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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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House AffairsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, a Conservative member tabled the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of the legislative committee on Bill C-49.

The problem is that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs delegated the negotiation of this membership to the four whips. Our practice has usually been that for us to consider that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has adopted the decision of the four whips, the whips must have signed off on the report. This takes the place of adoption by the committee. But the Bloc Québécois whip has not signed off on this report, and in my opinion, this means that the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has not been adopted by the committee.

My point of order does not have to do with the content of the report—I have not seen it—but I think that this sets an extremely dangerous precedent for a practice that, up until now, has been accepted by all of the parties and the chair.

I therefore request that the tabling of this report be withdrawn until we are certain that the four whips have signed off on the document.

Procedure and House AffairsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I do not have any information regarding the status of this report, which was simply tabled in the House. However, I will look at it shortly to see whether the hon. member's complaint that the report is not acceptable has merit. If that is the case, I will get back to the House.

The hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on the same point of order.

Procedure and House AffairsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we certainly await your judgment and, if there is any way we can clear up the House or the Bloc's concerns, we should be happy to work with them on that issue.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, since the recent takeover bid for Potash Corporation raises concerns about the adequacy of the foreign investment review process under the Investment Canada Act (ICA), the Government of Canada should take immediate steps to amend the Investment Canada Act to ensure the views of those most directly affected by any takeover are considered, and any decision on whether a takeover delivers a “net benefit” to Canada is transparent by: (a) making public hearings a mandatory part of foreign investment review; (b) ensuring those hearings are open to all directly affected and expert witnesses they choose to call on their behalf; (c) ensuring all conditions attached to approval of a takeover be made public and be accompanied by equally transparent commitments to monitoring corporate performance on those conditions and appropriate and enforceable penalties for failure to live up to those conditions; (d) clarifying that a goal of the Act is to encourage foreign investment that brings new capital, creates new jobs, transfers new technology to this country, increases Canadian-based research and development, contributes to sustainable economic development and improves the lives of Canadian workers and their communities, and not foreign investment motivated simply by a desire to gain control of a strategic Canadian resource; and that the House express its opposition to the takeover of Potash Corporation by BHP.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to debate this important topic. I will be sharing my time with the member for Windsor West.

New Democrats believe it is time here in Canada that we took strong stands on the issue of foreign investment and, in particular, that it is the Prime Minister's job to make sure Canada benefits from foreign investment. The litany where this has not been the case is a tragic one: Inco, Alcan, Falconbridge, Stelco, Nortel. These Conservative fire sales have not benefited community. Instead they have left workers out in the cold, having been thrown off the job despite promises made by both the government and the companies involved.

Think of the communities of Sudbury, Timmins, Hamilton, Miramichi, Kenora, Thunder Bay and Vancouver Island, whether it is mining or whether it is the wood sector. In many others, workers have been left without an income for their families. That has been the consequence of the government's unwillingness to stand up to these multinational corporations, which come in here and want our resources, want to make a play in the global market and want to put our jobs offshore. They have any kind of nefarious plan up their sleeves, and the government has gone for it hook, line and sinker. That is until the people of Saskatchewan rose up and joined in a chorus to say no, and we are thankful that they did so because the government has left local economies deflated, people without their jobs, pensions attacked and collective agreements shredded by these companies.

The NDP is not opposed to foreign investment, but it wants to ensure that it is good investment, investment that creates jobs in innovative areas, that promotes sustainable practices and that produces other benefits that Canadians are looking for.

When it comes to selling major Canadian companies, we believe that Canadians need to know how the sale will benefit them. But that will not happen as long as the Investment Canada Act is not amended.

Right now, decisions are made behind closed doors. Government does not have to tell us. We are just supposed to take its word for it when it approves these takeovers, and frankly, Canadians are left in the dark when it comes to the future of their natural resources, their jobs and key industries in our economy.

Ottawa does not have a good track record on this, when it comes to the question of trust. In the last 25 years, between the two governing parties, they managed to reject only one bid while they rubber-stamped 13,500 takeovers and investments.

The conditions that the government claims it is putting in place clearly are not enough. They are just as quickly ignored as they are put down on paper. The government's signature, it turns out, does not really mean much when it comes to defending Canadians' interests.

That has to change.

The chairman of Sherritt International, Ian Delaney, said, and I quote, "Canada has squandered its title as the centre of global mining finance.”

Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives would intervene when Inco and Falconbridge were in trouble. They made no effort to help them, to work together or to ensure that the companies would be successful and jobs would be protected.

