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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 company.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I think we need to talk about something else, and that is credibility on this issue. The NDP does not have credibility on this issue. It does not have credibility on the issue of foreign investment. It certainly has no credibility on the issue of trade deals. It absolutely has no credibility in the province of Saskatchewan and what has happened there. It was been in power so long that it pretty much destroyed our economy. It has taken this federal government, working together with Saskatchewan, to get it back on track.

We came in on a platform that we would build Canada. We have been able to do that. We have come through one of the thoughest times in the last number of decades. Because of the great leadership provided by the Prime Minister, we have been able to build Canada's strength in the economy. Every one of those things was opposed by the NDP.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I think what the member is really talking about is the great leadership of the Premier of Saskatchewan.

He seems very sure in his view that this takeover should be blocked. Obviously he is basing his opinion on some very strong arguments and facts, not merely on gut political instincts.

Specifically, why does he believe this takeover should be blocked? Why would the Prime Minister, who dismissed this whole takeover bid, as he did in the House last week, disagree with him?

Also, he mentioned all the takeovers that took place during the Liberal era. Which ones does he believe should have been blocked?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, the member opposite probably knows the law and knows the requirements of those law in this situation. I think he is well aware of that. However, I can again go over the kinds of things the Investment Canada Act requires the minister to consider in making his decision. I know these are the things that he considered, things like the effect of the investment on the level and nature of economic activity in our country, the degree and significance of participation by Canadians in that new business, the effect the investment would have on productivity, industrial efficiency, technological development, those kinds of things, the effect of investment on competition, the compatibility of the investment with national policies and the contribution of the investment to Canada's ability.

He knows full well that there is a 30-day period and we cannot comment beyond that. I am not sure why he would try to bring out that comment. It was clear last night that his own leader did not understand the requirements of the act. Hopefully the Liberals understand that a bit better today than they did last night.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member from Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

I recently asked the parliamentary secretary if he was open to transparency and accountability. It is of good note for the public that he refused to even answer the question at all, whether he was supportive or not, or had any actual opinion on the idea of public hearings.

The record shows that there have been 13,500 Canadian firms taken over in a brief amount of time, with only two of those bids being rejected. Out of 13,500 takeovers, the government, and the previous one, found only two that they did not see as a net benefit to Canada.

When we ask the government to define what net benefit actually means, other than just an anecdotal term, it offers nothing. It offers a “trust us” type slogan.

This process allows companies to meet behind closed doors and never involve the public in any moment of the deliberations, never involve the employees, the shareholders, the workers, or the communities that may be affected. This has left a path of destruction behind it. At a fundamental level, it is irresponsible government. It is laissez-faire as an ideology taken to a point of ultimate doom for communities that survive and depend on some of these companies. We know the list of communities and companies that have suffered because of this lack of oversight.

The government may smile, but it needs to talk to the former employees of Vale Inco, Stelco, or Falconbridge. It needs to talk to the 300 Alcan employees who lost their jobs in Quebec. All of these takeovers somehow passed the net benefit test of the government.

In some cases, the government has been forced to take the company to court to receive some sort of compensation back, but there is no due process in a court of law that will be compensatory to the families that have been uprooted, that have had their whole lives turned upside down because they have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Often the communities and employees have built the company up, often from scratch, to a world-leading status. These are strong companies as they are being sought after by other companies around the world.

I can recall an incident in the House when the finance minister was asked about the potential purchase of Noranda by Minmetals, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chinese communist government. The finance minister had the gall to say that we could not stand in the way of foreign so-called investment. A solely owned communist government company was going to come in and buy our largest mining interest and the government had no problem with it whatsoever. It was as if the Chinese government would not use that as a leverage for its own national interest and against ours. This is beyond belief and the ability to imagine from the government.

I do not know if it is a lack of experience. I do not know if it is ideological blinkers that the Conservatives have placed on themselves. However, they have to wake up to the reality of the 13,500 consecutive takeovers and the experience in places like Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Timmins and Hamilton.

