House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was financial.

Topics

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Standing Committee on International Trade—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

June 10th, 2010 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on June 3, 2010 by the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster concerning events which took place in the Standing Committee on International Trade on June 1, 2010.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster for having raised this matter. I would also like to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the member for Calgary Centre for their comments.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster argued that the manner in which the Standing Committee on International Trade conducted its clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement implementation act, violated his rights and the rights of two other members of the committee.

Specifically, he complained that the chair had not informed the committee that it was reverting to a public meeting from its in camera status and that the chair and the majority of the members on the committee had systematically frustrated his attempts to speak, intervene on points of order, and have access to the procedural resources of the committee.

While recognizing that traditionally the Speaker does not get involved in matters that should be dealt with in committee, the member argued that this clearly constituted an abuse by the majority in the committee of the privileges bestowed on it by the House, and as such was a contempt of the House. For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader contended that a prima facie question of privilege did not exist as there was no report to the House from the committee on this matter. The member for Calgary Centre, the chair of the standing committee, reiterated this and stated that the committee had conducted its meeting fairly and in keeping with the rules of procedure.

All members who have intervened in this matter have acknowledged that the Speaker does not sit as a court of appeal to adjudicate procedural issues that arise in the course of committee proceedings. Indeed, on numerous occasions, Speakers have restated the cardinal rule that committees are masters of their own proceedings and any alleged irregularities occurring in committees can be taken up in the House only following a report from the committee itself. There have been very few exceptions to this rule.

The ruling of Mr. Speaker Fraser on March 26, 1990, to which the member for Burnaby—New Westminster alluded, does state:

—that in very serious and special circumstances the Speaker may have to pronounce on a committee matter without the committee having reported to the House.

However, having reviewed the evidence submitted, there is little to suggest that in the case before us the circumstances warrant the chair breaking with the entrenched practice of allowing committees to settle issues related to their proceedings, particularly since the member himself stated that “the chair had the support of the majority of the members of the committee”.

Thus, as Mr. Speaker Fraser declared in that same ruling, on page 9,758 of the debates:

I have chosen not to substitute my judgment for that expressed by a majority on the Finance Committee, unless that majority decides to report its dilemma to the House.

While it is clear to the chair that the member is unhappy with the decisions taken by the committee, the committee has not reported this matter to the House. It may be of assistance to the member to refer to pages 149 to 152 in the chapter “Privileges and Immunities” in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, where the procedural steps associated with bringing committee-related privilege issues before the House are fully described.

In the meantime, I regret to inform the member for Burnaby—New Westminster that unless he can persuade the committee to take some of those procedural steps, there is little the chair can do and there is certainly no basis for finding a prima facie question of privilege at this time.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order coming out of today's question period, when I put two questions to the Prime Minister. These questions had to do with the Prime Minister's refusal to allow his director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, to appear before the ethics committee.

I have a letter dated June 1 and signed by the Prime Minister, who stated:

The purpose of this letter is to inform the Committee of my instruction to Mr. Soudas that he will not appear before the Committee.

He went on to say:

Next week I will be present in Question Period on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Questions about these matters can be directed to me there.

Today is Thursday. I put the questions directly to the Prime Minister, and today he did not respond to those questions directly. I am asking if in fact the Prime Minister misled the House when he wrote this letter and indicated that he would be here today to respond to questions with respect to Mr. Soudas not being allowed to appear before the committee.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will have to check Hansard. Yes, the question was directed to the Prime Minister, but I do not recall in the letter that the hon. member just read out that he said that he would respond personally.

The questions could be directed to him. They were directed at him. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, as I recall, gave an excellent reply to those questions.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, let me just read it again. It says:

Questions about these matters can be directed to me there.

Unless one is to believe that the Prime Minister misled the House, then I would expect that he would have taken those questions as the employer of Mr. Dimitri Soudas.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I will look at the matter, but I do not know that there is a question of privilege here.

It is a long-standing practice in the House that although questions may be directed to certain individuals, others sometimes respond. We see that daily in question period. Sometimes the Prime Minister answers. Sometimes we hear the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities answer. There are even times the government House leader answers questions that are directed to the Prime Minister. It is just a matter of which item someone is ready to answer and that the person is prepared to give answers and has understood the question and so on, which we have happen in the House on a regular basis.

