House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was negotiations.

Topics

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the big exposure here for the government and the country as a whole is the lack of a proper regulatory system with teeth. The government's answer to this problem is to have a national securities regulator, as if that would solve the problem. We need people in the securities commission in Toronto or wherever it is located with an enforcement mentality. We do not want people with a retired investment executive mentality who would approach this as a retirement job, who would attend the same Christmas parties and play golf with the people they are supposed to regulate.

Whether it is the IMET system or any system, we need people who are interested in doing the job. We need people who are interested in investigating, in regulating. We need people who are interested in getting results. We do not want people who are prepared to turn a blind eye and let the system continue on its merry way.

There is really nothing wrong with this legislation. It is good legislation, but it would not stop any Ponzi scheme from occurring. It would not stop any mortgage fraud scheme from happening. That is the problem. The government needs a more comprehensive approach to white collar crime.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have a dumb down approach to crime. Whatever the crime is, their only solution is a mandatory minimum sentence. I think of the idiocy of suggesting that a mandatory minimum sentence will address Ponzi schemes, massive corporate fraud, the kind of shenanigans that we have seen over the last number of years with international financiers. Those people do not think they are going to get caught. They do not think they will have to do two years.

These international financiers are taking money from investors, ordinary citizens, and moving it offshore. Bernie Madoff stuck around too long. If he had his way, he probably would have headed off to the Cayman Islands. Earl Jones would have been laughing had he gone to the Cayman Islands. The Conservatives will not touch the Cayman Islands or any offshore bank accounts. They could have followed the money through Panama. It is the number one money laundering country in the world, yet the Conservatives are trying to sign a free trade agreement with that country.

Why does the government come up with fairly useless solutions such as mandatory minimum sentences, when they turn a blind eye to the massive corporate crime that is going on in terms of moving money offshore and being unaccountable to Canadians?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we just have to think back to February when the Government of France increased taxes on any companies that were doing business in the tax haven of Panama. Guess what happened? Within months, Panama signed a tax treaty with France. If the Government of France can get tough on tax havens like Panama and get tax compliance in a matter of a few months, then why not Canada?

Canada is negotiating a free trade deal with Panama but we are not one of the countries with a tax treaty with Panama. One hand of the government does not know what the other hand is doing.

Why does the government not follow France's example and then see how quickly the Panamanians respond in that situation?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill deals with cases of fraud in excess of $1 million in aggregate. Does the member think that someone who defrauds a group of people for an aggregate of $900,000 should not be covered by this legislation? Is the $1 million a true benchmark of what is really a serious financial crime?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have had that question before. That is very true. For one person $50,000 could be his or her life savings, whereas for a billionaire, $1 million is probably small change. The government has an explanation as to why it chose $1 million, and the member should know that.

I agree with my colleague that a fraud is a fraud is a fraud. Taking $50,000 from a senior in my riding if that is all the money he or she has means everything.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, over the last three or four years, this has become a large issue. We have seen the reports on all the major television networks in North America. Bernie Madoff in the United States was sentenced to 150 years in prison, which gives us an idea of just how serious this has become. It also shows how one particular judge decided to engage the public to find out where the fever was on this. For the general public it is an incredibly large issue. It is beyond imagination. We do not realize how many people have been victims of this type of fraud and scam that has been perpetrated by people of despicable means and measure.

In this country we had the case of Earl Jones. It was so visceral to watch the coverage on television where as he was leaving the court and approaching his vehicle, he was attacked by the masses. I had never seen that before.

It gives us an idea of the heightened intensity about this issue. There are so many people involved and so many stories to be told that we would be amazed at some of the issues. There are people who come to me from my riding in Newfoundland and Labrador to talk about how destitute they are as victims of fraud. They are embarrassed at having lost their life savings. They do not want to bring up the situation with their children and other people in the community because they do not want to be embarrassed.

There are people out there, culprits who prey upon the weakest and most vulnerable of society. They know where they are and they know how to get them.

Bill C-21 goes a way to catching up with that. Perhaps it needs to go a bit further. The bill has been reported back to the House, and I think we are looking at one amendment.

