Editorial: Harper trades away Canadian rights

Editorials Opinions

Man, isn’t democracy great? It’s so nice to be able to elect a prime minister who can take care of all that confusing policy and just manage the country for us. There’s no need to pay any attention to new trade agreements or anything boring like that. In Harper we trust, right?

Not so much. This Halloween, one of the biggest trade deals in Canadian history will automatically become law. The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (Canada-China FIPPA), quietly signed by Stephen Harper more than a month ago, will rob Canadians of a significant amount of control over the development and management of our own natural resources — without any discussion or voting in the House of Commons. And it will force open the door for the acquisition of Nexen by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), chaining Canada’s oil fields to a foreign Communist government with a bloody history of human rights abuses.

The energy sector in Canada is projected to need $630 billion in foreign investment over the next decade. Chevron (which also owns Texaco), ExxonMobil, British Petroleum and Shell have all already made investments and set up offices in Calgary. But CNOOC is not a solely private company, and it doesn’t compete on a level playing field with the other members of the free market. And the reciprocity isn’t there; a Canadian company trying to buy into China’s energy market would never be granted the same freedom. Why would Canadians want to let a state-owned Chinese corporation ship off our natural bounty, filling Chinese tankers bound for Chinese refineries? And we aren’t only talking oil here; the Canada-China FIPPA potentially covers all natural resources.

“Chairman Harper” doesn’t just want to sell our resources; he’s putting our democratic sovereignty up for grabs, too. According to the Canada-China FIPPA, Chinese companies that purchase Canadian assets can sue Canada — outside of our courts. Proceedings would take place behind closed doors, with decisions being made by unelected arbitrators. And only the federal government can take part in the arbitration — provincial governments and Canadian companies can forget about it.

On top of that, while our existing treaties with American companies under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) usually have open arbitrations, the results of any lawsuits with Chinese investors can be kept secret from the Canadian public. In short, Chinese firms can sue Canada and we won’t know why.

These Chinese companies will even be able to sue based on decisions made at the municipal and provincial level, and even based on the actions of ordinary Canadians. If specific projects are delayed by public protests, resulting in decreased revenue for Chinese companies, they can sue us.

Notorious military nut Harper is even ignoring warnings from security experts about the risk of putting strategic Canadian assets in the hands of state-owned foreign companies. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has reported that these companies receive secret intelligence and can threaten Canadian interests — but most worrying is a quote from CNOOC chairman Wang Yilin in which he referred to China’s deep-water oil rigs as “mobile national territory” and “a strategic weapon.”

This is a bad deal for Canada. We have to speak up before it’s too late.