The people of Saskatchewan woke up to the reality that this would not be a net benefit to them. There was not a chance. If BHP Billiton decided to move its head offices or shut down operations, as it talked about in a Chicago court but did not mention it to the government, then the people of Saskatchewan working for this company and affected it would have no recourse whatsoever.

It was only after much political pressure, when the people of Saskatchewan stood and said “No more. On this one, fight for us please” to the 12 or 13 hon. members who come from the Conservative caucus out of Saskatchewan, did the Prime Minister find himself caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock was the will and determination of the people of Saskatchewan. The hard place was his ideology that the market solves all in all cases, full stop.

We know for a fact that foreign investment is not always the same thing and can have multiple results. It is uncertain. There is foreign investment that creates jobs. In the NDP motion talks to foreign investment that creates opportunities for our economy. We are a trading nation and the New Democrats recognize that. We recognize that foreign capital can enable companies to do more, to go out and seek opportunities that they otherwise could not get at. However, foreign capital that takes away jobs, shuts down head offices and puts people out of work is not what I would determine good foreign investment.

We have this process in place, this act in which all of these takeovers are governed by, but it protects nobody except the narrow interests of the investors of those taking over the company, and these companies are truly global in scale.

BHP Billiton is based in Australia, but the investors are all over. They do not care a whit for the people of Saskatchewan or Canada. It is about the bottom line. In the current markets in which they exist. It is not about the next five or twenty-five years of profitability. Often these CEOs and their executive boards are attached to the next quarter's results, because their pay and compensation is linked to the next quarter, the next three months, not the next thirty years.

The reason Potash was so successful, started by an NDP government, was because it had a long-term view. It was able to make strong investments. It was able to look to the long-term view and understand that potash would be a strong resource for many years to come. That was created from a left-leaning government to enable the economy of Saskatchewan to stay strong for many years to come.

My colleague from Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing will talk about the real life examples. The government can talk about this in cold, harsh economic terms or just get up on its hind legs and attack the parties and all this nonsense. However, in real people terms, the effects of some of these takeovers have been a net loss to Canada, and it has to admit that in the cold light of day. They have been a net loss to the people of Sudbury. The people of Timmins, or Hamilton, or Kitimat, B.C. are feeling no net benefit. There has been a net loss and the government just has to recognize that the act needs to be improved, and the NDP is calling for that.

In our motion, the first request we make of the government is to make the hearings public. What sitting member can turn to the people of Saskatchewan and tell them they are not allowed in the door to hear what is going to happen to one of their most significant economic drivers, that they should trust the member and that the power is going to reside in the hands of one person, the minister, as if the minister has this divine inspiration to make the right call and understand all the facets?

I guess the government is saying that people are just too dumb to understand, that they do not have the right to access these hearings. What a bunch of malarkey for a formerly grassroots movement, which was the Reform Party, to come to this place with such arrogance. I use the word carefully but significantly. To say that the Canada Investment Act needs no public disclosure whatsoever, that the good people of Saskatchewan, or Sudbury or Kitimat have no right or capacity to possibly understand what is being discussed is arrogant. It is arrogant to suggest that only the minister can have any influence over this decision and that is the way it has to remain.

There was a Saskatchewan member quoted just a couple of days ago. When asked what was going to happen with this, his response was “read the Conference Board of Canada report”. The Conference Board of Canada did a study on this and told the government that it should just sell it off. So much for members from Saskatchewan standing up for their constituents. They were actually advocating publicly that the Potash Corporation should be sold off.

The Premier of Saskatchewan had to go on television and radio, decry that statement and say that the member of Parliament from Saskatchewan did not know what he was talking about, that the Conference Board may have said that but it was not such a great idea for the people of Saskatchewan. I have the Conference Board report right here, if any of the members from the Conservatives would like to actually read it to see what they were supporting.

