Canada: Indalex Two Years Later: Underfunded Pension Liabilities In The Financing Context

Last Updated: January 5 2015
Article by James J. Shanks

It's been almost two years since the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision in Indalex Ltd., Re.1 Currently, Canada's lower courts are being challenged to interpret the decision in a variety of different contexts. The purpose of this article is to review the Indalex decision within the broader context of pre- and post-Indalex case law and to briefly comment on its impact in the lending marketplace. 

1. Regular payments vs. special payments

Under typical pension benefits legislation, an employer with a defined benefit pension plan will ordinarily be required to make regular payments of the following amounts into the plan: (i) pension amounts deducted from employee wages, and (ii) normal cost contributions, i.e., the cost of plan benefits that accrue during the current plan year.2 If the plan experiences an underfunding of some sort, special payments may also be required.3 Special payments can include additional amounts payable as a result of a plan wind-up.4 

2. Deemed trusts under provincial pension benefits legislation

Under Ontario's pension benefits legislation, the Pension Benefits Act (Ontario) (the "PBA"), an employer is deemed to hold in trust for its employees, pension monies deducted from employee wages until such monies are paid by the employer into the plan.5 The employer is likewise deemed to hold in trust for plan beneficiaries, an amount equal to those employer contributions due but not yet paid into the plan. Such contributions include those contributions accrued to the date of a plan wind-up which are not yet due under the plan.6 As security for the employer's obligations, the pension plan administrator is given a lien and charge over all of the employer's assets in an amount equal to the amounts deemed to be held in trust.7  Finally, by virtue of Section 30(7) of the Personal Property Security Act (Ontario) (the "PPSA"), any security interest created in the employer's accounts or inventory is subordinated to the interest of a person who is a beneficiary of a PBA deemed trust.  This combination of deemed trusts, administrator lien and PPSA priority is intended to provide some assurance that employers will fulfil their pension obligations.

Prior to the SCC decision in Indalex, there had been some doubt as to whether the PBA's deemed trust provisions covered an employer's special payment obligations in relation to a terminated plan.  In a narrow 4-3 decision, the SCC settled the issue, holding that the PBA's deemed trust provisions do in fact cover special payment obligations relating to a wind-up deficiency in respect of a terminated pension plan.  On the other hand, the provisions do not cover special payment obligations associated with a plan deficiency where termination of the pension plan has not yet occurred.8 The expansion of the PBA deemed trust to include wind-up deficiencies associated with terminated pension plans significantly expanded the potential priority accorded to plan beneficiaries under Section 30(7) of the PPSA, ultimately casting a pall on many subsequent attempts to refinance employers with potentially large wind-up deficiencies.  

3. The application of federal laws on debtor insolvency

The mere existence of a deemed trust under provincial law is by no means fully determinative of the priority issues that may arise between plan beneficiaries, on the one hand, and the employer's secured lenders, on the other. Since most priority disputes arise in the context of an employer's insolvency, federal insolvency laws must also be taken into account. The key federal laws to be considered, of course, are the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (Canada) (the "BIA"), which applies on the employer's bankruptcy, and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (Canada) (the "CCAA"), which is invoked prior to bankruptcy to reorganize the employer's affairs. 

Generally speaking, in any dispute involving a conflict between a valid federal law and a valid provincial law which otherwise occupies the same legislative field, the federal law will be given precedence by virtue of the doctrine of federal paramountcy.9 Specifically in the field of bankruptcy, since the BIA creates a complete code of priority which otherwise occupies the legislative field, its priority provisions (namely those contained in Section 136 and various related provisions) typically trump any direct or indirect attempt under provincial legislation to alter this priority. That being so, provincial deemed trusts, unregistered provincial liens and other provincial claims which purport to confer a priority inconsistent with the priority provisions of the BIA are usually considered attempts to alter the BIA's priority scheme and will be rendered inoperative on the employer's bankruptcy.10 This result has now been codified in the BIA for deemed trusts and other claims, at least insofar as those granted in favour of the federal or provincial Crown are concerned.11

By contrast, the CCAA does not establish a complete code of priority between creditors or otherwise provide for a scheme of distribution.12 This is a vital distinction in terms of the legal analysis, as the Indalex decision serves to illustrate. While, as a result, the paramountcy doctrine plays a less prominent role under the CCAA, the doctrine nevertheless remains relevant, again as the Indalex case serves to illustrate.