Nonetheless, we will look at this and move on. This is something that we are going to be talking about again and again as the situation becomes more prevalent. In my own personal situation, people, primarily seniors, come to my office and talk about the sheer embarrassment of it. They tried to invest what little money they have to better themselves, and not so much themselves but their family, children and grandchildren.

It is incumbent upon us to have a serious debate about this. I appreciate everybody who is debating this in this House.

Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), includes a mandatory minimum sentence, which is an expression we have used a lot in this House. It includes imprisonment for two years for fraud valued at more than $1 million, and provides additional aggravating factors for sentencing, which I will touch on in a few moments.

It requires consideration of restitution for victims, which is a highly contentious issue as we have seen from all the media coverage not just in Canada but also in the United States. In dealing with the seriousness of this issue, my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis mentioned that it is such a big issue in his riding. He has fought so well for this issue, and I want to thank him personally.

I do want to move on to the situation we find ourselves in right now regarding Bill C-21. For this side of the House, we proposed earlier that the mandatory minimum sentence of two years should apply to practices such as market manipulation of shares and of course the Ponzi schemes.

Conservative, Bloc and NDP members, in my opinion, need to explain why they refuse to stand up for all the victims of white collar crime. There are some discrepancies within this that I would like to see addressed. However, we are moving in the right direction as the House of Commons is addressing the legislation today and will soon pass it.

Principles behind the stricter sentencing rules are very important, but we also know that they are not enough to prevent frauds from happening, which is why we also have to seriously consider working on the public campaign. That is where we are falling down on the job. We need to do more to improve the way we deal with the situation and public learning of this type of fraud.

Certainly when it comes to enforcement and how our law officials enforce this will be a contentious issue as we move forward with this type of legislation. It is one thing to put these sentences into place, but the enforcement is going to be a tricky situation as we have witnessed in the past. We are compelled in the House to call upon the government to provide those extra resources upon which it can exercise the principles of the bill, which are to bring people to account, people who are the lowest form of life, if I can use that term, and I will use it because I think I am very apt in that description.

We should consider this from two perspectives. On one hand, we have to alert the people of what this fraud is and how they can protect themselves from this type of offence. On the other hand, we have to provide the resources as a government to allow the officials to enforce this and make sure people are brought to account. That is what we have been talking about in the bill right from second reading through committee and now at third reading.

We are glad to finally see legislation on the issue. We have called on the government to act on white collar crime for many years now. We have had this discussion for quite some time. This legislation is going forward and it is good that it is. We have seen the anger heighten dramatically because of people like Bernie Madoff, Earl Jones and what we see in the media regarding Ponzi schemes and the originator of them, Mr. Charles Ponzi himself.

I would like to turn to some of the research that has been provided to us as legislators in the legislative summary from the Library of Parliament. I would like to thank Cynthia Kirkby and Dominique Valiquette, both from the Legal and Legislative Affairs Division, Parliamentary Information and Resource Services.

The background on this goes back for quite some time. We have seen prior amendments to the fraud provisions. These amendments created a new offence of improper insider trading, increased the maximum sentence for the offences of fraud and fraud affecting the market from 10 to 14 years, and established a list of aggravating factors to aid the courts in sentencing. I certainly think that provides an ample guide for judges to allow a sentencing situation to take place. When it comes to sentencing, the enforcement is one area we may be falling down on.

Let us look at the integrated market enforcement teams. In 2003, the Government of Canada created the IMET program. Its funding is through the RCMP. Ten IMETs are operational in four of Canada's major financial centres. Their mandate is to investigate and lay charges for serious Criminal Code offences involving capital markets. At that point the enforcement was happening. We need to take that one step further. It was a good start with the IMET teams in the financial centres. The IMETs, continue to this day. From December 2003, when the program began, to March 2008, five investigations led to nine individuals being charged with a total of 29 Criminal Code offences. In fiscal year 2008-09, however, 17 individuals were charged with 979 counts.

There in itself we see a perfect illustration of the criminal intent that permeates throughout the system. These people get into the system and it shows how hard it is to bring these people to law and how important enforcement must be in order for these rules and measures to have some effect on all these people.

