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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
I would like the House to take note of today's use of the wooden mace. It serves as a reminder of the fire that took the lives of seven people and destroyed the original Parliament Buildings, except the library, on the night of February 3, 1916.
Among the items destroyed in that fire was the old mace. The wooden copy that members see today was subsequently made and used temporarily until the current one was given to us by the United Kingdom in 1917.
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
moved that Bill C-34, An Act to amend the Investment Canada Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today.
I would like to point out that the Nasdaq opening bell rang for the very first time in Ottawa, Canada, this morning. This is the first time in history that the Nasdaq opened in Canada. OpenText has just been registered in Canada, and I think this is a great moment for Canada and the Canadian industry.
I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the House. I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-34, an act to amend the Investment Canada Act, or the ICA, and move that it be read a second time and referred to a committee.
Before I talk about the legislative amendments in more detail, I would like to make a few comments about the act. As members know, the ICA is an important asset for our economy because it helps make Canada a top destination for foreign investment by ensuring a stable and predictable system.
Ensuring that Canada remains attractive to businesses and investors through a clear and predictable regulatory regime is ever more important as we continue to attract significant new investment. I think colleagues on both sides would have seen that Canada has what the economy of the 21st century needs.
No matter which country I visit, it is understood that Canada is a great investment destination, particularly when it comes to clean technologies, critical minerals, and automotive and battery supply chains. In fact, Bloomberg ranked Canada second in the world for its battery ecosystem, ahead of the United States and just behind China. This is a great thing that we have achieved in a couple of months, I would say, and we should all be proud as Canadians.
I will continue to work tirelessly to attract more investments to Canada that will create well-paying jobs and spur economic growth, and I look forward to more big announcements in 2023.
Again, this law seeks to encourage economic growth and job growth in the country and provides for intervention only in cases where an investment would harm Canada's national security. I think all of my colleagues are aware of the importance of protecting Canada's national security. What is more, it also gives us the necessary powers to act quickly and decisively as needed.
Over the years, we have noted three major themes, which were addressed during the review of the act. Specifically, these are strategic and geopolitical concerns, the need for greater certainty and transparency for investors and the need to protect the economy and innovation in Canada.
Let me talk about modernizing the law in the current geopolitical context. Canada’s interactions with the rest of the world are changing. Hostile state and non-state actors pursue deliberate strategies to acquire goods, technologies and intellectual property. They do so in ways that are incompatible with Canada’s interests and principles. We also know that foreign investments can be used as a conduit for foreign influence activities that seek to weaken our norms and institutions.
The nexus between technology and national security is now clear, and I think we have recent examples of that. It is here to stay for the long run. Rapid technological innovation has provided Canada with new opportunities for economic growth, but it has also given rise to new and difficult policy challenges.
I will talk about modernizing the law and supporting investment in Canada. At the same time, we need to support a welcoming investment climate for beneficial investment. This means that the ICA’s operations must be clear, transparent and, I am sure we would all agree, efficient. We know that regulatory certainty and the speed of reviews are important factors in attracting investments to Canada. It is all about predictability and having a very stable regime.
I will now mention trends in innovation that we are seeing now. Canada’s foreign investment regime also needs to adapt to the speed of innovation. Intangible assets, such as intellectual property and data, have grown in importance in defining Canada’s economic strength, and at the same time they pose new challenges in terms of how these are to be managed.
A good example of this challenge is quantum technology. Our government recognizes the value of the intangible economy, its growth and the relevant opportunities for Canadians across our nation. That is why, in January, I announced the launch of Canada’s national quantum strategy, which will shape the future of quantum technologies in Canada and will help create thousands of jobs across our nation.
Quantum science and technologies are at the leading edge of research and innovation, with enormous potential for commercialization and game-changing advances, including more effective drug design, better climate change forecasting, improved navigation and innovations in clean technologies.
The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the continued growth of this emerging sector as it helps drive Canada’s economy and supports highly skilled jobs and, I would say, well-paying jobs as well. To ensure we protect it, quantum science is already listed as a sensitive technology area under the ICA’s national security guidelines.
The amendments we are proposing today are based on those themes. Our government has already taken steps to modernize the ICA by updating our policies to improve transparency and provide certainty to investors.
