Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate and indicate, as others have, our support for Bill C-52. We acknowledge that it is a step in the right direction by the fact that it sets a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for people convicted under section 380 and it takes measures to deal with widespread and rampant white collar crime in our society today.
However, like others have said in the debate, where is the rest of the strategy? Where is the meat that will really crack down on corporate and white collar crime? Why has the government been so slow to take this step? Why is it limiting its other actions on the question of a national securities regulator when what this country needs is a complete strategy dealing with white collar crime, and a corporate Canada accountability act.
That is my suggestion to the House today and it is something New Democrats have proposed in the past. I would urge the government to consider going beyond this tiny move in the right direction and consider comprehensive measures that Canadians are so desperate for.
The debate makes us all ask whether we are talking about good cops, bad cops or just no cops, which is the problem with respect to white collar crime. We know the situation is very serious. It has been estimated that Canadians lose billions of dollars annually to white collar crime. Canadians have said, time and time again to the current government and the previous government, that they want action in this regard. They have actually said, through significant polling, that white collar crime is at the top of their minds when it comes to crime in this country today. Recent polling has suggested that Canadians rank economic crime at the top of the list of other crimes. In fact, 67% of Canadians said that economic crime was their number one issue when it came to crime. That ranks just ahead of gang violence at 66%, gun crime at 54%, organized crime at 54% and terrorism at 14%. We can see very clearly that this is an issue that Canadians want government to do something about as quickly as possible.
For many Canadians, the bill today, no matter how significant a step, is really too little too late. I do not need to tell the House how many Canadians have been victims of white collar crime. We have been calling for action on this for a long time and so little has been done.
Twelve years ago, Canadians were shocked to learn the sordid details of a too good to be true deal gone bad. Hon. members will remember the Bre-X scandal. It rang the alarm bells. Thousands of investors saw millions of dollars lost overnight as a corporate hoax was revealed. Did we learn from that? No. What followed was Magnex, Livent, Corel, CINAR, Cartaway, Golden Rule, Castor Holdings, Norbourg, Portus, Nortel, Conrad Black, Bernie Madoff, and the list goes on and on.
Investigations are launched, but very seldom are people put behind bars and criminal charges upheld. This is not right, obviously, for these are not victimless crimes. It is truly an urgent issue for Canadians and it is time for the government to come forward with a complete set of strategies and policies to protect investors and employees.
Back in 2004, the Governor of the Bank of Canada used the term “wild west” to describe Canadian financial regulations. I think that was an appropriate description of what was happening all around us. He, along with many others, called for government to do something about the wild west and to put in place measures that would bring some order to the wild west and, in fact, to hire a sheriff to get the job done.
Every other country in the G8 has done something to deal with corporate crime and introduce sweeping accountability rules, every one except Canada. It is time to do something about this issue and bring in rules for investors. It is time to protect employees who blow the whistle on corporate fraud. It is time, after years of Liberal neglect and Conservative indifference, to bring in rules that will reduce corporate crime and white collar crime in Canada.
I have a few suggestions to make, and this is consistent with our previous announcement for having a corporate Canada accountability act.
The first point I want to make has to do with the regulatory field. As the member for Elmwood—Transcona mentioned in his question, I do not think it is good enough to simply call for a national securities regulator without the rest of the pieces of the puzzle in place. It ignores the fact that many provinces, in the absence of any kind of federal leadership, filled that vacuum with their own initiatives. The passport system actually took off and is now active across this country.
We do not need a national securities regulator in this country. We need a Canadian body that coordinates provincial securities regulators and brings a unified response to this whole area. A pan-Canadian approach is needed. Forget the challenges to the Supreme Court. Forget the bullying in this House. Let us start to do something about the whole package that is required and not one single issue, either in terms of a national securities regulator or, in the case of this bill, one particular move with respect to the Criminal Code.
Second, we need new accounting oversight committees and independent auditors. They should be legislated, similar to what happened in the United States and Australia as a result of the Enron scandal. Canadian executives should face new provisions for disclosure to shareholders and changes in law to ensure that independent board members are truly independent.
We also need to fight for Canadian workers and businesses. We recommend that the government bring in much more stringent whistleblower protection and apply the regulations that we now have and enhance them so that there are new rules for corporate perks.
Yesterday in the United States, we saw President Obama stand up to the automobile executives who are ripping off consumers and turning to the government for a handout, all the while flying in their private jets and flitting off to exotic summer retreats. Finally, someone in this world has stood up to that kind of ripoff and corporate crime and has said that enough is enough. That is what we need to do in this country.
Finally, as part of this overall plan, we need to ensure that Canada is no longer known as a place where people can squirm away from corporate fraud. We need to put in place the right provisions to police the financial wild west. That means an increased and independent mandate for the RCMP integrated market enforcement team, bringing in international standards in Canadian corporate accounting and law, and an examination of new laws to prevent non-compete payments.
We have been through Bre-X. We have been through Nortel. Just yesterday, people gathered on the steps of the Parliament buildings to express their deepest concerns and cries for help because their life savings have been lost as a part of the Nortel sale. That company had previously squandered public moneys and had been ordered to pay $2.7 billion back in 2006 to shareholders as a result of a lawsuit under U.S. securities law.
In the United States, there is the Sarbanes-Oxley law, which actually has the teeth to crack down on white collar crime. We in this country need something similar that approaches this issue from a comprehensive point of view. We need corporate accountability. For too long, Canadian investors and companies playing by the rules have shouldered the burden of fraud. Ordinary Canadians lose big because of corporate fraud and cooked books, and the prosperity gap only widens.
Let us begin today with a campaign for fairness in the markets and for a corporate Canada accountability act to ensure that the government and the ministers responsible admit the problems and help Parliament fix it. We cannot do nothing at this point. The government knows that it can take this kind of commitment from us to the bank.