Friday, December 07, 2012

Stephen Harper's Awkward Announcement --and a Worrying Pattern

Late on  a Friday evening on December 7, the prime minister announces that the Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC will be allowed to take over Nexen for $15 billion, but that in the future other state-oil companies won't be. Regulations concerning foreign takeovers that had been wiped out had to be "clarified",  but only after the government had been aggressively marketing the oilsands to investors for years. If the government had said "no" this time,  it might have offended the Chinese by appearing to say one thing to other countries, and another to China. But if this is a good decision, why would a similar decision in the future not be a good decision?  "In the future, state-owned companies will only be allowed on an exceptional basis." But could not "private" firms from China  also be a proxy for state interests?  What about the Potash Debacle--that was a private company, no?  Surely the lesson is that we can't rely on ideology to rationalize rushed decision-making. Surely the lesson is that we need more wide-ranging consultative decision-making.

It is not entirely a coincidence that the Official Opposition is calling for Peter Mckay's resignation, either. The government routinely ignored opposition and journalist allegations of high cost overrruns and maintenance costs for the F-35. The auditor general blasted the government for forging ahead without properly considering options--sound familiar? they F-35'd foreign investment, F-35'd the Onsite Clinic and now they're F-35ing the gateway pipeline and the Canada -China investment treaty as well.

I would support a party that had a wide-ranging consultation of both public and experts on all possible pipeline routes. I would also try to use the $1 trillion worth of oil wealth locked up in the oil sands to leverage  actual, working carbon sequestration in the tar sands area and to expedite the negotiation of all First nations treaties along the proposed pipeline routes.

I know, they think that would take too long.  But when you consider that the ramming through of Gateway is actually a non-starter because of the way it has antagonized British Columbians generally and First Nations in particular, oil might actually get to market sooner using a more gradual, scrupulous and genuinely consultative process that considers all possible pipeline routes.

This is a government that owes the health of the Canadian economy, and its own political survival, to the fact that we did not rush into financial deregulation and bank mergers. But still, they rush in where better angels fear to tread.

You would think that they would have learned their lesson by now.

No comments: