Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C‑34 for the second time. This bill amends the Investment Canada Act. It is well intentioned, but there is still a lot of work to do.
The bill reinforces controls and increases the powers of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry regarding foreign investments in Canada. As we did at second reading of the bill last winter, Bloc Québécois members will continue to fully support any action aimed at better protecting Quebec's economy and Canada's economy against potentially detrimental foreign interests.
I will get right to the crux of the issue. We are debating today the amendments made by the committee. The bill is back in the House to be debated again, and I am glad that my colleagues on the committee were able to look at this closely and broaden the notion of sensitive sectors to include intellectual property and databases that contain personal information. We all agree that this improvement makes the bill stronger and that we should support it.
We also applaud the committee for rejecting the Conservatives' proposed amendments. Their proposal was intended to label every state-owned enterprise not run by our Five Eyes partners as hostile, which would have threatened Quebec's interests given that 40% of European investments in Canada are made in Quebec.
Let us take the example of Airbus, a French-German state-owned company that manufactures its A220 aircraft in Mirabel in partnership with the Quebec government. This project, which generates economic spin-offs for Quebec and Quebeckers, would have been compromised by the Conservative Party when, in fact, it is a collaboration with democratic and transparent states but, most importantly, with allies.
There is also the question of coordinating with the U.S. system. The proposed new review process essentially mirrors what is being done in the United States. Its adoption is intended to increase our American partners' confidence so that they continue to consider us a reliable and preferred partner within their supply chains. It has to be said that trade with the Americans is very important, and I think this bill is a step in that direction.
In March, when the debates clearly indicated that Bill C-34 enjoyed the support of the House, the United States agreed to include Canada in its critical minerals supply chain, which was very good news. This is a sign that the bill achieved its goal and helped strengthen our partners' trust in us.
Without a doubt, Bill C‑34 adds several useful weapons to our legislative arsenal. However, I must emphasize that these changes are still very incomplete. This is why the Bloc Québécois is asking the government to go much further in scrutinizing foreign investment in general. I am going to explain why.
The bill we are studying covers only those investments that could affect national security. This category of investment is extremely sensitive, and targeting it is justified. However, when we look at the big picture, we see that it represents only a tiny portion of all foreign investment in Canada.
I am going to present a few statistics that will undoubtedly convince my audience. Of the 1,255 investment projects submitted in 2022, only 24 would trigger a review under the new rules proposed in Bill C-34. That is just a grain of sand on a beach. Barely 2% of all investment projects would trigger a security review.
The other 1,221 investments would remain subject to the old rules. These rules provide for a review to determine whether a project is of net economic benefit to Canada. However, a review is only carried out when a project exceeds a certain monetary threshold. That is the problem. I hope the government pays attention to this. Over the years, the threshold at which a review is triggered has increased considerably. Projects are getting bigger and require even more investment.
In the past 10 years alone, investment projects have more than tripled. The consequence of this aberration is that virtually all projects are rubber-stamped without additional review.
Getting back to last year's figures, of the 1,255 projects submitted, only eight were subject to a review under the Investment Canada Act. Eight projects out of a total of 1,255 were submitted for review under the act. That is less than 1%, although the review rate was 10% as recently as 2009. The holes in this safety net have become far too big for it to be effective. The measure might as well not exist; it would not make much difference. That is why we need to go much further.
I would like to draw a parallel with history. In building our future, it is always important to be cognizant of the past, in order to avoid past mistakes and learn from past successes. I would like to share with the House some snippets of history to illustrate why we need to do more to control foreign investment.
Since the Quiet Revolution, the Quebec government has established significant economic and financial levers. These tools have allowed it to pursue a policy of economic nationalism aiming to give Quebeckers better control of their economy. This does not mean that Quebec is closed to foreign investment. We are open to it, of course, because it is a driver of growth and development. However, we believe we must support our own businesses to help them grow and seek to preserve our headquarters, which are significant decision-makers.
I will provide an example. In 1988, Bernard Landry, former premier of Quebec and leader of the Parti Québécois, campaigned to promote the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was signed with the United States and Mexico in the early 1990s. As we know, Quebec's strategy worked well when we explain economic nationalism and the protection of headquarters in terms of the large subsidiaries worldwide. Banking on the development of these businesses, we saw the growth of many flagships whose headquarters are in Quebec. The presence of these headquarters is significant. Structurally, businesses with headquarters in Quebec tend to create jobs, attract talent, and promote sourcing from local suppliers, creating a virtuous economic cycle. Companies also tend to concentrate their strategic activities, such as scientific research and technological development, where their headquarters are located.
There are also reasons for adopting this legislation. There is no shortage of examples that demonstrate the harmful effects of ill-advised foreign investments on our economy. I will name a few. The loss of decision-making levers and headquarters condemns us to be a subsidiary economy, where foreigners decide for us. Everyone remembers Lowe's acquisition of Rona. Let us also consider the weakening of Montreal's financial position as a leading world financial centre; the total reliance of our businesses on foreign providers and on supply chains that are more vulnerable than ever; the possible land grabs by rich foreigners who have no interest in our social and economic priorities; and the loss of control of our natural resources, which are the greatest wealth our territory has to offer.
The Bloc Québécois strives to be a constructive partner, and as such, it has suggested three types of tangible changes for the government to focus on. The first is to lower the review threshold so that the government has the power to review more investment projects. According to the numbers, it looks at barely 2% or even 1% of certain projects. There is a huge gap to overcome for a bill to be able to ensure better security overall, but also better protection from foreign investments. The second is to pay special attention to strategic sectors of the economy, such as leading-edge sectors, land ownership or control over natural resources. The third is to develop a tighter process for transactions involving control over intellectual property patents. Intellectual property is the knowledge we develop. We need to protect that knowledge, including in the pharmaceutical sector. Some Quebec companies had molecule patents that were then purchased by major pharmaceutical companies and moved overseas.
National security is important, but we must not overlook economic security and long-term prosperity. Let us be clear. This is not about closing the door on foreign investment. Quebec and Canada must remain economically open to the world.
In closing, as Jacques Parizeau wrote in 2001, before China even became a member of the World Trade Organization, “We do not condemn the rising tide; we build levees to protect ourselves”.
Unfortunately, the weakening of the Investment Canada Act has caused those levees to break.