The Ottawa Citizen
March 23, 2000
Glowing review of Export agency neglects to mention $800 million in foreign writeoffs
International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew’s glowing presentation in the House of Commons this week of large profits at the Export Development Corporation — and a 50-year total of “only $1 billion” in federal grants to the trade agency — is undermined by the Chretien government’s quiet write-off of $800 million in bad EDC loans since 1992.
“I would like to inform the House that in the last 50 years, all in all, the Canadian government has only granted about a billion dollars to the EDC for its equity fund,” Mr. Pettigrew said under questioning in the Commons. “The rest is really money it makes on loans that it got on the market, so (the amount) cannot be more than a billion dollars over 50 years.”
Mr. Pettigrew continually answered questions about the EDC by saying the Crown corporation is self-sustaining and a “good-news story” that features annual $100-million-plus profits.
But Reform MP Monte Solberg accused Mr. Pettigrew yesterday during question period of telling only “half the story” about EDC loans and challenged Mr. Pettigrew in the House to balance the EDC’s two accounts — the corporate one and the “Canada Account.”
“If we give someone a loan but there is no interest paid on it and there is no requirement to pay it back, is it really a loan, or is it just a giveaway of taxpayers money?” Mr. Solberg asked.
For instance, he said, Canadian taxpayers have had to cover $640 million in bad EDC loans during the past six years. That total climbs to $800 million going back eight years.
“Is it not true that anyone could make a profit if they could shuffle their losses off to the taxpaying public just like the EDC does?” Mr. Solberg said.