UPDATE:Treasury Board President Tony Clement has rejected the NDP’s call for public consultations on the takeover of Alberta energy company Nexen by state-owned Chinese oil giant CNOOC.“Basically they’re calling on the government of Canada to break the law,” Clement said, as quoted at Bloomberg news. “The law is very clear. Under the Investment Canada Act, there is a legal process that if you diverge from that process in any way, you are going to be subject to legal consequences.”
OTTAWA – Public opinion is “crystallizing” against the Nexen Inc. deal as concerns mount over the acquisition of a Canadian oil giant by a state-owned firm from communist China, the NDP says.
The party tabled a motion in the House of Commons on Tuesday asking the Harper government to speedily hold public hearings on the proposed takeover before it is too late.
The deal is currently under a 45-day review by Industry Canada that ends Oct. 12, but Ottawa could extend the deadline for reaching a decision by a further 30 days.
NDP critic Peter Julian noted that his party has been consulting with the public and stakeholders, saying he has personally made a trip to Calgary three times to solicit input.
“What we’re seeing is a crystallization of public opinion against this deal,” he said.
He added the $15.1 billion takeover by the China’s CNOOC Ltd. has been the top issue even among his constituents in Burnaby-New Westminster, B.C., adding the oil patch is not normally a hot-button issue in his riding.
Julian said the NDP, which is the Official Opposition in Parliament, will issue it’s opinion soon, almost certainly before the government is finished with its review.
Under the Investment Canada Act, the government will apply the “net benefit” test to determine whether to approve or reject the foreign takeover. But critics have argued the parameters are so flexible that the test often has to do with whether it will be of net benefit to the government.
And Julian said the government should institute a requirement for public hearings and a more transparent process because of the expectation that Canada’s energy resources will increasingly become a target of foreign investors.