As I mentioned, 17 individuals were charged with 979 counts. A total of five individuals have been convicted since the IMET program was established and sentences range from 39 months to 13 years.

Going back on the history alone, members will see some of the statistics from C-21. This gives us a good glimpse of the situation. In 2007, 88,286 incidents of fraud took place in our country. About 10,001 cases of people were found guilty in the years 2006-2007. To break down those 10,001 cases, these are the following statistics: prison sentences, 3,580, resulting in 35.8%; conditional sentences being brought down on those people, only 8.7%; probation was the biggest at 60.3%; receiving fines, 12.1%; and restitution at that stage, 18.9%. Other sentences that were handed down included absolute conditional discharge, community service orders and prohibition orders as well.

Returning to the legislation at hand, let us take a look clause 2.1, which is the minimum sentence for fraud. This is the one that is probably getting most of the attention right now. Currently a person convicted of the general offence of fraud is liable under subsection 380(1) of the Criminal Code to a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years where the value of the subject matter of the offence exceeds $5,000, or two years where the value of the subject matter of the offence does not exceed $5,000 and no minimum sentence is specified.

Clause 2 of the bill introduces a minimum sentence of two years imprisonment in case of fraud over $1 million. My colleague from Ontario brought up a good point earlier. When we try to come up with these numbers, in this case two years imprisonment minimum on a $1 million case, what if someone achieved $900,000? That is a pot of money. I know people who were working on $100,000 as their nest egg. What if they had been defrauded of $100,000? How do we address that in the situation where we make the cutoff at $1 million?

On the other hand, the minimum sentence applies solely to a person convicted of the general offence of fraud, again subsection 380(1) of the code. It does not seem to apply to other related offences, such as fraud affecting the market, fraudulent manipulation of stock markets, insider trading or the publication of a false prospectus. In the latter three cases, however, where the value of the subject matter exceeds $1 million, this remains merely an aggravating circumstance.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have seven minutes left to conclude his remarks after question period. We will now we move on to statements by members.

The hon. member for Saint John.

Saint John Harbour Bridge
Statements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, for more than four decades the tolls on the Saint John Harbour Bridge have represented an inequity that has existed for Saint John residents, but everything is about to change. At long last, the Saint John Harbour Bridge will be toll free.

The Prime Minister and Premier Alward recently announced that an agreement had been reached to resolve this issue once and for all. The time has finally come when the people of greater Saint John will be treated in the same manner as the rest of the province.

Our government is cancelling the outstanding debt of $22.6 million and investing $17.5 million toward the upgrades that are currently under way. This commitment will result in the tolls being removed from the bridge, which is a key component of the Atlantic gateway, and will become part of our provincial highway system.

The co-operation that has been demonstrated between the federal and provincial governments will remove the only toll remaining on the highway system in the province of New Brunswick and it will result in Saint John being treated fairly.

Restigouche County Volunteer Action Association
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, December 5, I had the pleasure to attend the 26th annual telethon of the Restigouche County Volunteer Action Association. As described by our local papers, this event is the largest single fundraiser for the largest charitable organization in Restigouche.

Every year, the charity organizes this fundraising event in order to produce around 500 baskets that are distributed to needy families over the holidays.

I would like to thank everyone who took part in the telethon and who gave so generously. Your donations will allow needy families in our region to enjoy the holidays too.

I wish to thank the organizers of this event. Thanks to them, the RCVAA will be able to give away over 500 baskets again this year.

Once again, congratulations on working so hard to make this event so successful and thank you for supporting people in our community. Your efforts are sincerely appreciated. Thank you.

Plan Nagua
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 5, Plan Nagua, a company in the riding of Beauport—Limoilou, won the 2010 Desjardins entrepreneur prize in the sustainable development category.

Plan Nagua, which was created by eight students who had been on an internship in the Dominican Republic, has worked in the field of international solidarity for 40 years and is active on four fronts. It supports nearly 10,000 co-operatives in the southern hemisphere, primarily in the area of coffee growing and fair trade. It plays an active role in international co-operation projects in communities in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It educates Quebeckers about north-south dynamics. And it provides opportunities for international internships and equitable tourism.

