Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all hon. members who participated in the debate. It is very important that issues and questions are raised in this place even if there is not a clear understanding of some of the specific points.
However, I would like to address a couple of points that were raised by members. First, a question was raised about the magic of
5 per cent. If somebody held more than 5 per cent equity interest, this would be exempt from the number of companies.
Members will know that the issue of a threshold, whether it is 5, 10, 15 or 20 per cent is not substantive to the bill. The issue is that there must be a point at which one would have sufficient equity interest and that would be subject to amendment. Therefore, it is inconsequential. There is no meaning to 5 per cent. Although on the recommendation of the private members' office, this is consistent with the kind of threshold which has been set for similar bills where there is some involvement. It came as a recommendations from the House of Commons private members' staff.
The second issue was why limit the number of directors to 10 companies? Again 10 is just a number. It could be 15, it could be 20, it could be 100. One thing we can be sure of is that the number cannot be 1,000. Nobody in this place would agree anybody could discharge the responsibilities of a member of the board of directors of 1,000 different corporations in which he did not a hold a 5 per cent or greater interest. If that is the case, the premise of my bill is absolutely correct.
There must be a limit at which one cannot discharge even one's most fundamental responsibilities. If hon. members, the members of the industry committee and the parliamentary secretary from Saskatoon-Dundurn who spoke so very well, have a problem with the number, let us propose a number. We now know it is somewhere between 5 and 1,000. It is subject to amendment.
A good portion of the argument raised by the parliamentary secretary was why is a member raising this issue now because we are in the midst of all this other work. The member is absolutely right. I am here at the wrong time.
I do not have control over when my private member's bill gets elected in the lottery and goes on the Order Paper. It has been there for almost two years. It finally came to the top. I have to take the time when I get it. I understand the point raised by the member but it is beyond my control. I certainly do intend to raise it.
I remind hon. members there is a major major case before the Canadian people, before the department of financial institutions, which has to do with Confederation Life. I have been advised that there is now a lawsuit against a director in the amount of $1 billion. This is a very serious issue. It will no doubt be the subject matter of study, analysis and assessment for many years to come.
I will repeat what I said concerning why this bill came up. I was in attendance at a dinner of the Mississauga Board of Trade. The guest speaker was from the other place. That senator was introduced as a very busy senator of Canada, as the chairman and CEO of one of Canada's largest and most prestigious firms and also the director of 26 different corporations, all at the same time.
When I heard that introduction, although I was impressed, my first reaction was how could one individual who had a senate job, a chairman and CEO job, also discharge all of those responsibilities
that everybody is studying because they are so serious? It is a rhetorical question. I do not know whether there is an answer, but it strikes me as odd when even the parliamentary secretary admits that after nine discussion papers, after consultations with business people, investors, corporate councils and everybody else, this issue has not yet been raised.
It gives me great pleasure to have raised this issue for the first time in Bill C-204.