May 18, 1982

PC

Henry Perrin Beatty

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Beatty:

If he says that, the hon. member clearly has not read the decision of the Ontario Supreme Court.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

Tell that to Peter Lougheed and Bill Davis.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Henry Perrin Beatty

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Beatty:

I regret that the hon. member would make such an attack on the Ontario Supreme Court. Surely it is incumbent upon a Member of Parliament, including the hon. member for Regina West (Mr. Benjamin), to respect a decision by the Ontario Supreme Court which very explicitly says what the law of the land is today.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

Humbug.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Henry Perrin Beatty

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Beatty:

It may very well be that the hon. member for Regina West believes that Crown corporations should be above the law and should be able to engage in improper and illegal activities with impunity and immunity.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

None is above the law.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Henry Perrin Beatty

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Beatty:

Unlike government members, members of the Progressive Conservative Party in the opposition believe such behaviour is intolerable.

The position we put forward to the House tonight is that when the government enters into the marketplace of the country, the government should not ask for standards of its own behaviour which were more lax than the standards which apply to everyone else. The government should be prepared to set an example which goes well beyond the standards of behaviour expected of everyone else. How can we expect to see respect for the rule of law in this country if the government says: "What we do is all right, but if you engage in the same sort of behaviour, we will lay criminal charges against you?"

May 18, 1982

For that reason alone it would be wrong automatically to confer agent of Her Majesty status in these instances on these companies which, by and large, will be operating as competitors in the marketplace. However, the privileges and immunities which are conferred by the granting of agent of Her Majesty status goes well beyond simply the ability to thumb one's nose at the Combines Investigation Act.

Equally important and equally odious is the fact that these companies operating in the marketplace would not raise money on their own credit rating. They would not have to establish that they were credit worthy, that they were well managed, that they were good companies or that they were worthy companies to which to lend money. When an agent of Her Majesty enters into markets and tries to raise money, an agent of Her Majesty does so with the credit rating of the Government of Canada. That means these companies automatically have a triple A credit rating. Their competitors in the marketplace have to raise money on the basis of their own credit rating. These Crown corporations, being granted agent of Her Majesty status, will automatically be able to do so with the best terms possible, that is, the best commercial terms available to the Government of Canada.

It goes one step beyond that. In cases where these companies are ill-managed and where ultimately we find they go bankrupt and there are massive losses incurred, as was the case with Consolidated Computer in which $125 million was poured down the drain, what happens in the case of an agent of Her Majesty? In a case where an agent of Her Majesty has incurred debts and goes bankrupt, those debts are automatically charges upon the consolidated revenue fund of Canada. Parliament does not have any discretion in a case like that. The people of Canada, the taxpayers of Canada, are automatically responsible for any debts which are incurred by these Crown corporations.

No one knows-and if the President of the Treasury Board in any way disputes this, I invite him to participate in the debate-what the potential liability of agents of Her Majesty is or how much the taxpayers of Canada could ultimately be charged for mismanagement by Crown corporations which are agents of Her Majesty. Nor do we know when we are asked to pass this legislation tonight how many Crown corporations will be created, what will be their scope, what will be their size and what sort of debts they will be running up for which the taxpayers of Canada would be responsible. If tonight we grant automatic agent of Her Majesty status, we will be giving an unlimited credit card drawn on the account of the people of Canada to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (Mr. Lalonde) to be used by any new Crown corporation in the energy field which he chooses to set up. How could members of this House of Commons do that? How could anyone who witnessed the fiasco of the Consolidated Computer case and the loss of $125 million because of the negligence of the President of the Treasury Board and his colleagues accept that as a practice which would be tolerable for Members of Parliament? Clearly we have a responsibility on us, and clearly the President of the Treasury Board has a direct responsibility on him, to ensure that we do not give this unlimited ability to

Energy, Mines and Resources

Crown corporations to run up debts on behalf of the people of Canada beyond the control of Parliament.

