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House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jurisdiction.

Topics

(Bill C-301. On the Order: Private Members' Business:)

February 9, 2009--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security of Bill C-301, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (registration of firearms)--Mr. Garry Breitkreuz.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville is not present to move the motion for second reading of Bill C-301, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (registration of firearms), as announced in today's notice paper.

Pursuant to Standing Order 94, since this is the second time this item is not dealt with on the dates established by the order of precedence, the bill will be dropped from the order paper, and the sitting will be suspended until 12 noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:04 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12:00 p.m.)

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2009 / noon

Bloc

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

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, securities regulation falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and that, therefore, the federal government should reject, once and for all, the idea of creating a single securities regulator for all of Canada, thereby respecting the unanimous will of the National Assembly of Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today and to introduce this motion in the House of Commons in order to make it clear to all the provinces and the federalist political parties that an important position was unanimously expressed by the political parties in the National Assembly of Quebec

The Bloc Québécois has long represented this position in the House of Commons: we disagree with the government's current position, supported by the Liberal Party, that there should be a single Canada-wide securities commission.

I would like to go over the motion again. Every word in this motion has been carefully chosen and represents the clear will of Quebeckers. The motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, securities regulation falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and that, therefore, the federal government should reject, once and for all, the idea of creating a single securities regulator for all of Canada, thereby respecting the unanimous will of the National Assembly of Quebec.

Although we did not do so, we could have emphasized in this motion that Quebec has exclusive jurisdiction over securities regulation and that the National Assembly had unanimously voted to condemn this bill. The current system has had extremely positive reviews and is perfectly in keeping with the fact that the provinces have jurisdiction over this area. Quebec and other provinces are doing a very good job of regulating securities.

In introducing this motion, I have the support of all the Bloc Québécois members. We are totally opposed to this idea, which is not new and has been raised time and again. It was first brought up by the former Liberal government, and now it is being resurrected by the Conservative government. However, it runs completely contrary to the interests of Quebec and all Quebeckers.

The OECD and the World Bank approve of the current system, and all of the provinces are part of a passport system. Despite that, the Conservative government, once again with Liberal support, thinks that its idea is a good one.

We believe that only one province would benefit: not Quebec, but Ontario. That is why the government wants to go ahead with its plans. The government is determined to give Quebec a raw deal.

The Constitution states quite clearly that securities are under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Quebec's National Assembly is unanimously against the creation of a pan-Canadian organization. A common securities regulator would threaten exchange activities in Montreal, activities that have already been curtailed at the Montreal Exchange over the past few years. It would concentrate the financial market in Toronto. Analyses and assessments have been done. That is what the Conservative government is trying to accomplish by proposing a single securities commission.

Once again, despite everything, they want to change a system that is working well. The World Bank and the OECD have assessed it and found that the current system works very well. It is efficient and effective.

The passport issue has gained approval and praise, but the government is going ahead anyway.

I would like to get back to the [National] Assembly's unanimous motion. I said “unanimous motion”, but Quebec's National Assembly actually passed several unanimous motions criticizing the federal government's initiative. The National Assembly passed a unanimous motion to that effect on October 16, 2007. The motion said:

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

That was in the fall of 2007, but in the fall of 2008, the government nevertheless used its economic statement to push its agenda and try to allocate money for advisory groups to sanction its proposal to disregard Quebec's wishes yet again. On January 15, 2009, after the Minister of Finance announced the government's intention in the fall 2008 economic statement, Quebec's National Assembly passed yet another unanimous motion reiterating its strong opposition to the proposed pan-Canadian securities commission. The idea is not in Quebec's best interest. That is why the Bloc Québécois will always strongly oppose the idea. We will fight it with all we have got.

This is not the first time that a federal government has tried to interfere in the provinces' jurisdictions, and particularly in Quebec's. Once again, it is more than a symbol; it is a habit that the Liberals and Conservatives both have of interfering in Quebec's jurisdictions. Securities are a perfect example. In the 2008 budget, the Minister of Finance announced the creation of an expert panel on securities regulation to work on a model common securities act, which would create a Canadian advantage in global capital markets. At that time, the Minister of Finance knew very well that this fell under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Nevertheless, he said in his budget that he wanted to create a Canadian advantage by interfering in a jurisdiction that does not belong to him. He did it despite the fact that the World Bank and the OECD—which I will come back to—gave favourable reviews about the performance of the system that currently exists in Canada and is used in each of the provinces. It allows all the provinces to participate, except Ontario, which has always refused to participate in the passport system, and this would make it possible to improve the current system. So, although there are a few complaints about the current regulation system and some improvements that could be made, we do not necessarily need a national system, when the federal government does not have jurisdiction over this issue. We need to force Ontario to participate in a passport system with the other provinces, which would eventually ensure better quality and better control over the securities system.

However, knowing full well that it can count on the support of federalist parties in the House of Commons, Ontario is very much aware that by not joining the passport system like the other provinces did, it will benefit from the implementation of an eventual single securities commission.

That is why it is still refusing to take part in a passport system, which would clearly make the system work better.

The expert panel that I mentioned earlier and that was established by the minister in his 2008 budget presented its report at the end of 2008. That report contains a series of measures aimed at creating a single securities commission. This is no surprise to us. That budget welcomed the panel recommendations, as did the 2009 budget. Moreover, the 2009 budget allocated $150 million to strike a committee that will be responsible for implementing the recommendations from the previous committee.

The budget implementation bill brought forward by the Conservatives, again with the support of the Liberals who will obviously do anything to save this government, even interfere with Quebec's jurisdiction, allocated considerable sums of money to put in place the necessary legislative framework for the creation of a single commission.

This situation is unacceptable. The minister stubbornly insists on going ahead with a bill that goes against the unanimous will of the National Assembly of Quebec and which is a flagrant violation of Quebec's constitutional jurisdictions. We will continue to defend Quebec against these centralizing tendencies. It will be a very tough battle.

The idea of establishing a single regulatory body for Canada has resurfaced periodically for the past 40 years. We have been opposed to it for 40 years. We are still opposed to it and will continue to be. However, since 2003 this proposal has been gaining ground in the words and actions of successive governments, both Conservative and Liberal. The Liberals, when they were in power in 2003, also set up an expert panel to study the possibility of creating a single regulatory body. Nor was it a surprise in 2005 when the Government of Ontario asked an expert panel chaired by Purdy Crawford to study the benefits of a single regulatory system. That report obviously confirmed Ontario’s arguments in favour of creating a single body, which would be advantageous to Ontario.

Quebec is opposed to the creation of a single regulatory body. Someone wins and someone loses in such a case, and Quebec will fight tooth and nail to defend its interests because that kind of system would put it at a disadvantage in the future. It will defend its interests because the current system works well. It has been favourably reviewed internationally. The people who have analyzed the economic crisis of the past few years have never been able to show that the financial crisis in this country was due to the fact that Canada has a system in which the provinces have the power to regulate securities. Everyone knows very well that this crisis started in the United States and we felt the effects here. However, there is absolutely no cause and effect relationship between the crisis as we are experiencing it in this country and the fact that our regulatory system comes under provincial jurisdiction. Indeed, we have fared better than many countries. That shows once again that the current system works well.

For two years now, we have had a passport system to improve our regulatory system, although Ontario has refused to join in. I repeat that if Ontario joined the scheme, it would work like a charm.

We could talk for a long time about how we reached this situation. I said earlier that Ontario established an expert panel and that the federal budget raised that idea again in 2006. We see that since it took power the Conservative government has slowly been laying the groundwork for a single securities regulatory body, once again without paying any attention to the message coming from Quebec.

Quebec does not want a single regulator because what we have in Quebec right now is working. We want to maintain what we have and we do not agree at all with this system. The Conservative government first began laying the groundwork in 2006. That position was reaffirmed once again in the economic update of November 2006, as well as in the 2007 budget.

In June 2007, following a meeting of the ministers responsible for securities, the current Minister of Finance announced plans to set up an expert panel clearly mandated to study the objectives, outcomes, and performance measures that would best anchor securities regulation and the pursuit of a Canadian advantage in global capital markets.

At the time, if the minister had taken constitutional law into account, he certainly would not have talked about pursuing a Canadian advantage. Instead he would have talked about the pursuit of an advantage for all participants, that is, the provinces. He would have asked the expert panel to find the best way to improve our regulatory system and to determine what aspects we should be focusing on in order to promote a better system for all the provinces and for Quebec. However, he said the opposite and completely ignored the existing constitutional jurisdictions. He asked the group to pursue a Canadian advantage, with the underlying motive of creating a single commission to regulate all powers related to securities.

Of course, he gave the expert panel different objectives, but the Bloc Québécois knew full well at the time that such expert panels have a bias toward a single securities commission, and their conclusions concur, completely ignoring the fact that our system works and that there is a considerable and unanimous opposition to a single securities commission, not only in Quebec, but also in Alberta and British Columbia. But the federal government is completely ignoring that.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is once again moving a motion in this House. It is doing so in order to make a strong argument and to emphasize the fact that, if the Conservatives go ahead with this nonsense, they will be interfering in provincial jurisdictions and disrespecting the unanimous will of all of Quebec's political parties. It also means they are not defending the interests of Quebec and all Quebeckers.

In closing, I invite all my colleagues here in this House to vote in favour of this motion. I am convinced that we will one day be able to bring all parliamentarians in this House to their senses.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I disagree with my colleague quite profoundly on this, but I do respect his work on the finance committee. He was with the committee in Washington where a number of people said to us that we ought to adopt a common securities regulator. The International Monetary Fund has the same opinion. I want to quote from its excellent report on Canada, where it noted:

[T]he current passport system of 13 provincial and territorial securities supervisors risks regulatory arbitrage and creates gaps in oversight, given that securities markets are effectively national in scope. A federal regulator could coordinate more readily with other regulators in monitoring risks and responding quickly to a crisis, and could also have an enhanced focus on the issues that securities markets may pose for national financial stability.

The Hockin report also talked about what we heard in Washington, which is that the streamlined regulatory approach to a common securities regulator would make Canada's capital markets more attractive to foreign issuers and investors.

I would like the member to respond to the IMF argument and to the Hockin report about making us as a nation more attractive to foreign investment.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I was one of the members of the Standing Committee on Finance who went to Washington recently, where comments were made to the effect that, in Canada, there are some who would like to see the establishment of a single securities regulator. However, not all the evidence has been heard. I remain convinced that since the federal government is only presenting one option and the virtual advantages of creating a sole securities regulator to our American partners, without presenting a complete analysis of what is currently in place and the assessments of the current system, those indicating their desire for the creation of a single securities commission in Canada cannot have all the facts.

A 2007 IMF report indicated the following:

Canada’s financial system is mature, sophisticated, and well-managed.

Canada has established a highly effective and nearly unified regulatory and supervisory framework.

The regulatory framework for the securities market exhibits a high degree of implementation of the IOSCO Principles.

In the largest provinces at least, the regulatory authorities are independent and self funded, have sufficient resources and skilled personnel, and are clearly accountable to the government.

The framework for issuers, self regulatory organizations (SROs), market intermediaries, and secondary markets is robust.

Significant improvements to the regulatory system have been made as a result of the creation of the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), including those that will be brought about by the implementation of the passport system [The report was prepared in 2007.].

Under the umbrella of the CSA, coordination between the 13 regulatory agencies has significantly improved.

Issuers, CIS, and registrants are the areas where more progress in coordination and harmonization have been achieved.

The passport system, which is currently being implemented, will further rationalize the regulatory system for issuers—

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague was describing all the analysis done by the International Monetary Fund. I would like him to continue because it was very informative, especially in regard to a securities commission. If the system works, why change it? If it works very well and is an excellent system, why take the risk of creating a new system that will have its problems? When a car works really well, we do not trade it in, unless it is purely for appearances. I think it is very important, therefore, for my colleague to continue describing the analysis done by the International Monetary Fund.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his excellent question.

I did not have enough time to present it all. I also think my microphone was off, and I do not know how long. I am not going to repeat everything I just said. It is very clear that other assessments have been done as well.

I am referring to the conclusions the OECD arrived at in 2006. That was when the Conservative government was elected to office and began taking steps toward a single securities commission. Back in 2006, though, the OECD ranked Canada second in the world for the quality of its securities regulation, while another study done in 2006 by the World Bank and Alex Mundy ranked Canada third in the world for the protection it afforded investors. It is nothing to sneeze at when international organizations rank Canada among the top five in the world for such things as investor protection.

Going to a single securities commission would jeopardize what we already have. We have a system that works well, so why change it?

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate our colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice, on his excellent speech on the securities issue.

People used to say that the Conservatives would form a more right-wing, decentralizing government, while the Liberals were more centralizing and inclined to social programs. We see today with these Conservative proposals, backed by the Liberals, that the government may be right-wing but it is just as centralizing as the Liberals when it comes to these kinds of measures.

I would like my colleague to explain as well the effect on the public service because this initiative bolsters the federal government and means that more public servants will be hired here in Ottawa to oversee securities, while Quebec as a whole will suffer job losses. I would like to hear my colleague on that.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that question.

I in fact said this earlier at the start of my speech explaining my motion today. There is no doubt that a system where the provinces have responsibility operates smoothly. The Constitution gives them regulatory power. The bodies in each province have organized themselves. They are structured and have created jobs. The evaluations tell us our system works well.

When we realize despite all that, despite the unanimous opinion and the strong opposition in Quebec to a single securities regulator, that only Ontario does not want to be part of a system of passports as advocated by the International Monetary Fund, because Ontario wants to benefit from the creation of a single securities body in opposition to all that, we see that the present government and the Liberal government before it wanted to favour Ontario over Quebec.

The whole question my colleague is raising is the question of the job losses Quebec will suffer in this matter and the question of those jobs going to the Ontario financial sector, in Toronto, which unfortunately would happen—and I use "would happen" advisedly, because it is not a done deal and we will oppose it—despite the fact that small investors are currently well protected. We are not sure they would have the same degree of protection. We have serious doubts in this regard.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the very hard-working member of Parliament for Burlington.

I am pleased to join in the debate on the merits of improving securities regulation in Canada. Canada is the only major industrialized country without a common or a national securities regulator. The ongoing market turmoil has clearly highlighted the need for improved securities regulation. Our government agrees and strongly believes that we need to take steps to strengthen Canada's securities regulatory framework to better protect investors, enhance enforcement, strengthen our response to financial instability, reduce unnecessary costs, and attract new international investment. That is why we have committed, as part of our economic action plan, to implement the central recommendations of the Hockin expert panel and establish a single securities regulator, a regulator that would respect constitutional jurisdiction and regional interests.

There is one aspect I would like to emphasize in my remarks today, and that is how a national securities regulator would benefit Canadians in an increasingly global marketplace.

We have a lot to be proud of when it comes to our financial system. It is considered the world's soundest according to the World Economic Forum, and a model of stability during the global crisis. As World Bank president Robert Zoellick noted last week, “I think a lot of people would like to change places with Canada”.

In one crucial aspect we fall short, and that deficiency strikes at the heart of the motion. We are the only industrialized country without a common securities regulator. Our system of 13 regulators is cumbersome, disjointed and it lacks the proper tools for enforcement. That has been noted by many others. It has been noted by the IMF. I would encourage colleagues to read the IMF report of 2009 that bluntly stated, “Canada is currently the only G7 country without a common securities regulator,and Canada's investors deserve better”.

It was noted by the OECD that the “presence of multiple regulators has resulted in inadequate enforcement and inconsistent investor protection”. The OECD noted that it also makes it harder for Canada “to respond to changes in the global marketplace or to rapidly innovate”. The global economic downturn and the havoc it has wrought underlines that the need for a single regulator is more urgent than ever. Co-ordinated regulation across the Canadian securities markets and a single international voice for Canada in the global coordination of securities regulation and crisis management are necessities, not options.

This is what the finance committee heard on its recent visit to Washington.

The Hockin expert panel on securities regulation, which proposed the creation of a national securities commission, made that point very convincingly. I would like to thank all who served on that panel for their excellent work.

For example, when it comes to Canada's fragmented securities regulation system, whom do our global partners turn to? Where is their single entry point? To whom is their one phone call made?

At a time when we need to have a strong single voice to contribute to solving global financial problems, or present Canada at international meetings, this is one area where we simply must do better. We need a single voice able to work more effectively with other countries in addressing the pressing global regulatory issues, issues ranging from oversight of international accounting and auditing standards, credit rating agencies and derivatives. These points were all made in the Hockin report.

As Professor Michael Code of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law noted when trying to rapidly address emerging problems in the current financial crisis:

We're short one player. What are they supposed to do, invite 13 securities regulators to sit down with them? If there was a time when the need for a national securities regulator cries out, it's now.

As respected Montreal Gazette columnist Peter Hadekel has remarked:

We need a national agency, powerful and accountable, not only to police financial markets at home but to work with regulators around the world.

A single regulator would also provide benefits on the enforcement side not only in better protecting Canadian and foreign investors in our markets, but in boosting our reputation in the eyes of the world.

Yet criminal enforcement is hampered by the same fragmented structure undermining securities regulation. Each province has varying degrees of investigative, prosecutorial and adjudicative expertise and resources to handle criminal matters. That is no recipe for improving Canada's ability to have a strong system of securities enforcement.

I note that members from Quebec will say that enforcement in Quebec is very strong, but that means we can have a common securities regulator that would have strong enforcement across the country. It does not mean that a single securities regulator would in any way be weaker than the current enforcement that happens in the province of Quebec.

As an aside, I have to note that the Hockin report recognized the expertise that we have in this country in some of the provinces and encouraged the federal government to make use of this expertise in various areas in moving forward with the one national securities regulator.

In the words of a recent editorial in The Globe and Mail:

Canada is alone among major economic powers in suffering from a balkanized regulation of the issuance and trading of stocks, bonds and other securities. There are now 13 Canadian securities commissions, with a corresponding multiplicity of statutes, regulations, policies and interpretations....

Around the world, in response to the financial crisis, much work is being done toward international co-ordination of regulation.

Too little of this is going on in Canada, where the struggle is still to form a national marketplace. Canadian policy-makers must catch up.

As the Hockin report noted, the consolidation of enforcement activities from 13 commissions into one would concentrate resources, eliminate unnecessary duplication and overlap, and support greater consistency in investor protection across Canada.

A national regulator would better align valuable enforcement resources, which would lead to improve co-operation with federal and international criminal enforcement agencies.

A single streamlined regulatory approach would also make Canada's capital markets more attractive to foreign issuers and investors.

Consider the learned views of those who rely on strong and effective capital markets for their success. Consider a great Canadian company headquartered in western Canada, Telus, which made some recent investments, in the last six months, of which we are very proud. It said that Canada's fragmented approach:

--will continue to erode investor confidence and discourage investment by Canadian and international investors.

Or we could also consider the Certified General Accountants' Association of Canada, which noted that a national regulator:

--will improve regulatory efficiency and cut compliance costs, provide protection to investors, improve internal trade, and improve confidence in and accountability of our regulatory system.... [S]trengthening securities regulation in Canada will help to create an environment conducive to investment.

Our financial system is presently the envy of the world. It has performed head and shoulders above the rest during the current global recession. However, it is not perfect, and the distinction of being the only industrialized country with such a disorderly approach to securities regulation is holding us back. That is why our government has made clear its intention to move quickly with willing provinces to establish a transition office. That is why we intend to have a Canadian securities regulator to help monitor for future threats and protect Canada's financial system, something that this Bloc motion fails to acknowledge.

Before concluding, let me quote a recent Calgary Herald editorial that provides a succinct summary of a case for improved securities regulation:

There's a reason why every developed country...has a single securities regulator. It's because they work. Capital can be raised more efficiently, making it cheaper for the consumer to invest, and affords investors better protection.

Canada stands alone in its system, and that hurts the country's ability to have a voice on a global platform.

I encourage all colleagues in this House to oppose this motion and to support the establishment of a common securities regulator.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. friend for his excellent speech. These are, as he eloquently spoke about, the challenges that exist right now in terms of trying to ensure that we are able to deal with some of the securities challenges that our country, and indeed the world, has seen over the last few years. This is in part responsible for the economic tsunami that has hit our country and the world with such devastating force, resulting in the catastrophe that we see today with the massive job losses that we have seen around the country.

We see the motion that has come from the Bloc. I would like to ask my colleague, in his experience as the chair of the finance committee, has he seen ways in which we would be able to bring Quebec in so that a common securities regulator could exist for Canada? Could he articulate some of the reasons that Quebec does not want this, understanding that this is something that, in doing this for the common good of everybody, the people of Quebec and indeed the people in the rest of Canada could benefit from?

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend for his very thoughtful questions. In terms of making this attractive to Quebec, obviously we recognize that there are some challenges there.

One thing is the system being voluntary, as is proposed. I think that would be an advantage in terms of attracting Quebec to it. As he mentioned, there is an international aspect. Quebeckers endorsed the free trade agreement very strongly back when it was proposed in the 1980s. They endorsed NAFTA very strongly. They are very much a people who trade, not only with other provinces but across international borders.

That is one of the points that was very much emphasized to us in Washington, that if we want to have a continuing trade not only of goods and services but of financial services, we need to have a national securities regulator that can sit down with other national regulators and hammer out some of the details, especially at a time when our financial system is in a position of strength relative to other nations. When Canadian companies are looking at doing more acquisitions, particularly in the United States, this would enhance them. Some of those would obviously be based and headquartered in Quebec, but those companies themselves are calling for it.

I think that is another way to perhaps put some pressure on those people in Quebec at the political level, basically saying we need enhanced international cooperation as well.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the remarks by my colleague, who is in favour of establishing a Canada-wide securities commission. I would like to say to him first off that securities are under the jurisdiction of the provinces and Quebec. This is the first point that should be made.

In the context of the current economic crisis, Quebec needs all its instruments of economic development in order to deal with the crisis, which the current government in Ottawa often denies. This is another way the Conservatives have found to meddle in our jurisdictions.

My question is as follows. As we know, the Bloc has long opposed the creation of this national securities commission. The OECD and the World Bank consider the system currently in place the second most efficient in the world. I do not understand why this government is persisting in its desire to create or cast doubt on a system that works very well, that all Quebeckers and the National Assembly unanimously—

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think we have to recognize that this crisis is not local; the crisis is global. As Don Drummond, the TD economist, has said, this is the most synchronized global recession in history.

We have to have not only national responses but international responses. We have to work in concert with our G7 and G20 partners.

Earlier the Bloc member quoted from the 2007 report of the IMF. There is a May 2009 report on Canada, and this is their conclusion about our current system:

[T]he current passport system of 13 provincial and territorial securities supervisors risks regulatory arbitrage and creates gaps in oversight, given that securities markets are effectively national in scope. A federal regulator could coordinate more readily with other regulators in monitoring risks and responding quickly to a crisis, and could also have an enhanced focus on the issues that securities markets may pose for national financial stability.

I would encourage members to read this report, take it to heart, oppose this motion, and support a national securities regulator.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton—Leduc, who is doing an excellent job as chair of the finance committee. In the previous Parliament he was chair of the industry committee and did an excellent job there and has brought his skills set to the finance committee.

Recently the finance committee was in Washington and heard over and over about our banking system, how important it is for a banking system to be regulated, compared to what is happening in the United States, and how they are looking to us for the kinds of changes that we have already implemented here. The one thing that came up over and over was that we do not have a common securities regulator in this country. There are 13 different jurisdictions, and it is time that we moved on.

Yet again we are debating the Bloc opposition motion on securities regulation in Canada. If this debate sounds familiar to some of us, it should because we had the same debate not long ago.

There was a Bloc motion only a few months ago. I looked it up. It was last February, to be exact, that the House dealt with the identical subject. And if the Bloc opposition motion at that time seemed familiar, that was because in March 2008 we debated the exact same motion. The Bloc motion failed both times. As legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said, in a famous quote, “It's déjà vu all over again”.

I note that the previous two Bloc motions were soundly defeated by the majority in the House and it is likely, I am hoping, that it will be defeated again here today. While this is an important subject and merits debate in Parliament, there other important economic issues that we are facing during this global recession as well.

However, the Bloc is obsessed with one subject only. It is obsessed to such a degree that it ignores the other pressing economic issues affecting its constituents, such as the challenges facing the forestry industry, the manufacturing sector and the economy in general, issues that have an impact on not just Quebeckers but all Canadians.

Indeed, its obsession with this one issue might make one think the Bloc does not know how to respond to some of the other more complex economic issues. In fact, a former Bloc MP, Caroline St-Hilaire, who represented Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in the last Parliament, infamously remarked that:

The economy is constantly a black sheep for [the Bloc].... We are profoundly uncomfortable when it comes to discussing the economy.

Indeed, today's motion displays a profound misunderstanding of what our government is proposing with a Canadian securities regulator and why we are proposing it.

I note that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, a committee I have been sitting on for the last three years, endorsed as its number one recommendation in its last prebudget consultation report that the federal government make the creation of a national securities regulator its priority.

Why did the members of that all-party committee make this their number one recommendation? We understood that it was not about intruding on provincial jurisdiction. This is about strengthening the Canadian economy and doing it along with provinces and territories that will play a central role in a new securities regulator.

This was understood across all party lines, not an easy goal to achieve at times in this place, as everyone knows. Why? It is because we felt that, regardless of political affiliation, this would be an important step in strengthening our economy. Why would improving Canada's securities regulation oversight framework, recognized as weak and fragmented, be important? What strength will that give to the economy? Let me state it in a number of points.

It would provide clear, national accountability. We have heard many times in the news, south of the border and here, in terms of accountability, that the issue becomes understanding who is responsible for what. When one has to make an investment decision, can anyone imagine having to go to 13 different regulators to decide what the rules are, how they apply to one's company, one's investment and one's commitment to Canada?

We want to strengthen the regulatory system to help with criminal enforcement. Those breaking the law should not be able to get away with it in one jurisdiction and not another. We need a national securities regulator that would allow for national criminal enforcement for those who are trying to cheat the system, regardless of which province they are in.

We want to ensure there are consistent penalties for those who are breaking the law, for white collar criminals who are often overlooked in a sense. We spend a lot of time talking about other types of criminal activity but white collar crime hurts the economy and it hurts families just as much, and we need to be consistent across the country. Whether that activity happens in Quebec, British Columbia or Ontario, we need consistency in those penalties to ensure we can attack and get on top of white collar crime.

As politicians, we talk about cutting bureaucratic red tape, overlap and duplication all the time. We hear it at the door during and we hear it during the debates in Parliament. This is a prime opportunity for us to make a big change in this country.

We have 13 different regulators who have 13 different approaches to securities regulation. If we want to make an investment in this country through the security system, we need to be more consistent. We need to resolve those issues so that it is less costly for that individual, organization or company to invest in Canada, to create jobs in Canada and to improve our economy to keep us number one and ahead of our G7 partners. We are leading in very many areas except for a common securities regulator and we need to get on top of that.

We need to improve the allocation of resources. Can members imagine the cost of the overheads that are required to have 13 different regulators? Could we not reduce those barriers to entry that apply to each one of those 13 regulators? I think a single regulator would do that.

Our financial sector has been the praise of much of the G7 and of the world. The regulations around our banking sector have ensured that our banking system is solid compared to many banking systems around the world. Where we are lacking is on the securities regulation side. This system would bring us up to par with our own banking system. We would not only be number one in the world on banking but we could be number one on securities and number one coming out of this recession.

This is a global economy, as we all know, and we have a global recession. We know that people can make choices easily today in terms of where they invest their money, where they create jobs and where they produce wealth and a common securities regulator for Canada would make more accessible for those who are willing and interested in investing in this country and creating jobs, and we need to get there.

We noted all these factors when we had this debate in February and when we had it a year ago in March. The Bloc would like to continue this debate. The fundamental truth is that the overwhelming majority of the public interest, small and large investors, provincial politicians, business, labour organizations and newspaper editorials have all supported a single regulatory system for Canada.

While they accept the merits for improving Canadian securities framework, they no longer accept t Canada being content to tolerate the current fragmented system.

I have a couple of quotes. The Investors Council Association of Canada stated:

Canadian investors cannot wait any longer for the creation of a single national regulator.

Canada cannot remain out of step with the rest of the world as the only industrialized country that...does not have a single regulator. This is a time to be working together internationally and to do this we need to be unified locally.

The National Union of Public and General Employees stated:

Canada is the only member of the Group of Seven industrialized nations without a national securities watchdog. It has a dismal reputation at home and abroad in dealing with corporate crimes and wrongdoing.

The issue is important to workers because so many depend on sound financial markets to ensure healthy pension funds.

Finally, the Ontario Liberal premier, Dalton McGuinty, premier of the province that I am from, said:

I think [a national regulator] does enhance our long-term competitiveness as a nation. I think it makes it easier to do business with Canadians as a whole....

In the few minutes I had to talk I highlighted what is important. We have talked about this in the House many times before and it is time to move on. It is time for a national securities regulator.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think most of us were completely appalled at how things went off the rails in terms of seeing Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme and seeing the subprime mortgage devastation that took place south of the border which affected us in a big way. We were somewhat protected given the laws of our country that the Liberal Party of the day put forward in terms of not pursuing a more open course of action that would have left investors and our citizens open to a wide range of problems that, tragically, our friends south of the border were victims of.

Does my colleague feel that this is one step toward being able to inoculate our citizens against such things as the Ponzi scheme? Also, what is his government's plan to perhaps work through the IMF to work through more common regulatory initiatives that are required in order to reduce the types of things we have seen over the last year that have been so devastating for all of our economies?

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree that developing a common securities regulator across this country would provide us the opportunity to ensure those types of issues that were discovered south of the border through its system, its lack of regulation in a number of areas, which includes its banking system, where we can make a difference by ensuring it does not happen to Canadians, that people will not be taken advantage of by a financial system that has 13 different regulators and 13 different systems that no one can really pinpoint or understand. It is a system where something can be done in one jurisdiction but not in another.

We want to ensure the national securities regulator will be able to resolve those issues. National penalties would have the ability to go after white collar crime on a national scale. We want to ensure that the kind of issue that raised its ugly head south of the border does not happen to the financial system here. We want to protect jobs and workers' pensions and ensure that no one is taken advantage of financially in this country.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the things missing is that we are not working toward common international regulations that are required to develop the common rules and regulations to prevent the international contagion that went around the world and has caused such devastation.

Many believe that the IMF is the place to do this. Many also believe that counties of the world, particular those that are part of the G7, will not be interested in actually coming together and being subject to the power of a supernational organization. However, what can be done is that organizations, like the IMF, could be responsible for developing common norms that the countries of the world should adopt.

Could my friend tell me what his government's position is in terms of trying to work with other countries to develop common norms that all of us could adopt which would enable us to work in an integrated fashion to prevent international contagions from occurring again?

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, we do not disagree that it should be an international approach in terms of norms, as the member indicated in his question, but the first priority for this government should be to get our own house in order before we can go to our international partners, to the IMF or any other organization. We cannot go and talk about international standards and international norms until we are able to provide an indication that we believe in that concept such that we will do it here first. We want to ensure there are not 13 different norms across Canada. We want one set of security regulations for this country so we are on a level playing field when we are having those discussions and putting our position forward at the IMF and other financial organizations.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the Bloc motion regarding a single regulator.

I would like to give a little background before stating the position of the Liberal Party on this motion.

In general, securities legislation in Canada and around the world has two main objectives: to protect investors and to ensure that financial markets are efficient, fair and transparent.

Regulatory differences between jurisdictions in relation to the disclosure and exchange of information between corporations and investors can distort the markets and increase the risks to investors. Both consequences are harmful to economic stability and competitiveness.

At present, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec are opposed to the idea of a single regulatory agency. On the other hand, Ontario and British Columbia support it. In October 2007, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously adopted a motion calling on the government to abandon its proposal for a national securities regulator.

One of the arguments made by the provinces is that oversight of securities is an area of provincial jurisdiction. The federal government should therefore not interfere. That is the idea behind the motion we are debating today.

I would now like to present some of the arguments against the current system. I will then present the counter-arguments, and after that I will explain the position of the Liberal Party.

First, in terms of arguments against, it is very expensive for corporations that want to attract capital to comply with all of the provinces’ regulations. This is particularly harmful to small businesses, it is thought, because the fixed costs of compliance are proportionately higher for them.

Second, time is an important factor in leveraging capital, and compliance with multiple provincial regulatory schemes delays the start of negotiations.

As well, investors in the less populous provinces may be denied access to certain investments because some companies trade only in the largest jurisdictions. Because of differences and disparities in the existing regulations, it is difficult to ensure they are implemented. More resources would have to be devoted to this.

However, there are also counter-arguments in support of the present “multijurisdictional” model, and the provinces make the following arguments.

This model allows innovative ideas to be developed that can be adapted and be more responsive to the specific features of regional markets. For example, Alberta’s specialty is the oil and gas sector, while British Columbia’s is mining, and so on. It also means that regulations can be more effectively administered, as the agencies with that authority acquire experience and knowledge in their regional markets. In addition, a common regulatory agency might impose compliance rules that were designed for larger multinational users and might exclude the small regional businesses, and thus cut them off from financing. And it would protect the regional securities infrastructure that the provinces and territories have created, with accountants, notaries, underwriters and other professionals. They are afraid they would lose that infrastructure to Toronto if there were a single securities regulator.

Opinions are divided across the country and there are pretty solid arguments on each side. Personally, my prior conviction has been more in favour of a single regulator than against one. However, in a sense, that is not the point today. I have come here to tell the House the Liberal position on this motion.

The motion says, in a very point blank way, that “securities regulation falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces”. It takes that to be a fact. However, it is also a fact that there is considerable legal disagreement and uncertainty on this jurisdictional constitutional point. It is for precisely this reason that, some months ago, we said that a future Liberal government would refer this constitutional jurisdictional question to the Supreme Court of Canada.

We have already said, given the legal uncertainty as such, that the question of jurisdiction should be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada. Having said that fairly recently, we cannot possibly support a motion that states point blank that “securities regulations falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces”. To vote yes for that would be to make a mockery of our earlier idea that this matter should be referred to the Supreme Court for its decision, given the legal uncertainty.

We cannot vote yes for the motion, which presumes jurisdiction to be with the provinces. However, neither can we vote no for the motion. To do so would be to make the presumption that jurisdiction rests with the federal government. Were we to make that presumption, it would not make sense for us to refer the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada when we become the government of the country.

Therefore, by an impeccably logical process, we are led to conclude that the only logical alternative for the Liberal Party is to abstain on the motion, and that is what we will do. Just to make sure that I am making this point clearly, I will repeat one more time the logic for abstention. The Liberal Party said some months ago that this matter, given the legal uncertainty, should be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada. Having said that, we cannot vote yes for a motion that implies with certainty, as a bold statement, that jurisdiction is exclusively provincial. Neither can we vote no because it would imply the opposite, that jurisdiction is exclusively federal. Therefore, we are driven to do the only logical and, I would argue, responsible thing, which is to abstain on the Bloc motion.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rather surprised by the position of the Liberal Party, which wants to take power here in Ottawa but is going to abstain on such an important issue. There is the argument made by my colleague, for whom I have the greatest respect, that the whole thing should be referred to the Supreme Court. I think that asking the courts for opinions to help us make up our minds is often counter-productive. We are here in Parliament because the people placed their trust in us and gave us their vote.They want us to make decisions, often on their behalf. Sure we can consult the courts, but ultimately we are responsible for our votes in the House and we are the ones who will have to face the electorate.

I would like to ask my colleague a question. It seems to me that, when the Liberal Party was in power, it adopted very similar positions on the concentration of securities, quite possibly in Toronto. Could my colleague provide some more explanations? Did the Liberal Party not already take positions on the issue before us today? I would also like him to tell me once again why the Liberal Party will abstain on this motion.

Opposition Motion — Securities RegulationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to repeat my explanation for the third time, twice in English and once in French.

I do not think it is inappropriate for a future Liberal government to refer an issue to the Supreme Court of Canada when there is some uncertainty about the Constitution and jurisdictions.

The Liberal Party said a few months ago already that this is what it would do. I am only repeating today a position already adopted. Given this decision to refer the jurisdiction issues to the Supreme Court, it would be illogical for us to vote for or against the motion. A vote in favour would imply that we think it is a provincial jurisdiction and a vote against that we think it is a federal jurisdiction. Since we have already decided to refer this issue to the Supreme Court, it does not make sense to vote for or against.