Carole Freeman's Response: An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

Editor’s Note: Since the Nortel pensioners’ plight has been brought to light there has been a public outcry calling for reform of the Banking Insolvency Act. Many feel that pensioners should not be last in the line of creditors when it comes to claiming the pension earnings they were promised. The bill was renamed C-501, it is likely to be debated before the end of this session of Parliament.

We asked the original sponsor, NDP MP Wayne Marston for a primer on his bill and we asked all the Federal Parties for their position on the bill. At press time we received an answer from Judy Sgro (Liberal) and Carole Freeman (Bloc Quebecois)- posted below. In the Finance Subcommittee on Thursday, Liberal Finance Critic John McCallum also indicated his support for the intent of the bill. We will keep you updated on this story as it unfolds.

The following is a rough translation of the reply that was sent to us the Bloc Quebecois, the original French response follows the translation.

Bill C-476 was tabled by the NDP in 2009 but it disappeared from the order paper because of prorogation.

We are waiting for it to be reintroduced in the house. The Bloc proposes the same course of action because it shares, amongst other things, the concerns of retired Nortel workers regarding the future of their pension funds following the acquisition of the company’s wireless unit by the Swedish giant Ericsson. That is why we insisted that the transaction should not adversely affect workers and retirees as soon as it was announced.

Parlimentarians gathered at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on August 7th 2009 to assess the economic impact that this transation would have in Quebec and in Canada. During this meeting, the leaders assured us the company would honour its commitments to investment and employment. Unfortunately, following a refusal by both the Conservative and Liberal Members, the Committee did not hold an additional session to hear the concerns of Nortel workers and retirees. In Fact, the Bloc Quebecois thought it was legitimate for workers and retirees to have the opportunity to express their point of view, their questions and their concerns with regards to this transaction.

Consequently, this combined refusal by Conservatives and Liberals prevented retirees from testifying before elected officials. In an attempt to correct this unacceptable situation, the Bloc Quebecois’ spokesman for industry, small business and tourism sent Minister Tony Clement a letter urging him to organize a meeting with the Bloc, its representatives and Nortel retirees to discuss the issue of pensions. We look forward to future developments.

Furthermore, the Bloc Quebecois has recently appointed a spokesperson for this issue which we consider is an important one. We have appointed Mr Luc Desnoyers who is the Member for Rivière-des-Milles-Îles. Mr. Desnoyers is already the labour critic and has many years experience in this area. I would recommend you speak with Mr. Desnoyers as well as the Member for Hochalaga, Mr. Daniel Paillé, who is the Bloc’s Finance critic.