Flaherty's pitch for a new securities regulator

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (right) was in Calgary Thursday where he gave a speech to the Canada West Foundation. He spent the first part of this speech re-telling the “Conservative story” — all the things his government has done since it took office. He also noted, as many economists have also done, how well Canada’s economy is doing.

But then, for the last section of this speech, he delivered a strong pitch for a single national securities regulator, like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  One of the biggest opponents of such an idea is Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.

I was not at the speech but I asked the Minister’s office for a copy of it. Here’s an excerpt of the text they provided me:

…there is more to do if we are to keep our economy on an upward trajectory.

Through this Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement Alberta and British Columbia are blazing a trail to a stronger and better Canada. I believe these provinces can provide similar economic leadership by supporting a Common Securities Regulator.

Canada has a strong Financial Services Sector that spans the country providing good high paying jobs. We have a great story to tell, one of economic success, visionary entrepreneurs, growing competitiveness and unbounded potential. And the world sees that potential.

Yet we have a capital markets regulatory system that is holding us back. A system of 13 regulators that is clearly out of step with our global competitors.

We are the only industrialized country without a Common Securities Regulator. For many, our system is seen as cumbersome, fragmented, slow and repetitive, and lacking the proper tools of enforcement.

To maximize our potential, we must work collaboratively to develop a competitive advantage in global capital markets and reform Canada’s securities system.  This is the thrust of the Capital Markets Plan our government issued with Budget 2007.

Three years ago, all provinces and territories, with the exception of Ontario, agreed to a process to create a “passport-style” system to regulate securities.

Through their actions, the provinces and territories have demonstrated a clear commitment to improving our securities regulatory system. I applaud them for that. Their recent initiatives to narrow regulatory differences and harmonize and streamline securities laws are important to achieving a more efficient and effective securities regulatory system.

But unfortunately, they do not go far enough or fast enough.

As I told the provincial and territorial Finance and Securities Regulation Ministers the passport system is simply inadequate for where Canada needs to be:

1) With the passport, Canada still has 13 securities regulators, with 13 sets of laws, however harmonized, and 13 sets of fees;

2) The passport lacks national coordination of enforcement activities – making it difficult to maximize results on this critical part of the system; and,

3) The passport does not address our need to improve policy making.  It is still necessary to obtain agreement from 13 regulators to make changes to rules.

The vast majority of capital market participants and observers agree that we can no longer afford to sit back and watch our competitors pass us by.

We can no longer afford missed opportunities. Those who seriously considered all of the great advantages we have to offer in Canada, our educated labour force, our social benefits, our strong economy, and yet opted for a country with a more efficient market system.

We must move to a Common Securities Regulator now. The benefits are well known.

It will:

  • lead to more investment and jobs;
  • protect investors;
  • save money;
  • and give all regions a real say.

Such a solution would make the regulation of our markets more responsive and accountable by creating a decision-making body that would co‑ordinate the views of all jurisdictions promptly and fairly. 

Recent developments in global capital markets underscore the need for policy and regulatory capacity that can be applied quickly and effectively to address new and emerging issues.

A Common Securities Regulator would improve market efficiency and ensure the best use of money and resources by making the system more efficient to operate, lowering costs and making it more affordable for all who benefit from it, both those with capital to invest and those with businesses to build.

A Common Securities Regulator would improve enforcement and better protect investors with a common set of sanctions and remedies and better enforcement across the country. By serving as a single contact for law enforcement agencies, both at home and abroad, to share information and detect market fraud. By being able to set clear enforcement priorities across the country, while making sure investigation and enforcement resources are deployed efficiently.

A Common Securities Regulator would better serve our common interest by having a structure that would allow all regions of the country to participate in market regulation in a more meaningful and constructive way. By having a structure that would ensure broad and equal participation by all provinces and territories, with a strong on-the-ground presence in all regions with local expertise that would respond to regional needs.

A Common Securities Regulator would also represent an opportunity to move toward simpler, more principles-based regulation.  Canada needs a regulatory framework that is world-class but also adapted to the make-up of its capital markets, with both Canada-based global corporations and a large number of small and medium-sized businesses. 

