House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was energy.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Timiskaming—Cochrane (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 62% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture Act April 25th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-3 at third reading.

The Canadian economy is still strong, thanks in part to the solid performance of the resource industries.

Canadian companies in that area are proving that they cannot only prosper in the knowledge economy of the 21st century but also contribute to its dynamism and vitality.

However the prosperity of the resource sector should not be taken for granted. The industry must be able to make strategic decisions and to better position itself on domestic and foreign markets.

The changes proposed in Bill C-3 will allow two actors in the natural resources sector, namely Cameco Corporation and Petro-Canada, to continue contributing to the economic growth and environmental stewardship by lifting restrictions that have no more reason to be and which prevent them from attracting new investments and concluding new strategic alliances.

Those two companies used to be crown corporations. The Government of Canada sold all its shares in Cameco in 1995. It has kept an 18% participation in Petro-Canada, but it is a carried interest and the government has no say in the management of the corporation.

At the time of privatization the government imposed restrictions on the proprietary interest of the two companies. It had good reasons to do so, but some restrictions have since outlived their usefulness and only prevent the two companies from taking advantage of new business opportunities.

In particular, Bill C-3 changes the restrictions imposed on share ownership and the disposal of property by the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act. It also amends the share ownership provisions of the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act, which governs Cameco.

With regard to Petro-Canada, Bill C-3 will raise from 10% to 20% the limit on individual shares ownership. Moreover, the 25% limit on the total number of shares that can be owned by non-residents will be eliminated. In other words, there will be no more restriction to the foreign ownership of Petro-Canada's shares, except that an individual, of whatever origin, will not be allowed to own more than 20% of the shares of the company.

Despite the abolition of the limit on foreign ownership, Petro-Canada is likely to remain under predominantly Canadian ownership in the foreseeable future.

First, the 20% limit on individual ownership of voting shares in Petro-Canada prevents any potential takeover by a major multinational.

Second, there is far greaten interest for Petro-Canada among Canadian investors than foreign investors. As a matter of fact the foreign participation in the company does not exceed 16%, while the existing act allows up to 25%.

Third, under the Canada Business Corporations Act corporations subjected to share ownership restrictions like Petro-Canada are still required to be run by a board of directors comprised of a majority of Canadians.

In order to give Petro-Canada more latitude with the management of its assets, the prohibition on the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of Petro-Canada's upstream and downstream assets will be replaced with a similar prohibition which makes no distinction between upstream and downstream assets. The bill maintains just the level of prohibition necessary to prevent the company from shutting down operations through the sale of all its assets.

In the case of Cameco, Bill C-3 eases restrictions currently imposed on foreign ownership without eliminating them completely. The limit on individual non-resident share ownership will be raised from 5% to 15%. The limit on collective non-resident share ownership will increase from 20% to 25%. As for the ownership limit for an individual Canadian shareholder, it will remain at 25%.

In spite of the reduction of the foreign participation restrictions, Cameco will always be controlled by Canadians and the majority of its capital will remain held by Canadians in the foreseeable future.

First, the 15% individual non-resident share ownership restriction rules out any possibility of takeover by a major multinational.

Second, with the 25% limit on collective non-resident share ownership, control over Cameco cannot fall into foreign hands.

Third, Cameco generates much more interest among Canadian investors than among foreign investors. Indeed, foreign participation in the corporation does not exceed 6% right now, whereas the current legislation allows a 20% participation.

Fourth, under the Canada Business Corporations Act, corporations such as Petro-Canada which are subjected to share ownership restrictions are still required to be run by a board of directors comprised of a majority of Canadians.

Bill C-3 has the support of both corporations, which see the current restrictions as unfair in that they do not apply to other corporations in their respective sectors of activity.

In my opinion the legislation will be well received by all investors both in Canada and abroad. At the same time it will protect the Canadian status of Petro-Canada and Cameco. The headquarters will remain in Canada and the majority of the board of directors will be made up of Canadians.

