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Saving C-501

With some heavy amendments, a local MP’s bankruptcy reform bill is on its way to third reading with early indications that it has all-party support.
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MP John Rafferty (NDP, Thunder Bay - Rainy River). (Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com)
With some heavy amendments, a local MP’s bankruptcy reform bill is on its way to third reading with early indications that it has all-party support.

MP John Rafferty (NDP, Thunder Bay-Rainy River) said Bill C-501 came out of the Industry Committee without any reference to pension reform. But there is a silver lining, Rafferty said. Termination and severance protection remained.  

And if early indications are correct, Rafferty said this will mean that while pensions won’t jump ahead of secured creditors during a bankruptcy, at least workers in Canada will get some protection. Rafferty added that former employees at Buchanan Forest Products would have received the millions in severance they are owed if the bill were already law.

"There are workers who are ending their employment because of bankruptcy and not getting any severance, not getting any termination," Rafferty said. "My bill would guarantee that workers would receive their severance and their termination before anybody else. Before the banks before any other secured creditors"

Rafferty said he’ll be reintroducing a new bill as soon as possible specifically for pension reform.

"It’ll be a small step and a first step but we’ll make the other steps right after," Rafferty said.

The Bloc Quebecois and Conservatives joined together to trip Bill C-501 of mentioning pensions. Rafferty said Conservatives have always said that part of the bill would put banks and investors at too great of a risk. As for the BQ’s reasons, the Thunder Bay area MP said he could only speculate.

"The only thing that I can think happened is that they were lobbied very, very heavily by industry," he said.

But Rafferty said removing that part of the bill now means the amended C-501 will likely go through.

"(No severance or termination protection) is patently unfair and everyone on that committee realizes it," said Rafferty. "I think there’s a real will among the parties to go ahead with severance and termination protection."
The real issue now is time.

Some national media have speculated that a federal election could be coming as soon as May 2 if the government’s budget isn’t passed. Rafferty’s bill is already slated to go before the House, but a snap election could dissolve Parliament before that happens.

Because of that, Rafferty wants to make a trade with a fellow NDP’s bill so he can get C-501 through the House and to the senate, where the bill could be passed in a day if it has all-party support, earlier.

"I’m hoping long in advance of the budget we’ll have our third reading vote and get it off to the Senate," Rafferty said.

Despite the election saber rattling, Rafferty said he doesn’t believe people in this riding really want another election after just two-and-half-years. Nothing would change and another minority government would be the only result, he said.

"And then you’ve spent $350 million for nothing.”

Still a lot can happen between now and the budget, the MP admitted.

"I certainly hope that if we do have an election however that we end up with a progressive government," he said.