Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-55, an act to establish the wage earner protection program act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Many members have already expressed support for the principles of this bill. In my view this clearly demonstrates the need for this piece of legislation.
Bill C-55 will help thousands of Canadians who must rely on a fair and effective insolvency system to deal with the situation of financial distress.
Stakeholders from a broad spectrum of interests, insolvency professionals in the legal and accounting communities, labour groups, associations of creditors, the business and financial community and consumer groups have been demanding improvements in our insolvency system. Bill C-55 will do just that. It will make our system fairer and more attuned to today's marketplace environment as well as help Canadians to overcome problems associated with bankruptcy. The bill will bring about many important changes.
First, the bill significantly enhances the protection of workers when their employer goes bankrupt or undergoes a restructuring process. The creation of the wage earner protection program act is a major breakthrough. Numerous previous attempts to deal with this issue have been made over the past 25 years and they have all failed.
I firmly believe that the solution proposed in Bill C-55 not only greatly expands the protection to workers, but does so in a balanced and reasonable way that mitigates the adverse impact on credit.
Let us not forget that bankruptcy is always about sharing the burden, because by definition bankruptcy means that there are insufficient assets to pay all the creditors. Bill C-55 ensures that the burden is shared in a fair and equitable manner by taxpayers, lenders and other creditors.
Second, the bill further encourages restructuring as an alternative to bankruptcy. The Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, which governs all major corporate restructuring, has not been substantially modified since it was first enacted in the 1930s. It needs to be modernized to improve the predictability and consistency of the restructuring process.
Many new provisions are proposed in Bill C-55, including the treatment of contract, the provision of interim financing, governance arrangements and transparency and notification procedures. It also introduces clear rules to govern the treatment of collective agreements during a restructuring process, which fully respects labour law principles while recognizing labour costs may need to be dealt with to ensure a successful restructuring.
Third, the bill makes the bankruptcy system fairer while reducing the potential scope for abuse. Many changes proposed in Bill C-55 are directed at redressing inequities. In this regard I want to emphasize the proposal to exempt all RRSPs from seizure in bankruptcy.
Under the current rules, only registered pension plans with employers and some RRSPs held with a life insurance plan are protected. There is no reason for treating retirement savings differently. Bill C-55 will ensure that all Canadians have the same exemption for their retirement savings.
Fourth, the bill contains a number of technical amendments to clarify the law and improve the administration of the insolvency system. Several amendments pertain to clarifying the role and conduct of trustees, receivers, and monitor as well the supervisory functions of the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. While perhaps very technical, these amendments are clearly needed if we want our system to operate efficiently and with fairness.
Bill C-55 is the result of an extensive consultation process. The Senate committee conducted public hearings in 2003 and received more than 40 submissions. Its report contained detailed recommendations for changes to Canada's insolvency laws. In fact, the committee submitted more than 50 specific recommendations and a vast majority have been translated into the provisions of Bill C-55.
It is quite clear that this legislation is of interest to a very large number of Canadians. I am convinced that Bill C-55 deserves the full support of the House. I urge that the bill proceed expeditiously to the committee review stage.