Standing Committee on Finance

Elizabeth May: How come I have one minute and Mr. Plamondon had two minutes?

The Chair: Well, you have more amendments than Mr. Plamondon. If I could just ask you to be very brief, I’ll be as generous with time as I can be.

Elizabeth May: Okay. I need to say something by way of introduction. I’ll be as brief as I can. I’m here at the invitation of the finance committee. I did not ask for this opportunity. I support the statement made by Ms. Nash that this is not proper parliamentary procedure and that I’ve been invited to submit amendments and will not have an equal opportunity to present them, not even equal to my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. I underscore that my participation at this moment is without prejudice to my rights as a member of Parliament to submit amendments at report stage.

This amendment is based on testimony to committee in relation to credit unions. They are deeply concerned that the changes in Bill C-60 will eliminate their ability to provide the very essential financial services that they provide—as Mr. Brison said—particularly across rural Canada. What I’ve attempted to do with this amendment, Mr. Chair, is to reduce the tax benefits they now receive, the preferential tax treatment, but not eliminate it all together, so that under my amendment being proposed at this moment, which I hope is consistent with the purpose of the act, it would reduce the credit unions’ preferential tax rate from where it is now to 75% after 2016.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. May.

I will just inform you as the chair, colleagues, that if PV-1 is adopted, LIB-2 cannot be proceeded with because there’s a line conflict with LIB-2. If this amendment is adopted, we will not be able to proceed with LIB-2, just for your information.

Is there any further discussion on this amendment? No.

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: We will move to LIB-2.

Mr. Brison, please.

Hon. Scott Brison: The intention of my amendment, or the Liberal amendment, is similar to that of Ms. May’s, so I expect the outcome, perhaps, will be similar as well. We’d prefer to see the government get rid of this section of Bill C-60 so that the tax credit for credit unions would remain in place as is. It’s clear that the government is not willing to do that. What this amendment would do is at least provide credit unions with more time by extending the phase-out of the tax credit, and I think that’s a reasonable compromise.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Brison.

Is there any further discussion on this amendment? No.

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: Colleagues, I call this meeting back to order.

This is meeting number 125 of the Standing Committee on Finance doing clause-by-clause of Bill C-60.

We left off at clause 136. I have three amendments by Ms. May.

Ms. May, you can address them separately in statements or you can address them together if you wish.

(On clause 136)

Elizabeth May: Thank you, Mr. Chair. If I address them together, it’s one minute per amendment, so it’s three minutes in a block, correct?

The Chair: Correct.

Elizabeth May: Thank you.

I again wish to place on the record that in submitting to the finance committee’s request that I provide amendments, with the instruction to have one minute per amendment to present them, I’m in no way precluding my rights under those that any member of Parliament in my circumstances has at report stage. So I participate without prejudice.

I’m grateful for an opportunity to address the changes I’m proposing. We’re now moving to division 6, the Investment Canada Act. I know other parties also have concerns. The first block of my amendments all address definitions found in clause 136. This of course is the attempt, the general effort, which I support, to provide a definition for “state-owned enterprise” and to further amend the definition of “Canadian”.

All of my amendments within the Investment Canada Act go to two areas. One, which we’ll get to later, is on some concerns that were raised by the competition subsection of the Canadian Bar Association about the way in which state-owned enterprises are valued compared to how WTO private investors are valued. But throughout this you’ll also find a thread of concern about the national security implications of increased foreign investment in Canada, particularly by state-owned enterprises. In that, I would flag now for my friends in the Conservative Party that if you were willing to consider an amendment that comes up later, which is Green Party amendment 6, which deals directly with providing an actual definition of national security…when I speak to that, that’s the one that I hope and pray you will actually consider, because I think it’s important in the national interest.

Speaking to the amendments that I’m presenting as a block right now, they all relate to definitions. Under state-owned enterprise, Green Party amendment 2 attempts to insert the notion that when we’re looking at state-owned enterprises of governments that are obviously not Canadian, we’re looking at governments particularly that are:

pursuing political or economic objectives that are potentially injurious to Canada’s national security

The second amendment within this block, Mr. Chair, is Green Party amendment 3, which is looking at the extent of control. What we’re doing here is taking the direction that we support in the government’s efforts to provide specificity in this area, but we’re tightening the amendment and making the definitions more stringent to reduce the level of ministerial discretion. We are calling on the minister in our amendment to provide guidelines that would be specific to examples of where a foreign government would be considered to have sufficient influence or direction over an entity to make it a state-owned enterprise.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman, it’s looking at influence and direction of state-owned enterprises, again tightening definitions.

