Greedy corporations prey on trade deals

State-owned enterprises Petronas and CNOOC have been allowed to purchase energy giants Progress and Nexen.

To the editor:

By now, every Canadian who’s not asleep at the wheel knows that state-owned enterprises Petronas and CNOOC have been allowed to purchase energy giants Progress and Nexen.

Granted, we don’t know the terms and conditions of those takeovers.

Worse, the takeovers were allowed despite 78 per cent of Canadians not wanting foreign governments to control resources on Canadian soil (Angus-Reid survey, October 2012).

By now, every Canadian not asleep also knows the government has said something about restricting state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the oil sands industry.

Granted, we don’t quite know what the restrictions will be without having a definition of “exceptional circumstances,” and the restrictions will apply to only those investments that exceed one-third of a billion dollars.

Canadians have also learned that outside the oil sands, SOEs will still be welcome—not to a controlling degree, but to some kind of a degree.

No, we don’t know the degree.

We’ve also learned that 60 per cent of the tar sands industry and 80 per cent of Canada’s natural resources overall are not owned by SOEs.

However, we don’t know how much of the tar sands industry or our natural resources overall are owned by private foreign companies, or how much of either could be up for grabs by such companies.

When it comes down to it, there’s still much to be answered about foreign ownership of our natural resources.

I myself would ask these additional questions:

Why are we allowing such rushed development of the tar sands by foreign investors, and why are we doing so in light of climate change and the need for climate change mitigation, without public debate, without having planned for our own energy security, and without having created a plan for developing renewable energy resources?

Why do we need foreign investors?

Why are Canadian companies not pouring some of their $500 billion of cash assets into development of the tar sands?

What is it about this investment opportunity or Canadian investors themselves that’s keeping them away in droves?

That last question begs another—what is it about investment opportunities in China that has the Canadian government champing at the bit to sign an investment treaty so Canadian investors can go there to invest? Will they go?

As for the Canada-China investment treaty, we’ve learned that up to Dec. 7, it had not been ratified by either side.

And that’s a good thing, for even if we had answers to all the questions I’ve posed, there are still the significant problems of the treaty’s investor-state arbitration mechanism and the minimum 31 years of the treaty’s effect.

We must urge the government to once and for all get rid of this treaty that’s hanging over the necks of Canadians like a guillotine, and to stop signing trade and investment treaties that have investor-state arbitration mechanisms.

These mechanisms enrich greedy corporations and players within the arbitration industry.

They are of no benefit whatsoever to taxpayers and their communities, either here at home or anywhere else on earth.

Dianne Varga,

Kelowna

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