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.