I should make one thing clear, and that is that the government already has the capability through other legislation to confer agent of Her Majesty status on any Crown corporation it chooses. The government can do that today. The issue is not whether in some instances it will be appropriate in the future to confer agent of Her Majesty status on some Crown corporations. The issue is whether Parliament today should be saying for all time that all Crown corporations created under this legislation will automatically be given agent of Her Majesty status. By doing so we will automatically be granting them immunity from combines investigation legislation, will automatically be granting them immunity from some taxes and will automatically be giving them privileges in terms of raising money that their competitors do not have. They will automatically be able to borrow on the government's credit rating and to hold the taxpayers of Canada responsible for their debts, if they are ill-managed.

If the hon. member for Regina West is prepared to do some homework, I would invite him to consider the reports of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Crown corporations. That committee found that it was essential to bring some control and accountability to Crown corporations. This was after a succession of scandals during the sixties and seventies that involved Crown corporations and the misuse of public funds. I would invite him to look into the Estey report on Air Canada which found there were inadequate controls on these Crown corporations. I would invite him to look at the report of the Lambert Royal Commission on Financial Management and Accountability which recommended that controls be put in place. 1 would invite him to read the successive reports of the Auditor General of Canada to Parliament which said it was essential to bring in legislation that would ensure that the taxpayers of Canada are protected and that the sort of fiascos that occur when Crown corporations run up unlimited bills and pick the pocket of the taxpayer to pay for them could not happen in the future.

These are not partisan authorities, Mr. Speaker. The public accounts committee represents all parties in this House, and the Auditor General of Canada, a royal commission and a judicial inquiry have some standing. The hon. member for Regina West may scoff at those authorities, but there are some members in this House, Mr. Speaker, who believe they have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Canada. There are some who believe that when they are dealing with billions of dollars they have a responsibility as custodians to ensure that the money is well spent and is not simply poured down the drain.

I have constituents who are smarting because of the present financial situation, who desperately need the money that is being taken from them in taxes, who need assistance from the government. If money is not available to my farmers in the form of assistance but is poured down the drain because of the

May 18, 1982

Energy, Mines and Resources

mismanagement of a Crown corporation which has been granted agent of Tier Majesty status, then I have not done my job as a Member of Parliament.

If constituents of the hon. member for Regina West who are having a hard time paying their mortgages, who find there is no assistance available to them from the government, are being forced to pay taxes as a result of the mismanagement of Crown corporations because the hon. member has decided that the liabilities of Crown corporations automatically become liabilities of his constituents, then I say he is not doing his job either.

I will return to my first point, Mr. Speaker. Even if it were not enough that Parliament had a responsibility to exercise some prudence and to show some concern about the management of the moneys we hold in trust for the people of Canada, surely when the Canadian people are beginning to lose respect for their institutions and when respect for the rule of law is being lost, the government should act to restore respect for the rule of law. It should not take actions which would create a new group of companies operating in the marketplace which would be immune to criminal legislation and would be able to take the law into their own hands and disregard law passed by Parliament to protect consumers.

This is not the time to slacken laws; it is the time to ensure that the government meets the most stringent standards and sets an example that can be respected by the people of Canada.

At the present time some 50 Crown corporations operate in the marketplace as agents of Her Majesty. This bill would give the government authority to incorporate an unlimited number of new Crown corporations, every one of which would automatically be agents of Her Majesty.

To go a step further, because they would be incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act, these corporations would have the ability to incorporate subsidiaries and those subsidiaries yet further subsidiaries in Canada and outside Canada, under federal companies legislation, under provincial companies legislation, and under international legislation. All of these would automatically be agents of Her Majesty and would automatically have the ability to stick the Canadian taxpayer with any bill incurred because of mismanagement.

There have been a number of instances where mismanagement has existed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

An hon. Member:

Name one.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Henry Perrin Beatty

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Beatty:

Consolidated Computer. The hon. member is unaware of the fact that $125 million of taxpayers' money was squandered in this way. How many instances do we need before members of the House, and particularly members of the NDP, are prepared to show respect for taxpayers' money, money which is coerced from their constituents?

This is a crucial issue, Mr. Speaker. If Parliament defaults tonight and allows two standards to be set, if Parliament allows the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to sign

the wallets of the taxpayers over to these Crown corporations, then I say that as members we have no right to take pride in the way we have conducted ourselves.

This bill is dangerous, Mr. Speaker. My amendment would simply reduce some of that danger. I would ask the people of Canada to judge members of the House on the way they vote for this bill. All the amendment would do would be to provide that all these Crown corporations would not automatically become agents of Her Majesty. The government would still have the right, as it does today, to make any Crown corporation it chooses an agent of her Majesty.

The only thing that we are asking the government to do tonight with this amendment is to confer that authority on a case by case basis and not by a blanket grant. Surely the people of Canada have a right to expect no less from us.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Les Benjamin (Regina West):

Mr. Speaker, 1 have a few quick lessons for the expert on Crown corporations who does not even listen to members of his own party in the provinces.

In the first place, a Crown corporation is automatically an instrument of Her Majesty the Queen, no matter how you slice it, in any province or in the federal government.

Second, the hon. member mentioned credit ratings for Crown corporations as if they had somehow earned an advantage. Credit ratings have always had to be earned, whether in the provinces, under the federal government, in the United States or in Europe. They have had to be earned by the way a Crown corporation was administered. I invite the hon. member to ask the Premier of Ontario or of British Columbia or of Alberta about that little item.

I gather from the hon. member's remarks that he feels a number of Crown corporations have always been above the law. If that is true, it means that all of us, and particularly the hon. gentleman, have not been doing our job.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Henry Perrin Beatty

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Beatty:

That is right.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

Why would the hon. gentleman condemn Crown corporations because members of this House have not been doing a good job?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Charles Joseph Clark (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Clark:

Because he has read the bill.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

His logic escapes me. The hon. member also held that massive losses or massive investments are borne by taxpayers. I invite the hon. gentleman to explain the difference, because I am just an innocent country boy from the prairies. For instance, if $1 billion is invested by citizens in a private corporation, that corporation pays dividends or interest. If they lose money, they do not pay dividends. If they make money, they pay taxes. I thought that was just pure and simple grade nine stuff. But the costs of that investment are borne not only by the investor but also by the consumers of the company's product. If I am wrong, I hope the free enterprisers

May 18, 1982

on both sides of the House will convince me that the consumer does not bear that cost in the price he pays for the product. It does not matter whether it is a Crown corporation or a private corporation; both have to recover the cost of their borrowings. If I am wrong about that, I hope someone gets up and tells me.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

An hon. Member:

Keep going.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

The other things I would like these private enterprisers on both sides of the House to show me is one instance where a private company returned part of its profit to the consumer and not just the shareholders. I would like all these big-wheel private enterprisers and barefoot boys from Bay Street to show me an instance where a lovey-dovey finance company, which built into their charges the cost of borrowing on which they made a profit, returned to their customers a share of that profit. I am willing to be converted, Mr. Speaker, if they can show me-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

John Raymond Ellis

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ellis:

Stay where you are!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

-where that happened. Go to an "anal" meeting of Cominco, Inco or the CPR and listen to all these beautiful free enterprise investors. Does the little old lady in running shoes from the local Tory convention with her $100 worth of shares have any say? It is like the Tory convention last weekend where they brought in a bunch of foreigners who had all the say, and it was to hell with policy, let us just play politics. Go to the annual meeting of a corporation and see how much say the average shareholder has in the operation of that company. The truth of the matter is, none whatsoever. At least, Mr. Speaker, with a Crown corporation we have a chance to get back at them. I invite my hon. friend to buy one share in Canadian Pacific and go to their next "anal" meeting and see how far he gets with a motion from the floor. He will not get anywhere. He will be ruled out of order; it is all decided by five or ten people. At least with a Crown corporation whether it is owned by the federal or provincial government, we can call it to account.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

John Albert Gamble

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gamble:

Where?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, MINES AND RESOURCES ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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May 18, 1982