House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was national.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(b) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 26 petitions.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-524, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (exception to inadmissibility).

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to present the bill to the House and to recommend its serious consideration.

The intent of the bill is to right a wrong under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which is the broad permission it gives to exclude people living with disabilities from immigrating to Canada. It adds candidates who qualify for provincial nominee programs to those family class immigrants and refugees who are exempt from being turned away due to the excessive demand provisions of section 38 of the immigration act.

It is an attempt to end the hypocrisy of signing a UN declaration around the rights of persons with disabilities while maintaining an immigration system that does anything but offer that respect by falling back on stereotypes and assumptions. It is a beginning, a specific way of eliminating discrimination and one that points to the need for a more comprehensive system and public discussion about how to end discriminatory practices in the system, practices that deny Canada immigrants with many abilities by focusing on a particular disability. This is one way of making Canada a more welcoming country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted today to present yet another income trust broken promise petition from a large number of residents in Kingston, Ontario, who remember the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said that the greatest fraud is “a promise not kept”.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government: first, to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise, and I see that members opposite are very agitated, but it is the truth; and finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

National ParksPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to present a petition with over 6,000 names of residents in the South Okanagan and Similkameen and other communities in British Columbia who want to create a national park reserve. They feel that there are more species at risk in the south Okanagan and Similkameen valleys than in any other part of British Columbia. This area also contains the antelope brush ecosystem, also known as Canada's “pocket desert”, which is one of the most endangered habitats in the country.

The petitioners call upon our government to uphold the standard of protection afforded by the National Parks Act and to protect at least 100,000 hectares of land in total, including significant tracts of currently unprotected crown lands and the grasslands and forests of the region. This includes a $50 million park acquisition fund to purchase private lands for protection, to buy out grazing leases on crown lands, and to provide conservation financing for local first nations. It also encompasses the existing provincial parks and protected areas in the region, including in the highly ecologically important Vaseux and White Lake protected areas.

Passport OfficePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present to the House today in which the petitioners are requesting that the Minister of Foreign Affairs establish a full service passport office in the riding of Simcoe—Grey to meet the growing needs in Simcoe--Grey, York—Simcoe, Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Simcoe North, Parry Sound—Muskoka, Dufferin—Caledon, and Barrie.

Airport Customs ServicesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition to present to the House today. The petitioners indicate that a new terminal at the Collingwood airport should include an office designated to process transborder and international clients and note that clients are currently rerouted to Kitchener for clearance before continuing on to Collingwood.

The petitioners call upon the Minister of Public Safety to review and award port of entry status to the Collingwood airport.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you might ask for consent to revert to presenting reports from committees.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to revert to presenting reports from committees?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on International Trade, entitled “A Study of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Negotiations”. The committee requests a government response.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately abandon the idea of creating a common securities regulator, since securities regulations fall under the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and because this initiative is unanimously condemned in Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, it is rather distressing that the Bloc Québécois has to put forward this morning the kind of motion you just read.

The fact of the matter is that the Conservative government, and the current Minister of Finance in particular, seem to be obsessed with taking away from Quebec important rights with respect to financial administration and centralizing everything for all of Canada in Toronto. However, the securities commission, and anything relating to it, is a constitutional responsibility of the Government of Quebec.

We rise in this House because the Bloc Québécois is the torch-bearer of the consensus on this issue in Quebec and, in the budget brought down on February 26, the Minister of Finance clearly indicated that he will be continuing with his steamroller approach to establishing a Canada-wide securities regulator, even though that is unanimously condemned in Quebec.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is bringing this matter to the attention of the House today. A clear message must be sent to the government that it would be unacceptable.

Why pay special attention to that issue? Because the whole area of securities represents an important sector of economic activity. For one thing, securities are fungible, negotiable and transferable instruments that can be listed on the stock exchange. The two main classes of securities are stocks and bonds, but there are others, such as certificates of investment and warrants.

Securities trading is currently regulated by Quebec and the provinces. In Quebec, the Autorité des marchés financiers is the agency responsible for regulating securities. For example, a company looking to issue a first series of shares on the Quebec stock market has to abide by the rules set out by the Autorité des marchés financiers. We share a passport system for securities regulation with the securities commissions of the other provinces, except Ontario. That province has taken the approach of the current Minister of Finance. This shows that his attitude is really to move toward giving to Ontario a responsibility that is currently that of the provinces and which, in Quebec, has always been carried out seriously.

It is important that the public know that the Bloc's position is also the unanimous position of the National Assembly of Quebec. It is not a position taken solely by the representatives of sovereigntists. On this issue, we represent the entire National Assembly of Quebec in this House.

I will read the motion adopted unanimously by the National Assembly on October 16, 2007.

THAT the National Assembly ask the federal government to abandon its Canada-wide securities commission project.

The wording could not be clearer. The motion indicates that the three parties in the National Assembly of Quebec want the federal government to stop the offensive that the Liberals began and the Conservatives have continued, because what the government is doing is not what we want.

Even after this motion was adopted in October 2007, the Minister of Finance decided on February 26 to go ahead. He heard from Quebec's finance minister, who, on this issue, shares our views and speaks for the Government of Quebec.

I want to read the letter that Monique Jérôme-Forget, Quebec's finance minister, sent Mr. Flaherty on February 28, two days after he brought down the budget.

Dear colleague,

I have noted the appointment of your expert panel charged with making suggestions and recommendations concerning securities regulation in Canada.

And here, every word is important. The minister goes on:

First of all, I reiterate that the existing regulatory system in Canada works well and satisfies both the needs of pan-Canadian participants and the interests of the various regions. Accordingly, I will continue to oppose the implementation of any model leading to the concentration of market oversight responsibilities in the hands of a common or single regulator, regardless of how you call it.

Quebec's finance minister is clearly saying that she does not want anything to do with the model that the federal Minister of Finance wants to put in place and that he talked about in his budget. She goes on:

The passport system that the participating provinces and territories are setting up is a significant and unprecedented initiative to further simplify matters for pan-Canadian participants. It is a cooperative approach by the provinces and territories that enables them to continue to monitor their local interests. The systematic refusal to acknowledge the advantages of such a system leads me to wonder whether all this effort is truly aimed at improving protection for the investing public.

Quebec's finance minister is wondering whether the current federal Minister of Finance effort is truly aimed at improving protection for the investing public and we might ask ourselves the same question. Indeed, as far as the issue of securities is concerned, the model developed in Quebec and Canada has been recognized by the International Monetary Fund as an excellent model for providing satisfactory services using a decentralized approach.

In the past, on a number of occasions, some original initiatives have been taken in Quebec and other provinces. Just look at the stock savings plan implemented by Jacques Parizeau. This was followed by action focusing on how to ensure compliance with the law. Recently there was the Norbourg case where a person was sentenced to 12 years, which is something we have never seen the federal government do. And, the RCMP did not get involved in this case even though it could have.

The current model in Canada has the flexibility that we wanted to see in the Constitution. Quebec, for whom we represent the consensus here, would like that model to be upheld.

I will continue to read the letter from Quebec's finance minister.

I must say that the federal government could apply its energies much more productively if, in its fields of jurisdiction, it worked to more effectively crack down on economic crime rather than trying to impose itself in a field of exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

This is nothing new. The federal government, which has never been able to stick to its own jurisdictions, is always tempted to meddle in other areas of jurisdiction. Securities are the Minister of Finance's current obsession.

I am going back to the minister's letter.

Given the mixed, to the say the least, results it has achieved in combating economic crime, in spite of the money spent, it seems to me that the federal government is not doing enough to assume its responsibilities, in particular regarding criminal law.

I think the Quebec finance minister's opinion is quite accurate—harsh, but accurate—and that indeed the federal government would do much better to take care of its own responsibilities than to try to meddle in those of others.

I will finish reading the letter from Quebec's finance minister.

As for the expert panel—which the minister appointed—I note that you have ignored the proposals made to you by the Provincial-Territorial Council of Ministers of Securities Regulation. In so doing, I believe you have missed a good opportunity to obtain information that would have helped you better understand the point of view of the provinces and territories. Unfortunately, I fail to see that yet another panel, whose conclusions seem predictable to us, can bring anything new to this debate.

Believe me when I say that I am sorry to see you invest your effort and good will, which I in no way doubt, in such an ill-advised initiative when your energies could be applied much more productively.

A copy of this letter was sent to all the ministers responsible for securities and to the members of the panel.

Quebec's finance minister is clearly disapproving, taking the same line as the unanimous motion by Quebec's National Assembly. The minister has also harshly criticized the Minister of Finance's manipulative use of the panel. We should remember that initially, this panel was created to evaluate the existing system and the other possibilities. But the Minister of Finance decided to use it as a tool to help put forward his proposal. The budget clearly mentions a “common securities act” that the minister wants to develop by the end of 2008 for all of Canada. The Bloc Québécois is against this, as is all of Quebec. Quebec cannot allow such an important tool out of its control.

Let us remember that there is an international securities association, and that within that association Quebec speaks for Quebec. We will recall the entire process we went through over the idea of the Quebec nation, the motion that was adopted here. So what we have here is a double standard. A motion about the nation is adopted, and on the other hand the federal government’s action would aim to deprive Quebec of one of the rare areas where it can speak directly to the international community, through the international securities association. Essentially, this amounts to the federal government looking for information so it can go and speak on the international scene about a matter it does not control. Quebec is at the controls in this area, and wants to stay there. That is what our motion is intended to do today.

We are innovators in this area. We have developed a passport system with the securities commissions in the other provinces. The passport system facilitates interprovincial transactions. This means that a business in Quebec that intends to issue shares or do something involving securities will be able to use that system to do it based on its recognition in Quebec and to do it in the other provinces.

This is a screening system comparable to what in fact exists through contacts between education ministers in the various provinces. This is where Quebec wants investments to be made. The system has to be as permeable as possible to enable companies to do business in all of the provinces, in a way that is completely consistent with the jurisdiction exercised by Quebec and the provinces in this area. As well, the federal government would have to abandon its attempt to bulldoze the province’s responsibilities into its own yard.

In Quebec, the Autorité des marchés financiers is the body that enforces the rules of the game in terms of regulating the processes by which a business issues shares and bonds. The Autorité des marchés financiers can apply sanctions to businesses or individuals who fail to comply with the Securities Act. The Autorité des marchés financiers can initiate prosecutions in the Court of Québec leading to fines and imprisonment for individuals who are convicted. However, those prosecutions are not under the Criminal Code, as in the case of Vincent Lacroix. Although he was convicted under the Act respecting the Autorité des marchés financiers, which is legislation under Quebec’s jurisdiction, other charges might be laid under the Criminal Code by the RCMP, which is under federal jurisdiction.

The passport model developed in Quebec and the other provinces corresponds exactly to the model that currently exists in Europe, between sovereign countries that apply the same system. Please do not tell us that the current model in Quebec is outmoded. The European Economic Community is a very modern body that is expanding and that decided to go ahead and do this. We would hope that the federal government will exhibit the same openness so that the system can be modernized to allow for greater transfer permeability, while not interfering in matters under Quebec’s jurisdiction.

The mission of the Autorité des marchés financiers is to enforce the legislation regulating the financial sector, including insurance, securities, deposit institutions—except banks, which are under federal jurisdiction—and the distribution of financial products and services. More specifically, the Autorité des marchés financiers must provide assistance to consumers of financial products and services and ensure that the financial institutions and other regulated entities of the financial sector comply with the solvency standards applicable to them as well as the obligations imposed on them by law.

There are all kinds of issues, in this regard, subject to the Civil Code. We have two different systems in Canada: the Civil Code in Quebec and common law in the rest of the country. We have different ways of doing things when it comes to how securities are handled, and that is one of the reasons why we want Quebec to retain full responsibility for this sector.

The Autorité des marchés financiers also supervises the activities connected with the distribution of financial products and services; supervises stock market and clearing house activities and monitors the securities market; sees to the implementation of protection and compensation programs for consumers of financial products and services; and administers the compensation funds set up by law.

The different system we have developed in Quebec reflects our social values, which have rubbed off to some extent on how securities are handled. If there were just one Canada-wide system, all the particularities of the Quebec system would immediately be lost, and that is another reason why we want to continue with our own system.

Take, for example, the federal restrictions on insurance retailing by banks. In Quebec, we decided a long time ago to allow the Desjardins Group to operate in this market to facilitate its interaction with consumers and provide them with more choice. The initiative shown by a man like Jacques Parizeau, who often proved very innovative in the use of financial tools to help Quebec develop, was instrumental in the emergence of a system unique to Quebec. We could not have developed these tools under a federal, Canada-wide securities regulator, and most importantly, we would no longer be able to in the future.

Under all its responsibilities for securities, the Autorité des marchés financiers oversees the proper operations of securities markets and ensures the protection of investors. To do this, it analyzes disclosure documents regarding securities distributions or public offerings. The entire language issue also arises in this regard. Under a Canada-wide system, things would be done quite differently.

The Autorité des marchés financiers makes sure that reporting issuers, i.e. all organizations that have issued public offerings, provide securities holders, the shareholders, and the other market participants with the financial statements, MD&As and other documents required by law and regulations.

It ensures that securities issuers and other financial sector participants adhere to their obligations, for example, by filing insider reports within the specified time periods. It also oversees the establishment and implementation of orientations and regulations pertaining to capital markets.

It is very clear, therefore, that this an entire sector of the economy that is very important and growing ever more so because of all the things being taken over by the private sector. There are also all the international activities with the globalization of capital.

The fact that each province has its own regulators means we can have different, more flexible approaches. We want this social value maintained. We do not want it all changed, either for the Canadian economy as a whole or for Quebec, which has developed its own approaches and wants to continue implementing them.

Unfortunately, the 2008 budget confirmed the Conservative government’s intention to establish a single commission. To do that, the minister mandated an expert panel to prepare a bill that would create a single securities commission. That means the House will be asked to deal with a bill that flies in the face of the constitutional responsibilities of Quebec and the provinces on this matter. I do not know how the bill will be drafted. Will they be forced to use a notwithstanding clause? Do they want to open the whole constitutional question? Will they try to slyly get around it using regulatory amendments or special approaches? Is the Minister of Finance trying to come up with a negotiating tool that will encourage Quebec to give in? Quebec will not give in on this issue because it is unanimous and wants to retain its authority in financial markets. That is one of the strengths of our economic action and we want to be able to retain it. Let us remember that the expert panel's report will be presented in late 2008.

In our opinion, this is an unacceptable situation. The minister stubbornly persists with a bill that goes against the unanimous vote of the National Assembly, which is a flagrant violation of Quebec’s constitutional jurisdiction. We will continue to defend Quebec against the centralizing tendencies of the federal government.

It was a waste of time changing the government. We are always faced with the same situation. Those who were elected—or at least those elected members who talk about decentralization during election campaigns and, more specifically, the current Prime Minister—wanted to give Quebec its rightful place. The day after the election, we were already starting to feel this. As time goes by, the government, whether Liberal, Conservative or other, has been calling for a centralizing approach that is not appropriate and, in addition, does not correspond to fields of jurisdiction. The Bloc Québécois is now the best tool for defending Quebec on the floor of the House of Commons.

This seems to us once again a very flagrant example of the fact that the only solution is for Quebec to become sovereign. Once Quebec is a country, it will have authority in terms of financial markets. We will no longer be forced to deal with attacks such as the one the Minister of Finance is now leading in an effort to change, indirectly, an existing provincial jurisdiction.

Since 2003, the matter has again moved to the forefront of federal politics. The Liberals established an expert panel when they were in power. In 2005, the Ontario government mandated a group of experts, led by Purdy Crawford, to examine the advantages of a single securities regulatory system. Clearly, that report was written to be able to say that it would be better to have a single regulator. The idea surfaced in the 2006 federal budget, where the government announced that it was committed to working with the provinces and territories in order to establish a common securities regulator.

In my opinion, we can clearly see the federal government's steamroller tactics, regardless of the party in power.

At the same time, we see the unanimous position of Quebeckers. This unanimous position was demonstrated in a Quebec National Assembly motion and is defended by the current Quebec finance minister, a federalist minister who finds the Conservative government's approach unacceptable.

The unanimous position of Quebeckers is defended in this House by the Bloc Québécois, which is calling on the House of Commons here today to force the Conservative government to stop its steamroller tactics. Despite past government initiatives, we would like to be supported on this. One thing that is certain is that all Quebeckers are behind us. We will not give up until the Conservatives decide to abandon this plan that in no way serves Quebec's economic future.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that virtually every Quebec public company that I am aware of trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and they do it to gain access to national and international capital markets.

If I were to talk to the CEOs of these companies, whether it is BCE, Bombardier or any other company, I am quite sure they would be the first people to say that we have too many regulators in the business. It drives up the cost of public financing and it makes the cost of capital uncompetitive in Canada. I think they would be the first people to step up to the plate and ask to be freed from this over-regulation that we have across the country.

Oil companies in Alberta would probably be in the same boat. They are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and they must comply with the Ontario Securities Commission's rules and maybe 13 provincial and territorial agencies on this. It drives up the cost of raising capital and gaining access to the markets.

The reality is that Quebec companies are trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange today. Does the Bloc Québécois not understand that reality?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is not the view of just the Bloc Québécois; the current Government of Quebec—the Quebec federalist government—and the three parties represented in the National Assembly of Quebec concur with the Bloc Québécois.

In its most recent economic survey, the OECD ranked Canada second for the quality of its securities regulation. That means that the current system in which companies operate is fine. In addition, in a study of global financial systems, the World Bank ranked Canada as a leader in securities trading. At present, all Canadian securities commissions in Canada are represented at the International Organization of Securities Commissions. This system works very well, is recognized within Canada, in Quebec and internationally.

That is why we want the Conservative government to abandon its current tactic, which is not at all a decentralizing approach. There must be respect for jurisdictions. It is unacceptable to say to Quebeckers, on the one hand, that they form a nation and, on the other, to attempt to take away from them an important tool for economic intervention. It is unconscionable and for that reason Quebec stands united. The Bloc Québécois and the Parti Québécois are against it and so are the Liberal Party of Quebec—the governing party— and the Action démocratique du Québec. All of Quebec stands behind the position being defended today by the Bloc Québécois.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the objective of securities regulators is to ensure capital markets are efficient, fair and transparent, and I think the member will agree with that.

He may also want to comment on whether the consolidation of securities regulation in Canada might be enhanced to deal with discrepancies between the jurisdictions of the provinces in terms of public disclosure, information sharing between companies and investors, the fact that it might create distorted markets if there is not that standardization and maybe even an increased risk for investors. These seem to be desirable objectives in terms of security for all investors throughout Canada. I wonder if the member would care to comment?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I will refer him to a letter dated February 28 from Ms. Jérôme-Forget addressed to the Minister of Finance of Canada, saying the following:

First of all, I reiterate that the existing regulatory system in Canada works well and satisfies both the needs of pan-Canadian participants and the interests of the various regions. Accordingly, I will continue to oppose the implementation of any model leading to the concentration of market oversight responsibilities in the hands of a common or single regulator, regardless of how you call it.

And she added:

The passport system that the participating provinces and territories are setting up is a significant and unprecedented initiative to further simplify matters for pan-Canadian participants. It is a cooperative approach by the provinces and territories—

In other words, we have two choices today: go for the centralizing approach of the Conservatives who will change all the rules or move toward the cooperative approach sought by Quebec's financer minister. As far as we are concerned, the choice is cut and dry for Quebec; it is the one made by the Government of Quebec, the National Assembly of Quebec, and which the Bloc Québécois stands for in this House.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering why the Bloc fears a common securities regulator would give more power to Ontario. First, it will not be an Ontario focused regulator and, second, if I understand the current situation, Ontario is the de facto regulator of securities in Canada, with the OSC currently regulating over 80% of securities.

Would a common securities regulator not in fact actually give more influence to other provinces and less to Ontario?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many times we will have to repeat this, but we will repeat it as long as people keep asking us questions. Our position this morning is not the Bloc Québécois'; it is Quebec's position, the position of the Government of Quebec, which knows that this is an important tool for the future. In the context of globalization, there is a system that works and that gives powers to Quebec. This system is set out in the existing Constitution. Quebec does not want to turn that power over to a pan-Canadian authority because Quebec has ways of doing things and models that would not have been developed by a pan-Canadian commission.

How paradoxical that the only province that does not want to go ahead with the passport system is Ontario. What is motivating the province? All of the other provinces think that this is the best system, and they want to go forward with it. That is why we find it unacceptable for the Minister of Finance to steamroller ahead with a bill for a common securities regulator. The federal Parliament should not even be allowed to consider such a bill because jurisdiction in this matter is clearly defined: Quebec and the provinces are responsible for securities regulation, and the system is working. We are not talking about a dysfunctional model. Our model is recognized by the International Monetary Fund. The OECD has recognized our model as the second most efficient one in the world.

Yet we have to find other reasons. I think this is an obsession shared by Ontario, Toronto, and the current Minister of Finance. I do not know if there are career goals hidden behind all of this, but it is clear that this is not a choice that will be good for Quebec's future. All of Quebec has said so, Quebec's National Assembly and the Government of Quebec agree on this, and the Bloc Québécois is bringing their position to this House.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup that my career aspirations are here as Minister of Finance of Canada.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to comment on this important issue dealing with the best way forward in terms of securities regulation in Canada.

This motion brought forward by the Bloc does not meet the real challenge facing Canada today, which is a great challenge with respect to securities regulation in Canada. This issue needs to be addressed to protect our capital markets and to protect Canadian citizens. This issue is all the more urgent, given the turbulence that we have in capital markets globally today.

Our government believes that we must modernize our securities regulatory framework. This is a priority and an important component of strengthening our economic union in Canada.

That is why the government recently announced the creation of an expert panel to provide advice and make suggestions and recommendations concerning securities regulation in Canada.

This expert panel, chaired by the hon. Tom Hockin, will provide independent advice and recommendations to federal, provincial and territorial ministers on the best way forward to improve securities regulation in Canada. We look forward to a collaborative effort with the provinces and territories to build an even stronger Canadian economic union.

Our government has a good reason for taking action on this front. Canada has a strong financial services sector, one that spans the country from coast to coast to coast providing good, high-paying jobs for Canadians. There is no doubt that Canada has a great story to tell, one of economic success, visionary entrepreneurs, growing competitiveness and unlimited potential, and yet we have a capital markets regulatory system that is out of step with the western world.

We are the only industrialized country that does not have a common securities regulator. Our system of 13 regulators is cumbersome, fragmented and it lacks the proper tools of enforcement. To maximize our potential, the government's goal is to work in collaboration with the provinces and territories to develop a competitive advantage in global capital markets. That includes reforming Canada's securities regulatory system.

This goal flows from our long term economic plan for Canada called Advantage Canada which was published in October 2006. In that plan, we committed to focus on creating five key advantages for Canada. First is a tax advantage, which means reducing taxes for all Canadians and establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G-7. We have taken significant action on that front, most recently in budget 2008 with the tax free savings account.

Second is the creation of a fiscal advantage. This means eliminating Canada's total government net debt in less than a generation. We are well on our way to meeting that commitment.

Third is the creation of an infrastructure advantage, which means building modern, world-class infrastructure that promotes economic growth, a clean environment and international competitiveness. We are investing $33 billion over the next seven years, as well as $500 million in public transit, to ensure that Canada has a modern, high quality infrastructure to take us into the future.

Fourth is creating a knowledge advantage. We need to have the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. The government has invested significantly in knowledge, science and innovation.

Finally, Advantage Canada commits to creating an entrepreneurial advantage. This means reducing unnecessary regulation, red tape and increasing competition in the Canadian marketplace.

Specifically, we committed to securing a competitive advantage in global capital markets. In budget 2007, we followed through on that commitment with the capital markets plan. To put the plan in context, in 2004 all provinces and territories, with the exception of Ontario, agreed to a process to create a passport-style system to regulate securities.

Those initiatives narrowed regulatory differences, harmonized and streamlined securities laws, initiatives that are important to achieving a more efficient and effective regulatory system in Canada. Through their actions, the provinces and territories have demonstrated a clear commitment to improving our securities regulatory system.

Those actions, although commendable, do not go far enough or fast enough. With the passport system, Canada still has 13 securities regulators, 13 sets of laws, however harmonized, and 13 sets of fees. Moreover, the passport system lacks national coordination of enforcement activities making it difficult to maximize results in this critical part of the securities system.

Furthermore, the passport system does not address our need to improve policy making. It is still necessary to obtain agreement from 13 regulators to make changes to rules. This is just too cumbersome. In short, the passport system is not where Canada needs to be in today's global economy.

Where do we go from here? The vast majority of capital market participants and observers agree that we could no longer afford to sit back and watch our competitors pass us by. We have great advantages to offer here in Canada: an educated labour force, social benefits and a strong economy. Now is the time for a more efficient capital market system. The benefits of a common securities regulator are well known.

Furthermore, unlike what the Bloc Québécois across the floor would have us believe, the creation of a single securities regulator would allow all regions of Canada to have a say.

In fact, such a solution would make the regulation of our markets more responsive and accountable by creating a decision making body that would coordinate the views of all jurisdictions promptly and fairly.

I say again, as I have said before, we are not talking about a federal securities regulator. We are talking about a common securities regulator for Canada.

Recent developments in global capital markets underscore the need for a mechanism that will provide Canada with the policy and regulatory capacity we need to react quickly and effectively to address new and emerging issues. Let us look at the advantages of a common securities regulator. There are numerous advantages for Canada.

First, a common securities regulator would improve market efficiency and ensure the best use of money and resources, and make the system more efficient to operate. This, in turn, would lower costs and make it more affordable for all who benefit from it, both those with capital to invest and those with businesses to build.

Another advantage is that a common securities regulator would improve enforcement and better protect investors with a common set of sanctions and remedies, as well as better enforcement across the country. Indeed, by serving as a single point of contact for law enforcement agencies, both at home and abroad, Canada would be better placed to share information and detect market fraud.

Moreover, we would be able to set clear enforcement priorities across the country while making sure investigation and enforcement resources are deployed efficiently. As I mentioned earlier, a common securities regulator would give all regions of Canada a real say.

In fact, the creation of a common regulator would better serve our common interest by establishing a structure that would allow all regions of the country to participate in market regulation in a more meaningful and constructive way.

Having such a structure would ensure meaningful participation by all provinces and territories, with a strong presence in all regions and local expertise that would respond to regional needs, for example, the oil and gas industry in the west or the futures market in Montreal.

Canada is a respected voice on the international stage. A common securities regulator would also allow Canada to speak with one voice. Speaking with one voice can only serve to enhance the protection and promotion of the interests of Canadian market investors and businesses. I have been pursuing the concept of free trade and securities with my counterparts in the United States, the G-7 and international partners that share high standards of investor protection.

Under a mutual recognition of each other's regimes, our investors would have better access to global opportunities and businesses listed on our exchanges would have better access to global investors. It is a win-win proposition.

The bottom line is simplicity and effectiveness. A common securities regulator represents an opportunity to move toward simpler, more principles-based regulation. Let us face it, Canada needs a regulatory framework that is world class and this is the way to do it.

We need a framework adapted to the make-up of our capital markets, with both Canada-based global corporations and a large number of small and medium-sized businesses. Too many complex rules get in the way of both efficient financing and effective investor protection.

Exerting further leadership and developing a single code for Canada with the right balance of rules and principles would help establish a clear competitive advantage for Canada in global markets. Clearly, this is an advantage to a common securities regulator.

