IN THE HOUSE ~ Speech - Debate on Official Opposition Day Motion on Nexen takeover bid by CNOOC

41st Parliament, 1st Session

Official Opposition Motion in the House

That, in the opinion of the House, the government: (a) should not make a decision on the proposed takeover of Nexen by CNOOC without conducting thorough public consultations; (b) should immediately undertake transparent and accessible public hearings into the issue of foreign ownership in the Canadian energy sector with particular reference to the impact of state-owned enterprises; and (c) must respect its 2010 promise to clarify in legislation the concept of "net
benefit" within the Investment Canada Act.

Que, de l'avis de la Chambre, le gouvernement : a) ne devrait pas
prendre de décision concernant le projet d'acquisition de Nexen par CNOOC sans
d'abord procéder à des consultations publiques approfondies; b) devrait
immédiatement organiser des audiences publiques transparentes et accessibles au
sujet de la propriété étrangère dans le secteur canadien de l'énergie, en se
concentrant particulièrement sur le rôle des sociétés d'État étrangères; c)
devrait respecter la promesse qu'il a faite en 2010 de clarifier, dans la
législation, le concept de « l'avantage net » contenu dans la Loi sur
Investissement Canada.

Opposition Day Motion

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP) moved:

He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate today. To underscore the
importance of the debate, I would like to read a letter I received just last
night from Calgary from one of the many Canadians who are concerned both with
this deal and also with the lack of government action and irresponsible approach
that it has taken thus far on a file, an application, that it knew about more
than two months ago.

I will read the following letter in part. It states:

 

I am a lawyer with over 25 years of
  experience in the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industry. Currently, I
  am vice-president, legal and general counsel for a pipeline transmission
  company headquartered in Calgary. I have grave concerns about the proposed
  CNOOC takeover of Nexen. CNOOC is a state-owned entity. While CNOOC has
  promised to comply with federal and provincial health, safety and
  environmental laws, this commitment does not address the fact that the
  executives directing the Canadian subsidiaries' actions reside in China, well
  beyond the reach of Canadian courts. The CNOOPEC case shows that Chinese
  state-owned entities will fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to
  avoid prosecution. Selling our non-renewable natural resources to the highest
  bidder is not the answer to the issues before us. Please note, I'm not asking
  you to say no to a foreign investment in the oil sands, but rather to say no
  to a foreign takeover of the oil sands. Once these resources are sold to a
  state-owned entity, Canada will never get them back.

This is why this issue is so fundamentally important. Canadians are writing in and
phoning in saying that very clearly.

In the constituency meetings we are having across the country, I know every member of Parliament has had people approaching them about this deal, certainly I have in my riding. Because of what the NDP is saying is very simple, that being that there needs to be public consultations on this deal. Before the government
moves to rubber-stamp, it should consult the public. That is what we are saying
today and that is where we are hoping to get support from all members of
Parliament in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I should say that I will be splitting my time with our terrific
industry critic, the member for LaSalle—Émard. We will be looking forward to
her presentation in just a few minutes.

The concerns that have been raised by that particular individual are not concerns
that we only see occasionally. Rather, we are seeing them raised regularly
right across this country.

It is only fair to look at what the public knows so far of this particular application. An opinion poll just a few days ago indicated that about 70% of Canadians oppose
this deal. The Speaker knows as well, because he is very well versed in these
matters, that the majority of chief executives who are polled are opposing this
deal unless they can see stringent conditions. I will get back to that in a
moment. There are real concerns about the government's ability even to put in
place the kind of conditions that are required. Therefore, we are seeing
concerns raised by the public. We are seeing concerns raised in boardrooms
across the country. We have even heard concerns raised in the Conservative
caucus.

For all of those reasons, the NDP is presenting a motion today that allows for the type of considered discussion around this issue that needs to take place. We are saying that: there should not be a decision made and there should not be a
rubber-stamp placed on this without conducting thorough public consultations;
the House should direct the government to immediately undertake transparent and accessible public hearings into the issue of foreign ownership in the Canadian
energy sector with particular reference to the impact of state-owned
enterprises; and, the government must respect its 2010 promise to clarify in
legislation the concept of “net benefit” within the Investment Canada Act.

That is what we are putting forward. Certainly, no Conservative member of Parliament could oppose a commitment made to Canadians both in a previous House and a previous election campaign.

As we start this important debate today, I would like to recall for all members from
all sides the unanimous support for the motion that was brought forward by our
late leader Jack Layton two years ago. It was adopted unanimously in the House.

Context : Debate

What it said was the following:

In the opinion of the House that what we need to do is make public hearings a
  mandatory part of foreign investment review.

   
Conservatives voted for that.

(b) that ensuring those hearings are open to all directly affected and expert
  witnesses they choose to call on their behalf.

   
Conservatives, everyone in the House, voted for that.

(c) ensuring all conditions attached to approval of a takeover be made public and
  be accompanied by equally transparent commitments to monitoring corporate
  performance on those conditions, and appropriate and enforceable penalties
  for failure to live up to those conditions.

All members of the House voted for that. Finally:

clarifying that the goal of the act is to encourage foreign investment that brings new capital, creates new jobs, transfers new technology to this country, increases Canadian-based research and development, contributes to sustainable, economic development and improves the lives of Canadian workers and their communities, and not foreign investment motivated simply by a desire to gain control of a strategic Canadian resource.

