Mr. John Burton (Regina East):
Mr. Speaker, I think it is useful that the hon. member for Fundy-Royal (Mr. Fair-weather) and the hon. member for Waterloo (Mr. Saltsman) presented their motions for our consideration. The government's record in dealing with the provinces on the question of foreign ownership has been most inadequate. I want to make it clear that I disagree very strongly with the stance taken by some provincial governments on this matter. As the minister knows, some provinces have protested that the legislation now before us is inadequate, while other provinces do not want to do anything that would scare off foreign capital. Indeed, I am sure that some provinces would prefer to take a more reasonable stance within the framework of developing a better Canada. The fact that they feel forced into taking such a stance reflects the bankruptcy of the federal government's policy when dealing with such things as establish-
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Foreign Takeovers Review Act
ing an adequate Canada Development Corporation, an adequate regional development policy and in terms of developing alternate sources of capital for investment purposes in Canada.
Dealing with the amendments now before us, I agree with the contention which has already been made that we cannot simply ignore the role of the provinces in developing a national policy for a sound and strong Canadian economy controlled by Canadians. If we are to achieve this, we must take the interests of the provinces into account and this means regional interests. We must also take into account the powers that the provinces hold in a number of fields, the concerns that they have and the stresses and strains that are imposed upon them.
When the government announced its policy last May, after a long gestation period, there was no mention of the role of the provinces or how they would be involved with the federal government in carrying forward this policy. The position was the same when the legislation was introduced, and even when it came forward for second reading, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) said that after all the provinces could introduce their own legislation. Mr. Speaker, how can a province introduce adequate legislation to cover the problems that we must be concerned with in the field of foreign ownership and foreign control, including takeovers, unless it has some sort of framework within which to establish that legislation? The Prime Minister's statement, which he made on several occasions, is meaningless unless we have federal initiatives in this field. We have heard nothing about a joint federal provincial conference to study takeovers or the broader framework that we have here, and nothing about an effort to orchestrate a policy across Canada. I acknowledge the difficulties of producing a consistent and coherent policy across Canada.
Finally, it would appear that the government felt it had to respond to some of the pressures placed upon it or upon the Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Gray). He was sent on a mission across Canada to consult with the provinces about a month and a half after the legislation was introduced. He was to explain it to the provinces to try to clear up some of their concerns. When the Finance Committee was considering this bill, it was suggested that the Minister of National Revenue might be called so that the committee could learn what he found out in his consultations with the provinces. The government members of that committee did everything they could to prevent this but nevertheless, on June 19, the minister appeared and presented an interesting rationalization of the limited action being taken by the government. This must have been difficult when one considers the total study for which he was responsible. However, he made a brief opening statement to the committee urging support for the bill, but made not a single reference to the fact he had been holding consultations with provincial governments about it. Of course, it did not take committee members long to put questions to the minister about these consultations. His reply was that his discussions with his provincial counterparts and provincial premiers were on a government to government basis and therefore considered to be confidential. This is ridiculous, Mr. Speaker.
The minister later stated that at no time had it been indicated to him that he was expected to say anything about his trip across Canada to consult with the provinces. He said that he had received an oral communication from the chairman of the committee asking him to appear, but there was no formal request to talk about any particular aspect of the bill. This is pretty far fetched when it was obvious that it had been made clear in committee why we wanted the minister to attend. I suggest that the minister's attitude is hurting federal-provincial relations which are difficult enough. The minister indicated that he would be consulting with the provinces whenever possible, but he did not want to be tied to an obligation to consult with them.
I was very interested in the proposed amendment which was placed before the House by the minister a few minutes ago. I believe I can say on behalf of my colleagues that this is an improvement in the particular clause to which it refers. When assessing a proposed acquisition, in addition to taking into account the compatibility with national and industrial economic policy, this amendment requires the minister to take into consideration the industrial and economic policies of provinces likely to be significantly affected by the acquisition. I think we recognize, in this way, some of the regional characteristics of Canada and some of the regional considerations which the minister, quite legitimately, must take into account. I must say in all honesty that this amendment will not make a fundamental difference to the legislation before us and will not result in any basic change in our stand on the legislation. This, still, will be a most inadequate piece of legislation. It will still be totally inadequate although, in terms of defining the types of factors the minister has in mind, and I am referring to one of five points, the minister has made an improvement in that particular wording.
I prefer the wording the minister proposed to the wording proposed by the hon. member for Fundy-Royal (Mr. Fairweather) in Motion No. 4, as originally placed on the order paper. Although we might be sympathetic towards the amendment that was proposed by the hon. member for Fundy-Royal, that particular wording tended to place some degree of paramountcy on the views of the province of provinces concerned instead of taking national factors into account and giving them paramountcy. Really, I prefer the minister's wording to that originally proposed by the hon. member for Fundy-Royal.
May I raise another point? By proposing this amendment, the minister has committed himself to consultation with the provinces. I do not see how he can say, in future, that he has taken into consideration the industrial and economic policies of any province affected by a proposed acquisition unless he has carried on a process of consultation with that province. Actually, I suggest that he has committed himself to that course of action. If that is so, I put it to the minister that, although there may be some technical considerations involving the amendment moved by my colleague, the hon. member for Waterloo (Mr. Salts-man) which have not yet been taken into account, why could he not remove any doubts about the matter by accepting our motion No. 18. Perhaps, if the minister has
July 4, 1972
some improved wording in mind and wants to make some changes, why could he not do that? Why can he not accept the principle embodied in motion no. 18 and include it in the legislation?
The principle of the amendment is that the minister will consult the provinces when he is carrying out any sort of meaningful review of a proposed acquisition. Why could the minister not accept this principle instead of rejecting it out of hand? I suggest it would be an improvement. I want to co-operate with the minister. I always want to help him, as he knows. I suggest it would be helpful to the legislation the minister is interested in if he were to accept motion no. 18, or the principle of it, because that acceptance would remove one of the emotional roadblocks that may be encountered from time to time in connection with the administration of this legislation.
Then, there is something to be said for the amendment the minister has proposed. In dealing with this entire question, it is vitally important for us to give adequate consideration to the role that is to be played by the provinces. We must consider the concerns, interests and powers of the provinces in dealing with the economy of our country. Neither the federal government alone nor the provincial governments by themselves can find adequate solutions for our national economic difficulties. More and more we shall need joint federal and provincial planning for our economy. The efforts of the provinces and of the federal government will need to be orchestrated, so to speak, with the federal government playing, quite rightly, the central role. Often the federal authority must play the role of initiator. If the federal government is to take account of the concerns and aspirations of the entire country it must, in any action, take into account the legitimate regional concerns of the various parts of Canada. With that in mind I hope the minister will, in addition to responding as he has to the motion that is now being considered, respond favourably to the other amendment proposed by my colleague for Waterloo.
Subtopic: FOREIGN TAKEOVERS REVIEW ACT