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 jobs.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, absolutely we are in favour of free trade. What we are not favour of is unrestrained globalization and that is what we have here. This is the Prime Minister's dream. Let any company from any country walk in and not just buy up our natural resources, but buy the rights to mine those natural resources.

From that unbridled globalization, we are now facing energy insecurity, a lack of sovereignty over our own natural resources. Do we invite trade freely? Yes, but it has to be regulated. How much is too much?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member two similar questions in the sense that the Prime Minister was very happy to show up and do a photo op and give the company money. We have to question the Prime Minister's ability to negotiate the conditionality of a loan because that is, after all, taxpayer money.

Second on a related but much larger issue, is that we seem to get the pandas, but the other guys get the pipelines. Therefore, we give away way more. Has the hon. member any thoughts with respect to the capacity of the government, but particularly the capacity of the Prime Minister, to negotiate deals that are actually favourable to Canada?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are giving away way more. The Prime Minister bends over backward to accommodate any other country. I have often said that he is the kind of prime minister who will wait on tables and offer whatever the people want who come to his table. When they have taken everything and they are bloated, he gets nothing in return. He has done this in the United States by pandering to Americans and allowing them to have protectionist laws passed, yet there is no response whatsoever to them in their protectionist efforts. Now he is pandering to China.

Yes, we need to have trade with China, there is no question, but at what cost? How much is he giving away? How much is he giving away in comprehensive economic trade agreement? On rights to our water, he is giving away sub-national rights so that cities cannot negotiate their own deals and they will be forced to deal with foreign interests.

Yes, he is giving away plenty and Canadians are now afraid of the Prime Minister.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for a quick question.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a very quick question. The motion is to amend the Investment Canada Act in order to provide a clearer definition of the “net benefit to Canada” of transactions or acquisitions. How do the hon. member for Guelph and his party define the concept of net benefit to Canada in such acquisitions?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the issue. We have to sit down and have a conversation, put parameters and make definitions to this net benefit to Canada. Right now it is the whim of the Minister of Industry or the whim of the Prime Minister, depending on the day and the corporation that is asking to buy a Canadian corporation.

There ought to be parameters on maintaining the head offices in Canada and should they leave suddenly, perhaps they should be responsible to return the benefits that they have received from our country through SR&ED writeoffs or other loans and benefits, but we need to have the conversation.

The Conservatives said that they would change the legislation and they have not done it. They will not get the job done.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, Tourism Industry; the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, National Defence.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join in the debate today on the NDP motion. The principle and intent of the motion is something that our party has no problem supporting. Hopefully, the way it is presented is seen by the government as a call to action.

It has been a strange day of debate. When we come to the House and wrestle with any particular issue, it is a political environment. When we look at what is taking place, with the severity of the closures and loss of jobs in both the plant in London and at Papiers White Birch, we would hope that the debate would rise above political rancour and that we would deal with what we could do better as a country to ensure Canadians would not lose jobs.

Nobody in the House wants to see Canadians lose their jobs. The political parties may have a different approach and a difference sense as to how best to ensure that most Canadians are able to work on a steady basis, provide for their families and grow in their communities.

The situation is London is not foreign to me. We had a plant close down just recently in Port Hawkesbury, the NewPage pulp and paper operation. It was a little different situation. It was owned by an American company and the operation in the Port Hawkesbury area was actually profitable. It made both newsprint and super calendar paper, the glossy paper used in catalogues and high end magazines. The mother company in Wisconsin filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and subsequently we lost the operation in Port Hawkesbury. It was truly unfortunate.

There were 600 jobs there, plus wood lot owners and spinoff jobs. The real sad part is those who were receiving pensions and approaching pension age lost their pensions. The pension at that particular plant was underfunded. I know the regulation of pensions is a provincial responsibility and it would fall under the realm of the province of Nova Scotia. Hopefully, the province of Nova Scotia will embark on a full review of the regulatory regime to ensure that if there are closures in the future, and inevitably there will be, that those pension plans are fully funded. They need to have enough in them so people who work in those industries, after working for 25 or 35 years, when it comes time to retire they will have what they planned and hoped to draw as a pension. That is the reality we face.

The situation in London is obviously different. When we see a company like Caterpillar reporting record profits, when its senior management and shareholders all benefited from record sales over the last number of years and when the revenue lines at the corporation continued to grow, we would have hoped that it would be able to share some of that success with its employees, and they were unionized employees.

One that did not make sense was Papiers White Birch. We knew that company was trouble. We knew the newsprint industry had certainly fallen off over the last number of years, and it had asked the workers to make concessions. It was a completely different set of circumstances in London. The business was in good shape, the company was making money, yet it asked its workforce to take a 50% reduction in wages. When the negotiations were going nowhere, the company locked the workers out and inevitably shut the plant down. Based on that decision, those jobs are going south to Indiana.

