Madam Speaker, what do the Panama papers, the Pandora papers and the Paradise papers all have in common? They are leaks that revealed who was hiding behind shell corporations in tax havens, those anonymous companies for which it would be otherwise impossible to determine actual ownership. Without those leaks, it was only possible to identify the names of the administrators, typically a big corporate law or accounting firm.
By lifting the corporate veil, these leaks helped identify wealthy fraudsters hiding money from the tax man or criminals hiding dirty money out of sight. When it is impossible to identify who is hiding behind a shell company, that opens the door for profiteers and fraudsters of all kinds, people who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes at the expense of everyone else, people who recirculate ill-gotten gains in the real economy by hiding behind secret companies. It is not normal to need to rely on leaks, whistle-blowers, hackers or journalists to find out what is behind these companies. That information should be public.
There is nothing like transparency for combatting fraud. That is essentially what Bill C-42 addresses. It amends the Canada Business Corporations Act to force the directors of federally incorporated businesses to report their real owners to Corporations Canada. Then, Corporations Canada can create a registry of the real company owners, a public registry that anyone can consult. Bill C‑42 will introduce a bit of transparency, which is a good thing. The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C‑42, and I encourage all parliamentarians to do the same.
Before I get into the details of the bill, I want to tell members a secret. When I saw that the government had introduced a bill to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, I was worried. As members know, business ownership and property rights fall under provincial jurisdiction. In Quebec, these things are governed by the Civil Code. Every province has its own securities commission. In Quebec, we have the Autorité des marchés financiers.
However, over the last several years, Quebec and the provinces decided to coordinate and harmonize their respective laws. Since they all have very similar legislation, registration with the Autorité des marchés financiers is automatically recognized by all of the provinces. That means that a Quebec company can easily raise capital and do business outside Quebec through mutual recognition under what is known as the passport system.
Since this works well, Ottawa has no reason to interfere, there is no need for federal securities regulations, and Quebec's jurisdiction over financial matters would be respected. Without that respect, we would likely see Toronto become the centre of financial activity at the expense of Quebec, particularly Montreal's financial sector.
However, this is viable only if governments continue to work together and essentially harmonize their laws. That is why I was concerned when I saw that the government wanted to change the Canada Business Corporations Act. If Ottawa acts unilaterally, as this government all too often does, if it has not aligned its efforts with Quebec and the Canadian provinces, if the laws are no longer similar, the mutual recognition system will not be as successful. Ottawa will then have the excuse it is looking for to justify its desire to centralize everything, as it has been trying to do for three decades.
However, I did breathe a huge sigh of relief when I saw Bill C-42. As I mentioned earlier, Bill C‑42 will establish a searchable public registry of the real owners of businesses. This commitment to transparency reflects a unanimous decision made at the G20. It has been implemented properly in Canada in a manner that respects each party, so I say bravo. The federal government and the finance ministers of Quebec and all the provinces have coordinated their efforts and agreed to work together, while respecting one another's independence.
In 2017, they all independently agreed to change their respective laws to require companies to collect, in their own registries, the data needed to identify the real owners. At the federal level, this was done in June 2022 with the passage of Bill C-19, a budget implementation bill. This data is beginning to be collated and made available to the authorities in the event of suspected fraud.
In 2018, they came to an agreement on how companies were to share this data with their respective governments and how the governments were to make the data public. That is what we are debating today. There was no need for federal standards where Ottawa would put itself in charge and tell Quebec what to do. Everything was done respectfully.
The National Assembly of Quebec passed Bill 78 in June 2021. This legislation reflects the agreements made in 2017 and 2018. Quebec was the first government in America to pass such legislation. It is interesting that this debate is being held today, on March 31, 2023, because Quebec's Bill 78 goes into force today. Since nine o'clock this morning, the registry of real owners can be consulted in Quebec on the site of the Enterprise Registrar.
Since not all businesses have provided their information as yet, the search engine is not yet active, but it will be soon. It will be operational within the year. With the passage of Bill C‑42, the federal government will do the same for federally incorporated businesses. The provinces have passed or are preparing to pass similar legislation.
I see that members' statements will commence momentarily. I will continue my speech once we resume debate on this bill.