I hope these will be considered favourably by the committee.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. May.

I will take these amendments separately….

Sorry, on the amendments, Ms. Nash, please.

Peggy Nash: I guess the question is, do we get to speak to clause 136, or do we have to address it through these amendments? Will you accept a debate on clause 136?

The Chair: Yes, you can address clause 136 after the vote on the amendments.

Peggy Nash: Okay.

Regarding these three amendments that deal with the definitions, in general, we share the concerns about the definitions. We just have a concern about Green Party amendment 2. We’re concerned that it isn’t properly part of a definition of state-owned enterprise, whether or not it’s pursuing objectives harmful to Canada. I want to express our concern about that change.

The Chair: Okay. Thank you.

Is there further discussion on the amendments?

Elizabeth May: Could I respond?

The Chair: I’m sorry, Ms. May. Your time is up.

(Amendments negatived)

The Chair: We’ll go next to Ms. May, with amendment PV-5, please.

Elizabeth May: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This amendment, as I indicated earlier…. My concerns with the Investment Canada Act are drawn from two concerns: national security, and the concerns of the national competition law section of the Canadian Bar Association. This amendment is in line with recommendations that were received by the committee on May 17 from that group of the CBA.

The bottom line is that the way the act is currently drafted creates an unintended consequence, and I will quote from the CBA:

The playing field in a competitive bid scenario would be tilted against private sector investors and in favour of SOE investors.

That’s because of what I believe is a drafting mistake. When you get down on page 68, to “subsection 1.1”, they don’t carry through enterprise value. We’re dealing with only asset value, calculated in a manner prescribed. As a result, you could have an SOE that had an asset book value below the threshold level, but an enterprise level that might have been $1 billion. As a result, in a competitive bid, I think the drafting has accidentally given an SOE a potential advantage over a private sector investor.

That’s what my amendment tries to repair.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. May.

Is there further discussion?

Ms. Nash.

Peggy Nash: I think I understand what the member is aiming for here, but our concern has to do with raising the threshold for enterprise value to $1 billion. We think the threshold should remain at $344 million, and that this should be indexed to inflation. We’re not in favour of raising the threshold.

The Chair: Okay, thank you.

I will go to the vote.

It’s listed as amendment PV-5.

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: I have amendment PV-6.

I’m going to go to Ms. May for a minute.

Elizabeth May: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It’s nice being PV—it’s Parti vert, Green Party, amendment 6.

I want to put on the record that I’m presenting this amendment at the finance committee without prejudice to rights that I would have had at report stage, as a member who is not a member of this committee and who does not have an equal opportunity before it.

This amendment is critical. We go back to the 2008 report of the Competition Policy Review Panel, in which they found:

The panel believes that it is in Canada’s interests in a post-9/11 world to have in place an explicit national security test to support its trade and investment policies.

The 2009 amendments to the Investment Canada Act failed to put in place a clear test and definition. When I had the opportunity to ask questions of witnesses from Industry Canada, on May 21 at the industry committee, they agreed that it was to our detriment that there was no study within Canada that would show an explicit test. They told me that the U.S. test exists.

I went to the U.S. test, found under the U.S. Foreign Investment and National Security Act, and adapted it to Canada. You find it before you in Green Party amendment 6. We need to be able to test an SOE’s interest in Canada against an explicit national security test.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you.

On this I have Mr. Rankin and Mr. Brison, please.

Murray Rankin: Thank you, Chair.

I just want to speak in favour of this amendment. My colleague Ms. Nash spoke about the need for a definition of net benefit, and I entirely agree with my colleague Ms. May that we need to have a definition of national security factors. I can say this as someone who has served as the legal adviser to the Security Intelligence Review Committee for many years and was recently appointed by Mr. Nicholson to be the special advocate under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act dealing with national security matters.

Of course, under the CSIS Act there is a very clear, cogent definition of threats to the security of Canada, which is the holy grail, the bible, for those doing work in this field. I thought the definition that was provided, 11 factors and a basket clause, was entirely appropriate and useful, and I really speak in favour of the need for such a definition.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Rankin.

Mr. Brison, please.

Hon. Scott Brison: I’d like to propose a friendly amendment to amendment PV-6 that makes it clear what the minister can consider is not limited to these specific areas. I would propose that in the amendment, whether it says:

the factors to be taken into account by the Minister in making a determination whether an investment could be injurious to national security include

these words be added:

but not be limited to

Elizabeth May: Mr. Chair, am I allowed to speak to a friendly amendment?

The Chair: I’m sorry.

Mr. Brison, we need your amendment in writing, please. Can you write it out for us?

Hon. Scott Brison: Sure. I’ll write it out.