I do not think that it is a matter the Chair can make a decision on, given the long-standing practice in the House

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too rise to speak in support of the Bloc Québécois motion denouncing the efforts of the Conservative government, with the traditional complicity of the Liberals, to invade an area of Quebec jurisdiction by establishing a Canadian securities commission that would deprive Quebec of its powers over the area.

I would like to begin with a slight aside. People listening to us or reading our debates may find that the securities commission issue is quite boring and unimportant, given the difficulties we are currently facing. They may believe that it is not a major issue. I would like to tell them that, in my view, such is not the case, quite the contrary. I can concede that it may be boring, but that does not mean that it is not extremely important and pivotal.

Everything about this commission has very much to do with issues in the world of finance and the place where that financial sector is to be located. The question before us today is whether we agree that most, if not all, of the financial sector should be moved to Toronto. That is what this government really wants. Recently, we have seen that this government has no support. Its proposal has been almost universally condemned in Quebec. International organizations that have studied different systems show that the Canadian system works very well. The government has told us about cases of fraud. This is clearly nothing more than a red herring, a smokescreen. It has nothing to do with the matter. The reality is that they want to concentrate the financial system in Toronto, and that is extremely detrimental to Quebec.

We must look backwards. Before, during and after the Quiet Revolution, Quebeckers worked to free themselves from the English domination of their economy that existed at the time. Francophone Quebeckers, who made up the overwhelming majority of the population, saw that the control of the economy was entirely out of their hands. They had no control over it, and a tiny minority had its hands on all the levers. For decades, the Quebec people and their government have worked to change things.

I really liked Jacques Parizeau's explanation. He said that the Quebec government, when it was looking for funding, thought it was humiliating to have to beg for money from the Canadian financial community and be turned down. It then had to turn to the United States for capital.

Today, Quebec has strong, effective, useful and modern tools. It has come a long way. But we have noticed in recent years that it has started to slip. Montreal has already lost its stock exchange. The derivatives exchange is still there. Now, the federal government wants to pull out everything that is related to securities and move it to Toronto.

Obviously, that has significant consequences. The companies negotiating with the commission in Toronto will have to do so in English. We can see that this will be more complicated. Right now, if we want to meet with someone, we can take public transportation or our own vehicles and we can go to the Autorité des marchés financiers. We can have a meeting that way. But, if it is in Toronto, we would have to take the plane. It would be a bit more complicated. This process has started. Today, we have a federal government that wants to weaken Quebec's financial world.

Ultimately, we could understand them and see where their interests lie. What is more disappointing is seeing servile Quebeckers supporting them, sometimes even enthusiastically. We saw someone this morning laughing out loud at the comments of his ministers from the rest of Canada and taking pleasure in this weakening of Quebec.

We have a long list of people, and a coalition was even formed to denounce the government's plan. Here are some of the members of the coalition against the federal securities regulation plan: the Association de l’exploration minière du Québec, the Barreau du Québec, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Cascades, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, the Chambre de commerce de Québec, the Chambre des notaires du Québec, the Chambre de la sécurité financière, the Quebec Employers' Council. They are not bearded socialists, communists or separatists.

There are also the Fédération des Chambres de commerce du Québec, Fondaction, the QFL Solidarity Fund, the Groupe Jean Coutu, the Institut sur la gouvernance d’organisations privées et publiques, the Institut québécois de planification financière, Jacques Saint-Pierre, who is a professor at Université Laval, Jean La Couture, Corporate Director and Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Regroupement des assureurs de personnes à charte du Québec, Jean-Marc Fortier, partner at Robinson Sheppard Shapiro, La Capitale Financial Group, Pierre Lortie, former chair of the Montreal Stock Exchange, Quebecor, the SSQ, the Société d’assurance-vie, the City of Montreal and the City of Quebec. We also heard from the media that Power Corporation and Desjardins are against this plan. All Quebec Inc. is.

In the National Assembly, the consensus is extremely strong. The four parties, from those on the far left to those on the far right, from the most federalist to the most sovereignist, all agree that this scheme is unacceptable. Unfortunately, 25 Quebeckers are defending the indefensible. There are only about 25 of them in Quebec, and they are in this House. These are the servile Quebeckers in the Conservative and Liberal Parties who are neither able nor willing, as we in the Bloc Québécois are, to work for consensus in Quebec, to defend it and to bring it to this House.

