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.