The news that mining giant BHP Billiton had hired three former advisors to Canadian Prime Ministers, including myself, raised a few questions among H&Kers about how I felt about helping to ‘sell off’ a Canadian company. I am grateful that they felt comfortable enough to freely ask this question and I am pleased to respond.
First of all, and for the record, the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. is not Canadian-owned. It is legally headquartered in Canada but effectively managed by Americans out of Chicago with the majority of its shareholders being foreign. Changes in control, whether foreign or domestic, are an essential to promoting new ideas, improving productivity and increasing investment. This helps to create wealth for our country and many stakeholders benefit. Shareholders, of course, benefit by the capital gain from the sale but they also re-invest those profits into new ventures that start the entrepreneurial process all over again. Governments also gain because half of the capital gain is taxed in the year the transaction is concluded. Studies have also shown that charities gain because as wealth is created, personal giving increases.
As a former hockey player, I understand the pride Canadians feel when ‘team Canada’ wins. But the sale of a Canadian business is not a hockey game and needs to be seen through the broad prism of stakeholders. Current management may not emerge victorious but other Canadian stakeholders stand to win.
The Canadian media brings to our attention the high profile acquisitions in Canada but pay very little attention to the investments of Canadian business abroad. I take pride in the fact that according to a study by a former professor of mine, University of Calgary economist, Jack Mintz, Canada is investing far more money in other countries than foreign firms are spending to buy Canadian firms. This outflow of investment has helped create world class companies such as Thomson Reuters Corp., Barrick Gold Corp., Bombardier, Brookfield & Research in Motion. More recently, our financial institutions in the insurance and banking sector have been making significant investments in American and global properties. Just imagine how these companies would be welcomed in other countries around the world if Canada took a restrictive view on foreign investment.
By now you may have guessed that I am an unapologetic free enterpriser. I believe that open markets are the best way to ensure citizens of all countries benefit from what the leading private sector companies of the world have to offer. So that’s why I am proud to represent BHP Billiton in Canada and look forward to helping them complete the transaction.