I can assure my colleagues that in the case of Petro-Canada the proposed amendments will have no impact on the price of refined petroleum products. A recent study carried out by the Conference Board of Canada confirmed that the price of gasoline is established mainly according to supply and demand and has nothing to do with property rules governing one company of the Canadian petroleum industry.

I can also assure the House that the proposed amendments will have absolutely no impact on the competitiveness of the Canadian oil and gas industry.

Also, this bill is not a prelude to the sale of the government's shares in Petro-Canada. Although its holdings in Petro-Canada no longer serve any of its political purposes, the government is waiting for the right time to sell off its shares. In other words, it will wait until the market conditions ensure optimal yield for Canadian taxpayers.

I also want to inform hon. members that the proposed changes to the Cameco legislation will not change anything in the commitment Canada made toward non-proliferation of nuclear weapons or nuclear security.

Uranium is a regulated substance of strategic importance. The Canadian policy concerning uranium exportation is subject to the support regulations of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and to permits delivered under the Export and Import Permits Act. Canadian substances, equipment and technology cannot be used to manufacture nuclear explosive devices.

The Government of Canada has not only urged its trading partners to ratify the non-proliferation treaty but it has also entered into nuclear co-operation agreements providing an additional control mechanism.

The Government of Canada, and hon. members can rest assured of this, thinks that it is still necessary to impose restrictions on the foreign ownership of uranium. Bill C-3 gives Cameco better access to foreign capital and allows it to develop new strategic alliances, but it does not in any way compromise the Canadian control of the company.

I would like also to underline that Cameco has the support of another element of the public sector, and I am referring obviously to the government of Saskatchewan. It has indicated that it totally supported the proposed amendments to Bill C-3.

Obviously the bill is consistent with sound management of public affairs. During the discussions in committee there were no serious objections. In fact, hon. members of most parties have expressed their support for the bill.

This bill is good for Petro-Canada, good for Cameco and good for all Canadians. I urge my colleagues to adopt the legislation.

Resource Industries April 24th, 2001

Mr. Chairman, first, before I answer the hon. member's direct question with regard to tar sands, I think it has become very cost effective. My colleague from Alberta will agree. At the beginning it was about $36 per barrel. It is now down to $14. It is very cost effective.

With regard to the potential new administration in the United States in four years, anyone who thinks that if the republicans are thrown out and the democrats get in that they will not need energy is living like Alice in Wonderland . The American economy and population is growing and their need for energy is growing.

We have the resources and the potential to service that market, as well as other markets in the world. We have potential resources, the tar sands being just one example. What about developing Churchill's clean renewable energy? Natural gas is one of the cleanest fossil energy resources that we can take from the west.

One cannot say that because we are turning slowly but surely toward more environmentally friendly energy sources that we have to get rid of all other kinds of energy resources tomorrow. It can be done in a couple of years. I will remind everyone that the government has invested over $1 billion in these climate changing initiatives and we are working toward cleaner energy.

Another point I want to make is with regard to the comment he made about the environment. I will remind the member that any investor from the United States who is willing to invest in the tar sands or any energy projects across the country will have to follow the provincial jurisdiction on environment and follow the rules, as we all have to do.

Resource Industries April 24th, 2001

Mr. Chairman, just want to make a comment on flow-through shares or the mineral exploration tax credit.

At the convention of the prospectors and developers association of Canada in Toronto, they were the ones that called them the super flow-through share program. They agreed that what they got was even better than what they had asked for. The program came after very lengthy consultations, about two years and a half, with the industry. Thus, this did not happen during the last months before the election was called.

It is important to specify that both the association and the government did not do a good job of selling this program to investors. I met some people from the association before their convention and they distributed an excellent promotional brochure. The Canadian government had a very good presence at the convention. I think investors are aware of the program, of its value and of the fact that, on the stock exchange, dotcom companies' shares have fallen. People are realizing that these kinds of shares are not a panacea and they are going back to natural resources. I believe this augurs well for all Canadians.