It is not just the loss of jobs but the loss of the technology as well. Much of that technology was developed here in Canada. It was developed over a number of years through incentive programs that prior companies would have benefited from, programs that were put forward by Liberal governments. Certainly the companies benefited from the approach on tax reduction. The workers did not benefit much, but the companies benefited from the tax approach the current government embarked on.

The loss of the technology, the loss of the jobs is certainly a devastating situation for those directly impacted. However, even more broadly, these are not just jobs for individuals but good-paying jobs within the community, jobs that certainly have spin-off effects. This will be felt all the way through that community.

I am a little disappointed with the response from some of the government speakers. The couple that have been up today have done infomercials, saying what they have done for the people of London. They talked about investments in parks and here, there and everywhere. That is unfortunate because the intent of this going forward is to help Canadian industry so that we can continue to grow the jobs here in Canada. When government members dismiss it as just a labour dispute, I think that is a disservice to the debate taking place here today.

There was a comment made that this particular deal, this particular acquisition, did not meet the threshold that would trigger an ICA review. Maybe that is something we should be looking at, whether or not the threshold is too high or too low. That is something that should be brought forward and discussed, and it could be looked at in committee.

Whatever the government might say, one thing for sure is that there are still 450 people out of work in London as a result. The jobs and technology have just moved south. No matter what the government says, that is the reality of the situation.

I would hope that the government would see the sense in this motion and maybe support it. We know that this problem has been identified before. We can look at what transpired over a year ago in Saskatchewan with the potash situation there. We know that at the time the then-minister, who is currently President of the Treasury Board, said that the situation warranted a full review of the act by a parliamentary committee. That is what he had promised at that time.

The act is 35 years old. Certainly the economy has changed. The business world has changed. Where we are as a nation has changed. After 35 years, it should be reviewed. The then-minister had committed to that at the time. Since then, he has done nothing. The current minister is saying “No, the legislation as it stands is adequate”.

We are not going to solve all of the problems here in the debate today, but there is one thing that I hope this debate will do. The government has the full intellectual horsepower of the bureaucracy, the federal bureaucrats. Hopefully it will be able to tap them to come up with some type of a plan or strategy that would make sense, so that going forward Canadian jobs and technology will be protected, so that we will not see this happening again to these workers, communities and industries.

I hope the government supports the motion today and sees it as a call to action so that we can get some movement and some action on this particular issue.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the first few minutes of my hon. colleague's speech, he said something that really caught my attention, that no one in this House wants to see another Canadian lose his or her job. We all have different ways to talk about that and different ideas, which is what the debate is about. However, what the member said at the end of his speech is what we are talking about today.

This started in the last Parliament when BHP was seeking potash. Unfortunately, my community was the one that started all of the discussion about the Investment Canada Act with Vale and Xstrata taking over Inco and Falconbridge.

What we need to do today is to have the government support what we are trying to accomplish. If we read the motion, it calls on the government to do this:

—to table, within 90 days, 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.

I think we should all support that and I would like to get the member's comments on it.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, a similar question was posed in the House today and I would like to read it back into the record. In the wake of “the government's about face on foreign investment in potash more than a year ago, the former minister of Industry promised a new policy, a definition of “net benefit”, greater transparency, enforceable conditions, quick remedies, reciprocity and commercial behaviour by state enterprises”. However, the new Minister of Industry no longer subscribes to that view. It strikes me as a little strange that a year and a half ago the government seemed to grasp and understand this.

We believe in investment and we believe in foreign investment. However, I think there has to be a set of conditions applied here so that Canadian jobs and technology do receive some type of protection.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the member's attention that in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie, Essar Steel Algoma is owned by an Indian company and TenarisAlgomaTubes by an Argentinian company. These companies were going to go out of business. No Canadian company stepped up to the plate to make the huge investment required. There are 3,900 unionized Canadian jobs in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie because of foreign investment.

I would like to ask the member opposite what he would say to the hard-working residents of Sault Ste. Marie who are working for majority foreign-owned companies.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is good news. From my remarks I would hope that the member for Sault Ste. Marie would never think the Liberal Party is against foreign investment.

We are not against corporate tax cuts either. There is a time and a place for corporate tax cuts, but I do not think it is the time and place for those when the government is running a $45 billion deficit. Certainly, when we were in a position to offer corporate tax cuts, we did.

Foreign investment is something we welcome as long as there are provisions and parameters to protect Canadian interests, technologies, jobs and communities. I think that is in everyone's best interest. Hopefully the motion today will move the government to look at this 35-year-old legislation so that Canadian interests will be protected.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sudbury.