Our securities regulators are engaged constructively, but our capacity to implement a strategy and secure an agreement for all of Canada would be greatly enhanced with one regulator clearly accountable to negotiate on Canada's behalf.

I have made the case to all ministers responsible in the provinces and territories that we must look beyond the passport system. To that end, as I mentioned at the outset, that is why we have established an expert panel to provide advice on how to best move forward on developing a model common securities act to create a Canadian advantage in global capital markets.

In closing, let me be clear. Establishing a common securities regulator, breaking down interprovincial trade barriers, and strengthening Canada's economic union are all priorities of our government.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Finance for taking part in this opposition day debate. However, I want to remind him about the letter that Quebec's finance minister, Ms. Jérôme-Forget, wrote to him on February 28, 2008, after the budget was introduced. I will read some excerpts, and I would like to get his reaction. Ms. Jérôme-Forget said:

Accordingly, I will continue to oppose the implementation of any model leading to the concentration of market oversight responsibilities in the hands of a common or single regulator, regardless of how you call it.

As regards the panel, she also said:

As for the expert panel, I note that you have ignored the proposals made to you by the Provincial-Territorial Council of Ministers of Securities Regulation. In so doing, I believe you have missed a good opportunity to obtain information that would have helped you better understand the point of view of the provinces and territories. Unfortunately, I fail to see that yet another panel, whose conclusions seem predictable to us, can bring anything new to this debate.

Believe me when I say that I am sorry to see you invest your effort and good will, which I in no way doubt, in such an ill-advised initiative when your energies could be applied much more productively.

My question is for the Minister of Finance.

While the OECD says that we rank second among the world's best systems—not because of the government's centralizing changes—and while the World Bank is saying that we are a leader, I see only one answer in the minister's comments, and it is a terrible answer for Quebec, because he said that Canada must “speak with one voice”.

We want to keep what Quebec has obtained in this area, namely to be able to speak directly to the International Organization of Securities Commissions. That is not the position of Quebec's sovereignists, but of all Quebeckers. It is based on a motion that was carried unanimously at the Quebec National Assembly, and it is reflected in a letter addressed by Quebec's finance minister to the federal Minister of Finances, following the introduction of the last budget.

How could the Minister of Finance continue to want to move forward with a project that is not in the best interests of Quebec, or of the provinces, and that is being condemned by Quebec and the provinces? This government has recognized the Quebec nation and its right to be present on the international scene, but it tries to deny Quebec at the first opportunity. Is this acceptable? I can assure the minister that he will find the Bloc Québécois, and all of Quebec, in his path if he decides to keep moving forward with this thinking.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, may I ask the hon. member how it serves the people of the province of Quebec when 80% to 85% of the power of the regulation of securities in Canada is through the Ontario Securities Commission which is a creature of the legislative assembly of the province of Ontario?

How does that serve the people of Quebec, to have the legislative assembly of the province of Ontario determining the rules and regulations of securities regulations in Canada? If this is something desirable for the people of Quebec, that is news to me. But that is in effect what the hon. member is arguing.

It is also in effect what the minister of finance, my colleague in Quebec, is arguing as well, that Quebec does not want to be subservient to the legislative assembly of the province of Ontario because, de facto, that is the reality in Canada today.

I fail to understand how at the same time the hon. member and his party can advocate for a common carbon exchange, a national carbon exchange in Quebec, and at the same time they argue against a national securities regulator in Canada. This is inconsistent to say the least.

At one time they say, on the carbon exchange, “Oh, we want to govern all of Canada in Montreal”, and at the same time they say, “Oh no, but we don't want any part of a common securities regulator for our country”. This is incomprehensible.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find the Minister of Finance's speech interesting. I am not surprised that the government is in favour of a national common securities board.

I do find it interesting, however, that the minister does not underline the fact that the only province that seems to be in favour of it is the province that he has been bashing for the last several weeks and months: the province of Ontario. He has bashed that province to the point where he is actually telling the world, “Don't invest in Ontario”.

This is a minister who, when he was in the provincial government, achieved one of the largest deficits provincially, after having run on a fiscally sound policy. He is now bringing the federal government and Canada to the brink of a deficit again, at a time when our economy is slowing down.

I find it interesting that this is the same minister who is dissing my Liberal colleague for his private member's bill on the RESP, claiming that it is going to bring Canada to the brink of a deficit.

A good fiscal finance minister would have, as elementary as A, B, C, taken the list of all private members' bills and costed out what it would cost if in fact the bills became law, and would have had budgeted for it in a contingency plan. But this minister, who wants to bring about this common securities regulator, and it is quite interesting, does not have the A, B, C elementary intelligence to establish a contingency fund on the basis that some of the private members' bills, or all of them, may come to fruition. Anyone who manages a household budget takes into account every eventuality that may come to fruition.

So, I would like to--

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The hon. Minister of Finance.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I see that the hon. member once again fails to argue from principle. Her point seems to be that if we are going to have a common securities regulator, the headquarters should be in Montreal. That means the member is in favour, I guess, of a common securities regulator. What we are down to now is where will we locate the headquarters.

Mr. Crawford's panel recommended that the board of directors of the new common securities regulator should decide an appropriate place for the location of the securities regulator. The board is composed of 14 members: 10 from the provinces, 3 from the territories and 1 representative from the Government of Canada. But I thank the hon. member for her support in principle of the idea.

I also thank her for her support in principle of the budget which, as we know, passed through this House a week ago Tuesday.

I regret her American-style rider that the Liberals tried to add to the budget the next day, on the Wednesday, this congressional-type tactic, this Homer kind of tactic. It is kind of like arguing that the securities commission headquarters is the most important thing. It is what I have grown to expect from the hon. member, this kind of lack of vision for our country and looking at small items rather than looking at the big picture.

But in the budget there is a big picture; that is, a balanced budget by a Conservative government in Canada. And we will maintain a balanced budget.

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine may not be interested in a balanced budget. She may want to have deficits. She probably wants to go back to the good old days of March madness where the Liberals just loved that they had surpluses and they blew the money every March all over. They did not give it back to taxpayers. No. They spent it on their pet projects all over the country, many without parliamentary approval.

I know the member is chattering on because she is very concerned about her idea. Maybe she wants to put the headquarters of the common securities regulator in Montreal. Maybe she wants to put it somewhere else. But she does not speak to the principle; that is, the national interest of Canada in global capital markets.

If she listens, maybe she will want to consult a former finance minister, the member for Wascana, who said:

I don't believe that the passport system is an adequate response. It still leaves us with a system that is largely fragmented and certainly less sophisticated than that in virtually every other country in the world.

That was the view of the member for Wascana, the former minister of finance in the Liberal government, and obviously a view not shared in respect to where the headquarters should be by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada recognizes that the creation of a national regulator, with the collaboration of all provinces, regions and territories, would be greatly beneficial for the economy of all regions of the country. The Liberal Party also recognizes that the contribution of provincial regulators is flexible and specific to the needs of their regional markets. In addition, the Liberal Party is not opposed to a national process and is therefore opposed to this motion.

Finally, the Liberal Party still wants to study, together with the provinces, a national securities regulation system which will improve coordination and regulation, while responding to the particular needs of all regions.

While the Liberal Party of Canada believes that securities regulation remains in the jurisdiction of the provinces, we also recognize that the creation of a national regulator through the cooperation of all provinces and territories would be of tremendous value to the economy in all regions of the country.

As the Minister of Finance has just cited, my colleague, the member for Wascana when he was finance minister was certainly in favour of a national, not necessarily a federal, regulator. He believes, as I believe, that while the passport system perhaps represents progress vis-à-vis the status quo, it is not sufficient to accomplish the full objectives which we have for national securities regulation.

This debate is among the oldest debates in this House. In fact, it goes back to the early 1900s when provinces noticed that the federal government was taking little or no action with regard to securities regulation. I think we could almost say it is a non-partisan issue going back as it did to 1905. As a result of this void the provinces began drafting their own securities regulations, and this is how Canada developed its current patchwork of regulations which we have in this country today.

Many of the countries which were engaged in the development of securities regulation around that time opted for a different route. The United States, for instance, saw several states creating their own separate securities laws as inefficient and chose to create the federal U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934.

The goal of each provincial regulator is essentially the same: regulate securities trades; ensure that appropriate levels of information about publicly traded companies is available to investors; conduct prospectus reviews; and protect investors through enforcement activities.

While this was a reasonably effective way to regulate the securities industry in Canada throughout much of the 20th century, times are changing. In the 20th century, global capital has become so fluid that investment decisions can easily be made based on the fact that securities regulation in one country is too onerous vis-à-vis another country.

The majority of provinces, however, have indicated quite clearly that they are not in favour of a national system. The Quebec National Assembly has indicated it is not interested. When the Alberta finance minister mused that it was time for one, he was sternly rebuked by his premier, who reiterated that his province was not interested.

Ontario is the only province that has consistently been in favour of a single regulator. This, however, has put Ontario at odds with the provinces which are now working toward building a kind of passport system through the Canadian Securities Administrators, or CSA.

The CSA is a forum where the country's 13 individual securities regulators meet to ensure that their regulatory efforts are somewhat coordinated. It is through this body that the majority of Canada's provinces are currently working to implement the passport system.

In just seven days the CSA will officially launch the next phase of that plan. As of next Monday, when a review of a prospectus is approved in one province, it will now automatically be cleared in the provinces and territories that have signed on to the passport model.

The CSA has also announced that the next phase in implementing the passport system will be the creation of a passport that recognizes the registration of securities. Some organizations have lent some tepid support to the passport system, indicating that while not great for Canada, it would be better than the current system. Others, like the Canadian Bankers Association, have indicated that while the sentiment is there, the passport system could actually turn out to be even worse for Canada.

Meanwhile at the federal level, we have had nothing but bungling from Canada's finance minister. The good news is that if markets value consistency, and I guarantee that they do, they can always count on Canada's finance minister to bungle some important file.

The list is so long I would run out of time to try to encapsulate all of these areas, but I would start with income trusts, which is the obvious case of a broken promise that caused some $25 billion to go up in smoke in a single day and which in fact has caused additional tax leakage rather than resolved the problem of tax leakage.

I would also mention interest deductibility, from which thankfully the minister backed down under pressure from Liberals and the business community, but would have been an absolute disaster for the competitiveness of Canadian companies operating abroad.

I could mention as well the GST. The government invested $12 billion a year in a GST tax cut, thereby forgoing huge opportunity for meaningful cuts in income tax or meaningful support for post-secondary education, as was reflected in the private member's bill from the Liberal side the other day. The minister's overall record of economic management is a sad story.

I should mention a few words about that also in the context of the private member's bill. As my colleague from Lachine, I believe, pointed out, when we were in government and the member for Wascana was the finance minister, and before him when the member for LaSalle—Émard was the finance minister, we always had at least a $3 billion contingency reserve that would respond to unforeseen shocks, whether these shocks came from SARS, 9/11, a U.S. recession, an Asian crisis, or an ice storm. The world is an unpredictable place, but parts of the world are predictable, and one of the predictable parts of the world is private members' bills that are in the pipeline.

The private member's bill was in the pipeline two years ago. It was actually introduced two days after the Minister of Finance raised income tax in his budget. It seeks to provide meaningful support to Canadian parents and grandparents and students who wish to undertake the very expensive but very necessary activity of post-secondary education. This, unlike the minister's pathetic savings plan in comparison, would have provided meaningful support for this activity.

Had the minister behaved in a fiscally prudent and responsible manner, he would have been aware that this was coming down the pipeline. Rather than spend in a drunken fashion in his first three years in office when the economy was prosperous, he would have forgone a little bit of that spending during good times so as to have an adequate reserve at this time, when times are difficult, in order to absorb items like the private member's bill on RESPs.

What has he done? He has instead taken us so close to the edge where the projected surplus next year is $2.3 billion, and the year after it is $1.3 billion, far lower than any responsible government would take the country, thereby leaving us open to a return to deficits, whatever the nature of the shock may be, whether it is a private member's bill or some other item to hit the economy.

As I have said, the Liberal Party will oppose this motion. We are in favour, not of a federal single regulator, but of a system of national regulation, as has been reflected in the views of our governments in past years.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find the remarks that just came from the other side of the House almost astounding. The Liberals are talking about the lack of a fiscal base for the future budgets of this country when both the Liberals and the Conservatives backed the huge corporate tax breaks that were handed out in the October statement. The Liberals backed the Conservative budget recently. I find that quite amazing.

The reality is that takes $14 billion a year out of the fiscal moneys available. Let us talk about the educational fund that was put forward by the party opposite. The moneys that were given away in corporate tax breaks could have funded the $1 billion for that education fund.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I thank my colleague for his question, I would point out that the basic reality is that the NDP does not understand the first thing about economics, so it is hardly surprising that those members opposed the corporate tax reduction. We said, long before the government introduced this measure, that this would be the cornerstone for a prosperous and competitive Canadian economy going into the 21st century.

I would remind the member that social democratic countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Norway, countries that the NDP tends to admire, have very low corporate tax rates. That is because Sweden does not have a neanderthal left wing party any more. It has a rejuvenated social democratic party that understands the realities of globalization and in fact has a very low corporate tax rate. If we want to have the highest corporate tax rate, we can go to George W. Bush's Washington, with its very high corporate tax rate. I am not sure if that is the party the NDP would choose to associate itself with.

As our leader has said on a number of occasions, the question of a low corporate tax rate is not a left wing versus right wing issue. It is an issue of sensible policy, so as to bring investment, jobs and competitiveness to our country rather than to someone else's country. I think that is a lesson the NDP members should learn, perhaps on a mission to Scandinavia to talk to their own social democratic colleagues in that region of the world.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the remarks of my Liberal colleague and those of the minister just before that and, in both cases, we can still see the same sad centralizing federalist paternalism towards Quebeckers. In the case of the minister, it is a kind of paternalism that borders on contempt, dictating to Quebeckers what is good for them.

Everybody in Quebec is against the minister's initiative. The 125 members of the National Assembly are unanimously opposed to this initiative, as well as every editorial writer, every economic analyst and even every member of Quebec's economic class.

We are being told that all these people are wrong since Ottawa knows best, Ottawa knows what is good for Quebeckers. I should mention that this centralizing attitude from the Liberals is no surprise to us since we had 13 years to grow accustomed to this kind of centralizing vision of Canada where Quebec had increasingly less flexibility and where its place became increasingly smaller.

In the last election campaign, the Conservatives had promised to respect Quebec's jurisdictions and to respect the Quebec nation, which was recognized in this House as a result of a Bloc Québécois initiative. But when it is time to defend the economic interests of Bay Street, those promises are quickly thrown out the window. It is quite interesting to see how, in two years, the Conservative government has developed the same tendencies as the Liberals.

Is my Liberal colleague honoured and flattered that after only two years the Conservative Party has developed the same centralizing tendencies as his party?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, in no way could the approach I described be called centralizing or domineering. That is not the case at all. What the member does not realize, or what he chooses not to realize, is that our approach is not about federal regulation. If that were true, perhaps he would have a point. But that is not what the Liberal Party is looking for.

We are looking for a national regulation approach in which the provinces would work with the federal government and would have most of the votes. This approach has nothing to do with centralization; it has to do with collaboration between the provinces and the federal government.

I think that, based on experiences in other countries, and the problems posed by our current regulatory system, it is clear that a national approach would be better not only for Ontarians, but also for Quebeckers and all Canadians.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is important for the Canadian economy, investors and businesses to have efficient and competitive capital markets, including securities exchanges. The TSX-MX merger highlighted the importance of that. These are private decisions in the best interests of shareholders, but they have recognized larger issues as well. Globally, exchanges are increasing their size to lower trading costs through mergers.

It has been described as an historic moment. Even Quebec's finance minister, Monique Jérôme-Forget, recognized its importance when she said on December 11 in the Globe and Mail, “Politically it's good for Montreal, and if it's good for Montreal it's good for Quebec”.

Would the member for Markham—Unionville agree with the Quebec finance minister on that?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, if on the subject of the merger between the two stock exchanges her view is that it was positive, I have lived in Montreal most of my life and I would certainly think that something that is good for Montreal is a good thing.

As for whether everything that is good for Montreal is necessarily good for all of Quebec, I guess one has to go on a case by case basis, but I would agree with the finance minister of Quebec on this matter.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel I have to respond to the member for Markham—Unionville, who was talking about the NDP and budgets. With Lorne Calvert, we had four terms in office with balanced budgets. With Gary Doer in Manitoba, we have had balanced budgets throughout.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I am a little distracted by the cross-conversation here, but when Tommy Douglas originally took over the government in his province, he had 16 years of balancing the books to sort out the mess that was left behind by the previous government before he introduced medicare. There is a long history of balanced budgets from the NDP, contrary to what the member has said.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is always confused on this issue, because I always preface my comments about the NDP not understanding economics by talking about the federal NDP. I have a lot of respect for some provincial NDP governments. Many of them could have been Liberal. In my youth, I even worked for Mr. Schreyer when he was premier of Manitoba. He could have been a Liberal. From me, that is a compliment.

When I talk about the NDP members not understanding economics and not living in a neanderthal world where, unlike their Swedish counterparts, they think the best thing for Canada is a high corporate tax rate, I am referring to the federal NDP.

I might also mention with regard to the member for Outremont that I wonder what his position is on national securities. Will he take the position of his former boss, the Premier of Quebec, who opposes a national securities regulator, or will he succumb to the pressures of his new leader, who seems to be in favour?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the best way to get an answer is to ask questions. At least the person who just spoke, and who boasts about being from Quebec but speaks only in English when he rises, will have his answer right away.

The New Democratic Party opposes the creation of this body and supports the Bloc Québécois motion for reasons that I will explain in the language of Shakespeare, for the benefit of my colleague. I am going to read him a brief excerpt from the Financial Post last October:

The Council of Ministers of Securities Regulation (representing all provinces and territories, except Ontario)--

I think our finance minister has a little trouble understanding that he is no longer an Ontario minister. He is too busy with his choo-choos. The quote continues:

--wants the public to know the facts regarding Canada's securities regulatory system.

Canada's securities regulatory system has recently been the subject of intense negative rhetoric--

Like that which we have just heard from the Liberals.

The quote continues:

--from those who advocate creating a single securities regulator. Led by [the] federal Finance Minister...critics contend that our current system, with regulatory authority falling to the 13 provinces and territories, is cumbersome, ineffective and costly. After the acquittal of the former vice-chairman of Bre-X, [the minister] criticized Canada's securities regulators and described securities enforcement as “an embarrassment internationally to Canada”. He has also suggested that a single regulator is necessary in order to pursue free trade in securities with the United States and other G7 countries. Unfortunately, most of this criticism is based on myths, not facts.

That, Mr. Speaker, is the case.

Yes indeed, there has to be cooperation and the work has to be done in unison by the provinces, in the same way that the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants is always refining what are considered to be generally accepted accounting principles. There are no problems in that regard. But this is not something that can be imposed from the top down. Everyone has to work together toward that ultimate goal.

What we have before us is an absolutely classic example of federalism as it was practised in the era of the Liberal Party of Canada. So imagine our surprise to see that the Minister of Finance is winning the battle with his Prime Minister, the very Prime Minister who prides himself on being someone who has understood that Quebec, in particular, is a nation within Canada. He is telling us to forget that. His answers are getting increasingly strident and increasingly caustic. He says that the federal government alone should be the one on top when it comes to these things.

I might suggest that we should look at the facts when it comes to the supreme power and jurisdiction of the federal government to regulate white-collar crime. It is indeed true that in Canada, economic crime is given a fair bit of latitude, compared to what happens south of the border.

If we want to see how it works when the rules are properly enforced, we need only look at what happened with the case in which judgment was recently given concerning the Norbourg company and Vincent Lacroix. Vincent Lacroix was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Quebec courts under the provincial regulations. How many prosecutions came out of the sponsorship scandal and the superb work done by the RCMP? Zero, not one, nada. That is the real result of what goes on here in Ottawa.

We saw it again with the ethics committee, regarding the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. We learned that while the Liberals were paying out $2.1 million of taxpayers’ money to Brian Mulroney to settle his action, the investigators had not even interviewed Mr. Schreiber. When that was disclosed for the first time in committee, the RCMP sent a spokesperson to say, “That is not true, we interviewed him.” Yes, but they interviewed him after the settlement. That is very clearly the question that was asked.

Open up professor Johnston's report on the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, and what does it say? Contrary to what we were told, the RCMP did interview him. Then there are the marginal notes, which list all of the dates, and once again, it looks like that happened after the settlement. How can it be that Mr. Pellossi, for example, was never interviewed? Why is it that most of the time, the federal government's so-called excellent work on economic crime fails to show results?

If Conrad Black had been tried and had been the subject of an investigation here in Canada, he would be sitting in a nice restaurant in Toronto, smoking a cigar, instead of sitting in the big house. That is the reality of what we have seen up to now.

The provinces definitely do not need a lecture from their big brother, the federal government. What a speech we heard from the Liberals earlier. What an incredibly haughty attitude toward the provinces. Sometimes in this House, the masks come off and we can see people for who they really are. This afternoon, when we vote on this issue and the Liberal members stand up one after the other to vote with the Conservatives, they will prove that the Gerard Kennedys of this world, those who deny that Quebec is a nation within Canada, hold sway in their caucus. They are trying to justify how Justin Trudeau can still be an official Liberal Party candidate even though he too argues against recognizing Quebec as a nation. This is not complicated: they do not believe it.

They refuse to look at the evidence. They do not care about the facts. Their only goal in life is to prove that Ottawa knows best, even in matters of shared jurisdiction, like the regulation of financial markets and securities.

The Bloc Québécois motion, the opposition motion, states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately abandon the idea of creating a common securities regulator, since securities regulations fall under the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and because this initiative is unanimously condemned in Quebec.

The last phrase—unanimously condemned in Quebec—is absolutely true; but that is not all. Who is Greg Selinger, the author of the quote I read earlier from the National Post? He is the chair of the Council of Ministers of Securities Regulation and also the minister of finance for Manitoba, your province, Mr. Speaker. He and the Bloc Québécois are saying exactly the same thing, that there is nothing to prevent us from working together.

I would like to congratulate another colleague from Winnipeg, also a man of vision. He studied this matter knowing that white-collar crime is an everyday concern of Canadians. People see what goes on and wonder why we cannot implement standards and why we are not more successful.

We will not solve anything by having Ottawa pass a single set of regulations that will be made in Toronto. This is another bad sign for Montreal, which has already suffered enough—thank you very much—from the flight of capital, organization and service structures to Toronto. It is wrong to let people think that, henceforth, Ottawa will be in charge. It is as though we were unable to agree on the objectives, which are to have a passport system. Mr. Selinger spoke about this in the article I referred to. For those of you who are interested, you can find the article online in the October 26, 2007 edition of the National Post.

There is nothing preventing us from reaching an agreement on the guidelines. They should stop believing that, by pushing for centralization, as the Liberals always did and, to my surprise and disappointment, as the Conservatives are doing today, we will obtain better results. That is the issue. They feel they have to get results. Let us stop messing around about the methods, claiming that, by centralizing and dictating from the top down, the federal government will achieve better results. We have proof that the provinces that put in the necessary resources can obtain results without compromising the initial agreement.

There is a paradox, here, that I want to explore a little. People on that side of the aisle want Quebec to leave Canada. That is not what we want. We believe—and the NDP’s Sherbrooke declaration proves—that we can adapt on a case by case basis and by resorting when appropriate to asymmetrical federalism, which takes these different approaches into account. When it comes to the environment, some provinces and especially certain territories have very limited resources in an area of shared jurisdiction. The environment is actually a bit like securities: it is shared between the federal government and the provinces. Some provinces simply want to leave all the investigations up to the federal government because they lack the resources. That suits them, and they sign agreements to that effect. Good for them, it is fine with us. Just as we do not want to be told how to do things, we do not want to tell the other provinces what would be best, what the best practices are and how best to achieve results.

Whether in regard to the environment, the regulation of corporations, or the regulation of securities, we should go out and find the best practices. We should see what our neighbour is doing best. We should reach agreements and set up a passport system that allows for the free flow of services. That is much to be desired in today’s world. In the area of professions, for example, we want people’s credentials recognized when they come from another country or another jurisdiction. All the better if people who provide services can circulate freely. We do not have a problem with that. The free flow of services is at least as important in a country as the free flow of goods. Bring it on.

There are some conditions though. In Quebec, for example, there has always been a language requirement for professions going back to the 1960s, long before bills 101 and 22, and that could be the case here. We would also want to ensure that services are provided in accordance with ground rules with which everyone is familiar. It is interesting that the federal government has never tried to impose the generally accepted accounting principles on the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

It is the profession that has always done it. Why is it that they can accept decentralized deregulation when it comes to professions? It is because the results are there. When it comes to the provinces, though, they want to go back 30 years. They want to start playing the big brother who tells the others that there are incompetent so he will take over. Incredible. Where does that come from?

A little while ago, I heard a long-serving Liberal member impart the same old lesson we have been hearing for years. The Liberals are incapable of change, incapable of realizing that it was this kind of behaviour that gave rise to the Bloc Québécois in reaction to intransigent federalism. I was astonished. If we are incapable of realizing that the Canada of the 21st century must be different if it is going to continue to progress and evolve in the interests of its citizens—because that is what this is all about—we really will have a problem.

We are adding our voices to those of our Bloc Québécois colleagues on this specific issue because they are right. Paradoxically, they are the ones who are asking that the fundamental agreement, the Confederation agreement as it is set out, be respected. It is quite a paradox.

When it suits them, the Conservatives proclaim that the Québécois constitute a nation within Canada. As for the Liberals, they never believed that but they voted in favour of it, on the eve of their convention to select a new leader who, I can guarantee, never believed it. The vision of Gerard Kennedy, of Bob Rae and of the Leader of the Opposition is winning the day. We have an example of that today.

We in the New Democratic Party have studied this question for a long time. One of my colleagues has worked very hard on it. In all of her analysis, she has always assigned a very important place to understanding the need for a system of self-regulation that gives absolute priority to the public interest.

Some people listening to us outside Quebec are perhaps not familiar with the Norbourg affair. This case is still before the courts but I want to talk about some decisions that have already been rendered in the lower court. It is rather fascinating.

We stand up, one after another, members of all the parties —the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the NDP and the Bloc— to talk about the people’s interests. In the Norbourg affair, even though I just said with great satisfaction that the person involved was sentenced to 12 years in prison, the investors have still not been compensated. No one has yet found out where or how the money was hidden. As a result, small investors have lost their life savings. Whether it was $20,000, $10,000 or $50,000, they entrusted their money to people in whom they had confidence. The expression “to con” is based on “confidence.” These people where cheated and they lost their savings. The system is now applying the punishment but we must have structured regulations in place to ensure prevention, and not only the cure. That is the desired goal; that is the result.

They cannot make us believe, either in the NDP or the Bloc, that adding more weight to the system with a new federal structure will make it easier to obtain those results. That is false. We do not believe it. It is only the Liberals and Conservatives who believe in those fairy tales. For our part, we believe instead in a way of working together to obtain a result that will be accepted from one place to another. For that, there is no problem.

I was the Quebec minister of the environment for three years. That is an area of shared jurisdiction and issues can be settled effectively if we work with the provinces. We had a structure similar to what Mr. Selinger described in his article. We met together. However, from time to time, someone like the current Leader of the Opposition having delusions of importance came to play the role of the federal big brother. He came to stick his nose in and to tell us how to do things. He wanted to impose a reference framework designed in Ottawa. I worked strenuously against that approach when I was the Quebec minister of the environment.

Now, that I am a member of Parliament and a proud Quebec member of the NDP in this House, I shall expend that same energy to battle those same tendencies, which are cropping up again among the Conservatives over the way.

We do have a problem at the moment with the government and in particular its Minister of Finance, who appears to be sorry not to still be in provincial politics. He is constantly squabbling with the government of the province he represents here in the federal parliament in Ottawa. Not a week goes by without press coverage of that rivalry and wrangling. He is gives even giving lectures on provincial fiscal policy. My point is clear.

The federal Minister of Finance, not content merely with the great centralizing role we already know he plays, is now going so far as to start dictating in full detail the taxation policy the province ought to be using. If I may offer the federal finance minister a piece of friendly advice: let him live out his dream by going back to provincial politics. He is better suited to it and he will enjoy wrangling with the provincial people. The problem is that, at the moment, he is here at the federal level. The views he is trying to impose on everyone here are very small, narrow and limited.

In closing, let me state that the NDP will continue to push for a vision that will ensure protection for Canadians and respect for professionals. That is the result we want. The professional system in Quebec is unique in North America. It involves not just discipline, the curative aspect, but also prevention and inspection.

Any practice, be it lawyers, architects or one of the other forty or so professions that are regulated at the present time, is inspected by an inspection committee mandated by that professional corporation. This is a system that produces excellent results. Rather than wait for the train to go off the tracks, there is a bit of preventive maintenance to stop that derailment from happening.

The other provinces might find something worth learning in this approach that is specific to Quebec. By exchanging views on best practices we will succeed in creating a system that will produce the result everyone wants, so that people with savings, investors and those who have gone without in order to put a little aside to invest for their old age can see those savings protected. Is that not the point of the exercise? The aim is not to impose strong arm tactics preferred by the feds.

For all these reasons, and expecting some questions on this, I wish to state that the New Democratic Party will always work to protect the consumer, but it will do so not by centralizing or imposing, but rather by working collaboratively to ensure that this result is achieved.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Outremont for his presentation. He made it quite clear that our present system is working, operational and consistent with constitutional rights and that it has been very productive. Western Canada, for example, established the capital pool companies program. Quebec has a stock saving plan for the Fonds des travailleurs du Québec. We must note the considerable contribution Quebec's initiative made to the creation of the International Organization of Securities Commissions, where Quebec can speak on the international stage, as it should since Quebec has been recognized as a nation.

I found my colleague's reference to the paternalism of the current Minister of Finance interesting as well. I would expand on my colleague's remarks by saying that the Minister of Finance, who feels he can teach Ontario a few lessons, had a lesson to pass on to Quebec this morning. He said that the Quebec finance minister and the National Assembly could not be right, as it was he who was right. All of Quebec thinks differently, but it is he who is right regarding Quebec, just as he said he was right about Ontario. We have the impression this is Pierre Elliott Trudeau's finance minister. That is nothing to be happy about.

The Bloc Québécois and the NDP do not see the future of Quebec and Canada in the same way, but I would like to know if we could not lead a supplementary offensive. My question to my colleague is on this point. Should members from Quebec, be they Conservatives or Liberals, not adopt an attitude similar to our own this morning, namely noting that the system is working well and that the government's approach bears no resemblance to the spirit underlying the original development of Canada? It goes far beyond. The current Conservative government takes the same centralizing approach as the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Should the Conservative and Liberal MPs from Quebec not be encouraged to support our motion today? Would that not be logical? In conclusion, MPs from the other provinces should be encouraged to note the position stated in Manitoba, as the newspaper article reported.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comment. He is absolutely right. When the Minister of Finance gives lessons in morality, he is basically trashing the extraordinarily competent Monique Jérôme-Forget, my friend and former colleague who is a brilliant finance minister. Unfortunately, this is a stark contrast to what we have here in this House.

My colleague is right. Some members from Quebec will be reminded that one cannot speak from both sides of one's mouth. One cannot pretend to understand that Quebec is a nation, and that applies to both the Liberals and the Conservatives, and then not act accordingly. In English we say:

“You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?”

Personally, I prefer the Quebec version: “Il faut que les bottines suivent les babines.” I suspect some people will be reminded of that. We will certainly do our best to remind them.

In fact, it is an irony of this exercise. Some Bloc members, tired of seeing this type of behaviour over the last 40 years, have chosen another option. They said, “Hasta la vista, it is over, I am leaving, this cannot go on any longer.”

I am one of those who continue to fight with all their energy so that Canada remains united. I think we have a lot to gain from a Canada that understands Quebec and from a Quebec that has its place within Canada. However, it has to be more than pure rhetoric. It has to be real. I am eager to see what will come of that.

The next time the Prime Minister sets foot in Quebec, he will have to explain not his own remarks, but those of the man who describes himself as an elf—that is his word, not mine—and those remarks have really got the PM in a lot of trouble.

The same thing goes for the Liberals, except that in their case, it is self-destruction. But this is no surprise. The Liberal Party of Canada has never believed that there is a place for Quebec or the rest of the provinces. It believes that everything has to be handed down from the big brother to the little ones.

The next time the Prime Minister comes to Montreal, we will be ready for him.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I heard the finance minister indicate the need for a common securities regulator because it would provide simplicity, effectiveness and be world-class, and it would provide us with a clear, competitive advantage in global markets, improve enforcement and help detect market fraud.

Am I to understand, from hearing the hon. member for Outremont, that the NDP is opposed to a common securities regulator? This would be quite a change from its previous position only a few months ago when the former NDP finance critic, the member for Winnipeg North, supported it and even suggested that she would introduce legislation to that effect. I would suggest that the member publicly admitted that she was convinced of the need for a national securities regulator, rather than a piecemeal provincial approach, when she stated in the Toronto Star of May 2007:

Canada does not seem to have the tool box necessary to deal with corporate fraud.

I would ask the member for Outremont whether the NDP is backtracking and, if it is backtracking, why. Was the NDP's former finance critic wrong when she said that there was a need for a common securities regulator to achieve some common goals and to have a central point of contact for a number of reasons: to give us an advantage in a global market and, in particular, for enforcement purposes and preventing fraud that would take place on a commercial basis?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of my colleague, I will respond in English. I would refer him to an article that appeared in the Financial Post of October 26, 2007, which stated:

Recent evaluations by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Bank Group have consistently ranked Canada's system as one of the best in the world—ahead of those in the United States and the United Kingdom.

That is the one that exists now.

My colleague has always been very clear, as am I today, that what we want is a result. We will continue to ensure that the best practices in the provinces and the passport system that is in place produces the best results.

Does that mean that the federal government cannot play a role? Of course not. That would be like saying that because environment is a shared field there should not be a federal environment minister, although with the one who is there now it probably would not make a difference. However, the provinces have an important role to play in the environment, as does the federal government.

The provinces have the key role to play in securities regulation, which does not stop them from working together and which would not stop the federal government to the extent that it might have a pan-Canadian vision, especially on the investigation and enforcement side, to lend a hand. There is no problem with that.

There is absolutely no contradiction between our position as announced today and what my colleague has constantly worked for, which is a better result for Canadians than protection from white collar crime and fraud.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to take part in this debate. Once again, because of the Bloc Québécois presence in this House, I feel that we can represent the views of Quebec as a nation.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have debated this issue. It seems that finance ministers—whether we are talking about the ministers in the former Liberal government or the minister in the current Conservative government—all have the same obsession. They all defend interests that may be those of Canada, because to them, a financial centre controlled exclusively by Toronto may seem worthwhile.

I would remind this House, as I did last Friday, that we are also dealing with a Conservative federal government whose economic development strategy is based exclusively on the development of gas, oil and the oil sands. The actions of this government show quite clearly that all other sectors, especially manufacturing and forestry, are left to their own devices. According to the Conservatives' vision, these sectors are not driving Canada's economic development. According to this logic, Canada would have, on the one hand, an economy where oil would be driving economic development and, on the other hand, a financial centre exclusively in Toronto.

I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

That is the vision that is shared by many people in Canada's business community. But this vision is not shared by Quebec's business community. As I also said, it is not shared by everyone in Ontario's business community. In Ontario, it is very clear that a major manufacturing sector—the automotive industry—needs a different concept of economic development than the current government's concept.

This is the context in which we are debating the Bloc motion, which I would like to reread.

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately abandon the idea of creating a common securities regulator, since securities regulations fall under the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and because this initiative is unanimously condemned in Quebec.

In my view, this motion should be naturally supported by those who want the spirit of the 1867 Confederation to prevail. Section 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867 clearly states that the exclusive powers of the provinces include property and civil rights, therefore they include securities. If one wants to abide by the Constitution of Canada, this initiative should not be considered. The Minister of Finance should withdraw it. The government should stop supporting such a whim. Anyway, it will be challenged in court. It will likely go all the way to the Supreme Court. There will be again useless quibbling which will be detrimental to efficiency, since much resources will be spent on this new constitutional wrangle.

The paradox is even greater when we see this government, notwithstanding the interests of the Canadian nation, bring back this bill in spite of the fact that the House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation a little more than a year ago. Even though this is just rhetorics, the Conservative government likes to talk about open federalism. But the contradiction is quite obvious. About the substance of the issue, this proposal reveals a vision of the Canadian economy focused on oil, with a single, very strong financial centre in Toronto. However, this is not in the interest of Canada as a whole, and certainly not in the interest of Quebec.

Let me also remind members that the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously adopted a motion against the creation of a common securities regulator. In Quebec, sovereigntists and federalists alike unanimously say that this bill goes against the interests of Quebec and of the Quebec nation.

For the benefit of those who are listening to us, I would like to point out that this motion was passed on October 16, 2007. It is very simple. It reads as follows:

THAT the National Assembly ask the federal government to abandon its Canada-wide securities commission project.

Indeed, that is not only against the Constitution of 1867, but also against the best interests of the Quebec society, nation and economy.

We have to make it very clear that there are no obvious benefits flowing from the establishment of a Canada-wide securities commission, or even of something similar to that. We want to be very clear in that respect: the Minister of Finance is not fooling anyone with his ploy. He tells us that he will respect the Constitution, since he will not force the provinces to adhere to this commission. It will be a Canada-wide organization, not a federal one. However, it is very clear that this single regulator—which is the minister's objective—will eventually put pressure on reluctant provinces.

If Toronto, Ontario and the federal government move forward with this project, along with a few provinces, they will ultimately try to create conditions such that Quebec and reluctant provinces will have to join this single securities regulator. The Toronto and Bay Street financial community has never made it a secret that the objective behind this is to ensure that Toronto becomes the only place of business.

I think it is important to point this out, because Quebec needs Montreal to be a major place of business. I will provide one example to illustrate the usefulness and importance of having an organization in Quebec, namely the Autorité des marchés financiers, under the responsibility of Quebec's public authorities.

This example relates to the merging of the Toronto and Montreal stock exchanges. Let us suppose that this merging does take place—and it appears that it is indeed going to be the case—and that there are no longer two securities commissions but, rather, only one in Toronto. What guarantees would Montrealers and Quebeckers have that the market rules set by the Autorité des marchés financiers du Québec would continue to exist?

Let me mention one very important such rule. We are told that the new entity created by this merging, which will be called TMX Group, will be subjected to the rule preventing a shareholder from detaining more than 10% of shares. That limit restricts ownership and it cannot currently be changed without the approval of the Autorité des marchés financiers and of the Ontario Securities Commission.

Imagine that the Autorité des marchés financiers no longer existed in Quebec. What guarantees would Quebeckers and Montrealers have that this rule would not be changed in a few years to allow centralization and a concentration of power in the hands of a group based essentially in Toronto?

It is very important therefore, even in view of the planned merger of the Montreal and Toronto stock exchanges, for Quebec to keep its Autorité des marchés financiers. The federal government’s and Bay Street’s insistence on a common securities regulator in Canada is counter-productive in view of this concentration and the strengthened stock market as a result of the merger, with Montreal remaining responsible for derivatives.

If there is no Autorité des marchés financiers to ensure that the ground rules are observed when the merger goes through, it is very clear and virtually inevitable that another strategy will be found to ensure that there is only one stock exchange in Toronto and the derivatives market is located there. This is totally contrary to the interests of Quebec, its economy and the Quebec nation.

The finance minister is trying to fool everyone. When the Bloc Québécois asks him and this government for fixed greenhouse gas reduction targets so that a carbon exchange can be established, it is in order to create the regulations that will allow a viable carbon exchange to be established. And why in Montreal? Because Montreal has the expertise in derivatives and therefore Montreal should get it.

This is not a political decision but a business decision and one that would be in keeping with the gist of the merger discussions that have been occurring between the Montreal Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

We are not asking the federal government to interfere. What we want from it is a regulatory framework conducive to a vital exchange of this kind.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my two Bloc colleagues in the front row for their speeches. I thought they were very long on substance but still kept closely to the subject. That is not always the case on the other side of the House, in any event from what I have heard.

It seems to me that we always hear the same thing from the Bloc Québécois. Everything has to be regulated at the provincial level, even when we are talking about capital and investment.

Does the Bloc agree that demanding that everything be regulated at the provincial level, including, for example, telecommunications, copyright and pharmaceutical patents, is an ideological thing? At what point do we have to try to work with others, including within Canada, to organize our efforts a little and improve effectiveness in our various areas of activity?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

What we want in this debate is simply respect for the powers set out in the Canadian Constitution. It really is somewhat paradoxical, and unfortunately this happens frequently, that it is the Quebec sovereignists in this House who are calling for the pact that was made at the time of Confederation in 1867 to be honoured.

Second, the argument made by people promoting a Canada-wide securities commission, regardless of what form it takes, is effectiveness. No argument could be less sound. When it comes to effectiveness, the fact that there is a centralized commission in the United States did not prevent the Enron or WorldCom scandals, for example. So from that point of view, the argument does not hold.

As well, we can see the studies that have been done, for example by the OECD. Very recently, the International Monetary Fund said that savers and investors in Canada were very well protected. A 2006 study by the World Bank and Lex Mundi also placed Canada third when it comes to protecting savers. There is therefore no evidence that a centralized body would be more effective than what we currently have with the passports, and I would point out that a passport system is now being implemented. Unfortunately, Toronto is not joining the project, which would genuinely provide for effectiveness.

I will close simply by saying that in terms of the cost of funding it, there is nothing to show that the new system would be less costly for investors than the existing system. Essentially, it is a political project being put forward by the Conservative Party, and unfortunately the Liberal Party seems to be in agreement.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech and I would like to ask him a question.

The motion says “the government should immediately abandon the idea of creating a common securities regulator, since securities regulations fall under the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and because this initiative is unanimously condemned in Quebec”. There has also been a motion against it passed by the National Assembly of Quebec and a position taken by Quebec’s Minister of Finance.

What message should we send to the Liberal members, and especially the Conservative members? They say they contributed to the recognition of the Quebec nation, and yet they are preparing to vote against the unanimous will of Quebec. Is there nothing that can be said to persuade them this evening, when we vote on this motion by the Bloc Québécois, to adopt the consensus in Quebec?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member, the Bloc Québécois finance critic. He does an excellent job, in fact, and I would like to point that out in this House.

He is entirely correct, and I mentioned that in my speech. There is something paradoxical about all this. In Quebec City, during the election campaign in December 2005, the Prime Minister talked to us about open federalism, and early in his term there may have been a few things done that were more symbolic than real. It is now over two years since the Conservatives came to power and we have seen the veneer peeling off in layers. I think that many of the layers of veneer that have peeled off are a result of this project, which the Minister of Finance has had since the beginning, and has reiterated in all his budgets and in all his economic statements, regardless of what approach his government seemed to be taking. Because we heard more of this discourse of open federalism at the beginning and we are hearing less now, there is a concern that the Conservatives, perhaps with the support, unfortunately, of the Liberals, are going the minister's way. That would be contrary not only to the interests of Quebec, but also to what the Prime Minister said during the campaign.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for agreeing to debate securities. I am pleased to rise to speak to regulation. This matter, raised in the House by the Bloc Québécois, gives us an opportunity to shed new light on the myths perpetuated by the federal government in an effort to discredit the operation of the existing securities system.

The subject has been much written about these days, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the financial sector is a major employer. According to Quebec's Institut de la statistique, nearly 150,000 people are employed in the financial sector in Quebec together with a multitude of self-employed individuals in related areas. It is a large sector providing quality employment, a flourishing industry now accounting for 6.2% of Quebec's gross domestic product.

Then there is the Montreal Exchange. It has enjoyed exceptional growth, and its impact is felt beyond the borders of Canada. It currently has an agreement to carry out all derivatives trading ending in March 2009. Does this centralizing obsession veil intentions by the Toronto Stock Exchange to interfere with Montreal's place as a stock exchange and its expertise in the derivatives sector? I would hope not and would hope that Montreal will be allowed to develop the enormous potential of the derivatives market in Montreal.

That said, let us look at how things have developed.

There have been a number of proposals in recent years to restructure the Canadian securities regulatory system. The first, advocated by Ontario and the federal Minister of Finance, involves establishing a single regulatory body. The second is the passport system, that is, a harmonization of the provincial regulatory bodies in order to create an effective Canada-wide system. It involves building on what already works.

The provinces have already done a huge job improving securities regulation in Canada and its efficiency. Information technology has, for example, been improved. Canada wide systems and practices have been put in place. This means the elimination of many jobs previously done locally by the individual securities commissions.

Today, we have the system for electronic document analysis and retrieval, SEDAR; the system for electronic disclosures, SEDI; the national registration system, NRS; the national registration system database, NRSDB; and the mutual reliance review system, MRRS. In addition, 25 national guidelines and 24 national policies have been issued with respect to key matters, such as prospectus requirements, regulation of mutual funds, issue of royalties, regulation of take-over bids, prospectus and registration exemptions, ongoing information requirements, and so on.

Clearly, improvements have been made toward improving the operation of the entire securities system.

Of course, we can do better, and all the provinces have decided to implement a passport system. Ontario, which originally instigated the system, has decided to go off on its own, which is unfortunate. The federal government should encourage it to join the other provinces and territories in implementing the second stage, which is expected to take place by the end of 2008.

A Canada-wide passport system provides every person, issuer or registered broker, with a one-stop option for accessing Canadian markets. This change is not insignificant. It required a lot of effort by individuals and various governments, and the federal government has to recognize that. The passport system allows access to financial markets across Canada by dealing only with the securities authority that has jurisdiction. Any broker or representative that wants to do business across Canada simply has to register with the authority that has primary jurisdiction.

The passport system is based on what works well. It would help eliminate overlapping administrative tasks and be as efficient as a central agency.

In order to show good will, the federal government should encourage Ontario to join the passport system, stop going its own way and follow suit so as not to compromise the implementation of the second phase of the system. The Minister of Finance of Canada should use his influence to encourage Ontario to listen to sage advice.

But the Conservative government insists on promoting its single securities commission. Some people here in this House, the Minister of Foreign Affairs among others, suggested that the government ask the Supreme Court to rule on the federal government's constitutional jurisdictions with respect to securities. It would be wise for the federal government to consult the provinces on this and not to embark on an operation that could leave a bitter taste.

We can look at the results and the criticisms of the current system. I can simply cite the Premier of Alberta. He made the following statement in a speech to the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto:

—I want to make my position...very clear. The passport system is a model provinces can quickly implement to create a national system—so let's accept the passport and move on to other matters.

On this, the Alberta position is fairly clear, as is Quebec's moreover, according to the statements by minister Jérôme-Forget. The present system compares favourably with that of other territorial jurisdictions. In 2006, a study by the World Bank and Lex Mundi ranked Canada third in the world out of 155 countries as far as investor protection was concerned, while the U.S. ranked seventh and the U.K. ninth. The 2006 OECD report placed Canada second out of 29 countries for the quality of its securities regulations, ahead of the U.S. in fourth position, the U.K. in fifth and Australia in seventh.

It is surprising, in the light of such results, that the federal government continues to denigrate the Canadian regulatory system, both here and elsewhere.

My colleagues have also spoken of the federal government's myths about the competitive nature of the Canadian market. The principal arguments are, first, that our regulatory system is more unwieldy and more costly, which is totally wrong. Second, that our regulatory system supposedly involves additional financing costs to business. Third, that the single commission would cut transaction costs on the secondary market.

As far as the first myth about the supposed higher cost of our regulatory system, I cannot understand that the government is making this as a serious claim. The direct costs of regulation per million of capitalization in 2002 were $145.80 in Canada, compared to $141.90 for the federal regulatory bodies in the United States. That is not much of a difference.

As for the second myth, once again the facts contradict the arguments in favour of a single regulatory commission as far as costs are concerned. For one thing, the factors determining financing costs are three-fold. First, there are fees to brokers, costs relating to legal fees, honorariums for prospectus preparation, and share cost evaluations. Studies show that the total average direct cost of small Canadian business issues is less than the American.

As for the third myth, reduced transaction costs on the secondary market, the solution in my opinion still lies in the competitive nature of Canadian capital markets. The real problem lies is the low level of market competition. That would not in any way be remedied by the creation of a single body.

The federal government ought to deal with some of the elements that do fall under its jurisdiction, including beefing up the means of sanctioning offences against securities legislation, in order to deal properly with white collar crime.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech, and in particular for the quality of the examples she used, about the relevance of the passport system.

I think that it has been clearly demonstrated that the present system in Canada, with the jurisdiction within each province, works very well. The OECD ranks the Canadian system second in the world, and the World Bank also recognizes Canada as a world leader in this field.

Right now, we simply apply the constitutional powers as they exist. Thus, when the Government of Quebec clearly expresses its position through a motion adopted unanimously by the National Assembly and when its Minister of Finance writes to the federal Minister of Finance because she wants him to stop making plans to use the federal steamroller and to establish a single commission for Canada, it is quite convincing, given all this information, that the present system is adequate.

Can my colleague tell me if, in her view, it is understandable that the Conservative Minister of Finance, after recognizing the Quebec nation following the initiative from the Bloc Québécois, has this centralist attitude as if he were finance minister in a Pierre Trudeau Cabinet? Is this acceptable? How is it possible to explain this type of situation but by the fact that the federal machinery itself drives him to that conclusion?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

In fact, nothing could possibly justify the federal government's obsession with interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The provinces should have been consulted more, for the direction taken by this government goes against what the provinces want. And this is true not only for the Government of Quebec, but also for the Government of Alberta.

I have some quotations from other individuals, including the president of the British Columbia Securities Commission, who said:

Canadians do not feel that the authorities treat investment fraud as seriously as other crimes. They think that people who defraud others “generally get away with it.”

A number of other people feel that the federal government should focus on its own areas of jurisdiction, such as the Criminal Code, for instance, specifically in order to address economic fraud.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak. I am pleased to rise in the House here today as a member from Quebec, to speak to the motion brought forward by our colleagues across the floor.

Before I begin, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Burlington, with whom I have been meeting for the promotion of the Canadian shipbuilding industry. He came to Lévis last summer and visited the Ultramar facilities where the transshipment of liquids takes place. He also saw the Corporation of Lower St. Lawrence Pilots' Centre de simulation et d’expertise maritime.

My colleague and I have businesses in our respective sectors. Where I am from, for instance, Prévost Car inc., IPL inc., Rotobec, and Etchemins would all like to have access to capital in order to compete with large corporations from around the world. This is why I am pleased to speak to this motion here today.

As we all know, there has been a lot of talk about the Norbourg scandal in Quebec. There has been a lot of talk about the little girls, for instance, whose grandfather had invested some money for them, which was misappropriated in the end. That was the only money, the only financial inheritance, left for those children. And it was misappropriated.

I am pleased to speak about this today. All the members in this House want to find ways to avoid having this happen again, and to ensure that our financial system is reliable and efficient, and that it allows our businesses to raise large amounts of money quickly, without encountering administrative barriers or red tape. We know that is one of the irritants. I owned a business, and I know how many forms there are to fill out.

However, my opposition colleagues did not fully understand what our government wants. We are not talking about a federal regulator, but a common regulator, created in collaboration with the provinces.

Currently, nearly 80% of regulation in the securities sector comes from Ontario. It is important for the regulation to be distributed throughout the country, particularly in Quebec, so that Quebec can have a greater say in decisions that affect it and in the management of national affairs—all, of course, in the context of open federalism.

There are currently 13 statutes, 13 unharmonized responsibilities. There are a lot of barriers to overcome. Sure, the passport system is a step in the right direction, but it does not solve everything. That is why I would like to speak about the initiatives our government wants to take to ensure that the financial system is a tool that helps businesses in Bellechasse, Les Etchemins, Chaudière-Appalaches and Quebec City move forward.

We are facing international competition, and we need to standardize. Take, for example, the Europeans, who are exchanging information through the European Union, enabling them to break down administrative barriers and to standardize. That is exactly what we want to do, in collaboration with the provinces.

It makes sense that it would be easier to do business within a country than it would be with a foreign country. We must also think about demographic weight. Trading is done on the market. We are competing with the Chinese market, the Asian market—these markets have billions of people.

Canada is a major economic force, but we have to put that in perspective. Even though we have access to the entire European and U.S. markets, we have to double our share in those markets to rival, in absolute numbers, what China and India alone are doing. We have to look at the big picture and that is what we are proposing.

Our financial sector is one of the most advanced and most developed in the world. The International Monetary Fund has said so. In fact, it said so just recently when it evaluated the financial sector. The International Monetary Fund said that Canada has what it takes, but there is just one thing missing. It said that our financial system is solid because of its banks and, of course, its cooperative movements.

As a matter of fact, Lévis is the home of the largest financial cooperative movement in Canada, the Desjardins group, which, again this year, has declared record surpluses and dividends that will go into its members' pockets. These Quebec and Canadian financial institutions are in good shape and are well funded. Nonetheless, according to the International Monetary Fund, the system must and can be improved.

When talented people and capital cross borders, market competition becomes fierce. We must improve the system if we want our Quebec and Canadian companies to perform well on the global market. What does the International Monetary Fund say? It says that even though the banking system is in good shape, we are faced with challenges in the midst of the global financial crisis that has been observed since the middle of 2007.

The IMF has recommended adopting a common securities regulation system in order to improve the Canadian system. An international agency has given its advice. It did not say a federal system, but a common system; one that is established with the provinces and allows Quebec to play its full role within Canadian financial markets.

Our government acknowledges that this financial market must indeed be improved if the economy is to become more solid and more prosperous. We want our economy to perform and our manufacturing companies to develop. Among those companies there is one in my riding by the name of Jambette, which manufactures playground equipment. Some of their products are found in early childhood centres, where children go to play. They make quality products but they need investors. In order for these businesses to have access to a capital market, favourable conditions have to be created, and that is why Advantage Canada was created, as a long term economic plan. We also want to ensure that the financial institutions funding the companies in need are innovative and competitive and have a flexible regulatory framework based on recognized principles. Canada wants to ensure that these financial enterprises continue to respond to the need for growth in an increasingly stringent competitive context. This is the reason behind the plan introduced in the 2007 budget for “Creating a Canadian Advantage in Global Capital Markets”, which I invite my colleagues to read. Perhaps even if they read it thoroughly they will decide not to change the contents of their motion today.

This plan for capital markets is designed to achieve increased protection and income for investors, better jobs, more investment and prosperity. There are four elements to it.

The first is to modernize the regulatory system in order to make it easier for a company in Burlington or Bellechasse to knock on one door and be able to expand into the entire Canadian market, with the cooperation of the provinces. It therefore takes into consideration the particular composition of capital markets in Canada, which are comprised of both international companies and small and medium issuers, that is, small businesses. This is why creating a common regulatory body is so advantageous. It facilitates the passage of proportional and principle-based regulations.

The second reason we think our 2007 budget contained an excellent initiative is that we want to protect Canadians' investments. We kept in mind what had happened with Norbourg and the investors who had been left high and dry. These people had trusted the financial institutions and entrusted them with their life's savings. Overnight they found themselves penniless because of those investments. We must make sure our legislation is strictly adhered to and we must attack white-collar crime.

The third component is to increase investment opportunities. I could go on for some time about all the initiatives we are undertaking to ensure that our financial system is indeed highly competitive. This is why we struck a third-party expert panel on securities regulation to provide us with advice. We already have examples of the progress we have made in the past year.

I would point out in closing that we are the only G-7 country that does not have a common regulatory agency. If the economy of Quebec and the manufacturers of Quebec are to have access to capital and to expansion opportunities, it is important for them to have the right tools. That is what we are doing on this side of the House.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised at what my colleague opposite said. He referred to what Quebec wants in relation to this bill. This is not a bill or a Bloc motion, but a unanimous outcry from Quebec against this bill. How can this member from Quebec stand up in this House and speak against Quebec's intentions? Why does he prefer to get in bed with Ontario and the rest of Canada rather than defend Quebec's interests?

Quebec's finance minister wrote this to her federal colleague:

First of all, I reiterate that the existing regulatory system in Canada works well and satisfies both the needs of pan-Canadian participants and the interests of the various regions. Accordingly, I will continue to oppose the implementation of any model leading to the concentration of market oversight responsibilities in the hands of a common or single regulator—

In closing, I also want to remind my colleague that on October 16, 2007, the three political parties in Quebec unanimously adopted a motion that opposed this position.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour for his comments. I am pleased to answer that as a Quebecker in this House, I have a duty to the people of Lévis, Bellechasse and Les Etchemins to make sure the financial companies and manufacturers in my riding have easy access to capital so that they can expand into all 13 jurisdictions. At present, they have to overcome a lot of barriers, pay extra and put up with delays.

I would also like to read my colleague an excerpt from an OECD document:

Securities regulation is currently a provincial responsibility, but the presence of multiple regulators has resulted in inadequate enforcement and inconsistent investor protection and adds to the cost of raising funds.

We have seen examples of this. The OECD talks about additional cost, reduced security and inadequate enforcement.

The document goes on:

It also makes it harder for the country [Canada] to respond to changes in the global market place or to rapidly innovate.

The key to growth is the ability to react rapidly, and that is what we want to enable our companies to do.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a rather technical question. Earlier, he compared the European system to the Canadian one. I would like him to tell us more about that.

Is the existing European model similar to the Canadian passport system, or is it more centralized? Can the two be compared given that Europe is made up of many large countries, while Canada is made up of small provinces, like Prince Edward Island?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. Basically, I want to emphasize that we are moving toward more open markets and also toward globalization. We have to take scale into account and understand that Canada, which has about 33 million people, has to compete with much larger markets.

The independent group of experts will study the various models and look at how we can improve the Canadian system and intervene. It does not make sense for interprovincial trade within our own country to be more complicated than that within other economic unions. I should point out that those economic unions are huge. That is why, as Quebeckers, we have to take our rightful place within our national institutions.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to stand in response to the opposition motion that is before us on the idea of creating a common securities regulator.

I want to thank my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse for sharing his time. My brief experience with him over the last couple of years has demonstrated that he has been very conscientious and doing a fabulous job for his constituents.

While the issue of improving Canada's securities regulatory framework may seem a distant concern for most Canadians, the issue impacts more people than most would likely imagine.

Whether we realize it or not, Canada is a country of investors. From RRSPs to mutual funds, to registered retirement plans or the new proposed tax-free savings accounts, Canadians have been increasingly turning to the markets to build their nest eggs for their financial future and are counting on it to do so.

Largely because of that, the importance of ensuring Canada has the best possible securities regulatory framework has never been more important. Furthermore, this is a concern that is breaking across the stereotypical socio-economic groups one would associate with it.

As a major national labour organization, the National Union of Public and General Employees recently pointed out:

Workers have a huge stake in the integrity of the country's financial system for one basic reason. They have untold billions invested in pension funds, and billions more in RRSPs. Their retirement depends on keeping the system honest.

However, it is clear that Canada does not have the best possible securities regulatory framework and that their exists room for significant improvement.

Unlike most developed countries, Canada lacks a federal securities regulatory body. Rather, it is administered individually in each of the 13 provinces and territories, each with their own separate laws, agencies and commissions.

The current framework of 13 different sets of laws administered by 13 different agencies or commissions has naturally evoked criticism throughout the years.

In an increasingly globalized and competitive world, Canada's system is clearly out of step internationally. This fact is not lost on Canadian business leaders. In June 2007 the Financial Post polled 80% who overwhelmingly indicated our system of multiple provincial securities regulators is harming the economy and that the situation needed urgent remedy.

A representative of that viewpoint is Ian Russell, president of the Investment Industry Association of Canada. He has noted that Canada's current fragmented framework with multiple securities administrators and commissions is clearly not favourable to attracting investment. He said, “Foreigners just find the construct a deterrent. A negative. And there's very much an awareness of that”.

Little wonder that the all-party House of Commons finance committee made its first recommendation in its 2008 pre-budget consultation report for the federal government to take priority action to encourage provinces and territories to reach an agreement about a common securities regulator. As a member of the finance committee, I can clearly indicate that it was a priority for the committee.

I note that the bipartisan cooperation witnessed at the finance committee on this matter was not an isolated incident. Time after time the major relevant political parties in Canada have agreed on the need for an improved securities regulatory framework.

For instance, the previous Liberal finance minister, the current member for Wascana, also understood the urgent need for improvement and reform. During his short-lived tenure as finance minister, he strongly advocated that Canada “take a very serious look at the proposal for a single securities regulatory”, because the issue “just cannot be left to wither away. It is far too important. We need to substantially improve our system in Canada”.

Similarly, the former NDP finance critic, the member for Winnipeg North, openly admitted that she was convinced of the need for a national securities regulator as opposed to a piecemeal provincial approach. She noted at the time, “Canada does not seem to have the tool box necessary to deal with corporate fraud”.

Accordingly, international voices have repeatedly argued that Canada's system at home must be improved. For instance, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, in its 2006 survey of Canada stated, “Securities regulation is currently a provincial responsibility, but the presence of multiple regulators has resulted in inadequate enforcement and inconsistent investor protection and adds to the cost of raising funds”.

More recently, Canada became the first G-7 country to undertake the financial sector assessment program update, which provides International Monetary Fund member countries with comprehensive reviews of the stability of their national financial systems. The assessment also arranges the country's implementation of a range of regulatory standards and codes.

While the IMF characterized the Canadian financial sector as among the world's most highly developed and well managed, it noted that in Canada, “the institutions, markets, infrastructure, safety nets and oversight arrangements that comprise the system are sophisticated, and include a full range of financial intermediaries”. However, the report also concludes that there would be an advantage in moving toward a common securities regulator. In particular it would allow policy development to be streamlined to reduce compliance costs and improve enforcement.

The IMF report also notes that although the passport system of securities regulation will further rationalize the regulatory system for its participants, it will not address the inefficiencies related to costs, delayed policy development and fragmented enforcement. The report states that the participants will still be required to pay fees to the regulatory authorities of all the provinces where they raise capital. Policy development will continue to require approval from 13 jurisdictions. The passport system is not designed to address the limited enforcement authority of individual provincial regulators.

Let us examine in detail the policy development under the current system. The report notes, “the process of adoption of national instruments is protracted, since national instruments need to be individually adopted by each province. Depending on the jurisdiction, ministerial approval may also be needed. In addition, while provinces are committed to harmonizing their regulatory framework, they retain full authority to adopt a local standard”.

Let us also examine the detail of the costs imposed by the current system.

The report notes that “a system of multiple regulators entails additional costs for market participants, including additional direct costs, since participants have to pay fees to all the regulatory authorities of the provinces and territories where they want to raise capital and to provide services; there are also compliance costs and opportunity costs caused by longer review procedures. In addition, there appears to be room for efficiency savings at the regulatory level”.

The report adds that a single regulator “appears to be better positioned to address these shortcomings. There are different alternatives for a single regulator, including the 'common regulator'. A single regulator would probably reduce compliance costs for market participants, since there would be only a single system of fees. It would streamline policy development, since decisions would be taken by a single body, and therefore would allow Canada to react more quickly to local and global developments. A single regulator would have enforcement authority in the whole country, and therefore would be in a better position to eliminate the inefficiencies created by the limited enforcement authority of individual provincial regulators. In addition, the existence of a single regulatory authority responsible for administrative enforcement would help to simplify coordination with other enforcement agencies”.

These are some of the reasons that our government is committed to developing the Canadian advantage in global markets and addressing the issues raised by the IMF.

In my riding of Burlington, there are a number of small and medium size companies. Their opportunity to grow and prosper is limited by their ability to raise capital and by the regulatory framework in this country. Having to register and repeat the work over again in every province and territory hampers their growth and hampers the economic development of this country.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech of my colleague from Burlington.

I have much difficulty understanding how he can want to change a system which can surely be improved, but which has been recognized as the second best in the world by the OECD and which earned Canada the status of a world leader according to the World Bank. This system has also allowed the creation of very original financial products. Why should it be replaced when, according to the Constitution, this is a provincial jurisdiction? Would the member be ready to allow his Conservative colleagues from Quebec to vote in favour of the motion submitted by the Bloc Québécois?

Earlier today, I was listening to the member from Lévis-Bellechasse. His riding is just across the river from the National Assembly of Quebec. If he votes against this motion from the Bloc, he will vote against the National Assembly of Quebec, against the present Government of Quebec, a federalist government. He will vote therefore against the consensus in Quebec. How can he explain that situation? Would he agree that his colleagues from Quebec should support the motion, just as the New Democratic Party will, given that the only justification for the position of the Conservative Government is a desire to centralize?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the hon. member from the Bloc. I sit on the finance committee with him and he does an honourable job there.

However, I cannot understand why the hon. member is penalizing the business community in Quebec through this motion. The businesses and companies in my riding want to grow and expand but they are facing tremendous costs in the marketplace today. I just do not understand why the Bloc would bring forward a motion that would add costs to the business community, additional regulatory barriers to their future growth and development not only in Quebec, but all of Canada.

I think the business community would benefit from a single regulatory body for the securities market in this country. It would improve the ability to raise capital for businesses not only in Burlington, but for companies all across this country, including Quebec.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question for the Conservative member is as follows.

I heard the answer he gave to my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, namely, that he is speaking on behalf of business people, about what is good for business people, including Quebeckers. That is the answer he gave. Has he consulted business people? Does he know their views? Is he telling us that Quebec business people are not well represented by their Quebec National Assembly, which is unanimous in saying that this common regulatory body should not be established? Is that what he is telling us?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do consult the business community in my riding of Burlington and a number of others.

As chair of the marine caucus and chair of the Conservative Party and the all party group from the steel caucus, on numerous occasions those organizations have told me that the security system under which this country is regulated is inefficient and ineffective and it is a barrier to them.

I have spoken to companies that do business across the country, including in Quebec, and they have clearly told me that we should be working in this direction. That is why I am not supporting the motion that is before us, but supporting the action our government is taking in terms of trying to find a solution to the securities regulatory system in this country.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in the House about the Bloc Québécois motion. I would like to indicate right away that I will be sharing my time with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

To ensure that those listening to our debate fully understand every viewpoint expressed here, we should remind them of the nature of the motion. They should realize that there is a major difference between what the Conservatives and the Liberals are arguing for today and what citizens really want, especially those knowledgeable about and directly involved in this debate. The motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately abandon the idea of creating a common securities regulator, since securities regulations fall under the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and because this initiative is unanimously condemned in Quebec.

When Conservative members rise in this House claiming to defend the interests of Quebec, they are working against the interests of Quebec as expressed by Quebec leaders and advocates in this regard. I will come back to that a little later.

This debate has gone on for over 40 years, and the Government of Canada makes attempts. The jurisdiction is Quebec's and the provinces' according to the Canadian Constitution of 1867. As I was saying earlier, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously opposes the creation of a single securities regulator. The creation of such a body would threaten the survival of Montreal's trading activities and would promote the centralization of financial markets in Toronto. This is why opinion leaders in Quebec unanimously oppose the federal government's project. To oppose that is to oppose the interests expressed by Quebec and its leaders.

The World Bank and the OECD also note that the current system works well and is efficient. It is the one provided for by the current Canadian Constitution. It is under the authority of the provinces and Quebec. The passport mechanism makes it possible for one province to benefit from what is done in another and from the expertise and commitments of another province in securities transactions.

A number of speakers have said that the arguments of the Conservatives and Liberals, primarily to ensure we are competitive on international markets, were perhaps myth. As my colleagues pointed out earlier, the system works at the moment. The opposite would throw a wrench in the works. In this regard, centralization, the paternalistic approach of the federal government, would weigh the system down and take away the flexibility by which provincial expertise in different areas is available. We will see this later on.

Quebec's expertise is not just remedial in the matter of securities embezzlement, for example. It is not just a matter of getting the securities system to work, it is also a matter of intervening in the event of embezzlement, as occurred in Quebec. Preventive measures must be in place as well. This expertise belongs to Quebec alone. Other provinces draw on it. It proved effective just recently, as we saw, in the Norbourg affair.

There, as elsewhere, people sometimes manage to get round the system and abuse the power given them through the position they occupy. We saw this with Mr. Lacroix. We saw too that the system, when it operates as intended, is effective. The man is serving a 12 year sentence. I do not want to get into the ins and outs of this business, but members can see that the system works well.

People are trying to find similar examples in Canada, and despite big scandals, there is no sign that the proposed mechanism would address misconduct. The example has been given of centralized authorities, such as in the United States or France. My colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup spoke of the United States. There was Enron, and other cases. Fraud still occurred. In France, a single person, a financial trader managed to misappropriate billions of dollars. The individual will no doubt stand trial. No system is infallible. The centralized system being presented to us as infallible and competitive on the international market is rubbish and will not stand up.

Let us look at what is working. What does work, and has been recognized by major international organizations like the OECD and the World Bank, is an efficient mechanism that performs well. Why change it? That is the whole entire point. Why indeed, if not to centralize in order to dominate in that area as well, limit the freedom to act, innovate and create in the field of financial products, and make sure that a financial centre outside Quebec is responsible for the overall management? The pussyfooting never ends.

When I hear our Conservative colleagues from Quebec make remarks like the one the member for Lévis—Bellechasse made earlier, I think it is shameful. I find it embarrassing. Eleven Conservative members of this House claim to hold the truth and know the way ahead based on the public opinion in Quebec. I remind the House that the Government of Quebec, the National Assembly, the major stakeholders and analysts in Quebec all say that it is not a good thing. Are they looking after the best interest of Quebec? No. I would like to repeat something the member for Jonquière—Alma and Minister of Labour said. He said that, in 1991, he voted a certain way as a member representing Quebec in Ottawa and that, now, he was representing Ottawa in Quebec. That is almost word for word what he said. That is a whole different ball game. It means making different choices and having different values. In addition, it is far from certain that the other provinces would appreciate Toronto controlling the entire management of securities across the country.

I want to recall briefly the AMF's mandate. Quebec's Autorité des marchés financiers favours preventive management.

It has to assist financial institutions, look after them, supervise financial activities and ensure that protection and compensation programs are in place. These are all components that ought to be retained and that can only be managed by an organization of proximity whose expertise can be shared. In fact, that is already the case with the passport system, which is working well and allows this power over anything to do with securities and financial commitments to be exercised within each province while being shared.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague from the Bloc Québécois, who holds the absolute truth of course and knows everything. If he does know everything, he must undoubtedly know that the Montreal Exchange is negotiating with the Toronto Stock Exchange right now for the two organizations to share their expertise and to work together in some domains. He must know also that banks are developing a parallel network, to the Canadian exchange system, precisely to reduce costs and to be more competitive on the international markets.

Does my colleague deem it important to make sure that national bodies remain competitive in order to allow our businesses to get the capital they need to continue operating in an increasingly competitive market? If he cannot answer my question, he can tell me about his record. We are still waiting for it.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I find unpleasant is that this member cannot ask a question without making innuendoes.

Here is my answer—and he better not try to prevent me from speaking like he did the other day. We are sending troops to Afghanistan to bring democracy to that country. If the member is unable to respect democracy in this House, Mr. Speaker, this time you should ask him to let me speak.

So here is my answer to his question. As always, he confuses things because he does not understand them. The Montreal Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange, that is one thing. There is a particular reasoning that applies when dealing with interests that are peculiar to the mandate of each one of these entities. We are talking here about the Autorité des marchés financiers, which deals with investments and shares, among other things. It is totally different.

There is a consensus now on the current analysis, even though the former leader of the Conservative Party, Mr. Charest, now Premier of Quebec, did not share that view back then. He used to have the same questions as the Conservatives. Now that he sits at the provincial level, he has come to the realization that true effectiveness can only be achieved through a financial authority managed by each of the provinces, with shared expertise, as I was saying earlier.

The member should know that. If he does not, then he should ask someone who is knowledgeable in this field to explain it to him.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague from the Bloc Québécois.

I was a stockbroker for 12 years and a branch manager and I can say that one of the frustrations of the business for retail clients and companies was their inability to deal with provinces without an incredible amount of difficulty.

I just do not buy the argument that this is in the best interests of the people of the province of Quebec because, frankly, it is not. They are investors like anybody else. They own companies like anybody else. They want to deal with the rest of the Canada like anybody else.

I put it to my colleague that, in my view, this is more about protecting turf than it is about actually serving the interests of investors and companies.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is partly right. When he says that this is not in the best interest of the other provinces, he must be speaking of only one province, namely Ontario, because the others all agree with us. It would be in the best interest of Ontario, though, because business will be carried out there.

The hon. member has worked in the field of financial markets. I have been an entrepreneur myself and I liked it better to have my business activities supervised by Quebec than by Canada. Why? Because Quebec uses proximity management and, if and when it has to step in, it does so through a direct guarantor. No need to go through Ottawa or Toronto only to have them tell Quebec what to do.

That is precisely what Ms. Jérôme-Forget emphasized in her letter to the Minister of Finance, when she wrote:

Accordingly, I will continue to oppose the implementation of any model leading to the concentration of market oversight responsibilities in the hands of a common or single regulator, regardless of how you call it.

That is what Ms. Jérôme-Forget wrote in her reply on behalf of Quebec and Premier Charest, who is a former Conservative leader. He has realized that the best interest of the provinces and Quebec is not served, and especially not that of financiers, by a centralized body.

She added:

—the federal government could apply its energies much more productively if, in its fields of jurisdiction, it worked to more effectively crack down on economic crime rather than trying—

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech. I thank him for sharing his time with me.

I am very pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and to re-read the motion introduced today by my brilliant colleague, our finance critic. The motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately abandon the idea of creating a common securities regulator, since securities regulations fall under the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and because this initiative is unanimously condemned in Quebec.

I am all particularly proud that there is only one party that can rise in this House and introduce such a motion because there is only one party that defends the interests of Quebeckers every day. It is not the few members of the other parties. It is not the New Democrat member for Outremont. It is not the Liberal Party members for Bourassa or Saint-Laurent—Cartierville. Even less is it the Conservative members for Lévis—Bellechasse, Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, Jonquière—Alma and Louis-Hébert. Those are not the people who will stand up to defend the interests of Quebeckers. It is the members of the Bloc Québécois. This is even more important because this situation in Quebec has been analyzed and examined. The Quebec National Assembly made a decision to condemn this position.

That is not what I am hearing from the Conservative members. According to them, it is as though Quebec did not know where it was going. I just listened to a Conservative member stand up and tell us that. In their Canadian Constitution, this falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. That is the reality. If there is a problem with the Constitution, they know what they have to do: reopen it and renegotiate it. They will never dare to do that and that is the reality.

Obviously, for more than 40 years, the government has, from time to time, tried to interfere in provincial jurisdictions, especially when it comes to securities. But this has become even more evident since the new Minister of Finance took up his duties. It is no secret that he has his eye on the leadership of the Ontario Conservative Party. That is the hard truth. He can afford to criticize the Premier of Ontario. But he is pushing a plan to centralize securities in Ontario. So all the Conservative members who are saying that there is nothing political about this should look at the political interests of the finance minister. It is in his political interest to transfer all the securities to Ontario, because he dreams of becoming the Premier of Ontario. Quebeckers will not be fooled, or at least not the Quebeckers who are able to stand up for what they believe in—the members of the Bloc Québécois in this House. We can see what the finance minister is trying to do.

Obviously, within the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, no one has been fooled by this attack. We will always be ready to stand up and denounce this position. That is why Quebeckers have elected us, to defend their interests and their values. Speaking of values, financial values are among those that Quebeckers want to see protected. Securities fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. In Quebec, the Autorité des marchés financiers or AMF is in charge of regulating financial markets. That works very well.

In a cross-Canada context, we know there is the so-called passport system, which works very well. That is to say that between the provinces, except for Ontario, which has decided to go its own way for political reasons, there is this passport system that allows for a coordinated approach in applying the law. It offers uniform protection for investors. This system enables each securities regulator to develop its own approach and areas of expertise. That makes it possible to have different but complementary approaches to compliance with the regulations by those affected. This different but complementary critical vision, while more onerous, makes it easier to detect and prevent scandals such we have seen in the United States, where these issues are submitted to a centralized authority. It is a benefit for investors. So, the Conservative position is difficult to understand.

Again, Quebec conducted a study and a second assessment, and, on October 16 of last year, the National Assembly decided to condemn this federal government's initiative. All parties, whether sovereignist or federalist, unanimously passed the following motion:

That the National Assembly ask the federal government to abandon its Canada-wide securities commission project.

That is as clear as could be. Quebec has decided to keep its powers in its own jurisdictions, and also its system, which is considered by the international community to be one of the world's most effective.

The fact that Conservative members were lead in that direction by their finance minister, who wants to run Ontario, is their problem. I find it much harder to understand why the Liberals are letting themselves be swayed in that direction. However, considering how they have been behaving in recent weeks, let us remain polite and say that this is just yet another contradiction. However, Bloc Québécois members will not be fooled, and they are going to defend firmly and strongly the position unanimously adopted by Quebec's National Assembly. That is why we tabled this motion. We hope that members from all parties in this House will clearly realize that, under the Canadian Constitution, securities are a provincial jurisdiction, and that they must respect the Constitution. I think they believe in the Constitution, since they patriated it. At the time, Quebec decided not to participate in that event. I hope they will now act in accordance with the Constitution that they wanted, and that they will respect provincial jurisdictions. The position of Quebec's National Assembly could not be clearer. Its motion, which was carried unanimously, asks the Government of Canada to abandon its way of doing things. I am going to read it once again, to ensure that it is clearly understood:

That the National Assembly ask the federal government to abandon its Canada-wide securities commission project.

That motion was passed on October 16, 2007, not 15 or 20 years ago.

I hope my colleagues understand that the members of the National Assembly and the people who helped draft this motion are very familiar with their responsibilities given that this falls in their area of jurisdiction.

Quebec will always be a leader in Canada, at least until we have a country of our own. Once again, we have blazed the trail. Every time that Canada has wanted to push Quebec back, it has found Quebec in its path. And every time that the federalist parties in the House want to push Quebec back, they will find the Bloc Québécois in their path. It is the only party that can stop them from pushing us back. That is what the Conservative Party wants, with the help of the Liberals. It wants to push us back in the securities file. They will find us in their path in Quebec.

This is all the more important in view of the fact that Quebec is unanimous about it, for historical reasons but also to protect its interests. The Autorité des marchés financiers is the final barrier to the disappearance of all stock markets from Montreal after the acquisition of the exchange by Toronto. It was not for no reason at all that the National Assembly came to this conclusion. The reason for blocking this pan-Canadian regulator is simply to protect Quebec’s interests.

The Autorité des marchés financiers has the regulatory authority to require a stock exchange in Montreal. The AMF oversees the exchange and establishes the rules by which it operates, including the percentage of shares held, etc.

The Quebec National Assembly wanted to protect its authority over securities and that is why a unanimous resolution was passed. That is why the only members who can really defend Quebec’s interests rose up today and tabled the motion of our learned colleague, the Bloc financial critic.

Once again we ask the other members to help protect Quebec’s financial authority. If they fail to do so, they will pay the price.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that my Bloc Québécois colleague is well aware that we have the equivalent of 13 AMFs in Canada. Members of the Bloc also talked about the passport system.

However, there is a problem: the system works everywhere but in Toronto. We also all know that Toronto represents over 80% of Canada's dollar volume. That means that a company in Quebec that wants access to capital has to apply to the Toronto Stock Exchange.

What is being proposed today is to remove the only way that Quebec entrepreneurs can gain access to capital across the country. I should clarify that the reason Quebec entrepreneurs trade publicly is that they want access to capital. The Bloc Québécois wants to remove the only way for Quebec to gain access to capital in Toronto.

Can my colleague explain why he wants to take away Quebec's ability to participate in this field? I do not understand.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like my colleague to know that according to the OECD's most recent economic outlook, Canada is ranked second for its securities regulation. Moreover, in its report on financial systems around the world, the World Bank ranked Canada as a leader in the area of securities trading.

So much for his theory that Quebec is shooting itself in the foot in terms of investment and availability of capital. Once again, this falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.

The member for Louis-Hébert should mind his own business. That is the problem. The National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution. I will spare him a reading of the letter from the finance minister, Ms. Jérôme-Forget, to the federal finance minister.

However, he should know that the leader of the ADQ, his mentor, supports this. This seems to be making the Conservative members from Quebec uncomfortable. It is time, people, to wake up and smell the coffee.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will continue along that path.

It is unacceptable that members who represent the interests of Quebec here in Ottawa and who have been elected as Conservatives will not vote in favour of the motion brought forward by the Bloc Québécois today to protect the integrity of Quebec's financial authorities. it is totally unacceptable.

As my Bloc colleague and transport critic said earlier, it is not only the Bloc Québécois who is calling for that, but also the political players in Quebec: the National Assembly, the ADQ, the Liberals, the Parti Québécois, etc.

How can a member elected by the people of Quebec rise in this House and go against the idea of Quebec keeping its autonomy and maintaining jurisdiction over financial markets and securities?

I was the only candidate from my party to be elected in the immediate vicinity of Quebec City, opposite the north shore, in the area that includes Quebec City and its suburbs, except for my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord. In the next election, I will be able to say that those members opposite voted against Quebec's interests.

I would like an explanation on that.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Québec for her excellent work. What the Conservative members from Quebec do not understand is that the Minister of Finance is trying to win a game in Ontario. That is the essence of the problem. The Minister of Finance wants to become the premier of Ontario and has decided to table a policy on securities to promote the interests of Ontario, while attacking the Premier of Ontario and saying that Ontario is not a good place to invest. Imagine that.

The Conservative members from Quebec, men and women, are taking part in this tug of war game played the Minister of Finance, who is positioning himself for his next election campaign in Ontario. I am very much concerned about this. On the other hand, I understand that, with their lack of political ability, Conservative members cannot see what is going on.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Charlottetown.

First, I congratulate the Bloc on this motion. This is an important issue, and having chosen the subject, the Bloc has come armed with good arguments. Although I do not agree with the view taken by the Bloc members on this issue, I have to admit they have done their homework. My only reservation about the Bloc’s position in this regard is that we are hearing the same refrain. No matter what the subject is, no matter what the issue, it is always the same refrain. As many powers as possible have to be given back to Quebec. That is obviously the guiding principle of the party.

I think we have to go back to the principle that Canada is a country. We are not a country so that everybody can withdraw to their corner and tend to their own business. We are a country because we share certain values. Whether the Bloc wants to admit it or not, Canadians who live outside Quebec share the same values as Quebeckers with the Quebec people, the Quebec nation, as some are fond of repeating. That is why we work together on all kinds of things. We have to go back to that idea. Why are we a country? To share our wealth, and not just our natural resources or our monetary resources through an equalization system. We have to share our ideas and work together, sometimes in the same institution, as the Bloc in fact does. The Bloc works here in this House, shares this place with colleagues from across Canada. We must forge ahead and work together with others in the same system, in the same institution. Because we are hearing the same refrain, we have to ask ourselves a question: does the argument have merit? I am not saying they have not made good arguments and they have not taken the question seriously, but it seems to me that it is always the same refrain.

The same thing can be said of the NDP. In fact it is not entirely the same thing, because it quite often acts contrary to its guiding principles. The NDP is chasing the same votes as the Bloc, so it tries to position itself as the great defender of “decentralization”, like the Bloc. But we know that in the past it was always a very centralist party and it still is on some issues. Seeing the NDP switching tracks like this undermines its credibility somewhat. I would tell my colleagues in the NDP not to chase the same votes as the Bloc, because that will get them nowhere.

Listening to the speeches by the NDP members and the speeches by the Bloc members describing federalists, particularly those in the official opposition, as dedicated centralizers, and even colonizers—I do not know whether I have yet heard the word “imperialist”, but it may come up at some point—I thought I was back in political science class at university in the 1970s. It is not a matter of being a centralizer. The idea of creating an integrated system to regulate securities in Canada is a matter of effectiveness. Our colleagues in the Liberal caucus and the Conservative caucus have explained this.

I was rather disappointed by the finance minister's speech on this. He should have taken the opportunity to sing the praises of a cross Canada system to regulate securities, but instead he took the opportunity to deliver, once again, his miserable budget. He spoke of his savings plan. I do not think the plan will be very effective. It will not channel much capital towards the investment Canada so badly needs. I understand my Bloc colleagues' fears. How can a government that delivered such a washed out, miserable and thin budget set in motion a national securities system? I understand my Bloc colleagues' concern.

One of the main challenges facing Canada's economy is to attract capital. It has always been a problem. The NDP has recognized this in the past. Obviously it has changed its message, because it is targeting the same votes as the Bloc Québécois in Quebec. The NDP has always recognized that it has always been a challenge for Canadian industry to attract capital. And so, in the past, provincial and federal governments have had to get involved. This is why there are more government corporations in Canada than in the United States. The government has to find a way to channel capital. This is a fact of Canada's economic history. We have to compete with the United States. The biggest capitalist economy in the world is not a decentralized federal system like ours, but a highly integrated and truly centralized one. It is very effective for investors. We have to compete with this country, and Wall Street is only a few hundred kilometres from here. We must become more effective on the stock markets and investment markets, or we will once again have a hard time keeping our capital and attracting new. For this reason, we must proceed with the help of experts who are not politicians.

As I said earlier, I am not totally convinced that we can trust the government and this Minister of Finance to put the proposed system in place. We must turn to the experts, who will tell us how to design an effective system that will compete with our neighbours, the United States, and respect regional interests in Canada. It seems simple and logical to me.

I would like to address as well an argument raised by the member for Outremont. He compared provincial societies that govern the professions, such as medicine, architecture and engineering. That strikes me as fairly obvious, and I am sure that my colleagues recognize the evidence. I do not understand why the NDP has a hard time recognizing it. There are human beings, who are not as mobile as capital. And then there is the national securities—capital—system. Capital travels everywhere fairly easily. This is why greater effectiveness is needed at the national level—to better compete with international capital.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis for his thoughtful speech. First of all, in this case, we are not calling for jurisdiction to be given back. Jurisdiction of this financial matter already belongs to the provinces. It is enshrined in the Constitution.

It is somewhat incomprehensible that the Conservative government finally agreed to recognize Quebec as a nation, as a result of the Bloc Québécois' request and motion. At the same time, it wants to remove one of Quebec's powers in one of the only areas in which it has a voice internationally. Quebec is taking part in debates with the international financial association. It has a voice at the table. The Conservative minister's plan would mean taking away that voice.

I urge my colleague to instead think about how he could make a better decision as a member from Quebec. The Quebec National Assembly is not governed by a sovereigntist party, but rather by a federalist party, the Quebec Liberal Party. All parties represented in the National Assembly—the Liberal Party of Quebec, the Parti Québécois and the Action démocratique du Québec—agree that the Minister of Finance's plan must be stopped.

Thus, is it not his responsibility to go along with the unanimous will of Quebeckers, as indicated by the National Assembly and the Government of Quebec?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments. Obviously, I understand the difference between repatriating powers and respecting the powers granted to the provinces by the Constitution. I thought I made that distinction, but perhaps I did not emphasize it enough. It is a matter of law.

I would like to point out, however, that the members of the Wise Persons’ Committee, an independent body that reviewed securities regulation in Canada, concluded that the Constitution did in fact give the federal government the power to regulate capital markets, pursuant to section 91.2 concerning the regulation of trade and commerce.

That being said, clearly, one must be very careful when creating a system, for no one wants to wind up before the Supreme Court and have it throw out the system because it does not comply with the Constitution. Accordingly, one must be very careful when creating a system.

Given my role as a member from Quebec, like any member of this House who knows his or her riding well, I believe that, if I were to walk into a Tim Hortons or down the street in my riding and raise this question, a large majority of my fellow citizens would be in favour of this proposal for a national securities system.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Louis-Hébert for a brief question.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question will indeed be brief.

The Bloc Québécois would have us believe that this is a transfer of funds directly to Toronto. I would like to know if my hon. colleague believes instead that this would give Quebec businesses access to funds to which they would not have had access before.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, I thought the period for questions was over, since I had been signaled that I was out of time.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Can the member repeat his question very briefly?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to repeat the question.

I wanted to know if, contrary to the Bloc Québécois, which implies that fewer funds will be available for Quebec, my colleague believes that this will give businesses access to many more sources of funds.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I believed that this proposal would deprive Quebec, my native province and the province where the riding I represent is located, of the financial tools needed by the Quebec business community, I would be against it. I think that this will give Quebec corporations better access to equity from elsewhere in Canada.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the motion. At the outset, I am totally against it.

It is my premise that Canada needs to advance its productivity and prosperity agenda. Canada needs an efficient, effective economical securities regulator that meets the needs not only of the companies both large and small operating in our great country, but also, and perhaps more important, meets the needs of investors looking to invest in Canadian companies rather than non-Canadian companies. My premise is the only way this can be done is through a national securities regulator.

From a geographical point of view, Canada is a very large country. From the population point of view, it is an extremely small country. We have 34 million people spread out across a vast geographical area. I think we comprise between 1% and 2% of the world's equity markets. Right now we have at least 10 different regulators. We are the only country in the world wherein we would find this type of a system. It cannot work, and I do not think it will work going forward. It is disjointed and duplicitous.

From personal experience, what happens is a lot of the smaller provinces rely on the rulings of the Ontario Securities Commission. I happen to come from a small province. We have approximately 134,000 people, and this is a good example. Are we expected to have our own securities commission, our own securities regulator, our own rules, laws and policy guidelines to deal with any securities issue that comes across our desk?

Again, any person would realize that it is not workable not only in Prince Edward Island, but in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It will not and can not work.

Another issue, which has been written about extensively, is the inability of our securities regulators to adequately enforce the existing rules. We have had a number of scandals over the years where investors have lost a lot of money, and no one seems to ever be convicted.

Perhaps the most grievous example is Bre-X. I believe capitalization in that case reached approximately $3 billion. There is more gold in my hand than there was in that mine. Investors from one part of Canada to the other part of Canada were fleeced of large amounts of money, and as far as I am aware nobody was convicted. This repeats itself over and over again.

The only way the country will move forward, so we have a very effective and efficient system of capitalization of our companies, is to have a national regulator. That is what I would like to see.

We have seen it. We are into an era of globalization. We have one in Vancouver, one in Alberta and in Montreal. Again, it is consolidation. However, if we do not take steps to have a national securities regulator in place in Canada, what will happen in the long run? If the present trend continues, companies and investors will not look at any of the Canadian provinces. They will bypass the Canadian provinces and look to the New York Stock Exchange.

A lot of resource-based companies in Canada rely on the capital markets. A lot of investors and pension funds rely on opportunities to invest their money. A lot of people want to invest in Canadian companies. If we have 13 separate regulators with their own 13 separate sets of rules, laws and regulations, that will create a lot of uncertainty. I do not think it can work in the long run.

This is very close to the productivity and prosperity agenda. I believe everything that goes on in the House should be looked at through the lens of whether it would enhance the prosperity and productivity of our country. With a national securities regulator, there is no question that it would.

As an aside, and this is related to other issues that perhaps are not in the motion, we have the whole economic union issue which calls for a national securities regulator, but just as importantly, it also calls for the reduction and hopefully the elimination of interprovincial trade barriers that exist.

In this particular country, we have 13 separate jurisdictions, and as everyone in this House is aware, there are many barriers put up to the trade of goods, the movement of goods and people, and services across interprovincial boundaries. There are many barriers in the interprovincial sense that are causing many problems with our productivity and prosperity.

It is good to see some of the initiatives being taken by the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. They recognize that. They do have an agreement and hopefully other Canadian provinces will emulate those particular agreements that do exist.

Hopefully, if we look back and we are here in 10 years time, many of those interprovincial barriers will disappear. However, if we have 13 different securities regulators, that in and of itself will be a very serious issue that will be looked at.

As I said previously, Canadians are investing more. This is how people, indirectly through their pension funds, fund their retirements, through RRSPs and other instruments that are available. It is natural that Canadians are looking for Canadian opportunities.

We know the land. We know the companies. We know what resources are out there. We know what ought to work and we know that it might not work, but again, if Canadians do not see that there are proper regulations, laws and policies, they will just move on and they will look of course not only to the New York Stock Exchange but the European stock exchanges, Tokyo, and others.

This relates to a larger discussion on what I call the need for a strong central government. We cannot build a country based upon 10 semi-autonomous jurisdictions with a moat or a firewall around each jurisdiction, each one speaking for itself.

Canada needs and cries out for a strong central government, a government with a pan-Canadian vision, a government that speaks for all people wherever they live, whatever sector they are employed in, and this whole issue of a national securities regulator cries out for that.

I realize there are some jurisdictional issues. I know this is an issue that has been worked on by successive governments of different political stripes. We have not been, as of today's date, successful in our quest for this objective, but I do hope that we move toward that.

I know there are always trifle issues as to where this office is going to be located and where that office is going to be located, what this office does and what that office does, but I am hopeful those issues can be resolved through negotiation.

However, if anyone leaves this debate thinking that this country will benefit through the development and expansion of 13 separate security commissions, with their own laws and regulations, then I submit to this House that they are mistaken.

In conclusion, I say to this House that this motion, in my respectful opinion, does not make a lot of sense. It does not advance the prosperity and productivity agenda of this country. The efficiencies and effectiveness that one would like to see in the system will not be present. I urge everyone to vote against this particular motion.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague. I am a bit surprised to see that he does not seem to know that the existing Canadian model, which is made up of the financial authorities from each province, has been recognized by the OECD as one of the most efficient in the world. The World Bank says the same thing. I do not think that centralizing those decisions would be a gain.

If the legislative assembly of the member's province had adopted unanimously a motion such as the motion adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec, which calls upon the Conservative government to abandon its project, and if afterward, the finance minister of the member's province had forwarded a similar written request, after the budget, would the member have the same attitude? Would he not have respected the will of the people from the province he represents?

In Quebec, the existing model works well. It has allowed the development of original models such as the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs and the stock savings plan. It has also allowed, in the case of Norbourg, the prosecution and conviction of people who acted illegally.

It is therefore Quebec as a whole, including the government represented by a federalist party, the Minister of Finance and the other parties at the National Assembly, who express their wish and call unanimously upon the federal government to abandon its project to establish a single system in Canada. What kind of attitude would the member have if he was in the same situation? Would he not do as the Bloc members are doing?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I see a lot of change going on in international securities regulations and sale. There is a lot of consolidation and globalization.

The point that I attempted to make in my brief remarks is that I do not see any way that 13 separate jurisdictional regulators, with their own laws, policies and regulations, will work.

The hon. member talks about my province. It is a very small province of 135,000 people. It does technically have a director of securities or a securities commission, but I know from personal experience that it basically rubber stamps whatever decisions, whatever opinions, come out of the Ontario situation, which in and of itself is not an effective way to go forward.

This country represents a very small number of people. Thirty-four million is an extremely small number of people compared to the world's population. It needs, it cries out for, one national securities regulator. Whether that will ever happen, I do not know. We do not know in this debate, but as we leave the debate, that should be the goal of everyone here.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague if he is the least bit afraid that this will deprive his province of a single dollar. Does he think that access to the entire Canadian securities market will deprive his province or the companies in his riding or province of the funds needed to help companies progress and expand their markets?

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the short answer is yes, it would. It would depend how it is implemented.

Right now, the way it works is that if a prospectus is approved in each Canadian jurisdiction, there is a fee levied by each province. It depends a lot on the fees implemented by the individual provinces, and that is another issue.

Those fees and taxes would have to be built into any type of a national program and those fees would have to be spread out among the provinces. It would have to be revenue neutral. I think every province would want that. To answer the question, yes, that would have to be built into the system.

Going back to the smaller provinces, it is my understanding that they basically adopt whatever opinions, decisions and directives that come out of the Ontario system. It probably makes a lot more sense in the long run if we would just formalize what is going on in the street at any particular time.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

There is a good reason why the Bloc Québécois tabled a motion today calling on the government to desist immediately from trying to create a common securities regulator. This is a Quebec and provincial jurisdiction. In addition, this initiative has been universally criticized in Quebec.

When I say that there is a good reason, I mean that this is a fundamental issue for us, directly related to the status of the Quebec nation. The Autorité des marchés financiers is currently responsible for regulating securities in Quebec, and the system is working very well, thanks in particular to the passport system shared with the Canadian provinces except Ontario. This is a fundamental issue for us, therefore, because it is directly related to Quebec’s status as a nation, as recognized by all the parties in the House.

It is hard to imagine how the government could recognize a territory and a group of people and give them a certain status only to insist then on taking away a power they already had, especially as we are talking here about a key power that is vital for managing financial products and services within Quebec.

The Autorité des marchés financiers, which is responsible for managing securities in Quebec, has quite a diverse mission. It provides assistance to consumers of financial products and services and ensures that the financial institutions and other regulated entities of the financial sector comply with the solvency standards applicable to them as well as with the obligations imposed on them by law. It also supervises the activities connected with the distribution of financial products and services, supervises stock market and clearing house activities and monitors the securities market. Finally, it sees to the implementation of protection and compensation programs for consumers of financial products and services, and administers the compensation funds set up by law.

It is not immediately apparent, therefore, how the creation of a common securities market would improve a system that is already working very well. There are no doubts at all on the international level about the competence of the AMF or how well the system is working. As a matter of fact, the OECD’s most recent economic outlook puts Canada in second place when it comes to the regulation of securities.

Earlier, I heard the member for Charlottetown say that duplication does not work, to explain in part his disagreement with the Bloc Québécois' position. He said that duplication does not work and never will. I would point out to him that this is precisely why the Bloc Québécois is fighting for sovereignty in Quebec: duplication will indeed never work.

I would add that, in a report on global financial markets, the World Bank considered Canada as a leader in securities trading. This means that, at present, the securities commissions from every province and Quebec are allowed to make themselves heard at the International Organization of Securities Commissions. Given that the Canadian Constitution states that securities fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces, individual jurisdictions can legitimately represent themselves at the IOSCO without going through an intermediary. Quebec has to continue to enjoy this voice it currently has on the world stage.

In February, the government announced that an expert panel would be appointed to draft model legislation to establish a single securities commission.

The Conservative government's intention to create a single Canada-wide securities commission has been confirmed. The Conservatives are prepared to overstep Quebec's jurisdictions and we think that is unacceptable. What is more, how can we accept this intention when we know there has been consensus for a long time and there still is consensus in Quebec against this truly centralist idea of the Minister of Finance.

Following a motion tabled by Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois in the National Assembly of Quebec, the National Assembly unanimously passed a motion asking the federal government to abandon its Canada-wide securities commission project.

On October 2, 2007, Monique Jérôme-Forget, Quebec's finance minister, said that the Minister of Finance's proposal would drive up costs since this plan adds another layer of bureaucracy. We have enough bureaucracy, but they want to add more.

The Quebec federation of chambers of commerce supports the position of Quebec's finance minister and that of the Bloc Québécois. On February 28, 2008, Monique Jérôme-Forget sent a letter to the Minister of Finance on the creation of this expert panel. In my opinion, this letter sums up quite well the position of Quebeckers and the consensus in Quebec I was talking about earlier.

Ms. Jérôme-Forget said the following to the Minister of Finance:

I have noted the appointment of your expert panel charged with making suggestions and recommendations—

First of all, I reiterate that the existing regulatory system in Canada works well and satisfies both the needs of pan-Canadian participants and the interests of the various regions. Accordingly, I will continue to oppose the implementation of any model leading to the concentration of market oversight responsibilities in the hands of a common or single regulator, regardless of how you call it.

She also said that the passport system works quite well. In closing, she also said the following about the expert panel mentioned and included in the budget bill:

—I note that you have ignored the proposals made to you by the Provincial-Territorial Council of Ministers of Securities Regulation.

I will close by saying that, indeed, it does not make sense to go down this path.

Opposition Motion--Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have two minutes left to finish his speech after question period. We will now move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Brandon—Souris.

Canadian Baseball Hall of FameStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to offer congratulations to Mr. Gladwyn Scott of Carberry, Manitoba, who has been officially named as one of this year's inductees into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Gladwyn, now best known in Manitoba as one of our provinces hardest working, grassroots volunteers, is also being honoured for his hard work on the national stage. He has served as the vice-president of Baseball Canada and scouted for the Blues Jays and Braves.

If one were to ask, many would say that Gladwyn's most notable accomplishment was his time as a coach with the first ever national baseball team competing in the 1967 Pan Am Games, including an upset win over Cuba. He has also served as general manager of Canada's youth team, winning bronze in 1987.

Gladwyn Scott continues to serve his community and province, chairing the Manitoba Senior Baseball Council and working with the host committee for this year's triple A nationals being held in Brandon.

Gladwyn Scott will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on June 28 and, on behalf of myself, the constituents of Brandon—Souris and, indeed, all Canadians, I offer him our thanks and congratulations.

Magloire DionneStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to congratulate Mr. Magloire Dionne on his 100th birthday, which he celebrated on March 2, 2008. Mr. Dionne is a remarkable person who put a lot of time and energy into his family. He currently lives in Saint-Quentin, near his family.

I had the great pleasure of attending the party organized for Mr. Dionne at Manoir Mgr Melanson, along with his relatives and friends and staff of the residence. Like many other people, I was inspired by Mr. Dionne's remarkable courage and energy and his warmth.

On this unique and joyous occasion, the people of Madawaska—Restigouche join me in wishing Mr. Dionne a happy 100th birthday. We hope that he will remain in good health and continue charming us with his vitality and dignity for many years to come.

Organic Honey CompanyStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to a business in my riding called Miels d'Anicet, in Ferme-Neuve. Owners Anicet Desrochers and Anne-Virginie Schmidt recently won the prestigious Renaud-Cyr award, in the artisan producer category.

Created in 1998, the Renaud-Cyr awards honour the expertise of professionals, producers and processors who work on enhancing Quebec products and cuisine. This award is a great honour in the Quebec restaurant community, and will provide more opportunities for this organic honey company. In fact, the entire Antoine-Labelle region will benefit from the increased visibility of Miels d'Anicet products.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois and myself, I would like to congratulate the producers and thank them for bringing our region's potential to the attention of the rest of Quebec.

Donald Cameron MacDonaldStatements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the life of Donald Cameron MacDonald, former leader of the Ontario CCF and Ontario NDP, who died on Saturday, March 8, at the age of 94.

Donald was often called the best premier Ontario never had. During his 27 years in the legislature, he established a reputation for a principled pragmatic opposition from the political left that New Democrats remember with gratitude and admiration, and which Canada as a country acknowledged when he received the Order of Canada in 2003.

Donald, who served with the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II, was one of the leaders in that generation who, having went through the dirty thirties and the war, emerged with a terrific determination to build a better world. He helped create the kind of Canada that most Canadians not only value but regard as crucial to our self-understanding. I know I speak for many when I offer thanks for a wonderful life, a happy warrior whose hope for social justice inspired all who knew him, myself included.

I offer my sincere condolences to his wife, Simone, and to all his family, and appreciation for a long life, well lived.

WinterLights CelebrationsStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, WinterLights Celebrations is a national program encouraging municipalities, large and small, throughout Canada to celebrate light with decorative, cultural and spiritual programs with the objective of creating attractions for tourism from within Canada and abroad.

Launched in 2001 with the support of the Canadian Tourism Commission, WinterLights Celebrations is a winter edition of Communities in Bloom. The program encourages communities to showcase winter activities, festive celebrations and visual decorations that promote Canada's appeal as a winter tourism destination and improve the quality of life in communities across the country.

The results of the 2007-08 edition were announced in Saint John, New Brunswick on Saturday, February 9 during the course of the annual WinterLights Celebrations symposium and awards ceremony.

In recognition of its Christmas fair presentation, my congratulations go out to the city of Armstrong in my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap in receiving a five star rating in the 1 to 10,000 population category.

Fay BlandStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to pay tribute to a resident of my riding, Fay Bland, who recently passed away.

Fay was a committed and compassionate activist for developmentally disabled. For more than 50 years, her efforts enabled scores of developmentally disabled children and young adults to lead fulfilling autonomous lives in their communities.

Her accomplishments are too numerous to mention. One of these projects, AVATIL—Apprentissage à la vie autonome/Towards Independent Living, provides apartments, group services, social development programs and assistance to clients so that they can live independently on the West Island.

In 2006, Fay Bland was honoured for her efforts with the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award.

Our condolences go to her family and friends and I salute the legacy of this wonderful Canadian woman.

Mathieu Émond and André ManseauStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to two Quebec firefighters who died in the line of duty: Mathieu Émond and André Manseau.

In paying tribute to her husband, Mrs. Émond reminded us of just how dangerous the profession can be. Firefighters do not just simply look after the well-being of citizens; they also give of themselves, something that is rare in other careers. A father and an 18-year-old with his entire life before him, who gave up their own lives while protecting the lives of others are not just ordinary citizens. They are heroes.

My government would like to honour André Manseau and Mathieu Émond, and along with them, all Canadian firefighters. Courage and self-sacrifice are the hallmarks of their calling.

May our prayers accompany them to their eternal rest.

AluminumStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, at a time when different parts of the world are looking to sign treaties to maximize spinoff opportunities from major aluminum producers, it would seem essential that the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region have greater assurances with respect to employment and processing. That opinion is shared by a number of elected officials as well as labour leaders in my region.

Take for example the new agreement between Alcoa and the Government of Quebec, which was signed recently. For the very first time, a minimum employment level has been guaranteed in exchange for energy benefits. While not perfect, this new agreement shows that reasonable conditions can be negotiated with companies with respect to employment and processing.

The Conservative government must understand that a laissez-faire policy vis-à-vis aluminum giants is no longer an option in the regions of Quebec. This government turned a blind eye on the sale of Alcan to Rio Tinto, and the people of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean are not about to forget it.

Canadian Space RoboticsStatements by Members

March 11th, 2008 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, early this morning, Canada's most advanced robot was launched into space on-board the space shuttle Endeavour. This robot, called Dextre, along with the Canadarm2 and the mobile base, will play an absolutely vital role in the assembly of the International Space Station.

Canada is a world-renowned leader in space robotics. Our robotic ingenuity and innovation is a source of tremendous pride and a true competitive advantage for Canada. Not so long ago, the thought of a robot with the dexterity of a human hand and the capacity to move around an orbiting station seemed like the stuff of science fiction. Today it is a reality.

Canada's expertise in the design and use of advanced robotics has positioned us as an innovative, space-faring nation. The expertise at the heart of Canada's space robots is delivering results to Canadians and providing solutions to health challenges here on Earth.

Human RightsStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week a gunman entered the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem and brutally killed eight students and left many injured, including a Canadian.

I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones and my support to those who are recovering from their serious injuries.

This shocking and despicable terrorist act must be strongly condemned. We cannot sit idly by and remain silent about the underlying culture of hate and rampant anti-Semitism bred from generation to generation.

I applaud my colleague, the hon. Irwin Cotler, for heading the new International Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism and I look forward to working with him to take action against the increasingly frequent and violent anti-Semitism that is occurring around the world.

Human RightsStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would remind the hon. member for Thornhill that referring to members by name is out of order, so she will not want to repeat that blunder.

The hon. member for Oxford.

TerrorismStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to alert the House to a letter written by Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to the head of the Sikh temples worldwide. In this letter, Prime Minister Singh expressed concern that groups supporting Sikh militancy were regrouping in Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Germany and Pakistan.

Canada will not tolerate any kind of action originating from our soil that promotes terrorism in other countries. We must not forget the lessons of the Air India tragedy.

As our Prime Minister said last June at the unveiling of the memorial to the victims of the Air India tragedy:

Flight 182 may have flown under the flag of India, but the murder of its passengers was a singularly Canadian crime and tragedy.

In a world where terrorism knows no boundaries, Canada has a responsibility to be on the lookout for those who want to use terrorism as a political tool. Our police, security and intelligence organizations remain vigilant.

The BudgetStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government has failed hard-working Canadians. I want to share the story of Jennifer McPhee, who lives in my riding.

This young mother has done everything right. She got training and became an LPN. She works in a hospital, has a second part time job and volunteers in her community, and yet she and her family are struggling in so many ways.

She writes:

I am not very politically savvy, but am fully aware of how hard it seems for the average person to get by.

I get called continuously from work at the hospital, begging me to work more...when I have looked into furthering my education so that I can help out with our nursing shortage by becoming an RN, there is no access to funding.

It feels...like this government is trying to make sure the young adults of this world don't ever succeed.

I have relied on my friends to take care of my children...as I am over the allowable threshold for child care subsidy and of course my children were born before the date that would give me access to that extra $100.00 a month.

If we weren't thrifty and creative...we would have lost our home shortly after we purchased it.

It is families like Jennifer's who were left out of the Conservatives' 2008 budget. The lack of support the government has shown for hundreds of thousands--

The BudgetStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Saint Boniface.

Pioneer of Flight AwardStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Manitoba Aviation Council is honouring a Manitoba father and his six sons for their pioneering role in aviation.

Since 1935, Tom Lamb and his six boys, Greg, Donald, Dennis, Jack, Doug and Connie, flew thousands of rescue missions in northern Manitoba, some under the most extreme and dangerous conditions.

Those of us who have had the opportunity to get to know bush pilots realize how they can be remarkably entrepreneurial and fiercely independent. These qualities would surely apply to the Lamb family.

On behalf of our Manitoba caucus, I want to congratulate the Lamb family for their extraordinary contributions to the north, and in particular Doug Lamb, who saved the life of the member for Churchill when she was a child. During difficult weather conditions, Doug risked his own life to get this young girl, who was suffering from pneumonia, to a hospital. Without proper medical care that night, she would not be alive today.

Tom Lamb is now immortalized in bronze by world renowned Winnipeg sculptor Leo Mol. We should all be proud of the important role the Lamb family played in making Canada what it is today.

Leonard CohenStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, over the years, Quebec has had a number of women and men who, through their art, were able to make humankind a little better, a little more beautiful. Leonard Cohen is one of them. Yesterday, he was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame, in New York.

Born in Montreal, Leonard Cohen published his first book of poems in 1956, and released his first music album, which included such wonderful songs as So long Marianne and Suzanne, in 1967.

Through his extensive repertoire, he has influenced generations of musicians, who have integrated poetry with folk and rock music. In Quebec, he stands among our greatest poets and singers. Just a month ago, the daily La Presse included the album Songs of Leonard Cohen among the top ten Quebec albums of all times.

Congratulations, Mr. Cohen.

The Prime MinisterStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker: I am PM,
PM I am,
I do not like green eggs and ham;
I won't answer questions about Cadman.
I will not answer them in this House,
On this I'm quiet as a mouse.
I will not answer in Yellowknife,
I won't answer questions from Bob Fife.
I will not answer in Vancouver,
Duck and hide, that's my manoeuvre.
On that tape you'll hear me say,
Things I can't discuss today.
I will not answer here or there,
I will not answer anywhere.
I will not answer, can't you see?
Why won't the press just let me be?
Please, please do not pester,
For the truth holds disaster.
I know the rule is not to lie,
But when your starn's in a sling, I say let her ride!

Government PoliciesStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are proud of our Conservative government under the leadership of our Prime Minister.

Since 2006 we have delivered on many of the promises we made. The list of achievements is long.

The GST has been lowered to 5%. We have cut taxes by close to $200 billion. We have paid down $37 billion on the national debt.

Our national child care program provides $100 a month for every child under six.

We got Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, passed into law to help keep Canadians safe from dangerous criminals.

We have put an end to 13 years of neglect and foot-dragging by standing up for Canadian farmers.

We are pushing forward on Senate reform, and the Prime Minister appointed the Hon. Bert Brown to the Senate because Albertans elected him as their senator in waiting.

We have passed three balanced budgets.

Our government, under the leadership of our Prime Minister, is getting the job done for Canadians.

I would also like to thank the Liberals for showing their confidence in our government last night and for their support of our environmental initiatives.

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works.

At the time of the confidence vote in 2005, the parliamentary secretary told journalist Lawrence Martin that Mr. Cadman did not want an election because it could cost Mr. Cadman's family a fortune in benefits. Which benefits?

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals' story on this file keeps changing.

First the Liberals said there was a meeting on May 17, 2005. They were wrong. The Liberals said Chuck Cadman was not going to run again. They were wrong.

The Liberals said that we offered Chuck Cadman a $1 million life insurance policy. They were wrong. The Liberals asserted that I was somehow involved in organizing the meetings. They are wrong.

The Liberals claim outrage, but the fact is that they have had this story over a year so any outrage they demonstrate now is entirely synthetic.

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I asked the parliamentary secretary a question, but he did not answer. I will ask him again in French.

During his conversation with Lawrence Martin, he not only said that Mr. Cadman was concerned and that he and his family would suffer financial insecurity if there was an election, but also that representatives of the Conservative Party were making offers to Mr. Cadman to deal with his family's financial insecurity in the event of an election.

What offers and what financial insecurity was he talking about? He needs to answer the question and tell the truth.

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I always tell the House the truth. Always. That is my job. Yes, it is true.

Moreover, everyone in this House knows that the offer made on May 19, 2005 was the only offer made to Mr. Cadman. It was the only offer.

As I said last week and repeated yesterday, the comment by Lawrence Martin, who said that I knew what had been discussed at the meeting of May 19, 2005, was not a true statement. Chuck Cadman himself said what he had been offered.

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, does the parliamentary secretary admit that this conversation happened, that he said to Mr. Martin that Mr. Cadman had financial insecurity for his family because of an election, and that the party was working on something to solve it?

Did he say so to journalist Lawrence Martin, yes or no? He needs to answer.

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, the answer is no. I did not have any awareness of the specifics of the meeting of May 19. I said that. I said that, in fact, in the very same column that the leader of the Liberal Party is now quoting.

Yesterday in an interview on CTV with Mike Duffy, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party said that “the basic issue here” is: “Was a member of the Canadian Parliament offered a financial inducement to change his vote?” The answer is no.

EthicsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish we could believe that answer.

For nine days now, the government has failed to be straight with Canadians about the offer it made to Chuck Cadman. Sandra Buckler and Ryan Sparrow from the Conservatives have refused repeated offers by the media to go on record denying that any kind of financial inducement was ever offered to Mr. Cadman.

So I ask a perfectly simple question: did any Conservative official ever offer a financial inducement of any kind to Mr. Cadman, yes or no?

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

The answer is no, Mr. Speaker.

The answer is no. There was no financial inducement made to Chuck Cadman. We have been clear about that. Chuck Cadman said there was no offer of any kind of financial inducement. Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan have both issued a statement to that effect.

I wish the Liberals would just simply read the statements and take the word of the three people who were themselves at the meeting. It is pretty clear.

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister needs to explain what the Prime Minister meant when he referred to financial considerations on the tape.

Ryan Sparrow, a Conservative Party spokesperson, has had six opportunities to tell the media that no financial inducement was ever offered, but he has refused to do so. As for the Prime Minister, he is in hibernation.

The question is simple: did someone in the Conservative Party ever offer Chuck Cadman a financial inducement?

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

That is the same question, Mr. Speaker. The answer is no.

I was hoping the deputy leader of the Liberal Party would take the opportunity to correct the record of what he said yesterday in the House of Commons when he declared Chuck Cadman was not going to run again. Chuck Cadman himself said, and I quote from the Penticton Herald of May 20, 2005, “Despite his illness, Cadman says he's planning to run again”.

In the Edmonton Journal, “Chuck Cadman...who is being treated for cancer, but has said he will run again. 'Oh yes. Yes, I've already made that commitment, that I will run again...', said Chuck Cadman on CTV.... The MP, first elected as a Reformer in 1997, has consistently said he plans to run again”.

Why will the deputy leader of the Liberal Party not apologize, withdraw and admit that he misled this House?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a real gift to the oil and gas companies. It has, moreover, been roundly criticized by both Quebec and Ontario. With 2006 as its reference year, this plan ignores the efforts by the Quebec manufacturing industry, which cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% between 1990 and 2005. In comparison, emissions resulting from oil and gas extraction in Alberta have increased 300% since 1990.

Will the minister admit that his plan to combat climate change is tailor-made for the oil and gas companies?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, not in the least. We are working very hard to regulate major industries. We have consulted with representatives of Canadian industry. We have inaugurated measures for the forest industry, acknowledging their cogeneration efforts. We have inaugurated additional measures against global warming and greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands.

We have been working hard and have achieved some real results, something that has not been done since the Bloc got here 18 years ago.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this minister is to the environment what the governor of New York State is to morality. He mentions the carbon exchange, so let us talk about that. This functions according to intensity targets, and the base year is 2006, which favours the oil and gas companies. As for his compensation system, it recognizes only a tiny percentage of the efforts made by industry between 1990 and 2006.

Let us hear a frank admission from the minister that his actions are tailor-made for the oil companies.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, our national plan, the first real plan for Canada in this country's history, set as its goal an absolute reduction of 20% in greenhouse gas emissions. This was absolutely essential.

We are taking action. The only thing the Bloc Québécois could do is to hold a national conversation on the environment. It talks; we take action.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative plan penalizes Quebec and parallels the Alberta government's timetable for the oil sands sector. In addition to echoing the oil companies' development calendar, it does not impose real reductions until 2018, 10 years from now.

Does the Minister of the Environment realize that his plan is hypocritical and that not only does it not reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to the oil sands, but, according to the government's own documents, it will allow them to increase by 100% from 2006 to 2020? That is completely hypocritical.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we have a real plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 330 megatonnes. This is the most significant plan in the history of Canada. We are taking more significant action than almost any other country in the world will take over the next 12 years. We are doing something new for this country. We have a real plan to reduce greenhouse gases, something the Bloc Québécois has never been able to do, since it is always in opposition. This team over here is taking action.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only will his regulatory framework for greenhouse gases benefit oil companies to the detriment of Quebec and the manufacturing sector, but the Conservatives also announced $240 million in the recent budget for a carbon capture and storage pilot project. In addition to that gift, oil companies continue to benefit from accelerated capital cost allowance.

Does the Minister of the Environment realize that his approach is one of polluter-paid rather than polluter-pay?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, that is not at all the case. The budget presented here by the Minister of Finance was supported by the Government of Saskatchewan and one of its public companies, SaskPower, for this new technology.

The real problem is that the only thing the Bloc Québécois can do here in Ottawa is ask questions. The exercise of power requires real ideas and real plans for the reduction of greenhouse gases. We are taking action.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the mission in Afghanistan is not working; it is a mistake. Quality of life is worse and violence is on the rise. A study by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation shows that peace efforts are disconnected and lack support. Spending on the war in Afghanistan will be $1 billion over budget.

Why do the Conservatives, with the help of the Liberals, want to extend this out-of-control war?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, from 2001 to December 2007 Canada has invested a considerable amount in our military commitment to Afghanistan, this is true. It is a significant investment that is fundamental to Canadian interests to ensure the success of the Canadian reconstruction mission in Afghanistan.

There is no question that our military commitment comes at a significant cost, but it is one of the commitments we made to the international community, to the people of Afghanistan and to our NATO allies. We make no apologies for giving our troops the equipment they need in the field to protect their lives and succeed in their mission.

I know that the NDP will criticize every aspect, but we want our military to succeed.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two paths regarding the future of Afghanistan: a path to war and a path of peace.

The Conservatives are accelerating the process of the path toward war. That is very clear. What they are committing us to today and over the next few days with a vote is to three more years down the wrong path, with the support of the Liberals.

If the Conservatives are such good managers of this war, how is it that the government has allowed the cost of the war in Afghanistan to exceed the budget by $1 billion this year alone, and what does the future hold?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the NDP may choose to look at the figures and not be concerned about the lives of Canadians and the lives of Afghans, but we will put them first. We will ensure that they have the equipment they need.

The reality is that the mission in Afghanistan has produced considerable success. Much progress and positive change has been made for the people of Afghanistan and the security situation continues to improve.

Last week we had the benefit of a group of women legislators from Afghanistan visiting with us, sharing the importance of the work that Canada has done and asking us to remain committed so that women's rights, their freedoms, their liberties and their progress can be protected. We will do that.

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary claims that all that the Conservatives offered Chuck Cadman was a chance to rejoin their caucus. His theory has been disproved by none other than Tom Flanagan, in his book Harper's Team. Mr. Flanagan writes: “Chuck was gracious when he received us in his Parliamentary office, but he was visibly tired, and I could see that he wasn’t up to negotiating a return to caucus”.

Could the parliamentary secretary give us an answer with a hint of truth this time?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Laval—Les Îles did not get the facts straight in her question. There were three parts to our offer to Mr. Cadman: first, to rejoin our caucus; second, to run as a Conservative candidate; and third, to receive our help in order to get re-elected as a Conservative candidate. There were three parts, and not just what the member presented in her question.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his book, Tom Flanagan does not say that the Conservatives were interested in having Chuck Cadman return to their caucus. No, their interest was motivated only by the fact that, and I quote again, “Chuck Cadman was a swing voter who could, at that time, trigger an election and they were prepared to make one last desperate try to win him over”.

Whom should we believe, the parliamentary secretary or the man who ran the last Conservative campaign?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I am not asking my colleague to believe me. It is the nature of question period; I can understand the adversarial nature of it. All we have asked is that the Liberals respect and believe the word of Chuck Cadman, who himself said that the only offer or anything that he had from anybody was the offer of an unopposed nomination. That is what Chuck Cadman himself said.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, why would Mr. Cadman tell his wife that he received an offer of a $1 million life insurance policy if it was not true? Why would he lie to her? Why would Mr. Cadman tell his daughter and son-in-law the same thing and each of them at a different time? It cannot be explained away as just a bad moment for a very sick man, or a misunderstanding, or a mishearing. Why would he lie to them? Why, Mr. Speaker?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, let me just take a minute here and say that I agree with the deputy leader of the Liberal Party when he said on Mike Duffy Live last night, “The basic issue here” is “was a member of the Canadian Parliament offered a financial inducement to change his vote”. The answer to the question is no.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is not an answer. The parliamentary secretary--

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. member for York Centre has the floor.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is a thinking person. He knows that he has to try to answer every day. He must have asked himself these very same questions.

It is not just what the Cadman family said. They described the scene; what Mr. Cadman's reaction to the offer had been; how he was angry and offended; how the family was shocked; how Mrs. Cadman considered it a bribe. All their stories are consistent. There was no misunderstanding or mishearing.

Why would Mr. Cadman lie to his wife and family? Why would they lie to us?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, the member for York Centre is admitting the fact that Dona Cadman last week said that she believes and trusts the Prime Minister of Canada. He can leave that part out all he wants.

If the member for York Centre really believes in his story, if he really believes in all this anger and bravado that he is throwing at this government, I would like to juxtapose that with the fact that we really appreciated his support on the confidence vote last night on the government's environment agenda.

With all the sitting that those members have been doing on that side of the House of Commons, they must have some awful saddle sores.

Regional DevelopmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the government is helping the oil industry in the west, nothing is being done for Quebec. Two years ago, the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec spoke of a sort of Marshall plan to revitalize the regions.

If we look at the evolution of his budget, his plan is more regressive than progressive. The agency's budget was $439 million in 2005-06, when the Conservatives arrived, and the budget for 2008-09 is $287 million, or barely half of that.

How can the minister talk about developing the regions of Quebec when he is cutting their funding?

Regional DevelopmentOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should take a better look at the figures. At Canada Economic Development, we have a roughly $200 million annual envelope to support the economic development of the 14 regions of Quebec.

In addition to that, we have money allocated to MRIF, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, among others.

For example, for the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, $46 million has been granted to Canada Economic Development for the festivities and to meet the needs of Quebec City for these festivities.

Regional DevelopmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, what we want is for Quebec to have full power to develop its own regions. And until then, Quebec has the right to have its fair share.

In western Canada, where the economy is booming, the government is planning a $16 million increase in the economic development budget for 2008-09, while in Quebec, which has been hit by the forestry and manufacturing crisis, the government is cutting $107 million.

Does the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec think he is still representing the interests of Quebec well when his own government is focusing on the west and its rich oil companies?

Regional DevelopmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, with the $200 million we have at Canada Economic Development, we have to accomplish our department's mission to help the most vulnerable regions and the regions with shrinking populations.

A large part of the $200 million budget envelope is injected into a number of regions in Quebec. For example, when we saved the train in the Gaspésie, $20 million from our envelope went to the Gaspé, and the Bloc Québécois did not even lift a finger. That is what we did to save the train in the Gaspé.

Manufacturing and Forestry IndustriesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the manufacturing and forestry industries are in crisis and the only assistance provided by the government is a $1 billion plan that gives $216 million to Quebec over three years. However, when it comes to helping polluting industries in western Canada, the government is exceedingly generous. By way of evidence, I cite the $240 million pilot project provided in the budget for carbon capture and storage.

My question is a simple one. Will the minister improve his assistance plan by March 31?

Manufacturing and Forestry IndustriesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we are giving money to all the provinces to reduce greenhouse gases. Nothing like this was ever done by the previous government. For Quebec, the amount is $350 million. It is more than what the Bloc and the Government of Quebec asked for. We are acting. We are helping our colleagues in Quebec City to reduce greenhouse gases. We have come up with real results for Canada, for the first time in its history.

Manufacturing and Forestry IndustriesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has no problem finding funds in causes dear to it. The fact that there is a cost overrun with the mission in Afghanistan of $1 billion this fiscal year does not seem to pose a financial problem for the government.

Given the ease with which the government can find an additional $1 billion for the military sector, why can it not respond to the pressing needs of the manufacturing and forestry sectors from the $10.2 billion surplus in the current year?

Manufacturing and Forestry IndustriesOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, Quebec is receiving $217 million of the billion dollars put in trust for community development in Quebec regions. An agreement was duly signed by our two levels of government. Furthermore, the department I head, Canada Economic Development, is helping the manufacturing sector. We are helping business in the sector wishing to expand or start up. Our records show that some 560 projects have been accepted in the manufacturing sector, for a total of 11,000 jobs saved and 4,000 created.

Municipal AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the OPP has evidence to suggest the environment minister met with Larry O'Brien to discuss the possibility of bribing Terry Kilrea with a federal appointment. The OPP, on tape, confirmed that it would be forwarding this file to the RCMP to investigate the minister's involvement. The next day it flipped. Why?

In a letter to my office, the minister's chief of staff now admits that he made several phone calls to the OPP in the hours before that reverse decision. Who authorized these calls? Who okayed calls to the police on the eve of a minister being investigated?

Municipal AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeSecretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, we see the tinfoil hats getting a little tight again over there.

On December 14, the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, one of the most respected senior police officers in the country, Julian Fantino, issued a release saying:

The Ontario Provincial Police's investigation of - and subsequent charges against - an elected Ottawa official was not influenced in any way by federal officials. The OPP does not permit the media or politics to influence how it undertakes investigations. Any suggestion that the OPP was influenced by anyone or anything...of this investigation is nonsense.

That is what the OPP said.

Municipal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, does the OPP know about these phone calls? Because the government can distort facts, it can bully, it can push forward and abuse the courts with frivolous lawsuits, but it will not stop us from asking questions and getting the truth.

On December 11, the OPP confirmed several times, on tape, that it was about to forward the file to the RCMP, then suddenly, after the minister's chief of staff made calls, that changed. He claims in his letter to the OPP that he had “no plans to forward this file to the RCMP”.

Who is lying, the police or the minister's chief of staff?

Municipal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeSecretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, once again, the chief of the conspiracy theory brigade opposite is suggesting that the commissioner and the members of the Ontario Provincial Police are not telling the truth. Here is what Commissioner Fantino said:

Any suggestion that the OPP was influenced by anyone or anything except the pursuit of the facts in any part of this investigation is nonsense.

The member owes an apology to Commissioner Fantino and the good men and women of the Ontario Provincial Police for calling into question their integrity.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government quietly released an update to its sham of a climate change plan.

It is the minister's 3D plan and it goes like this: for 10 years, deny the existence of climate change, then delay action, and finally, to complete the trilogy, deceive the Canadian people. Deny, delay, deceive.

Yesterday the minister presented nothing, no regulations, no analysis, and no support from any group anywhere. The minister is just not paying attention. When will the Prime Minister give Canada a minister who is focusing on his job, and is not consumed with legal and ethical problems of his own making?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the arguments by the member for Ottawa South are so weak and without merit. He could not even convince a majority of members of his own caucus to join him in opposing our environmental plan.

I read in the Globe and Mail on January 25, 2008, an article which stated:

[The Liberal member for Ottawa South] acknowledged that previous Liberal governments also lacked the political will to tackle the rising emissions from Alberta's oil sands--

He said, “I don't know if we really had the resolve”. That party did not have the resolve to fight global warming. This party does.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

We saw his resolve in Walkerton, Mr. Speaker. That is where we saw his resolve.

A plan to combat climate change was ready when the Conservatives came to power. They ignored it. Now the Conservatives have a plan with no regulations, with objectives beyond reach, criticized by environmentalists and a source of shame for Canada internationally.

When will the government acknowledge its failure and submit an ambitious plan that will give Canadians real results?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals look back and wonder what might have been. After 13 long years, they were finally getting around to addressing this problem.

If they only had a fifth term, they would have been able to take action. The Liberals get an A for their announcements, but a D for follow-through.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, unlike the federal Liberal Party whose failures on the environmental file are well documented, yesterday our government followed-through on our tough environmental agenda by requiring oil sands plants to use carbon capture and storage, and essentially banning the construction of new dirty coal power.

Last night this government's environmental agenda and policies were put to a confidence vote in the House of Commons. Can our outstanding Minister of the Environment tell the House about the outcome of that vote?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, that is one of the best questions I have ever heard from that side of the House.

The reality is the Liberals do not have a right to complain if they do not vote. The reality is the Liberal Party of Canada voted confidence in this party, in this government, on our environmental record.

If the Liberal Party could do anything, perhaps it could call Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and ask him to finally close those dirty coal-fired plants that he promised to close last year and failed to deliver.

JusticeOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the number of leaks that go unpunished is on the rise and the Conservatives cannot be trusted to fix the problem. The Conservatives' NAFTA leak and the Liberals' income trust leak are two recent examples.

Breach of trust provisions in the Criminal Code cannot be applied to most leaks and the Security of Information Act was struck down in 2006. Internal investigations and disciplinary measures just will not wash.

When will the Conservatives introduce measures to close the gaps in the law and get tough on leaks?

JusticeOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we are certainly prepared to do that. It is true that one of the provisions was struck down by the courts, but we responded in a report to Parliament in July 2007.

I should point out to the hon. member that there are a number of legislative provisions in the CSIS Act and he should not forget that section 122 of the Criminal Code provides for a breach of trust. There are many provisions available.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the former Conservative minister, Michael Wilson, now the government's Ambassador to the U.S., was aware of the NAFTA leak that interfered in the American democratic process before the story broke.

Mr. Wilson is now hiding behind a so-called private conversation to deny any wrong. That is not good enough.

An internal probe by the Prime Minister's staff will not get to the bottom of this scandal. When will the RCMP be called in to investigate the actions of Ian Brodie, Michael Wilson, and all the other actors in the NAFTA leak?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are taking this matter very seriously. It is why the Clerk of the Privy Council is right now carrying out a full and complete investigation.

I want to express to the hon. member the importance of our free trade agreement with the U.S. We have a good free trade agreement. It has been productive. It has been very good for job creation in our country and also in the U.S. and Mexico. We hope to continue to build on the good relationship that we are having with the U.S. in the near future.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, leaked sensitive diplomatic conversations to the media. Then, a classified memo was leaked from DFAIT. Now, we learn that the Canadian Ambassador to Washington, Michael Wilson, leaked the same information to a reporter. Coincidence? I think not.

We have three leaks with a desired result to interfere and influence the Democratic primary.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that Ian Brodie and Michael Wilson are under investigation and that they have stepped aside? If not, why not?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister said last week, this leak is a serious matter and that is why the Clerk of the Privy Council is currently conducting a full and detailed investigation.

I should point out to the hon. member that trade and diplomatic relations between Canada and the United States are important. These relations will remain good and valuable. NAFTA has been good for all countries involved—Canada, Mexico and the United States—and we will continue to work in harmony with the Americans.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that the government is lacking transparency to such an extent, in its management of confidential and secret information leaks involving our relations with the United States. The government, which promised to be open and transparent, continues to break that promise when we put questions to it regarding this embarrassing leak.

Will Ian Brodie and Michael Wilson leave their jobs during the investigation to determine whether or not they gave away this secret information, yes or no?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Clerk of the Privy Council is investigating the matter. The investigation is going on right now, and I can assure the hon. member that, just as we work in a transparent fashion for Canadians, we are going to do the same in this case. This is a very serious matter, and the Prime Minister has said so. We are investigating.

The Clerk of the Privy Council is currently investigating, and we will definitely get to the bottom of this issue.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, Brenda Martin has lost a constitutional challenge to obtain her release from a Mexican prison. She is discouraged and feels completely abandoned by her government.

Brenda Martin has been languishing in prison for two years and the Government of Canada has not provided any assistance.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs take over for his inexperienced colleague and draft an official diplomatic letter to the Government of Mexico protesting this travesty of justice? Will he defend Ms. Martin's life?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, like all members in this House, I am very concerned by Ms. Martin's health and the conditions of her imprisonment. Like all my colleagues, I want a quick and effective resolution of this case.

A number of representations have been made to the highest authorities on behalf of Ms. Martin. Today, I spoke by telephone with my counterpart, Mexico's Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I expressed my concerns to him. I told him that the legal process was too long and that a solution to this case should be found as quickly as possible.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, Brenda Martin's legal rights have been trampled. Her rights, guaranteed by international treaties, were ignored and now even her constitutional rights under Mexican law, as we see, have been denied.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs take control of this case and deliver to Mexico, and I appreciate that he has spoken to the minister, in the strongest possible language, a formal, diplomatic note of protest demanding that Mexico correct this total miscarriage of justice and free Brenda right now?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, like my hon. colleagues, we are concerned. I am concerned. The government is concerned about this case. We are doing our best to help Ms. Martin.

It is an important case and like I said before, I had a telephone conversation with my counterpart. I expressed to her the concern of our government and that we wanted this case to be resolved as soon as possible. I told her that the legal process is far too long in this case and it must be resolved as soon as possible.

EthicsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, in response to a question, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services confirmed that no financial offer was made to Chuck Cadman to get him to change his vote. However, on a tape, the Prime Minister contradicted the parliamentary secretary, saying that a financial offer was made, but that he did not know the details.

Will someone tell us who was telling the truth and who was not: the parliamentary secretary or the Prime Minister?

EthicsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, perhaps neither. There was no financial offer.

EthicsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives can try to rewrite history, but there is one thing they cannot do, and that is erase the tape. On the tape, the Prime Minister says that the offer made to Chuck was just to replace “financial considerations” that he might lose due to an election.

Can the Prime Minister clarify what “financial considerations” he was talking about?

EthicsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, there was no financial offer. Chuck Cadman himself said so. The Bloc is accusing the Prime Minister, here in the House, of being involved in a crime, but their facts are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade told the media that she would intervene on behalf of Brenda Martin because Mrs. Martin was a Canadian. We have all seen how little help that has been.

What about those Canadians who are facing the death penalty? What criteria is the minority Conservative government using to pick and choose which Canadians it will assist and which ones it will abandon?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to repeat, here in the House, that Ms. Martin's case is of great concern to us all, including the government and the members of the opposition. We are working with the government of Mexico to resolve this case as quickly as possible.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am really proud of this government's commitment to Canada's north. After 13 years of Liberal rule, which included a member of the cabinet from the north, northerners got nothing. In fact, the Yellowknifer has reported that this government has given a whole lot more than the previous Liberal governments.

While participating in the opening ceremonies of the Arctic Winter Games, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Sport also spoke of a strong northern agenda. Could the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development tell the House what else we are doing to get great results for the northerners and their families?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the Yellowknifer newspaper that urges all members of Parliament to support the budget and the government. Why? Because we have increased the northern residence deduction so people can keep more of their own money in their pockets. We are delivering $300 million in the northern housing trust to improve living conditions and $720 million for a new state of the art icebreaker. We are protecting sensitive environment areas and expanding parks. We are building an Arctic research station.

This is about promoting the north. It is about believing in the north. It is about protecting our sovereignty. We are getting it done for northerners.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of the Environment introduced his brown plan. He missed another opportunity to act. Since the Conservatives came to power, they have picked up where the Liberals left off. No green legislation has been adopted and no regulations have been announced. The NDP has no confidence in this government, because it refuses to take action against pollution.

Why does the minister think that Canadians should pay, instead of major polluters?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, polluter pays is one of the principles of our plan. The good news is this. While I do not have the confidence of the member from Skeena—Bulkley Valley and the NDP, I do have the full confidence, the full support, the full enthusiasm of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not easy to miss the mark on pollution regulations, but I guess getting a free pass from the former Liberal environment minister makes life a little more easy. All we got from the Liberals was deny, delay, de-Liberal.