Resource Industries April 24th, 2001

Mr. Chairman, the member asked a few questions and he probably would like a response from the government side. I am pleased to do so. The member had me worried for a while. I thought he was asking for a return to the national energy program which I do not think would do well in his province.

Let me reassure all members, if they have been listening to the Minister of Natural Resources, and specifically to the Prime Minister when he was in Calgary, that the government has no intention of going back to an NEP type of program. We are talking about a continental energy program or policy. We prefer to call it an expansion of the continental energy market.

The issue is quite simple. The Americans need more energy and we have a surplus of energy. Whether it is the tar sands, Churchill Falls, a region of the country that can develop electricity or whether it is natural gas in the northwest, we have a huge potential to create jobs and wealth in the country.

We as a government are willing to expand our market and to sell, for the benefit of all Canadians and specifically the provinces that produce energy, to the Americans and to the rest of the world, but only by respecting provincial jurisdictions and the environment.

If the Americans do invest we will not allow them to call the shots. This government intends to maintain sovereignty over natural resources which is critical for the security and the well-being of any nation. That is what we intend to do.

Resource Industries April 24th, 2001

Mr. Chairman, I am very happy to join in the debate tonight. I would like to thank the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik for his initiative. Natural resources is a tremendously important sector for my riding of Timiskaming—Cochrane and for Northern Ontario as a whole.

Natural resources represent a very important sector for Canada and account for 11% of our gross domestic product, or $90 billion, $100 billion a year in exports, a positive trade balance of $60 billion. It is the livelihood of close to 3.5 million Canadians in more than 600 communities and represents 750,000 direct jobs, good jobs to boot, and as many indirect ones.

Resource industries are some of those who invest the most in capital equipment in Canada, a majority of their investments going to scientific and technologic innovations. A good number of our resource industries are among the most innovative in our economy and their productivity is growing faster than the average.

This should prove that the Canadian resource sector has nothing quaint about it. These are world class and knowledge-based industries. They have a rich intellectual capital and are part and parcel of the new global economy of the 21st century, which is based on knowledge.

They need it to reduce their operating costs, increase their productivity and competitiveness and overcome the difficult conditions and uncertain success due to the Canadian scene.

Because a strong natural resource industry is so important to Canada, because we have learned to excel, to innovate and to be a leader in almost every facet of this global business, it is crucial for government to lay a solid foundation for natural resources to thrive in the 21st century, guided by the principles of sustainable development.

The Government of Canada is working hard to lay the right foundation for this sector, balancing environmental, social and economic concerns in three ways: by providing sound economic fundamentals, and we have done that in the last seven or eight years; by encouraging innovation and knowledge so we remain at the cutting edge; and by promoting environmental stewardship and sustainable communities. These are the three areas I would like to address this evening.

The first area is sound economic foundations. The most recent federal mini-budget of last October delivered some of the tangible results of the success Canada has achieved in its fight to eliminate the deficit and to restore fiscal responsibility. Canada is stronger today since it is in the best financial position it has ever been in the recent past, as evidenced by the comments made by the International Monetary Fund.

Indeed, according to the IMF, Canada should continue to enjoy sustained economic growth and be able to react well to the economic downturn in the United States.

The new budget brought good news for Canada's mineral industry with its 15% tax credit for flow-through shares investment in exploration projects in Canada.

This measure was put it place as a result of a grassroots campaign led by an effective coalition headed by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Canadian Drilling Association and several members on this side of the House. My colleagues from northern Ontario and northern Quebec, including the member for Kenora—Rainy River, the Secretary of State for Rural Development, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, the member for Timmins—James Bay and myself have understood the benefits of exploration in our communities. I must say that it was not easy to convince the Minister of Finance. We had to work hard to convince him.

