IN THE NEWS ~ NDP dubs Nexen takeover bid key issue in Calgary Centre byelection race

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CALGARY - The federal NDP waded into the heart of the oilpatch Thursday,

accusing the Conservative government of delaying its decision on the proposed

$15.1-billion takeover of Nexen Inc. by a state-owned Chinese company to push

it past the upcoming byelection in Calgary Centre.

NDP candidate Dan Meades - accompanied by Opposition natural resources

critic Peter Julian - said CNOOC's bid for Calgary-based Nexen is ringing alarm

bells in the city.

"This issue comes up a lot and what the people of Calgary are

asking is, 'What is the government hiding?'" said Meades, standing outside

of Nexen's head office in downtown Calgary. "Thousands of jobs are at

stake as well as the resource-based economy we all benefit from."

Last week, the federal government prolonged the review process of the

deal under the Investment Canada Act to Dec. 10.

Julian, MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, said the Harper government is

trying to "rubber stamp" the takeover. "There are concerns about

CNOOC's human rights record, there are concerns about the possible loss of head

office jobs here in Calgary. There is concern about CNOOC's own description of

itself as a foreign policy arm of the (Chinese) government," he said.

The bid was overwhelmingly approved recently by Nexen shareholders and

welcomed, for the most part, by an energy industry clamouring for capital

investment. But the takeover attempt has raised concerns among some economic

nationalists worried by foreign control of the oilpatch, and some Conservatives

bothered by a takeover directed by a company controlled by China's Communist

government.

Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt, running to replace former Tory MP

Lee Richardson in Calgary Centre, said most voters she's talked to are waiting

to see whether the deal meets Ottawa's "net benefit" test to approve

a large foreign takeover.

"In general terms, Canadians, and specifically Calgarians, are free

traders and they know the Conservative government is out signing 66 free trade

deals," she said. "They know we want to trade but they're very

comfortable with this net benefit (test). They really want to see there is a

net benefit to Canada."

A survey released last month by the China Institute at the University of

Alberta, conducted in July just before the CNOOC-Nexen takeover bid was

announced, found 64 per cent of Albertans opposed Chinese investment in the

province in the form of full ownership of a company.

Green party candidate Chris Turner said he's hearing concern not only

about Ottawa's handling of the Nexen sale, but its new trade agreement with

China, the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA).

"Part of the reason was there's so much questioning going on is

because it's very much in keeping with the Harper government's unwillingness to

sort of talk straight with us," Turner said.

Liberal Harvey Locke said the biggest problem is the public has been

kept in the dark.

"We need to have an open discussion about how much ... foreign

government-controlled companies we are prepared to allow to invest and what

we're trying to achieve," he said.

Bruce Foster, policy studies professor at Mount Royal University, said

the Nexen deal is of huge importance to Calgary as the "epicentre" of

Canada's energy industry. But he suspects it likely won't be a major issue in

the Nov. 26 byelection, "especially with the Harper government being

somewhat equivocal about it."

"As the issue itself is still in play in some ways, this works well

for Crockatt because you don't really have to address it," said Foster.

 

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