4. Super-priority charge to secure regular payments in bankruptcy

On the bankruptcy of an employer, section 81.5 of the BIA creates a super-priority charge over the employer's assets to secure the payment of the employer's regular payment obligations, i.e., unremitted employee pension deductions and unpaid normal cost contributions. Importantly, this charge does not cover special payments. Just as importantly, this charge prevails over pre-existing security given by the bankrupt employer to its secured lenders. 

5. The relegation of deemed trust claims and certain statutory liens on bankruptcy

Because most deemed trusts and unregistered statutory liens in favour of the Crown will effectively be disregarded under the BIA13 and most provincial deemed trusts and unregistered statutory liens in favour of non-Crown third parties will typically be considered inoperative on bankruptcy by virtue of the paramountcy doctrine, the underlying claims of creditors reliant on such claims will typically be considered unsecured claims in the context of an employer's bankruptcy.  In the same way, the deemed trust claims of pension plan beneficiaries (and the supporting lien claims of plan administrators) for unremitted or unpaid pension amounts will effectively be relegated to unsecured status on the employer's bankruptcy, subject to Section 81.5 of the BIA.14 A corollary of this of course is that secured lenders can avoid the security aspects of such Crown and non-Crown deemed trust and other claims simply by petitioning the insolvent employer into bankruptcy. Indeed, prior to the SCC decision in Indalex, Canadian courts routinely permitted secured lenders to petition an employer into bankruptcy in order to relegate such claims to unsecured status on bankruptcy.15 Notably, nothing in the SCC decision in Indalex appears to have explicitly altered this pre-Indalex case law. 

Of course, ongoing CCAA proceedings impose a stay on a secured lender's ability to petition an insolvent  employer into bankruptcy. Nevertheless, at the appropriate time  ̶  for example, if all hope for a plan of compromise or arrangement vanishes or if the assets of the debtor have been disposed of  ̶  Canadian courts have usually been prepared to allow a secured lender to bring an application to lift the CCAA stay and to allow a bankruptcy petition to proceed, including for the express purpose of relegating possible deemed trust and other provincial claims to unsecured status.  Again, nothing in the SCC decision in Indalex appears to have explicitly altered this pre-Indalex case law.16

6. Competing priority arguments pre-bankruptcy

Prior to Indalex, the status of provincial deemed trusts, unregistered statutory liens and similar claims in favour of non-Crown third parties had been significantly less clear under the CCAA. Since the insolvent employer's bankruptcy had not yet occurred, the BIA could not be relied upon to relegate such claims to unsecured status. Furthermore, because the CCAA does not contain its own complete code of priority and does not otherwise occupy the same legislative field as the competing provincial law, there seemed no reason to invoke the paramountcy doctrine so as to render the underlying provincial legislation (and therefore the corresponding deemed trust and other claims) ineffective in the CCAA context. 

Proponents of claim relegation argued that such claims should be treated as unsecured claims in CCAA proceedings in the same way that they were treated in bankruptcy. Doing so, they argued, would ensure consistency of treatment between the two federal insolvency statutes and would remove any incentive a secured lender might otherwise have to seek the employer's premature bankruptcy. In fact, consistency of treatment between the two federal insolvency statutes had already been promoted by the SCC as a desirable objective just two years earlier in Ted Leroy Trucking Ltd.17

Opponents of claim relegation, on the other hand, argued that the differences between the two federal statutes were such that consistency of treatment was not always warranted. That being the case, non-Crown third party deemed trusts, unregistered statutory liens and similar claims should remain effective in CCAA proceedings. And, in Ontario at least, Section 30(7) of the PPSA should remain operative so as to confer priority upon pension plan beneficiaries (over the security interests of other creditors) in the insolvent employer's accounts and inventory. Absent the employer's bankruptcy, there was simply no reason for such non-Crown third party claims to give way in a CCAA proceeding. These were the arguments that existed immediately before the SCC decision in Indalex.

7. The SCC decision in Indalex

As is well known, the contest in Indalex was between the deemed trust claims (and related statutory lien and priority claims) of pension plan beneficiaries, on the one hand, and the secured claims of a debtor-in-possession (DIP) lender, on the other. One pension plan had already been terminated, resulting in a large wind-up deficiency, while the other plan remained alive. All of the employer's assets had been sold during the pendency of the CCAA proceedings, leaving a pool of cash awaiting distribution amongst the employer's creditors. Importantly, the employer had not yet been petitioned into bankruptcy. 

