Ottawa – The Council of Canadians is accusing the federal government of ignoring Canadian law and approving the takeover of independent Canadian book publisher McClelland & Stewart by a multinational corporation to ensure the passage of a controversial economic pact with the EU. The organization is calling on the federal government to halt the takeover.
“It would seem that the government is running roughshod over the Investment Canada Act in order to smooth the way for CETA talks to be concluded,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “If the government denies the takeover, the issue will become an impediment to conclusion of the CETA talks, since Bertelsmann AG, owner of Random House and its affiliates, is the world’s largest trade book publisher and an influential German company.”
CETA (the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) has become a target of increasing opposition from a growing array of organizations and municipalities, given the risk of privatization the deal poses to public services. Prime Minister Harper is expected to sign CETA as early as February, likely at a Canada-EU Summit. The Council of Canadians is demanding that the provinces and federal government make the offers public immediately.
Questions also remain about whether the McClelland & Stewart takeover, approved behind closed doors by Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages James Moore, is legal under Canadian law. Reports indicate Minister Moore was approached by Random House prior to the announcement to seek an exemption from applicable provisions of the Investment Canada Act. The Act requires a thorough review of foreign takeovers of Canadian publishing firms to ensure they are of “net benefit to Canada.”
“This development highlights the reason we need a complete cultural exemption from the CETA,” says Garry Neil, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians. “The federal government should force Random House to offer the 75 percent stake in McClelland & Stewart previously held by the University of Toronto to the highest Canadian bidder.”
First established in 1906, Canadian publishing company McClelland & Stewart has published books by authors including Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, as well as Margaret Atwood, Farley Mowat, Margaret Laurence, Pierre Berton, L.M. Montgomery, and Michael Ondaatje.
NOTE: a previous version of this release incorrectly identified University of Toronto Press as the previous owner of McClelland & Stewart. The previous owner of the 75 percent stake in McClelland & Stewart was the University of Toronto, not the University of Toronto Press, which is a separately incorporated entity.