House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was coins.


The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, an act respecting advertising services supplied by foreign periodical publishers, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

In my opinion the nays have it.

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Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I recognize that five members did not stand. However, there was an understanding that we would have a recorded vote. I think the House would agree that a fifth member was deemed to have stood.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is that agreed?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday.

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Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, on the same matter, there have been discussions with representatives of all parties that the division on the amendment brought forward by the Reform member would take place on Tuesday, October 27, at the end of Government Orders.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this manner?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Pursuant to the Standing Orders, the recorded division stands deferred until Tuesday, October 27, 1998, at the end of Government Orders.

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Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

moved that Bill C-41, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mint Act and the Currency Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, 10 years ago the legislation governing the mint was amended to allow it to become a full commercial crown corporation. It is now time to review the legislation to bring it up to date, to reflect market realities and to provide the mint with the power to meet the challenges of the future.

Its mandate is to provide Canadians with high quality, cost effective circulation coins while operating profitably. It also manufactures and markets high quality collector coins and foreign circulation coinage.

Indeed, Canadians can be proud of the fact that last year the mint produced one billion coins for 16 different countries. By the end of this year the total will rise to an awesome two billions coins.

This global business, which on average accounts for 70% of the mint's revenue, works to reduce the overall cost of Canadian circulation coinage.

The mint not only covers its costs, but returns a profit to its shareholder, the Government of Canada. Last year that profit reached an admirable $4.1 million.

I trust that hon. members will agree with me that the Royal Canadian Mint is a source of national pride, providing an essential service to the Canadian economy while creating the beautiful coins that help celebrate proud symbols of our nationhood.

The mint's strategic vision is to be a world leader in minting through people, innovation and quality. The proposed changes to the Royal Canadian Mint Act that we are discussing today are essential for the mint's achievement of this strategic vision.

Let us get into these amendments a little more. To modernize the act, we propose that the process for approving coins be simplified so that the Royal Canadian Mint can meet market needs more quickly. The markets for these coins are extremely competitive and constantly changing.

Investors buy coins of various denominations and degrees of purity. Collectors and people shopping for a gift expect to have a large selection of models, denominations and metals to choose from. In order to keep generating revenues for Canadians, the mint requires a legislative framework allowing it to respond quickly and efficiently, to take advantage of opportunities on the market for coins not intended for circulation.

These are in large part coins made of precious metals to celebrate or commemorate major national events and sold to coin collectors and enthusiasts across Canada and around the world.

Our proposed amendments would give the mint the power to set and change any of the coins' features except their design. It would still be up to the minister responsible for the mint to approve coin design. These amendments would streamline the mint's decision-making process, so that it can stay attuned to the market and continue to be client centred while at the same time retaining control over coin design.

Indeed, coin design would continue to be decided by an elected representative. As I said previously, the mint's mandate is to supply Canadians with circulating coins that are of high quality, cost effective and delivered on time.

The proposed amendments will rationalize the approval process, thus improving the mint's capacity to fulfil its mandate.

I want to assure the House that, with respect to the coins Canadians use on an everyday basis, elected representatives and the minister responsible before this House will continue to have the last word.

Therefore, I would encourage my colleagues to support this legislation and send it to committee where we can look at it clause by clause and hear witnesses. After a good debate in committee we can come back to the House for a final debate and accelerate the process so the mint can make the necessary decisions in order that Canadians and the rest of the world will continue to enjoy the high quality of the coinage produced by the Royal Canadian Mint.

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10:10 a.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to debate this bill. The hon. minister alluded to the pride that Canadians have in the various minted coins we use and in those coins that are collected by investors and coin collectors. We are all proud of the Canadian coins.

I will address certain aspects of the bill. I will first look at the object of the Canadian mint. Then I will look at the present legislation and the provisions that currently exist for the operation of the mint. Then I will compare those provisions with what the bill is proposing to change.

I draw the attention of the House, for review purposes, to the object of the mint. According to the act that established the Royal Canadian Mint, the object of the mint is “to mint coins in anticipation of profit and other related activities”. The act goes on to detail rather specifically exactly what the mint is to do. Its legislative powers are as indicated in the object.

It continues:

In order to carry out this mandate, the Mint may exercise any or all of the following powers:—

We need to look specifically at these powers because they are quite different when the proposed legislative changes are taken into consideration.

