Mr. Speaker, you have no idea what an honour and a pleasure you are giving me in allowing me to speak to Bill C-58, an act mainly consolidating the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
At the outset, I am announcing that the Bloc Quebecois will support this government's initiative by wishing it as much success and joy as has resulted from the creation of the Caisse de dépôt et placement 36 years ago.
Contrary to what our colleague from the Canadian Alliance has done, we are going to provide a totally different picture of the Caisse de dépôt et de placement experience, to enlighten our Canadian friends on what they could do with this major instrument, the Pension Plan Investment Board, the positive things they could do, as opposed to the negative things, as our Alliance colleague has mentioned.
I remind the House that for Quebecers the Caisse de dépôt et placement is the main spearhead of their financial autonomy. With the nationalization of electricity, the creation of the Régime des rentes and the Caisse de dépôt et placement, to manage Quebecers' savings, is probably the cornerstone of what we, Quebecers, have become financially and economically in the last 36 years. It is our cherished child, so to speak.
Our colleague having painted a dark and negative picture, we can only disagree and be somewhat upset about the way some people feel about the Caisse de dépôt et placement.
Like him, this is how many Canadians keep on depicting the Caisse de dépôt et placement year after year, because it has become a major force on Canada's financial scene. This scares many people, including the big financiers on Bay Street, who have done everything they could to try to weaken the Caisse de dépôt et placement since it was first created. This is something that is a bit visceral with Canadians and Canadian financiers, especially those in Toronto.
When they see how much Quebecers have saved over 36 years through the Caisse de dépôt et placement, how much wealth its decisions have created during that period, and what a formidable financial force the caisse, which started out with capital of $1 million in 1966, has become, they are upset. The caisse is so formidable that it has become the 12th largest manager of general funds in North America and the largest in Canada. It ranks eighth in real estate holdings.
Naturally, this does not please everyone, and it has not pleased everyone in the past. I will come back to this, however. I will talk about the attempt in 1982 and the aborted attempt in 1983 to weaken the caisse.
I will begin by painting a positive picture of the past 36 years.
The Caisse de dépôt et placement was created in the wake of the quiet revolution by one of the founders of this revolution, the main one, because he was then Premier of Quebec, Jean Lesage. In 1964, at the Quebec City conference, Mr. Lesage had a bit of a creative temper tantrum in reaction to Mr. Pearson's desire to impose a Canada-wide pension plan run by one manager, which of course was the federal government at the time.
Quebec had already given thought to setting up a typically Quebec pension plan with just one caisse to manage these considerable savings.
I find it hard not to mention all those who laboured, both politically and technically, in the 1960s to build the Caisse de dépôt et placement. One of those involved was the late Michel Bélanger, who had been president of the Montreal Stock Exchange and a member of the Bélanger-Campeau commission. At the time, he was a senior government official and one of those who had come up with the idea of the pension plan and the Caisse de dépôt et placement. There were also Claude Castonguay, whom everyone knows, André Marier, Marcel Bélanger, Roland Giroux and Roland Parenteau.
There was also the first president, Claude Prieur, who started off in a little office in downtown Montreal, with very few means when he began as president of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
I would like to quote Mario Pelletier, who wrote an excellent history of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, because it really has been excellent, contrary to the bleak picture our colleague from the Canadian Alliance painted earlier.
Mr. Pelletier wrote that, in January 1965, Claude Prieur, the first president of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec—a manager with the powerful Sun Life company until then—he was a pretty sharp tack, as they say—moved in all alone to the decrepit office on McGill street.
During the two months that went by before any income came in from the Régie des rentes, he was forced to take out loans in his name, with no help whatsoever from the government, in order to set up what would later become the Caisse de dépôt, which today has some—hang on to your hats now—$133 billion in capital.
Today the Caisse de dépôt does $10 billion worth of transactions every working day. That was last year's average. Listen carefully, because this is important to highlight: $10 billion worth of transactions each working day.
Last year alone, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec carried out $2 trillion in transactions, or three times Canada's GDP. I am talking about the word billions in French, I mean trillions, there are thousands, millions, billions and then trillions. There were $2.5 trillion worth of transactions last year, three times Canada's GDP, or more than $10 billion every working day.
We are talking about the 12th largest manager of global assets in North America; it is the eighth largest in terms of real estate holdings. This is no small institution.