Subsequent holders of the DIP lender's claims brought an application to lift the CCAA stay and to petition the employer into bankruptcy. The beneficiaries resisted, arguing that the paramountcy doctrine should not apply in the CCAA context and that claim relegation should not otherwise occur prior to bankruptcy. The pension plan beneficiaries claimed priority in the CCAA proceedings, including by reason of Section 30(7) of the PPSA.18 Rejecting the beneficiaries' arguments, the SCC held that, even though the employer had not yet been petitioned into bankruptcy, the new DIP security had priority by virtue of the paramountcy doctrine.19

8. Elements of the decision

The essential determinations in Indalex were as follows: (a) that the PBA deemed trust covers special payments due in connection with a wind-up deficiency, (b) that the PBA deemed trust does not cover special payments potentially due in connection with a wind-up deficiency where the plan has not yet been terminated, (c) that consistency of treatment between the BIA and the CCAA is not always requisite, and therefore provincial non-Crown third party deemed trust and lien claims are not automatically relegated to unsecured status in the context of pre-bankruptcy CCAA proceedings, and (d) that a DIP lender's secured claims have priority over provincial non-Crown third party deemed trust and lien claims in the pre-bankruptcy CCAA context by virtue of the paramountcy doctrine. 

Furthermore, based on important dicta in Indalex, it now seems that, at least in those provinces where provincial legislation confers express priority in certain asset classes in favour of the deemed trust and statutory lien claims of pension plan beneficiaries over non-DIP secured lenders, that this priority will now persist during the pendency of on-going CCAA proceedings. Specifically, in this regard, Justice Deschamps, writing for the majority in Indalex, wrote:

"[51]   In order to avoid a race to liquidation under the BIA, courts will favour an interpretation of the CCAA that affords creditors analogous entitlements [i.e., consistency of treatment between the CCAA and the BIA will generally be preferred].  Yet this does not mean that courts may read bankruptcy priorities into the CCAA at will.Provincial legislation defines the priorities to which creditors are entitled until that legislation is ousted by Parliament [i.e., until the full BIA code of priority is invoked on bankruptcy].  Parliament did not expressly apply all bankruptcy priorities either to CCAA proceedings or to proposals under the BIA.  Although the creditors of a corporation that is attempting to reorganize may bargain in the shadow of their bankruptcy entitlements, those entitlements remain only shadows until bankruptcy occurs.

[52]  ... The provincial deemed trust .... continues to apply in CCAA proceedings, subject to the doctrine of federal paramountcy  ...  The Court of Appeal therefore did not err in finding that at the end of a CCAA liquidation proceeding, priorities may be determined by the PPSA's scheme rather than the federal scheme set out in the BIA." (emphasis and notes in square brackets added by the author)

This being the case, in Ontario at least, Section 30(7) of the PPSA would confer priority in favour of plan beneficiaries over the claims of non-DIP secured lenders in an employer's accounts and inventory during the pendency of on-going CCAA proceedings.  Furthermore, and more problematically for the market, this priority now includes wind-up deficiencies associated with pension plans that have been terminated prior to the commencement of CCAA proceedings.20

9. Lifting the stay; getting to bankruptcy

As noted above, prior to Indalex, secured lenders were generally able to bring an application to lift a CCAA stay once a CCAA proceeding had run its course in order to petition an insolvent employer into bankruptcy, and thereby relegate provincial non-Crown third party deemed trust, lien and other claims to unsecured status.21 Indeed, such applications could even be brought near the end of an ongoing CCAA process. As noted above, nothing in the Indalex decision appears to explicitly alter this earlier case law.  In fact, in a post-Indalex decision, Justice Campbell in Grant Forest Products22 lifted a CCAA stay pursuant to an application brought by a non-DIP secured lender, thereby permitting the insolvent employer to be petitioned into bankruptcy and relegating the claims of pension plan beneficiaries to unsecured status.23

Accordingly, one key factor for secured lenders to consider, in assessing the "additional risk" posed by the newly expanded, pre-bankruptcy priority recognized in Indalex, is the likelihood that they will still be able to defeat the new priority by lifting the CCAA stay and petitioning the insolvent employer into bankruptcy. While this might seem a little like pulling the rug out from under the feet of plan beneficiaries, the transitional, and sometimes transient, nature of certain CCAA entitlements is already well understood. In fact, just two years earlier, Justice Deschamps, writing for a much stronger 8-1 majority in Ted Leroy Trucking Ltd., explained as much:

"[14]  ... Unlike the BIA, the CCAA contains no provisions for liquidation of a debtor's assets if reorganization fails.There are three ways of exiting CCAA proceedings.  The best outcome is achieved when the stay of proceedings provides the debtor with some breathing space during which solvency is restored and the CCAA process terminates without reorganization being needed. The second most desirable outcome occurs when the debtor's compromise or arrangement is accepted by its creditors and the reorganized company emerges from the CCAA proceedings as a going concern.  Lastly, if the compromise or arrangement fails, either the company or its creditors usually seek to have the debtor's assets liquidated under the applicable provisions of the BIA or to place the debtor into receivership.

[23]  ...  Because the CCAA is silent about what happens if reorganization fails, the BIA scheme of liquidation and distribution necessarily supplies the backdrop for what will happen if a CCAA reorganization is ultimately unsuccessful.

[80]  ...  the comprehensive and exhaustive mechanism under the BIA must control the distribution of the debtor's assets once liquidation is inevitable.  Indeed, an orderly transition to liquidation is mandatory under the BIA where a proposal is rejected by creditors.  The CCAA is silent on the transition into liquidation but the breadth of the court's discretion under the Act is sufficient to construct a bridge to liquidation under the BIA.  The court must do so in a manner that does not subvert the scheme of distribution under the BIA. Transition to liquidation requires partially lifting the CCAA stay to commence proceedings under the BIA.  This necessary partial lifting of the stay should not trigger a race to the courthouse in an effort to obtain priority unavailable under the BIA."  (emphasis added by the author)

In furtherance of this and similar judgments, Justice Campbell subsequently confirmed in Grant Forest Products (i.e., a post-Indalex case), at paragraph 121, that " in the absence of provisions in a Plan under the CCAA or a specific court order, any creditor is at liberty to request that the CCAA proceedings be terminated,if that creditor's position may be better advanced under the BIA" (emphasis added).

Indeed, if the SCC is to weave a consistent and coherent approach to the law here, based on its twin decisions in Indalex and Ted Leroy Trucking Ltd., then the essence of both SCC decisions must surely be: that all other things being equal, secured lenders will remain just as able to petition an insolvent employer into bankruptcy post-Indalex as they could pre-Indalex. Indeed, in this respect, Justice Deschamps, also in Ted Leroy Trucking Ltd., and referring approvingly of an earlier decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Ivaco, intimated as much:

"[78]  Tysoe J.A. [of the B.C. Court of Appeal in Ted Leroy Trucking Ltd.] therefore erred in my view by treating the CCAA and the BIA as distinct regimes subject to a temporal gap between the two, rather than as forming part of an integrated body of insolvency law.  Parliament's decision to maintain two statutory schemes for reorganization, the BIA and the CCAA, reflects the reality that reorganizations of differing complexity require different legal mechanisms.  By contrast, only one statutory scheme has been found to be needed to liquidate a bankrupt debtor's estate.  The transition from the CCAA to the BIA may require the partial lifting of a stay of proceedings under the CCAA to allow commencement of the BIA proceedings.  However, as Laskin J.A. for the Ontario Court of Appeal noted [in the Ivaco case24] in a similar competition between secured creditors and the Ontario Superintendent of Financial Services seeking to enforce a [pension beneficiary] deemed trust, "[t]he two statutes are related" and no "gap" exists between the two statutes which would allow the enforcement of property interests at the conclusion of CCAA proceedings that would be lost in bankruptcy." (emphasis and notes in square brackets added by the author)

Both the Ivaco and Grant Forest Products cases of course involved failed attempts by plan beneficiaries to resist the partial lifting of a CCAA stay.25

In truth, it would go a long way towards alleviating some of the business and legal uncertainty currently in the marketplace, if the SCC were to simply confirm that its decision in Indalex was not intended in any way to alter previously understood case law concerning the lifting of CCAA stays of proceedings, notwithstanding the expansion of the deemed trust that has been effected.