They are:

To produce and arrange for the production and the supply of coins of the currency of Canada; to produce coins of the currency of countries other than Canada; to melt, assay and refine gold, silver and other precious metals; to buy and sell gold, silver and other metals; to assay, refine, store and otherwise deal with gold, silver and other metals for the account of Her Majesty and others; to prepare and store shipments of coin, gold, silver and other metals and to move such shipments to or from the Mint; to make medals, plaques and other devices; to borrow or lease precious metals that it requires for the purpose of its operations; to acquire, hold and alienate real property or any interest therein; to make grants in lieu of taxes to any municipality in Canada in amounts not exceeding the taxes that might be levied by that municipality in respect of real property under the administration and control of the Mint if the Mint were not an agent of Her Majesty; and to do all other things that are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the objects and the exercise of the power of the Mint.

That is a pretty comprehensive list. The mint has in its corporate plan 1996-2000 indicated rather clearly how it has translated those particular powers into its operation. I would like to read into the record exactly what the mint has said in that report:

Canada's national mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, is one of the world's foremost producers of circulation, collector and bullion investment coinage. It is one of the largest gold refiners in the world. The mint is highly respected, in Canada and internationally, for the high quality and variety of its products and services. Its numismatic and precious metal investment coins, all promoting Canada, are sold in over 60,000 retail outlets worldwide.

Some might wonder what this numismatic business is. Numismatic has to do with coins and with people who collect coins or who invest in coins. It has to do with precious metals that are not in general circulation but that are there for a very special commemorative purpose or some other reason. They are made of special metals and have a value.

The report goes on:

The Royal Canadian Mint is designated a Schedule III-II crown corporation under the Financial Administration Act. The mint reports to parliament through the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

The mint manufactures all of the circulation coinage used in Canada and manages the supporting distribution systems for the Minister of Finance. It also carries out research on coinage demand.

I draw attention to that sentence because what has happened here is going to come up a little later in my speech.

Furthermore, the mint develops proposals to introduce high quality, less costly metals or metal alloys in Canadian coinage in order to reduce costs and improve seigniorage for the Government.

This has to do with the circulation of coins that actually have an intrinsic value lower than their face value, the penny for example. We go on to the nickel, the dime and so on.

The mint is also concerned about the security of supply and price competitiveness of coinage metals used in Canadian coinage.

In recent years the mint's commercial activities have been impacted by intensive international competition, changing investment markets, economic slowdowns and recessions. After consistently producing profits annually from the time of its incorporation in 1969, the mint experienced an operating loss of $3.475 million in 1994

The minister told us that in the last year it had a profit. That is good.

In order to address this situation they produced this plan, the turnaround plan. That plan is now operating and, according to the minister's numbers, apparently is working all right.

That is a very interesting development. We now look into exactly what has happened in that turnaround plan and what the government is proposing to do in introducing this new legislation.

The minister told us the purpose of the legislation and as far as the statement went, it was accurate and complete. I think we need to commend the minister for some of the aspects of that statement.

I would now like to read the summary contained in the bill itself:

This enactment amends the Royal Canadian Mint Act to update the terminology for coins in order to reflect the markets served rather than the metals of which the coins are composed.

The amendments simplify the process for issuing coins by giving additional powers to the mint and to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

This is the core of this bill. The mint is given the capacity of a natural person and the power to incorporate subsidiaries and to acquire and dispose of interests in other entities. Other amendments of an administrative nature are also enacted.

It is that central part that we want to draw some attention to right now. As the mint has gone along and looked at the existing legislation, its current interpretation and application of that legislation, it has issued a mission statement.

That mission statement has three parts. First, to provide quality coinage at a reasonable cost to enable the Government of Canada to meet the needs of Canadians.

Second, to manufacture and market on a worldwide basis high quality collector circulation coinage and precious metal investment products and market refinery services.

It is pretty clear that in the coinage part of this operation we are not in a growth industry. It is a mature stable industry. That comment will become a little clearer as to its significance as we move along into examining this bill.