I am proud to salute Plan Nagua, which has sales of $2.5 million and spinoffs of close to $1.5 million in the national capital region. This company has broken new ground in Quebec in sustainable development and fair trade.

Harmonized Sales Tax
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are getting gouged at the pumps. When the price of a barrel of oil goes up on the market, the price at the pump goes up immediately. When the price of a barrel goes down, the price at the pump still stays high.

Northerners know the Conservatives will always take the side of the big oil companies over the average person who is just trying to fill his or her tank to get to work. What is really galling is the Conservatives seem to think average Canadians are some sort of cash cow because they throw in the HST on top of already high gas prices. The largest single jump in the price of gas in the last two years came from the government's decision to gouge people at the pump with the HST.

The HST is a massive shift in the tax burden away from the big corporations on to average citizens. For example, this year banks will get an $840 million tax break, while citizens in Ontario will pay an extra $895 million just on taxes at the pumps. It is a ripoff and it is not fair, but it is so typically Tory.

Arts and Culture
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, millions of Canadians will have the opportunity to view another talented young artist's work, thanks to the annual Canadian Youth Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp contest. The 2011 youth wildlife stamp was created in partnership with the Robert Bateman Get to Know contest. It is a contest designed to encourage youth to get to know their wildlife neighbours.

One of my constituents, Ms. Bethany Harris from Millarville, Alberta, won with the selection of her painting “Going Deeper”, depicting a moose in its natural habitat. Ms. Harris is an inspiration to all youth passionate about art and Canada's wildlife.

I would like to offer my most heartfelt congratulations on her great accomplishment.

Passports
Statements by Members

December 14th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to announce today that Passport Canada and Service Canada have entered into an agreement whereby they will provide passport services on the Montreal south shore. I promised that I would not stop fighting until the people in my riding received these long-awaited services. Finally, beginning on January 31, they will be able to submit a passport application without having to cross one of the bridges.

For over two years, I have been urging the Minister of Foreign Affairs to offer passport services to the people living on the south shore of Montreal. My motion, M-276, was adopted in the House in May 2009. I wrote 19 letters to the minister and sent him hundreds of postcards signed by constituents requesting a passport office.

As the only Liberal MP in the Montérégie region, I am very proud to have achieved my electoral promise to provide all residents with this valuable federal service that they have been requesting for so long.

The Liberal Party of Canada, through its members of Parliament, ensures citizens are duly represented and works relentlessly and efficiently for them in Ottawa. Even in opposition, I was able to work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom I thank, to make this promise a reality.

Peace River
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, as we approach the Christmas season, I am again reminded of the honour that it is to represent the people of the Peace country.

For many families in the Peace region, the past year has been a difficult one. Many local farm families have experienced difficulty in the wake of another year of drought and other families have struggled through the uncertainty of employment and reduced incomes.

In spite of these struggles, I am pleased to see the care and compassion that these same families have demonstrated in supporting other families that are less fortunate. Through charities such as the Salvation Army, the Aboriginal Friendship Centres, the local food banks and the countless local churches, residents are working to ensure that families of all forms share the joy, the peace and the love of the season.

On behalf of myself, my wife, Michelle, and our daughters, Abigail and Cobi, we want to thank everyone who is giving back this season. I also want to take the opportunity to wish each of my constituents a happy new year and a blessed Christmas.

Gateways
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question asked by the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities said that to help Quebec, we need to build a bridge in Ontario. That is outrageous. The numbers disclosed by my colleague with regard to the gateways and border crossings fund are clear: out of a $2.1 billion envelope, only $10 million has been allocated to Quebec. That does not include the $1 billion already allocated to the Asia-Pacific gateway. Quebec is getting swindled, and the Conservative ministers from Quebec are complicit.

They should instead be adhering to the principle whereby Quebec's development hinges on structural investments in Quebec. A number of projects, including increasing the number of containers coming through the port of Montreal, depend on the will of the government to grant Quebec its share of the gateway development envelope. It is a matter of fairness and creating wealth for today and tomorrow.