Mr. Max Saltsman (Waterloo):
Mr. Speaker, it is always a great pleasure to follow the hon. member for Duvernay (Mr. Kierans). Just before I came into the House the usual conversation took place behind the curtains when some government members, in an attempt to find out how long the debate was likely to last, asked me, "How many speakers do you have?" I said that we had three speakers, four if you count Eric Kierans. I am delighted with the position that the hon. member for Duvernay has taken because in some ways he reflects what has happened to a lot of us. I can remember the time when the hon. member for Duvernay was less concerned about the flow of foreign currency, and in some cases took very strong exception to extreme nationalist tendencies. This has also been the case so far as I am concerned on a number of matters.
We are being pressured at the moment to get this bill through the House. The government obviously wants it as some kind of a showpiece. Why they would think it a showpiece is beyond me, but they seem to feel that it is of some benefit to them to get this measure through. I presume that in their view it is of some benefit to the country to get the bill through. There is some suggestion that the
Finance Committee deal with this bill rapidly and bring it back to the House in time to have it passed by the end of June. I think it would be a terrible mistake to rush this bill through the committee and through the House, since it is of so little value. By getting the bill through we may be doing ourselves a terrible disservice in the sense that we will be undercutting the kind of sentiment which exists in Canada to really do something significant about the matter of foreign ownership.
A number of Liberal party supporters are obviously feeling embarrassed about the position in which they find themselves. I am thinking, for instance, of the hon. member for St. Paul's (Mr. Wahn) and the Liberal members who signed the telegram of the Committee for an Independent Canada. They obviously do not see much value in this bill, yet at the same time they are saying it is better than nothing. Even if it is only a small step forward, they feel the bill should go through. I would like to suggest to you that it is not better than nothing, it is worse than nothing simply because it is an attempt to diffuse this whole issue of foreign ownership in Canada with a bill that will not accomplish anything at all.
If we are going to deal only with the question of takeovers, we must ask ourselves what the urgency is. First of all, there is not a great deal left to take over if we start from that premise, and second, since the takeover aspect represents a relatively small proportion of the increases in foreign ownership year by year, I do not see that the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce, which is going to have the responsibility for screening the foreign takeovers, will turn anyone down in view of the criteria which have been established. I doubt whether any takeover of any industry in Canada could not be made to fit inside the boundaries of those criteria. In fact, if this bill were legislation today, there would be very little difference in the rate of takeovers that would occur in Canada.
So what is the urgency in passing this bill? If we take a look at the key sectors, we find that most of them, such as newspapers, television, banks, transportation, uranium, power and pipelines are now controlled. There can be no takeovers in these areas without the government's approval. On occasions, when there was an uproar and sufficient concern in the country, the government has stepped in without legislation. They did this in the case of Home Oil, in the case of uranium, in the case of Denison, and in the case of the Mercantile Bank. There was no legislation for the government to use. Where was their authority? Apparently they must have had some authority, unless they were acting illegally, because they moved in and definitely stopped foreign takeovers.
The truth of the matter is that the government now possesses all the power that is required to prevent takeovers in Canada if they chose to exercise that power, but in most cases they simply do not choose to exercise it. What we are being asked to do is take the government off the hook and establish criteria which are so wide that virtually any takeover can be accommodated within the criteria. Then, the government can say that the government has passed legislation and everybody fits the criteria. This reminds me of their good behaviour pamphlet which they sent around to foreign owners of industry, telling them that they should be good boys. I have heard
June 5, 1972
minister after minister rise and say that there was nothing to worry about because they had all agreed to the good behaviour guidelines that we laid down. Of course, this good behaviour did the government a lot of good. These companies applied for DISC and did not even bother to tell the government what they were doing. I suspect that this takeover legislation will serve as nothing more than camouflage to get the government off the hook about doing something about foreign ownership. Frankly, I would prefer to have no legislation at all, rather than this timid, insipid legislation that will do no good. I would prefer to keep the government on the hook, to keep them under pressure and to keep them responsive to the Canadian people. A great deal more would be accomplished in this way.
Everyone faces a dilemma with regard to the foreign ownership issue. People in my party face a dilemma. I do not suggest for a moment that there is total agreement within my party as to how we should proceed and how far we should proceed. There are differences. But there is one thing on which my party is united. There are no more facetious comments, as there have been in the past from the other side of the House, about the waffle movement and about what we are doing with regard to this. There is one thing on which we are all united. All of us are determined that this country is going to remain independent. While we may not all agree on the exact techniques to accomplish these things-that is an on-going debate-in this party, unlike the other parties, there is an absolute determination to do something about foreign ownership and Canadian independence. I cannot say that about the Liberal and Conservative parties.
There is a kind of tragic dilemma that faces many Liberals. I am sure that all of us in this House come to know each other, regardless of the parties to which we belong, and we develop a fair amount of respect for each other despite our political differences. Mr. Speaker, it is tragic to see what is happening to the good Liberals, to those who want to be Canadian nationalists. They want to stay inside the Liberal party. They think that by staying in the party they can exert pressure from within, that they can change the party's course on foreign ownership and strike a blow for Canadian nationalists. But the fact is that all those well intentioned Liberals have failed.
I do not want to talk about my friends in the Conservative party. When it comes to the question of foreign ownership the differences in that party are so deep that nothing seems to emerge upon which we can comment.
Subtopic: FOREIGN TAKEOVERS REVIEW ACT