We hope this tax credit will attract new investments in exploration in Canada, especially since other levels of government have added their own programs to it. Such is the case in Ontario.

Moreover, PDAC announced that flow-through financing coupled with tax credits and totalling about $30 million was confirmed just before the end of the year 2000. I am told that investments are growing for the year 2001, which looks very promising. I hope that more investors, advisors and stakeholders in the financial sector will take note of this major new incentive in the months to come.

This tax measure makes it more appealing to invest in mineral exploration. Since there is a more favourable treatment of capital gains, which we reviewed in the last budget, and a commitment to fiscal prudence on the part of the government, it can be said that a sounder economic base is in place. The minerals and metals sector, like the Canadian economy as a whole, can conduct its activities in a sounder context, and it is in a better position in the race for capital money on international markets.

This brings me to my second point, the need to focus on knowledge and promoting innovation to be competitive in global markets. Innovation is about making opportunities happen, and without it we cannot succeed in the marketplace. By turning ideas into action, by finding new and creative ways to do things, companies can gain a competitive advantage and become leaders internationally in their respective fields. They can generate greater profits and a larger market share and they can create quality jobs. This is what we have done in Canada with the mining sector.

Innovation is a fundamental characteristic of our natural resources sector. Let us think of our success in exploration and mining, geomatics, remote sensing, mapping, surveying and environmental engineering. Our high tech natural resources industry generates economic, environmental and social benefits right across the country.

As a matter of fact there are more mining jobs in Toronto than there are in rural Canada. People do not realize that there are over 25,000 direct jobs in Toronto related to mining.

This sector builds strong links to other sectors. One obvious example is the sheer volume of commodity traffic that natural resources generate for our Canadian railway system. Where would Canadian National and Canadian Pacific be without natural resources? Canada's natural resources industries also purchase more computer equipment than all other Canadian manufacturing industries combined.

There is this idea in big cities that mining and forestry are backwoods industries and do not belong in a new age economy. That is wrong.

The value of our natural resources, the very nature of the industry, is often misunderstood. Some would have us believe that natural resources have a diminished role to play in a dot com universe because they have not kept up with the times. The reality as we all know is very different. The brain power and the technology used by this sector today are as sophisticated and innovative as any other. We need to get this message out across Canada and around the world. We must promote the innovative nature of our natural resources sector.

I was in Toronto not too long ago at the PDAC annual meeting. I met with members of a delegation from the Japanese mineral and metal association. They were worried that Canada would not continue to produce the minerals that they needed. They had heard the Prime Minister talking about making Canada the most connected country, the most innovative, and being in the forefront of the high tech economy. I reassured them that the mineral industry was still the mainstay of our economy.

Canadian resource companies recognize the importance of innovation. This is why, in the recent throne speech in which the Government of Canada stated its priorities for the years to come, natural resources were put under the theme “innovation”.

The government pledged “to promote innovation, growth and development in all parts of our economy”, including our resource sector. We will achieve that goal by doubling our investments in research and development. These investments, and I am quoting the throne speech, “will directly benefit Canadians in areas such as ...natural resources management”.

Currently, natural resource industries invest heavily in Canadian research and development, including research on the use of state of the art technologies, such as robotics, computer vision, environmental technology and specialized software.

We must go even further. We must invest in the new technologies to maintain a competitive edge and remain a truly sustainable industry for the future. Natural resources must be part of a renewed will to promote research and development in our country.

A good example of how innovative the mining industry has become allows an operator to be sitting in a Toronto office and running a scoop tram in a Sudbury mine using a computer. This prevents injuries to workers, et cetera.

Access To Information Act April 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-249. If passed, the Canada Wheat Board would fall under the Access to Information Act.

I can only say that such a scenario, if realized, would be completely unacceptable, not because the government is not open to accountability of its agencies and departments, as it most certainly is, but because it would run contrary to common business sense.

One wonders if the hon. member who put forward the bill and represents a western Canadian rural riding does not realize how the Canadian Wheat Board operates.