Some members of this House are not part of this fight. We were even criticized this morning for putting the securities commission on the agenda again. We were told that we were going to lose again. But we will not give up.

It is like the battle for nationhood; motions to recognize the Quebec nation were introduced in this House numerous times, and we finally won. We are going to continue to fight because we are neither servile nor submissive. We are here to defend the strong Quebec consensus, and we will continue to do so.

The government likes to think that we will fail again. If we do fail again, it will demonstrate the limits of federalism and the dead end that Quebeckers see it as. When we have an institution that is clearly in Quebec's jurisdiction, and we have to fight, not in order to make headway in Canada, but in order to not be pushed back, that shows that the best Canada can offer us is to not lose ground.

There are Quebec members of this Parliament who, servile federalists that they are, are going to defend the indefensible in the face of everything that is being done economically, politically and socially in Quebec. This shows that Quebec has no future in Canada and that, in the end, the solution for Quebeckers is to take the plunge, to decide on our collective future and to become a country, a sovereign Quebec.

Until that time, until such time as Quebeckers make that democratic choice, the Bloc Québécois is going to continue working passionately to defend the interests of Quebec, even if that annoys the Conservatives, and the Liberal members from Quebec.

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is trouble in the Conservative heartland of Alberta on this issue. None other than Ted Morton, Alberta's finance minister, wrote an article on June 1 in the Calgary Herald, in which he said:

This is not just about securities, but all financial services that have been regulated by the provinces under their Section 92 jurisdiction over “property and civil rights”-- including pensions, credit unions and insurance.

When it comes to diversification of the Alberta economy, financial services is one of the fastest growing sectors -- with the potential for much greater growth. The job-multiplying effect of having a provincial-based securities commission has been well documented by Quebec. As Canada and the rest of the world emerges from recession, Alberta will lead the way. If we let the Alberta Securities Commission get scooped up and transferred to Toronto, we can say goodbye to thousands of spin-off jobs in investment banking, law, accounting and financial analysts.

Why would Albertans want to do this, especially when it is not even necessary?

That was written by the finance minister of Alberta. Today when the parliamentary secretary was asked about Ted Morton, Alberta's finance minister, he pretended that it was just a minor difference of opinion, that he had just seen and spoken with him this past weekend and they were very close on the issue. All we have to do is read the article in the Calgary Herald to see that they are miles apart.

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, we see that Quebec is not alone in its concerns about this issue. The advantage of having a system where each province has its own regulatory authority, its own authority issuing passports so that people can move from one authority to another, is that the different authorities can take account of their particular reality.

One does not need two postdoctorates in finance or economics to understand that the economic structure of Alberta is not the same as that of Prince Edward Island or Quebec. That is why the current system is much more flexible and why many other provinces want to keep their system. For Quebec this is even more important. It is not just a matter of economic structure, but also of culture, language, and our capacity as a nation to have access to the economic levers that allow us to develop.

It is a little pathetic to see the government having to invoke the cases of Earl Jones or other fraud artists to justify its commission. It is as if I were to say that there are lots of murders in Canada and that proves that the Criminal Code should not be a federal responsibility. There is lots of speeding on our roads, but that is no reason to transfer the highway safety code to the federal government. Just because the system is not perfect and we are not able to catch every single case does not mean we must transfer the responsibility to someone else. We must leave that sort of logic behind and get serious.

The cases that have been submitted in the House, notably that of Earl Jones, concern people who were not even registered with the Autorité des marchés financiers du Québec. Even if we had an intergalactic securities commission, if those swindlers were not registered they still would not have been caught, and people would still have been duped.

We have to remain reasonable and take this seriously. The issue before us today is whether we should allow Quebec, and surely other provinces, to be stripped of a good part of its financial community for the benefit of Toronto.

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with the hon. member for Charlottetown.

Out of respect, I will start by reading the motion introduced by the hon. member from the Bloc:

That this House denounce the government’s unrelenting efforts to marginalize the Quebec nation, in particular by depriving it of the major economic lever of securities regulation, a matter that is under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and for which they have established a harmonized regulatory system recognized for its effectiveness by the OECD and the World Bank, among others, and that it demand, along with Quebec’s National Assembly and the business community in Quebec, that the government immediately withdraw its draft bill.

Since the constitutionality of a national securities commission has, as we know, been referred to the Supreme Court, I do not see the relevance of this motion, which appears to me to be a semantic exercise only. However, to put it all in context, let me give you an overview of the general situation.

