After trashing federal science projects across the country, killing 3,000 environmental reviews, gutting the Fisheries and Parks departments, muzzling scientists, mangling the National Research Council and politicizing the National Energy Board – it’s no wonder Canadians were taken aback with Stephen Harper’s recent claim that he relies on impartial scientific assessments in making decisions about pipelines.
Similarly, last week it was surprising to hear him admit that a $15-billion bid by a state-owned Chinese corporation (CNOOC) to buy-out Nexen (a Calgary energy firm with Saskatchewan roots) could trigger a new set of rules governing foreign investment.
Since the beginning of the resources sector sell-off that started on Mr. Harper’s watch (e.g., nickel in Sudbury, steel in Hamilton, aluminum in Quebec, etc.), many Canadians have worried that too much domestic control in too many industries – including some major former “champions” – is being lost.
It came to a head in the potash case in 2010. At the last minute, the government reversed itself to block an Australian takeover of Saskatchewan’s potash industry, but only after it became obvious the deal would be highly unpopular politically.
At that time, the government admitted current rules governing foreign investment were not up to snuff, given new world market dynamics in the 21st century.
Liberals called for greater clarity in defining “net benefit to Canada.” We asked for a more accountable, transparent review process, so Canadians can know what’s “on the table” in any negotiating, and have some input. The role of affected provinces also needs more certainty.
If any proposed transaction is approved “with conditions,” those conditions must be completely public and easily enforceable.
And what about “reciprocity”? Can Canadians invest in the foreign jurisdiction of the takeover-bidder just as readily as they can invest in Canada? How will Canadians be assured that the purchased-entity will function on commercial market principles and not as an instrument of foreign politics?
The Conservatives promised to deliver better rules “with alacrity.” We’re still waiting. And other energy targets (Talisman? Cenovus? Encana?) may be on the hit-list.
Canadians deserve clarifications from their Parliament on this important issue. I look forward to reading your comments.
Member of Parliament for Wascana