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House of Commons Hansard #35 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was review.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 127Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

With regard to applications for permanent residence processed by the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi: (a) how many spousal sponsorships, parental sponsorships and independent applicant cases have been received since the 2007-2008 fiscal year up to and including the current; (b) how many of the spousal sponsorships, parental sponsorships and independent applicants since the 2007-2009 fiscal year cases (i) were accepted, (ii) are still in process, (iii) have been refused, and for what reason; (c) what is the current length of time required to process the applications for (i) spousal sponsorships, (ii) parental sponsorships, (iii) independent applicants; (d) how many cases are in backlog and are or were the subject of enhanced security background checks; (e) how many staff are employed to process applications; and (f) what additional resources have been allocated to process the case backlog?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 129Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

With regard to Variety Village, a charity in the constituency of Scarborough Southwest: (a) on what grounds was its application for funding under the Recreational Infrastructure Canada program denied; (b) on what grounds was its application for $1,633,137 in federal funding under the Infrastructure Stimulus fund denied; and (c) does the government have any intention to allocate funding to Variety Village before it hosts events for the 2015 Paralympics Pan Am Games?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 134Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

With regard to potential transfer of Ste. Anne’s Hospital to the provincial government: (a) how many veterans are currently occupying beds in the hospital; (b) how many total beds are currently being unused; (c) what assurances are being given to veterans that their medical care needs will take precedence over non-veterans at the hospital after the transfer; (d) what precedence is given to allied veterans who are now Canadian citizens; (e) what precedence is being given to veterans who served in Korea, as Peacekeepers, and in Afghanistan at this medical facility; (f) what consultations has Veterans Affairs Canada undertaken with Ste. Anne’s residents, staff, local officials, and veterans organizations; (g) when did these consultations occur; and (h) what Veterans Affairs Canada officials were in attendance for these consultations?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motion for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Official ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to correct the record, with regard to my speech at second reading on Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act.

In my speech, I stated that not one offender, who has been granted a transfer back to Canada to resume and serve his or her sentence, has ever reoffended.

I misquoted that statistic. In fact, of 620 Canadians transferred back to Canada between 1993 and 2007, four were re-incarcerated for a new offence within two years after the expiry of their sentence. This represents a recidivism rate of 0.6% for Canadians transferred under this legislation, which compares to a recidivism rate of approximately 25% for offenders in general.

Of course we cannot compare it to the rate of offenders who are not transferred but return to Canada after serving their sentence abroad because those offenders re-enter Canada with no monitoring or record of their foreign convictions. So we do not know what those numbers are.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to correct the inaccuracy in the record. Although my point is nevertheless valid, I regret any confusion I may have caused.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

moved:

That, given the government's failure to act in the best interest of Canada when it allowed the sell-off of Inco, Falconbridge, Stelco and Nortel, the government should act immediately to protect the interests of Canadian workers, their communities and the strategic and long-term interests of the Canadian economy, by improving its review of foreign takeovers that involve key Canadian resource, manufacturing, high tech and, potentially, telecommunications companies, by strengthening the Investment Canada Act by: (a) lowering the threshold for public review; (b) ensuring public hearings are held in affected communities; and (c) requiring publication of the reasons for decisions and conditions to be met by approved foreign owners.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Timmins—James Bay, and I would like to thank my colleague from Windsor West for his invaluable contribution.

Today, this House will be debating a motion that speaks to one of the main reasons I have pursued public life: the need for this Parliament and for this government to protect the resources that belong to the Canadian people and their communities.

Having spent my whole life in northern Ontario, I can tell my hon. colleagues in this chamber that my community is living proof of the current government's and previous government's failures to protect the interests of Canadian workers, their communities and the strategic and long-term interests of the Canadian economy as a whole.

To be clear, the NDP is not against foreign investment. We are opposed to the kind of foreign takeovers we have witnessed in my community of Greater Sudbury. I will come back to this point later.

At a critical time of increasing global energy needs due to growing economies, country after country has begun to view its supply of natural resources as an issue of national security. China, for example, is investing in iron ore, gold, silver, copper, aluminum and coal in countries around the world. Others such as Vietnam, Russia and India are following suit. Indonesia, an exporter of coal, has begun scaling back its exports.