It seems to me that in the business environment, and we hear this from particularly the larger companies, a level of certainty is required to do business in Canada. The OECD, which looks at developed markets around the world, cited market uncertainty as the number one reason not to invest in Canada. It did not say labour costs. It did not say environmental protections. It did not say any of these things. It said that to invest in the Canadian market, the number one detriment, and the Conservatives have to get hold of this, was uncertainty, poor regulations in the stock market and a poor understanding of the rules surrounding foreign investment.

That is not me talking. That is the OECD, not exactly a left-leaning organization. It is saying this because it has surveyed the business community, the international investment community and the capital managers. The OECD found, in 2007, 2008 and again in 2009, the number one detriment to investing in this country was uncertainty.

The NDP is calling for more certainty today. It is saying that when companies step forward, looking to truly invest in Canada, in the true sense of the word invest, to enable communities to become stronger, to put more jobs into our marketplace, to put food on the table, because that is what investment should do, they must have clear and accountable guidelines. It should not be in the hands of one minister, not behind closed doors where deals are being made and the people are told to stand outside and wait patiently for the inspirational powers of intelligence of the current minister or whomever the minister may be. That is wrong.

We can do better. We can attract foreign investment and do it on terms that are favourable to the people of Canada, to the communities on which this would have the most impact, not just the investors on Wall Street and in London but the people whose lives often depend on these companies and their strength.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Madam Speaker, my colleague across the way and I have had some good discussions on different things over time, but in respect of his attitude and whether it parallels that of some of his counterparts elsewhere in the country, particularly in the province of Saskatchewan, is it his view that Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan should be nationalized, expropriated? What would be his view in respect of that?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, let me read what my view is in the case of not just Potash but what happens with all foreign investment proposals. It is the third point in the motion today, which states:

ensuring all conditions attached to approval of a takeover be made public and be accompanied by equally transparent commitments to monitoring corporate performance....

That is my view of this particular case and cases to come, because there are going to be more and we recognize that: “ensuring all conditions attached to approval”. So if a company has committed to keeping its headquarters in Saskatchewan, it should be made public, signed on the dotted line, so the constituents have something to hold up in a court of law to say the company broke its promise.

We know that, in case after case, companies acquiring Canadian firms make all sorts of promises. They are in a public relations mode. They are going to promise the sun, the moon and the stars, but when it comes to reality, six, 12 or 18 months down the road, they are not so committed and the government has taken some of those companies to court. Obviously the Investment Canada Act is not working and it would not have worked in the case of Potash. The government was right to refuse the sale. It was right to do this because it could not get this into the public light. Ultimately, it is the public that deserves to know these things.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to quote from the Financial Times, not exactly a left-leaning institution, and I would like the hon. member to comment on this quote. It states:

A Toronto-based mining banker said the conservative government’s “blindly free-market” attitude to takeovers was seldom matched in the home country of a bidding company.

“If Barrick became a $300bn corporation, could it take over Vale?” the banker asked. He was referring to Vale, the Brazilian iron ore champion and Barrick Gold, the Canadian gold miner.

“Could Barrick take over Norsk Hydro? Shenhua Coal? Rio Tinto?” he continued. “No. That’s because the Brazilians and Norwegians and Chinese and Australians would never allow such a thing to happen. But in Canada you can come in and buy anything. You can come in and buy Barrick for the right price.”

Could the hon. member comment on that, please?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, sometimes the allies that come together over important issues are not originally conceived of, but we are hearing analysts of the stock market essentially saying to members of Parliament and the public to reverse the roles. Imagine, as my hon. colleague has said, a Canadian firm attempting to do what BHP Billiton was trying to do to Potash.

Would the foreign investment rules of the Brazilians, Chinese, Germans, and the list would go on, allow a Canadian firm to do the exact same thing with so few commitments and none of it in the light of day? The clear and obvious answer is, not on their life. They understand that, although this does not apply to all industries, there are key industries and sectors in our economy that are truly the foundations. If we take them out, the whole economy is weakened.

