Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mississauga South. I am pleased to rise here today to speak to the Bloc Québécois motion, which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately renounce two measures contained in the recent budget:
(a) establishing a national securities commission, because establishing such a commission would constitute an intolerable intrusion into Quebec’s jurisdiction, and the current passport system functions very well; and
(b) unilaterally amending the equalization formula, since the Prime Minister, in a letter to the Premier of Quebec dated March 19, 2007, promised that transfers to the provinces would be predictable and long term, and would also comply with the government of Quebec’s request to give the revenues generated by Hydro-Québec’s transmission and distribution activities the same treatment, regardless of the equalization calculation, as that given Hydro One’s activities.
The motion refers to a letter sent in 2007, but it is now 2009, and the situation has changed somewhat. We are discussing a 165-word motion that is absolutely meaningless. It is even more meaningless for protecting the interests of Quebeckers. The Bloc is moving such a motion in this time of global financial crisis, the day after the Standing Committee on Finance met and heard testimony from over 60 witnesses for over 10 hours, from early in morning until late into the evening. Furthermore, I must point out that not one of those witnesses said a word about the matters proposed in this motion, namely, the equalization formula or the creation of a national securities commission.
This is just further evidence of the Bloc's irrelevance. They claim they are here to defend the interests of Quebeckers, but they are not even capable of defending the interests of their constituents. For example, yesterday during the Standing Committee on Finance meeting, we even heard the grievances of a former separatist, the president of the Quebec Forest Industry Council. His message was very clear. His message was that the forestry sector needs bank loans immediately.
During his testimony, he never spoke about equalization or the national securities commission. He told us that the forestry sector was the primary industry in 150 Quebec communities. None of them are located in my riding. I cannot believe that during this global economic crisis that is directly affecting Quebec, especially its rural regions, I am the one, an MP for an urban riding, who has to defend the interests of small villages and communities throughout the Quebec regions.
In this time of crisis—and I am referring here to the motion—our citizens need reassurance that their investments, their pensions and their savings are not just protected but are guaranteed to be there when needed. It is our job as parliamentarians to defend the interests of the voters.
Since I was elected, not one person has come to see me to say that the equalization formula is unfair or that creating a national securities commission is meddling in a provincial jurisdiction. But I can say that many people, from professional and other sectors, have shared their concerns with me about their investments, which are held by brokers, financial planners and other consultants, and their fears that their money is gone.
There are many examples in Quebec and elsewhere. In Quebec, we have Mount Real, Jitek, Norbourg, Norshield, IForum. And there are similar examples throughout Canada such as Hollinger and Livent. We could even include Nortel in this group.
How can crime on that scale have occurred in a country as developed as Canada? What can I say to my constituents who tell me that their investments have disappeared, that they had invested a certain sum in a given company and that the money has disappeared because of a criminal act? What do I say to them? That it is a provincial responsibility? I do not think that would be acceptable. To date, it has not been acceptable.
There is a problem we often hear about in this House. Investments are made for a reason, but two things are being mixed up. We cannot mix up the fact that investments and savings are losing value because of current stock market conditions and the fact that they are losing value because of bad decisions made in good faith.
There is a problem when an investment made in good faith is doomed to lose money because certain people are lacking in scruples and honesty and when investors have no choice. Most of the investing public in Canada and Quebec think, or are under the impression, that there is already a relatively respectable securities regulatory body that looks after certain areas. Securities regulators make sure that activities to raise capital by selling securities such as private investments and initial investments are properly regulated and properly overseen. Those agencies make sure that the firms are transparent and that there is ongoing disclosure of information relevant to investors. They have to stay up to date on how securities regulations are administered and on how misleading or fraudulent conduct is prevented, and they have to detect that conduct. They also have to make sure that securities dealers have the necessary qualifications and have a good reputation and are licensed.
My support for a national securities commission comes from a vision that is different from the Bloc’s. I see things from another angle. Quebec has made an enormous contribution to the rest of Canada in many areas, and the financial sector is a very important one. It is also something that we can bring to the rest of Canada.
As I said, Quebec is certainly not perfect, but Canada is just as certainly not perfect. We have seen, in the United States and elsewhere in the world, what has happened in the financial sector and in the stock markets. In fact, the stock markets have fallen because of the economic crisis and the fraud that has been committed, not just in recent weeks or months, but over a long time.
Quebec has a lot to bring to the table. Instead of fighting over who has jurisdiction, what belongs to whom, we might propose that the securities commission have responsibility for a number of things: regulation, prevention, oversight, new share issues. We could take on that aspect. Instead of holding onto responsibility for a small market, we could be responsible for all of Canada in one of those areas. We have talked about regional responsibilities. There is much to be done in that regard. There are a lot of proposals to make and Quebec has a lot to bring to that table.
Let me give the House an example relating to what would happen if the Quebec market were closed. In the past, we have seen that when there were attractive shares to be offered on the Quebec market, Quebeckers did not have access to them because demand was too high outside Quebec. So company directors do not come to Quebec to solicit investors to invest in their companies.
Today, we must not focus solely on the motion adopted in the National Assembly. Financial markets have changed considerably. There is a lot of change happening in the markets. We should work together, not just at the national level, but at the global level, the international level.
I will speak briefly to equalization, if I may, Mr. Speaker. After four years as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, and speaking as an accountant, I have seen that right across the country, there are very few people who understand the details of the equalization formula and how it operates. I will leave you on that note. I am prepared to take questions.