It begs the following question. Why is Canada not assessing its key sectors, such as natural resources, manufacturing, high tech including green technologies, and telecommunications, through the filter of long-term strategic need?

Canada, it seems, is heading in the opposite direction of many countries by increasing significantly the minimum threshold upon which a federal review of a foreign takeover takes place.

In other words, the government is telling the world to help itself to our natural resources, our technologies and our intellectual property. While it is at it, it is also signalling them not to worry about those conditions of sale the federal government imposes, because the federal government will not pursue them even when they break their contract.

One only has to look at the government's disgraceful behaviour during the Vale Inco strike in my community. In Greater Sudbury 3,200 workers, members of the United Steelworkers Local 6500, remain on strike because Brazilian-owned Vale Inco has refused to return to the negotiating table.

The government just stays silent and claims it is provincial jurisdiction, all the while meeting with Vale Inco representatives 25 times since 2008. So much for this strike being a purely provincial matter.

The strike at Vale Inco is a perfect example of why we need the House today to support the motion, which seeks to strengthen the Investment Canada Act to prevent the very situation that community after community is facing across Canada today.

Briefly, the motion calls 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 conditions to be met by approved foreign owners.

Here is a fact. There have been more than 13,500 foreign takeovers in Canada, 334 in the last year. Here is another fact. The federal government has disallowed only one. That is right, one. That was due in large measure to the work of the NDP caucus and former NDP member, Peggy Nash, in particular.

Here are some more facts:

In 2007, for the first time since 1999, foreign-controlled companies operating in Canada held 52.8% of manufacturing assets, up from 46.8% in 2006.

Statistics Canada reported that the increase “was due largely to foreign acquisitions of Canadian-controlled firms, especially in the primary metals and wood and paper industries.”

In 2007, foreign-controlled firms held 38.5% of Canada’s oil and gas industries, 48.8% of operating revenues, and 44.6 % of operating profits.

In one year alone, 2006, foreign control of Canada’s mining sector rose from 12% to 40%.

This issue that our caucus has laid before this House today is both timely and critical.

On the motion's second point, stakeholder and community consultation, it remains deeply perplexing to me why the government has not conducted such consultations prior to making a decision on a proposed foreign takeover.

If the government had consulted with the community of Greater Sudbury, a community that has had decades and decades of experience with mining, it would have heard about people's concerns as to whether Vale Inco understood the community's history with mining, or our strong labour roots, or the importance we place on trust and good faith in negotiations.

Vale, in turn, would have gleaned some insight into the fact that union busting was a non-starter in northern Ontario.

I want to stress, though, that this is not just about northern Ontario. It is about all of Canada. Every community, including our northern and first nations communities, must have a say in the development of key resource sectors.

Finally, I want to touch on the third element of my motion, and that is transparency. The government and previous governments have been ignorant or blind to the fact that a foreign entity does not buy our natural resources. It is merely leasing them.

Those resources belong to the people of Canada.

Canadians have the right to know the decisions that form the basis of approval by their government and the key conditions that must be met by foreign companies when they take over a Canadian company.

We are not asking for 100% disclosure. We understand the need for protecting certain information. But there has to be greater transparency. The status quo simply will not do.

We need only to ask those employees who have been laid off despite company commitments to protect those jobs.

I want to be clear that the motion is about protecting Canada's long-term strategic interests. It is not about stopping foreign investment in Canada, but it is about stopping foreign takeovers that are not a net benefit to Canada, for example, those companies that seek to come into a community, conduct high grading of our purest forms of key resources and then pack up and leave when they are done.

We support and welcome foreign investment in Canada because our companies are also investing in other countries. It makes good business sense. In 2008, for example, Canadian direct investment abroad totalled $637 billion and foreign direct investment in Canada totalled $505 billion.

Keep in mind that at least 15% of investment overseas by Canadians, or almost $100 billion, went to tax havens, like the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands—which have no income tax)—, an amount several times greater than the GDP of those countries.

Therefore, before my Conservative colleagues across the way spring these numbers, I would want them to acknowledge that tax evasion is not foreign investment—it is simply tax evasion.

