House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was investment.

Topics

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I hope the House will indulge me for just a moment.

I just want to say that I first dealt with the Minister of the Environment in 2002 when he was then a candidate for a byelection. He stepped aside in that by-election so that I could become the member of Parliament for Calgary Southwest and then Leader of the Opposition. Ever since then, it has been one of the most delightful relationships I have had.

In public life, of course, the minister was elected as the member for Calgary Centre-North in the elections of 2004, 2006 and 2008. Since this government assumed office in 2006, he has held a number of senior and trusted positions, the portfolios of which he just mentioned, but he was also chair of the cabinet committee on operations, which really has made him the chief operating officer of the Government of Canada.

I know that in all of those functions he has earned the highest respect, not just of me but of all his colleagues in the government, of all his colleagues in Parliament and of all Canadians who have worked with him or dealt with him in the numerous positions he has held.

I want to conclude by wishing him and wishing Karen all of the best in their future endeavours.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments on behalf of the official opposition to make some remarks about the Minister of the Environment, the member of Parliament for Calgary Centre-North.

I have come to know the minister over the last several years and we have occasionally been sparring partners. I have come to know him and have watched his career flourish over almost a decade, first as a member of Parliament and then as the minister of Indian affairs, the minister of industry and now the Minister of the Environment.

On behalf of the official opposition, we would like to wish him well and thank him for his years of service, almost a decade of long hours, tough travel and demanding assignments.

I did have the opportunity to work with him, as I mentioned, but one of the most memorable moments I shall never forget was watching my 17-year-old, six foot five inch son put him into the boards during the Liberal-Conservative MP hockey game. It shall be a moment I will always relish.

He has been a man of principle. I have come to respect him greatly as a person. I think all of us here on this side and all of us in the House would like to offer our best wishes to the Minister of the Environment. We wish him and his family well and I am sure his wife and daughters will be glad to have him back.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to join my House of Commons colleagues in saluting the Minister of the Environment. I would like to tell him that I remember the good times we spent together. Even though we did not always have the same vision of the future, I must say that he was a gentleman in the House. If there is one thing we can all wish him, it is the best of luck in his career pursuits.

I will remember the love of nature that the Minister of the Environment has personified. The creation of Nahanni National Park was probably one of his greatest achievements. We owe the creation of that park to the Minister of the Environment.

On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I salute the member and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will keep my comments short for my hon. colleague and friend. I know he is in a rush to start keeping his bankers' hours, and that will certainly shift some of his work day.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay just informed me that apparently the road to cabinet is through Timmins, from my hon. colleague's beginnings.

Like many other colleagues in this place, we share a great respect for our friend. While we have sometimes disagreed on particular issues, he has always held himself to a high standard of dignity when representing his government's views on whatever issue.

I congratulate him on an important decision he had to make just recently that I think was positive for all of us. This is a place where we often do not get to address the personal. The House of Commons can be a difficult place for that. However, at this moment I think it is an expression on behalf of all New Democrats that we wish our colleague the very best of luck in his future endeavours and that his family warmly welcomes him back to a little bit more of a regular life.

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs--20th Report
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order in response to a point of order raised earlier today by the hon. member for Joliette concerning the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House during this morning's routine proceedings.

The report contains a list of members for the legislative committee on Bill C-49. The hon. member pointed out that an internal proceeding of the committee had not been respected prior to the tabling of the report.

The routine motion of the committee has delegated to the four whips the authority to act as the striking committee pursuant to Standing Orders 104, 113 and 114 and authorizes them to present directly to the chair, in a report signed by all four whips and their representatives, their unanimous recommendations for the presentation to the House on behalf of the committee.

Prior to this morning's tabling, all four whips had signed off on their own individual list but had not signed off on the report as a whole.

I can confirm that all four whips agreed to and signed off on the content of the report that I presented earlier today. Consequently, I would seek the unanimous consent of the House to present a copy of the report signed by all four whips and to substitute this copy for the one presented earlier today.

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs--20th Report
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London have the unanimous consent of the House to table this copy?

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs--20th Report
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Foreign Takeovers
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Before this debate was interrupted, the hon. member for Willowdale had the floor. There are nine minutes remaining in the time allotted for her remarks plus, of course, the questions and comments consequent thereon. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Willowdale.