I would now like to look at the provisions of the new bill and read into the record the new powers that are being given to the mint under this act. We are dealing here with section 4(1). Remember what we said the powers of the mint were before. Here are the new powers:

In carrying out its objects, the mint has the rights, powers and privileges and the capacity of a natural person and may in particular

(a) procure the incorporation, dissolution or amalgamation of subsidiaries and acquire or dispose of any shares in them;

(b) acquire and dispose of any interest in any entity by any means; and

(c) generally do all the things that are incidental or conducive to the exercise of its powers with respect to

(i) coins of the currency of Canada,

(ii) coins of the currency of countries other than Canada,

(iii) gold, silver and other metals and,

(iv) medals, plaques, tokens and other objects made or partially made of metal.

I do not think it takes a rocket scientist to understand that the powers of the mint have now been expanded very dramatically. We need to ask ourselves questions such as what are these activities that are incidental t, or that are conducive to the mint's carrying out its activities.

One thing is very clear already. The mint is in the refining business. It is my understanding that the Canadian mint refines more gold than any other refinery in Canada. It is clearly in the business of refining gold.

We need to ask ourselves is it also in the business then of buying and selling metals. Clearly it is. The act is very clear that it may buy and sell metals. But very closely allied to this is the full commodities market. The futures market is a very volatile market. There are people in the business who tend to hedge their positions in order to protect certain prices.

But it also means that the mint has the power, according to this act, to get not only into the business of hedging itself against future price fluctuations but to actually get into the act of participation in that market. Can it now buy or sell futures contracts, for example, not necessarily only to look after its own interests but also to actually declare a profit in simply buying and selling contracts on the futures market?

I do not believe that is the intention but the point is the act allows this kind of activity on the part of the mint. I think that is far too much power because whose money is at risk here? Ultimately it is our money that is at risk.

Let me indicate how significant the hedging program can be. Canada's largest gold producer is Barrick, a Toronto based corporation. This is a report in the Globe and Mail October 22. There is a lot of information in here but I will read just one paragraph:

As a result of its gold hedging program, Barrick was able to sell its gold during the third quarter at an average of $400 an ounce, compared with the market price of $290 an ounce. During the third quarter of 1997, Barrick sold its gold for $420 an ounce, compared with the market price of $324 an ounce.

Barrick has sold forward 10.4 million ounces of gold at an average price of $400 an ounce.

There is a good example of what the mining corporations are doing in the marketplace and what the hedging program has to do with the futures commodities market. While there are some very positive things for the investors in a company like Barrick there are also advantages to the mint's buying gold on the futures market at a lower price and to guarantee a particular price in the future. There is a speculative element in here as well.

Will the mint be circumscribed in its activities so it does not get into this speculative market?

Why is this significant? It is significant because of the subsequent amendment that happens later in the act. The subsequent amendment is section 20(1):

The mint may, for the attainment of its objects, borrow money from the consolidated revenue fund or any other source, but the total amount outstanding at any time may not exceed 75 million dollars or such greater amount as may be specified in an appropriation act.

We have to be thankful I guess for small mercies. At least it is limited to $75 million. It was $50 million. It has now increased by $25 million which really means that the public treasury of Canada can be attached to the tune of $75 million. That is our money. That is taxpayer money.

When that is allowed to take place and if the mint can borrow money to get into the buying and selling of precious metals, and it clearly says it may, and if it gets into the futures market it can get into some serious trouble. I would hope the management will not ever do that but the point is the act does not protect the Canadian public from that activity and I think it should do so. It is our money at risk.

It can be argued that it has been able to do that in the past. There is some indication that the mint has borrowed money in the past. The most recent expansion of the stamping plant being added to the mint in Winnipeg is being done with financing to the tune of about $30 million outside of the Canadian consolidated treasury. While that may be true, and I think it is true because there is an indication that it is so, the fact remains the mint has an indebtedness of $30 million. If it will need more money it can go to the consolidated treasury fund for whatever money it needs up to $75 million given the new provisions of the act.

Could the mint get into the mining business itself, in other words buy mining stock? Somebody would say that is a stretch. It is in one sense with the operation of the mint but go back to the powers of the mint and it has all the powers of a natural person.

The interesting thing is that it may acquire and dispose of any interest in any entity by any means, any means as broad as the imagination. One has to be really careful about looking at that and asking what it can get involved in.

I hope that is not the intent. I am sure it is not but nevertheless I think we have to write the act in such a way that there are protections against that kind of thing.