In this competitive global environment, we need to balance the strategic interests of our country and its people with the need to foster a fair and level playing field for both Canadian and foreign companies wishing to invest in Canada. The status quo is failing Canadians. The government has yet to articulate exactly what its net benefit test is when it approves takeover after takeover. This motion addresses some of the key weaknesses of the current system.

I hope that, together, we as parliamentarians can begin to address this imbalance by protecting the interests of Canadian workers, their communities and the strategic and long-term interests of the Canadian economy.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, given the time, I will not have the opportunity to speak to the NDP motion, but I can say that the Bloc supports it.

The motion moved by my NDP colleague highlights the fact that many foreign acquisitions of Canadian firms have proven disastrous for the Canadian economy.

Does the hon. member believe, as the Bloc does, that Conservative economic policies are based on blind ideology and dogma, rather than on measurable, tangible realities?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I do not think the Conservatives have a clear picture of foreign investments in Canada. I am convinced that they have no idea what is happening in Sudbury relating to Vale Inco and Xstrata.

I thank the Bloc for its support.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Nickel Belt probably knows, I am from Labrador. We have Voisey's Bay in Labrador, where 350 workers have been on strike for more than nine months. They have offered good-faith negotiations with Vale Inco. Either those negotiations have been rejected or the company has come to the table with certain conditions that could not be accepted by the workers.

We get emails from single-parent families. Many of the workers who formerly worked and are on now on strike are aboriginal. It took a tremendous amount of effort to make sure we hired aboriginal people, Inuit, Innu and Métis, on site. These were good paying jobs. The Conservative government hides behind provincial responsibility and the Investment Canada Act every time the issue is raised in the House.

I want to thank the member for bringing this issue forward. I want him to comment on the fact that every time we raise the Investment Canada Act, the Conservatives say they cannot change it. They cannot give us the details behind the foreign takeovers, and there is no transparency. What more can we do in the House to encourage the Conservative government to be more transparent and to make good changes to the Investment Canada Act?

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, he is right. I said a while ago that this is not only about my community. It is about Voisey's Bay, Port Colborne and every resource across Canada.

What can we do to make the government more transparent? I think we have tried everything. I think the best thing we can do is to vote it out at the next election. That would certainly do it for me. I think that is the best thing we can do. If we want a transparent government, we have to change the government.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will pose a question and then give a bit of background to it.

What is the member's definition of free trade? What I mean by that is the following.

If I ask people generically who are believers in free trade if they believe in free trade, their hand will automatically go up. However, if I nuanced that with regard to the Cold War with the west and the Soviet Union and asked them if they believed in free trade regardless of any circumstances and then I asked if they believed in free trade when it comes to precision small ball-bearings, those people might say yes. However, if they then found out that precision ball-bearings were used by the Soviets for their MIRV missiles so that those missiles could more easily target things in North America, all of a sudden those people became concerned and did not like the idea of selling precision small ball-bearings.

Free trade sometimes sounds good but if it is done with strategic assets that can be used or abused by enemies in a military context, that is a problem.

I am wondering what the member's definition of free trade is.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member that this motion is not about free trade. It is about fair foreign investment. We are not against foreign investment. We are against foreign takeover. This is not about free trade. It is about foreign takeover of our companies.

We are interested in having foreign companies invest in Canada. A good example is De Beers in northern Canada which has invested in the north and has consulted with first nations, communities and its employees.

We are interested in foreign investment not in foreign takeovers.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak in the House today to this motion, with the work of my colleague from Nickel Belt and, in particular, the work of my colleague from Windsor West who has raised these issues again and again.

I am also proud to stand here as the member for the riding of Timmins--James Bay. My grandfather, Charlie Angus, came to Timmins from the Hawkhill tenements of Dundee and he died on the shop floor at the Hollinger mine. My mother's father, Joseph MacNeil, left with the waves of Cape Bretoners to work underground in Timmins. He broke his back in a fall of ground, which, in those days, was not even commented upon in the newspapers because life was cheap.