Opposition Motion--Foreign Takeovers
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to resume my comments on the motion on the Investment Canada Act, in particular the current issue under discussion about the recently declined offer by BHP Billiton and the takeover of Potash. It is not completely a no. We are well aware of the fact that there are 30 more days for further developments.

I am pleased to rise again after my initial remarks and I will take the opportunity to repeat a couple of things, although I will do so in French.

What we need is a strategic vision and a great deal more leadership for Canadian resources. We know that Potash Corporation represents resources that are extremely important, not only for Saskatchewan, but also for the entire country.

Yesterday evening the government, the minister and probably the Prime Minister made a decision, and we all thank the hon. member for Wascana, who is a special member, one of the 14 members from Saskatchewan, but the only one who worked very hard for the people of Saskatchewan and indeed for all Canadians. He is the one who demonstrated that foreign ownership of Potash Corporation would turn out to be a very bad decision because of the strategic importance of the company.

The 13 Conservative members from Saskatchewan had nothing to say. Nothing at all. In the midst of all these discussions and knowing the clear views of the majority of citizens in Saskatchewan, the majority of Canadians, the Premier of Saskatchewan, the Premier of Alberta, the Premier of Manitoba and so many others, the 13 Conservative members from Saskatchewan said nothing, and sat back and did nothing. But that is not necessarily their fault. What is really disappointing for us is that it is clear that the Prime Minister's Office controls everything.

Some members cannot even speak and cannot even act in the best interest of their constituents, the people of Saskatchewan and the people of this country. That is really unfortunate. Our country has a very serious problem right now if certain members of Parliament cannot speak and cannot defend the interests of the people who elected them.

It is a little awkward having a speech that gets broken up by question period and significant events. Therefore, I will reiterate a couple of concerns that I raised at the beginning of my speech.

There is value in foreign investment in Canada but it is important to have a clear delineation of what net benefit means in this country. We in the Liberal Party are very supportive of foreign investment. People have said a number of times over the last couple of decades that there have only been two, this being the second, proposed foreign investments that have been refused. The first one was based on security issues. During the Liberal government and the Conservative government before that none had been refused.

In past Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments, the Liberals have indicated sincere and enthusiastic support for foreign investment. What we are now seeing is the complete lack of transparency and understanding in this process of what on earth net benefit means.

We have a Prime Minister who has completely flip-flopped in the space of two weeks in terms of what his own personal preference might have been. We have a minister who said in his announcement that the department made no recommendation. How on earth could the department not make a recommendation when it has so many people who are talented and hard-working? How the minister could say that there was no recommendation is beyond comprehension. It really speaks to the control of this kind of decision-making within the Prime Minister's Office.

The larger concern is that it completely muddies any understanding of what net benefit is in this country. Of all of the proposed acquisitions that we have dealt with over the last couple of decades, there have been a number that did not go through. They did not have to go through the formal process and did not have to be denied but there was enough involvement by members of the department and back and forth discussion with potential buyers.

In a number of cases acquisitions did not go through because that was clarified and made clear to the potential acquirers before they wasted their time and money going through the entire process.

We have seen now that this complete lack of clarity has allowed a company like BHP Billiton to go this far, only to be denied. Had we had a much clearer definition of net benefit to Canada, it would make foreign investment more likely. This is the point I very much want to stress. For those of us who are very strong supporters of increased foreign investment, this potash arrangement should not be seen as anything other than an issue related to a very distinct, strategic resource. This is not to be taken as an indication of Canada's overall enthusiasm in welcoming foreign investment.

What we do need is for potential foreign investors to know what the rules are before they waste time and money proposing acquisitions and investments in Canada. Although I do not support all of the aspects of today's motion, I do support a significantly greater level of transparency. Not only do we support the provision of a significantly greater level of detail in terms of what net benefit actually means, but we call on the government to provide it.

In that regard I want to mention the incredible work by the member for Wascana who has worked tirelessly in support of the best interests of Saskatchewan. I also want to mention the noticeable silence on the part of 13 Conservative members of Parliament from Saskatchewan. I have a real concern about the level of control by the Prime Minister's Office and the silencing of members of Parliament. On the commercial side, I want to stress that we do encourage foreign investment, but we are turning it away by being unclear in what we require in terms of net benefit.

