Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton—Strathcona. Before I start, I would like to thank the member for Halifax West for reminding us of the Liberal-Conservative coalition during his speech.
I want to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for moving this motion. It helps Parliament and Canadians have the debate that the Conservative government would prefer be kept behind closed doors with its well-connected friends. It is the kind of debate that Canada must have. Indeed, it is kind of debate my leader, as Leader of the Opposition, is ensuring we have now and Canadians will have in the next federal election.
Until last Friday at 5 p.m., I had thought the Black Friday sales for shoppers had ended on the day after American Thanksgiving, a few weeks ago. However, Communist China and Malaysia companies knew better. They especially knew where to go for a good sale on our natural resources. No matter what the government says, its actions tell everyone that Canada is for sale.
Imagine the delight of the communist China National Offshore Oil Corporation and Petronas. They find a country willing to sell its natural resources in a secret deal, whose conditions they do not need to divulge, with no public consultation and a green light to lay off workers, lower wages and whatever else they have up their sleeves to bring more petrodollars back home to their countries. They have to be laughing all the way to the bank.
People might think this was a comedy skit, if it were not so sad and serious. The Prime Minister of Canada looks Canadians in the eye and says that he has grave concerns about the sale to China and its increasing ownership of the oil sands. Then he approves the sale of the largest takeover ever, in his next breath.
The Prime Minister races to privatize state-owned companies, like Petro-Canada, and then turns around and welcomes state ownership by companies from communist countries. He is leaving Canadians, provincial governments, like Alberta, and investors wondering what exactly the conditions are for foreign investment.
We were treated to a spectacle this weekend of the Minister of Industry telling Canadians to ask the Chinese what was in the deal. Just imagine. Are there any environmental protections for Canada in this deal? “Ask Communist China” says the Canadian minister. Are there any commitments to keep current workforces in place? “Ask Communist China” says the Canadian minister. Are there any commitments to maintain existing wages? “Ask China.” The government probably needs a link on its government website to the Communist Chinese government for Canadians to know what is happening in their country.
Before 5 p.m. last Friday, I wanted to speak on this NDP opposition day motion. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce in the Prime Minister's home town and a large majority of Canadians are right; we need to clarify the net benefit test for foreign investment.
Why did I want to speak? I am the member for Nickel Belt, and that sits on the world's largest deposit of nickel. Most of my riding residents live in Greater Sudbury, a community that saw its Canadian companies of Falconbridge and Inco sold to Xstrata and Vale, and heard the government mumble like it was mumbling on Friday about net benefits for our workers.
I wanted to speak because I worked for 34 years for Inco and know a little about what actually happened in our community following the sale of our companies to foreign investors. Despite all the talk of net benefit to Canada and Greater Sudbury, we saw layoffs at Vale Inco and Xstrata Falconbridge.
When the Conservatives approved the sale of Falconbridge to Xstrata, they received assurance that there would be no layoffs or job losses for three years. Xstrata broke that promise, eliminating 686 permanent jobs. The Conservative government took no action.
After the takeover of Inco by the Brazilian giant, Vale, workers suffered through a long and bitter strike when the employer tried to cut wages. The Conservative government took no action.
I wanted to speak because I have now reintroduced in this Parliament five private member's bills that would amend the Investment Canada Act to ensure there would be transparency, accountability and public consultation, which are now lacking in these foreign investment deals. I will speak more about those bills in a few moments.
We can understand the skepticism of Canadians listening to the Minister of Industry's absurdity on the weekend that China could explain to Canadians the details of this sweetheart deal to CNOOC. That is the kind of nonsense we used to hear from the President of the Treasury Board when he was minister of industry.
Despite thousands and thousands of emails pouring in to the Prime Minister's office with the subject heading that Canada was not for sale, the government is selling off Canada's natural resources. Hundreds of those emails came from my own riding of Nickel Belt. Eighty per cent of Canadians know this kind of deal does not serve the interests of Canadians.
Friday's announcement brought bad news: there is nothing to clarify the “net benefit” test; there are no assurances that public consultations will be held with Canadians, who will bear the consequences of these takeovers; there are no assurances of mandatory disclosure of the guarantees given by investors or that they will be enforced in a transparent and responsible manner; there is no improved reciprocity for Canadian investors outside Canada; and there are no assurances that governments' records of interference in the activities of state-owned corporations will be reviewed.
Let us hear what commentators were writing this weekend about this deal.
Andrew Coyne wrote that it was all about politics and not policy. He said that the political balancing act was at the cost of total incoherence in policy terms.
Workers on the ground in Alberta know better. The Alberta Federation of Labour said the Prime Minister was saying what Canadians wanted to hear, while doing what they did not want and that these tough new conditions were no more than a public relations ploy.
The so-called unprecedented new rules to foreign investment are still largely behind closed doors for the industry minister's decision with no public input, filled with exceptions and still as ambiguous as ever.
If this is a line in the oils sands, as the front page of the Globe and Mail suggests today, it is pretty much an invisible and moving line. So much for protection for our strategic industries, especially from state-owned enterprises in emerging markets. We can do better as a country. In fact, we must.
We need the Investment Canada Act to work for Canada. The NDP recognizes the need for foreign investment and foreign trade when it works for Canada. We need to clarify the net benefit test, introduce parameters around reciprocity, improve the transparency of decisions and set specific criteria for state-owned companies to meet net benefit requirements in order to protect the Canadian economy for potential foreign government interference.
My private member's bill, Bill C-333, would require the responsible minister, on written application by a Canadian citizen, to disclose both the written undertakings by a foreign company in respect of its investment in a takeover and what Canada had demanded in return.
My private member's bill, Bill C-334, would require public consultation with representatives of industry and labour, provincial and local authorities and other interested persons. It would require non-Canadian investors to provide the Director of Investments with a surety that may be forfeited if non-Canadian investors failed to satisfactorily complete all of the undertakings they had made to the Government of Canada in connection with the investment.
The FIPA that this government signed with the Communists stipulates that once the Chinese takeover is complete, the company must be considered a Canadian company. Thus, once the FIPA has been ratified, CNOOC will have extensive rights that will allow it to increase its control over the oil sands, for instance, by buying up new oil leases. It is now clear that the Conservatives have failed to limit the influence of state-owned corporations in the oil industry.
This is no way to manage the economy. This confusion on rules, this secrecy, this failure to clarify rubber stamping and approval make a mess of things. We on this side are with the vast majority of Canadians who do not trust the Chinese state to run Nexen in the interests of Canadians. It will run the Canadian oil sands in the interest of its central party committee of the communist Chinese party that runs the country. We need a government in Canada that puts Canadians first.