These weak regulations are a license to pollute more. They do not kick in for years. They are reliant upon unproven technologies. However, here is the kicker. Taxpayers have to flip for the bill.

Why does the government not just end the subsidies and make big polluters, not hard-working Canadians, foot the bill for all the pollution they are creating?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have good news for the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

The Conservative government finally has begun to get rid of the tax subsidies given to the oil sands by our friends opposite in the Liberal Party. We are taking real action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an absolute 20%. That will put Canada in a leadership position. We will do more in the next 12 years than virtually any country in the world.

While we may not have the full support and enthusiasm of the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, we have the full support of the Liberal Party of Canada.

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is clear the provinces and territories have no partner in the Conservative government in health or in health care.

The Minister of Health has failed twice in his meetings with health ministers to help them fulfill his government's campaign promises on wait times. Afraid of another 13 on 1 pile on, he simply cancelled the meeting in December. Now we learn that he must be hiding under a stretcher in a hallway somewhere, while he is cancelling the meeting for June.

Will the minister explain to the House why he refuses to meet with his provincial counterparts?

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure what the hon. member is talking about. Indeed, the meeting last December was postponed as a result of a request from the provinces, not as a demand from the federal government. In fact, we have agreed to a meeting later on this year.

When it comes to the issue that she mentioned in Alberta, I have been in contact with the Alberta minister of health. He is continuing his investigation of the issue.

All is sweetness and light when it comes to the provincial and federal health ministers.

Tourism IndustryOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's tourism industry is a $67 billion a year economic engine for Canada, employing some 1.6 million Canadians in over 200,000 businesses. It is a great industry. Unlike our Liberal members opposite, we are treating the tourism industry as the economic enabler that it truly is.

Could the Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism tell the House what measures our government is taking to support Canada's dynamic tourism industry?

Tourism IndustryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy ConservativeSecretary of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent work as chair of the tourism caucus of the House.

Tourism has strong support from the government. We are spending $800 million over two years on tourism. In addition, budget 2008 has allocated $24 million for tourism related infrastructure on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay, $9 million for national museums and $25 million for the Olympic torch relay. Tourism income has increased for 17 consecutive quarters.

We are working hard to help achieve significant progress for tourism in our country.

International CooperationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, last December, the Minister of International Cooperation told this House that the government did not plan to close the Montreal office of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. International peacekeeping organizations are already complaining about the lack of staff trained in French. This is part of the Pearson centre's mandate. Since then, the Montreal office has been empty and calls have been transferred to the Ottawa office.

Can the Minister of International Cooperation confirm whether or not the Pearson centre in Montreal is closed?

International CooperationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of the closing. As I said, there are no plans to close. In fact, I will commit to look into the situation and get back to the member.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives cannot be trusted to stand up for Canadians abroad. We see that on the death penalty file in torture cases, and we now see it in the case of Canadian citizen Brenda Martin in Mexico.

Brenda Martin has not received any semblance of justice in Mexico. She has not received any help from her own government. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade was just in Mexico and ignored her. Her health has begun to decline and she is now on a suicide watch in a prison hospital.

When will the Prime Minister stand up for Brenda Martin?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, that is so far from the truth. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, myself and a lot of members of the cabinet raised this case with the Mexican authorities. We are very deeply concerned about her health and the conditions of her detention. What we are doing here is helping her to have a positive resolution of her case as soon as possible.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) l wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008, and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.

I am also providing notice today of our intention to include with this ways and means motion language to protect Canada's fiscal framework from the effects of Bill C-253 which would risk sending the federal government back into deficit.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Due to the unusual circumstance that has required the finance minister to do what he is apparently doing, I wonder if you would consider the fact that this matter has already been passed by the majority of this House of Commons and therefore the motion put forward by the minister that the bill not go before the Senate is out of order.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansOral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will be well familiar with the fact that this approach is entirely in order. We are dealing with a different matter than Bill C-253 and the approach that is being adopted in this ways and means motion is entirely appropriate.

I invite my friend to actually take the time to review the ways and means motion so that he can gain a fuller appreciation of its approach. I would be happy to return to you, Mr. Speaker, with further submissions later on.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sure there will be further argument on this point once the House has seen the ways and means motion that has been tabled.

Response to Oral QuestionPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order with regard to yesterday's question period when the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food misinformed the House on milling wheat prices available to western farmers through the Canadian Wheat Board.

I read a Canadian Wheat Board bases price contract program. Farmers could have availed themselves of prices ranging above $700 per tonne. This is more than twice the price the minister said. I am willing to table that information before the House if I am permitted--

Response to Oral QuestionPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I think the hon. member for Malpeque, who has considerable experience in matters procedural, is aware that disagreement of the facts is not a point of order.

I am sure the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will appreciate any assistance the hon. member can give him and he could pass his figures and statistics over to the minister. I am sure if the minister feels that some kind of correction in his statement is necessary after reviewing the facts and figures the hon. member for Malpeque is producing, he will want to make the necessary corrections to the record. However, to get into an argument about it under the guise of a question of privilege or a point of order, in my view, is not in order.

Is the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food rising on the same point?

Response to Oral QuestionPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I would be very happy to see those reports coming from the Wheat Board on a monthly basis but it keeps denying me. The member for Malpeque certainly proves that he is never last but he is also never pertinent.

Response to Oral QuestionPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Yes, you see the difficulty we get into when we get into points of order that are not really points of order.

Private Members' BusinessOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair would like to take a brief moment to provide some information to the House regarding the management of private members' business.

After a replenishment of the order of precedence, the Chair has developed the practice of reviewing the items there so that the House can be alerted to bills which, at first glance, appear to infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown. The aim of this practice is to allow members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the March 3 replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that two bills give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions they contemplate. They are: Bill C-490, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments), standing in the name of the member for Alfred-Pellan; and Bill C-445, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), standing in the name of the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

I would encourage hon. members who wish to make arguments regarding the need for a royal recommendation in the case of Bill C-490 and Bill C-445, or in the case of any of the other bills now on the order of precedence, to do so at an early opportunity.

I thank the House for its attention.

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering. I will hear him now.

Alleged Obstruction of Member in the Conduct of His DutiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege arising out of a letter I received from Peter Downard, a lawyer at Fasken Martineau on behalf of Mr. Chris Froggatt, chief of staff to the Minister of the Environment. I am raising this matter at the earliest opportunity as I was officially served with this letter yesterday afternoon.

I believe that by instructing his counsel to send this letter, Mr. Froggatt has deliberately obstructed and interfered with me in the conduct of my duties as a member of Parliament and is, therefore, in contempt of the House of Commons and has violated my privileges as a member.

As noted on page 84 of Marleau and Montpetit, it states:

Over the years, Members have brought to the attention of the House instances which they believed were attempts to obstruct, impede, interfere, intimidate or molest them, their staffs or individuals who had some business with them or the House. In a technical sense, such actions are considered to be contempts of the House and not breaches of privilege. Since these matters relate so closely to the right of the House to the services of its Members, they are often considered to be breaches of privilege.

Also on page 84 of Marleau and Montpetit it states:

...that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation.

I believe that Mr. Froggatt has crossed this line.

In his letter of March 7, 2008, Mr. Downard alleged that I defamed Mr. Froggatt during an interview on CTV Newsnet and threatens to launch a libel suit should I not comply with his demands for an apology and retraction.

Specifically, Mr. Downard writes:

Your statements in the CTV Newsnet were false and seriously defamatory of Mr. Froggatt. A reasonable viewer would have understood your statements to mean that Mr. Froggatt had interfered with or attempted to interfere with a police investigation into [the Minister of the Environment] and caused or attempted to cause the OPP to alter a decision you allege the OPP had made to forward its file to the RCMP so that the RCMP could conduct an investigation of [the Minister of the Environment].

I deny all of the charges that have been levelled at me by Mr. Froggatt. In particular, I deny that anything that has been said is defamatory or untrue.

At the root of my question of privilege is Mr. Froggatt's attempt to prevent me from debating the issue of conduct by the Minister of the Environment.

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, serious questions have been raised in the House about the conduct of the minister during the 2006 municipal election in the city of Ottawa. You are also aware that the Ontario Provincial Police have charged Ottawa mayor, Larry O'Brien, with two counts of bribery under the Criminal Code.

At the end of its investigation, the OPP indicated that it would be forwarding its files to the RCMP for further investigation. The next day, the OPP withdrew that statement. As far as we are aware, the only intervening events between those two statements were a series of phone calls made by Mr. Froggatt to the OPP.

I have repeatedly questioned the Minister of the Environment about his involvement in both the actions of Mayor O'Brien and his dealings with the OPP in this matter. It was those questions that led to the CTV Newsnet interview, of which Mr. Froggatt now complains.

It is clear that the primary goal of Mr. Froggatt is to prevent me from continuing to raise the very serious questions that I have about his actions and the actions of the Minister of the Environment with respect to the OPP investigation.

Mr. Froggatt is well aware that he is unable to directly control what I say in this House. As a result, he has chosen to attempt to intimidate me outside the House by threatening a lawsuit should I refuse to withdraw my earlier comments and refrain from accusing him of inappropriate activity.

I believe that the involvement of the Minister of the Environment in a bribery scandal and improper interference by the chief of staff to a minister are two issues that are clearly of public importance. Indeed, I have laid these issues before the House on a number of occasions. Mr. Froggatt's attempt to stifle debate is clearly a violation of my privileges.

As I have read from the letter that I received from Mr. Downard, I have a copy of it to be tabled in the House.

Mr. Speaker, should you find there is a prima facie case of privilege I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Alleged Obstruction of Member in the Conduct of His DutiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, as you and all members of the House are aware, the privileges that extend to a member of Parliament that their speech is free from any consequences in terms of libel or other harm that they may cause and free from any responsibility is restricted to their duties as members of Parliament in this House.

There is a big difference between our Westminster parliamentary system, based on the mother Parliament in Britain, and as it has evolved here in Canada, and those of, say, the Republic of Russia right now where one becomes immune from any form of prosecution or any form of liability simply by one's status as a member of the house.

The fact that one is a member of Parliament does not give one licence to make reckless accusations that harm the reputation of any individual in this country, regardless of one's position or status.

Any comments that are made outside of this chamber, outside of one's direct role in the House, are comments for which a member must assume responsibility, comments which they should recognize have risks and that they should have a basis on which they can defend the truthfulness and accuracy of those remarks.

Were it to be otherwise, the situation that would result would be one that would be most unfortunate. Any member of the House could speak freely to the newspapers, on television, communicate in any form or fashion they wished, and have their comments reported widely which could harm the reputation of all kinds of private individuals or public figures, regardless of the basis for them.

Our parliamentary privilege does not work like that. We are simply restricted to comments made in the House. On that basis, I think it is very easy for you, Mr. Speaker, to dispose of this matter because there simply is no privilege being interfered with.

A very unfortunate trend has been coming from the official opposition in the House. It is an official opposition whose members have resorted to an ongoing program of character assassination. I recognize that they consider that to be part of the political game and they can do it in the House with the protection and the privileges of the House, but they must take seriously the responsibilities of every Canadian citizen outside the House.

They are not freed from that burden nor are they freed from the duties of every other citizen when they step outside the House and make their comments. They are in the same position of having to defend their public statements and utterances as every other Canadian citizen. If they make reckless and false accusations of criminal behaviour, which is the worst kind of bully tactic, if they go out there and say that someone is an ax murderer who is not, that someone is a criminal who is not, and they say those things without any consequences, that would be a serious affront to our democratic system and our Parliament.

We protect members within the House to allow for freedom of speech but we also respect the rights of every citizen and recognize that there is a difference between what Parliament means and what the House means. It is by virtue of membership and participation in the House that those privileges exist. It is for the protection of what happens in this chamber that those privileges exist. It is not to give individuals licence to engage in reckless behaviour and destroy people's reputations without any basis, which is exactly the conduct that the member continues to engage in outside the House.

On that basis, he must, as any other citizen outside the House, be prepared to defend those comments, not to cry like a baby that he is not allowed to say what he wants. He must assume the adult responsibilities for the truth of the comments he makes. If they are not true, then he should own up to the lack of evidence and own up to the lack of truth and be prepared to defend those words in court. That is all he is being asked to do.

It is not an unreasonable proposition for any individual or any citizen. It is the basis of our democracy. That is why laws against libel and slander exist. They are as old as our traditions in this western Parliament. They are laws that come out of our common law tradition to protect the people. While it may not be consistent with the Liberals' strategy, when they have no policies to talk about and no facts on which to base their accusations, they still engage in repeated false accusations that harm the individual reputations of people, harm their families and their loved ones and ruin people's lives. This is what that man is seeking the right to be able to do without consequences.

A member cannot do that, by virtue of being a member of Parliament, outside this House. A member can make his or her best efforts in this House, engage in debate, and that privilege exists, but there is no such privilege outside this House.

The fact that this question is even being entertained in front of you, Mr. Speaker, the fact that it has been raised, demonstrates the dangerous path that we are going down.

The particular case is quite clear. The police themselves have said that his accusations are false. The police have said that none of the interference which on television he alleges existed, exists. The police have said that in a public forum.

The facts do not bear out anything he said. If he disagrees with this, he can attempt to rely on those facts in a court of law for comments he wishes to make outside this House, but privileges of this House, and the privilege to speak, are restricted to inside this House.

Alleged Obstruction of Member in the Conduct of His DutiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, my comments are very clear. I stand by what I say both in this House and outside of this House.

The issue is when members of Parliament in trying to execute their duties as members of Parliament ask legitimate questions of the government about matters of deep concern to the country, matters that are well reported, are sued by individuals who try to do indirectly what they cannot do directly, to try to intimidate individuals into not asking legitimate, fair questions on matters of fact, in my opinion, that is a serious attack upon the privileges of members of Parliament.

I believe the courts are being abused and used to try to stifle the abilities of members of Parliament to ask questions.

Alleged Obstruction of Member in the Conduct of His DutiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

In the circumstances, I feel I am in a position to dispose of this matter.

The hon. member for Ajax—Pickering has not sent me a copy of the letter that is the basis for his complaint. I am sure he will send that over and I will review it before I make a final decision on this matter, but unless the letter convinces me of something that he did not read, because he read a section of it and to me the section was quite clear, the complaint was all about statements he had made on a television program, and those are not ones that are subject to parliamentary privilege.

As has been pointed out by the hon. government House leader, a privilege exists in respect of statements that members make in this House, but also in committees. Something he neglected to mention is that comments in committee are also protected. Statements made outside the House are not protected. If the hon. member received a letter that alleges he said something that was defamatory of someone else--and that is what I sense from the segment he read--somewhere other than in the House, then the question of privilege is not available to him to have this matter somehow protected under that guise.

As I have indicated to the hon. member, I will review the letter when I receive a copy. If my ruling on this matter needs to change as a result of reviewing the letter, I will come back to the House. Otherwise, I consider the matter closed. I do not believe this is a question of privilege, unless otherwise convinced by the letter and in which case I will be back.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain had the floor. He has two minutes to conclude his remarks.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will use the two minutes remaining to summarize the Bloc Québécois' position with regard to the Minister of Finance's intention to establish a single securities regulator.

It is very important to clearly understand that Quebeckers do not support this initiative. Securities fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. It is imperative for the government, and the Minister of Finance in particular, to realize that it will face a major obstacle, especially in Quebec, if it decides to proceed with this initiative.

The National Assembly of Quebec is unanimously opposed to the establishment of a common securities regulator. I find it difficult to believe that any Quebec members, whether Liberal or Conservative, would vote against this motion that defends the interests of Quebec by concurring with the National Assembly of Quebec.

We should also remember that establishing a common securities regulator would jeopardize the survival of trading activities in Montreal and, additionally, would favour the concentration of financial markets in Toronto. Once again, this situation is completely unacceptable to Quebec.

In closing, I would remind you that the World Bank and the OECD reported that the current system, governed by an agreement among all provinces except Ontario, provides for a market that permits exchanges. This system works very well and is more cost-effective than that proposed by the Minister of Finance.

For all these reasons, the members of the Bloc Québécois will definitely be voting in favour of the motion asking the Minister of Finance to abandon his initiative.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that we only have five minutes to put questions to the hon. member who just spoke so eloquently and persuasively. He explained Quebec's specific problem really well, namely the unanimous reservations raised by this bill. It is rather surprising to see that the central government does not respect the wish of the Quebec nation, after recently recognizing our nation. It is also surprising to see other provinces opposed to such concentration. This is yet another scheme to crush Quebec's aspirations.

My question to the hon. member has to do with the behaviour of Conservative members from Quebec. I am surprised by the behaviour of those Conservative members, who were elected by claiming that the Bloc Québécois was not representing Quebec's interests very well. They promised they would do a better job of protecting those interests, since they were going to form the government and thus be in a position to influence the government's decisions.

Today, I was surprised to hear, among others, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, address the House to defend the federal government's indefensible position.

As my colleague pointed out, the three provincial parties in Quebec unanimously passed a motion against this House of Commons' bill. Quebec's finance minister, who is a provincial Liberal, wrote a long letter to her federal counterpart, telling him that she would never accept the implementation of this legislation.

So, all politicians in Quebec are opposed to this bill, including federal NDP members, such as the member for Outremont. As for Conservative members from Quebec, they see no reason to protect Quebec's interests. They would rather defend the interests of Ottawa, at the expense of Quebec.

Is this the new way to make one's presence felt in Ottawa? Does the hon. member not find it surprising to see this attitude on the part of Conservative members from Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question my colleague is asking is about the Quebec nation and the position of Conservative members. My answer is that indeed, Conservative members, who bragged about recognizing Quebec as a nation, are now ready to take one of its exclusive powers away from that nation.

Presently, Quebec exerts this power through the Autorité des marchés financiers, which oversees securities transactions in Quebec. The Conservative members—and particularly the Conservative members from Quebec—are ready to go against the interests of Quebec and support the bill which the Minister of Finance wants to propose.

I must say that this is absolutely incomprehensible and unacceptable.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain on his speech.

The argument used by the Conservative members from Quebec involves, first, recognizing that the majority of financial transactions are now under the responsibility of Ontario, and, second, deciding that through centralizing these transactions under a single Canadian authority, the position of Ontario would be strengthened since more than 80% of securities transactions in Canada would be managed in Ontario.

For my colleague, is there any coherence to the position advocated by the Conservative members representing Quebec in Ottawa? Is this not just part of an ideology that promotes the interests of Canada in Quebec, rather than the opposite?

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very certain that when it comes to standing up for Quebec’s interests, opinion in Quebec is unanimous on this situation. The three parties in the National Assembly have adopted a motion stating that they are completely opposed to the bill to be introduced by the Minister of Finance.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to take the opportunity offered today so that I can state my opinion about this unprecedented economic power grab against Quebec and the provinces that the present Conservative government is preparing to carry out: the creation of a common securities regulator. It is truly an unprecedented economic power grab, designed to give the federal government the upper hand. We know that when the information and the financial power are all in one hand, then that hand is holding all the powers needed to crush a nation.

The 2008 budget confirms what was announced some years ago as one of this government's intentions: create a single securities regulator. This has been talked about for a number of years, as we know. It has been 40 years, in fact, since the idea that Canada should have a single window or a single securities regulatory body first started circulating. The subject really got brought back to the table in 2003, under the Liberal government, which created a committee of experts to study the possibility of creating a single securities commission.

In 2005, the Ontario government decided to do its own investigation and so it assigned a group of experts, which became the well-known “Purdy Crawford group”, to study the benefits of a single system for regulating securities. We all know that Ontario wants to have both the Canadian stock exchanges and the securities regulation system concentrated in that province. As well, the 2006 federal budget took up the idea again, and it then came back in the November 2006 economic statement and the 2007 budget.

Finally, the present Minister of Finance took up the idea, but this time he asked his committee of experts to draft a bill, or what could become a bill, to create this single securities commission.

For the benefit of the people listening to us, I would like to recall what we mean by securities, because not everyone is accustomed to that term. These are securities that could be negotiable or exchangeable, that could be listed on the stock exchange, shares, obligations, investment certificates, obligations, warrants or insurance policies. In other words, everything that can be traded on the stock exchange is considered to be a security.

This securities market, this commerce, is currently regulated in Quebec by the Autorité des marchés financiers. That is the body that is responsible for all regulation of these securities. Because it has a clearly defined mission, the Autorité des marchés financiers is also responsible for enforcing the laws governing the financial sector, which includes insurance, securities and deposit institutions, except for banks, which are under federal jurisdiction. The Autorité des marchés financiers also supervises the distribution of financial products and services.

Each province, except Ontario, has a group, an agency, an authority or financial markets that belong to it alone. However, to ensure the free circulation of money within Canada, each of the provinces has adopted a passport system.

These are agreements among the provinces that enable Quebec companies, for example, to do business on the Alberta or Saskatchewan markets or the market of any other province.

Above all this, but not heading it up, is the Investment Dealers Association of Canada. All the provinces and territories and the Investment Dealers Association of Canada, except Ontario, can do business with the international securities regulator.

This morning I heard a member of the party across the floor say that a single Canadian capital market would help Canada open up to the world. We are already open to the world, though, thanks to the fact that both the provinces and Canada can do business under the aegis of an international securities regulator. There are no guarantees that we would open up a larger market if we had one common regulator or one common agency for regulating securities.

The provinces have their own securities regulators. They have had this power ever since the Constitution Act, 1867. Section 92(13) says that this is a matter of exclusive provincial jurisdiction or power.

It is fascinating to see just how determined the Minister of Finance is to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction and particularly areas within the purview of Quebec, which has the power to manage the free flow of capital.

Quebec's jurisdiction must be respected. As we have often pointed out today, Ms. Jérôme-Forget, the Quebec finance minister, sent quite an explicit letter to her federal counterpart saying and I quote:

First of all, I reiterate that the existing regulatory system in Canada works well—

In addition, it has been noted that the OECD and the International Monetary Fund have congratulated Quebec and Canada on their passport system and the free flow of securities.

The minister says, on the other hand, that the Government of Canada would do better if it applied its energies to its own fields of jurisdiction and:

—worked to more effectively crack down on economic crime rather than trying to impose itself in a field of exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

We have made reference to the Vincent Lacroix story, but that could have happened in any other province.

I want, therefore, to ask the Minister of Finance to back down. If we are really a nation, as the people on the other side of the House seemed to recognize, then they must recognize that we are entitled to our own financial powers and these powers should be respected.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my Bloc Québécois colleague, who even went so far as to quote the IMF, which apparently said the model was perfect. I would like to share with him another quote from the IMF:

Securities regulation is currently a provincial responsibility, but the presence of multiple regulators has resulted in inadequate enforcement and inconsistent investor protection and adds to the cost of raising funds. It also makes it hard for the country to respond to changes in the global market place or to rapidly innovate.

My Bloc Québécois colleague often talks about the Quebec nation. How will this help Quebec businesses if we prevent them from raising funds in Ontario, when we know that 80% of the money available in stock brokerage is in Ontario? How will that help Quebec businesses?

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate my hon. colleague's question, because it gives me the opportunity to explain more about the International Monetary Fund.

I do not know where my colleague found his quotation, but in budget 2008, presented here by the minister, page 134 states:

In 2007–08, Canada participated in the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Financial Sector Assessment Program. The IMF concluded that “Canada's financial system is mature, sophisticated, and well managed. Financial stability is underpinned by sound macroeconomic policies and strong prudential regulation and supervision”.

That being said, let me address the second part of his question. He asked why it would not be good for Quebec to do business with Ontario. First of all, Quebec does do business with Ontario at this time, although it does not have a passport system. Also, the Minister of Finance must prove to us that Quebec and the provinces will in fact benefit, much more so than they do at this time, from developing their regions and their own businesses.

I am surprised to hear a Quebecker from the Quebec City area ask such a question.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Independent

André Arthur Independent Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, more than once today, I have heard critics from the Bloc Québécois extol the success of the Autorité des marchés financiers, which monitors trading in Quebec with integrity. They seem to have forgotten than one of the worst fraud cases in the history of Canadian stock exchanges has not yet been resolved and that it took place in Quebec. I am referring to the Norbourg scandal. There were thousands of victims of a spectacular scam that would not have been possible without the cooperation of employees at the Autorité des marchés financiers and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

Are Bloc members aware that these people were victims because the Government of Quebec did not do its job and did not monitor Norbourg, and that someone else might have done a better job?

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member will need to reply in 30 seconds.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, 30 seconds will not be enough for an answer to this question.

The Government of Quebec may perhaps have lacked vigilance. Nevertheless, the Autorité des marchés financiers did its job. Having a single Canadian national commission, however, does not give us the assurance that this will not happen again. One need only look at the United States and its single commission. That did not prevent—

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for St. Catharines.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to note at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the member for Yellowhead. Over the last number of months, he has taken over the responsibility of chairing the finance committee.

I want to take a moment to compliment him for the work he has done in chairing the committee. It is a very important committee here in the House. He has done an excellent job of making sure that we stay on track with respect to government business. I think he is doing a very good job in a very non-partisan way.

We have already heard today about how the government is taking steps to improve the fragmented, inefficient system of securities regulation currently in place in our country. We have outlined an approach that will reduce costs and boost efficiency while giving all regions of our country a meaningful voice along the way.

It is important to note, however, that while the government is working to strengthen securities regulation in our country, this is only one aspect of what we are doing to create a competitive advantage in a global marketplace. Allow me to briefly describe in more detail the government's long term strategy to achieve just that.

We heard the previous speaker mention the International Monetary Fund. The International Monetary Fund concluded a month ago in its financial sector assessment program update that Canada boasts one of the most highly developed and sophisticated financial sectors in the world. It noted that our financial system is solid and that Canadian banks and other financial institutions are sound and well capitalized.

The IMF pointed this out in their report and noted that, while the Canadian banking system appears sound, we face some challenges ahead in the midst of global financial turmoil. I note that the IMF has strongly recommended a single securities regulator as a way to make Canada's system better.

Indeed, the former managing director of the IMF has been quite public in his support of the government's call for securities regulation reform. Last June, he said:

Given that Canada is playing in the highest league, you should equip yourself with the best instrument. I think that on financial issues you still have to provide your customers--your investors and savers of your country--with better tools....

The design of markets and the flexibility of markets and the competition of markets is a very important element of public policy. Canada is currently the only G7 country without a common securities regulator, and Canada's investors deserve better.

Our government recognized very early on that to encourage a stronger and more prosperous economy we must improve Canada's capital markets at the same time. That is why in our long term economic plan, “Advantage Canada”, we emphasize the need to create a competitive advantage in global capital markets.

In budget 2007 we announced the blueprint to achieve this in the “Creating a Canadian Advantage in Global Capital Markets” plan. This plan offers increased protection in opportunities for investors, better jobs, more investment and greater prosperity.

It is based on four fundamental building blocks.

First, it proposes a modernization of the fragmented and complex laws that govern our securities markets. It proposes a new principles-based approach to securities regulation, tailored to the unique makeup of Canada's capital markets.

Second, it recognizes the need to protect the investments of Canadians by providing the highest standards of corporate governance, enforcing our laws vigorously, and tackling white collar crime. It is important that strong enforcement be visible to investors, as this perception reinforces investor confidence and encourages increased participation in our markets.

Third, there is a recognition of the need for better access to investment opportunities. Competition and choice for businesses and investors will be enhanced by measures that improve access to global capital markets and complement the effective functioning of domestic securities markets.

Finally, the government is working to ensure that Canadians have the financial literacy and information they need to make sound financial decisions for their companies and their families.