They simply left it to the foreign investor to come walking in with every kind of siren call and every kind of promise, and they signed off on it. We have to wonder if they even looked at the paper they signed.

However, I will tell members one thing. When the pink slips went out and people saw that signature and had to go home to their families and tell them they had lost their jobs after they had been offered hope by the government, which said it was approving this foreign investment so that we would have a better economy, that was a tragic day and each of those families has suffered as a result. We are talking about thousands of people who are facing a very cold winter as a result.

We have to fix this. If we just think about the thousand workers who have been laid off at Stelco, in Hamilton, I think members will know what I am talking about.

We have an act dealing with foreign investment that is not working. Let us be crystal clear about this. It is not working. Of course when we raised these complaints, the government just simply railed on with its ideological phraseology instead of taking to heart the kinds of implications that are meted out to people in this country by these decisions.

That is why, as a result of all this, the people of Saskatchewan said no. If they had not been able to watch what happened in Sudbury, in Timmins and in the forestry communities across this country when takeovers took place, they would not have been so concerned. However, they saw the record of the current government and they said we cannot let that happen here with potash. That is what they said.

Dwain Lingenfelter, our NDP leader in Saskatchewan, raised these issues forcefully in the legislative assembly. I have to say that the government there, at the time, ridiculed the idea that there should be any concerns about a foreign takeover. That is just exactly what we saw here, in fact, when we raised questions. The Prime Minister sloughed it off by saying, “Oh, well. It's just an Australian company taking over an American company. Who cares?” That is virtually what he said. Who cares? It turns out that the people of Saskatchewan care and the people of Canada care. That is why we need to take action here today. That is what this is all about.

Several provincial premiers from all parties have come out firmly against it. Members of Canada's business community have publicly warned the Prime Minister, and this is not the first time they have done so.

Dick Haskayne, the University of Calgary board chair emeritus, for whom its business school is named, also a Potash Corporation shareholder, says he is absolutely opposed to this takeover. He says it is an issue of giving up a large inventory of our strategic natural resources. Once those resources slip through our fingers, they are gone for good. We are not going to get them back.

Today we are moving a motion that would help Canadians believe that their government is acting in their best interests and that would give a little political common sense to a government that blindly upholds free market values.

We can amend the Investment Canada Act, make the process more public, more transparent, more accountable and demand that governments prove that there is in fact a net benefit at the end of the day.

How do we do this?

First, our motion says to make the process more public. Second, commit to transparency so that Canadians can see the full reasoning. We are still completely in the dark as to the reasoning behind the decision of the government on potash so far. Finally, be clear about what that net benefit is: jobs, technology, research and development, sustainable economy. Let us make sure that the list with the specifics is public and available to Canadians, because if the government is not going to police these companies, Canadians will be able to police these companies and make sure the benefits are there.

It is good discipline, and there are some very good managers in some of these companies here in Canada. They are trying to do the right thing, but often their head office somewhere far away, motivated by shareholders who want to squeeze every dollar out of the global operation, end up saying to the Canadian manager, “Sorry, we are shutting you down”. If he or she is able to point to the agreement with the people of Canada, which is public and the Canadians are watching, this can have an impact. It is moral suasion backed up by law, and that is what we need.

We are calling on this government to prove that there is a net benefit, first by making the process public and second, by committing to transparency so that Canadians can see the reasoning behind any decision. Lastly, we are clearly defining what we mean by “net benefit”: job creation, technology, research and development, a sustainable economy and so on.

Multinational bids on our natural resources are not about to stop anytime soon.

The NDP believes it is time the Conservatives understood the difference between hostile foreign takeovers that are nothing more than an attempt to control our natural resources and foreign investments that create jobs, innovation and sustainable practices for our country.

I will close with this, as the motion does.

Our motion calls for the House to reject the proposed takeover of the Potash Corporation as proposed by BHP. We think governments should be obligated to clearly demonstrate that the foreign investments will benefit Canadians and that the sanctions are there if they do not.

That is the import and content of our motion. We hope all members of this House will join in supporting it, because that way we can move forward with good foreign investments and reject the bad ones.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to the NDP leader's speech today. I find that it certainly appears as though he is not knowledgeable about the contents of the act to which he refers. Either that or he is misinformed.

I noted on television last night that he was railing on about the fact that we did not close the door for 30 days and that this was terrible. Of course, he was confronted on TV with the fact that the legislation, the law of the land, calls for a 30-day period in which this company can state its case before the door can be closed. The hon. member did not seem to be knowledgeable about that.

