House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was investment.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering what changes the hon. member would like to see specifically made to the Investment Canada Act so that there is some balance in the act, one that recognizes and acknowledges the value of foreign investment, but perhaps also one that would require that the net benefit that is procured through the legislation and through the review remains in Canada.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not get into detailed specific dialogue; we do not have enough time for that. Suffice it to say that the current act is not doing the job it needs to do. It is not protecting Canadian jobs.

Since the Conservatives took power, we have seen 400,000 manufacturing jobs leave this country and disappear entirely. The manufacturing is still going on, just not here. That is a huge number of good paying, family supporting jobs that have vanished. They have not vanished; they have just gone offshore.

We need to look at the act and make sure that we can stop this bleeding now.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from York South—Weston on his contribution to the debate. Obviously, the government is not, but we will do our job.

I would like him to comment on the importance of keeping the knowledge these big corporations develop here, the patents they develop in heavy metal industrial companies. Why is it important for our modern society to keep this knowledge here? It is not about big corporations making profits. Profit was not the issue here.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, locomotive engines are not sexy, like the Canadarm was. Locomotive engines are important. Locomotive engines have an incredible amount of technology, an incredible amount of knowledge, patents and the rest which come with them. We should not stand by and watch that disappear.

That is important to Canada and it is important to the workers of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleagues from all parties to support this motion. It clearly condemns Caterpillar's decision to close its locomotive assembly plant, which has resulted in the loss of 450 direct jobs. Another 600 jobs were lost when White Birch Paper, in Quebec City, closed its doors.

We are calling on the government to table, within 90 days—which is feasible because we will surely have the time with all the time allocations it is moving—draft amendments to the Investment Canada Act to ensure that foreign buyers are held to public and enforceable commitments on the net benefit to Canada and on the protection of Canadian jobs. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians work in the manufacturing sector, which is in decline, but which is nonetheless important to a modern industrial society such as ours.

The Investment Canada Act is the main mechanism we have to review foreign investment proposals and approve or reject them. The act came into force in 1985 with the main objective of ensuring that foreign acquisitions represent a “net benefit”, a benefit to Canada. However, since it came into force, more than 1,500 foreign acquisitions have been approved under the act, and only two have not. More than 12,000 others were not reviewed under the act because they did not exceed the thresholds of $5 million for a direct acquisition, $50 million for an indirect acquisition, and $330 million for acquisitions by or from WTO investors.

The act has often been criticized for its lack of transparency, consultation and effectiveness, and for certain shortcomings with respect to its enforcement. It has very strict provisions concerning confidentiality, which make it difficult to disclose information. However, I have heard the Prime Minister say that he wanted an accountable, responsible and transparent government. This is definitely not evident in his recent actions.

The NDP's 2011 election platform contained several proposals regarding the Investment Canada Act, including reducing the threshold at which it would apply, increasing transparency, clarifying the meaning of “net benefit”, holding public consultations and ensuring public disclosure of all relevant information, particularly with regard to the quality and ethics of foreign investors. There are communities that are affected by these investments, and we must ensure that there will not be any negative impacts on the social fabric of these societies and communities, which are often rural but can also be major centres.

The hon. member's motion gives two prime examples of how the government's formula for giving large companies tax credits has failed. As I was saying, Electro-Motive in London and White Birch Paper in Quebec City alone represent a loss of 1,000 jobs, 1,000 families. That is not counting the other companies that have closed or have cut their staff. The job losses in these cases are certainly smaller, but they are just as significant to the communities that welcomed these companies. Often, the red carpet is rolled out. Communities want to welcome companies. The regions need these companies and they need the manufacturing sector. The departure of these companies is brutal. This is a very poor track record for a government that boasts about valuing job creation in our communities and the economic health of our country.

The hon. member's motion gives the government the opportunity to do things differently, to not turn its back on the Canadian families that it claims to hold in such high regard. Given the abject failure of the current system, the government should have the humility and decency to admit that the Investment Canada Act, as it now stands, is not effective and should agree to work with the opposition—for once—in order to bring about change and give Canadian families a chance to get out of this crisis. We often hear the government say that it has created 600,000 jobs. Where are they?