I want to go to the heart of the issue which really has to do with the business of the powers there. I just read a few of them and I want to ask the people of Canada should the Government of Canada be in direct competition or get into an area that private enterprise has demonstrated it can do. There is no doubt that the Canadian mint has to have the exclusive authority to stamp the actual coin with the currency in circulation. It must have that because that is the government's control of the currency operating in Canada. But that has nothing to say with the production of the plating of coins or of stamping coins in the first place. We have at least one corporation in Canada that has been doing this for a lot longer than the mint.

Should the government own a corporation that can be in direct competition with private enterprise? I am unalterably opposed to anything that the government does that the people can do as well or better. There is clear evidence that they can do so. What is some of the evidence?

First, right now before the courts of Canada there is a suit charging the mint with infringing on the patents that are held by the corporation we mentioned, Westaim. That suit is currently alive and unfortunately I am unable to go into the details of the suit. The fact remains there is a patent that is being infringed upon, at least that is what the contest is, by the mint which is owned by private enterprise.

If we look at that sort of suit that is going on in the courts, we look at the balance of powers that exist in this court case now. All the power of the government and all the resources of the government are now pitted against one little corporation. It is not fair. It is an unbalanced situation. Why should government or a corporation of the government ever get into the position of stealing something from another company that is protected by a patent, by the legislation that the government itself has.

Canada can be proud of the number of innovative ideas that have come from scientists. The National Research Council for example has all kinds of patents which have developed and have advanced the technology and have advanced the science of the world. We can be proud of those kinds of things.

Now one of these companies has developed one of those patents and lo and behold one of the crown corporations says “That is mine now”. It is not fair. It should not happen. We will go no further on this but it is very important that we recognize these things.

The second issue is whether there is a need for more coin stamping capacity in Canada. As I stand here today there is reason to believe with considerable confidence that there is right now a 30% overcapacity in the generation of coins to be engraved officially by governments. That includes the current demand of the Eurocoin.

When the Eurocoin demand comes out, and we know what the problem is, that causes an upward spike in the demand. When that disappears that overcapacity will increase beyond the 30% that exists at the present time. Yet the mint is expanding in a market that is adequately served at the present time. Why? The argument is that it is a business decision.

It may be a business decision but it looks to me that it is a lousy business decision because something is going to happen. Either the mint is going to have trouble or this other company is going to be in trouble or they are both going to be in trouble.

We cannot expect a company to succeed and profit when in fact there is an overcapacity. Somewhere along the line there has to be a balance between the supply and the demand that is out there. In fact we get to the point where we ask ourselves, who is in charge here? Is the minister in charge? Is the government in charge? Or is it the mint that is in charge?

Who made the decision to build this plant and add to the capacity of the mint in Winnipeg? Was that done by the minister? Was it done by the government? Was it done by the finance minister? Or was it done by the bureaucrats at the mint? We do not know. It is not clear at this point. These are the kinds of questions that must be answered before we agree to this particular change in the legislation.

It is clear that as the powers of the mint are expanded, and I have just indicated how much they are being expanded, that the mint can indeed thumb its nose so to speak at the government or at the minister and say “This is what we are going to do because we have the powers of a natural person”.

We need to go beyond this. We need to ask ourselves how successful crown corporations have been.

We cannot help but look at Petrofina and now Petro-Canada and the cost that was to the taxpayer and how efficiently that was run. Canadian National Railways became a private corporation recently. It is now starting to make money. It did not before. It was a drain on the public treasury. Canada Post has had a lot of difficulty in its labour relations which still are not completely settled. I have to commend the minister on what is happening now with the dispute with the franchises and Canada Post. There is progress being made, but it is not complete.

We really have to ask ourselves what is the best relationship. We need to move ahead with positive aggression. We need to move ahead with balance and we need to move ahead with fairness.

There are specific concerns in this bill which I have illustrated.

In conclusion I would simply remind members that the powers granted to the mint are too broad. The exposure to risk by the expanded powers to the Canadian taxpayer and to the Canadian treasury should be circumscribed at least. It is to $75 million but it is too high. The government should never do things that individuals can do as well or better themselves. The people can do it and we should not be in that kind of business to provide competition for them.

