Madam Speaker, I am glad to see you back in the chair as well.
I want to start by thanking my constituents for giving me the great privilege of being able to rise in the House to speak on their behalf to the issues they are concerned with these days. To the constituents back home, the debate today is on Bill C-34, which is amendments to, although the government calls it the modernization of, the Investment Canada Act. The specific name given in the bill is the national security review of investments modernization act. For everything that is wonderful, it seems the government will always call it “modernization”.
Maybe I will take a different tack than other members have taken. I find that for every piece of legislation, whether it is Liberal, Conservative or a private member's bill, it is the moment it is tabled and the events that lead up to it that are important. This particular piece of legislation, let us to be serious, is about the People's Republic of China and state-owned investments being made in Canada, whether those are investments that contravene our national security interests or investments that, in the long term, are not in the interest of the Canadian economy or the Canadian worker.
We have seen the experience of other countries all across the world over the last two decades, since the People's Republic of China was allowed to enter the WTO, and that relationship has changed the world economy. I believe this is a response to the behaviours of the government of Beijing over the last two decades.
Madam Speaker, we were in the United Kingdom, in London recently, and we met with individuals who spoke about the general relationships the United Kingdom has. I had the great honour to return to the Palace of Westminster to hear from Alicia Kearns, chair of the foreign affairs committee in the United Kingdom. There was a long meeting held about the British business relationship with the People's Republic of China.
It was fascinating to hear experts in the field describe not only the pros, the cons, and the pitfalls for British businesses having to share their IP and technology, but also the footprint of their businesses and the exchange of workers that go and back. Some of these workers from the different provinces in China would eventually want to stay in the United Kingdom. They would be applying with and leaving to go to competitors. They talked about the long term, and the three stools of relationships, which are government to government, business to business, and people to people, and how all three are incredibly important.
In describing Canada's relationship, as the Canadian government, businesses in Canada and the people of Canada, I think our relationship with Beijing could be defined as broken at the government level, the business level and the people-to-people level.
I have a Yiddish proverb. Members know I really like them.
[Member spoke in Yiddish]
The proverb means, “The match was a success; they were broke inside of six months.”
Although the timeline is different in this particular situation, over the last six, seven, eight years, we have seen a broken relationship. There was an attempt by the Liberal government to negotiate a memorandum of understanding for a free trade deal with Beijing. That fell apart completely.
We basically had a freezing of the relationship while Canada dealt with the Meng Wanzhou case in Canada, and the Government of China held two of our citizens for no good cause. It was hostage diplomacy. One thing I heard repeatedly when I was in the United Kingdom, shared to me by both lords and ladies, and by members of their Parliament, was that it is also incumbent upon Beijing to watch the language that they use in international diplomacy.
It is not just incumbent upon us to raise issues of human rights, which are incredibly important to the people of Canada, and people in my riding as well, to that business relationship. There is an effect when politicians raise issues of human rights and that has a direct impact on business interest in China. I know in the case of Alberta, we export a lot of agricultural goods. Chinese companies are amazing purchasers of things such as canola, pork, lentils and other products that western farmers love to produce, and it is a great market for agricultural products. I do not represent an agricultural riding, but it has an impact on my riding as well, because many people who live in my riding have family members who continue to farm on their operations.
The events that have led to this today go beyond just the balloon drama that we have had over the last few days, and I know we all like to make jokes about it. We have all had enough puns.
I think the last review for the Investment Canada Act was around 2009, but let us look at the behaviour of the Government of Beijing. Right now, 47 of the most prominent pro-democracy activists, legislators and people who are interested in protecting the civic institutions of the city of Hong Kong, are on trial. The largest trial of democracy activists in Hong Kong's history is being held right now, and it does not look very positive for them. I hope the trial will go their way, but I am not very confident.
We have an amazing relationship with the people and the Government of Taiwan. The senior Taiwanese opposition leader, the vice-chairman of the Kuomintang, or the KMT, Andrew Hsia, is right now leading a delegation to Beijing's office dealing with Taiwan relations. That is happening as we speak.
In the United Kingdom, there is a semiconductor company called IQE, which is the acronym for its name. It happens to be in Wales, and as the Speaker would know, we were in Cardiff as well. The company is informing the government that, because of the delays in reaching a strategy on semiconductors in the United Kingdom, it might move out.
That is not unheard of. It is something that is happening across all western economies right now as businesses are seeking opportunities from foreign investors to help build a plant, finance their operations and manufacture goods. They are having to review where the funding is coming from and what kinds of strings are attached to it. That is what I see in this piece of legislation.
Although different members have mentioned that there are shortcomings, and the member for South Shore—St. Margarets itemized a list of concerns that Conservatives have with this particular piece of legislation, I think there are opportunities. Reuters very recently noted the fact that this Parliament has now called for the resettlement of Uighurs, particularly those who are facing a genocide in China, perpetrated by the Government of Beijing in the Xinjiang region, which will now be resettling them.
That will also have an impact on the business-to-business relationships, because the government in Beijing considers any mention of it, by any parliament or government, as worthy of retribution. Typically, it is business retribution. I am sure that, if I applied today for a business or tourist visa to go to mainland China, I would very likely have it refused, and I accept that.
Bloomberg recently reported that aluminum products that are entering the United States are being detained at the border because they are suspected of being connected to forced labour in the Xinjiang province.
Just last week, the member for Dufferin—Caledon had an Order Paper question come back to him from the Government of Canada saying that it has seized zero products in Canada related to forced labour in one particular province in the People's Republic of China, while the United States' government has been seizing hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of goods because it has evidence they were produced illegally using forced labour.
Another recent event I will bring up is that President Xi has called for more efforts to accelerate the establishment of a new pattern of development. This has been reported by the Xinhua state news agency. Its focus is on dual circulation, security and self-reliance.
With respect to the piece of legislation we are considering here, and I support sending it to committee to do further reviews, I do not think we should kid ourselves. This is indeed about the People's Republic of China. It is about the Government of Beijing, its behaviour in other countries, and what it might intend to do in Canada or has done in the past.
In the last election, at a minimum, we called for the automatic review of transactions that involved sensitive security sectors, such as defence, artificial intelligence and rare earth minerals. That is what a committee of Parliament should do, review what other sectors or economies should be reviewed. I think that, with respect to all state-owned entities that come from mainland China, we should set the bar at zero. They should automatically be reviewed. I am not worried about state-owned companies from the Republic of France or the Republic of Poland, but I am concerned about the People's Republic of China and its direct control of state-owned companies.
While we have a broken relationship, as I referred to in my Yiddish proverb, there is a relationship that we have brought to this point. That is not entirely the fault of the Canadian government. The Government of Beijing held two of our citizens hostage, and there are consequences to every action. I consider Bill C-34 part of the consequences that must be put on that government for the genocide of the Uighurs; the bad relationship it has developed with our people, our government and our businesses; and lastly, for engaging in hostile diplomacy and holding the two Michaels hostage.