We are argue that the economy of Saskatchewan, and in effect, Canada, would be weakened by this takeover. I know the government is feeling conflicted about this decision. We can hear it in members' comments. They do not like what they just did, because it banged right up against an ideology that the market solves all. Laissez-faire was always the answer. We know that our competitors, the Chinese and the Brazilians, have a free and open access market as well, but they put conditions on things that will always service their own interests.

For goodness' sake, if the Conservatives campaigned on standing up for Canada, they should do it from time to time. They should truly stand up for Canada and our net interests. Is that not what any government should promise itself and the Canadian people: to leave the country better than they found it? The current government cannot do that.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I am privileged to be speaking right after my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, and I greatly appreciate his input to this extremely important issue.

We are standing at a crossroads right now. We have to decide what kind of country we want to be. Do we want to control our destiny, or do we want other people to do it for us? Will we chart our own course or will we be a source of materials and a branch plant for other countries and global corporate entities like BHP Billiton?

New Democrats welcome yesterday's developments and congratulate the government for putting the brakes on what looked a few weeks ago like a slam dunk for the Australian resource giant.

We recognize that it is a step in the right direction for this government and hope it uses the time it has created to reflect on the way that Canadians are waking up to the fire sale that is Canada.

We might say they are waking up on the wrong side of the bed, for the government's decision on BHP is largely a response to buy time and try to minimize political damage in Saskatchewan. I want to take this moment to thank Saskatchewan NDP provincial leader Lingenfelter for all the hard work that he and his caucus has done on raising this issue and pushing it to the forefront as well. We know that we could not rely on the 13 MPs in Saskatchewan. Normally we would call that a baker's dozen, but that is far from a baker's dozen.

People are getting angry in Canada. We have not been getting a fair shake when it comes to the trend of more and more foreign ownership of what we consider to be ours. In northern Ontario we have seen this all too clearly. We saw Essar buy Algoma Steel. We saw Vale buy Inco. Xstrata took on Falconbridge. We are under siege in northern Ontario, and it is our best assets that are going first.

In my constituency, lodge owners and outfitters came to me about a disastrous low water level in the Mississagi River and Tunnel Lake. Who runs those dams? It is a Brazilian multinational. Brascan bought the dams, but it is called Brookfield Asset Management now. The company was originally founded as a builder and operator of electricity infrastructure in Brazil. The company's earlier name of Brascan reflected this history: Brazil plus Canada. It has assets of $94 billion and operates in North and South America, as well as in Europe.

This is but one example of the abuses that can take place when foreign owners take over from Canadian ones. Obviously, despite the significance of this situation to the people who rely on fishing or who enjoy it, it seems minor in comparison to the hostile takeover that, we hope, will be avoided in Saskatchewan.

It may be tempting to blindly strike out at others during this debate. We saw that yesterday when the Prime Minister said that he could not remember a single instance when the NDP has agreed with foreign investment in Canada. We know that that is not true. Instead of claiming that we have a hidden agenda in order to badmouth our policies, it is time the government dealt with certain aspects of foreign ownership.

Canadians have nothing to gain from silly slogans and political manoeuvres that serve to avoid debate. We all want a prosperous economy. We want good jobs in our communities and low unemployment. No one wants to pay more than their fair share of taxes. We all agree on that.

What we tend to disagree on most of the time is the solution. For some time now, the NDP has been denouncing the fact that foreigners can have free access to our markets without providing appropriate guarantees. Frankly, that limits our options.

We have nothing against trade and investment; we are simply questioning the lack of control they are subject to. Not requiring guarantees to protect our country's and our communities' interests would mean trusting blindly in the market.

No economic theory can replace the inevitable need for exceptions in the name of the general good. Things such as health care, defence and social programs, for example, have unique needs and challenges.

We watched the events that took place in Sudbury. Vale flexed its muscles and ground the workers down in the year-long battle. My husband was one of those. The outcome has changed the culture there forever.