There is also another person who was involved in creating the caisse, whom I neglected to mention on purpose. It was Jacques Parizeau. He worked very hard to make the Caisse de dépôt what it is today, an institution that has stood the test of time, with a few updates, mostly since the early 1990s, with respect to the Caisse de dépôt's international activities.
Mr. Parizeau was known at the time as a brilliant economist, recognized as such, a senior government official, a great builder of the Quebec state, and he would become, some years later, Quebec's finance minister, then premier.
Mr. Parizeau did not only contribute to make the Caisse de dépôt what it is today, being one of its main creators. Indeed, he has played a key role in everything that has to do with the modernization and dynamism of Quebec's financial sector.
Mr. Parizeau drew from the experience he gained with the Caisse de dépôt et placements and with the Quebec pension plan, which allowed him later on, when he was appointed to such strategic positions as finance minister, to develop modern tools to move Quebec forward, to move the Quebec business sector forward, a business sector which, in the late 1960s, did not resemble at all what it is today.
Among other things, the creation of the Caisse de dépôt et placements marked the start of a move toward a greater participation of small investors in Quebec's economic and financial evolution. This goes back to the Parizeau commission on guaranteed investment funds, which means guaranteed deposits.
Mr. Parizeau initiated this commission, which created the Régie de l'assurance-dépôts, allowing small investors to be sure to keep a portion of their deposits in financial institutions. Their investments were guaranteed.
From 1967 on, it has been a big help to small investors in Quebec, enabling them to take part in the economic and financial evolution of the country they love and cherish.
Mr. Parizeau was the one behind the stock savings plan created in 1979. Once again, this was an effort to get everyone involved in the economic and financial progress of Quebec. It was also the basis of the modernization of the tools for monitoring and properly administering our securities, such as the Commission des valeurs mobilières du Québec and the Inspecteur général des institutions financières.
Building on this experience with the Caisse de Dépôt et de placement et de la construction and the ensuing construction, and particularly on the original stakeholders behind its creation and the addition of fundamental and democratic tools to democratize the financial sector, a Caisse de dépôt et placement was created. It has evolved over the years and contributed to the creation of various companies that have grown into major undertakings, such as Alcan, Hydro-Quebec and Bombardier.
In this connection, let us keep in mind that the first government involvement was via the Caisse de dépôt et placement, with investments in Bombardier, Domtar, Vidéotron, Noranda and Canam Manac. In 1985, the decision was made to focus more on small and medium businesses that were creators of employment in the regions. Investments were made in 63 companies, with an average performance of 30%. This is nothing to sneeze at, although my Canadian Alliance colleague looked down his nose somewhat at these figures, but for startup companies this is an extraordinary performance.
So much so, that the Caisse de dépôt et placement became an incredible agent of the economic and financial development of Quebec and it was ranked tops among fund managers in Canada in the 2000 Reuters Survey, which Tempest carried out by contacting—not just anyone—but TSE 300 companies.
In the year 2000, the biggest companies in Canada considered—and this still holds true today—the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, a source of pride and a vital tool that has played a cutting edge role in the financial emancipation of the people of Quebec since the late 1960s, to be the best money manager in Canada. Let my colleague, who has nothing but disdain for its accomplishments and those of the economic stakeholders of Quebec, put that in his pipe and smoke it.
Since I have ten minutes left, I shall speak on a situation that occurred in 1982, although some may feel this is ancient history. However, it still has echoes today, particularly since 1993.
I sit on the Standing Committee on Finance, and we meet business people from across Canada. As I mentioned earlier, some people show contempt toward the Caisse de dépôt et placement. The Canadian Alliance member is one of many. We met Bay Street financiers who hate the Caisse de dépôt et placement, even though it makes a positive contribution to the Canadian economy and has become a key player in a number of so-called Canadian businesses that make Liberal, Conservative, Canadian Alliance or New Democrat members so proud.
Still, some continue to despise the Caisse de dépôt et placement and to say that it is bad, that it is rotten. Because the Caisse de dépôt comes from Quebec and has become Canada's largest manager, there is reluctance on the part of Canada to recognize achievements by Quebecers. This is because until this financial emancipation occurred, it used to be said that Quebecers were not cut out for business, economic and financial matters. But now that we have created something as fundamental as the Caisse de dépôt et placement, they are a little less blunt about Quebecers.
