Third reading of Bill C-34, An Act to amend the Investment Canada Act

By: The Hon. Clément Gignac

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Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa

Hon. Clément Gignac: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to speak today at third reading of Bill C-34, An Act to amend the Investment Canada Act.

Over the next 45 minutes, I will do my best to convince you and every person waiting to support this bill.

I am just kidding, colleagues.

My speech will last a maximum of 28 minutes. I will do it in a very respectful way.

I would like to talk briefly about why the Senate should pass this bill. Before I proceed, I’d like to begin by thanking all my Banking, Commerce and the Economy Committee colleagues, as well as the bill’s critic, Senator Carignan, for their involvement in our study of this bill. I’m especially grateful to my Progressive Senate Group colleague, Senator Bellemare, and to the committee chair, Senator Wallin, for their flexibility and their valuable advice on how to append several observations in both official languages during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill in committee yesterday at noon, just hours before the official report was tabled in this chamber yesterday afternoon. This experience gave me an appreciation of how the legislative process and the logistics of Senate business are enhancing this assembly’s agility and effectiveness.

Colleagues, the Investment Canada Act is an important and far-reaching tool. It enables Canada to respond to evolving threats that could result from foreign investment, yet it protects Canada’s receptiveness to beneficial international investments.

Canada is already an attractive location for foreign investment, as the most recent statistics available for 2023 show. In fact, Canada ranks third among OECD countries in terms of foreign direct investment dollars, after the United States and Brazil. Per capita, that means Canada is number one.

Despite this success, we need to adapt. The world has changed in 15 years, and global trade is becoming more fragmented. As a member of the G7, a member of the FVEY, better known as the Five Eyes, and, more importantly, as a major trading partner — and military partner, in the case of NORAD — of our American neighbours, we can’t turn a blind eye to national security issues. We may long for the good old days of barrier-free trade liberalization of decades past, but we can’t stick our heads in the sand.

We have to be extra cautious with respect to certain investment plans from certain autocratic countries that could possibly be concealing malicious intentions.

That’s another reason why we need to modernize our legislation so it can provide foreign investors with clarity and predictability.

Our country needs foreign direct investment and international trade to enable Canadians to maintain their standard of living and fund social programs. That’s why the government has chosen to take a balanced approach, and it will continue to be pragmatic in taking action on the very real issues of national security.

In return, Canada will have to remain vigilant and fight back against purely protectionist measures, which introduce economic barriers under the guise of national security. I am referring to tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imposed by our neighbours to the south under the pretext of national security. At the same time, it is essential that the law be modernized to adapt to these new threats.

Canada remains an open economy that is the envy of the world, but our country is also increasingly the target of hostile actors.

Honourable senators, our allies, such as the Five Eyes, have adopted their own modern regimes in recent years. This update of the Investment Canada Act will provide authorities with new tools to prevent hostile actors from exploiting Canada’s expertise and capacity for innovation.

For example, the new pre-implementation filing requirement will guarantee that Canada has more oversight into certain key sectors, in particular those that give foreign investors substantive access to cutting-edge intellectual property and trade secrets once the investment is finalized.

What is more, the new ministerial power to impose interim conditions during the national security review process will help reduce the risk of harm to national security arising in the course of the review itself, for example, through the possible transfer of intellectual property before the review is complete.

The proposed changes in Bill C-34 also include financial penalties in the case of non-compliance with the law. These penalties have not been updated in several decades and are no longer commensurate with the current typical value of transactions.

The bill will also enable Canada to share specific information with its international counterparts to protect common interests in matters of security by using evidence-based best practices.

Finally, the resulting amended legislation will help trigger the national security review process when the investor has been found guilty of corruption in a given jurisdiction.

Honourable senators, like many other bills passed in this chamber, this bill is not perfect, and the Senate Banking Committee added several observations. Senator Bellemare will no doubt elaborate on those observations, since she is responsible for many of them.

However, as demonstrated by the unanimous support Bill C-34 received in the other place, national security is not a partisan issue, and senators should also support this bill.

As the bill’s sponsor, I thought it was important to look at how the bill evolved in the other place before it was submitted to the Senate for our consideration.

Honourable senators, this bill underwent an in-depth review by the committee in the other place, which held 12 meetings and heard from 44 witnesses.

What is more, unlike several other bills that were passed in the other place, this time, the government agreed to many amendments presented by Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois members in order to improve the bill that is before us today.

For our part, the Banking Committee held six meetings on this bill and heard from ten witnesses, including the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, minister responsible for the bill. The committee also produced a report and added observations, which my colleague will talk about later.

I hope everyone will agree that, taken together, these legislative changes will help Canada benefit economically from foreign investment while strengthening its ability to act quickly and decisively to address national security threats.

Honourable senators, it’s been a long week. Let me therefore conclude by inviting you to support Bill C-34.

Thank you for your attention. Meegwetch.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

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