The bill needs to be amended. There are some housekeeping elements in the bill that the minister has alluded to which I think we need to support. In fact they need to go ahead. However, there are other aspects of the bill that should be looked at very seriously and amended to come into focus so we can have strong private enterprise in the country and at the same time within a framework that is clearly guided by government principles and rules which make it possible for private enterprise to be strong, profitable and which reward innovation and entrepreneurship.

Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my intervention on Bill C-41, the purpose of which is to amend the Royal Canadian Mint Act and the Currency Act, by stating that my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and myself do not disapprove of its ultimate objective, which is to update and enhance the flexibility of the Royal Canadian Mint Act. This is a legitimate objective, and one that is hard to oppose.

We must, however, ensure that amending the act to that end does not create conditions which might bring with them other problems that are far more serious than those we wish to solve. On reading the bill as introduced, one is justified in having concerns about certain proposed amendments to the Royal Canadian Mint Act and the Currency Act.

When we speak of money, whether its issue or its circulation, confidence between the partners is essential. That confidence is born out of the assurance that each partner has of the total honesty of the other.

The very mission of the Royal Canadian Mint requires this institution to have a spotless image and reputation, both in fact and in appearance. That is why the present legislation contains some very clear provisions requiring the administrators of the Royal Canadian Mint not to place themselves in a position of real or apparent conflict of interest.

These strict prohibitions are normal and necessary, because the very image and interests of the Royal Canadian Mint, and of Canada as well, depend on it. They have certainly proven useful, because the Royal Canadian Mint has, until now, always enjoyed a solid reputation for integrity. Unfortunately, I believe most sincerely that, if we do not amend some of the clauses of Bill C-41, we are putting that reputation at risk.

As it now stands, Bill C-41 weakens the legal framework that is in place to prevent any conflict of interest at the Mint. By authorizing the Mint to create subsidiaries, the administrators of which would not be held to the same arm's length requirements, we are allowing it to circumvent the law and we are creating a dangerous opening.

Unless it is amended, the bill is nothing short of an open invitation to patronage and dubious operations. Indeed, clause 2 amends the Royal Canadian Mint Act in a significant way, by allowing the Mint, in carrying out its objects, to procure the incorporation, dissolution or amalgamation of subsidiaries and acquire or dispose of any shares in them; to acquire and dispose of any interest in any entity by any means; and generally do all things that are incidental or conducive to the exercise of its powers with respect to coins of the currency of Canada, coins of the currency of countries other than Canada, gold, silver and other metals, and medals, plaques, tokens and other objects made or partially made of metal.

My colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois and myself support the government's will to modernize the Royal Canadian Mint Act to make this institution more functional. However, it is obvious that some changes must be made to Bill C-41, otherwise its current wording could lead to illicit operations, which is definitely not the objective pursued.

Clause 2 is a fundamental provision of the bill, since it allows the Royal Canadian Mint, in carrying out its objects, to create subsidiaries, to sell any shares in them to anyone, and to buy back such shares from anyone.

Another power the Mint will acquire, still under the heading of carrying out its objectives, is that of buying or selling shares or interests in listed and unlisted companies, anywhere in the world. Finally, this bill will give the Royal Canadian Mint the power to amalgamate its own subsidiaries with each other or with other companies.

Clearly, clause 2 as written is an invitation to patronage and dubious dealings and its scope must be reined in.

The real danger lies in the expression “in carrying out its objects” in clause 4 of the bill, referring to the Mint's power to buy, sell, borrow, lease, store and refine gold, silver and other precious and non-precious metals.

If Bill C-41 is passed, it would mean that each of these operations could be performed by one company, a subsidiary, some, a majority or all of whose shares would not be owned by the Royal Canadian Mint.

Clearly, this government institution would have the power to offload an important part of its responsibilities, to the benefit of a private company over which Canada's elected representatives, and therefore the public, would have no control. The creation of such private subsidiaries, with power to buy, sell and transform assets, presenting a highly speculative dimension that would be very profitable in the wrong hands, makes no sense whatsoever.

The opening provided by Bill C-41 provides too many opportunities for criminals specialized in bribery and patronage, so many that there is no doubt whatsoever, unless clause 2 is modified to limit its scope, that there will be a scandal, sooner or later, which will cast a shadow on the credibility of the Royal Canadian Mint.

