Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to publicly congratulate you. You have fulfilled the duties of your position with brilliance and dignity for 10 years, and you have done a wonderful job of promoting the language of Molière, which is dear to my heart. I therefore want to congratulate you, thank you for everything you have done and wish you all the best in the future.
I am very pleased that we are at report stage. We spent a lot of time on this bill in committee, and it is finally back in the House. Only two amendments were proposed at report stage, and they were proposed by the government.
The first amendment is ridiculous. It would make the wage subsidy off-limits for political parties but only as of this summer, well after all the parties would have happily put their hands in the cookie jar. I want to point out that all the parties have done that, except the Bloc Québécois.
As members know, all the political parties have raised record amounts during the pandemic, but that is not enough. The government twisted the spirit of the program, which was designed to help the workers and businesses affected by the pandemic. This program was paid for by our tax dollars and ran up the collective debt.
Political parties were never mentioned in the bill, but the agency nevertheless decided to include them. This made it possible for the Liberal Party to receive $1 million, even though it raised $15 million in 2020 alone. That is outrageous. What is worse is that after refusing to exclude political parties from receiving the subsidy, which allowed the Liberal Party to keep its $1 million, the government is proposing to offer this subsidy in July even though no other party is using it. That is textbook Liberal hypocrisy.
If the first amendment is ridiculous, the second is downright dangerous. The government's second amendment is very serious and threatens the very lifeblood of Quebec's economy. It seeks to undo what was voted in committee, which will harm Quebec and the other provinces and make Bay Street even happier.
The government wants the House to restore funding for the Canadian Securities Transition Office in Toronto. The government is so fixated on dealing Quebec's economy a devastating blow that it is asking the House to backtrack on what was passed in committee. We know that Bay Street matters more to the government than all of Quebec. We know that centralizing securities regulation is an infringement on the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Ottawa wants to wipe out Quebec's financial sector. This Liberal amendment would renew and considerably increase the budget of the Canadian Securities Transition Office to expedite its work. It would authorize the government to make payments of up to $119.5 million or even more if Parliament voted to do so in an appropriation act.
The transition office was set up in July 2009 to create a single Canada-wide securities regulator in Toronto. Basically, securities are financial assets, such as stocks, bonds and other instruments. In Quebec, securities are overseen by the Autorité des marchés financiers, the AMF.
The Supreme Court of Canada has dealt Ottawa a number of setbacks, deeming that securities do not fall under federal jurisdiction. However, in 2018 Ottawa finally got the green light to intervene in this area, provided that it did not act unilaterally and agreed to co-operate with the provinces. That is the agreement on paper, but we all know that, ultimately, this will centralize everything and strip Quebec of its financial hub.
Again, Ottawa is trampling on provincial jurisdiction and wants to centralize everything. Paternalistic Ottawa no longer wants a federation, it wants everything. Everything needs Ottawa's blessing. It is the alpha and the omega. It is too bad for Quebec, its nation and the rights of the provinces.
This is a harmful plan. The federal government's plan to establish a Canada-wide securities regulator in Toronto would inevitably translate into a creep of regulatory activities outside Quebec. This plan is just bad and must never see the light of day.
This is more than just a dispute over jurisdictions or mere squabbling between the federal level and the provinces. This is a battle between Bay Street and Quebec. Without a complete financial ecosystem, it is unrealistic to think that we will be able to hang on to our head offices. In our eyes, economic nationalism would become just an empty slogan.
That is why everyone in Quebec is against it. Every political party, the business community, the financial sector and labour-sponsored funds oppose this plan. For example, the Quebec National Assembly has adopted four unanimous motions denouncing the plan. Seldom have we seen Quebec's business community come together as one to oppose a government initiative.
In addition to the Government of Quebec and the four unanimous motions from the National Assembly, this plan faces vehement opposition in economic circles, including from the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, Finance Montréal, the International Financial Centre corporation, the Desjardins Group, and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, as well as most Quebec businesses, like Air Transat, Transcontinental, Canam, Québecor, Metro, La Capitale, Cogeco, Molson, and the list goes on.
A strong Quebec AMF means a strong talent pool to regulate the finance sector, which is a prerequisite for the sector's development. When the Toronto Stock Exchange bought the Bourse de Montréal, the Commission des valeurs mobilières, a precursor to the AMF, made it a condition of the sale that Montreal retain a stock exchange. We know that it specializes in derivatives, including the carbon market.
In Quebec, the financial sector represents 150,000 jobs and contributes more than $20 billion, or the equivalent of 6.3% of the GDP. That is what the government is going after with its extremely dangerous and harmful amendment.
Close to 100,000 of these jobs are in Montreal, which ranks 13th among the world's financial centres according to the Global Financial Centres Index.
This is an attack on our ability to keep our head offices and preserve our businesses. The Task Force on the Protection of Québec Businesses estimates that the 578 head offices in Quebec represent 50,000 jobs with a salary that is twice as high as the Quebec average, in addition to 20,000 other jobs at specialized service providers such as accounting, legal, financial or computer services.
Quebec companies tend to favour Quebec suppliers, while foreign companies in Quebec rely more on globalized supply chains, with all the impact that can have on our network of SMEs, in the regions in particular. We saw with the pandemic that globalized supply chains are fragile and make us entirely dependent on foreign supply.
The bottom line is that this amendment is an attack on Quebec's entire economy. It is a direct affront. This is important, and we must vote against this amendment.
Lastly, companies tend to concentrate their strategic planning, particularly their scientific research and development, where their head office is. A subsidiary economy is a less innovative one, and we do not want to lose our innovative economy in Quebec.
A strong financial hub is vital to the functioning of our head offices and the preservation of our businesses. Keeping the sector's regulator in Quebec ensures that decision-makers are nearby, which in turn enables access to capital markets for businesses, which is essential to support business investment and growth across Quebec.
That is what the government's harmful amendment is all about. This amendment would not help interprovincial trade, contrary to what the government might say. The passport system, the fight against money laundering and fraud, and the collaboration and co-operation among the various securities regulators are working quite well. Centralization will not do anything to improve that, contrary to the fallacious arguments put forward by the government.
The Standing Committee on Finance chose to nip that idea in the bud by deleting that clause of Bill C‑30. That basically cut the funding for the plan to centralize the financial sector in Toronto. I urge all my colleagues in the House to stand behind the committee's decision and to vote in favour of the economy of Quebec, vote against this gift to Bay Street and reject this amendment like we did in committee.