House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was seniors.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as NDP MP for Hamilton Mountain (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Proceedings on a Bill entitled An Act to Provide for the Resumption and Continuation of Operations at the Port of Montreal April 28th, 2021

Madam Speaker, it has been brought to my attention that the Minister of Labour is saying that she is hoping that we could come to a resolution. On Sunday the two sides were still negotiating. It has come to my attention that a proposal was sent yesterday that would have put workers back to work immediately. The only party that disagreed was the company.

Why is the minister still pursuing this, knowing that free collective bargaining could still be done? Instead, she has given the weight of the hammer to the company itself, which now knows that it does not have to negotiate any further because the government wants to proceed with this legislation.

Proceedings on a Bill Entitled An Act to Provide for the Resumption and Continuation of Operations at the Port of Montreal April 27th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, the Maritime Employers Association, since the truce agreement has expired, has flexed its muscle and has ensured it has increased the hours of work against the union's rights without having any kind of consultation with them. This is what has provoked the strike. These workers want their bargaining rights. They are saying, and this is from Michael Murray, the CUPE spokesman for 375:

...all it has to do is let up on its pressure tactics and the union will do likewise. No overtime strike. No weekend strike. It’s straightforward. We want to return to the bargaining table.

Why is the minister taking away these people's bargaining rights, ensuring they go to binding arbitrations instead of having fair collective bargaining power?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act April 27th, 2021

Madam Speaker, the Liberals have chosen to continue the trend of putting off climate action and left out any real accountability for the next 10 years. Does the member agree that back-loading climate action is the wrong approach and that accountability should start now, not in 2030?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 26th, 2021

With regard to events hosted by Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Apple that ministers have attended, since November 2015, broken down by each company, year, and department: (a) what is the number of events each minister attended; (b) of the attendance in (a), what were the costs associated with (i) lodging, (ii) food, (iii) any other expenses, including a description of each expense; and (c) what are the details of any meetings the minister and others attended, including (i) the date, (ii) the summary or description, (iii) attendees, (iv) topics discussed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 26th, 2021

With regard to the proposal, as indicated in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, for an additional $606 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, to enable the Canada Revenue Agency to fund new initiatives and extend existing programs aimed at international tax evasion and abusive tax avoidance: (a) what specific modeling was used by the government to support its assertion that these measures to combat international tax evasion and abusive tax avoidance will recover $1.4 billion in revenue over five years; (b) who did the modeling in (a); (c) what were the modeling projections; and (d) does the $1.4 billion estimate come solely from the proposed additional $606 million over five years or does it also come from the 2016 budget commitment of $350 million per year?

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, I rise in the chamber as the NDP critic for pensions on what I believe is one of the most important matters in the pension portfolio before us today. The subject matter of the private member's bill, Bill C-253, regards protections of the employer-sponsored pensions for workers in the case where the employer is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.

I would like to sincerely thank my Bloc colleague for using her spot in the priority list of Private Members' Business to bring forward these measures. As she knows, I feel strongly about the necessity of these protections put forward, so much that my bill, Bill C-259 contains equivalent measures to every article contained in this bill. I would like to let her and the House know that I am calling on all my NDP colleagues to support the bill at second reading and I hope to see it get to committee.

What I would like to talk about in the short amount of time I have is: first, the importance of pensions and the types of pensions we are talking about; second, the current situations by way of the acts of Parliament and some real accounts of the problem at hand when companies go bankrupt; and third, what Bill C-253 does and does not do.

My speech today will be as much for those at home as it is for those present in the chamber. It is important for all Canadians to know clearly what is at stake here in simple terms so they can ensure that their MP is doing the right thing when they cast their vote on this.

Pensions have become so commonplace in society that some may take their existence for granted. While the administration and accounting of the pension plans by those who manage them may be complicated, the concept is pretty simple and makes their importance clear.