I am proud to speak today to support the motion moved by the hon. member for London—Fanshawe. If the House were to adopt this motion, the government would finally be taking a significant step toward ensuring that the interests of corporations and the interests of our constituents are not in conflict. This motion might be the first long-awaited step toward enabling the Canadian economy to work as it should. This would create wealth for all Canadians, not just for the owners of foreign corporations. Imagine an economy that all Canadians could count on for their future and their family's future. What a pleasure it would be to visit the workers in my riding to tell them that the government is doing something to protect jobs and strengthen the local economy.

Unfortunately, we are seeing the opposite. Canadians are being told that the unemployment rate is going up and that the economy is recovering too slowly from the crisis. We learn that economic inequalities are increasing and forcing seniors and children to use food banks. We learn that housing is becoming less and less affordable, which is forcing honest workers, often parents, into homelessness.

When we learned that the unemployment rate had reached 7.6%, the highest it has been since the May 2 election, the people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel began feeling really and truly afraid. The average annual household income in my riding is about $20,000. This motion would force the government to take action to protect manufacturing jobs and other jobs. This would give my constituents greater financial security, strengthen the local economy and, basically, ensure the economic survival of the region.

Here is what we need to do. We should begin by strengthening the Investment Canada Act. We need to keep in mind that the purpose of that legislation is to ensure that foreign investments deliver a net benefit to Canadians. This legislation must ensure that the businesses that come to Canada give more than they take. This legislation was implemented in 1985 under the Brian Mulroney government to protect our collective interests. Although the intentions behind the legislation were extremely noble, it lacks the teeth, strength and leverage needed to achieve the desired results.

It is time to amend the Investment Canada Act to enable it to do what it was meant to do. We have lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs in Canada since this government came to power. This year alone, we have lost 40,000 of those jobs. Economists and several studies tell us that if the Conservatives continue on the same path, Canada could lose another 68,000 full-time jobs because of the reckless cuts this government plans to make.

Offering tax cuts to business with no strings attached is the main way in which this government has responded to the crisis. Our corporate tax rate is already very low. It was 21% in 2008 under the Liberals and is now 15%. This is much lower than the tax rate in the United States, which is approximately 40%. Companies enjoy extremely low tax rates, but they have no obligation to create jobs.

Over 12,000 takeovers by foreign companies were not even reviewed under the act because they came below the very high investment threshold stipulated in the act. The NDP would reduce this threshold to a responsible level of $100 million. This would ensure that foreign companies take us seriously when we say that Canada's natural resources and extremely low tax rates do not come without strings attached. Investments must truly provide a net benefit for Canadians. This legislation does not even define the net benefit for Canadians. This omission, I fear, will result in the legislation being ineffectual. The New Democrats are working on addressing this serious shortcoming.

We want to describe in detail what a net benefit means. The key elements of this definition will be that workers are guaranteed a job and a pension and that communities benefit from investments.

The Conservatives want us to believe that the only thing that creates jobs is ill-considered tax cuts. This is quite simply not true. The vast majority of my constituents work in small and medium-sized businesses. Their employers are often fathers and mothers, just like them, who work hard to keep their businesses afloat.

As I said earlier, the Conservatives have lowered the tax rate for big companies to 15%. Unfortunately, more often than not, these big companies have disregarded the welfare of workers and surrounding communities, which is quite the opposite of small businesses, which have solid roots in their communities. The tax rate for these small and medium-sized businesses remains at 11%, which is very high for the businesses in my riding. The New Democrats are calling for this tax rate to be lowered to 9%. Helping small and medium-sized businesses must be a priority in order to keep our communities vital.

My riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is the perfect example of a place where small businesses, SMEs, create jobs that families can count on.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

February 9th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her speech and to talk specifically about the importance of her constituents. She was talking about how many of them work in small and medium-size enterprises. We have seen the abject failure of the Investment Canada Act to truly protect Canadian jobs. We have seen from the Conservatives corporate tax giveaways that have no direct benefit to these small and medium-size enterprises where her constituents work.

Maybe the member would comment specifically on what she would like to see the government implement and what a New Democrat government would do.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats would strengthen the Investment Canada Act by reducing the threshold for investments subject to review to $100 million, and providing explicit and transparent criteria for the net benefit to Canada test, with an emphasis on the impact of foreign investment on communities, jobs, pensions and new capital investments.

More than just improving the Investment Canada Act, New Democrats would govern in a much fairer way. We would take care of our small and medium-sized businesses that create about half the jobs in Canada. The Investment Canada Act is only one lever among many available to the government to help protect and create jobs. However, the government is failing to use them.

We need to take immediate action to address the job crisis in Canada.