More than any other province, British Columbia should be demanding a detailed analysis and full discussion of provisions in a proposed "investment" treaty that has already been signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Harper cabinet can ratify the agreement through an Order in Council.
Harper was expected to have the cabinet complete the agreement Oct. 31 but didn't do so prior to leaving for India, so Canadians have until November 11 to let this government know that doing so without debate or consultation with provinces and Canadians is unacceptable.
Given the ponderous title - Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People's Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments, this document may well be the Trojan Horse that gives the Chinese government an unprecedented level of access and control over resource industries in Canada - industries which China sees as being of critical importance to its burgeoning economic future.
Premier Christy Clark and Opposition Leader Adrian Dix should be demanding a longer timeline for consideration and ratification of this document, which Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May has called the most important agreement of its kind since the North American Free Trade Agreement.
They should not accept a hurry-up schedule that has seen the treaty signed by our Prime Minister on Sept. 9 in Vladivostok; not made public in Canada until Sept. 26, almost three weeks later; with a ratification date set for early next week.
I have written both our provincial leaders urging them to insist on more due diligence from Ottawa.
Why should British Columbians be concerned? And why should Premier Clark be raising her voice? Consider these facts:
? China is not a democracy, and corporations like the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation are not "free" enterprises. The communist government of China exerts a direct and coordinating influence on corporations like CNOOC, and can organize investments based on national, strategic interests rather than purely commercial objectives.
? China's economy is a colossus compared to Canada's. The ability of Chinese corporations to buy up Canadian companies or resource development rights under the coordinating influence of the national government will be overwhelming. And China is hungry for energy resources. B.C.'s and Alberta's resources will almost certainly be key objectives of the Chinese government if their companies are given "Most Favoured Nation" and "National" status under the Canada-China investment treaty. That means B.C. stands to lose significant control over its economic and environmental decision-making if the agreement is ratified.
Elizabeth May raised the alarm at a Sept. 27 press conference in Ottawa.
"The Chinese government has resources to buy up a lot of Canada - our uranium resources, oil sands resources, forest resources, intellectual property resources - it's a very broad sweep of things that China might be interested in buying in Canada," she said.
"Does this national treatment mean what I think it means, . that Canadian workers will have to compete with Chinese workers for jobs that occur in Canada? Does this mean that there's no turning back from Chinese investment in Canada?"
Article 7, Clause 3 gives anyone "in a capacity that is managerial, executive or requires specialized knowledge" the right to "enter and remain temporarily" in the host country where an investment is made. How will that affect the makeup of executive and management positions in B.C.? The allocation of skilled jobs? And whose interests will be served by the types of corporate structures that are likely to occur as Chinese ownership in the Canadian and B.C. economy increases?
Provisions in the agreement similar to "expectation of profits" language in NAFTA, will give Chinese investors the right to sue the Canadian government if they feel their interests have been adversely affected by decisions of any level of government: municipal, provincial or federal. This will make it difficult if not impossible for the Government of Canada to regulate and manage resources in our national and environmental interest.
Surely these are issues that need to be examined before we sign on to a treaty that will be in place for "at least" 15 years, and whose special treatment of Chinese investors and corporations will be grandfathered for another 15 years if the treaty is cancelled after that. I urge our provincial party leaders, MLAs and MPs to make their concerns about this ill-considered treaty known before it's too late.
Jane Sterk is the leader of the Green Party of B.C.
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