During our working years, we put money away in regular amounts so that we can draw on that fund of money in our retirement years in order to live. Canada's government, like many other governments, has a segment of our pension sector which is socialized. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have contributed to the workforce, we pay into the Canada retirement income system that is made up of, among other things, the old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, the Canada pension plan and in Quebec, the Quebec pension plan.

While I go on about the importance of these retirement incomes and the necessity for their reform, this is not the matter of Bill C-253. The bill instead touches on what I call employer-sponsored pensions. Employer-sponsored pensions are those whereby in an agreement there exists an employer's obligation with respect to a pension plan that it sponsors for its employees. The employer agrees to deduct from their wages an agreed amount to remit to the pension plan fund and agrees to also remit an amount of its own, oftentimes equal to the employee's contributions.

This brings me to talk about the defined benefit pension plan versus defined contribution pension plan and it is important that we distinguish these in order to talk about Bill C-253.

With a defined contribution pension plan, the amount of income we receive is not set but rather depends on how much we happen to contribute and in fact, can drastically be reduced depending on how the investments in that fund were managed by the employer.

On the other hand, with the defined benefit pension plan, the amount of income we receive is set and the administrator of the fund is compelled to be responsible in investing our money. In this type of pension, there could be a pension deficit. This is considered unfunded liability.

We can discuss the problem that Bill C-253 proposes to fix, the situation where an employer is facing bankruptcy and who has obligations under an arrangement to provide an employer-sponsored pension plan. The bill proposes to change the existing laws that deal with such a situation. The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, BIA, covers the treatment of a bankrupt employer's obligations with respect to a pension plan and its sponsoring for its employees. The Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, CCAA, provides a restructuring framework for insolvent companies. The BIA and CCAA provide for priority for the employer to pay both. The employer's contribution is deducted at source, but not remitted to the pension plan fund and employees' contributions owed, but are not remitted to the pension plan fund. In fact, under these laws, a court is disallowed from approving a proposal or plan unless these two are paid.

Here comes the problem. Unfunded liabilities like pension deficits in the case of defined benefit plans that are accrued and due to the pension plan's fund on the date of the bankruptcy come after secured creditors. This means that banks, investors and parent companies would be paid before the shortfalls in the pension plan are covered.

Pensions and benefits earned by workers are deferred wages, plain and simple. Denying workers what they have earned should be illegal, yet under these laws, corporations are allowed to take money meant for workers' pensions and divert them to pay off their secured creditors, like banks. Bill C-253 would stop this practice.

In recent years, workers have suffered significant losses to their pension plans in insolvency proceedings under the CCAA.

For example, Sears Canada initiated proceedings June 2017. The pension plan deficit was $206 million, with an expected recovery of only 8% to 10%, and would leave $200 million unrecovered.

Co-op Atlantic initiated proceedings in June 2015. The pension plan deficit was $63 million and only $7.7 million was recovered, leaving $54.3 million unrecovered.

Wabush Mines initiated proceedings in May 2015 and of the $55 million of the pension plan deficit, only $18 million was recovered, leaving $370 million unrecovered.

Nortel Networks Corporation, which we all know very well, initiated proceedings in January 2009 and of the $1.84 billion of the pension plan deficit, only a little over half was recovered, leaving $841million unrecovered.

For those who follow legislation closely, I would like to state, technically, what Bill C-253 would achieve if passed: it will amend the BIA to prohibit a court from approving an employer's proposal for bankruptcy if there are any unfunded liabilities or solvency deficiency in the associated pension plan of workers; it will require that any unfunded liability within the pension plan be paid in order for a court to approve an employer's bankruptcy plan and given them “super priority” status; it will amend the CCAA to require that an insolvent corporation entering into a “compromise”, which reprioritizes the payment of certain debts and liabilities over others, must pay unpaid amounts of any severance pay or compensation in lieu of notice.

There are some protections that Bill C-253 would not provide, and I would like to cover these.

My bill, Bill C-259, includes a provision that would prevent a judge, during a proceeding under the CCAA, from suspending benefits to employees or pensioners during the course of the proceedings. I think this is important and fair.

Another thing that Bill C-253 would not do is something new that I added to my version of the bill in this Parliament. It proposes to change the Pension Benefits Standards Act to allow the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to determine that the funding of a pension plan is underfunded and can order measures to be taken by the employer in order to correct the impairment.

I want to pass on some reflections on some commentary and quotes from the recent past on measures of these bills. For example:

I like the fact that the word “pension” means deferred income. When we go to work, work an eight-hour day or however many hours we put in, a great deal of consideration is given to the benefits that go beyond that hourly, weekly or monthly rate paid to us. A pension is a deferred income.

Who said that? It was the Parliamentary Secretary of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the member for Winnipeg North.

The Liberals campaigned on a promise to improve the income retirement security for all Canadian seniors. It is time for the government to put a stop to this organized theft.

I encourage Canadians watching to call their members of Parliament and ask them to vote in favour of Bill C-253 at second reading and help start the process of ending pension theft by large corporations.

We can also talk about Laurentian University, which is going through the same problem right now. This is devastating. The whole process is being abused and it must be fixed. People's lives are going to be turned upside down on this one. The government must step in and change legislation.

I thank hon. members for their time, and I hope the bill will be given the important consideration that it warrants. I recommend to everybody to send Bill C-253 to committee.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, in 2015, the Liberal government promised the Canadian people that it would change and make sure that their pensions would be protected. In 2019, the Liberal government did make some amendments, but they seemed to be cosmetic.

Does the member agree with me that the changes the Liberals made did not do anything to protect the pensions under CCAA?

Seniors April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, the government finally announced in its budget the help for seniors on old age security that it promised in the election. The problem is that it only applies to some seniors.

The proposal is a one-time payment of $500 in August of 2021 and an increase of 10% to the OAS going forward. The catch is that it is only for those aged 75 or older. There is no real justification for leaving out seniors under age 75.

The Liberals say, “many seniors have faced economic challenges as they took on extra costs to stay safe”, and ”After a lifetime of hard work, they deserve a secure and dignified retirement.”

Could somebody tell me why this does not apply to seniors ages 65 to 74? The government has created an apprenticeship program of “junior seniors” and “senior seniors”. This is ridiculous. The government must cancel this two-tier system and give the increase to all seniors of age 65 and older.

Laurentian University in Sudbury April 14th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate everybody's interventions tonight, but we have to stay on topic. We are talking about a public institution, a university, that is going into bankruptcy protection and trying to survive.

When we look at it, it has nothing to do with the French language or the English language. It is an institution that made some mistakes through its board of directors. The provincial government has cut $360 million from Ontario universities. The federal government has been stagnant with what it usually gives. It has cut, too.

The full-time faculty have declined over a few years, so it is not salary costs. It is some bad decisions that had been made by the board. The university is over-mortgaged, and it has empty buildings sitting there. We have to find a better way for the provincial and federal governments to provide proper funding and make sure that these institutions stay alive. We cannot just concentrate on saying that it is a French school or an English school. This is just the start of it.

The provincial Government of Ontario is taking a very sneaky way of saying to the federal government, “Provide more funding, even though we cut costs, or we are going to privatize the institutions.” Something—

Laurentian University in Sudbury April 14th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay and my colleague from London—Fanshawe for bringing forward this important emergency debate this evening.

Members who have already spoken have made it clear Laurentian University in Sudbury is of importance. I am concerned about a number of aspects about this. There are important protections of the CCAA that provide safeguards other than relief of debts for assets. There are certain protections for pensions of workers in these situations.

I know some of these protections do not go far enough. In fact, I have a bill before Parliament that would expand those protections. We need a comprehensive solution that maintains some of the protections for workers that exist with the CCAA.

With that being said, I do fear invoking the CCAA in this way for a public university might be a sneaky way to privatize it. If this were done by the board or the administration of the university, I wonder if the province should not have had the opportunity to step in here and protect the state of the university, including ensuring it remains a public university. I wonder if the member would like to speak to some of those points.