Today in the hon. member's speech I heard him say that we are still in the dark about the content of the decision. Well indeed, that is the way it should be. That is what the act calls for.

I suggest that the leader of the NDP might choose to inform himself about the laws of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have spent more time dealing with foreign investment legislation than I care to talk about. I have a copy of the act and I am very familiar with it. In fact, the point we are concerned about is that Canadians are being kept in the dark. That is why we want the act changed. That is why we are proposing a motion to change the act. That is the problem with the act.

The parliamentary secretary is, of course, right that the act keeps us in the dark. If I had the opportunity to ask him a question, I would ask him if his government is willing to shed some light on this darkness.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the challenges we have is how to identify those industries that are considered to be essential for Canada's future growth and potential, while not creating a climate that impedes foreign direct investment, which we know is crucial to generate the funds necessary to have a competitive economy.

What criteria does the leader of the NDP think that a government could actually use to differentiate between those private sector businesses that are considered to be essential and necessary for the public good of Canada and could not be sold to outside interests and those that could have a majority ownership by foreign interests?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the criteria that we believe should be set forth are in our motion. We are not saying that any particular category of business should never be subject to a discussion about foreign ownership. We are simply setting out what the criteria should be. We are insisting that the determination regarding those criteria should be public so that all Canadians can see what is going on.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservative government came to power, Falconbridge and Inco were international mining leaders. The Conservatives sat back and glibly snickered at any concerns that were raised about the hostile takeovers by Xstrata and Vale. We have seen thousands of job losses. We have seen the copper refining capacity of Ontario shut down. Ore is being shipped out of the region.

I would like to ask our leader a question regarding potash. It is pretty clear, is it not, that the people of Saskatchewan and the people of Canada put the government on notice, because the government has no credibility when it comes to standing up for resources or standing up for jobs in Canada?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recall the time when the member stood in the House and asked the government why it was allowing a takeover of a business that could affect his community. The Conservatives dismissed it. They threw out every kind of rhetoric in the House of Commons. Then they signed an agreement with the company that took over businesses in the member's riding.

He said we are afraid we will lose jobs. Well, guess what? That is exactly what happened, and that is wrong. That is the kind of thing that should not be happening. These investments are supposed to bring jobs to our communities, not throw people into the streets.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in support of the motion put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth.

To validate some of what he has said already, we only need look at some of the public commentary not just from those who have been advocating for a number of years to shed some light on this issue, but also from people who are not normally in the NDP's corner.

Professor Joseph d'Cruz of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Business, who said that he is not normally sympathetic to the NDP, said today:

I'm in grave danger of agreeing with the NDP. But on this one, I think they're on the right track. I think having public hearings is pretty healthy. I've always been a bit concerned that the commitments that the foreign companies make to Investment Canada are confidential and the public doesn't know what they are. On an important public policy issue, I think confidentiality is not healthy.

This is critical because the Investment Canada Act has command over many different jobs, not only jobs controlled by domestic companies and foreign companies, but value-added jobs that are critical for a modern economy to function.

Canada is offside with the Investment Canada Act. This act was put in place in 1985 and since then we have seen wholesale sell-offs of a number of different industries.

It is important to recognize that the act was recently undemocratically reformed through a budget bill. The Conservative government commissioned the Wilson report, which came up with a series of recommendations. The government included them as part of a budget bill. Because the Liberals felt squeezed at the time, they voted with the Conservatives. The result was that the Investment Canada Act was changed without any review whatsoever.

The motion put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth calls for a process that had been skipped over, which is amazing when we think about it. With world consolidation of natural resources, minerals and other types of businesses, we actually turned away the opportunity to update and modernize our law in a democratic way. A debate in the House of Commons, such as the one we are having today, should have been held before the Investment Canada Act was changed because the changes made to the act actually opened the door even further.

The business community and others were left out of hearings.

We need to listen to the stories told by the people in Sudbury who were thrown out of their jobs and went on strike because they had to fight for their nickel bonus. A Brazilian company was slapping down on them. They did not get a chance to have their say.

We did not hear from the investment community which looks at the significance of the investments on the stock market and the trading opportunities that are created when these types of things go back and forth. We did not hear from people in the investment community.

The government told everyone in Canada that it can take care of everything, that everything is under control. The government did not change the law democratically. It decided to ram it through. That is an American style of politics the Conservative government has used on several occasions, and it is really hurting this country. The government has done that with a number of budget bills. We never saw that practice before. We have been raising the alarm constantly about this.