Now, new hires cannot look forward with any certainty to a reasonable or secure pension. These are people who saw the generation before them look forward to their future. They could buy camps and take trips. They were secure in the future they were building with their hard work, work that was the engine of the community and the spirit of it, too. It was like that for years, but not for the kid who gets hired on next.

It is like that all across Canada. So many communities are hurting. Budgets are tight and they are getting tighter. All kinds of costs are going up at the same time. We are in an economic squeeze play and it is getting harder for Canadians to accept.

In terms of excessive CEO salaries and bonuses, let me just talk for a minute about those. Let us look at the January report of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It says that Canadians have been hit hard by a worldwide economic recession, but not Canada's 100 highest paid CEOs.

It goes on to show how the total average compensation for Canada's 100 highest paid CEOs was $7,300,884 in 2008. Compare that to the total average Canadian income of $42,305.

By a little after 1 p.m. on the first working day of the year, these CEOs had pocketed what takes Canadians earning an average income an entire year to make.

People such as J. M. Lipton, of Nova Chemicals Corp., took home $19.7 million; or Hunter Harrison, of CN Rail, who took home $13.4 million. That is something that will not sit well with the people of Hornepayne, who are struggling as that community lost the Northstar Centre, thanks in part to CN and the way the Liberals privatized it with no regard to the consequences.

It looks as though my colleague who used to sit in this House, Bill Blaikie, was right when he fought so hard against a deal that made no sense to the real stakeholders, the people of Canada.

We could even look at Patrick Daniel from Enbridge, who took home $6.5 million. For people struggling to make a living in places such as Wharncliffe, Webbwood, Smooth Rock Falls, Moonbeam, Iron Bridge, Dean Lake, South Baymouth, Manitouwadge or White River, this is a little hard to swallow. That is what I meant as I spoke about excessive CEO salaries and bonuses.

I can go on. The “Big Six” banks earned $5.1 billion in the third quarter of 2010. Profits for 2010 now exceed $15 billion with one full quarter to go, well ahead of last year's performance at this time.

There is more, and I will talk about that in a little bit.

For someone watching a neighbour not be able to sell his house because the market is so bad after a plant or a mill closure, that is pretty hard to accept.

If we make it clear that a goal of the Investment Canada Act is to encourage foreign investment that will bring in new capital, create good jobs, transfer new technology to Canada, increase Canadian-based research, contribute to sustainable economic development, and really improve the lives of Canadian workers and their communities, then we can say that we have an act that truly takes care of Canada and Canadians first. That is the type of act we need.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, earlier in this debate, about 20 minutes ago, we heard from the parliamentary secretary.

He talked about how we must ensure that these deals work in the best interests of the people who we, in our province of Newfoundland and Labrador, would consider the principal beneficiaries of a resource. In this case, it would be Saskatchewan and potash.

He also talked about what the government does not need to do and should not do: to build walls around itself so that foreign investment is not allowed in.

He talks about all of this and it almost sounds like an air of transparency.

I would like the hon. member to comment on the fact that under ICA there are no requirements for the federal government to disclose the rationale on the approval or disapproval of the sale, nor are there requirements for public disclosure of the commitments made by companies, such as jobs and investment. The comments of the parliamentary secretary do not exactly jibe with what the motion endeavours to do.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is correct. We need to ensure that jobs are protected. There needs to be a net benefit. Given the fact that the Liberals did not deny one takeover, I am glad they are finally realizing what needs to happen here.

I do want to add a couple more things with regard to the need to promote an economy that makes sense to more Canadians. We need an economy that does not create a few jackpot winners and so many losers, and this is exactly what my colleague just mentioned.

Spinoffs are not enough. When the majority of the money from our resources and our industries leaves the country, we all lose out. There is always a role for foreign investment, but control of homegrown industry and resources should stay in the hands of more self-interested parties, not huge multinationals.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague across the way did raise some valid points as does the motion itself.

However, she talked about resources being very strategic. If we look at a lot of the resources in the energy industry, perhaps, and the companies there, a lot of people argue that we in Canada have some very large resource companies but they are dwarfed in size when compared to resource companies that are state-owned enterprises.