The Canadian Wheat Board is not a government department, not a government agency or even a crown corporation. It is a rather unique entity in Canada and perhaps the world in that it is a single desk marketer founded by federal legislation but not funded by taxpayers. Rather it is co-operative in style and is paid for by the farmers whose grain it markets. It is financially accountable to those farmers rather than to Canadian taxpayers.

It is also a business. By no means is it an insignificant business. It is a huge, highly successful commercial operation selling billions of dollars worth of Canadian wheat and barley each year to scores of countries around the world. Its success, which I hasten to add could not have been attained without the high quality wheat and barley our western farmers produce, makes it both the envy and the bane of its competitors.

As a business it competes with the Australian wheat board and major transnational companies that are similarly huge, such as Cargill, ConAgra and ADM. It is run by a board of directors, two-thirds of whom are elected directly by prairie farmers. As a business and a single desk marketing organization, the Canadian Wheat Board is probably subject to more audit scrutiny than any corporation either public or private could ever be.

Suffice it to say, to suggest the Canadian Wheat Board should fall under the same information legislation as government departments is quite frankly ludicrous.

If it is to advance the interests of farmers it serves, the Canadian Wheat Board must remain competitive in the global marketplace. Certain commercial or strategic information, if known to its competitors, could be used by them to gain commercial advantage, much to the detriment of Canadian grain producers.

Notwithstanding, the hon. member or any farmer, or any Canadian for that matter seeking information about the dealings of the Canadian Wheat Board, has several easily accessible options to pursue.

First, there is the CWB annual report, a comprehensive document which in terms of the information disclosed goes above and beyond the annual report of the Canadian Wheat Board's commercial competitors. The most recent annual report is 60 pages long and includes detailed information about stocks, market trends, export volumes, client countries and so on.

The Canadian Wheat Board, as with any other business, is audited every year by an independent, internationally known accounting firm. Detailed results of that audit are also part of the Canadian Wheat Board's annual report.

No, the Canadian Wheat Board does not release any information that would pertain to specific transactions or that would identify individual customers or shareholders. Nor do any of its competitors.

Farmers need to be knowledgeable about their wheat board and have every right to information pertaining to the CWB's performance and to facts that will help them make decisions about their own operations. The Canadian Wheat Board provides much of this information through market commentary, delivery related information, pool return outlooks, et cetera.

Farmers can also obtain facts about the Canadian Wheat Board through their elected directors. Directors have access to any and all of the Canadian Wheat Board's sales data and any other information pertaining to the wheat board's operations.

As with any business, nothing is off limits to those who sit on the board of the Canadian Wheat Board. It falls upon the directors to use their best judgment as to which pieces of information should be public and which should not.

Again I go back to a key point, which is that the Canadian Wheat Board is a commercial operation in a dog eat dog world. In these troubled times for grain producers, why would we add to their worries by making the board more vulnerable to its privately held secretive competitors? That is not to say that the Canadian Wheat Board is any less transparent than its competitors. To the contrary, it is more so.

Hon. members might recall that when the government made changes to the wheat board in 1998 it was with a view to making it more open and accountable to the farmers it serves.

Among the many actions the Canadian Wheat Board has taken to become more responsive and open to the farmers it serves was the development of an information policy. Let me be clear. This is a policy created by the board of directors in order to be directly accountable to farmers. The preamble to the information policy states:

As a producer controlled marketing organization, the CWB has a responsibility to provide meaningful and relevant information to its farmer shareholders. Information is key to increasing producer knowledge and understanding of CWB operations and performance, and will ensure that the CWB is accountable and meets producers' needs.

It further states that goals of the information policy are to:

  1. enable farmers to make a meaningful assessment of CWB performance; 2. provide meaningful and relevant information to farmers for use in their operations; and 3. ensure farmers' and the CWB's strategic and commercial interests are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by any information release.