I want to correct the record on a number of important timelines. It is critical that Canadians understand that although this issue has come to a head recently, it has been in the press in the past and we have raised this issue before.

On August 18 the federal NDP member for Nickel Belt raised this issue in a press release. I want to thank him and the member for Sudbury. I had a chance to visit their communities and meet with the workers who were on the picket lines. I heard about the problems they faced as ordinary Canadians. For over a year they struggled to make ends meet.

That was the result of a takeover. Instead of a Canadian champion being created out of Inco and Falconbridge, the Conservative government decided to sell out to foreign companies and it made sure it did so in secrecy.

We have been hearing the Minister of Industry brag about the fact that the government turned away one case, the MacDonald, Dettwiler case. I would like to thank Peggy Nash for her hard work in making sure that company stayed Canadian. If she had not done all the necessary work, that company would not have stayed Canadian. She was the driving force behind that.

The Conservatives brag about going through a court case with respect to U.S. Steel. That is not a victory. To describe as a victory a company being taken to court because it shut down operations is bizarre at best.

How is it great to be able to brag about the fact that we have lost value-added work and that people have to haul their business partners off to court? What kind of a message does that send? That is very significant because there have been thousands and thousands of takeovers in this country and we have not been able to see the terms and conditions.

There have been opportunities along the way. We could have committee hearings. There are a number of ways we could get access to some of the documents. Any sensitive documents would not have to be made public, but there needs to be light shed on the process. There needs to be accountability and follow through.

This file continued throughout the summer and into the fall. It is interesting because back on August 20 the NDP leader was already calling on the Minister of Industry to take action on this file and to show leadership. We never saw that. At the end of the day yesterday, sadly, the minister told the Canadian public that his officials have no opinion. When there are 11 people in a department reviewing these files, one would expect they would come back with an opinion, yes or no.

Obviously, there are some political tactics behind that. We know the government refuses to take advice from bureaucrats on a regular basis. One example would be Statistics Canada. We lost the chief statistician because the government tried to manipulate his words.

The government comes back with no recommendations from the department and then claims it is not in the best interests of Canadians but it cannot provide any further information. It has left the door open for another 30 days for the Potash Corporation deal to go forward. It is true it is the letter of the law that 30 days are available, but there seems to be a bit of glee in the minister's appeal to come back with different conditions. I am not convinced that this file is finished by any means.

The job for the people of Saskatchewan and Canada who want to see a different vision is not done. We will stay vigilant on this. We will continue to raise these issues because it is more than just this one case. This is about the sell-off of Canadian industry and the lack of an industrial policy for Canada. Brazil, China and other countries are looking to acquire natural resources in different types of sectors to facilitate their modern economies. Canada's plan is to sell out, to get rid of some of the most important features that we have been strong on.

Not only should members listen to the words of the NDP, but they should listen to the experts in the field. Let us look at some of the commentary in the Financial Times:

Could Barrick [a Canadian company] take over Norsk Hydro? Shenhua Coal? Rio Tinto? 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.

That is what the experts are saying. They are identifying that these other countries are coming up with industrial strategies. It is clear that Canada does not have that type of philosophy and we are failing because of it.

I want to finish with a bit of discussion related to the types of jobs that we are losing. These are value-added jobs, jobs on which we can build a modern economy. It is important to recognize that because we have seen a shift to part-time employment and jobs that do not have pensions. We are losing out on the opportunity for those workers to raise their families with dignity and integrity so their children can do better than they did. We have lost that vision. We have become apathetic to that. Many students are coming out of university with huge debt loads in an economy that does not have the type of market to help them pay off that debt.

I want to thank the member for Toronto—Danforth and my caucus members who have been leading the fight for many years. I first raised issues about the Investment Canada Act back in 2002 when China Minmetals was looking to buy out part of Canada. I have been pushing the national security file on that issue for many years. It is ironic that an undemocratic state government can own Canadian resources, but it is wrong for Canadians to own their own resources.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this motion. It raises some very important points that we in Parliament should consider.

The member will know that we have added national security under the Investment Canada Act, which was a very important addition. It in fact allowed the government to say no to the MDA deal which he referenced. The industry committee played a very important role in that, which the member referenced with respect to the former member.

I want him to address in particular section (d) of the motion with respect to encouraging foreign investment. At the end he touched on state-owned enterprises. I would ask him to address how we should react to state-owned enterprises. He is right. China Minmetals wanted to buy 100% of Falconbridge and take it off the TSX entirely.