If we pass clause 2 of Bill C-41 without adding the necessary limitations, the Parliament of Canada is merely paving the way for certain criminals who specialize in dodgy economic dealings. Let me tell you today that, sooner or later, this government will live to regret it.

There is absolutely no way we can empower the Royal Canadian Mint to hand over to whomever it wishes such important responsibilities as the purchase, sale, borrowing, leasing, storage and refining of gold or other precious metals, because the possibilities of conflict of interest and corruption are so obvious.

Let us take the example of the Mint's frequent mandate of striking gold coinage for other countries.

In carrying out its objects and under clause 2 of Bill C-41, the Royal Mint, required to buy the gold necessary to strike coins ordered by other countries, may incorporate a private subsidiary anywhere in the world to do so.

In all likelihood, this subsidiary would want to find gold at the lowest possible price before making its purchase. It would then strike the coins requested and sell them while the value of the gold market is on the rise and therefore very profitable for the private company and all the more so for the shareholders.

We can continue with this example by imagining that the private subsidiary buys the gold at $200 an ounce in 2001, reselling it transformed into collectors' coins in 2003 when the value of gold has risen to $300 an ounce. The company would therefore record significant profits, thereby increasing the value of the stock of the subsidiary created with the blessing of the Royal Canadian Mint and so much profit for the subsidiary shareholders.

Who would the shareholders be? What private or corporate individuals would benefit from this measure and this manna? The answers to this question are particularly important, since Bill C-41, we must not forget, empowers the mint to sell shares in its subsidiary to those it wishes and at a price of its choosing.

Ultimately, there is nothing to prevent the mint from selling shares in its subsidiary to friends or friends of friends through numbered companies or not. If this is not a path to patronage or other dubious activities, I would like to know what it is.

Far be it from me to suggest that such a door be opened voluntarily. However, consciously or unconsciously, the end is the same. My colleagues will not doubt agree with me that, in this areas as in many others, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Prevention will necessitate limiting the scope of clause 2 of Bill C-41 to prevent conflicts of interest and the unjustified and undue enrichment of individuals in latent or apparent conflict of interest because of the mint's power to create private subsidiaries.

To do so, we must abandon the idea of giving the Royal Mint the power to create private subsidiaries afforded it in Bill C-41. If indeed it were worthwhile for the Royal Canadian Mint to assign some of its responsibilities to its subsidiaries, we should make sure these subsidiaries are above suspicion.

The best way to do this is by amending Bill C-41 to exclude any possibility that a subsidiary be established by private interests. The legislation must provide that any new subsidiary of the Royal Canadian Mint should be a legally incorporated, recognized national or international body such as a chartered bank.

If we want the Royal Canadian Mint to remain highly credible and reputable and prevent its reputation from being tarnished by second-rate subsidiaries, it goes without saying that potential contenders should be subject to certain restrictions.

The probity of the Royal Canadian Mint is beyond price and, in order to preserve it, Bill C-41 must be amended to ensure that the executives of any potential subsidiary care as much about the probity of their own organization.

Following the same logic, it appears essential to me that Bill C-41 be amended to have the provisions dealing with real or apparent conflict of interest for mint directors also apply to the directors of its subsidiaries, which is unfortunately not the case at present.

I will conclude by reminding the House that my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and I do not disagree with the objective of modernizing the Royal Canadian Mint Act and making it more functional. But unless the necessary amendments are made to Bill C-41 to remedy a number of obvious flaws mentioned earlier, we will not be able to support it because the loopholes we have identified in the legislation would have far too serious consequences.

Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP I would like to make a few comments about Bill C-41. I will begin by saying, somewhat in the same vein as the spokesperson for the Bloc Quebecois, that we are not opposed to the bill in a certain sense but we have some concerns which I would like to put on record.

Before I do so, having listened to the hon. member from the Reform Party speak to the bill, I would like to say that whatever concerns we have about the bill we certainly do not share the general critique and opposition of the Reform Party to the very existence of crown corporations that I heard coming from the hon. member from the Reform Party.

