the company goes bankrupt. It is just not possible. They have to live, they have children, it costs money. Often they do put money aside in a pension fund, but they do not want to use it before the time has come. However, sometimes they have to because they cannot get those two weeks, and quite often it hurts a lot.

I strongly support the bill put forward by my colleague from Churchill. I hope she will find enough support in the House to allow for this modernization. The laws and the Canada Labour Code must be modernized. The legislation dealing with workers must be modernized. We must strive for fairness and also for a balance between employers and employees.

Several years ago I introduced an anti-scab bill at the federal level that will soon come back to the House. We must restore some balance in employer-employee relations, so that negotiations are more peaceful and healthy. My colleague's bill would help lessen employees' stress. Should the company go bankrupt, they would no longer have to worry about what is going to happen to them. They would have some reassurance. I believe that if there is money, they should be the first ones to get it. That way, they would have enough money to survive until their employment insurance benefits kick in. One hopes they would have accumulated enough hours to be eligible.

I will support this motion. I hope other members in this House will do the same. As we know, it would not cost the government anything. It would be the responsibility of the company using the money left after a bankruptcy, the proceeds from the sale of the company.

When motions or bills in favour of workers come to the House, I would like to see my colleagues support them, so that workers in Quebec and Canada are dealt with fairly and appropriately.

I will support the motion, therefore.

Bankruptcy Legislation
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to support Motion No. 400 put forward by the member for Churchill. I want to thank the member for Churchill for her initiative because this really is an excellent motion. It is very straightforward. It states:

That...the government should amend bankruptcy legislation to ensure that wages and pensions owed to employees are the first debts repaid when a bankruptcy occurs.

I say, “Hear, hear”. It is about time.

It is really quite astounding to actually look at the current legislation and see that everybody else lines up ahead of the people who actually put their labour into whatever company or business fails.

First up is the government. The government is the first creditor to be paid, through CPP, income tax and employment insurance.

Next on the list are the secured creditors, of course, which could include institutions such as the banks. Of course the banks will make money off bankruptcy, having carried loans secured by company assets.

Third in the current legislation are the preferred creditors, who are placed on a prioritized list.

Then, of course, the employees are at the end, at number four, behind the legal costs and the levy that goes to the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. This really has to be one of the most unfair provisions. Not only have people lost their jobs, they then get slapped in the face and really stuck with it when a bankruptcy occurs. They do not get anything in terms of wages they might be owed or, most importantly, their pensions.

I think this motion for a change in the bankruptcy legislation is needed today more than ever before. We live in a world of globalized capital, of deregulation and, unfortunately, now a world of privatization. Not a day goes by on which we cannot open a major newspaper and see colossal failures of the bastions of capitalism, whether it is Enron, Air Canada or other major corporations going into a tailspin and going into failure.

In this economic climate, where there is an emphasis on corporate concentration, where the bigger fish eat the smaller fish, where there are buyouts, bankruptcies and all the rest of it, I think we really have to look at the question of who the winners and losers are. And in every single case, the losers are the people who work for those businesses and those corporations.

The Alliance may smirk at that, but it purports to represent those workers and yet it is those workers who are being absolutely skewered by the kind of legislation we have in Canada today, which sees them at the bottom of the line, not the top.

I say hats off to the member for Churchill for identifying this as an issue that needs to be corrected and for having the initiative to bring it forward. It will be beyond me if members of the House cannot find it in themselves to support the motion and to say of course employees should be the people who get their wages and their pensions covered.

We only have to look at what has taken place with Air Canada. When Air Canada filed for bankruptcy, I do not know about anybody else, but I got loads and loads of e-mail from people who were terrified that they were going to lose their pension in Air Canada because they knew what the legislation was and they knew they would be at the end of the line and out of luck.

I even had children of Air Canada retirees writing to me because they were so terrified for their mothers or fathers who had worked for Air Canada for 25 or 30 years, who had paid into their pensions, and who had grown up in the company believing that their pensions were secure. They were terrified that suddenly, through the stroke of a pen and proceedings through the bankruptcy laws and so on, their parents would find that their pensions and sense of security were in jeopardy and were threatened as a result of Air Canada filing for bankruptcy.

Surely that one example alone should serve to remind us that the law on bankruptcy as it currently exists is terribly discriminatory toward workers. It puts them at the end of the line.

A couple of weeks ago in east Vancouver I met a constituent who had gone through the most incredible runaround in trying to collect $4,000 that he was owed by a small company that had gone into bankruptcy. He had gone through employment standards, which in B.C. under Gordon Campbell do not really exist any more; there really is no protection for workers. This guy was a hardworking person. He had helped his employer. He had been a diligent worker. All he wanted was his $4,000. He could not get any help from anyone. It was not available.

What caused most of the distress for this constituent was not so much the $4,000. I think he had kind of given up on that at some point. It was the fact that there was nothing there in a legal framework that could actually protect his interests as a worker.

It demonstrated to me the need to have this motion that is before us today. I note that the Canadian Labour Congress has been advocating a package of measures that would ensure that workers' interests are protected in the event of a bankruptcy or an insolvency. It advocated the idea of a federal wage protection fund.

The member from the Bloc pointed out very eloquently that on every side workers are now completely skewered. Workers are not able to claim for EI, which is money that has actually been paid in. There is no government money in EI; it comes from the employer and the employee. Not only can they not get EI but now there is no protection under the bankruptcy legislation.

A federal wage protection fund that would provide employees with some measure of certainty of payment when they are faced with uncertainty in this world is a very good idea.

There is the idea of pension insurance arrangements. The whole scandal around what is happening to pension funds is something that should be sounding off alarm bells in this place.

Here again under the bankruptcy legislation the current situation would mean that someone who has paid into their pension does not have the most basic protection when it comes to bankruptcy. They do not even have protection for where those pension funds end up or who manages them. The administration of the Canada pension fund has been contracted out by the Liberal government, which is costing us billions of dollars. What a scam that is going on. Yet it is employees who are on the receiving end.

In conclusion, this is a very fine motion. It is so easy to shoot something down and to say it does not do this or it does not do that. The member has worked very hard to give responses to members who have raised questions or issues in the House and she will do so again today.

The basic principle of this motion before us which is to say that workers should come first in terms of the wages and pensions they are owed when a bankruptcy occurs is the correct principle. It is where we should start from. If the motion needs fixing when it is implemented and legislation is changed, there is time enough to do that for sure. Let us vote affirmatively on the principle that is being advanced by the member for Churchill.

I encourage all members of the House to support the motion for the very important principle that it advances. It is worthy of support.