Most of your readers will have sensed that they were being given a fevered caricature of Inco and the international mineral market in Mick Lowe’s Podium piece “Why Inco Must Be Nationalized”, in the July 19, 1982, issue of Maclean’s. Mr. Lowe is a Sudbury-based freelance journalist, well-known to us for his numerous Inco-related articles of the past, and we question his qualifications as a commentator on the international marketplace.
For example, a key statement in Mr. Lowe’s article is that Inco was debt-free in 1972 and now owes $1.1 billion. He also charges that “Inco’s profits in recent years have been invested everywhere but in Canada.” In fact, Inco’s debt in 1972 exceeded $500 million. This money, as well as profits, was used to finance an investment program of more than $1 billion undertaken in Ontario and Manitoba from 1967 to 1972. Inco has continued to invest in Canada, but did indeed invest outside Canada for two reasons: because Canadian nickel supplies were seen to be inadequate to meet market demand; and to diversity the company’s revenue sources so as to be less dependent on the world metal cycle.
Regrettably, there is no basis for any assumption that Inco’s shareholders have realized more from Inco’s Canadian operations than others. For example, from 1970 to 1980 the tax take from Inco by Canadian governments increased from $54 million to $260 million, or by 382 per cent, and our Canadian unionized workers’ hourly wage rates and related fringe benefits increased from $5 million to $15 million, or by some 200 per cent.