Hon. Hugh John Flemming (Carleton-Charlotte):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make some observations in connection with the motions presently before the House. I think every member of this House must pay a great deal of attention to the provisions embodied in Bill C-201, since it affects the interaction between the federal authority and the various provincial governments in a most important area. So, in making some observations relative to these proposed amendments I am conscious that there are many avenues of consideration in connection with this subject matter which affects the unity of Canada. We must keep in mind that we live in a large country. The distance from sea to sea is in the neighbourhood of 4,000 miles. I do not know how far it is from the forty-ninth parallel to the Arctic Circle; certainly, it is a great distance. In a country with an area of nearly 3.5 million square miles, with various regions which produce such varieties of goods, products of the soil, products of the sea and products of the forest, it is most difficult to produce legislation that can be uniformly applied.
The present minister, or any other minister, must administer such legislation in the general public interest and bear in mind, at the same time, that there is great variation between the different parts of Canada. Since
Foreign Takeovers Review Act
Canada is such a vast country, we must show a great deal of sympathy for the minister. The minister in turn, I am sure, listens sympathetically when we bring before him the various views held by the various regions of the country from which we come and for which we are responsible. It is difficult to enact a statute which will have uniform application across the country. I acknowledge that. It is difficult for the interests of all to be considered. In the final analysis, any decision of this sort must combine, in fairness, the interests of the regions with the national interest. When you try to combine the interests of all the regions of this country, you are apt to run into difficulties. That is what we are discussing in this House at present.
The hon. member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert) suggested, and I agree with him to a great extent, that the government is trying to make slaves of people for the benefit of a collective body known as the government. It is saying to the people concerned, "You must prove, to the satisfaction of a group we will select, that what you contemplate doing is definitely in the public interest." The hon. member for Edmonton West suggests that the people concerned ought to say to the government, "This is what we propose to do," and it is up to the government to show that the takeover is not desirable. I think I have interpreted correctly the remarks of the hon. member for Edmonton West. That, substantially, is his proposal, and that was his criticism. He argued that the individual should not be required to prove his case, but that the government should show beyond a reasonable doubt that the proposed takeover is detrimental to the general public interest.
The minister is arguing with a certain amount of conviction that the federal government cannot possibly commit itself to a policy of this sort, a policy which allows anything approaching veto power to anyone. I am not arguing strongly that this is a wrong opinion. I have always been impressed by the general idea that you make a great country if you create within that country an atmosphere of opportunity so that an individual may be able to use the talents he possesses for the benefit of the whole body, the whole system, the whole country. If you set up an atmosphere in which an individual can do things for himself and make a contribution to the country-and I see many such people within the range of my voice-then I consider that the whole collective body will benefit, because those same individuals, working for themselves and doing things for themselves, will, of necessity, contribute to the good of the country as a whole.
The minister said this afternoon informally, that he agrees with the very thing which the amendment put forward by my hon. friend from Fundy-Royal proposes, though he had certain reservations reflecting his own opinion and taking into account administrative considerations. He agrees there was an informal understanding in the committee along the very lines of this amendment. He might well consider a move which would put into appropriate language the informal understanding which was concluded. Since the minister has already agreed to do so, I suppose those words taken from notes I had prepared, will do no particular good at this point. On the other hand, they will do no particular harm either. This is exactly
July 4, 1972
Foreign Takeovers Review Act
what he has done, and he has done it without any consultation with me, I will tell you, Mr. Speaker. This only serves to prove that great minds run in the same channel.
Subtopic: FOREIGN TAKEOVERS REVIEW ACT