The Chair: Colleagues, there are no friendly amendments; there are amendments.

Hon. Scott Brison: I’ve certainly seen some unfriendly amendments over the years.

Voices: Oh, oh!

The Chair: It’s all in the subjective view.

Okay, everybody, calm down. Let’s just deal with the amendment to the amendment.

Just for clarification, Mr. Brison and colleagues, if you look at:

(8) For the purposes of subsections (l)

at the end of that paragraph, it would say:

whether an investment could be injurious to national security include but not be limited to

That’s your subamendment.

Do you want to discuss that further?

Hon. Scott Brison: No.

The Chair: Okay, we’ll take discussion on that then.

Mr. Rankin.

Murray Rankin: I would point out that paragraph (l) in the proposed amendment adds:

such other factors as the Minister may determine to be appropriate, generally or in connection with a specific review or investigation.

As a matter of statutory interpretation, I don’t see the utility of the amendment proposed by Mr. Brison.

The Chair: Okay.

Is there further discussion on Mr. Brison’s proposal?

Elizabeth May: Can I respond to that?

The Chair: Ms. May, as I’ve been directed by the committee, each party has a maximum of five minutes per clause. There was an agreement for about one minute for each amendment, and I’ve been fairly generous, but that’s the decision of the committee. That’s what I will have to abide by, as chair, unless the committee directs me otherwise.

On Mr. Brison’s subamendment to add “but not be limited to”.

(Subamendment negatived)

The Chair: We will take the vote on amendment PV-6.

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: We have two amendments here: PV-7 and NDP-14.

Ms. May first, please, for your seventh amendment.

Elizabeth May: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again, I’m presenting this amendment without prejudice to my rights at the report stage.

This amendment is in relation to subclause 145(2) of the bill and deals with the general section of the bill that is extending time lines around national security reviews.

My amendment changes one word. Basically, right now what we have in proposed subsection 37(2) on page 76 is:

the Minister may provide the applicant with a written opinion for the applicant’s guidance.

I have proposed “the Minister shall provide the applicant with a written opinion”, for greater clarity, transparency, and information for those applying to invest in Canada.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. May.

Is there further discussion? No.

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: Clauses 174 to 199 deal with division 12, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act.

We have eight amendments dealing with clause 174. We will deal with them in the order they’re on your agenda. Therefore, we will go to Ms. May for her eighth amendment, please.

Elizabeth May: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I’ll briefly repeat that my participation in these hearings is without prejudice to my rights as a member of Parliament when we get to report stage.

My amendment here, Green Party amendment 8, deals with the mandates, powers, duties, and functions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The amendment in question here attempts to underscore core Canadian values.

For instance, at paragraph (a) of my amendment, where the current draft ends with the words “economic relations”, I propose that the act should go on to say:

ensuring that all economic relationships are founded on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law;

Subsequent parts of the amendment are similar in strengthening language that’s already there, in terms of what are core Canadian values, such as promoting development that is socially and ecologically responsible and ensuring that development assistance also extends to mitigation of climate change and disasters caused by the climate crisis.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. May.

Would you like to speak to it, Mr. Brison?

Hon. Scott Brison: We would agree with most of the principles of the amendment. It’s our understanding, though, that it does subject our ability to pursue military intervention to the authorization of the UN, or it could be interpreted as such. There are times, including the Kosovo intervention, as an example, when we did not have UN authorization. There may be times when we would want to pursue military intervention without UN authorization.

The Chair: Thank you.

Is there any further discussion on amendment PV-8?

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: We will go now to Ms. May’s ninth amendment, please.

Elizabeth May: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I’m presenting Green Party amendment 9, without prejudice to abilities to present amendments at report stage.

This amendment fleshes out with specificity what is referred to now on page 90 in paragraph 14(d):

ensuring Canada’s contributions to international development and humanitarian assistance are in line with Canadian values and priorities.

My amendment sets this out:

priorities, namely a commitment to equality, democracy, social justice, ecological integrity, multilateralism, human rights and the rule of law.

I’m sure everybody will agree and this amendment will be a first and will pass.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. May, for the discussion on PV-9.

We will go to Mr. Rankin, please.

Murray Rankin: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I don’t have this proposed amendment in writing, but I would just say “including” these values. They may not be inclusive. The values, the priorities, are obviously good Canadian values, without doubt, but there may be other values that aren’t there. I’m concerned about voting in favour of them when other key values may be missing. I would like to say “including” rather than “namely”.

The Chair: Okay. Mr. Rankin wants to remove the word “namely” in the amendment and put in “including”. Is there any discussion on that?