I will outline some of the developments from the past few years. In 2021, we updated the guidelines on the national security review of foreign investments. In 2022, in the wake of the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, we issued a new policy on reviewing foreign investments originating in Russia. We also introduced a voluntary filing mechanism for investors wishing to obtain regulatory certainty, within the same statutory deadlines as a mandatory filing. Investors gain certainty with respect to their plans, while the government gains greater visibility and will have five years to review and adopt measures regarding an investment in the absence of a voluntary filing. Finally, a policy on investments made by foreign state-owned enterprises into critical minerals under the ICA was announced last fall. This is one of the most important measures.
How are we responding to the evolving environment that I just mentioned, which I think all colleagues would recognize in this House?
Canada remains an open economy that is the envy of the world. However, our country is increasingly targeted by hostile actors. We are seeing it more and more. This is a threat for our national security and Canadians' prosperity now and in the future. That is why our government is taking bold steps today to protect the Canadian market by developing our tools to provide better protection against current threats.
Suffice it to say that we are living in unprecedented times, when foreign investments are being examined more closely with respect to national security, not only here in Canada but around the world. Some of the reasons for this include the COVID-19 pandemic, the repercussions of climate change on security, global supply chain disruptions and changing geopolitical considerations.
Only by taking appropriate action today to address the threats of tomorrow will we ensure that Canada remains a top destination for foreign investors. Last year, we reached a new all-time high in total number of filings, which is consistent with the overall recovery of the Canadian economy. I want to reiterate that the ICA plays a key role in Canada's economic security, and I think that is a fact all parliamentarians agree on. This legislation has served Canada well, but it needs to be updated. It provides for the review of significant foreign investments to ensure that they are of net benefit to Canada. The ICA also provides for the review of investments that may be injurious to Canada's national security.
All investments, regardless of value or country of origin, including minority investments and investments to create new Canadian businesses, are subject to this review process. The proposed amendments do not affect the key aspects of the net benefit review. They provide for improvements to the national security review process by making it more efficient and, I would argue, more predictable.
The time is right to pursue modernization of the Investment Canada Act. That is certainly my belief, and when I talk to CEOs and investors around the world they understand that we need to modernize an instrument that has served our country very well.
Now more than ever, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to foster an innovative and healthy economy. The global environment has evolved significantly in recent years, including in global competition, investment and technology. Under my leadership, our evolving policies and guidance have been addressing these developments as they arise. We have taken clear and decisive action on transactions when necessary to protect Canada’s national security, and I can commit to the House that we will continue to do so. However, we cannot rest, and are not resting, on the success of our past actions.
The guidance and decisions issued over the past several years make it clear that some transactions, particularly those by state-owned or state-influenced investors, may be motivated by non-commercial imperatives that could harm Canada’s national security. Allow me to repeat that these investments currently face enhanced scrutiny under the ICA. We have never hesitated and will never hesitate to take action to protect Canada’s national security. That is our responsibility and we take it very seriously.
Canada’s well-known excellence in emerging and sensitive technologies and critical minerals is an attractive target for hostile states. Through these amendments, we are making sure we have the right tools to protect those sectors along with our IP, personal data and critical infrastructure. The volume and complexity of foreign investment reviews are increasing, and this significant change provides a strong rationale for supporting ICA modernization. I hope every member of the House will support that, because it is working for Canada. There is nothing partisan or political about it. This is about protecting our national security and making sure we remain a destination for foreign investment.
Fundamentally, we believe that an effective regime must be robust, transparent and flexible to adapt to a changing world, and now is the time to make these changes. This new bill represents the most significant update of the ICA since 2009. Think of where the world is today and what it looked like in 2009. I put it to all members that we would all agree that it needs an update. We are making important moves now to review and modernize key aspects of the act, while ensuring that the overarching framework to support needed foreign investment to grow our economy remains strong and open.
Let us talk about the amendments set out in Bill C‑34. We are proposing seven amendments to the Investment Canada Act.
First is the new requirement for prior notice of certain investments. That way, Canada will have greater oversight over investments being made in certain designated industries, especially when they give investors access to material assets and material non-public technical information, such as cutting-edge intellectual property and trade secrets, once the investment is finalized.
In my opinion, this is a necessary measure in a world where intangible assets are becoming increasingly important.
This will enable the government to prevent potentially irreparable damage. Investors will have to provide notice of investment within the timelines specified in the regulations.
