“Harper is saying what Canadians want to hear while doing what they don’t want” - AFL president
Edmonton – Prime Minister Harper’s supposedly “tough new conditions” for foreign takeovers are nothing more than a public relations ploy aimed at masking the fact that he has just allowed a foreign government to seize unprecedented control over Canada’s energy resources.
In an announcement late Friday, Dec. 7, Prime Minister Stephen Harper green-lit Chinese oil giant CNOOC’s $15-billion takeover of Alberta-based Nexen, but claimed that new conditions would prevent such deals in the future.
“The Conservatives are spinning this as a ‘sweeping overhaul’ of foreign investment rules,” McGowan said.“The new ‘guidelines’ for foreign takeover decisions will still see the process take place behind closed doors and be conducted by the Industry Minister.”
“The ‘new process’ Harper has proposed is the same as the old process, which just brought us the largest foreign oil patch takeover in Canadian history,” McGowan said. “They’re saying what Canadians want to hear, but doing exactly what Canadians don’t want. It’s the Republican Tea-Party playbook: tell a bald-faced lie, and hope no one questions you.”
Under the new conditions proposed, the federal government will weigh how much influence state-owned foreign takeovers will have over their acquisitions and an industry, and how much control over Canadian resources this will give the foreign government. Regulators will examine this in private, behind closed doors, and with no public input required.
“How do you measure this influence? What is the measurement on which this will be evaluated? These are meaningless rules – it’s just a smokescreen,” McGowan said. “Sinopec only has a nine per cent stake in Syncrude…but they used that nine per cent stake to veto upgrading projects. Is there a measurement of how bad that is for Canada?”
The proposed CNOOC takeover has been criticized by Canadians across a broad political spectrum, including Preston Manning, the New Democratic Party and the Communications Energy and Paperworker’s Union.
“CNOOC is not your typical oil company. It doesn’t operate on market principles, and it isn’t beholden to investors. If they had been serious about defending the interest of Canadians, they would have nixed the deal outright,” McGowan said. “They had a good pretext already – Harper’s 2006 campaign pledge ‘not to export more raw bitumen to countries with laxer carbon standards than North America’s.’ If they had cared about state-owned foreign ownership, they would have scuttled this deal.”
The AFL will release a comprehensive report on China’s involvement in Alberta’s Oil Sands on Monday in Calgary.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email email@example.com.