(Subamendment negatived)

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: We have nine amendments on clause 229.

Ms. May, you have two amendments on clause 229, PV-10 and PV-11. You can address them together or separately, as you wish.

Elizabeth May: Thank you, Mr. Chair. That’s very helpful, because they are related.

First of all, again, I’m happy to cooperate with the finance committee, at their invitation, but without prejudice to subsequent rights of members in my position.

I share all the concerns that you’ve heard expressed so far. I note earlier comments from my friends on the government benches that this government has respect for taxpayers’ dollars—except for the $3.1 billion that can’t be located right now by the Auditor General in relation to security spending.

The crown corporations and the extension of crown corporations, the interference in collective bargaining by representation of the Privy Council, is a step too far in terms of changing the arm’s-length relationship between these crown corporations. The fiscal control over crown corporations comes in the fact that their budgets are approved. That controls any sense of illegitimate spending.

My first amendment is to the generic question of crown corporations and the interference in collective bargaining.

I particularly was impressed by the testimony of George Smith from Queen’s University, who said this was in fact the “antithesis” of legislative reform in public sector collective bargaining, and that it contradicts the “spirit and intent” of the Canadian labour code.

That goes to my amendment 10, which is to specific crown corporations and to exclude them.

My amendment 11 is very much related to CBC and the independence of public broadcasting.

I draw to the attention of committee members the letter to the Prime Minister of Canada from some of the luminaries of Canadian broadcasting, including Joe Schlesinger, Hugh Winsor, Don Newman, and a constituent of my own from Pender Island, Patrick Brown, who used to be a CBC foreign correspondent. They point out that collective bargaining terms include such things as “Journalists cannot be pulled off assignments without good reason”, and “Journalists do not have to fear retribution….” These are collective bargaining terms that go directly to journalistic independence.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. May.

Is there any discussion on PV-10 or PV-11?

Ms. Glover, please.

Shelly Glover: Mr. Chair, just for the record, I remain a little disappointed in Ms. May’s intervention.

I’m happy to invite independent witnesses to partake in this discussion, but I find myself forced to correct the record. Outside of the discussion on this bill, Ms. May has raised some concerns about something entirely outside of the scope of what we’re doing, which was false. The Auditor General has indicated very clearly that there is no missing money.

I would hope that when independent members come here and try to open a can of worms that really has nothing to do with the bill before us, they remember this for future requests for appearances, etc. We try to work collaboratively here as much as possible, and I would hope that Ms. May would honour that the next time she intervenes.

Elizabeth May: I didn’t try to come—

The Chair: Order.

Shelly Glover: Nevertheless, I do want to say that, you know, it is the Conservatives who created the CBC. We have tremendous respect for broadcasting, and for public broadcasting in particular. This has nothing to do with funding daily operations; it has to do with the taxpayers’ dollar and whether or not, when the CBC is making decisions about how the long-term effects of their financing are put into place…how that affects the taxpayer.

That is all. It will not interfere with the day-to-day operations in any way, shape, or form. It will not restrict journalistic ability to go after stories, etc. I just want to make that perfectly, perfectly clear.

I have a question for the witness on this process that’s being introduced. Is it in practice in other areas of the federal government already?

Dennis Duggan: A similar process exists with respect to those organizations listed in schedule V of the FAA. They are separate agencies, and that includes the Canada Revenue Agency, CSIS, and a number of others.

Shelly Glover: So there is nothing different in this legislation when you are comparing to the ones you just mentioned. We’re just making sure they are following the same oversight measures.

Dennis Duggan: It’s very similar, yes.

Shelly Glover: Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. Caron, you have the floor.

Guy Caron: I won’t ask the witness any questions because, clearly, he works for the Department of Finance, right?

Dennis Duggan: Treasury Board.

Guy Caron: Clearly, his role is not political. Our concerns are political.

Once again, Mr. Adler and Ms. Glover are assuring us that their intentions are good. Yet, we have heard witnesses say many times that this would open the door to interference and a loss of independence for the CBC, the Bank of Canada and any other Crown corporation. Although the other issues are of concern, we are more concerned with the independence of the Bank of Canada and the journalistic independence of the CBC. Not a single witness confirmed what the Conservative government has been saying since the bill was tabled. Some concerns are clear. The independent witnesses said so.

That the government wants to ignore that absolutely astounds me. Does the government not want to govern in a way that ensures that its institutions maintain the trust of Canadians? I understand that the government wants to reassure us. It is the only one that can, since no one besides us is saying the same thing.

The Chair: Thank you. Merci.

All right. I’ll move to the votes on PV-10 and PV-11.

(Amendments negatived)