I want to stress that we are taking a targeted approach here. An across-the-board pre-implementation filing requirement without regard to nuance of business sector, type of transaction or other relevant facts would have an unnecessarily burdensome impact on needed and beneficial investment into Canada without providing improvements to national security analysis. Our targeted approach will support transparency and certainty for investors, which is something we all want.
Second, the bill would make the national security review process more efficient by providing me, as Minister of Industry, in consultation with my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, the authority to extend the national security review of investments, whereas previously a Governor in Council order was required at that stage. This is about being efficient. This is about going at the speed of business, and this is about agility in light of different types of transactions.
Removing the additional step of getting an order by the Governor in Council would give more time to our interdepartmental experts in security and intelligence to complete their vital work, including the intelligence analysis assessing the national security risks of a transaction.
Third is amendments to penalties for non-compliance with Investment Canada Act provisions. The penalties were set decades ago and do not reflect the current value of transactions or inflation.
For example, under the current Investment Canada Act, the maximum penalty of $10,000 per day that was established in 1985 will go up to $25,000 per day per violation indefinitely. There is also a new penalty for investors who fail to submit prior notice, which I discussed earlier. They will be fined $500,000 or the amount specified in the regulations, whichever is higher.
This update will make the penalties more effective deterrents.
Fourth, the bill introduces the authority for me, as Minister of Industry, after consultation with my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, to impose interim conditions on an investment. This would reduce the risk of national security injury taking place during the course of the review itself, such as through the possible transfer of assets, intellectual property or trade secrets before the review is complete.
Fifth, the act provides greater flexibility for mitigating national security risks by allowing me, again in my capacity as Minister of Industry and again in collaboration with my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, to impose binding commitments on investors. These commitments will need to demonstrate that they adequately reduce the national security risks that could arise from the investment in question.
I would add that this is a measure that is used fairly often in other countries, including our American neighbours.
Previously, undertakings to mitigate the national security risks related to a transaction could only be imposed by an order of the Governor in Council. With binding commitments that can be discussed and agreed upon at the departmental level, these can also be potentially modified or even terminated as needed.
Sixth, the bill would allow Canada to share case-specific information with international counterparts to help protect common security interests. This type of co-operation is so important when considering an investor who may be active in several jurisdictions seeking the same technology, for example. We would have more discretion to share such information, and of course it would be based on the evaluation of confidentiality and other concerns in doing so.
Canada’s investment review regime is world-leading and we share information and collaborate closely with our allies, several of whom, including among the Five Eyes, have either updated or introduced new screening mechanisms responding to geopolitical threats.
Finally, the legislation introduces new provisions for protecting information in the context of judicial review of decisions. This change will enable the government to rely on sensitive information to defend its national security decisions, while protecting that information from disclosure. These new provisions will also allow applicants to participate fully in the process.
Our record as government makes it clear that where national security is concerned, we do not hesitate to take decisive action. Our assessment of risk keeps pace with evolving economic and geopolitical circumstances.
While the ICA provides broad authorities to intercede and address national security risk that can arise in foreign investment, these amendments build on that strong foundation and improve on the mechanics of the process around national security.
I hope that members will take this bill as seriously as they should, because the world is watching. We want to remain an attractive destination for investment, and this law would achieve that.
View Rick Perkins Profile
CPC (NS)
Madam Speaker, I know that the government has put in these policies and made some of these amendments here, but these are only as good as the minister's own scrutiny of transactions. In 2019, this minister's predecessor approved the sale of the Tanco mine in Manitoba to a Chinese mining business. That mining business now controls the only lithium-producing mine in Canada and the mine that produces most of the world's cesium. The minister did not ask them to divest, but he asked three others.
Why would he not implement a divestment of that particular investment, if he cares so much about state-owned enterprise interference?
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague a lot and I think we can work together in making sure that this bill would better protect Canada.
When we make decisions in matters of national security, I think it would be comforting to the members and the public that is with us today that these decisions are made on the basis of advice from our intelligence agencies and experts. Obviously, my role as Minister of Industry, as well as the role of my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, is to make sure that we act on the basis of intelligence that we receive.
I would remind my colleague, and he will know very well, because he knows me quite well, that I never hesitate to take action. I blocked three transactions recently, where Chinese companies were trying to take equity interests in mining companies in Canada.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I want to commend the minister for his leadership. I say that because this was a request that the Bloc Québécois made in a supplementary report for the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, which looked at the Investment Canada Act. It is nice to see that the government wants to better protect our businesses.