Too many complex rules get in the way of both efficient financings and effective investor protection.  Western provinces have championed more streamlined, principles-based regulation.  Exerting further leadership in developing a single code for Canada, with the right balance of rules and principles, would help establish a clear competitive advantage for Canada in global markets.

A Common Securities Regulator would also allow Canada to speak with one voice on the international stage, enhancing the protection and promotion of the interests of Canadian market
investors and businesses.

For example, I personally have been championing the concept of free trade in securities with my counterparts in the U.S. and other G7 and international partners that share high standards of investor protection.  Under mutual recognition of each other’s regime, our investors would have better access to global opportunities, and businesses listed on our exchanges would have better access to global investors.  It is a win-win proposition and I am getting enthusiastic responses from my counterparts. 

Clearly, there will be a first-mover advantage.  Our securities regulators are engaged constructively but our capacity to implement a strategy and secure an agreement for all of Canada would be greatly enhanced with one regulator clearly accountable to negotiate on Canada’s behalf.  We don’t have that, and it clearly puts us at a disadvantage.


Conservatives on the Riviera — maybe not so much

This sounds like a good story:


NDP Official Languages critic Yvon Godin (Acadie-Bathurst) demanded the Harper Conservatives tell hard-working Canadians just how much the federal government is paying to send three Conservative cabinet ministers to the French Riviera to learn French.

“To ask average Canadians to foot the bill for three Conservative cabinet ministers to go to the French Riviera to learn our official language is an insult and elitist,” said Godin. “There are excellent French schools right across Canada where you can immerse yourself and gain valuable language skills, but apparently classes offered in our country aren’t good enough for Harper’s Conservatives.”

This summer, Conservative cabinet ministers Rona Ambrose, Jason Kenney and Bev Oda attended the Institut de Français, (view from the school, above) located between Nice and Monaco on the French Riviera, for a month-long language training session.

But aides for both Minister Kenney and Minister Oda said neither were in France over the summer. (Kenney is already fluently bilingual, incidentally, although many often take the chance to hone their French over the summer).

Minister Ambrose was indeed in France on a personal holiday for which she paid. Her spokesman confirmed that Minister Ambrose took a course at the Institut but that the Minister paid for that course with her own funds.

“We take issue with the NDP not checking the facts and making insinuations about questionable expenses of a minister,” said Pierre Florea, Ambrose’s communications director.

A four-week midsummer course at the school is 2,930 Euros (about $4,200 Cdn dollars) and accommodation at the school is an additional 450 to 2,200 Euros.


Pat Binns to Ireland

As the Charlottetown Guardian first reported, the former Conservative Premier of Prince Edward Island, Pat Binns, is Canada’s newest ambassador. Binns has just been named Canada’s Ambassador to Ireland — a job which, in diplomatic circles, is considered quite a plum.

Binns, 58, is also a former Conservative MP, who sat in the Commons from 1984 to 1988 when Brian Mulreony was prime minister.


Please mark one …

Elections Canada today published the official list of candidates for the three by-elections to be held in Quebec on Sept. 17.

For the record, in the last general election, the Bloc Quebecois won Roberval and Saint-Hyacinthe and the Liberals won Outremont.

The Conservatives think they have a decent shot in all three ridings but probably more so in Roberval-Lac St. Jean, which is next door to Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn’s riding. The Liberals hope to hold Outremont from a strong challenge from both the Conservatives and the NDP. The Bloc will likely not be a factor in Outremont but expects to hold the other two ridings.