In the current climate of budget cuts, the Conservatives are determined to keep giving gifts to their big business buddies. Canada has become the laughingstock of big international corporations. It is too easy for them.

They are well aware that they can just come here and take advantage of our system and our workers. Our workers work hard and sacrifice their health to work for these companies. Then the companies leave town after they have sucked as much as they can out of these families with our government's help. That is scandalous. When will the government side with Canadians instead of with the big companies that take advantage of them?

The motion moved by my colleague from London—Fanshawe is extremely important to the future of our manufacturing sector. Hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of Canadians depend on this sector for their quality of life. These people are society's middle class. They are the people who contribute the most to our quality of life because they are the ones who consume the most and keep the economic wheel—the wheel of life—turning.

The middle class has been hit the hardest by all of the economic crises we have seen over the past 30 years, since 1980. After the “glorious 30” came the “laborious 30”. What does the future hold? The industrial sector—since that is what we should really be talking about today—started to decline in the modern era of globalization, and this is having a serious impact on Canada's morale. The industrial and manufacturing sector used to flourish in this great country in several domains, including the processing of leather, textile, paper, wood and metal, as well as appliance assembly. All of these domains have been hit hard by the inaction of successive Liberal and Conservative governments.

I am well aware of the principles of economic theories that say we must do away with the weak sectors when they are not performing. But this has no longer been the case for the past several years. Businesses that are doing very well and providing immediate benefits to their communities are being shut down and their owners are leaving. Someone else acquires them and then it is all over. Contrary to what this government believes, it is not a question of labour relations when an investor hijacks our economy and takes our jobs out of the country.

The NDP has absolutely no objection to foreign investment, contrary to what people here sometimes say. We simply want to ensure some sort of framework for investments in order to better protect our interests, our quality of life and the social fabric of an entire modern society in Canada. I truly believe that this government is completely out of touch and does not care about ordinary Canadians, especially considering some of the stand-up comedy routines we hear from its members to defend policies and ideas that are completely biased by an ideology that is not shared by the majority.

Everything they say in the House is nothing but insults and nonsense. The Conservative members from Quebec should be ashamed of themselves, because they are not standing up to defend the interests of Quebeckers or the manufacturing sector. The same goes for the members from Ontario. I feel as though this government no longer wants to work for the middle class. The social fabric created by these stable, good jobs forms the foundation of a modern, advanced society. I have yet to see the Conservatives do anything to support that. No sensitivity, no compassion, no logical reasoning on the part of a 21st century government. It is with great sadness that I conclude with a quote from our former leader:

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.

We can do it.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, can my hon. colleague tell us what foreign investments would be welcomed by the NDP?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question, even though I am not sure what kind of investment or what sectors he means.

No matter, foreign investments are welcome in all sectors. That is not the problem. We believe that when it comes to investment in Canada, the Canadian government must protect these jobs and ensure that they will be there in the medium and the long term. In the short term, there are no benefits because there are no immediate returns. There are immediate returns when we make medium- and long-term investments in industries, no matter which ones. The investments will ensure the long-term survival of a social fabric and a community. They will ensure that the convenience store stays open, that the restaurant stays open, and that these communities will thrive.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's address was substantive and passionate as usual. It was very interesting.

The NDP has presented some real solutions in this debate, some things that the government can do. While the government is wringing its hands and saying to the families of those laid-off workers that it feels bad for them, it is not taking up the challenge that we have put forward to come up with some real solutions, ensuring that if it is not going to step in and do something about things now, that is going to do something to prevent this type of activity from happening in the future.

Could he comment on what he thinks the motivation is for the fact that the government is not prepared to make any changes?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is not prepared because it does not have a plan. It does not have a clue as to what is happening in the world right now.

The economy is struggling. We have to take action now to protect our Canadian and our foreign investments. We have to protects our jobs. We have to do the proper thing and not give big tax deductions to big corporations. There is no benefit to that.

We must take action in the industrial and manufacturing sectors because we need the jobs right now.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has signalled to us that it is about to sign some kind of trade deal with Europe. I am aware that Europe has much stronger protection for its workers in its industrialized sectors. When there are purchases of locomotives or transit equipment, there are buy Spain, buy France and buy England requirements. Yet we have nothing in Canada.