However, in my opinion, national security goes hand in hand with economic security. It is important to protect our head offices, particularly in Quebec. The Quebec economy depends on SMEs and the Investment Canada Act sometimes becomes a weakness or an obstacle for the province. The threshold issue could have been addressed in Bill C-34, but obviously the minister decided not to go that route.
How can we ensure that our head offices are properly protected? How can we do a better job of that? Do we need to think about investment thresholds, particularly if we are on the verge of a recession?
In the context of COVID-19, we saw how an airline company can be devalued very quickly. Would the ability to rely on clear thresholds have been of net benefit to Canada?
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I will first thank my colleague, for whom I have a great deal of respect. He works with us on industry files.
Members will recall that Bill C‑34 concerns the part relating to national security. We know that the Investment Canada Act has two parts. The amendments we are proposing are actually amendments pertaining to national security.
As a Quebecker and as someone who is in close contact with SMEs across the country, I understand my colleague's point quite well. As a government, we must certainly do everything we can to keep head offices in Canada. We also have to attract more head offices.
I believe that my colleague will recognize that, with respect to batteries for example, we are creating a new industry in Canada, an industry that did not previously exist. We have attracted significant investments. As I was saying in my speech, Bloomberg ranked Canada second in the world for its battery ecosystem. We will continue to stand up for the interests of Canadian businesses.
View Brian Masse Profile
NDP (ON)
View Brian Masse Profile
2023-02-03 10:28 [p.11221]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today and talk about this bill. New Democrats, on this file, go back to 2003, with China Minmetals and state-sponsored takeovers of Canada's oil fields, where nobody really wanted to intervene at that time. Each year, there are thousands of files that are never even reviewed going through the lens.
I thank the minister for bringing this forward. My question goes to the point regarding the investments that we have had in the past, and some were not looked at, like smaller SMEs as noted beforehand, but also other industries. We have seen in the past that in this House we have had to fight to save Canada's potash industry with regard to MacDonald Dettwiler and others.
With the smaller SMEs and some of the innovation that is taking place, how can we, in Parliament, give this to a minister to decide if they are going to include the public safety minister? Where is the lens for the rest of Parliament in this legislation?
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, my colleague and I have worked together for a number of years now.
We need agility. My colleague is very knowledgeable and he knows that we live in a world where a number of companies are trying to use different schemes to go around the law so they will not be subject to a national security review.
What we want is additional powers for the minister to make sure that we better protect our national security. This bill would achieve what the member just said: having more agility, for example, to make sure that, during the review, we protect intellectual property. Today, there is not even, in the law, a possibility for the minister to prevent the exchange of information while we do the review. When it comes to intangible assets, irreparable harm can be done.
I hope the member will support this bill, because we need more agility.
View Mike Morrice Profile
GP (ON)
View Mike Morrice Profile
2023-02-03 10:30 [p.11221]
Madam Speaker, the minister spoke about the importance of innovation. While my question is not directly about the bill, it is related and I hope it is allowed.
One area where we need innovation is in telecommunications. The prices are going up for people in my community and across the country because of reduced competition. The minister will soon be making a decision about a proposed merger between Rogers and Shaw. We both know this merger is not innovative. Innovation would be giving consideration to what the Province of Saskatchewan has already done, building a national, publicly owned telecommunications network.
Will the minister give this idea consideration in lieu of allowing even less competition in the telecommunications industry?
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, my colleague and I work very well together. I am happy to talk about telecoms this morning. I think the member and Canadians watching at home know that the principle I have applied since I became Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry is to make sure that we reduce prices for Canadians. The way to do that in Canada is to have more competition and at the same time to have innovation. We want a fourth national player because we have found that in our market this is the best way to make sure we bring prices down for Canadians.
Going back to Bill C-34, I hope the member supports it, because what the bill is asking for is to get to the modern economy. A colleague like him who understands so much about innovation will understand that a lot of it is about intangible assets. This law would give better tools, not only for me but for future ministers who will have to protect Canada's national security.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2023-02-03 10:32 [p.11221]
Madam Speaker, today is a significant day in regard to what is taking place with NASDAQ. When we look at all the economic indicators, Canada is doing relatively well. A lot of innovation is coming to our country.
There was something very significant that occurred today and I would like to hear the minister talk about that historical event.
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, that is one of the best questions I have heard in a long time. I am delighted.
The credit goes to all the men and women employees of OpenText. It is thanks to their talent, expertise and know-how that today we can celebrate a moment in Canada's history. For the first time in our nation's history, the NASDAQ bell was rung out of Canada. We did that here in Ottawa. We should all be proud because OpenText is becoming one of the largest software companies in the world. It just made a recent acquisition. There were hundreds of employees and the vice-chairman of NASDAQ. We were live in Times Square. It is not very often that we see Canada live in Times Square to celebrate the talent and expertise of our people.
It is a lot like Bill C-34, which would protect the IP, the intellectual assets and the know-how we have in this country. I think all members should be really proud. If they are looking for something to do today, they can give a phone call to one of the employees of OpenText to thank them for their good work so we could all celebrate as Canadians.
View Rick Perkins Profile
CPC (NS)
Madam Speaker, the minister told me he is going to Washington next week. I know there is a Chinese surveillance balloon going over the U.S., and I understand the government has withdrawn its terrible firearm amendments to Bill C-21. When the minister is there, if he spots it, maybe he could do something about it with an appropriate firearm.
After eight years, the government is finally getting around to making some administrative changes to the Investment Canada Act. Why is this important? Because foreign direct investment is increasing and causing us great problems in Canada.
I would start off by informing the House that, while we think these amendments are inadequate to deal with the things that are happening, we will be voting in favour, in principle, at second reading of this bill. These amendments improve the bill, just not enough. However, we will be seeking considerable amendments to improve this bill at the committee stage.
The minister went through some of the things the bill does, and I will start by commenting on a few of them. I think the preimplementation filing change required in certain industries when a deal is done, that the filing and notification go to Investment Canada, is good. It should happen after closing. I would have hoped the minister would make all investment applications subject to prefiling. I do not know what the point is of looking at a foreign direct investment after it is closed; it is very difficult to unwind a transaction.
The minister spoke about the streamlining of the process to speed it up within the 45 days. We have some concerns about removing cabinet from that process, not necessarily up front, because I think that process to start it is an important one. However, when the review comes back from officials, either for or against it having a national security or net benefit issue, we believe that should go to cabinet in all cases. I know the experience during the Harper government was that when these things came back to cabinet, there was robust discussion on every one, and this resulted in a better decision, Therefore, we think that the power to actually decide that at the end of the day should still rest with cabinet.
It does add the ability for the minister to create a list of targeted industries through regulation. We would like to learn a little more about what industries the minister is going to address. I think there are industries outside of the list. These include, to be parochial in my neck of the woods, seafood and other areas that are being targeted in the food sector by state-owned enterprises from less co-operative countries.
The interim conditions and all of that in the bill are a good addition to the bill.
We want to explore the area of the legal process appeal issues around secrecy for national security or commercial reasons a bit more at committee. We just want to make sure we understand that, in the future, we are not going to be blocking information the public should have. I think there are some transparency provisions in this bill that say if the minister rejects an acquisition, the reasons for this have to be fairly transparent and public. I do not believe there is a requirement to do that now.
However, there are some things we do not believe the provisions address. Let us start with the record of the current government regarding China's takeover of many of our important assets. The other thing the bill does not do, and I will talk about this in a few minutes, is deal with the sale not just of companies, but of the assets of companies.
In 2017, there was, and still is, a company called Norsat out of British Columbia, which also owns a company called Sinclair in Toronto. It was acquired by Hytera in China, which is partially owned by the Government of China, in the critical telecommunications business. Even though he was urged many times in the House, the minister of industry of the day refused to do a national security review of that acquisition. The minister has the freedom to say that he does not think it is a problem and he is not going to do it. Therefore, no national security review was done of that acquisition.
That is a problem because now we come to January 2022, when Hytera was charged with 21 counts of espionage in the United States in and then banned from doing business in the United States by President Biden. Yet eight months later, the RCMP bought radio frequency equipment to go into the communications system, giving the Chinese state-owned subsidiaries access to all the locations of the RCMP communications services. There was no public security review of that. These are the things that still fall through the cracks.
As I mentioned earlier, Manitoba-based lithium mining company, Tantalum Mining Corp., known as Tanco, was purchased in 2019. Again, the previous minister, not this one, refused to do a national security review of that acquisition. When this minister asked three Chinese state-owned enterprises to divest their Canadian critical mining assets, he did not even include this one, yet it is the largest producer of lithium and cesium in Canada, and all of it goes to China.
In 2020, we all know, the Department of Foreign Affairs bought X-ray equipment from a Chinese state-owned enterprise to go in all the embassies. I believe this minister may have been the minister at that time. No, he was not, but it was a Liberal minister, obviously, who said it was okay and did not back off on it until it was raised in this House.
In March 2021, as the minister referenced, the minister updated and enhanced the guidelines for national security reviews in the absence of an updated act, although an update could have been done. In January the minister did not even follow his own guidelines when he had a divestiture order that included neither the Neo Lithium Corp. nor the Tanco Corp.
In December, I mentioned Hytera and the Canada Border Services Agency. Of course this week we learned, although it is not an acquisition, that the scientific arm of the army of the People's Republic of China is doing research on artificial intelligence and supercomputing in our universities, our 10 biggest universities. They own the IP from that, and it is partially funded by Canadian taxpayers.
These are the things the bill does not address. It is a shameful situation that we are actually helping the largest surveillance state in the world, which used that technology not only on its own citizens but also to repress the Uighurs, and we actually helped develop that technology. Of course we know it uses that technology here. In 2017, China passed a national security act, and clauses 7 and 10 of that act require all citizens and all companies to spy on companies and people in the world. It is against the law for a company based in China to not spy and steal technology and information from companies abroad. We have allowed these takeovers to happen in the last eight years under the Liberal government.
There are several areas that we need to talk about for additional improvement. There was a really good House of Commons industry committee report, which our leader was the vice-chair of in the last Parliament. Most of the recommendations have been ignored by the Liberal government, even though government members put the recommendations forward. Not only is the Liberal government ignoring the recommendations that the official opposition put forward, but it is also ignoring the recommendations for improvement to the Investment Canada Act put forward by its own members of Parliament.
Recommendation number one in that report dealt with state-owned enterprises. What it asked for was that state-owned enterprises for all countries that we deem to be authoritarian or hostile to Canada have an automatic review. The way that is done is by reducing the financial threshold for the automatic review. Right now, that is $415 million. A state-owned enterprise can come in and buy anything it wants in Canada for under $415 million, as my friend from the NDP referenced in his question to the minister, without any scrutiny by the government.
Even in my own community, four fish-buying businesses were bought by Chinese state-owned enterprises on the south shore of Nova Scotia in the last quarter. That is important because those businesses set the price of what they get from fishermen. They set what the fishermen get. Through that process and through China's buying two international freight corridors, China now controls all lobster and the access to the departure of lobster from the Halifax airport. None of those transactions would be reviewable under this act. As a result, my lobster buyers would not truck their lobster to the Halifax airport, because China has taken it up. Rather, they would have to truck it to New York and Chicago to get our lobster to Asia. That is just a small part.
We know the Chinese enterprises are buying farms. They are buying up all kinds of key assets in this country, and none of that gets reviewed. Therefore, we would encourage and would be seeking amendments to this bill in committee to move that threshold for state-owned enterprises to zero in the act, requiring the minister and the department to follow that.
The government did not include any provisions that I can see in the net benefit for that issue of state-owned enterprises in foreign countries actually getting control of industries, let alone a particular asset. We are not looking at the concentration control, particularly of hostile actors going after that strategically. I know there is a provision in the bill that would allow the minister to create a list of targeted industries. We are a little skeptical that the list would be as comprehensive as it needs to be and would reflect a zero-dollar review, given the record of the current government over the last eight years. It has not even sought national security reviews of state-owned enterprises from China when it had the authority to do so on those acquisitions.
The bill does not include a provision to actually list countries. Other countries have looked at that. In addition to selected industries, the minister should have the authority, through regulation, to have a list of state actors and countries that we do not believe are advantageous for our economy or are actually a threat to our economy if they continue to try to buy not only our companies but the companies' assets. I will come to this in a minute.
The bill would change the process, which I referred to earlier, of the involvement of cabinet. We would like to probe this a little more in committee, but I understand the need. The 45 days has not changed in the Investment Canada Act and there is obviously a need for speed. Therefore, the point that the minister has put forward here, which is that at the beginning of the process, the minister and Minister of Public Safety can determine when that goes in without having to go to cabinet, and this would speed up the process. We believe that is a reasonable thing, but we would want to explore that a little more in committee. However, it is on the other end that we have the problem because perhaps not all ministers of industry are as diligent as this one.
I do know, in the short time I have been working with the minister, that he is the most accessible minister I have had a chance to work with since I have been in the House, and he is co-operative. I know he understands and is concerned about what the opposition members think in terms of looking at amendments to the bills, and he takes our suggestions seriously. We want to look at this issue wherein a minister who was perhaps not as diligent would be less involved in making the right decision when it is determined to be a net benefit, or not, or when the research comes back and says it is a national security interest, or not. Whatever the recommendation from officials, we believe it should always go back to cabinet for discussion before the final decision is made.
The act does not attempt to change definitions of state-owned enterprises or look at the issue of what constitutes control.
One does not have to buy 50% of a company to control a company. Someone can buy small percentages of it, get a number of seats on the board or change management, which Hytera has done. It has changed management in Sinclair and Norsat. None of those things are really looked at very strongly in Bill C-34 and need a little more consideration.
One of the interesting things brought up by the industry committee at the time of that report, and I think my friend from the NDP was on the committee, was the issue of subsequent takeovers. A Canadian company may be acquired by a company or an industry that we think is okay, and it gets approved as it is not from a state-owned enterprise. Subsequently, though, down the road, that company can be bought by a state-owned enterprise. There is no provision in this bill to give the minister the power, when that happens, to automatically relook at whether, in that transaction, we should be forcing the divestiture of that Canadian asset from that future transaction of a state-owned enterprise down the road.
That is very important, because Russia and China are getting more aggressive at doing these things. They come in through the front door but also through the back door, and we need to be very vigilant about that.
The minister mentioned intangible assets. This is a big area. In 2009 it was not so much part of the economy, but it is big now. One of the ways our economy can be harmed is not just through the purchase of a company, but through the purchase or sale of some of its assets. It could be simply that it is not just the taking over one of our mining companies, but that one of our mining companies is selling a strategic mining asset, like a particular mine, to a state player we are not comfortable with. It could be that a database gets sold. It could be that a particular artificial intelligence or knowledge-based patent we have and own in Canada gets sold. That company may still remain Canadian, but more and more companies are looking, when they develop these things, at those assets.
Probably the worst example in Canada is Nortel. When Nortel went into bankruptcy, it had the most patents, I believe, of any technology- and knowledge-based company in Canada. The Canadian liquidator's responsibility was to maximize whatever it could get for the assets. China quite regularly goes in and pays four, five or six times what a business is worth. That is what it did in my riding last quarter. It paid five times what the business was worth. It paid $10 million for $2-million-valued businesses, which is way below the threshold.
It took advantage of the Nortel situation, and almost all of those patents were sold by the liquidator to a Chinese state-owned enterprise that became Huawei, which is banned now in the United States. It took the government only five years to figure that one out. We helped create Huawei through our weak rules around foreign investment in state-owned enterprises in assets, and not just the companies, so we need to have more study and understanding. We can look at those in committee, and I know the minister is taking this seriously. I see him nodding there, so hopefully we can work with the government to improve Bill C-34.
Nonetheless, the bill is an improvement over the existing act and would give the minister and the industry some much-needed clarification. Therefore, for the most part, at this stage, we will be supporting this, but we will be seeking many more amendments in committee. I look forward to hearing from the very experienced member, the shadow minister for industry from the NDP, who has been in the House for a long time and has been on the industry committee for a long time, to see what he proposes, in terms of his speech but also his work in the House.
I will conclude there, and I look forward to the debate by all members in the House on this bill, which is very important for Canadians.
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, as I was listening to the hon. member very carefully, I think he gave all the reasons we need to modernize the law on investment in Canada. A number of examples he mentioned would be addressed by this revamping of a law that was crafted in 2009, the last time we did that. I think I like it, because in a way he listed all the reasons we should be doing that. By providing more agility to the minister, we would be able to answer these questions.
Canadians are watching because it is Friday morning. Will the member and his party support our bill to protect the national security of Canadians? Will he support the bill?
View Rick Perkins Profile
CPC (NS)
Madam Speaker, I think I made it fairly clear that we will be voting for Bill C-34 at second reading. We want to see a number of improvements in the bill.
We are disappointed it has taken eight years to get this bill to Parliament and that a lot of the decisions the government made and let go in the acquisition of many of our assets by Chinese state-owned enterprises probably would not have happened if the amendments Conservatives seek in this bill were in place and had been in place earlier on in the government's tenure. There would not have been the flexibility of previous industry ministers under the Liberal government to ignore the public security threat.
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