In 1982, the federal government decided to table a bill, Bill S-31. We still remember that. Bill S-31, introduced by André Ouellet, the then Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, prohibited the Caisse de dépôt et placement from holding more than 10% of the stocks of major businesses in Canada. At the time, the Caisse de dépôt was considering investing in Canadian Pacific.
This generated incredible controversy. Owned by Quebec interests and built on Quebecers' savings, the Caisse de dépôt et placement would become CP's main shareholder. This created an incredible uproar in Canada, so much so that business people from English Canada decided to wage a war against the Caisse de dépôt et placement.
They decided to put unbelievable pressure on the federal government to get it to introduce Bill S-31, which provided that the Caisse de dépôt et placement could not hold more than 10% of the shares of companies involved in interprovincial transport.
This did not target Canadian Pacific alone—it was clear that the railways affected all of Canadian business. Do you want to know why? Because all Canadian businesses at the time had a stake in transportation. If it was not air transportation, it was shipping, in the oil industry, for example, it was in pipelines, it was in the railways, which was a secondary activity, but which was added on to manufacturing and also the service sector.
For the year that the saga of Bill S-31 dragged on before the government decided to withdraw the bill due to pressure from Quebec business, during that whole year, from 1982-82, we Quebecers lost incredible opportunities to invest the significant sum at the time of approximately $17 billion that the Caisse de dépôt et placement held in capital.
During that year, we lost the ability to benefit from the increase in value of Canadian Pacific shares. In 1982, CP shares were worth $30, in 1983 they were worth $50; we could have made a $20 profit per share if the Caisse de dépôt et placement had been allowed to own more than 10% of CP shares. The caisse lost some $15-$20 million dollars, with CP alone. We have to assess all opportunities that were lost, involving the purchase of shares of other Canadian businesses, given the provisions of Bill S-31 that were retroactive.
Before this bill, we were told it would be retroactive. If the Caisse de dépôt et placement had invested more than 10% in the specified businesses, it would have had to get rid of the difference. Selling shares when you are being forced to do so means you end up selling off shares at a loss.
This is what they were going to force the Caisse de dépôt et placement into, as it was getting too powerful for the liking of English Canadians. The president of the Toronto Stock Exchange at the time, Mr. Bunting, launched an incredible offensive to bring down the Caisse de dépôt. All of the big Canadian corporations like Bell Canada, Stelco, The Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank, Dominion Textile, Nova, Inco and Hiram Walker fought against the Caisse de dépôt et placement to keep us from moving forward.
Totalling the losses, for example for 1982-83, we lost $100 million in opportunities. This is a plausible figure because for CP alone it is around $15 million or $20 million. Given the average yield of the Caisse de dépôt et placement, between 1982 and 2001, this means over $1 billion of potential capital lost to Quebecers.
Thus today the value of the Caisse de dépôt et placement is not $134 billion but $133 billion. Quebecers would have had $1 billion more to invest and to build up their savings with.
Because of the Bill S-31 episode, we have $1 billion less, and that is a real drag. Today, here we are faced with your bill, which creates and consolidates the activities of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. We are here to support it, despite our memories of Bill S-31. We said to ourselves “Let us put that in the past for now”.
People take much delight in recalling this episode. But we are supporting you in this wonderful plan to create another sort of caisse de dépôt et placement in Canada, using the money in the pension plans of Canadians outside Quebec, because it will open up opportunities and thus democratize the economic growth of Canada.
I wish you—as do all my colleagues—as much success with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board as we have had with the caisse de dépôt et placement.
But I hope that nobody puts obstacles in the way of this wonderful initiative such as we have had to face since 1982. And there were all sorts of subsequent criticisms of the caisse de dépôt et placement. There were all the smear campaigns I have seen since I became finance and economic critic. It is unbelievable.
When one visits Toronto and talks about the caisse, it is as though one had mentioned the plague. People are afraid of it. We are flattered by this reaction. But, at the same time, it would have been nice if, in the past, you had been as enthusiastic about the growth of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec as we are now about the creation and consolidation of the activities of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
It would also be nicer if we did not have such outrageous comments from our colleagues about the experience of the past 36 years, the marvellous experience of the caisse de dépôt et placement. I will have an opportunity to come back to this later, because you are indicating to me that my allotted time is up. I will have about 20 minutes when we resume debate on this bill and I will have more to say about this fabulous experience.