I welcome any questions and look forward to having continued discussion with my colleagues.

Opposition Motion--Foreign Takeovers
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite not yet having been in government and possibly never will be either, does not seem to be able to make the distinction between talking and making clear one's opinion privately and where it counts in some instances and also the other difference of keeping one's powder dry, so to speak, in the public domain, sometimes because of legal constraints. The member with her legal background should appreciate the nuances of this.

Is the opposition member for Willowdale not aware that government caucus MPs have some greater responsibility incumbent upon them at such a time as this? I refer to the member for Wascana. I thought she was going to refer to the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt or one of the other good members of our Conservative caucus as she built up to that. However, the member for Wascana should know the need for there not to be even the appearance of imprudence. I think it was before her time, but she might recall a scenario involving the member for Wascana who was blamed for losing the 2006 election for the Liberals. There were allegations that the member for Wascana's office was not discreet enough in respect to a decision on income trusts.

Is the opposition Liberal member for Willowdale not aware of criminal sanctions that apply to government members who are not as yappy as opposition Liberal members?

Opposition Motion--Foreign Takeovers
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not rendered speechless very often, but I am somewhat taken aback by the fact that one of the members from Saskatchewan has finally spoken and has had the nerve to refer to an incident that was in fact proved to be completely wrong. The member for Wascana was shown to have the utmost integrity and had nothing to do with any of the allegations. With all respect, the member opposite should be very, very careful about raising allegations that have been proved to be untrue.

I will also address the concern there might be in the process of the Investment Canada Act. The member opposite is absolutely right, in that I happen to have some significant familiarity with the legalities of Investment Canada rules. He knows very well there are not the restrictions he is pretending to hide behind. He also knows very well that of all of the people who do have an obligation during that period, members of the cabinet and the Prime Minister have the largest of those responsibilities. For the Prime Minister to stand in the House and suggest erroneously two things, that Potash Corporation was an American controlled company which is absolutely false, and that in his view an Australian company taking over an American company did not matter to him, one, is completely false and two, showed an immense amount of bias that was completely improper on behalf of the Prime Minister. It has sullied the process.

Opposition Motion--Foreign Takeovers
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if I understand correctly, the hon. member for Willowdale said she cannot support the motion. I wonder what she finds wrong in the motion after the speech she just made.

The motion refers to “making public hearings a mandatory part of foreign investment review”. What is wrong with that? What is wrong with “ensuring those hearings are open to all directly affected and expert witnesses they choose to call on their behalf”? What is wrong with this? What is wrong with “ensuring all conditions attached to approval of a takeover be made public and be accompanied by equally transparent commitments to monitoring corporate performance on those conditions and appropriate and enforceable penalties for failure to live up to those conditions”? What does she find wrong with that? If she does not find anything wrong with that, could she tell us what she finds wrong with the rest of the motion?

Opposition Motion--Foreign Takeovers
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing the discussion about how to elaborate fully on the criteria for net benefit, which the country so desperately needs. I do encourage much greater transparency in the process, as do all Liberals. We do support that, absolutely.

Personally, I have some concerns about the extensive list of required benefits, simply because from my business background, I do understand that in some cases there may be significant benefit in some areas but not necessarily in others.

It speaks exactly to the problem that we do need to clarify the criteria of net benefit. They may not all be cumulative. They may not all have to be there at the same time. In some cases, being able to accomplish one may prevent a business from accomplishing all of the others. It is in the nature of international businesses and the nature of foreign investment.

I appreciate the effort absolutely. There are some details in the motion that I personally struggle with, but I think the hon. member knows that my heart is in the right place.

Opposition Motion--Foreign Takeovers
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to see that the member was so easily convinced by the member for Acadie—Bathurst, but I can say just as a comment that she may be confusing the fact that a person making a lot of noise is actually accomplishing something. The member for Wascana certainly is not short of bluster or rhetoric, but during the 13 long, Liberal years, I do not recall the member not approving any application for a foreign takeover. In fact, since 1985, I do not recall one. I wonder what she might have done with the Liberal rubber stamp.