When my grandfathers were working underground, the average life expectancy for an east European man was 41 years of age, and that was considered a norm and considered perfectly okay by industry. I am here today to say that my grandparents' generation fought so that our communities would benefit and there would be a decent way of life in the mines in northern Ontario. We are not about to turn back the clock at this point, in 2010, and allow companies like Vale Inco and Xstrata to run our resources into the ground, and that is what this motion is about.

This motion is about the Conservative government's absolute failure to stand up for national interests. We have to condemn it for what has happened at Stelco, at Nortel, at Xstrata and at Vale Inco because that will be the template it uses on industry after industry, and Canadians need to see what is coming down the pipe.

I would like to say at the beginning that this is a very clear discussion. This is not about foreign investment. This is about scrutinizing foreign takeovers. I will give an example.

This week, the first diamonds ever from Ontario went on sale from the Victor diamond mine on the James Bay coast. I will tell the House about De Beers. De Beers came and built a billion dollar mine. It hired people and signed impact benefit agreements with first nations communities. I know there are people in some of my James Bay communities who do not believe that they got the best deal they could out of it, but I have worked with De Beers and when we won the fight to get a school in Attawapiskat, the CEO of De Beers called me that day and asked how his company could help.

That is foreign investment. That is something that we must welcome on all sides of the political House. We need to have an investment climate that welcomes companies to come in, invest and see the potential. However, there is something fundamentally different between the behaviour of De Beers and Vale Inco. There was a brutal, nasty, nine-month needless strike when the price of nickel would give Vale the kind of profits that its shareholders could be pleased with. Even more striking for me is that this week Xstrata is moving to shut down the copper refining and zinc refining capacity of Ontario.

This has to be really understood because the Conservatives were warned about this. Xstrata had a less than stellar record. In 2006 we were on the verge of seeing the merger of Inco and Falconbridge, which would have created, out of two world-class mining operations, a world-class super-operation. At the time, there was a lot of excitement and interest in the mining industry because of the synergies between Inco and Falconbridge, the kind of technical expertise. These were the most productive base metal mining companies in the world and they were on the verge of merging, but they were held up in a regulatory hurdle. That is when Xstrata, this corporate raider, came along to try to take Falconbridge.

At that time we pushed the government for a simple thing. We were not asking it to stop Xstrata. We were asking it, as government, because of the interest of these national resources, to hold off on allowing Xstrata to run away with Falconbridge until both bids were on the table. In June 2006, I asked the then industry minister a very clear question about the issue, of needing to have both bids on the table, and I spoke specifically about the fact that we were talking about the infrastructure of Canada's copper industry being picked off by this company that was set up in an unaccountable Swiss canton.

My colleague from Windsor West and the industry committee passed a motion calling on the government to hold off until both bids were on the table but the government, of course, laughed it off. In fact, the industry minister had quite a little chuckle at the time and said that he had not heard any rumours that it was going to get up and move the mines.

It shows how little the government understands the mining industry. No, it was not going to move the mines but it could move the copper ore, and that is exactly what is happening with Xstrata right now. Xstrata has come in and has sent a clear message. It is not interested in the traditional compact that we have had with industry, that it is going to develop the resources and process them in Ontario. It has very clearly said that it will not meet the environmental standards. It will shut down Sudbury if it wants to. It is shutting down Timmins and, unfortunately, I am warning my colleagues from Quebec, it will be shutting Rouyn-Noranda next. This is about moving copper to China and other places for processing.

This is a complete failure by the government. If we talk to anyone in the mining industry, they will say that what was allowed to happen under the present government with Falconbridge and Inco is the equivalent of the Avro Arrow. The development of the Sudbury basin will be permanently impacted because of the short-sighted lack of understanding of what was at stake here.

In my community of Timmins right now, 1,000 jobs are being lost right off the board and 4,000 jobs in the region. The loss of this refinery is sending a very clear message, and it is a message the government kind of likes, that our resource regions will now be treated like any third world jurisdiction because being open for business, it wants us to be open for the bad players as well as the good players. That is not the way we need to do business in this country.

My colleague from the Bloc spoke about ideology. The Conservatives are blinded, as G.K. Chesterton said, by the horrible mysticism of money. They believe that capital being allowed to do whatever it wants is the only social good. Therefore, if Xstrata comes in and tells our communities that they are just another third world jurisdiction, that it does not have any obligation to process resources and that it will ship it out, the government says that is fine because capital speaks.

