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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

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.