Mr. Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time with the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap.
It is always an honour to bring the voices of Chatham-Kent—Leamington into this chamber. Today, I look forward to addressing the third reading of Bill C-34, an act to amend the Investment Canada Act, with the aim of protecting Canada’s national security. That is the important part.
After eight years of the Prime Minister, numerous foreign state-owned enterprises have acquired interest and control in many Canadian companies, intellectual property, intangible assets and the data of our citizens. As usual, the government has done too little, too late, to fully protect our national economic and security interests.
While Conservatives are pleased that four of our amendments were passed at committee, we are a bit bewildered as to why the Liberal-NDP government would want to water this legislation down. It defeated 10 amendments that would have made Canadian interests more fully protected by having better legislation. Why?
One of the amendments defeated at committee would have modified the definition of a state-owned enterprise to include any company or entity headquartered in an authoritarian state, and of course, one of the main ones there is China.
The House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations presented an interim report to the last May that was entitled “A Threat to Canadian Sovereignty: National Security Dimensions of the Canada–People’s Republic of China Relationship”. This report offered an in-depth review of the national security implications related to the PRC’s actions. It addressed key national security topics, including the safeguarding of Canadians from foreign interference, preventing threats to Canada’s democratic institutions and elections, defending intellectual property and research, enhancing cybersecurity, combatting organized crime and money laundering, addressing global health governance threats and scrutinizing the PRC’s intentions in the Arctic. This report should serve as a warning. We need to align ourselves with our allies.
The U.S. has created a committee on foreign investment in the United States, or CFIUS, which is an inter-agency committee authorized to review certain transactions involving foreign investment in the U.S. and certain real estate transactions by foreign persons, to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the U.S.
Have we not learned our lessons, through COVID, by allowing critical elements of our economy to be put under foreign control? A recent CBC article said, “Casey Babb, an international fellow with the Glazer Centre for Israel-China Policy and an instructor at Carleton University in Ottawa, said China uses foreign investment as a strategic tool.”
I am going to quote him from the article: “They use foreign investment as a door, as an entry point, to gain access to markets, to gain access to government, to investors as well”.
He goes on to say, “It's a great way to sort of use licit means to carry out illicit, or even legal but injurious, activities.” Dr. Babb also said that “China is looking to tap into [Canada's] natural resources, including oil, critical minerals and fish.”
The government’s “soft on China” policy must end. One of the amendments it refused to pass sought to list specific sectors necessary to preserve Canada’s national security, rather than using a systematic approach.
Let me provide a personal example of a sector-specific area. On our own farm in Leamington, in the years prior to the Ukraine-Russian war, we actually used more Belarusian potash on the farm than our own Canadian Saskatchewan potash. Why? Sea freight is relatively cheaper than rail freight. Why is our rail freight so expensive? Because it is being tied up hauling crude oil to eastern refineries, rather having that oil flow through an energy east pipeline, which is lowering our rail capacity for moving potash and other goods that cannot move by pipeline. Supply and demand drives up the cost of freight.
In addition, 660,000 to 680,000 tonnes of nitrogen fertilizer, mainly urea, were imported pre-war into eastern and central Canada. Why is western natural gas not flowing through a pipeline to fertilizer manufacturing plants here in eastern Canada? Again, Russia's invasion of Ukraine should teach us a lesson. Where we have critical inputs in Canada, we should ensure that we have the infrastructure that could be used domestically so that we would have competitive prices vis-à-vis foreign options.
Another Conservative amendment that failed to pass would have exempted non-Canadian Five Eyes intelligence state-owned enterprises from this national security review process to prevent an overly broad review process. This, unfortunately, sends all the wrong signals to our Five Eyes partners with whom the Liberal government's policies have been at odds.
Canada needs to be seen as a reliable player in this partnership. Under the current government, this has not been the case. Canada needs to restore its trustworthy reputation with the U.K., the U.S., Australia and New Zealand so that critical intelligence information gathered by one member can be confidently shared with other members.
Again, the failure of this amendment to pass sends all the wrong signals to our allies.
Amendment 25.4(1.1) would have allowed the Government of Canada to maintain ownership of intangible assets that have been developed in whole or in part by taxpayer funding. An example of an intangible asset, which I learned in preparation for this speech, is a radio frequency filtering system for our Mounties. What is that? It is a filter circuit made up of capacitors, inductors and resistors that is used to filter the signal frequency in communication channels.
What is behind this? Let us think back to 2017 when the China-based Hytera acquired a telecom company from B.C. called Norsat. This company has significant Chinese government ownership, but it does not make any money. Does that not send a signal that this should be looked at? This company significantly lost money for six years.
We rightfully called for a full national security review, but the industry minister refused, and he approved the Chinese acquisition that provided the RCMP with telecom equipment. Incredibly, the federal procurement department awarded a $550,000 contract to Ontario-based Sinclair Technologies to build and maintain the radio frequency filtering system for the Mounties. By the way, Sinclair Technologies is the parent company of Norsat International.
In 2022, Norsat was charged with 21 counts of espionage in the U.S., and President Biden banned it from the U.S. Just eight months later, the RCMP awarded China's Hytera subsidiary, Norsat, the contract to install telecom hardware in our RCMP communications systems.
When questioned at committee, the RCMP was asked if it knew whether Hytera was charged and banned from the U.S., and the answer was “no”. How can the Liberal government continue to let such enormous security breaches happen?
We all know how important lithium is for our economy. It is needed to make the batteries for our EV vehicles. In 2019, the Liberals approved the sale of Canada’s only lithium-producing mine to the China state-controlled Sinomine Resource.
Every ounce of lithium mined in Canada right now goes to China, while Canadians are unable to supply lithium to our own growing electric vehicle industry, which is putting our nation in a potentially vulnerable situation.
Again, in 2019, Conservatives demanded a full national security review. The “soft on China” Liberals ignored it. I guess this would explain why the NDP-Liberal coalition voted down amendment 25.3(1), which would have allowed the minister to go back and review past state-owned acquisitions through the national security review process, which would have allowed a more fulsome review.
Last week, the Prime Minister did show us that the Liberal government can go back, as it adjusted the carbon tax on home heating fuel in Atlantic Canada and in rural Canada. The government demonstrated it can reverse course after identifying a mistake. That, of course, was in response to polling, not in the interests of national security.
It is time for a common-sense government, a government that would allow our nation to prosper while at the same time protecting its citizens. Conservatives will continue to use our voices to ensure that both the prosperity and the protection of our citizens is defended.