10. Conclusion

The unfortunate consequence of the newly expanded deemed trust in Indalex has been to make it much more difficult for companies with potentially large wind-up deficiencies to secure financing and to increase the cost of financing that is otherwise available, all very much to the detriment of such companies and their stakeholders. In particular, for mature companies in sunset industries with potentially large wind-up deficiencies, it may be that the potential loan loss provisioning and treatment that could arise on loan default due to the newly-expanded priority claim recognized in Indalex, will prove so undesirable that otherwise willing lenders that would have extended financing to such companies pre-Indalex will now no longer consider extending financing, even if the SCC were to eventually confirm that the newly-expanded priority claim can later be avoided upon bankruptcy.

For those secured lenders choosing to move forward, arguably secured lenders and pension beneficiaries are likely to remain cooperative in any subsequent CCAA process, since by doing so, plan beneficiaries in particular are likely to maximize the chances of resurrecting the employer's business and effecting a  resumption of special payments to the pension plan. Moreover, post-Indalex case law suggests that plan beneficiaries will likely not be able to use their new pre-bankruptcy CCAA entitlement to resist the initial imposition of a stay of proceedings or the suspension of special payments during the pendency of ongoing CCAA proceedings, in either case so as to facilitate a DIP financing for the insolvent employer.26

Two years since the Indalex decision is but a small snippet of time. It promises to be more interesting to watch the on-going development of post-Indalex case law over the longer term.  


1 Indalex Ltd., Re, 2013 SCC 6.

2 See, for example in Ontario, Sections 55(2) and (3) of the PBA and Section 4(2) of the General Regulation under the Pension Benefits Act ("PBA"), R.R.O., Reg. 909.

3 See for example Sections 4(2) and 5(1) of the PBA General Regulation, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 909, as amended.

4 See for example Section 31 of the PBA General Regulation, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 909, as amended,.

5 PBA, Section 57(1).

6 PBA, Sections 57(3) and (4).

7 PBA, Section 57(5).

8 In a decision decided subsequent to Indalex, the Ontario Superior Court in Grant Forest Products Inc., (2013) 6 C.B.R. (6th) 1, 2013 CarswellOnt 14057 (Ont. S.C.J.) held that the PBA's deemed trust provisions do not cover a wind-up deficiency associated with a plan that has not been terminated by the commencement of CCAA proceedings.  In this case, the second lien creditor was permitted to petition the debtor into bankruptcy against the wishes of pension plan beneficiaries who opposed the petition.  The Court suggested that even if plan termination is imminent or inevitable, the wind-up must occur prior to the commencement of CCAA proceedings for the PBA deemed trust provisions to apply to the potential wind-up deficiency. 

9 For a more detailed explanation of the paramountcy doctrine, see Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. v. Saskatchewan, [2005] 1 S.C.R. 188, Nortel Networks Corp., Re, 2009 ONCA 833 (Ont. C.A.) and Moore, Re  2013 ONCA 769 (Ont. C.A.).

10 See generally Husky Oil Operations Ltd. v. Minister of National Revenue [1995] 3 S.C.R. 453; and the SCC's "bankruptcy quartet" of cases:  Rainville  v. Québec (Sous-ministre du Revenu), [1980] 1 S.C.R. 35; Deloitte, Haskins & Sells Ltd. v. Alberta (Workers' Compensation Board), [1985] 1 S.C.R. 785 (S.C.C.); Québec (Commission de la santé & de la sécurité du travail)  v. Banque fédérale de développement, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 1061 (S.C.C.); and British Columbia v. Henfrey Samson Belair Ltd., [1989] 2 S.C.R. 24.  See also British Columbia (Workers' Compensation Board) v. Kinross Mortgage Corporation, 1981 CarswellBC 506 (B.C. C.A.).  While a great preponderance of the case law focuses on statutory deemed trusts and other claims in favour of the Crown, there is little doubt that the principles set out in this case law also extend to statutory deemed trusts and other claims created under provincial law in favour of non-Crown third parties.  See, for example, in the area of pension law:  Ivaco Inc., Re (2006) 83 O.R. (3d) 108 (Ont. C.A); Continental Casualty Co. v. MacLeod-Stedman Inc. (1996) 43 C.B.R. (3d) 211 (Man. C.A.); and General Chemical Canada Ltd., Re, 2007 ONCA 600, 2007 CarswellOnt 5497 (Ont. C.A.), including the lower court decision at (2006) 22 C.B.R. (5th) 298, 2006 CarswellOnt 4675 (Ont. S.C.J.)(leave to appeal to the SCC refused at 2008 CarswellOnt 879 (SCC)).  See also G.E. Canada Equipment Financing G.P. v. Northern Sawills Inc., 2012 ONSC 6664 (Ont. S. C. J.) and Pinestone Resort & Conference Centre Inc., Re (1999) 43 O.R. (3d) 594 (Ont.C.A.)

