IN THE NEWS ~ Takeover of large resource companies by foreigners needs scrutiny - NDP demands government hold public hearings

NDP demands government hold public hearings

Jason Fekete, Postmedia News


Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's top lieutenants and a longtime critic of China's human-rights record, said

Monday the $15.1-billion takeover bid of Calgary-based energy producer Nexen by a Chinese state-owned oil giant will be reviewed by the government in an

impartial and lawful way.

   "I think most Canadians want to ensure that the government applies a rigorous lens to acquisitions of large Canadian resource companies, particularly

by state-owned enterprises," Kenney, whose Calgary riding is in the heart of the oilpatch, told reporters Monday when queried about the takeover bid.

   The Conservative cabinet is currently examining whether to approve China National Offshore Oil Corporation's (CNOOC) takeover of Nexen under the

Investment Canada Act, and whether the deal is of "net benefit" to Canada.

   The agreement was overwhelmingly approved last week by Nexen shareholders. Their blessing came the same day Canada's spy agency warned some state-owned foreign companies are pursuing "opaque agendas" in Canada as they attempt to acquire control over strategic sectors of the Canadian economy.

   It's believed at least a few ministers in the Conservative cabinet - including possibly Kenney - and others in the wider Tory caucus have serious

concerns with the takeover, worried about letting a state-owned Chinese firm obtain a large Canadian resource company and major stake in the oilsands.

   Asked whether China's human-rights record should be factored into Ottawa's decision on whether to approve the transaction, Kenney said the Conservative

government has made sure to trumpet the importance of both trade and human rights in its relationship with China.

   "Our government has articulated a balanced approach on Canada-China relations, one that advances both our interests, such as trade and commerce, and

our values such as the importance of human rights, and I think the prime minister has done an excellent job of giving expression to that kind of balanced

policy," Kenney added.

   Last week, junior finance minister Ted Menzies said he was receiving a lot of negative feedback in his southern Alberta riding about the proposed takeover.

   "We're hearing comments on both sides of the story, many supportive and certainly some that are concerned," Menzies said last week. "What I'm hearing is

more concern rather than actually not understanding the issues."

   The opposition NDP hammered the government on the issue in the House of Commons again Monday, demanding the Conservatives hold public hearings to

consult Canadians on the deal.

   "Even (spy agency) CSIS has raised concerns about these types of takeovers," NDP energy critic Peter Julian said in the Commons.

   Also, in a letter to Industry Minister Christian Paradis, the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China - a group of 15 Canadian organizations

including Amnesty International and the Canada Tibet Committee - is urging the federal government to consider human rights during its review of the takeover


   "In the coalition's view, it is vital that human-rights concerns be given central consideration during the foreign investment review process. That

includes assessing China's troubling general human-rights record (of particular importance given that CNOOC is state-owned), CNOOC's own human-rights record,

and the existing human-rights policies and practices of Nexen," the letter says.

   Ottawa officially launched its review of the deal, under the Investment Canada Act, late last month.

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