I am wondering if he could address the impact this motion would have on state-owned enterprises, as well as companies listed on the TSX. Obviously the concern is that if a foreign takeover occurs and the company is taken off the TSX, then it obviously affects jobs in that area, especially the financial services sector.

Could he address those two points in particular?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I have worked together for a number of years on the industry committee and this file has come up, off and on, at different times. With the issue over China Minmetals and the state of China, for example, we have to come to grips with the reality that they believe there is some free market society out there that floats around on its own. But it is not real when we have the fact that state-owned companies, backed by governments, can actually bring in capital and can undercut our own private sector businesses that are competing. We have to look at these in terms of national significance and strategies.

What is interesting is that during this timeframe of the Investment Canada Act and the sellout, we also sold shares of Petro-Canada, actually taking a bath on them because six months later they were worth a lot more than when we sold them. We could not own even part of Petro-Canada. We had to sell that off, versus it being okay for the Chinese people to be able to own the natural resources of Canada. It is wrong. We need to start looking at some of those resources strategically. Potash is one of those. Potash is critical for food supply and food management. That is why it needs to be controlled by Canadians. That is why we should keep it. It is the last bastion and we should make sure we do not lose it.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could expand on his point about the importance of strengthening the Investment Canada Act to ensure that approvals of foreign takeovers actually benefit workers and their communities.

To be clear, the NDP is not against foreign investment. We are opposed to the kind of foreign takeovers we have witnessed in several parts of Canada, such as northern Ontario, Hamilton, Newfoundland and northern Manitoba.

The NDP has consistently called for lowering the threshold for public review of foreign takeovers, ensuring public hearings are held in affected communities, and requiring publication of the reasons for decisions and the conditions to be met by approved foreign owners.

Here are the facts. There have been over 13,500 foreign takeovers in Canada and almost 400 in the last year.

Here is another fact. The federal government has disallowed only one. That is right, only one, and that is due in part to the work of Peggy Nash. The NDP plan is totally achievable if only the government had the will and vision to do so.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a big difference between foreign investment and a hostile takeover, and that is what this was with Potash Corporation. It was a hostile takeover. The government does not understand that. When we look at, for example, Fiat investing in Chrysler, I supported that because it was not a hostile takeover. It was something that was done with investment strategies. It was done through the lens of the community, with educating the community and being more open and accountable.

Conservatives do not understand the difference between a hostile takeover and investment. That is what we are talking about here. We should be measuring these deals in terms of the types of jobs they are creating and then look at them through the lens of improving the community. There is nothing wrong with doing those audits. Let us audit these deals, and we cannot do that unless we have more information. Hiding behind the curtain of secrecy does not cut it.

When we look at the issues and at some of the natural resources, there are no significant trade secrets in these deals that need to hide everything. No, we can have a more open and more accountable process and measure them. When we measure them, we are measuring the government, measuring the investor, and making sure that it is different, because a hostile takeover is way different from investment. That is the difference with New Democrats, because we believe in the investment. The Conservatives believe hostile takeovers are okay.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

It is certainly my honour and privilege to rise in the House to take part in the debate with respect to the motion put forward by the NDP leader concerning foreign investment in Canada.

Before I begin, let me take a moment to recognize my Conservative colleagues from Saskatchewan. I want to say how responsibly my colleagues have acted throughout this process. I know they probably received more than their fair share of emails, telephone calls and constituency office visits. However, they recognized, as I recognize, that the government and I as their representative have a responsibility before the law to make a public policy decision with respect to the BHP Billiton bid that is in the best interests of the country, that is within the four corners of the Investment Canada Act, a decision that can be defended as one of principle, and as I said, one in the best interests of the country.

The members understood that and they acted on that basis. I want to thank them, as I am sure it weighed on their minds as much as it weighed on my mind.

I cannot say much more, other than what I said yesterday, with respect to the BHP bid. Under the law, under the Investment Canada Act, I made an interim decision, as it is called under the legislation, that the bid was not likely to be of net benefit to Canada.

This has excited a little bit of comment in the media and amongst the opposition benches, because there is a 30-day period under the Investment Canada Act for the bidder to make further representations.

I want to make it clear, because I believe the hon. leader of the official opposition in particular, the Liberal leader, was playing fast and loose with the facts yesterday. Maybe he is more familiar with American law on this matter or British law, but he certainly is not familiar with Canadian law. He tried to insinuate before the cameras that I had some preference or some discretion when it came to the 30-day period, that this was some sort of Conservative conspiracy and that I was not being clear with Canadians.

I want to be clear with Canadians. I have to act within the law. The law is very clear. The Investment Canada Act is very clear that I am only able to make an interim decision at this point. The final decision comes 30 days from last night's announcement. That is very clear in the law.

I am very disappointed that the leader of the official opposition, the Liberal leader, was not clear with Canadians. Maybe he did not understand how the law works. That is possible, too. Or maybe he did not want to understand how the law works. If that was the case, then the member for Wascana, who has more experience, being in Canada far longer than the leader of the official opposition, should have educated his leader on how the law works. Maybe he will do that in the future.

I also took note of what the NDP leader said last night. To my mind, again, he does not want to take our answer on its face as being one of principle, one that is within the four corners of the law under the Investment Canada Act. He is alleging all sorts of conspiracies.

I can assure this House once again that I made my decision based on the facts that were presented to me, based on what I have the duty to do, which is to assess the bid pursuant to the test of net benefit to Canada and to thereby protect the rights and interests of Canada and Canadians. That is what I did.

I can assure hon. colleagues that I am very much looking forward to speaking with greater clarity on the merits of the decision at the end of the 30-day period. That is the period during which I am obliged not to describe in greater detail the reasons for the decision, but I will have an opportunity to do so in a month or so.

I want to use the balance of my time, if I might, to speak about the context. The context is the importance of foreign investment in Canada.

Unlike the members of the NDP in this House, we do believe that foreign investment has a place in our country. We welcome domestic investment. We welcome foreign investment, and in fact, that is a quid pro quo for some of the great investments that Canadian companies have made in other countries, whether it be in the United States or overseas, including countries such as Australia.

The fact of the matter is that our great Canadian companies make more investments overseas than countries make investments into Canada, and this has been a point of concern among some of the commentators in the past. We are a net exporter of capital by a significant margin, and we certainly welcome it when Canadian companies can not only grow jobs here but they can grow their balance sheet by making judicious investments abroad. By the same token, we also welcome investment to our shores.

I would only say this, though. The investments to our shores, if they are reviewable under the Investment Canada Act, because they have to meet certain criteria in order to be reviewable, have to follow the act. There are certain obligations they have. There are certain obligations that the minister of industry has. Those are the rules of the game. I do not think it is too much to ask, when we open our doors to foreign investors, that they follow our rules.

We are a country that is ruled by the rule of law. We are proud of that. We actually export that as a value and principle of our democracy. We believe in the rule of law, but that means that companies must follow our rules too. We do not open the door wide and say, “You can come in and you are not responsible pursuant to our laws and you do not have to be respectful of us”.

We do not say that. We do not mean that. We want them to be responsible and respectful of our laws. That includes the Investment Canada Act and that includes the test of net benefit to Canada under that act, which presumes, if I can be so presumptuous, that in some cases the Investment Canada Act would mean that something is of net benefit to Canada, and there may be occasional cases where that is not the case. Such was the case of BHP Billiton's bid, as I enunciated yesterday.

However, generally there are some good cases. StatsCan reported earlier last year that, in terms of our investments abroad, Canadians owned and controlled foreign assets worth more than half a trillion dollars. That is the importance of two-way trade, so I would say to my hon. colleague that this is a good deal for Canada and a good deal for Canadians.

When Canadians invest overseas, they follow the rules of those countries, including Australia, which I might add has something similar to a net benefit to Canada test. It has a national interest test. I would put it to the House that it is more or less the same thing. We play by the rules of the game when Canadian companies invest in Australia; it would only stand to reason that it would do the same here. That is how we create wealth and opportunity for Canada and Canadians.

I know the hon. members on the NDP benches like to tax companies to death and they like to regulate them to death, and then when they are dead, they like to subsidize them to death. That is the NDP way, but that is not good enough in a 21st century economy.

In conclusion, we are taking our responsibilities under the Investment Canada Act seriously. There is a good opportunity to debate the principles and the clauses of that act and I look forward to further debate.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his intervention here today. I found it interesting, though. Yesterday the minister was quite clear in saying, “This is my decision”, and now he is here in the House of Commons talking about his decision being an “interim” decision.

That was not the language he used yesterday, and certainly when the rejection of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates came, the minister was very clear right away where he stood on that and virtually closed the door. Yes, there is a decision and then there is a 30-day appeal. It appears that he is trying to beg BHP to get back in the game here. That is what seems to be happening. There seems to be a double standard taking place, because with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, it was very clear, and it was very clear yesterday. There was not the language of “interim decision” used. He was very clear in saying, “This is my decision. I have reached my decision”.

Why is the minister coming today to talk about this in the new format and new language of “interim” versus that of his “decision”?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly the same procedure that was employed in the MacDonald Dettwiler case. There was an interim decision and then a final decision.

I will respond to the question by quoting Sigmund Freud, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, in his analysis of this could the minister outline the items that were not to the benefit of Canada?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a good point. I am quite anxious to enunciate the reasons why it is not of net benefit to Canada and the specific clauses within the legislation that are the basis of the decision, a principled decision, completely within the four corners of the Investment Canada Act. I am forbidden to do so until the 30-day period is up, but believe me I will do so with alacrity at that moment.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister a question. In 2007, the Conservative government allowed Rio Tinto to acquire Alcan. The Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region and all of Quebec called for conditions relating to employment levels and secondary and tertiary transformation.

The minister at the time blindsided us, pulled the rug out from under us and made the decision far too quickly. I think that yesterday's decision could be called strategic. I think they made that decision because of political pressure from Saskatchewan.

It seems to me that there is a double standard. Does the minister think that Quebec's natural resources are less important than Saskatchewan's?

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Not at all, Mr. Speaker. It is important to note that each decision is based on the specific circumstances of each case.

Each decision is taken on its own facts. For him to allege that it is a political decision is completely false. As I have said in the House, and as I said yesterday, this decision was made pursuant to the provisions of the Investment Canada Act. It was done pursuant to the principles and the facts of the case.

I know the hon. member does not want to accept that, but that is the truth. I will be elaborating on this when I am allowed to do so under the Investment Canada Act.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand and join my colleague, the Minister of Industry, in discussing, not so much the BHP bid and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, but the motion put forward by the NDP. The motion recommends that we change the way the Investment Canada Act would arbitrate these types of situations. It would also take away a lot of the end result decision making from the Minister of Industry. We are working under a legal precedent. However, if I remember correctly, this document first came about in approximately 1985, some 25 years ago, and everything should be updated. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

However, under the act, the Minister of Industry and government members, who are involved in whatever region that decision would have an impact upon, are constrained legally. I am distressed, to say the least, when certain members of the opposition, and I will not even bother to name them because they are inconsequential, bray at the moon and howl and scream when they know there are legally things that can and cannot be done. As a member of the democracy we call Canada and as a regional minister from Saskatchewan, when I look at the way some of the media and members of the opposition handled this I take affront to that. They went beyond the pale in their condemnations and their demands.

As we know, these companies are both major global players. Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan has holdings throughout the world, as does BHP, maybe on a different scale but similar in that they are international. The legislation is set out as it is because of market disruptions. Ripples that would go through the marketplace would send the incorrect and devastating signals to a lot of investors and so forth.

I commend the Minister of Industry, my Saskatchewan colleagues, the overall cabinet and caucus of this great government for keeping this interior. The ultimate decision rests with the Minister of Industry. However, I know, from the Saskatchewan caucus perspective, we had some 17 meetings with all the stakeholders, everybody who had a role to play or something to say on this matter. We entertained that, took it to heart and passed it along to the Minister of Industry to help him make this decision.

A lot of the discussion is all about politics. Certainly from the opposition side, I see that. When we go back and assess what those members have said and how they have done it, it was all about partisan politics. I think Canadians at the end of this will condemn them for that. Whenever the coalition decides to bring this government down and go to the polls, I think Canadians will remember the disrespectful way it handled itself in this instance.

Now this is a one-up situation. There is a lot of discussion about how this would impact negatively Canada's place in the world when it comes to outside investment. That is absolutely ridiculous. These are all adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. More will happen. It could be today, or tomorrow or next week. We do not know. However, in a free-market enterprise like Canada, a democracy and the rule of law, we are a welcome investment. Look at the strength of our dollar. Look at the way we have come through this recession. A lot of countries entertain investment in Canada because of that stability, and we welcome that.

However, we certainly reserve the right to judge each one of these on a case-by-case basis as per the net benefit clause as set out in the act. It is what is in the best interests of Canada moving forward.

I can speak from an agricultural perspective. With the marketing we have done around the world now, in country after country, working with industry, working with my provincial colleagues, opening markets, rejuvenating markets, Canada is becoming of age again on the global stage. It had been dropped for some time. We were not really getting out there and doing the job.

When we arrive in a lot of these countries, one of the first things we are asked is where we have been. The Australians, the Americans, the European Union, Brazil, and some of the emerging economies like China and India are aggressive marketers and are getting to be more so. They welcomed us being there. They recognized the safety and security of the food supply in Canada. Part of that safety and security is also on the input side. When we look at a strategic resource like potash, which is the basis for fertilizers and so on around the world, we do a tremendous job of supplying both potash and foodstuffs, in a lot of cases to the same countries, for example, China, India, Korea. These are great markets for our fertilizers, as well as our finished foodstuffs. It gives us a power and a strategic position in the global food supply to be a major supplier of both the inputs and our crop and livestock production.

From a strategic standpoint, we have that in spades in Canada.

Under the net benefit, having someone different mine it certainly does make a difference in that Australia is a major marketer of a lot of the same foodstuffs that Canada has. We are a volume producer and so is Australia. For it to be able to go to the Indies and Chinas of the world and say that it now controls their fertilizer too, I think would have had a very detrimental effect.

I know the Minister of Industry took all of that under advisement and it helped him and his department formulate the decisions they have taken. At this time and place, it is absolutely the right decision. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever. I think the Saskatchewan people have recognized the great work done by my colleagues and the Minister of Industry on this file. I think they also recognize the questionable attitude of some of the members of the opposition in trying to make partisan politics out of this.

At the end of the day, the decision is based on the criteria that comes before the minister, straight up and that is it, and the right decision was made.

As we move forward, I am more than happy to have this debate about changing how we assess these because there will be more, not less. Canada is a land of wealth and riches. We have great raw materials. We have tremendous resource wealth. As we strive to open up our Canadian north, which we have done as a government, and secured that sovereignty there and as we look at our fresh water supplies and the growing demand around the world, we will have to come to grips with that demand from the rest of the world to either invest or buy outright these types of commodities.

At this time and place, we can say no because we do have some guidelines. Could they be better guidelines? Probably. We are looking at things that are in demand now that never were when this act was written in 1985.

I welcome the opportunity and the motion from the NDP. I take exception to some of the political undertones in it. The last line is an outright denial. I do not think we can do that in a free and democratic society in a global stage, where we are becoming and growing rightfully into a major player.

Some of this is couched in politics. That is what we do here and I welcome that. I love the rough and tumble of it. We get our elbows up in the corner. It is like a good hockey game. However, at the end of the day, there are rules and regulations and the referee is the Canadian people. They will adjudicate this deal. We are aware of the fact that a growing number of Canadian residents and a growing number of Canadian businesses, which are free traders, support this decision in the way it is written.

When I read editorials in certain papers and at certain authors who claim to be on the inside track, I wonder how they justify their stance to their subscribers and advertising purchasers. I also look through the lens of an opposition that votes for things like C-300, which in a global situation, and PCS and BHP Billiton are part of that, would condemn them and force them to continually fight a rear flank action with causes and situations that come up in some global outpost somewhere. We would have to shut down production on behalf of PCS and adjudicate that.

I also look at the opposition's stance on raising the tax on business. Part of what draws investment to Canada is that lower tax rate. All the opposition members stand in question period and condemn us for moving forward with tax cuts to business. They all go on about big business. However, the tax cuts pertain to little guys too. Every business in Canada is important. Businesses are the growth of the economy. They are the job creators. They are the engine of the economy. Everyone gets that.

Why do those members condemn tax cuts as we come out of the recession? We have seen net job growth in Canada, unlike our closest ally in the U.S. We see stability in our systems in Canada, unlike the turmoil in our closest partner, the U.S. We see a growing acceptance of Canada on the world stage. We see a growing acceptance that Canada can do more. I cannot understand their stance, other than it is a pure crass political situation. I condemn that, but I welcome the opportunity to have this debate.

Opposition Motion—Foreign TakeoversBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague. Again and again he said that this was all about politics. To him, it was like a hockey game. It was not like a hockey game for the people in Timmins and Sudbury who raised concerns with the government and expected the government to do the right thing.

If we go back four years, when we raised questions in the House, and he can look at Hansard, we raised questions about what would happen to the copper refining capacity in Ontario if the Xstrata hostile takeover went through. The government had the same kind of glib, cheap answers that it gives today.

At the time, no one suggested that the Xstrata deal be stopped. What people were saying was that we had the opportunity to create a world-class mining giant with the Inco and Falconbridge merger, which was being held up in regulatory processes in the United States. The only thing we asked for was that the government hold off a corporate raider like Xstrata until a Canadian bid had a chance to get to the table. The government said, “Absolutely not”.

I do not know if the hon. member has ever visited northern Ontario. If he came, he would see the damage to the Canadian mining industry because of the Xstrata and Vale situation. Would he now admit that the government made a colossal blunder? Hopefully the government has learned a few lessons on potash.