Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-34, a bill that attempts to strengthen the Investment Canada Act with significant amendments.
As we approach the discussion on Bill C-34, a critical examination is warranted. It comes after an extensive period where our national interests have been left vulnerable to foreign entities.
After eight long years under the Liberal government, the urgency to safeguard our economic and security interests seems to have taken a back seat, as it has taken us this long to look at protecting Canada's economy.
The core concern here is the significant presence of state-owned enterprises, particularly from the People's Republic of China, the PRC, within the Canadian economic landscape. This is not a matter of casting doubt on foreign investment as a whole, which has long been a source of innovation and growth within our economy. However, there is a distinction to be made when such investments are linked to foreign governments with agendas that do not align with Canadian values or interests.
Bill C-34 proposes to strengthen the Investment Canada Act, yet one cannot help but ponder whether the measures are sufficiently robust.
This bill does introduce mechanisms that might allow us to better scrutinize these investments. Indeed, the imposition of stringent penalties and the elevation of national security reviews are steps in the right direction. However, the specifics with which we address the challenge posed by the PRC are lacking.
It is imperative to understand that the issue at hand is not one of mere procedural delays or legislative enhancements. It is a matter of national sovereignty and the integrity of our economic and security infrastructure.
The amendments within Bill C-34 would grant the minister enhanced powers to investigate and intervene, yet there remains an imperative to want to question the thoroughness of this approach.
Have we provided a framework robust enough to contend with the sophisticated strategies employed by state-owned enterprises, particularly those backed by the government in Beijing? The PRC has demonstrated its capacity and inclination to wield economic leverage as a tool of broader geopolitical strategy. The foresight is to anticipate the sectors of our economy that may be targeted for acquisition, and control is crucial.
The legislation mentions the creation of a list of sensitive sectors that would warrant automatic review, yet it does not preclude the possibility of loopholes being exploited.
Let us turn our attention to the particulars of Bill C-34, where we must sift through the substance of proposed reforms.
The bill, as it stands, attempts to pre-emptively secure investments that might pose a risk to national security by instituting a mandatory filing requirement. This is indeed a prudent move, but how we define specified investments and the criteria for such pre-emptive measures must be crystal clear to avoid any grey areas that could be exploited.
In simplifying the process for the minister to act on national security reviews, we are placing significant trust in the judgment and efficacy of a single point of failure. While streamlining may expedite action, it also bypasses layers of scrutiny that can be vital in making balanced decisions. In the hands of one, the decision may be swift, but the question remains, will it be thorough?
Strengthening penalties for non-compliance sends a clear signal. It communicates the seriousness with which we take these matters. However, the deterrent effect of these penalties lies in their enforcement. Without a track record of rigorous enforcement, penalties on paper may not translate into a meaningful deterrent in practice. We must not just increase fines; we must demonstrate that we will impose them.
Also, granting the minister authority to impose conditions and accept undertakings opens the door to inconsistencies and influence of which we must be wary. When we consider the removal of the Governor in Council's involvement in the initial stages of a national security review, we must ask if we are centralizing power to the point of vulnerability. Oversight is not an enemy of deficiency, but a bedrock of democracy.
In continuing discussion, we must bear in mind the history that brings us to this juncture. We are not operating in a vacuum, but against a backdrop of past decisions and actions that have left us questioning the robustness of our investment review process. As we proceed with this dialogue, it is crucial to reflect on past actions that serve as a backdrop to today's discussions on Bill C-34.
We cannot ignore instances where our review mechanisms seem to falter, where foreign acquisitions proceeded with what some would argue was insufficient scrutiny. The case of Norsat International and subsequent dealings involving sensitive technology raises an eyebrow to the effectiveness of our past reviews.
This is not about pointing fingers, but about understanding the gravity of what is at stake. The acquisition of Neo Lithium Corp. by Zijin Mining and the Canada Border Services Agency's use of Hytera Communications equipment, despite espionage charges against Hytera in another allied nation, illustrates a pattern we cannot afford to ignore.
Our legislative framework should not only close the doors to such occurrences in the future, but also serve as a deterrent. Moreover, the pace of global change does not afford us the luxury of reactive policy. We need proactive measures that ensure the safety and security of our nation's interests. This includes comprehensive reviews of state-owned enterprises' acquisitions, regardless of size, especially when countries with aggressive postures on the global stage are involved.
As we bring these concerns into the present context, the urgency to address them becomes clear. We are at a crossroads where the discussions we make today may shape our economic and national security for years to come.
Bill C-34 is a step, but there is concern that it does not go far enough. We must ask ourselves, is this legislation merely a reaction to the past oversights, or is it a visionary move to secure our future?
While it makes strides in certain areas, it falls short in terms of automatic reviews and clarity in defining strategic sectors. In the ideal world, every investment would bring mutual benefits without compromising our national interests, yet we know the world is far from ideal, and the bill in its current form does not fully rise to the complex challenges we face.
Part of our duty is to ensure the security of Canada's future. Our duty is to enact legislation that does not just respond to yesterday's challenges, but anticipates tomorrow's threats. While Bill C-34 moves to tighten the reins on foreign investment and strengthen our defences, we must ensure it is not a case of too little, too late.
This is not just about adjusting the mechanism of the Investment Canada Act. It is about safeguarding the heart of Canadian innovation and security. Our vigilance in reviewing and improving this bill will demonstrate our unyielding commitment to the prosperity and security of Canada.
Let us ensure that this legislation is more than a response to past oversights. Let it be a steadfast guideline of our future economic sovereignty. This is our duty and it is one we must undertake with the utmost seriousness and dedication.
I appreciate the opportunity to address these crucial issues. Let us proceed with a clear vision and a firm resolve to protect the interests of Canada. I look forward to taking questions.