Here’s the lineup from which voters will choose:

Alexandre Amirizian (Canadian Action Party)
Romain Angeles (Independent)
Mahmood Raza Baig (Independent)
Jocelyn Coulon (Liberal Party of Canada)
Gilles Duguay (Conservative Party of Canada)
Jean-Paul Gilson (Bloc Québécois)
François Yo Gourd (neorhino.ca)
Jocelyne Leduc (Independent)
Régent Millette (Independent)
Thomas Mulcair (New Democratic Party)
François Pilon (Green Party of Canada)
John C. Turmel (Independent)

Jean-Luc Boily (Green Party of Canada)
Louise Boulanger (Liberal Party of Canada)
Éric Dubois (New Democratic Party)
Céline Houde (Bloc Québécois)
Denis Lebel (Conservative Party of Canada)

Bernard Barré (Conservative Party of Canada)
Jean Caumartin (Liberal Party of Canada)
Brigitte Sansoucy (New Democratic Party)
Michel St-Onge (Canadian Action Party)
Jacques Tétreault (Green Party of Canada)
Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac (Bloc Québécois)
Christian Willie Vanasse (neorhino.ca)

Ottawa backs GO Transit

Mike WallaceThe Conservative MP for Burlington is a rookie named Mike Wallace. Wallace (left) and I were both at the University of Guelph together. He was a student politician and I was a student journalist (and a rather unsuccessful student politician).

I suspect that the student politicians and student journalists at Guelph today might take note of what Wallace just announced that will affect those at his alma mater:

GO Transit expands bus service to the University of Guelph

Canada's New Government, Ontario's Government and GO Transit, today announced the start of extended GO Transit bus service on the Milton Corridor to the University of Guelph… [Read the full release]

This bus service to the University will only cost taxpayers $4–million – $2–million from the federal treasury and $2–million from the provincial coffers. 

Wallace, acting on behalf of Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, also announced an expansion of the Lakeshore West GO Train service. A new track will be laid in and the parking area at the Burlington, Ont. station of Aldershot will expanded. The federal and provincial governments will each kick in $24–million to this project.

Jack goes north

While Garth Turner heads west for a series of town hall meetings, the NDP’s Jack Layton is going north:


Meetings with Premiers, Mayors and community leaders planned

OTTAWA – NDP Leader Jack Layton departs this morning for a four-day tour to meet ordinary Canadians in the Arctic. An NDP delegation will travel to five arctic communities, meeting with political and community leaders, participating in traditional feasts and seeing first hand the challenges and opportunities facing the North.

“The Prime Minister’s focus on military solutions for Arctic sovereignty is too narrow” said Layton. “The NDP knows that to protect our northern sovereignty means addressing social, economic, and environmental concerns,” said Layton.  “The growing prosperity gap, being felt by average individuals and by the communities in which they live needs to be addressed once and for all.”

Also on Layton’s agenda is climate change. “We can’t proclaim sovereignty over our Arctic waters if those same waters are not protected from climate change,” said Layton.

The NDP leader will be joined by NDP MPs’ Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic) and Jean Crowder (Nanaimo-Cowichan) as well as academic and author Dr. Michael Byers.  Dr. Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia. He is a well-known expert in Canadian sovereignty and author of the recently released book “Intent for a Nation: What is Canada for?” 

Layton will be meeting with Premier Paul Okalik of Nunavut and Premier Handley of the Northwest Territories.

Layton will be in Iqaluit on later today, then will head to Pangnirtung for a tour of Auyuittuq National Park. On Friday, it’s a community feast in Rankin Inlet and community meetings in Cambridge Bay. Finally, on Saturday, he’ll hold a town hall meeting in Yellowknife.


Take that, Sudan!

Just out from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade:

The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that Canada has decided to expel a diplomat from the Embassy of Sudan in Ottawa in response to the Government of Sudan’s unwarranted expulsion of Canada’s chargé d’affaires:

“Canada considers the expulsion of our chargé d’affaires to be entirely unjustified. Wherever they are posted, Canada’s diplomats will continue to work to uphold Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

Earlier this month, Sudan had kicked out Canada’s top diplomat in that country.


Legalize Afghan poppy crop, says Green Party

The Green Party is repeating its call to legalize, license and commercialize Aghanistan’s poppy crop. The call comes on the same day that the independent research group,The Senlis Council, releases recommendations it wants the Canadian government to adopt for a “Poppy for Medicine” program and just days after the latest United Nations report that says Afghanistan is the source of more illegal drugs than Columbia.