It is an ambitious plan, and it is less than a year old, but this government, as it is in so many other areas, is already delivering results.

On enhancing regulatory efficiency, the government has launched the expert panel on securities regulation, of course, but we have also revised Canadian insolvency legislation to better protect “securities financing agreements” in case of insolvency. In addition, we have taken the time to take a step back and we have consulted with the provinces on security transfer laws.

On strengthening market integrity, the government appointed a senior expert adviser to assess the effectiveness of the RCMP-led Integrated Market Enforcement Teams. The report was published in December. The RCMP and other federal partners have already begun implementing its recommendations. We have also participated in the federal-provincial-territorial securities fraud working group of police, security regulators and prosecutors.

On creating greater opportunity for businesses and investors, a great deal has already been achieved. We have adopted measures that will reduce borrowing costs for Canadian businesses and make cross-border capital flows much more efficient, including the signing of a new protocol amending the Canada-U.S. tax treaty and changing tax rules to remove the withholding tax on arm's-length interest payments made to non-residents.

We have also amended tax rules for investments in securities listed on prescribed stock exchanges. This will improve responsiveness to market and regulatory developments.

Finally, we are pursuing a number of initiatives to improve the information available to investors. This includes working with British Columbia to adapt its high school financial literacy program into a web-based instrument available across our great country.

Our government has also supported the work of the Financial Consumer Agency to improve financial literacy in Canada.

We have no intention of abandoning any efforts to make Canada's capital market systems work better and to give Canadians greater investment choice, increased market access and improved investor protection by doing so.

Even the Toronto Star has underlined the importance of securities reform in our country, stating in a pointed editorial that Canada's current system was “fragmented”, leaving investors with “no assurance their rights will be enforced on a consistent and fair basis wherever they invest”.

Allow me to go on. The current system, the Star contends, has made it “harder and more expensive for firms to raise needed investment capital here at home”. Because Canadian companies can go elsewhere to raise capital more cheaply and with less fuss, they do.

The Star report goes on to say:

And that means Canada is losing opportunities and business to financial centres like New York and London, all because there is no place for provincial parochialism in today's global capital market.

Canada needs a single, national securities regulator...Corporate Canada knows it. Investors know it. It is high time [with all due respect] the provinces caught on.

We have the right plan to make that happen and the determination to follow through on that plan.

This motion is simply wrong. It has no place in our country's economy and it has no place passing here in the House of Commons.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment with respect to the member's speech. There are some really good Liberals in the country. One I happen to know is Harold MacKay from Saskatchewan, who was appointed to a commission by Mr. Chrétien or the previous prime minister to study this whole issue of a single regulator in Canada. He came down decisively in favour of the position that is being presented by Minister Flaherty and the Conservative government, as we can see if we look at the report.

I wanted to pass on that information. This may be another point at which the Liberal opposition party will be supporting the Conservative government once again.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I must say that I am disappointed in my seatmate for having named another member of the House, but I now recognize the hon. member for St. Catharines.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain or certainly defend my colleague from Saskatchewan who stood up to make that point so vigorously. There is a reason that he got so carried away and mentioned the finance minister's name.

He is so excited about a single securities regulator in this country that he just cannot stand not mentioning the finance minister's name, because he knows that we finally have a finance minister in this country who is bound and determined to deliver a single securities regulator for us. With this, we can get things done. We can make sure, as provinces, territories and a country, that when we are approached by other countries, by investors and by businesses, we can make the right decisions, timely decisions, and we can make sure that our economy stays strong in this country.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to add my voice to this debate.

I am sharing my time with the hon. member for St. Catharines , a wonderful member of the finance committee. I have gotten to know him very well. His talent is certainly appreciated by all the members of the committee. He is a well respected member on that committee. It is really good to see that members, such as the member, work hard at making sure the country brings in good, reasonable laws for their ridings. It is a privilege for me to chair that committee. We try to lower the temperature politically as much as we possibly can so we can deal with issues that come to us.

The motion brought forward by the Bloc is an interesting one. On this motion we are talking about the review of the securities regulatory system. I want to talk about the expert panel that was set up to deal with this. I want to add my voice to explain how that expert panel was set up and the quality of the people who are on it. I want to talk a little about what that means for Quebec and for all of Canada.

It is interesting to hear some of the rhetoric and the opposition with regard to the panel and how it is being set up. It almost makes it sound as though there were a conspiracy by the federal government against certain areas of the country or certain provinces. That is absolutely not true. It is being done in a collaborative way. It is not about trying to assert control. It is about trying to collaborate with the provinces and territories in the best interests of the country so that we have a plan in this country that actually works and works well.

It is not something we have sprung on the country by any means. The Minister of Finance had it well laid out in budget 2007. This is something we are working on with the provinces and territories so that we can adapt a new approach to have a common securities regulations system in this country.

It goes back to June 19, 2007 when the government convened a meeting with the provinces and territories. They were all part of this right from the very beginning. At that meeting the Minister of Finance highlighted recent achievements in implementing the capital markets plan.

In a statement following that meeting the Government of Canada announced that it would be setting up a third party expert group to advise on five areas. I will lay them out so that the House knows exactly what is going on.

The first one is the outcomes, principles and performance measures that will best anchor securities regulation and the pursuit of a Canadian advantage in capital markets. Second is how Canada could best promote and advance proportionate, more principles-based regulation, starting from existing harmonized legislation and national and multilateral regulatory instruments. Third is how this progress could facilitate, and be reinforced by, better coordination of enforcement efforts. The enforcement of these rules have to be very important. Fourth is how this approach to regulation could be implemented--let me emphasize this for members--under a passport or under a common securities regulator. Fifth is the transition path, including key steps and timelines, that participating provinces and territories could adopt to effect proposed changes to the content, structure and enforcement of regulation.

The panel will provide a concrete proposal. It is not to be some vague obscure model that will be brought forward, but a model common securities act based on advice from recognized experts for discussion among the federal and provincial ministers.That is what the panel hopefully will come forward with.

What will it do? This will help in building a consensus across the country. Why is that important? It will give the opportunity for capital markets to be established for the common securities regulatory system to work in the best interests of this country.

That does not sound to me like federal interference. It sounds like the minister is doing his very best to make sure that we have legislation that is working in the best interests of the country and for all parts of the country.

I come from the west. We deal with issues that are different from province to province. Canada is not an easy place to govern. We have to respect that it has many diverse areas, but we do so at our own peril at times. For example, trade between provinces is more restricted than trade with other countries such as the United States. Sometimes it is easier to work with outside nations than it is to work within our own borders. That is because we are governed by different rules.

A perfect example is one that is routinely debated in this House, which is the Wheat Board. From an agricultural perspective, it is very different to grow a crop of wheat in the west compared to growing a crop of wheat in Ontario, Quebec or Atlantic Canada, as to what regulations govern that and what they mean and how that disadvantages certain areas of the country.

I had the opportunity to chair the health committee for a number of years. I also worked in the health field for a number of years. Doctors cannot move from one province to another because of the regulations and that hurts the country.

This illustrates what is happening with respect to security on the financial side and the rules which govern that in this country.

This is an important issue. It has nothing to do with Quebec. It has nothing to do with whether or not Quebec will win under this. This is for the people of Quebec, Atlantic Canada, Ontario and the rest of Canada as well.

This government has appointed some very good people to the panel. One might argue that the government might be biased because we are appointing people who are biased and therefore the outcome will be biased. That is not the case whatsoever. Some very capable people are on this panel. The panel will bring forward a recommendation by the end of this year. It is not something that will happen over a long period of time. The panel is going to be focused. The recommendation will be acted on as quickly as possible. The panel will be doing important work.

It is also important that we as members of this House understand what is being debated here. It is important that we understand the issues that are behind the reason for this panel. Hopefully, we will be able to support everything that comes out of it.

I want to spend a bit of time explaining who some of the individuals are that will be sitting on the panel and tasked with this work. This is really important to clarify so people are comfortable with these individuals.

The chair of this panel is Tom Hockin, who led the Investment Funds Institute of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning from 1994 to 2006. As a former minister of international trade he carried out the negotiations on the side accords of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. His work has left a lasting economic legacy in Quebec and all of Canada, and in fact, in the United States and Mexico as well. Mr. Hockin will be assisted by very capable and respected members.

One such member is Denis Desautels, former auditor general of Canada from 1991 to 2001 and chairman of the board of Laurentian Bank of Canada, and a board member of Bombardier, Le Groupe Jean Coutu and the International Development Research Centre.

Another individual on this panel is Hal Kvisle, president and CEO of TransCanada corporation and a member of the board of directors of the Bank of Montreal. He is a very capable individual. His credentials speak for themselves.

Ian D. Bruce, the chief executive officer of Peters and Co., and a former member of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is another member of the panel.

Dawn Russell, associate professor and former dean of law at Dalhousie University is a very capable member.

Terry Salman, chairman, president and CEO of Salman Partners and former chair of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada is a member.

Heather Zordel, a partner at Cassels Brock and Blackwell is a member of the panel.

They are the individuals who make up the panel. There is no secret here. They are very credible individuals. They are people we should be able to put our trust in. The recommendations they bring forward are exactly that, recommendations. They will be brought here to be dealt with by the minister who will have the wealth of their knowledge to be able to make a decision that is in the best interests of the country. But that is not all. They also have the opportunity of having some experts contribute to the panel. They include Howard Davies, the director of the London School of Economics and David Green, adviser of international affairs at the Financial Reporting Council, head of international policy coordination, EU affairs, and many other things. Peter Hogg is the other member.

It is very important that we give them the opportunity to advise an approach in full respect of all the regions of Canada, not a fragmented system that exists today but that we look at making sure that we do what is in the best interests of every province as a whole in Canada. We need to make sure that we do not make the mistakes that we made in our country with trade between provinces. We need to make sure that we have common regulations that work in the best interests of this country from coast to coast to coast. That is the objective. That is what needs to take place. That is what we are debating today and the Bloc's opposition to this is ill-founded.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

I am pleased to take part in this Bloc Québécois opposition day. On February 21, the Minister of Finance confirmed his government's intention to proceed with its plan for a common securities regulator. The expert panel appointed by the minister started out with the mandate of examining the advantages of a single regulatory system for securities, yet this group appears to have been struck in order to validate the minister's project. It is our fear that the idea behind this project is to continue centralizing Canada's finances in Toronto. The former Ontario finance minister wants to centralize financial operations in Toronto.

The Bloc Québécois is opposed to the federal government's stubborn determination to deprive Quebec of this regulatory tool for the financial market. This situation has been unanimously condemned by the National Assembly and the Quebec Minister of Finance finds it unacceptable. We will therefore do everything possible to protect this constitutional jurisdiction of Quebec and to protect the Autorité des marchés financiers from Ottawa's desire to centralize the regulation of financial markets in Toronto. In this connection, and in some others as well, the Liberals are getting along famously with the Conservatives. The regulation of financial markets must be centralized in Toronto, and too bad for the constitutional jurisdictions of Quebec.

What I find particularly striking is that there has not been a week go by in this House since I first came here without some bill or statement that attempts to trample over Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. This is, in my opinion, unacceptable, and is a way of viewing Canada that sets us apart from the other parties here. We have to rise every time to stick up for our rights. We have to remind the government, and the official opposition which will surely, as it has since this session started, support the government's centralizing initiative, that the regulation of securities falls solely under the jurisdiction of Quebec.

All of the political parties in Quebec are opposed to this project. The federalists oppose it, as do the sovereigntists. So this is not a sovereigntist idea because both agree on this. The Quebec Minister of Finance recently wrote to her federal counterpart in order to speak out against this initiative, which once again demonstrates Ottawa's disdain for Quebec's constitutional jurisdictions. Yet, and I must remind myself again of this fact, she is a staunch federalist, this minister.

The purpose of this initiative is to keep Quebec and the provinces from making financial decisions on their own territory. This plan disregards Quebec's constitutional jurisdictions, as property rights, civil law, and bonds and stock trading, are all provincial jurisdictions. End of story. By tabling such a bill, Canada's Minister of Finance will remove the power to regulate financial markets from Quebec without asking Quebec, its elected representatives or its economic stakeholders. The National Assembly has unanimously condemned this initiative.

The question we might ask is the following. How can a member of Parliament who claims to be representing Quebec support such an idea? We cannot allow the federal government to ignore this motion. We represent seven million Quebeckers, or 25% of this federation's population, who disagree with the government's will. The government's position is shameful. Quebec is on the verge of being robbed yet again.

I invite all the federal members from Quebec to denounce, over and over again, Ottawa's plan to interfere in our jurisdictions. They have to get behind the Bloc Québécois motion and this unanimous decision of the National Assembly of Quebec. The Autorité des marchés financiers is the last bastion of stock exchange activities in Montreal.

We find that the current system works well. Why get rid of something that is not broken? Creating a single securities commission will create a regulatory monopoly in Toronto, causing us to lose the current system and the benefits of regulatory competition.

We refuse to allow this system to be taken away from us. Furthermore, the OECD has ranked Canada second in terms of securities regulation. The World Bank has also ranked Canada a leader in this field.

Why would the federal government want to change an approach that is working, that is recognized internationally and that allows efficient and effective defence of financial operations in Quebec and Canada?

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Bloc Québécois member. For the benefit of the people who are watching this debate, I would like to reread the motion of the Bloc member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately abandon the idea of creating a common securities regulator, since securities regulations fall under the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and because this initiative is unanimously condemned in Quebec.

I am not surprised that a member from the Bloc Québécois would put forward this motion.

In Canada we know that a common securities regulator would be absolutely and unequivocally in the best interest of Canada. Therefore, it is not surprising that someone who is espousing the separation of Quebec from Canada would not be in favour of a common securities regulator because, of course, it would work completely against the agenda of separation and the destabilization of Canada.

For anyone or any person wishing to invest in Canada, it is clear that having a patchwork of different regulators in different provinces creates enormous hurdles and a disincentive to invest in this country in order to create economic activity and create jobs.

A single regulator would create a level playing field. It would create less ambiguity, and it would create more stability for investors wishing to invest and create jobs in Canada.

My question to the member from the Bloc is not so much about this motion. This motion goes against the grain of everything that would make sense for Canada; that is, to have a common securities regulator.

I am wondering if the member could speak to the question of market fraud and these integrated market enforcement teams that are meant to take action against white collar crime, those people that would defraud investors and create some uncertainties in the marketplace.

Also, what protection should this government be offering to small investors in Canada who are continually being taken advantage of and losing money in the marketplace? While the large investors are making huge profits, the small investors are being abused by the markets. What would this member propose the federal government do to combat that?

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comment and his question, although I completely disagree with everything he said.

First of all, it is not because we are sovereigntists that we do not want this Parliament to deny our powers. I would remind the member that subsection 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867, grants Quebec power with respect to securities.

To me, it is only natural that Quebec should demand these rights. There is no proof that a single securities commission would be better and would prevent fraud and abuse. On the contrary, it seems to me that the Autorité des marchés financiers, which is responsible for overseeing the areas of insurance, securities, deposit institutions and so on, has a better grasp of the problems and can pave the way for civil litigation, as we have seen.

There is a saying that “small is beautiful”, and that is certainly true in this case. The Autorité des marchés financiers has been able to take some very positive measures, such as creating the FTQ workers' fund. These measures have really helped protect savers.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I know that the members are impatient, but when it takes three minutes to ask a question and two minutes to answer it, the five minutes are up.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise today on this Bloc Québécois opposition day. The issue we are debating today is a very important one for Quebec: it condemns the Conservative government's obstinacy in seeking to impose a securities commission despite clear, unanimous opposition from Quebec's National Assembly.

I would like to read the motion put forward by the Bloc Québécois, because it seems that several Conservative members, particularly those from Quebec, do not understand what is at stake. Here is the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately abandon the idea of creating a common securities regulator, since securities regulations fall under the legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and because this initiative is unanimously condemned in Quebec.

The reason we tabled this motion is that, as I said earlier, this government is stubbornly seeking to concentrate all of Canada's financial administration activities in Toronto, even though this is a constitutional responsibility that belongs to the Government of Quebec. The Conservative government's desire to do this was made clear once again during the last budget when the Minister of Finance reiterated his firm intention to propose a single pan-Canadian securities commission.

The minister emphasized that he wanted to introduce a bill to create a single regulatory body. To accomplish that, the minister gave the expert panel a very clear mandate. We must recall that when the federal government set up the expert panel on securities regulation, the experts were initially supposed to study ways to optimize securities trading throughout Canada.

When work began on February 21, the Minister of Finance gave the committee some disturbing directives by saying that it should “develop a model common securities act to create a Canadian advantage in global capital markets”.

This situation is simply unacceptable. The minister is stubbornly going ahead with a bill that is counter to the unanimous will of Quebec's National Assembly and that is a flagrant violation of Quebec's constitutional jurisdictions.

As always, the Bloc Québécois is the only party standing up for Quebec's interests. We have seen that today as all of the members from Quebec who belong to other parties, such as the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, obstinately seek to go forward with this bill.

The Quebec National Assembly and all stakeholders in Quebec are clearly against creating a regulator that would concentrate all market surveillance centrally in Toronto. This is why we introduced the motion.

We want to send a clear message to this government and to the federal Parliament to say that they must respect Quebec's jurisdictions and the unanimous position of the Quebec National Assembly. We are also introducing this motion because securities are important to Quebec's economy. They include the interchangeable, fungible and negotiable instruments that can be listed on a stock exchange.

This motion represents not only the position of the Bloc Québécois, but also the position of all the political parties, federalist or sovereigntist, in the Quebec National Assembly. It represents the position of the Government of Quebec as has been expressed a number of times by the Quebec finance minister, Monique Jérôme-Forget, who is perplexed and annoyed by the Conservative government's stubbornness in moving forward with this initiative.

I will read an excerpt from the letter that Monique Jérôme-Forget, Quebec's finance minister, sent to her federal counterpart on February 28, two days after the budget was tabled:

First of all, I reiterate that the existing regulatory system in Canada works well and satisfies both the needs of pan-Canadian participants and the interests of the various regions.

That is a federalist talking.

She went on to say:

Accordingly, I will continue to oppose the implementation of any model leading to the concentration of market oversight responsibilities in the hands of a common or single regulator, regardless of how you call it.

The Quebec finance minister is clearly saying that she wants nothing to do with the model the federal Minister of Finance is pushing for. She urges the federal Minister of Finance to fix the problems in his own fields of jurisdiction, by, for example, cracking down on economic crime, instead of trying to disrupt a proven system that is recognized internationally as one of the best.

In Quebec, securities trading is currently regulated by the Autorité des marchés financiers, which applies the rules governing the issuance of corporate shares and bonds. The Autorité des marchés financiers applies legislation governing the financial services sector. It also supports participation in a passport system together with the securities commissions of the other provinces, with the exception of Ontario. This passport mechanism, similar to the one implemented by the European Union, facilitates interprovincial transactions and ensures the efficient operation of the market across Canada. The World Bank and the OECD have reported that the current system works well and that it is efficient. So why change it and interfere in matters that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the federal Parliament?

It is important to remind this House that one of the main objectives of securities regulation is to protect investors. In 2006, a study by the World Bank and Lex Mundi ranked Canada third in terms of investor protection. That is pretty good for a system which has been described here as not working very well. Furthermore, the 2006 report states: “—the 2006 OECD report ranked Canada second with respect to securities regulation quality—”.

Why do the Conservatives wish to impose their own vision, throw a system that works out the window and go against the Quebec consensus? The National Assembly of Quebec unanimously condemned the federal government's initiative on October 16. The Quebec federation of chambers of commerce supports the Quebec government's position and is also opposed to the Conservative government's initiative. This is further proof that recognition of the Quebec nation by the government is merely symbolic. Otherwise, it would respect our authority and would not dare try to impose its centralist vision on us with this pan-Canadian securities commission.

When I began my speech, I asked the Conservative members from Quebec to pay attention, because they do not seem to understand the importance of this debate. What are they doing to defend Quebec's position? Why are they not standing up in cabinet for the unanimous position of the National Assembly of Quebec? Once again, this debate shows how powerless they are and how they are under the thumb of their government. It shows that only the Bloc Québécois members are really defending Quebec's interests, because, as always, we in the Bloc Québécois have a duty to defend Quebec, and that is what we are doing on this opposition day.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address some of the comments of the Bloc members.

I want to make it clear that I am a provincial rights person. I think the Constitution of our country should be adhered to and followed. However, I want to emphasize this for the Bloc members.

Under section 91 of the Constitution, the federal government is given exclusive jurisdiction over something called trade and commerce. Every public company in the province of Quebec is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Unless I am missing something here, it is the only major public exchange we have in Canada. Why are Quebec companies listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange? They want investors in Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Ontario and all other provinces to invest in their companies, which is a good thing to do. Companies need capital to run a business. I did not know the Bloc was back to the socialistic mentality of 50 or 60 years ago, but in a free market economy companies need capital. Those companies have freely listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange to raise capital and to grow and become good companies, which they are.

I have invested in many of these Quebec companies over the years. They are good companies, and I think it is a good thing. However, if I were a shareholder, and I have been one, I would object to having to put up with the inefficiencies of adhering to 13 provinces and territories, their regulations, their lawyers and the expenses involved in trying to do business. It is unnecessary.

Americans would shake their heads over this. They have one agency, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, that sets the rules for all 50 states. They have big capital markets. It is the place to do business in the world.

We want to do business in Canada and grow Quebec companies and other companies. Why does the member want to handicap Quebec companies by imposing all the rules and regulations from 12 other jurisdictions on them and pay lawyers and bureaucrats in Saskatchewan, or in Alberta, or in other provinces, to impose the unnecessary duplication of rules on the trading of their shares on one market? It does not make any sense to me.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear my colleague say that he is concerned about the provinces.

If he is so concerned, then he should listen to Quebec and the provinces. Positions were adopted unanimously by the National Assembly of Quebec, which said that it wanted to regulate securities itself. This system works very well.

As I said in my speech, according to the OECD, Canada has the second most efficient securities system. We are also a top performer when it comes to securities regulation. So why change things all of a sudden? There is no reason. Absolutely nothing about the Minister of Finance's proposal proves that the system would be more efficient if it was centralized. That is not true. The system works. My Liberal, or rather Conservative, colleague—

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

An hon. member

It is the same thing.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

In any event, they have the same centralist positions.

The member says so himself: he invests in Canadian companies and Quebec companies, and the system works. Good. I know that the system works well. We are going to keep our jurisdiction over securities.

As for the constitution, I believe that my friend should take another look at the constitutional legislation, because Quebec has jurisdiction over securities.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the attempt of what we are discussing today is to make the regulatory system more efficient by combining and streamlining the different jurisdictions into a single window regulatory system. Businesses across the country do this. There is no reason why—

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for a very short response.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat that this is one of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. The current system is working very well across Canada, and the provinces and territories have their own securities legislation.

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak in the House today about the Bloc Québécois motion concerning a national regulator. Earlier, a Bloc member said that there was only one party in the House of Commons defending the interests of Quebeckers. Unfortunately, I completely disagree. Obviously there is a party in this corner, the NDP, that defends Quebeckers, the working families of Quebec, just as it defends the interests of all Canadians. Also, it is not true to say that only the Bloc speaks on behalf of Quebeckers. The NDP also defends the interests of real people in Quebec.

I am taking into account the interests of ordinary people across the country as I speak to this Bloc Québécois motion. We have a problem with this Conservative government. We are the only party that has always been opposed to this Conservative government's program. First the Bloc Québécois supported the Conservative Party for a year and a half. Then, after the byelections last summer, it realized that it was not in the best interest of Quebec to do that, so it changed course. Now, it is siding more with the NDP. We are very pleased that the Bloc Québécois has recognized the NDP's leadership. Now the Liberal Party is defending and supporting the Conservatives' program.

We do not agree with the government's approach. When the government talks about creating a common securities regulator, it is trying to go beyond the regulation we should have across Canada to protect ordinary people from corporate fraud.

We know full well that in Quebec this system works well. We recently saw the trial of Vincent Lacroix. Quebec already has a serious system that can bring people to trail and sentence them for committing securities fraud.

Our problem is that we cannot trust this Conservative government. Two years ago, it took over power from the Liberal Party, which was involved in a number of scandals, as we know. Since the Conservatives have been in power, they have not taken any effective measures, they have not taken any measures to have a healthy system that protects Canadians. Our former finance critic spoke many times in this House about the Conservative Party's lack of commitment.

When the Minister of Finance talks about implementing a national securities regulatory mechanism, we do not trust him. The reason is simple: for two years we have been listening to the Conservative government talk out of both sides of its mouth. We heard this in matters of international trade, an area I am quite familiar with. We heard this in the softwood lumber issue. The government said it would do something in the interest of the softwood lumber sector across the country. Instead, it put a softwood lumber agreement in place that has cost 10,000 jobs across the country so far.

We also hear this double talk from the Conservative Party concerning NAFTA. They said they had no desire at all to renegotiate NAFTA, but then we clearly heard the Minister of International Trade speak openly with members of the U.S. Congress and say that he was quite willing to renegotiate NAFTA.

We hear this double talk not only in the area of international trade, but also in the budgets presented by this Conservative government. Every time, the Conservatives make it a priority to lower taxes for big business.

The Conservative government is now talking about establishing sound securities regulations for the entire country. Oh, sure. It has no credibility in this matter. It has not shown the least bit of interest in establishing a protective system or measures that would reduce the current amount of securities fraud. I will come back to this, because it is very important. The problem remains that the Conservative government cannot be trusted in this area. That is very clear. It did not take any of the steps that it should have taken and did not do its job. That is the main reason we will support this motion.

We will support it for another reason, and that is the principle of cooperation among the provinces and the federal government. This Conservative government rarely talks about it, but certain regions of this country, such as Quebec and Manitoba, have taken steps in the area of securities. At the same time, the federal government is not showing any desire to cooperate, discuss or negotiate in order to create a system. Unless we have an effective system, based on negotiations and cooperative federalism, Ottawa will always dictate what happens.

For these reasons, we cannot support the federal government's approach because it does not have credibility and it did not hold the usual discussions for a change of this nature.

I would like to go back to the Quebec system for a few moments. The National Assembly of Quebec clearly stated that this Conservative government's idea is not a good one. In this area, Quebec has clearly put in place a regulatory system that is more advanced than those found in some other Canadian regions. We should examine what works in the Quebec system and the possibility of implementing it in other regions.

The government chose not to do that. Following the Vincent Lacroix trial, it did not take note of how well the system works and it did not consider how to put such an efficient system in place elsewhere. It did not do that. It said that it would be the one to decide, even though this Conservative government does not have any credibility in this field.

A corrupt Liberal government was replaced by a Conservative government that promised to do better. However, particularly in recent months, we have been treated to the same types of scandals we saw under the former Liberal government. Nothing has changed. We now have the Cadman affair and NAFTAgate, the repercussions of which will be felt beyond our Canadian borders. Last week I was in Washington and people were talking about how that deliberate leak of information was totally unacceptable. This is another Conservative Party scandal.

I do not have the 60 pages of notes on the many Conservative scandals, but one example is the Elections Canada scandal where they tried to deliberately get around Elections Canada's rules to spend more than the legislated maximum amount.

Once again, in light of all of these scandals, can we trust the Conservative government when it comes to securities? I think not. Obviously, we cannot trust the government.

Those are all of the problems related to this issue. The Conservative government lacks credibility and, for the past two years, it has been behaving just like the former Liberal government. Nothing has changed. I bet that when the Liberals come back here—they are not here today—they will—

Opposition Motion—Securities RegulationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!