I returned to Ottawa last week for the final stretch of parliamentary sitting days before the summer break period, and what a great week it was. My Private Members’ Bill C-501 came up for its first test in the House of Commons, and I am pleased to report that it passed with flying colours (144-111).
For those who do not know, C-501 could secure the pensions of all Canadians whose employers have undertaken restructuring, entered bankruptcy protection, or have collapsed entirely and had their assets sold off. This bill should ensure that the pensions of over 6 million Canadians will be there when they need them.
This week’s vote at ‘second reading’ for C-501 followed two hours of debate and numerous conversations with other Members of Parliament. After the debate and meetings ended the positions of the other parties became somewhat clearer. The Bloc would support the bill, as would many Liberals, but the Conservatives suggested that most would not be supportive of C-501 moving forward. Many Conservative MPs spoke out in opposition while others raised seemingly small points about the wording of the bill, but the overall message was clear; the Conservatives plan to challenge C-501 at all stages.
Instead of siding with hard-working Canadian men and women who have earned their wages, pensions and a dignified retirement, most of the Conservatives caucus decided to take the side of the ‘vulture capitalists’ who specialize in generating profits from bankrupt companies and shadowy backroom financiers like those who used to work at Lehman Brothers. As it stands now, pension funds are actually behind junk bond traders when it comes to who gets their money back first when a company goes under, and by and large the Conservatives seem to like it that way.
While I have noted that much of the opposition to my bill is coming from the government side, I must take a moment to give some credit to the 12 Conservative MPs who seem to ‘get-it’ when it comes to the need to reform the pension and bankruptcy laws in Canada. Their support was crucial to getting this bill past its first vote, and I will be calling each of them to thank them and find out ways to improve the bill so that all of their Conservative colleagues can feel comfortable in supporting C-501 in committee and voting for it when it returns to the House and Senate later this year.
So where does that leave us? Well, C-501 is now headed to the Industry committee, where there will be some testimony from experts, citizens, and other stakeholders. We will also be making some amendments to the bill to make it easier to support for those skittish Conservative MPs who seem to be misinformed and unaware of why this bill is needed now more than ever.
I hope that the rest of the Conservative caucus in Ottawa will see the light when it comes to pension protection and work with me to make C-501 the law as quickly as possible. As always, I will be sure to keep you informed as our bill moves forward.
Until then, John.
For more information visit www.johnrafferty.ca