Mr. Speaker, it will be difficult to cut a 20-minute speech down to 6 or 7 minutes, but I believe it is important for me to address the House, even if I only have a few minutes left.
We all know that PotashCorp owns 20% of the world's potash reserves. Potash is a rare mineral used to make fertilizer. We all saw what happened in mid-August when there was a hostile takeover bid and an outcry against it because BHP Billiton was offering $28.5 billion, or $130 per share. The day after the bid, the President and CEO of PotashCorp, Bill Doyle, more or less called the deal an attempt to steal the company. However, he also quickly stated that he was not saying that the company is opposed to the sale, but that it is opposed to “a steal” of the company.
We can see what is happening. Shareholders and owners of a very important company are not bothered by the fact that they are permitting a Canadian company to be taken over by foreign interests, but more so by the fact that they will have less money in their pockets. With the 30-day deadline, the government has the opportunity to jump up and purchase the company for less than it is worth. We must consider that the share price was $250 two years ago, before the recession. There may be hope yet for Billiton.
Today, shares are trading at around $145, which is more than the $130 per share offered by Billiton. Furthermore, this will obviously depress share prices, probably for a number of years. From a financial standpoint, Saskatchewan is afraid that it will lose up to $3 billion per year if PotashCorp is sold to foreign interests. In response, BHP offered to compensate Saskatchewan with a $370 million payment into a future infrastructure fund, which the provincial government rejected as being completely inadequate to offset the loss.
Even the Prime Minister indicated that he was not uncomfortable with a foreign takeover of PotashCorp. The government is rather dogged in its determination. Earlier, I mentioned a 30-day period. This will allow the government to quickly rebound.
The NDP motion is very clear. It would amend the 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”.
The first part of the motion would make “public hearings a mandatory part of foreign investment review”. I should point out that the second paragraph of section 4 of the Investment Canada Act already enables the Minister of Industry to consult with industry and labour stakeholders.
However, such consultations are voluntary, not mandatory. Also, there is nothing to state that these consultations must be public. The Conservative government loves voluntary elements. That is what it is doing with the census.
In exercising his or her powers, the minister may, if the situation calls for it—again, this is not an obligation, but the motion would make it obligatory—hold consultations by organizing conferences and meetings. With this government, everything is “may”, “maybe” or “possibly”, but this motion would make these things mandatory.
The Bloc Québécois does not believe that the government's approach to investment in Canada is the best possible approach. When discussing the Investment Canada Act, we have to keep in mind the 2009 Budget Implementation Act, which allows the government to issue an order raising the minimum threshold for automatic review of a foreign investment in Canada set out in the Investment Canada Act.
That threshold could gradually increase from the current $300 million to $600 million in one year, $800 million for the following two years and $1 billion for the years after that. Some very important players in Canada's and Quebec's economies, such as Nortel and aluminum producer Alcan, which is now just a subsidiary of giant Rio Tinto, have already been transferred into foreign hands.
Foreign investors benefit from a favourable conflict resolution system internationally. A $1 billion threshold could result in many leading lights of the Quebec economy passing into foreign hands without the government ever having the opportunity to assess whether such takeovers are good for local economies. As such, the Bloc Québécois demands that these provisions be scrapped and that the threshold for review be set at $300 million.