It’s time to abandon the failed campaign to eradicate Afghanistan’s poppy crops and adopt a new plan that helps the Afghan people earn a decent living while marginalizing the drug lords and warlords, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said today.

She called on NATO and the international community to endorse the Poppy for Medicine (P4M) project – licensing opium poppy cultivation for the production of Afghan-made morphine to be exported to developing countries through special trade agreements.

“How much more evidence is needed before we finally admit that eradication has failed?” asked Ms. May. “Opium production is exploding. The area under poppy cultivation is increasing year by year and Afghanistan now produces more than 90 percent of the world’s opium. The drug economy represents half the country’s GDP.”

U.S. lags on network speed, Internet innovation

In the U.S. — and to a degree here in Canada — there is a growing public policy debate about “network neutrality”, the idea that the Internet and data networks generally ought to be open and based on international standards. Open or neutral networks, the thinking goes, allows for greater innovation, reliability and, not insignificantly, greater customer choice.
With that in mind, The Washington Post reports today that the U.S. — where networks are arguably more “closed” than elsewhere is being left in the dust when it comes to bandwidth available to customers and to Internet-based applications:

Japan's Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future
TOKYO — Americans invented the Internet, but the Japanese are running away with it.
Broadband service here is eight to 30 times as fast as in the United States — and considerably cheaper. Japan has the world's fastest Internet connections, delivering more data at a lower cost than anywhere else, recent studies show.
Accelerating broadband speed in this country — as well as in South Korea and much of Europe — is pushing open doors to Internet innovation that are likely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States…

Remembering Christian Duchesne

This just out from the Department of National Defence:

Master-Corporal Christian Duchesne, a member of the 5th Field Ambulance stationed in Valcartier, passed away in Afghanistan on 22 August 2007. To honour is memory, his spouse, Gina Bourque, and his three “little princesses” Camille, 9 years old, Ariane, 5 years old, Justine, 3 years old and his parents Danielle and André Duchesne, would like to release a public statement:

Christian was on Afghan ground for a little over a month when his light armoured vehicle struck a land mine. We remember very well our phone conversations during the preceding days and weeks. Christian mentioned how much he loved his work as a medical technician. His desire was to lend a helping hand to a nation tormented by war and to support his brothers in arms.

He passionately described his expeditions in villages near Kandahar to care for the locals. Watching the afghan children, he couldn't help but think of his three “poupounes” (little darlings), which he missed dearly. Before leaving, he gave his three daughters, Moka, a kitten, which was an additional presence to fill the house. Today, the arrival of Moka takes a whole new meaning. His eldest daughter, Camille, even said that the kitten had become her “replacement daddy”.    

Christian grew up in Boucherville surrounded by his family and friends. In his youth, he was a sports lover and practiced swimming, kung fu, weightlifting and excelled especially in baseball. He studied at De Mortagne high school and wished for a career as a psycho educator. At the age of 19, he preferred a military career.

Behind his shy grin and buried underneath his somewhat introverted personality, one could see a burning passion for his trade. Thirsty for adventure, travel and knowledge, he discovered a life filled with challenges. For over twelve years, he met each and every one of these challenges with his spouse Gina by his side. “Christian was a good guy, nice, mild mannered, affectionate, an exceptionally present father, capable of infinite love and who always wanted to do more”. These are the best words to describe the husband, son and father that was Christian. He dreamed of becoming a medical assistant or a search and rescue technician to broaden his knowledge, but more than anything, he wanted happiness for the ones he cherished.

Despite the tremendous pain we feel, Christian remains for us a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in a just cause: helping others. We want people to remember Christian's sacrifice. We encourage Canadians and Quebecers to continue supporting our soldiers, if only by putting a “Support our troops”
sticker on their vehicles. In our eyes, the best way to honour Christian's memory is to continue the mission with confidence and determination. Christian would have celebrated his 35th anniversary on September 24th.

“We will miss you.”

And here’s something that was new to me: Canada.com offers a “Guest Book” service. Many have signed MCpl Duchesne’s guest book.