A key element of the policy is if farmers want any information that is not disclosed through the usual audits and annual reports, meetings with the board of directors or other channels of communication they can simply request it.

I point out that the policy calls for the Canadian Wheat Board to respond to requests for information within 15 days or, if it cannot provide the information requested within 15 days, it must tell the requester how long it will take. In comparison, the Access to Information Act provides for a 30 day response period.

I have heard no great hue and cry from farmers wanting the Canadian Wheat Board to fall under the Access to Information Act. Is this bill the result of stacks of petitions as is often the case with private members' bills? Not likely.

I will leave it to others to speculate on the motive behind this bill. I would like to close by simply urging members to vote against Bill C-249 because a vote against this bill is a vote for the commercial interests of our western Canadian grain farmers.

Mining March 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian mining industry is a global leader and one of the few industrial sectors where Canadian knowledge, technology, expertise and leadership dominate internationally.

It is certainly no holdover from the past. Investing $350 million a year in research and development, Canadian mining is one of the most productive and innovative sectors of the Canadian economy. It is inextricably linked to the knowledge based, technology driven global economy.

The mining industry plays a significant role in Canada's economy and is a major ally in the development of the new economy. Mining accounts for close to 400,000 jobs in Canada, or one worker out of 40, and pays the highest salaries for industry in the country.

On this mining day in Canada, let us continue to work together to ensure Canadian mining reaches new levels of achievement, leadership and opportunity, because mining works for Canada.

James Merritt Harrison March 14th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to a great Canadian scientist who was recently inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame. The late Dr. James Merritt Harrison was the former director of the Geological Survey of Canada.

During his 17 year tenure, this organization enjoyed one of the most successful periods of its venerable history. Indeed, during this time many government programs were developed that helped make Canada a world leader in mineral exploration and resource development. Later, as a senior officer with Natural Resources Canada, Dr. Harrison became a respected spokesman on mineral industry issues.

Dr. Harrison greatly deserves this prestigious honour and he deserves public recognition for his accomplishments in the mining industry.

Immigration Act February 26th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the minister, it is my pleasure to reply to the hon. member for St. John's West, who raises some legitimate questions.

The potential of the lower Churchill River as a source of electricity supply to the North American market is well known. It is a renewable cost-competitive source with low or zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government of Canada recognizes that the development of hydro electricity can be an important option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

The federal government is determined to fulfil its stewardship role to ensure that the Labrador projects are carried out with full respect for the environment. The government has made considerable progress in the development of a standard environmental assessment process in co-operation with the governments of Quebec and Newfoundland.

The government also stressed the importance of direct participation by aboriginals who have an interest in the project and whose land claims are currently under review.

Turning to the issue of the transmission line from Labrador to the island of Newfoundland, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada agreed that federal and provincial officials would work together to carry out economic and financial feasibility studies of electricity supply options.

Joint Canada-Newfoundland studies were undertaken to determine the best option for meeting Newfoundland's future electricity demands. Two options were examined: one, building a transmission line, infeed, from the proposed new Labrador hydro electric project; or two, expanding on-island capacity and selling all the Labrador power to other markets.

This work proceeded until May 2000 when the governments of Quebec and Newfoundland issued a joint statement announcing the scaling back on negotiations and work on the Labrador power in light of uncertainties over electricity pricing in the deregulated U.S. markets.

With the decision by the premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec to scale back negotiations on the Labrador power project, work on the joint feasibility studies on electricity supply options was suspended until the scope and the structure of the hydro development project are finalized. Since the size, ownership and financing of the project remain fluid, the transmission line study cannot be completed at this time.

Natural Resources February 26th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the United States have a new administration. It is normal for ministers from our government to pay a visit to their American counterparts to get acquainted with the issues and discuss things in general terms.

The opposition will be informed when formal talks take place. Again, whether it is ministers or the government as a whole, we will always protect the rights and the needs of Canadians first and foremost.