First, let us remember that securities legislation in Canada and throughout the world has two main objectives: to protect investors and to ensure that financial markets are efficient, fair and transparent.

In general, the agencies that regulate securities oversee four important areas:

First, capital leveraging through the sale of securities such as private offerings and primary distributions.

Second, corporate transparency and the continual disclosure of relevant information to investors.

Third, enforcement of the securities regulations and prevention of deceptive or fraudulent behaviour.

Fourth, the qualifications of securities traders and their good reputation and accreditation.

As for the provinces, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec are currently opposed to a single securities regulator. Ontario, on the other hand, is in favour. British Columbia has made it known that it would be part of such a program only if provincial jurisdiction were respected. In October 2007, as we know, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion asking the government to drop its plans for a national securities regulation commission.

One of the arguments made by the provinces is that securities are a provincial responsibility under section 92(13) of the Constitution on “property and civil rights”, and that the federal government should not interfere.

Under the current regulations, securities in Canada are subject to directives from 13 provincial and territorial authorities.

In order to make a balanced presentation, I must set out the arguments on both sides of the issue.

These are the main arguments against the current system.

It is very expensive for corporations that want to attract capital to comply with all the provinces' regulations. Time is an important factor in leveraging capital, and compliance with multiple provincial regulatory schemes delays the start of negotiations.

Investors in the less populous provinces may be denied access to certain investments. Because of differences and disparities in the existing regulations, it is sometimes difficult to ensure they are enforced. More resources would have to be devoted to this.

In support of the present “multijurisdictional” model, the provinces make the following arguments:

First, it allows innovative ideas to be developed that can be adapted and be more responsive to the specific features of regional markets. Second, regulations can be more effectively administered, as the agencies with that authority acquire experience and knowledge in their regional markets.

Third, a common regulatory agency might impose compliance rules that were designed for larger multinational users and might exclude the small regional businesses, which would not be good, and thus cut them off from financing.

Fourth, the multijurisdictional model protects regional securities infrastructure that the provinces and territories have created with accountants, notaries, underwriters and other professionals.

In response to the criticism, all the provinces and territories, with the exception of Ontario, formed the Canadian Securities Administrators, a forum that allows the various securities regulators to coordinate and harmonize the regulation system in Canada.

The Canadian Securities Administrators have developed a number of initiatives, including a passport system allowing for a single wicket and the ability to participate in all the regional capital markets.

On March 17, 2008, the securities passport system introduced the next stage, as a result of which any prospectus approved in one province would be recognized in all the other provinces, except Ontario. The Canadian Securities Administrators also introduced a harmonized electronic data system for analysis and research to make information available, called SEDAR, and a simplified national registration system for securities traders.

Once again, since we do not expect a decision to be made for another 18 or 24 months, the Bloc is trying to score political points with this motion today. We completely agree with the Bloc that the existing expertise in the different regions of Canada, particularly in Quebec and Montreal, should not be sacrificed or displaced in order to create a single commission. The Autorité des marchés financiers du Québec has a very good reputation and is recognized around the world.

Furthermore, the Conservative government's divisive approach is completely unacceptable. This is another example of the Prime Minister's poor track record on provincial-federal relations.

However, since we are still waiting to hear from the Supreme Court on this issue, and since the issue will not likely budge for another year and a half, the Bloc's motion is completely useless.

One thing is certain: the provinces are divided on this issue. So it would be counter-productive for Parliament to vote prematurely, when it is the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, that must set the boundaries of the discussions between the provinces and the federal government. Just like Quebec, we are completely opposed to displacing the financial expertise we have in the Montreal region.

Why does the Bloc not want to wait to hear the Supreme Court opinion? Why does it want to open this debate now, when there is no serious bill on the horizon?

I am getting to the key point of my speech. Liberal governments have long been recognized for their solid financial leadership. Our stable financial system, developed by the Liberals, became an international model during the economic crisis. The best approach is to protect investments and to ensure that each of the regions does not lose its specific knowledge.

The Liberals agree that when it comes to provincial-federal relations, the Prime Minister has failed, and we are opposed to the Conservatives' unilateral approach that just results in tensions. On many occasions we have urged the government to get the opinion of the Supreme Court. Now that it has, we just have to wait to hear from the court.

So let us wait for the Supreme Court's opinion.