MEC's Sale/Liquidation and Others Like It Must Be Subject to Government Review
Wednesday, September 16th, 2020 – PRINCE GEORGE – "Since the announcement of the liquidation of Mountain Equipment Co-op and its purchase by a US-based group of investors, prominent British Columbians, including John Horgan, have condemned and lamented this turn of events," stated Stuart Parker, a spokesperson for BC's Ecosocialist Party. "But this is like so much on which this government comments these days: they tut and condemn something fully within their power to stop. Emergency legislation or even an order-in-council by cabinet could stop the MEC sale tomorrow."
Parker, who holds a PhD in History and has been teaching university-level economic history since 2008, noted that until the 1990s there were provincial and federal laws that regulated the purchase of large corporations. Government approval was required if major institutions like MEC were changing hands. This was especially the case concerning purchase by foreign interests. "In the late 1980s, the Bank of British Columbia was put up for sale and it was the provincial cabinet, not the corporate leadership of the Bank, that chose between the bids by HSBC and Vancity credit union. Federally, this went beyond ad hoc cabinet decisions; there was a permanent oversight board for all major corporate purchases by non-Canadians. That is what we need in BC, not just a board to regulate foreign ownership but one that makes sure all sales, whether within or outside BC, are in the public interest," Parker explained.
"We must remember that registering a cooperative, non-profit society, or for-profit corporation in British Columbia is not a right but a privilege and that our corporate registry can and does both decline and suspend licenses of companies at will. It's time to use that power to protect local ownership and crack down on wealth concentration. The corporate registry should be overseen by a board with a specific mandate to pursue those values through both broad regulations and reviews of specific transactions," Parker continued.
The BC Ecosocialist Party's policies include the creation of a Corporate Transfer Review Board with a mandate of regulating transfers of corporate ownership for all BC-registered corporations to pursue an agenda of maintaining local ownership, preventing wealth and asset concentration, and pursuing ecological sustainability of operations within and outside BC.
"We urge the Horgan government to create a proper review board for sales like MEC's but, until that can be drafted, we call upon the government to enact emergency measures to protect the rights of the thousands of co-op members in BC."