Would the member support specific changes to the Investment Canada Act with respect to state-owned enterprises?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

The answer is yes, Madam Speaker. We need to make sure that the other side ensures that when there are takeovers and when agreements are made, they are transparent. That is what we have been asking for all along. Let them be transparent, make sure there is a net benefit to Canada and protect our resources. That is the important part of it.

If we continue to allow Canadian assets to flow out of the country, we are cheating ourselves. We need to make sure our assets are protected. We are choosing an economic model at the expense of our social well-being.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, Timmins—James Bay is one of the greatest mining regions in the world, and in the last six or seven years we have had two really stark examples.

De Beers invested $1 billion on the James Bay coast. It set up the Victor diamond mine and signed impact benefit agreements with local communities. We have spoken with De Beers on numerous occasions about problems in some of the communities and about support throughout the region. The relations are not always perfect, but here is a company that invested in Canada and is building an asset.

On the other hand, we had the corporate raider, Xstrata, that had a pretty poor track record. All the government would have had to do was look into any reports about its record; it just had to Google Xstrata and it would have seen that this was a company to think twice about. Yet it was allowed to walk away with one of the world's premium mining companies, Falconbridge, and it gutted the company. Xstrata gutted our copper refining capacity.

Why does my hon. colleague think the government cannot tell the difference between targeted foreign investment and foreign takeovers that are gutting our resources and vandalizing our—

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing has 30 seconds to respond.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, the question would have to be asked of members on that side of the House, because they do not seem to know the difference.

Our motion spells out ways to amend the Investment Canada Act to make sure that it is transparent and that it works for Canadians. We want to ensure the views of those most directly affected by any takeover are considered.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, needless to say, the topic today is about foreign investment in light of the government's decision yesterday, or sort of decision, we are not completely sure, but at least a decision for the next 30 days that, absent something significantly new, the government has said no to BHP Billiton acquiring PotashCorp.

I would like to commend the government, so far, for having come to that conclusion. I will suggest that it was too bad the government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to that decision. I would like to reinforce the fact that Canadians and the people of Saskatchewan in particular are thankful, and we all join them, for the incredible hard work from the dedicated, hard-working member for Wascana, who has worked day and night over the last number of weeks to make sure that the interests of the people of Saskatchewan, and indeed the interests of all Canadians, are kept front and centre in the decision making on whether or not this acquisition should proceed.

I would like to add to that a number of questions. The first question is, in fact, related to my comments about the incredible hard work by the member for Wascana. The question is this. Where on earth were the 13 other MPs from Saskatchewan? The 13 Conservative members of Parliament from Saskatchewan have been completely silent on this issue, completely silent.

This is not a comment on them as individuals. I know some of them and we certainly get along well. It is a comment on the atmosphere in the government that simply does not allow anyone to speak out unless it fits with the communications agenda from the Prime Minister's Office.

What on earth were each one of those Conservative Saskatchewan MPs elected for? What did they promise people when they campaigned? I am quite certain that they did not campaign on “I'm going to Ottawa, but don't worry; I won't speak out on your behalf; I won't actually say anything if I'm worried that my government is going to take any action contrary to what may be in your best interests”.

There is not a single comment that any Conservative member from Saskatchewan has said publicly in response to the overwhelming concern expressed by—

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but I would ask hon. members to wait until questions and comments and to not speak over this hon. member's head. I am asking for order, please.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, clearly that pricked a little bit of a nerve over there, and I can imagine why.

I can absolutely imagine why, because when those people campaigned, they certainly did not campaign on the promise to stay silent. They certainly did not promise to stay quiet when the best interests of Saskatchewan and the best interests of Canada were at stake.