If Vale comes in and tells the most productive mining workers in the world at Port Colborne, at Voisey's Bay and at Sudbury that they are now a disposable workforce, the government says that is perfectly okay. However, we know it is not okay. If we are going to see this complete lack of due diligence from the government on key sectors like mining, then what will happen when it starts to sell off our telecommunications and our tar sands lock, stock and barrel to the Chinese so they can just move the bitumen out and process it elsewhere? It is a lack of a national vision on which the government has to be held accountable.

The other day we lost the third largest OSB manufacturer in North American, Grant Forest Products. When our leader asked the Minister of Industry where the net benefit was to Canada, the minister could not even stand up and give us an answer on his own. He had to read from a press release put out by Georgia-Pacific. We are not Georgia. This is Canada. The government has an obligation when it reviews a sale, and that is not to say a sale will not happen, to ensure that the people who are buying up these resources will do so to the net benefit of Canada. It is a simple thing. I do not see why it has been so hard.

The motion before us today is very clear. The government needs to be held accountable because it blew it. I am calling on my colleagues from all parties to stand with us and say that what has happened at Vale, what has happened at Xstrata, what has happened at Stelco and what has happened with the tearing apart of Nortel has been a national tragedy and the government needs to take responsibility for it. It must learn the lessons of this and Canadians need to learn the lessons of ensuring that when we are dealing with our resources that there is a net benefit.

Canada has now dropped to 14th out of 17th in western countries in terms of industrial innovation. It is no wonder, because when we are a branch plant economy, the investments are not made. Statistics Canada tells us that Canadian operations are twice as profitable as the ones owned by foreign companies in Canada because we are just a branch plant economy. We have to do better than selling off our natural resources to the detriment of our communities. Our regions and our people have a right to benefit from those jobs, which is why our country needs to stand up for this principle. That is why the New Democrats put forward this motion. We are calling on all members of the House to work with us.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will pose the question in a different way for my colleague across the way.

There is an old expression that says “you don't sell a rope to an opponent who wants to hang you with it”. So, if we were allowing, for example, one private enterprise to buy other private enterprises, most people would say that was probably a good idea. However, if we allowed another state's enterprises owned by the state to buy our private sector enterprises, some people may raise issues with that. However, some people might ask about the case of Norway or France which are friends of NATO. What if we had other state owned enterprises, which were open military threats to our way of life, that wanted to buy those private assets in our country?

The question then becomes: Do we sell the opponents the nickel to harden their missiles to hit us with or do we sell our opponents the telecommunications to go ahead and spy on us with? I pose those questions for my colleague.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague's question, because I think it is very pertinent. Before Xstrata was allowed to walk off with Falconbridge, China Minmetals attempted to walk out, and my colleague is very aware of that file. We raised that question then. The Liberal government was going to allow that sell-off, and doing so would clearly have been a detriment. This had to be looked at.

We have to look at Vale as well. Vale is part of the Brazilian government. When we look at Vale's plan for Sudbury, they are saying we now have to be like Brazilian workers. We have to go down to their standards.

There are some serious questions that have to be addressed, and certainly when we are talking about telecommunications, as my colleague pointed out, there is a national security interest. Telecommunications has been identified as a national security priority for 20-some years in this country.

These are questions that have to be reviewed. That is not to suggest that when sales happen they will not be allowed, but they have to be reviewed, and they have to be reviewed with due diligence.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his passionate speech on this particular issue. I know it is important to him and the people back in his riding, as the issue is important to me and the people I represent back in Labrador.

It would seem to me that the member has articulated that the Conservative government abdicated its responsibility to protect our natural resources and to protect our workers and that it has not done enough to make sure that our labour standards are being respected by companies that come in here and take over Canadian companies.

I would ask the member if he would agree with that particular statement, and how he would see this motion helping to improve the situation for Canadian industries, natural resources industries and Canadian workers. I particularly want him to speak to workers in Voisey's Bay and those hired by companies like Vale Inco.