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CUPE National President Paul Moist joined labour leaders, economists and Members of Parliament this week for a national roundtable discussion on foreign investment rules in Canada.

The roundtable, hosted by New Democratic Party of Canada leader Jack Layton and NDP MP and Mining Critic Claude Gravelle, focused on finding ways to improve the Investment Canada Act, or ICA

Public services need to be explicitly protected in Canada’s foreign investment regulation regime,” Moist told the roundtable. “This must be a key part of broader national industrial polices.”

Issues surrounding foreign investment recently gained prominence during the federal review of the attempted hostile takeover bid by Australian mining giant BHP-Billiton for Saskatchewan’s Potash Corporation.

The episode highlighted the many shortcomings of the ICA. In November, the House of Commons unanimously passed an NDP motion calling for a review of the Act. There hasn’t been a major policy review of the ICA since it was enacted 20 years ago.

Some of the options the NDP is considering as part of the ICA review were discussed at the roundtable.

These options include;

  • Reducing the asset threshold for subjecting investment to review.
  • Providing explicit and transparent criteria for the “net benefit to Canada” test, and include public consultations for input from affected communities;
  • Transparent decisions with reasons open to the public.

CUPE supports a national industrial strategy, which not only establishes foreign investment rules but also addresses trade, tax and other public policies impacting public services in Canada.

We need more transparency, lower thresholds for review and effective penalties for those who don’t meet their commitments,” said Moist. “We also need a national industrial strategy that recognizes a critical and expanded role for the public sector.  Foreign investment rules also need to be integrated with stronger tax, trade and regulatory rules to protect the interests of Canadians and not just those of corporations.”