This was a situation where people of Saskatchewan, including the premier of Saskatchewan, were overwhelmingly saying that this would be a problem, and 13 Conservative members of Parliament from Saskatchewan were only able to sit on their hands. This is not criticism of them personally; it is a criticism of the atmosphere in the government that simply does not allow dissent, does not allow any other kind of debate, and I am very concerned about the fact that we have 13 members of Parliament who simply were unable to speak on behalf of their constituents.

I will go on to another question. When the Minister of Industry yesterday made his announcement, he said something I found rather extraordinary. He said the department, which he heads, made no recommendation. I might be not quite right, but if I remember correctly, the words were “the department made no recommendation”. This is the Investment Canada Act. This is the Ministry of Industry. This is part of its job and there are some extraordinarily talented, hard-working people in that department. For the last number of weeks there has been a great number of people focused on this. This is one of the biggest issues in Canada today, if not the biggest issue facing Canada right now in terms of what the ministry and what the department had to decide on. How is it possible, after all that time and guaranteed a significant amount of work by some very capable people, that the department made no recommendation?

I would suggest that is another example of the need by the government to control its message, to make sure there was no message before the Prime Minister made a decision. Let us not kid ourselves. This was very much from the Prime Minister's Office. This was not the Minister of Industry's decision on his own. But to deny the fact and to say that the entire department did not make a recommendation, I find extraordinarily hard to believe. It is another example of the deterioration of the entire governance process in this country that the people who we have working in government, supposedly on a non-partisan basis, to give advice to the government on an acquisition this significant for Saskatchewan, and for Canada as a whole, that those capable people apparently made no recommendation. We have to seriously question the role of the Prime Minister's Office and the minister in taking upon themselves alone the entire decision-making process in this regard.

I would also like to ask a question about net benefit. This does speak to the motion. I am not in agreement with all parts of the motion that is being proposed, but I do support significant portions of it that do call for greater transparency. We do not know what the government thinks net benefit means. In that regard, I would like to stress that I, as a representative of the Liberal Party, support foreign investment. We very strongly support foreign investment. Indeed, as other members of the House mentioned, we have had a great number of acquisitions in the last couple of decades, whichever government was in power, whether it be Liberal or Conservative. This will only be the second refusal, the first one having been based on national security.

There have been a number of other acquisitions that did not proceed, not because there was an open door without any restrictions, but because the process that we had undertaken had established certain examples of what would be required. So in those discussions the members of the department were able to suggest to the proposed acquirers that they were not going to meet the net benefit test and therefore the acquisitions did not proceed. So it is a mistake to say that no acquisition was ever refused. However I would say that within that context, the ones that were approved were an indication of just how open we are to foreign investment. That is a very important process. It is a very important thing for the Canadian economy.

However, we do have to determine the parameters and the criteria associated with net benefit. We do have to make this clear not only for ourselves, not only for the departmental workers who work so hard to help these processes along, but we also need to clarify the criteria of net benefit specifically in order to encourage foreign investment.

A potential acquirer, no matter where it might be in the world, will look at Canada, and this one is an even more egregious example because it is such a big acquisition and we have had no description of what net benefit is, none. A potential acquirer somewhere else in the world could look at Canada and say it is a wonderful place to invest. It has a wonderfully educated population. It has great winters. In all seriousness, it has a tremendous investment climate. However, a potential acquirer would have to wonder what would be the decision at the end. If the potential acquirer does not know what the criteria are, for example, if it does not know that it needs to maintain a head office in Canada, if it does not know for sure that it will need to maintain a certain number of jobs, if it does not know that there are going to be certain other requirements, it will be that much more loath and less inclined to even start the process for a potential acquisition in this country.

We, as Liberals, are very concerned about the need to establish much more detailed definitions of what net benefit means. That would in fact encourage foreign investment because right now we have a government decision that negates all the efforts of the department, that does not clarify what net benefit means and thus creates more confusion than there was to begin with.

Madam Speaker, I will continue this speech after question period.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have approximately nine minutes when this debate resumes.

Remembrance DayStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, on November 11, 1918, the guns fell silent on the battlefields of Europe and every year since, Canadians have gathered at the cenotaphs and legions across the country to commemorate those who laid down their lives for this nation.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day, the whole of our people stand in silent remembrance. We can never fully repay our veterans and their fallen comrades but we can honour them, and that is what we do again this year.

Our nation now has new veterans, younger veterans standing shoulder to shoulder with those who fought in Korea and to liberate Europe from the clutches of tyranny. Those who fight now in the deserts of Afghanistan deserve the same honour and recognition as our veterans in conflicts passed.

Veterans are our nation's heroes. Some of their exploits are well known. Others are known only to those who witnessed the countless unrecorded acts of courage and self-sacrifice, and some are known only unto God.

It is truly said that there is no greater sacrifice than one who lays down his life for another. We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

Diwali and Bandi Chhorh DivasStatements By Members

November 4th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, tomorrow is Diwali and Bandi Chhorh Divas, the celebration of the New Year and the Festival of Lights. It is one that I am particularly excited to celebrate.

My riding of Mississauga--Streetsville is home to one of the largest South Asian populations in Canada. The celebration of life, love, hope, enlightenment and peace is one that is embraced by the entire community.

The start of every new year is an opportunity to reflect on the past as well as to look ahead to the year that is just beginning.

Given the uncertain economic times we live in, it is sometimes difficult to see the light. The celebration of Diwali and the tradition of lighting “diyas” or lanterns is here to remind us of the hope that tomorrow can bring.

Madam Speaker, from my family to yours, Happy Diwali and Bindi Chhorh Divas. I wish everyone peace and prosperity in the New Year. Diwali mubarek, Shub Dipawali, Nava sal mubarek.

Fernand OuelletteStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, a resident of my riding, Fernand Ouellette, recently received a prestigious award, the 2010 medal of the Académie des lettres du Québec.

Fernand Ouellette's body of work spans the past 50 years. While poetry is a source of inspiration for him, it also serves to awaken the rest of us, allowing individuals and society to progress and excel. His rousing work has persistently promoted the value of this awakening within a society that was waking up from a long slumber.

It would be impossible to do justice here today to everything Mr. Ouellette has done for our society, which was hungry and thirsty for culture. Without a doubt, the lives of many of us here today would have been very different if his work had not emerged with so much intelligence and generosity towards Quebec.

Mr. Ouellette, on behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to congratulate you and tell you how very proud we are of your work.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, as we enter this final year of Canada's combat role in Kandahar, we think of our relatives and neighbours who are serving over there.

Many people from northern Ontario are serving there right now, people like Jennifer Spence from Fort Albany and Mark Misener from Iroquois Falls.

As Remembrance Day approaches, I encourage Canadians to send letters and parcels to our men and women overseas. The holiday season is a difficult time for soldiers to be separated from their loved ones. Receiving a card or a care package from home matters.

Until January 7 family and friends of Canadian Forces personnel can ship cards and packages free of charge to Afghanistan and other overseas theatres of operations. Canadians can bring their packages to one of Canada Post's 6,600 post offices.

We made a vow as Canadians that we will remember them and at this time of the year let us remember those who are serving in the forces right now.

Saint André of MontrealStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, on October 17 I had the privilege to be a member of the Canadian delegation to the Vatican on the occasion of the canonization of Brother André, now Saint André of Montreal.

During the canonization mass, the Catholic Church formally recognized the humble Brother André to be a saint.

The canonization of Brother André is an exceptional event for the Catholic community and for all Canadians. At a very young age, Saint André Bessette demonstrated profound devotion to Saint Joseph, the father of Jesus. This devotion led him to build an oratory dedicated to Saint Joseph. Today Saint Joseph's Oratory is the largest church in Canada, and honours the patron saint and protector of our beautiful country.

As a member of Parliament and a Catholic with a special devotion to Saint Joseph, I wish to honour Saint André of Montreal for his life of faith, continuous prayer, service to God and unfailing kindness.

Saint André, Saint Joseph, pray for us.