Every single member of Parliament, every member of the Conservative Party who was there on that date in 2010, the motion presented by Jack Layton, voted for
this.

This was one of those rare occasions when there was a unanimous move by the House of Commons to direct the government to undertake certain actions two years ago.

Now it is two years later. Has anything been done in following up on that motion passed unanimously by the House?

Some hon. members: No.

Mr. Peter Julian: No, my colleagues remind me, nothing has been done in the
last two years.

Two months ago we had this application announced at the end of July. At that time, the industry critic, the member for LaSalle—Émard and myself rose in a press conference to say very clearly that now the commitments undertaken in 2010 need to be brought forward in 2012 because the application is pending. Was anything done?

Some hon. members: No.

Mr. Peter Julian: No, my colleagues remind me again.

Now we are at a few days from the deadline that was set. When the formal application came forward, the 45 day period started and we are now only a few days from that point when the government should be making an enlightened decision, given the importance of the file, given not just the letter I read just a few minutes ago, but also the other letters and phone calls we are receiving and
conversations we are having with our constitutions. It is a few days away. Has
anything been done by the government to reinforce that commitment made two
years ago?

Some hon. members: No.

Mr. Peter Julian: There we go.

What we have seen is a failure on the part of the government to keep that commitment from two years ago. The NDP provided clear direction. Every single member of the House of Commons said yes, that is the direction this country should go. The government needs to take this direction from the House of Commons, and for two years, nothing has been done.

Two months ago, the application was pending. We knew that. Did the government snap to attention and start working? No. No work has been done. Now we are only a few days away from what we would expect would be a decision that would be
enlightened and emboldened by full public consultation, and we have not seen
anything.

This is the fundamental problem. We have the public on one hand saying that they are learning more and more about this takeover and they are concerned about it.
There are chief executives and those in the boardroom saying that they are
looking at this and they are more and more concerned. We even have
Conservatives raising this issue, but we have seen no leadership at all from
the government.

If, today, the Conservatives voted against this motion, this would be a rejection and a repudiation of a solemn commitment made to the Canadian public two years ago when they voted for that motion of Jack Layton. It would be a repudiation of
what is clearly the public's desire to be consulted about this takeover and to
be consulted around the whole issue of takeovers in the energy sector,
particularly by state-owned companies.

It would also be a clear repudiation of a commitment made by every Conservative MP to clarify the net benefit, to engage that public confidence, which is clearly eroded because there has been no definition of net benefit, and also to set in place a level playing field for investors so they understand what criteria they have to
meet if they are applying for a takeover.

Context : Debate

Rejecting this motion today would be a repudiation of all of that. I ask Conservative members to vote for it. I hope they will support this motion.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I was actually at the shareholders meeting and,
unfortunately, there was not a single Conservative MP present. This is part of
our consultations. The NDP is consulting with everybody. That is why I have
been to Calgary three times. The NDP industry critic has been to Calgary and
Edmonton. We are talking with Canadians, the Conservatives are not, and that is
very unfortunate.

The issue is not what is in the interest of Nexen shareholders, that is a consideration, but it is what is in the national interest. The question, and New Democrats have raised this in the House, is around the state-owned entity CNOOC. Who named CNOOC's chair? It was nominated by the organizing department, named by the Politburo and confirmed by the central committee. That indicates that it is very much a state-owned entity and not independent.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree with the member for Winnipeg North and would like to welcome the Liberal Party in finally getting engaged in this debate. We know there were 10,000 applications when the Liberals were in power that were all rubber stamped. They never rejected a single one and never attached conditions. They just let those takeovers accumulate. I am very happy that they will be supporting this motion today. That is an important step in
their rehabilitation.

Because it is relevant and pertinent, I want to mention the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement that was released just a few days ago . It gives even more cause for real alarm. When we look at how this FIPA was structured, it is quite different from other FIPA agreements signed with other countries. The government negotiated a one-sided agreement, which is clearly in favour of the Chinese government's proposals around FIPA. It is not the standard Canadian template for a FIPA.

It provides what is essentially a one-sided acquisition and expansion ability.
Canadian companies will not have the same rights in China, as a result of this
FIPA, as they would if they were already established there. Companies that are
already established here, particularly Chinese companies, actually have more
rights than those moving into the Canadian economy. It is a one-sided deal, it
is a secretive arbitration process and it is a red flag, quite literally, about
how the Conservative government negotiates these types of agreements and why it
does not act in Canada's best interests.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, in my colleague's speech and every other speech from Conservatives so far today there have been some key words missing, like the words 'Nexen' and 'CNOOC', actually words that relate to the motion that is before us on the floor. That would be the
Conservatives dancing around an issue on which they do not seem to be inclined
to listen to their constituents.

The member was in this House back in 2010 when Conservatives unanimously voted for the motion that makes public hearings a mandatory part of foreign investment review. They were here in this House and everyone of them voted for it. So, given that the motion we are talking about is to have those public hearings the Conservatives voted for, why are they changing their position? And why did they not come clean in the last election with their constituents and possible
voters?