11 See Sections 67(2) and (3) of the BIA in relation to deemed trusts created in favour of the federal and provincial Crown and Sections 86 and 87 of the BIA in relation to statutory lien and other claims created in favour of the federal and provincial Crown. 

12 Sections 37(1) and (2) of the CCAA do however contain the substantive equivalent of Sections 67(2) and (3) of the BIA (in relation to deemed trusts created in favour of the federal and provincial Crown) and Sections 38 and 39 of the CCAA contain the substantive equivalent of Sections 86 and 87 of the BIA (in relation to statutory lien and other claims created in favour of the federal and provincial Crown).

13 See the relevant statutory provisions in Note 11.  If, however, the deemed trust claim also satisfies the three traditional tests necessary for the creation of a true trust at common law, namely (i) certainty of intention, (ii) certainty of subject matter, and (iii) certainty of object, then priority may be available under Section 67(1) of the BIA.  Most deemed trust claims however fail the second test because the underlying funds are not held separate and apart from the insolvent employer's other funds.  See, for example, GMAC Commercial Credit Corp. - Canada v. TCT Logistics Inc. [2005] O.J. No. 589 (Ont. C.A.);I.B.L. Industries Ltd., Re, 1991 CarswellOnt 180 (Ont. C.J); Graphicshoppe Ltd., Re, 2005 CarswellOnt 7008 (Ont.C.A.); and the Henfrey case at Note 10 above.

14 See, for example, Ivaco Inc., Re, Continental Casualty Co., General Chemical Canada Ltd., Re and Northern Sawills Inc. at Note 10 above.

15 See Ivaco Inc., Re.

16 While Justice Deschamps in Indalex stated that "courts are not entitled to read bankruptcy priorities into the CCAA at will" (at para. 51), meaning that different priorities can conceivably exist pre-bankruptcy as opposed to post-bankruptcy, Justice Deschamps did not in any way suggest that the existing rules for transitioning an insolvent company from CCAA proceedings to a BIA process were in any way being altered.  Notably, the three judge minority in Indalex was prepared to lift the CCAA stay and to allow the bankruptcy petition to proceed. 

17 [2010] 3 SCR 379.

18 The plan beneficiaries also relied on constructive trust arguments to claim priority.

19 Because priority was granted in favour of the DIP lender's claims by virtue of the paramountcy doctrine, it was not strictly necessary for the SCC majority to deal with the DIP lender's application to lift the CCAA stay of proceedings.  Cromwell J., writing for the three judge minority, did however specifically deal with the issue and would have permitted the CCAA stay of proceedings to be lifted and the bankruptcy petition to proceed. See paragraph 220 of the decision.

20 The same result will not necessarily apply in all provinces (a) because provincial pension legislation may differ from the PBA in that the deemed trust created under such legislation may not expressly or otherwise cover a wind-up deficiency, or (b) because not all provinces may have the equivalent of Section 30(7) of the PPSA.  Where no equivalent to Section 30(7) of the PPSA exists, or where priority issues extend beyond inventory and accounts in those provinces that do, priority would presumably depend on an assortment of earlier case law, including Royal Bank v. Sparrow Electric Corp. [1997] 1 S.C.R. 411.  Interestingly, in a recent post-Indalex case decided in Quebec, namely Aveos Fleet Performance Inc./Aveos Performance Aéronautique Inc., Re., 2013 QCCS 5762 (Que. S.C.), the Quebec Superior Court held that the deemed trust priority under the relevant legislation covered only unpaid regular payments, but did not cover unpaid special payments associated with a wind-up deficiency.  Following the SCC decision in  Sparrow Electric Corp., the Quebec Superior Court held that the deemed trust claims of plan beneficiaries were, at least insofar as special payments were concerned, subject to the prior claims of the employer's secured lenders.  In this case, the deemed trust claims arose under the Pension Benefits Standards Act (Canada).

