Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak on Bill C-46. As my colleague from Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier has said, even though the Bloc Quebecois supported this bill at second reading, we must now state that we will be voting against it at this stage.
Why is the Bloc Quebecois going to vote against the bill? As the member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier and the member for Joliette and Bloc Quebecois public finance critic have said, they have been calling for amendments to the bill throughout the entire parliamentary process. There is no denying that the intent behind the bill was a good one. The Bloc Quebecois has suggested amendments in some very specific areas throughout the process, in order to provide the bill with more teeth in certain very specific situations.
The Bloc Quebecois is also categorically opposed to Canadian government interference in areas that fall under Quebec's jurisdiction over the regulation of financial markets. We have trouble understanding why this bill gives the Attorney General of Canada authority to prosecute certain Criminal Code offences relating to financial market fraud.
This is all the more a concern because the federal government has openly talked about creating a Canadian securities commission. Really now. We already have a securities commission in Quebec which works very well. The Bloc Quebecois is of the opinion that the regulation of securities clearly falls under the jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec, and we therefore disagree with what the federal government has in mind.
Since my election in 1997, I have been hearing about how the federal government should respect provincial areas of jurisdiction. Yet at every opportunity it enacts legislation to trample thoroughly over those areas of jurisdiction. It talks about cooperation, but we know what it means by that. Particularly at present, its idea of cooperation is to invade all possible areas of provincial jurisdiction so it can say “We are the boss, and you are going to have to go along with whatever we decide”.
Right from the word go, the Bloc Quebecois has been opposed to any kind of interference by the federal government in areas of provincial jurisdiction. We will continue that opposition as long as we draw breath.
We also oppose this bill because not a single amendment we proposed in committee has been accepted. Under these circumstances, the Bloc Quebecois cannot agree with the bill.
For the benefit of those who are watching us, I would like to read the summary of the bill:
This enactment amends the Criminal Code by creating a new offence of prohibited insider trading and creating a new offence to prohibit threatening or retaliating against employees for disclosing unlawful conduct. The enactment increases the maximum penalties and codifies aggravating and non-mitigating sentencing factors for fraud and certain related offences and provides for concurrent jurisdiction for the Attorney General of Canada to prosecute those offences.
The enactment also creates a new procedural mechanism by which persons will be required to produce documents, data or information in specific circumstances.
This bill was originally introduced by this government because of the recent financial scandals in the United States. Several hon. members have already talked about this, but it is important to reiterate because that is truly where this all started. These scandals were a wake-up call.
They made us aware of how fragile our financial system was and of our dependence on it.
At first glance, we might think that only major investors are affected by financial market crises, but that is not so. The biggest players on the stock market are those who manage pension funds. Consequently, if a pension fund suffers major losses, it is small investors who might lose their life's savings and watch their retirement plans go up in smoke.
I would like to give some figures from 1998 on Canadian trusteed pension funds. At the time, these funds held assets of more than $500 billion. Of this amount, about $115 billion was invested in Canadian stocks and some $57 billion in foreign stocks. Four million Canadian workers actively contributed to these funds. Only financial assets of the chartered banks exceeded the capital held by the pension funds.
In addition, based on the above-mentioned figures, we can see that a financial crisis in Canada would have a direct impact on the retirement income of millions of households. Those households are the ones we have a duty to protect. Fortunately, Canadian stock markets have so far been relatively free of wrongdoing, with the exception of the Nortel and CINAR affairs.
However, the Bloc Quebecois feels that despite the fact that our securities regulation systems are, in the opinion of many experts, much more comprehensive than what existed in the United States before the financial crisis, it is nonetheless important to send a clear message that financial wrongdoing constitutes a serious crime that is not acceptable in our society.
These reasons and many others prompted the Bloc Quebecois, in the fall of 2002, to call for major changes to the Criminal Code in order to provide the appropriate authorities with better tools to fight financial crimes.
The Bloc Quebecois called repeatedly for the amendments we had put forward in the fall of the previous year and these would have made things better in many respects. First, we proposed adding a section to the Criminal Code to make insider trading a criminal offence. My hon. colleague from Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier described earlier for our benefit what insider trading is all about. This proposal was designed to send a clear message to company executives that the use of confidential information obtained in the performance of their duties for the purpose of making profits or avoiding losses would not be tolerated.
Making profits or avoiding losses in this manner impacts negatively on other investors who do not have access to the same privileged information. We can see this regularly. It has happened in the U.S. and pretty much everywhere. It is important to strengthen this aspect of the Criminal Code.
The Bloc Quebecois also proposed that a new offence of securities fraud be created. This offence, patterned on the measure adopted in the United States, would now carry a 10 year prison sentence and would prohibit fraud when selling or buying securities.
These provisions dealing with insider trading and employment related threats or retaliation are very important. Employees who blow the whistle on fraud in financial markets, or assist law enforcement officials in the investigation of such situations also need protection against employment related intimidation.
In fact, when it comes to money, people sometimes forget that, when fraud occurs, it is not the people who will be reported, but rather the situation.
When this kind of situation is reported, the individuals or employees reporting the crime should be protected. They are just doing their duty. They are being honest. They should not have a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads so that, if they report the crime, they will be subject to retaliation.
Protecting them is extremely important, because honesty must permeate every level of society. Where dishonesty exists, we must recognize the efforts of individuals working to openly and publically report it. These individuals must be congratulated and told that there is legislation to protect them.
Also, section 487.013 allows banks to disclose confidential information. I am perplexed by this section, and the Bloc Quebecois is also very perplexed in this regard.
This section allows banks to disclose confidential information such as a person's account number, status and type of account, the date on which it was opened and closed, the account holder's date of birth, and current or previous address.
First, this information is inherently private.
I would not like others to know all my personal information. This is confidential information. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms must protect this information.
So, when others ask for this information, this necessarily violates individual rights and privacy.