The House of Commons industry committee voted unanimously on Nov. 12 to hear from Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino about the contract for radio equipment between the RCMP and Sinclair Technologies, a subsidiary of a Chinese company.
The committee met at the request of four members to discuss undertaking a study on the matter, and Conservative MP Rich Perkins brought forward the motion.
CBC News first revealed last week that the RCMP had a contract of over $500,000 for radio frequency filters with Sinclair. The federal government suspended the contract after the news broke.
Sinclair is based in Ontario, but became a subsidiary of Chinese company Hytera when its parent company Norsat was acquired by Hytera in 2017.
Perkins’ motion focused on the area of the sale allowed by the Trudeau government without a formal national security review, despite Norsat being a provider of technology to Canada and its allies in the defence sector.
“Before awarding [the Sinclair contract], why has the Minister of Industry been so lax in overseeing the Investment Canada Act and not doing a full national security review of the Canadian assets and supplying Canadian governments with services from state owned enterprises from non democratic countries?” asked Perkins.
Perkins raised the issue of the 2017 Chinese national intelligence law which compels Chinese citizens and companies to participate in the collection of intelligence for the regime. He suggested that all future purchases of Canadian assets by Chinese-linked companies should be scrutinized by the federal government.
Perkins also remarked that Sinclair had outbid a Quebec-based company by $60,000, and said Chinese companies can outbid competitors due to being heavily subsidized by the state.
“So a firm that is owned by an undemocratic government, that loses money most years by bidding below cost for work, obviously must have other motivations and purposes,” he said.
Perkins’ initial motion sought to obtain the testimony of the Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, along with other ministers and federal officials, such as RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and National Security and Intelligence Advisor Jody Thomas.
Liberal MPs pushed back on the motion, with Nathaniel Erskine-Smith saying the industry committee (INDU) has already studied the Investment Canada Act and that the current issue of the Sinclair contract should be studied at the public safety committee.
MP Iqwinder Gaheer also questioned why the Tories were seeking to hear from a long list of witnesses.
“Why is this motion being used as a Trojan Horse to bring in all these other ministers into INDU when this could be studied in a different committee?” he asked.
Gaheer also remarked that the government is already in the process of strengthening the Investment Canada Act.
Champagne is the sponsor of Bill C-34 tabled on Dec. 7 which seeks to amend the act.
Some of the amendments include a new filing requirement for certain investments to provide the government earlier visibility on potential transactions, it would give the minister of industry the power to extend national security reviews without a cabinet decision, and it would impose stronger penalties for non-compliance.
Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire sided with the Liberals in seeking a narrower study from the industry committee and brought forward an amendment to only hear from Mendicino on the Sinclair issue.
“I think we all understand that we have to get to the bottom of this and understand what happened. However, we’re not ready to be able to undertake this full study for various reasons,” Lemire said.
Lemire presented another motion to invite Champagne to the committee that was adopted unanimously, but this time to hear from the minister on all issues pertaining to his mandate.
The dates for hearing from Champagne and Mendicino at the industry committee have not been announced yet.