Mr. Thomas (Moncton):
I will agree with that, and the most sensible. Here is the minister who has been given the task of making DREE work, who has continually told us of the problems he has met in the interference and inconsistencies offered by other government programs, which destroy the efforts of DREE. He has talked about government interference in regional problems, and certainly he is one minister who recognizes the problems. Like my colleague, I should like to quote a remark made by the minister. When we talk about this business of Canadian capital, and say we do not need to worry about foreign capital because Canadian capital will replace it. At page 7637 of the Hansard report of that same speech, still speaking of the need for foreign capital in the Atlantic region, the minister said:
... the biggest failing, in terms of Canadian control of the Canadian economy, over the past 50 years or so has been the lack of initiative and entrepreneurship and the timidity of a great deal of Canadian capital.
He went on to talk about the fact that Canadians did not take the opportunity to invest in the Atlantic region, and so it was left to foreign capital to come in and develop the fishing, lumber and mining industries. In fact, practically all the development that took place in the four provinces was due to the initiative of foreign capital. The minister spoke of the pitfalls that occur when foreign capital gets control of the resources. He referred to several big fish plants that had closed and someone mentioned Devco and several other enterprises.
This happens, of course, but I would also point out to the House something that the hon. member for Carleton-Charlotte (Mr. McCain) referred to; that the record of the Canadian corporations is no better in this respect. Canadian corporations, too, have moved in and bought small locally owned plants and then, within two or three years when the operation was not viable, have moved out. I could name a dozen instances, Mr. Speaker, and my colleague the hon. member for Central Nova (Mr. MacKay) referred to a plant which was taken over a few years ago by a Canadian corporation and which now is just a warehouse. This happens all the time, so it is not just the foreign corporations that are at fault. It does not matter whether the money is international or Canadian, naturally the investors are going to make their decisions on an economic basis, and if they have to close the plant they do so. The argument that international corporations have no
heart and do not consider the interest of the regions is not valid; it applies regardless of the ownership of capital.
If one read that speech without realizing that the minister had made it, one would almost think he was attacking the principles of the bill. He mentioned all the things that should happen, and the fact that it is very important that there be meaningful co-operation between the provinces and the federal government as well as with the industry in the area, but he also admits that many of the problems are due to the fact that there has not been consultation and co-operation between the governments involved. Industries have been established or assisted when it has been obvious that they could not succeed. Had there been local consultation the grants would not have been recommended.
All through his speech the minister pointed out the dangers of attempting to restrict foreign capital unless something can be done to encourage Canadian capital to take up the slack. While our postulations are the same, Mr. Speaker, our conclusions are the opposite. The minister takes the position that these departments have been set up and, therefore, in some cases when foreign capital begins to investigate the possibility of establishing in an area they have to go to the federal government for some type of assistance. He says, therefore, that there are plenty of safeguards in his department to ensure provincial input and provincial co-operation. This is only partly true, Mr. Speaker. The type of consultation and co-operation that the minister mentions usually comes after many months of negotiation when the program is pretty well set up. At that time the company or the province usually comes to the federal government. That is not the type of meaningful co-operation that is needed if we are to establish viable ownership in these areas.
What we are talking about, and what the premiers of the provinces are talking about, is prior consultation and prior knowledge of what is going on. We have heard apologists for the bill on the government side say that this is provided in the bill. Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in the bill to establish prior consultation. The only stipulation in the bill, and it appears more than once, is that the minister "may" consult the provinces; after proceedings have gone so far he may hear provincial representations. How can representations be made on something about which you have no knowledge? If you do not know that there is an application, how can you make representations? This may be the government's definition of co-operation, and possibly that is why we have seen the confrontation between this government and Alberta or Quebec or various other provinces. We on this side do not consider it to be either consultation or co-operation.
In order to meet all the requirements of the foreign ownership program which the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion outlined so eloquently, there must be prior meaningful consultation and co-operation between the federal government and the provincial governments involved. That is why my colleague has introduced this amendment; that is why I say that this bill can be immeasurably strengthened by the government showing good faith. Let them show they really mean to follow a policy of consultation and co-operation by adopting these amendments and making the bill workable.
November 13, 1973
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: FOREIGN INVESTMENT REVIEW BILL