Mr. Speaker, today I welcome the opportunity to address the question of the hon. member for Montcalm.
It is understandable that hard-working Canadians want their pensions to be protected. That is why our government has taken broad-based action to ensure that these benefits are protected and continue to be protected.
Our government understands the challenges that an employer's restructuring or insolvency can cause for employees and pensioners. The government has taken several steps to better protect Canadian workers when their employers become insolvent.
We have acted to improve the solvency of pension plans and the security of retirement income for Canadians, while avoiding measures that would have negative consequences for the Canadian economy and our shared prosperity.
For example, in July 2008 we introduced the wage earner protection program to guarantee that Canadian workers receive their unpaid wages of up to $3,400 in a receivership or a bankruptcy. We then took additional steps to expand the wage earner protection program to include severance and termination pay.
It is also important to mention that, in July 2010 and in April 2011, our government implemented important pension reforms to strengthen the federal private pension framework in order to benefit pension plan sponsors, plan members, and retirees.
These reforms have enhanced protections for pension plan members, reduced funding volatility for defined benefit pension plans, made it easier for participants to negotiate changes to pension arrangements, improved the framework for defined contribution plans and for negotiated contribution plans, and modernized the rules for pension fund investments.
Our government has also amended Canadian insolvency law to protect hard-working Canadians. Our reforms ensure that insolvent employers pay outstanding pension contributions to their employees' pension plans ahead of the claims of secured and unsecured creditors.
In addition, our government has undertaken a very serious and public discussion with Canadians on their retirement income, now and in the future.
Recognizing that retirement income issues have federal, provincial, and territorial dimensions, finance ministers set up a joint federal-provincial working group to conduct an in-depth examination of retirement income adequacy. Based on the working group's findings, it was agreed at all levels to proceed with analysis of options to improve Canada's retirement income system.
In December 2010, Canada's finance ministers agreed on a framework for defined contribution pooled registered pension plans. These plans will provide a new, accessible, large-scale, and low-cost pension option for employers, employees, and the self-employed.
Pooled registered pension plans are now available to employees in federally regulated industries as well as residents of the territories.
This is an important step forward in helping Canadians prepare for retirement. Pooled registered pension plans will allow many small business owners and their employees to have access to such a plan for the very first time. They establish a large-scale, broad-based, voluntary pension arrangement available to employees, including the self-employed.
Canadian pensioners have worked hard to build this country, raise their children, and prepare for their retirement. As a result of our government's actions, pensioners will have more choice and flexibility in regard to life, work, and retirement.