Could the member comment on our failure, despite the fact that the government will sign this deal with Europe, to protect ourselves?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

We must protect these jobs. The importance of barriers—they are not barriers, but conditions—is that they ensure that the jobs created in Canada are stable and viable in the long term. We cannot do nothing; we must protect a social fabric, a society with a long history. If we do nothing, if we bow down every time we enter into a free trade agreement with another country, this will just happen all over again. We are losing entire sectors of our economy at the hands of foreigners who appropriate our technology and take it elsewhere. It makes no sense.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

I am very pleased to speak to the motion presented by member for London—Fanshawe. It goes without saying that we are disappointed by Caterpillar's decision to close its Electro-Motive Diesel facility in London and by White Birch Paper Company's decision to close its idled Stadacona plant. I can tell members why from a very personal perspective.

I grew up in Cape Breton and unfortunately witnessed the closing of the coal mines, steel plant and the collapse of the fishery during the time when I was in high school there. I have great sympathy for the workers and their families affected by the decisions of these companies.

Unfortunately these events come at a time of global uncertainty. Because of that uncertainty, and as has already been pointed out, the government has taken significant steps toward helping manufacturing in our country.

Specifically, we have provided tax relief. We have enabled a 50% straight-line cost allowance rate for machinery and equipment. We have eliminated tariffs on machinery and equipment and on industrial inputs. We are investing in skills training, infrastructure, supporting research and efforts to commercialize innovation. The results are clear. Nearly 610,000 new Canadian jobs have been created since July 2009.

It is also important to reaffirm our government's commitment to welcome foreign investment that benefits Canada and Canadians. Foreign investment is absolutely critical to the Canadian economy. It introduces new technologies and practices that promote growth, employment and help spur innovation here at home. Foreign investment brings some of the most productive and specialized firms in the world to Canada and results in some of the highest paying jobs for Canadians.

Our government also realizes that Canada is a player in a globalized economy that provides opportunities to connect our firms to the rest of the world, and that is important. It allows our firms to grow, compete and become global industry leaders. In fact, Canadian firms have invested billions of dollars throughout the world and that has expanded markets and stimulated Canadian exports.

Therefore, foreign investment, both into Canada and by Canadian firms abroad, is a win-win for the economy. As a performer in the world economy, Canada has continuously attracted far more than its share of foreign investment and the result has been job creation for Canadians and economic growth for the country.

A policy opposed to any foreign investment, and make no mistake that is the real NDP policy here, simply ignores the facts. If we shut Canada's doors, it would have a devastating affect on our economy. Our productivity would fall, jobs would be lost, Canadian firms would be denied access to world markets, consumers would suffer and Canadian innovation would lag behind. It is obvious that foreign investment brings critical benefits to Canadians and we just cannot afford to fall behind.

Forbes magazine has recently named Canada as the top destination to do business in the world. To maintain our top ranking, we need to stay open for business and we need to welcome foreign investment that benefits Canada. This government will continue to bring the benefits of foreign investment to Canada by providing the right economic climate so firms in Canada will continue to prosper and create jobs for Canadians.

I want to be clear about the jobs. Companies recruit, hire and employ Canadian workers and terminate employment. However, foreign buyers also have to know that they must operate under federal, provincial and territorial standards and regulations. Federal and provincial legislation governs collective bargaining between the employers and the bargaining units. Once a union is certified, the employer must bargain with the union in good faith and attempt to reach a collective agreement because labour relations are a key issue for businesses and workers.

In our federally regulated sector, we strive to help the parties co-operate and work effectively toward common goals. Labour-management conflict does get the headlines, but labour-management co-operation really is the norm in our country. We know that Canadians take pride in their work and they want their businesses to be successful. We all realize that we have very strong common interests. Therefore, a spirit of co-operation guides our efforts to promote a harmonious industrial relation in our sector.