It was unfortunate to hear the member from the Reform Party cite the privatization of CN as a good thing. I wonder whether the 3,000 people who were just laid off by CN to increase CN shareholder value share the views of the hon. member from the Reform Party that the privatization of CN and the behaviour that comes from privatization, for example the fixation with increasing and maintaining shareholder value at the expense of employees, at the expense of communities and at the expense of the country's transportation infrastructure. I wonder if they share the hon. member's approval of that kind of behaviour on the part of CN.

It would seem to me that at one point when CN was a crown corporation it was not tearing up rail lines through western Canada, the very rail lines that some of the member's colleagues come to the defence of and say “Please don't tear up those rail lines. Our community needs those rail lines”. One of the reasons they are being torn up is that CN no longer feels it has a mandate or a responsibility to do things in the interest of prairie communities or the infrastructure in western Canada. I would certainly ask the hon. member from the Reform Party to rethink his position about the value of privatization.

With respect to Bill C-41, there are elements of the bill which have to do with modernizing the role of the mint. There are elements of the bill which are purely of a housekeeping nature. We have some concerns, some of which have already been mentioned.

On the whole notion that the mint would be able to create these subsidiaries, I think the member from the Bloc, and perhaps the Reform Party member, rightly pointed out that this merits more examination in committee as to what would be the limits to these subsidiaries, what parameters would they be instructed to operate within, and what would be their nature.

How could we amend the legislation so as to prevent, as the member from the Bloc rightly pointed out, any opportunity being created for temptation to corrupt, patronage or any other activity that might bring into disrepute the reputation of the mint which has a sterling, no pun intended, reputation and certainly one which my colleagues and I would like to preserve.

The question of the subsidiaries needs to be looked at. Perhaps some helpful amendments to clause 2 would be in order. The whole question of conflict of interest has already been raised. How can the bill either be amended or extended, have things added to it which would deal with the possibilities of conflict of interest in the new regime the government is setting up?

The question of the 15 day notice period should be looked at if the mint is about to do something different. I believe it is only with circulating coins. I do not think 15 days is adequate. Fifteen days is like a blink of an eye in terms of the ability of the public to know what is going on, to have discussions within and among political parties, and to get feedback from the business community as to what the effect of any change in a circulated coin might be.

It is very inadequate to say that parliament only requires a 15 day notice and then the government could proceed through order in council. It is certainly something the committee should look at. It is just not enough time. We all know, from being around here, that if we want the people who are to be affected by any such change to have an opportunity for input that 15 days is simply not enough.

I would like to say that we certainly do not share the aversion of my Reform Party colleagues for the expansion of the mint in Winnipeg. We do not see the expansion of the mint and of this activity in the public sector as the kind of evil thing the Reform Party seems to behold it as.

I am familiar with the work of the mint in Winnipeg. It is not in my riding but it is close by. The locating of the new coin plating plant there and the expansion of that facility is not something we are opposed to, but we want all this to be done in a way that does not create opportunities for scandals and mistakes down the line which might eventually call into question either the reputation or the existence of the mint. At the same time as we do not share the Reform Party objection to crown corporations, we do not want to see the activities of this crown corporation privatized in a different way through the creation of these subsidiaries.

There is more than one way to privatize. I want to say to the minister that we are not exactly convinced there is no hidden agenda. Let us get the bill into committee and have a look at these things to see if we can improve it.

Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We will now proceed to Statements by Members. The hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona will have about 12 minutes in debate plus questions and comments after question period.

Emily StoweStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, October is Women's History Month. This year's theme is entrepreneurship and unpaid work. In honour of this celebration my constituents and I want to recognize the achievements of Emily Stowe, an entrepreneur pioneer who played a landmark role in our history.

She was born in Upper Canada in 1831. Although it was a time when employment opportunities for women were very limited, she became a teacher, a doctor, a wife, a mother and a leader.

In 1863 her husband contracted tuberculosis and she sought medical training. The Toronto School of Medicine did not accept women so Emily had to attend a medical school in the U.S.A. When she returned to Toronto, Dr. Stowe became the first woman in Canada to openly practise medicine.

She was committed to equality, was an advocate for women and a founding member of the Canadian Women's Suffragette Association. Her remarkable achievements are recognized in Scarborough at the Emily Stowe Shelter for Women, which provides a home for women and children at risk.

Emily Stowe was indeed a pioneer and entrepreneur and an inspiration in the movement for women's equality which continues to this day.