Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate. The member for Westmount—Ville-Marie who just spoke said that there is a healthy debate going on. I want to remind the members in the House that a healthy debate on this issue has been going on for, I believe, 56 years. This issue has been debated on and off.
Of course there are strong arguments on the merits of a national securities system, that it perhaps would be more efficient, less cumbersome and less costly. It would certainly be of great assistance to the six or seven smaller provinces that do not have the capacity to come forward with a very robust system of securities regulation.
On the other hand, we have very strong arguments, to which the member referred, regarding the autonomous nature of some of the businesses in certain areas of our big country, especially the province of Quebec with its unique culture and unique business and, I would consider, a very robust system of securities regulation, and also in Alberta, which relates perhaps more to oil and gas, and in British Columbia, which is more directed to mining. These are unique markets with their own autonomous systems.
There are arguments on both sides. The government has made it part of its policy and it has, and I suggest wisely, referred the matter to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not it is constitutionally legitimate, whether or not it is within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada. It is my position before this House today that the debate really should not take place until that decision is rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada could come back and say that it is certainly well within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada and the debate could continue. I also should point out that I believe that references have been started in the courts of appeal both in the province of Quebec and in the province of Alberta, which of course would carry on most likely to the Supreme Court of Canada.
If the Supreme Court of Canada states that the Parliament of Canada has no legislative authority to be involved in this matter, then my context in this debate would change dramatically.
Maybe the Supreme Court of Canada would come back with a hybrid decision that it is within the legislative authority of the Government of Canada but that there are caveats and conditions as to what we can or cannot do. Again the whole tenor and nature of the debate would change.
The motion reads in part, “a matter that is under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and for which they have established” et cetera. Says who? That is a statement that originates from this motion. I believe it is a statement that was also made in the legislative assembly of the province of Quebec. It is a statement that has been made by other commentators, but there is a whole host of other commentators, scholars and lawyers that state the opposite.
It is my position that this debate really should take place after the decision is received from the Supreme Court of Canada. There are very contrasting and conflicting opinions on this particular issue. When we do get the opinion back from the Supreme Court of Canada, then I would suggest that the debate continue and we can debate the matter on the merits, based on the constitutional ambits as set down by the Supreme Court of Canada.
I suggest that was the right thing to do. It is not the way the Conservatives have always gone, especially in some of the crime bills and some of the bills dealing with Senate reform, but in this case we are getting an opinion from the Supreme Court of Canada as to the proper perspective for the debate.
Even if it did come back that it was within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada, it is very clear from the legislation, and it has to be pointed out, that provinces, if they want to protect their own autonomy, if they want to, for their own political reasons, retain the securities infrastructure and system and the regulatory framework that they have, they are certainly entitled to do that. I do not think it would be in anyone's best interest to unilaterally take over the regulation of securities, if there are certain provinces, and I assume these would be the larger provinces, not the smaller ones, that wanted to retain the legislative jurisdiction.
As far as I am concerned, right now it is somewhat of a phony debate as to whether someone supports it or does not support it. We cannot have an intelligent debate not knowing the correct constitutional framework in which the debate will occur. A decision, as the previous speaker indicated, will be tabled by the Supreme Court of Canada within the next 12 to 24 months, at which time I suggest this debate could continue. Individuals from the different parties could bring forward their respective arguments and then we could go forward on a political basis.
Having said that, I am certainly not going to support the motion. With the matter presently before the Supreme Court of Canada, I believe the debate should be tabled. A bill has not been presented by the government House leader. There is no legislation before the House right now. I do not know why we are continuing to debate this.
Maybe the intent is to stop it in its tracks, but the whole issue ought to be subject to a full debate. However, it should be subject to a full debate within the correctly established adjudicated and constitutional framework so that people cannot make statements that it is a matter under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of Quebec. It may or may not be correct and depending on whether it is or is not correct would very much frame the debate in the House.
Having said that, I have followed this issue and some of the comments made by the second-last speaker were about efficient securities regulation. I am not going to disagree with that, but one issue I have found troubling for at least 20 years is the apparent lack of capacity right across Canada to enforce our securities regulation. I could list 50 or 60 cases where there was what I consider to be very serious fraud carried out on investors right across Canada. They are not Quebec situations; they go right across Canada. The provincial securities regulators just did not have the capacity, the wherewithal or the legislation to deal with the situation.
Perhaps the most grievous one that comes to everyone's mind, though it is a little old now, is the Bre-X case. I believe there were something like $2 billion of investors' money that disappeared. It just went. It was certainly fraudulent securities regulation, trading, everything, but in hindsight, was anyone ever convicted of a criminal offence? No. Was anyone ever convicted of any securities offences regarding this situation? No. Was there ever any money paid to any investor? No.
That repeats itself in the Michael Ritter and Earl Jones situations, et cetera. When one reads about it in the papers, one comes to the very stark conclusion that right across Canada, the provinces do not have the capacity to deal with these situations.
Studies have been mentioned. Someone previously talked about an efficient system. I have in my hand a study from November 2009 in which Pricewaterhouse ranked Canada as the fourth most fraudulent country out of 54 countries. The countries that were more fraudulent were Russia, Kenya and South Africa.
To summarize, this debate has been going on for 56 years. Legislation is not before the House. The matter has been quite correctly referred to the Supreme Court of Canada and I would like to continue the debate once the decision is rendered by that court.