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 should 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 revenues.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
Today I am bringing forward this motion, the main purpose of which is to correct two major elements of the Conservative budget that go against Quebec's best interests. Indeed, the idea of establishing a national securities commission and that of unilaterally amending the equalization formula are two elements of the last budget that are in total contradiction with the requests made by all political parties represented in Quebec's National Assembly. In fact, these political parties passed a unanimous resolution condemning the two elements mentioned in today's motion.
First of all, with regard the finance minister's intent to create a single securities commission, as it has been said, securities regulation is a provincial jurisdiction under the Constitution. One of the biggest problems is that it is hard to understand why the government would want to go ahead with this idea when a very effective system is already in place. As for the jurisdictional issue, we all know that securities regulation falls exclusively under Quebec's jurisdiction, and the federal government has to respect that.
Establishing a single securities commission would create a regulatory monopoly, which is an extremely dangerous situation, and would mean that Canada would lose the present benefits of regulatory competition.There are in fact—this is what is hard to grasp—very few arguments to support the fact that this sort of structure would reduce direct costs. We have the example of Australia, which seems to be pointing to the absolute opposite direction to where the government wants to go. The opposite of this, a system based on harmonization and mutual recognition—what is called the passport system and is currently used—presents some advantages which have in fact led the European community to opt for that regulatory approach. So why does the Conservative government want to go in the opposite direction? The passport system works very well. It allows a coordinated approach to law enforcement and a uniform protection of investors. This system also 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 system would work even better if Ontario decided to not go it alone and joined the other provinces. If it did, this would make the present system work even better. But we know why it is not doing so: it would stand to benefit from the single regulator the Conservative government has in mind.
This different but complementary critical vision makes it easier to detect and prevent scandals such as we have seen in the United States, where these issues are submitted to a centralized authority. Those scandals had huge societal costs.
The presence of the 13 regulators ensures that the drafting and implementation of regulations will take into account the diversity of opinions and ensure adequate representation of small markets. A number of innovations have originated on the regional level, and that will not survive, or is not likely to, with a single regulatory body.
I could give examples of this diversity from the regional bodies: the west created the Junior Capital Pools, a capital pool company; Quebec, the stock savings plan and the workers' fund, under the aegis of the Autorité des marchés financiers du Québec. As well, there is the considerable contribution made by Quebec to the creation of the International Organization of Securities Commissions.
The creation of a securities commission would put all of those elements at risk. Should the government act on its intention, Quebec would really be in trouble.
Now that Toronto has acquired the exchange, Quebec's Autorité des marchés financiers is the last bastion against the disappearance of stock market activity from Montreal. The AMF has the regulatory power to require ongoing exchange activities in Montreal. It oversees exchange activities and has the power to establish operating rules, specifically with respect to percentages and shares held.
There are a lot of reasons why today's motion must be implemented as quickly as possible. The government must reverse the intention it expressed once again in the latest budget.
The decision to unilaterally amend the equalization formula without prior consultation or notice of intent on the part of the government is completely unacceptable to Bloc Québécois members and to Quebec.
Earlier, I talked about a resolution passed unanimously by all political parties in Quebec's National Assembly, and I want to mention it again. This unilateral decision is unacceptable to Quebec. It is unacceptable because it will deprive Quebec of $991 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year and even more in years to come.
There is a myth in Canada, particularly in the west, that Quebec is the spoiled child of Confederation, the one that takes everything and gives nothing in return, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that Quebec receives the most equalization payments, but that is just because Quebec is a populous province.
For 2008-09, Quebec will receive the lowest per capita transfer payments of any province receiving equalization. Quebec will receive $1,037 per inhabitant, while Prince Edward Island will get $2,310, New Brunswick $2,111, Newfoundland $1,781, and Manitoba $1,732. So Quebec is not at all the spoiled child. Quebec gets the lowest per capita transfer payments of them all.
I said earlier that this is unacceptable, but there is also another major reason. Not only was it unpredictable—there was no warning and Quebec will be deprived of revenue it was counting on—but this decision completely goes against what the Prime Minister himself said in a letter to the Quebec premier in March 2007.
The Prime Minister and the Conservative government boasted about correcting the fiscal imbalance. We said that it was not true. In a letter to Mr. Charest, the Conservative Prime Minister wrote the following:
But much more fundamentally, this means that for the first time in decades, provinces and territories can now count on long-term, predictable and substantially growing federal support for shared priorities including health care, post-secondary education, training and social programs, and the rebuilding of Canada's infrastructure.
Once the Conservative government and the Prime Minister unilaterally amend their commitments, which they said would benefit post-secondary education, health care and training and social programs, does this mean that the provinces will be abandoned? I think the answer is obvious.
It is completely unacceptable that the Conservative government has chosen to amend the equalization formula this way when, in this letter, it formally committed itself to making equalization predictable. The Quebec government and Quebeckers are getting swindled. Quebeckers are going to have to foot the bill because the Quebec government will have to continue providing these services. Quebeckers alone will have to pay, when the Conservative government committed to something altogether different.