Mr. Speaker, it is hard to resume debate on this corporate fraud bill with the disturbing information just brought to our attention by the government House leader, moving closure on the first nations governance act. People have lost count the number of times the government has had to use closure to ram through its legislative changes.
I was outlining some of the shortcomings of Bill C-46 because the pension investments of Canadians are at risk under the current securities regime. We have seen evidence of this with the absolute collapse of Wall Street and the ethical paucity of Wall Street and Bay Street where voluntary compliance to ethical standards has not been enough to provide security to Canadians.
I do not know if it is a coincidence or not that our now privately invested Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has lost $4.2 billion out of $22 billion on the securities market. Certainly, it is cause for alarm for Canadians. They want to have confidence in the people that are investing their money.
Some of us disagreed that the money should have been gambled on the open market to begin with. Our fears have been realized. We would have been better off if we had dug a hole in the ground and put that $22 million into a hole because at least the same amount of money would still be there when we went to dig it up. Instead, $4.2 billion has been lost out of it.
We used to loan that money to municipalities and to provinces at a fairly low interest rate of 2% so that they could do capital infrastructure projects. Even with 2% return on that money, we would still have our equity or the base principal and 2% interest. Instead, it has been lost. As a result, more ordinary Canadians are taking a keen interest in the securities marketplace and financial institutions.
We are more vulnerable because our government has not had the courage to put in place strong regulatory changes such as the Sarbanes-Oxley act. Instead, we find ourselves with Bill C-46 which we are debating today.
I would like to outline some of the things that a true corporate fraud bill would deal with. Ordinary working people right across the country would be pleased to see it.
The independence of auditors is absolutely crucial. Corporate officers should be required to report any time they receive loans from their companies. Investors should know if some of these practices are taking place, but there is currently no requirement to disclose them. We found the CEO of Tyco, a Canadian by the way, with $30 million and $40 million worth of outstanding loans when his company collapsed. There have been examples of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loans.
There are other examples where the stock options being used as part of the executive compensation exceed the net worth of the company, but they does not have to be listed on the expense column of the financial statements. Why not? If somebody is going to roll the dice and gamble with my pension income on the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, at least we should be going in with our eyes open and know whether these irresponsible CEOs and board of directors are approving a practice that has resulted in catastrophic losses for working people in the United States and in this country as well.
We also need a national securities commission, not 13 separate independent securities commissions. We need one national securities commission with national standards because the operations of these companies are not isolated within the provinces their head office is housed. The operations of these companies are often national, transnational and international. Why does Canada have 13 separate securities commissions with 13 different sets of rules, when even the head of what used to be called the business council on national issues is calling for one single securities commission?
Those are the types of changes we would have expected to see in Bill C-46 if we were serious about cracking down on corporate fraud and white collar crime as it affects blue collar people.
On the compensation packages of directors, I crashed the shareholder meetings of two major institutions recently with some proxy votes. I do not own any shares in these big corporations. I often find that a single director will sit on many boards. In one case, for example, George Cohon, the CEO of McDonald's of Canada sits on 50 boards of directors, each of which meet ten times a year. No one really believes that these guys actually make it to all their directors meetings. In fact, they only attend one meeting per year where they approve the executive compensation for each other. It is an incestuous little pool and it is going on behind the shareholder's back. The shareholder does not know.
Therefore, we would have amended Bill C-46 to require CEOs to justify and defend their compensation packages to stakeholders.
When I crashed the shareholders meeting of the Bank of Montreal, I moved a motion to that effect. Further, we moved a motion that the CEO be limited to a salary 20 times that of the average employee, which seems pretty generous. In actual fact, the compensation package for the CEO of the Bank of Montreal that year was 120 times that of the average employee. The international average is 13 times that of the average employee.
We did the same thing for the Royal Bank of Canada. We moved nine resolutions to democratize and to protect the rights of shareholders from the actions of some of these corporations. One motion that we moved almost passed with 49.6% to 50.4% to have gender parity on the board of directors of the Royal Bank of Canada. I think it surprised them that a motion from the floor would come that close to succeeding.
We would have recommended other changes in the best interests to protect Canadian pension investments on an otherwise irrational marketplace. There is no stability in today's marketplace. This is what is causing the crisis in the confidence of many institutional investors and in fact threatens to bring down the entire system.
I have a number of pieces of information I would like to share with the House today. I prepared a motion back in 2002 which would have given some direction to the Minister of Finance in changing the Canada Business Corporations Act to address some of these serious concerns. The motion is quite simple. It stated:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should encourage regulatory changes by securities commissions to ensure the independence of financial auditors by: (a) prohibiting accounting firms which provide audit services from providing other accounting or financial consulting services to the same company; (b) requiring companies to disclose to shareholders in their annual report if their auditor has provided other accounting or financial consulting services to them; and (c) requiring companies to disclose to shareholders in their annual report the amount paid in audit fees and the amount paid for other non-audit financial services
I raised this because quite often today the practice is to throw in the audit almost as a loss leader because the real money is in the other financial services that an accounting firm sells. We believe this is a bad practice that puts at risk the pension investment security for many Canadians who rely on an honest system.
We are disappointed that instead of looking at the amendments to Bill C-46 that we are not looking at legislation that has real teeth, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley act in the United States.
Interestingly enough, we are being regulated by American legislation in that many of our companies that do business in the United States find themselves subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley act. We are having the American congress dictate guidelines to Canada that would provide some security, but we are falling far behind.
The amendment replacing subsection 382(1) states that it might reasonably be expected to effect the material value of any of the securities of the corporation. The current legislation only captures fraud that significantly effects the integrity of the system. It contradicts in a way the government's own standard enshrined in the Canada Business Corporations Act. We do not find any comfort in that amendment or in any of the amendments put forward.
In the interests of Canadian working people who have their pension retirement funds invested in the marketplace, the government has an obligation to take concrete steps to ensure that we are not vulnerable to the type of catastrophic meltdown that has taken place in the United States. We are not there yet, and Bill C-46 falls short of giving that security.