We work closely with workplace stakeholders to achieve that common goal of facilitating agreements between workers and employers. In the vast majority of instances, collective bargaining does work. The parties involved negotiate in good faith, are willing to compromise and end up with an agreement with which everyone can live. It is seldom necessary for the government to step in. However, where necessary, mediators and conciliators can and do assist employers and unions to resolve their differences without resorting to a work stoppage.

As I stated at the beginning, I am deeply disappointed that the parties in the two cases we are discussing today were unable to successfully negotiate a new deal. However, in all cases, whether federal or provincial jurisdiction, the deal which the two parties are able to reach on their own really is always the best one.

Although federal laws govern employment in federal workplaces and businesses, such as aeronautics, banking and communications, the vast majority of employment relationships in Canada are governed by provincial or territorial authorities. In the case of Caterpillar and White Birch Paper, provincial laws and standards apply. We believe that treating employees affected by a termination of employment with respect and dignity is of the utmost importance.

For federally regulated workplaces, the termination of employment is covered by the Canada Labour Code. Termination and severance provisions help protect workers from those sudden changes in employment. They also provide security through the transitions.

We know, we realize and it is accepted that Caterpillar and White Birch Paper are not federally regulated workplaces. Nevertheless, our government is quite aware that the workers who have been laid off need to be helped. That is why Service Canada is quick off the mark to provide direct assistance to the affected employees during this very difficult period.

Service Canada has been in contact with the employees to offer information sessions and provide them with information on how, where and when to apply for employment insurance benefits. General information and other applicable Government of Canada resources, such as income support programs, skills development and training, labour market information, as well as programs and services from the provinces, will also be provided at these information sessions.

Let me just underline that we help Canadians gain the skills and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency. We also provide targeted supports for those facing particular barriers. We do all of that in partnership with the provinces and territories because our goal is to build a fair and a prosperous Canada where no one is left behind. Strong economic stewardship is a critical ingredient of this. We will ensure that Canada remains on the right track for economic growth and jobs. That is our commitment to Canadians.

While we disagree with the actions of Caterpillar and White Birch Paper and we really wish that this situation would have been handled in a vastly different manner, we advise members to defeat this motion as worded.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the minister talked about the past in her speech. President Kennedy said that victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan. Clearly this is true. Since 2008, Canada has lost 400,000 jobs in the industrial sector, and it is nobody's fault. The lack of industrial policy is not important. The lack of economic measures by the government to support an order book is not important. The lack of an infrastructure program that would generate employment for the industry is not important. Clearly, this was an act of God.

The minister also does not listen to the Minister of Finance, who told the Standing Committee on Finance that the dramatic increase in the Canadian dollar may have caused the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the industrial sector but that this was no big deal, that these are jobs that come and go and that he had complete confidence in the Canadian economy, despite it all. The Minister of Finance's statement can be found in the committee transcript.

If all is well, how does the minister explain that 400,000 jobs have been lost in the industrial sector?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question because he does bring up an interesting topic to me of industrial policy. I am the representative of an area that is very close to the manufacturing sector in southwestern Ontario. Indeed, I have had two plants close in my own riding, which has been devastating to the community because of the fair, decent-wage jobs lost.

However, I have to say that the approach of the government has been consistent and effective in industrial policy. We create the conditions and the atmosphere for the companies to create the jobs. That is what we are supposed to do, and that is how we do it. We have done it through programs with respect to manufacturing and through the tax system, as I talked about in my speech.

In the case of forestry, for example, we made some significant investments into the forestry sector, the natural resources sector, between 2009 and 2011. That has been incredibly important, through marketing innovation, through ensuring that new products can be developed, to ensuring that we are dealing with the threat with respect to the green transformation of our pulp and paper programs.

Those things matter. It has been billions of dollars in targeted investments to support our key industrial sectors, and we have done a great job at it.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the minister is very much aware, and we would ask her to be more sensitive to the fact, that Ontario has had a very difficult time over the last few years with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost within the manufacturing industry.

Now we have this recent incident in London, with Caterpillar, which has had a very profound impact, not only on those who have the jobs but also on the community as a whole.

The minister is in an interesting position. Being the Minister of Labour, can she tell this House if she or her department was given any advance notice that this would happen? When did she and her department first find out this was going to happen?