21 See Note 14.

22 See Note 8.

23 Strictly speaking, the effect of Justice Campbell's ruling was somewhat diluted by the fact that he had ruled that the provincial deemed trust for the wind-up deficiency had already been lost because the pension plan had not been terminated prior to the commencement of the CCAA proceedings.  Nevertheless, in his extended reasoning lifting the CCAA stay, Justice Campbell gave as a further rationales: (i) that the secured creditor had acted throughout the CCAA proceedings in good faith, (ii) that the continuance of the CCAA proceedings had generally been to the benefit of both the secured creditor and the pension beneficiaries and had run its course, and (iii) that the lifting of the stay to permit the secured creditors to pursue their legitimate entitlements on bankruptcy was a result that would generally promote legal predictability and lessen business uncertainty, much to the benefit of companies with potentially large pension wind-up deficiencies seeking to obtain finance in the marketplace. 

24 In Ivaco, Laskin J.A. squarely dealt with the priority of a provincial pension deemed trust in the CCAA context and in bankruptcy:

"[63]   For the Superintendent's position to be correct, there would have to be a gap between the end of the CCAA period

and bankruptcy proceedings, in which the pension beneficiaries' rights under the deemed trusts crystallize before the rights of all other creditors, including their right to bring a bankruptcy petition. That position is illogical. All rights must crystallize simultaneously at the end of the CCAA period. There is simply no gap in the federal insolvency regime in which the provincial deemed trusts alone can operate. That is obviously so on the facts in this case because the Bank of Nova Scotia had already commenced a petition for bankruptcy, which was stayed by the initial order under the CCAA. Once the motions judge lifted the stay, the petition was revived.  In my view, however, the situation would be the same even if no bankruptcy petition was pending.

[64]   Where a creditor seeks to petition a debtor company into bankruptcy at the end of CCAA proceedings, any claim under a provincial deemed trust must be dealt with in bankruptcy proceedings.  The CCAA and the BIA create a complementary and interrelated scheme for dealing with the property of insolvent companies, a scheme that occupies the field and ousts the application of provincial legislation.  Were it otherwise, creditors might be tempted to forgo efforts to restructure a debtor company and instead put the company immediately into bankruptcy.  That would not be a desirable result.

[65]  Also, giving effect to the Superintendent's position, in substance, would allow a province to do indirectly what it is precluded from doing directly. Just as a province cannot directly create its own priorities or alter the scheme of distribution of property under the BIA, neither can it do so indirectly. ... At bottom the Superintendent seeks to alter the scheme for distributing an insolvent company's assets under the BIA. It cannot do so.

[77]  The motions judge took into account the likely result of the Superintendent's claims if the Companies are put into bankruptcy.  He recognized that bankruptcy would potentially reverse the priority accorded to the pension claims outside bankruptcy.  Nonetheless, having weighed all the competing considerations, he exercised his discretion to lift the stay and permit the bankruptcy petitions to proceed.  In my view, he exercised the discretion properly." (emphasis added by the author)

25 The issue of lifting the CCAA stay was not dealt with by the 4-3 majority in Indalex since the majority applied the paramountcy doctrine and therefore did not need to deal with the issue.  Notably however, the three judge minority led by Justice Cromwell in Indalex would have been prepared to lift the CCAA stay had this been necessary in order to confer priority on the DIP lender.  Obviously, what remains to be seen is whether previously favourable pre-Indalex case law permitting the lifting of a CCAA stay of proceedings in order to transition an insolvent employer into bankruptcy will in any way be influenced or limited by the newly expanded pre-bankruptcy priority in Indalex.  There is nothing in the Indalex decision itself that signals that the pre-Indalex case law dealing with the lifting of a CCAA stay should be changed.  Indeed, if subsequent courts were to place restrictions on lifting a CCAA stay of proceedings, with the implicit purpose of favouring pension plan beneficiaries, then such courts would indirectly be assisting in a re-ordering of creditor priorities otherwise applicable on liquidation, something that the SCC and multiple lower courts have on numerous occasions indicated was the sole prerogative of Parliament.  See, for example, Ivaco Inc., Re. at paragraphs 69 and 75.

26 See Timminco Ltd., Re (2012) 2012 ONSC 948, 86 C.B.R. (5th) 171 (Ont. S.C.J.) and Re Timminco Ltd (2012) ONSC 506, 85 C.B.R. (5th) 169 (Ont. S.C.J.).  Also see Ivaco Inc., Re at Note 10 and AbitibiBowater Inc., Re, 2009 QCCS 2028, 2009 CarswellQue 4329 (Quebec S. C.).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions