Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak to Bill C-405 at this stage. It was introduced by my colleague, the member for Durham, as distinguished an MP as ever there was, who had a brilliant career as a military officer. Before being elected by the people of Durham and serving as a minister of the crown in the Harper government, he was also a corporate litigator, so he knows this issue inside out and knows the concerns of businesses, suppliers and employees.
As a result, we believe Bill C-405 strikes a balance between all parties—the business, its employees and its suppliers—when a business, unfortunately, goes bankrupt.
Let me say that our thoughts are with all those who worked very hard for their company over the years and who were left in the lurch when their employer went belly up.
In my riding, there are people who worked for Sears and other companies. I cannot say his name since I was not able to obtain permission ahead of time, but I want to acknowledge an outstanding volunteer in my riding who is involved in charitable activities. He works a lot with the Montcalm Knights of Columbus in Loretteville. I want to acknowledge him because he has brought up the the Sears situation often enough with me. I think of him when I rise in the House to talk about this subject.
As I said earlier, when it comes to pension funds, we need to find a fair balance between the workers—who are the first to be affected by a bankruptcy—and the other parties involved. This includes the company itself, which never wants to go bankrupt, unless it is run by scoundrels or boors, and the suppliers, who put their trust in the company and the owners, and who also end up high and dry when their partners unfortunately go bankrupt.
In our minds, Bill C-405 gives business owners the flexibility they need to avoid bankruptcy, and it gives employees the chance to come out on top. In addition, the bill would prevent partner companies, like the suppliers of the company affected, from having to pay the price for the mismanagement, tough breaks, or problems that led the company to bankruptcy.
This bill will give company managers more flexibility. However, the bill requires these managers to be more transparent about how they had been managing the company, especially with respect to the pension fund. This bill also provides for safeguards to prevent company administrators from playing around with the workers' pension fund.
Because it strikes that balance, we believe that this bill deserves to be appreciated and passed. It offers a solution to this very serious problem. Ultimately, we hope that all companies can avoid bankruptcy. However, it does happen that businesses go bankrupt and have no other choice but to make necessary but unfortunate decisions. Most importantly, this bill gives businesses the flexibility they need to take a step back before getting back into business in a more positive and constructive way.
Once a company goes bankrupt, it is hard to go back. As the perhaps somewhat overused saying goes, “you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube”. Once a company goes bankrupt, it has to live with the consequences, so it is important to prevent that from happening.
In general, what can be done to prevent a company from going bankrupt? First, it requires sound management. Second, the government needs to stop increasing the tax burden on businesses. This may not be the main topic of my speech, but it is important to remember that imposing a Liberal carbon tax will not do anything to help our businesses prosper.
Maintaining or adding more taxes, as the Liberals have been doing for the past three years, will not help either, nor will mounting frontal attacks, as the government did when it had the Minister of Finance table the proposed tax changes for small and medium-sized businesses on July 18, 2017, in which the government treated business owners as potential fraudsters who were abusing the system. As someone already said outside the House, not all small business owners behave the way the Prime Minister does in his business dealings, quite the contrary.
That is why we need to do everything we can to prevent companies from going bankrupt. The best way for the government to do that is by reducing red tape, by offering more flexibility for financial transactions, and most importantly, by not creating any new taxes as the government has done.
I am pleased to close by saying that, for us, this bill is a step in the right direction to solve the problem facing pensioners in bankruptcy proceedings. It is about having the option to prioritize the status of pensioners when companies are dealing with bankruptcy. As we know, pensioners currently rank in sixth place when a bankruptcy is being finalized. Perhaps we could increase the margin. I have spoken with unions, union members and bankruptcy trustees about this. They all say that, generally speaking, if that is done at the very beginning, it could create more problems, because it will hamper the company's access to financing and greater flexibility in an effort to possibly avoid the bankruptcy. No one wants that.
Giving employees super priority is more likely to create problems in the medium and long term than provide any short-term solutions and could have critical repercussions. That is why we think Bill C-405, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act with regard to pension plans, introduced by my colleague from Durham, deserves the support of all members of the House.