Waiting for clarity on foreign ownership: Politics on TV, Dec. 10 edition

Nexen, skilled trades and talk of a cabinet shuffle

by Dale Smith

Message of the day

“There will be a test to determine how much influence a foreign government has in certain sectors.”

Hot Topics

  1. More reaction to the Nexen decision
  2. Carrying on the F-35 debate
  3. Skilled trade immigration

Questions not answered

  • What constitutes “net benefit” and “exceptional circumstances”?

Nexen reactions redux:

Power & Politics led off with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who reiterated his criticisms that we still don’t know what “net benefit” or “exceptional circumstances” means. Mulcair said the takeover needs to be seen in the context of the Canada-China FIPA, which means that now a foreign power has the right to buy up oil leases anywhere they want in Canada. Mulcair said that there is an objective difference between Norwegian and Chinese state-owned companies because of the different system of government, rule of law, courts, and workers’ protection, and that difference can be part of net benefit criteria. Mulcair said that companies aren’t averse to clear and hard rules.

Mulcair was later on Power Play, where he added that investment will go elsewhere because of the lack of clear rules.

(It should be noted that Mulcair dropped his talking point about the only ones benefitting from the Nexen deal were Harper’s oil industry friends, possibly after it was pointed out that the Canada Pension Plan held a large number of those shares).

Power Play had an interview with Industry Minister Christian Paradis, who said that they can’t rule out state-owned enterprises from the outset because every takeover is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but they sent out a signal to the markets about how they will exert their discretion in the future. Paradis said that going forward, there will be a test to determine how much influence a foreign government has over a sector through state-owned enterprises. Paradis said there was a level of discomfort with the number of state-owned enterprises in the sector, which is why they drew the line going forward.

Paradis was later on Power & Politics, where he added that the government got significant undertakings in terms of governance, and that the takeover was fully scrutinized by Public Safety, which didn’t find any security concerns.

Power Play’s Strategists Panel of Goldy Hyder, Robin Sears and Jean Lapierre gave their thoughts, where Hyder said that Harper gave some clarity with the statement about state-owned enterprises, and that it looks like these SoEs will be have a lot more minority stakes in companies going forward rather than be involved in outright takeovers. Sears said that Harper probably got it right because the issue is whether or not these companies have a controlling stake in these sectors. Lapierre said it has to be a judgement call from cabinet, and that it’s always a delicate situation.

When P&P’s Power Panel weighed in, Chris Hall said that he’s not sure the government needs to define “exceptional circumstances” because that circumstance is that if you’re China, you’re not getting in. Ian Capstick said that the decision was a kind of mea culpa for the past four years of poor relations with China. Alise Mills said that the same critics of this deal were the same people who criticized Harper for his tough stand on China when he first formed government. Rob Silver said that the notion that there’s a “winner” and a “loser” in trade deals misunderstands what trade is about.

On Power Play’s journalists panel, John Ibbitson noted that Harper seemed to be enjoying himself as he defended the decision in Question Period today, while Susan Delacourt said that his excellent performance at the Friday press conference makes one wonder why he avoids them so vociferously.

The F-35s:

Power Play had an MP panel of Chris Alexander, Matthew Kellway, and John McKay to carry on the discussion about the costs. Alexander delivered his talking points that since April, they’ve been pursuing the Seven-Point Plan, and that all of the numbers heard in the press don’t count. Kellway wondered what would be replacing the old statement of requirements that is being set aside. McKay said that the various options needed to be put on the table in an open and transparent competition in order to eliminate confusion.

On Power & Politics, Mulcair added that there are no guarantees for regional industrial benefits, and that he’s holding the Prime Minister to account rather than Peter MacKay, while on Power Play, he reminded Martin that the F-35s would not be suited for the Arctic.

Skilled trade workers:

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was on Power Play, where he said that there will be a process where employers can offer a job to a tradesperson, and if they have certification, two years’ experience and have basic French or English, they will get permanent residence. Kenney said that many of these people are already in the country as temporary foreign workers, and that the underlying problem is that high schools and community colleges aren’t turning out enough skilled tradespeople in Canada. Kenney cited a recent trip to Ireland where he saw hundreds of thousands of unemployed skilled tradespeople – including among Polish immigrants to that country – who would be ideal candidates for Canada.

Kenney was later on Power & Politics, where he added that the old point-based skilled immigration system favoured people with “a Masters in basket weaving” which wasn’t helping with labour shortages, and that this is different from a temporary foreign worker program because those are used to fill short-term positions in places where Canadians are not applying.

Worth Noting:

  • Thomas Mulcair suspects there may be a cabinet shuffle over the Christmas break
  • Pollster Frank Graves said that the “forensic research” poll he conducted on the subject ridings where the robocalls allegedly happened found an utterly improbable pattern with calls to non-Conservative voters.
  • Rob Silver said that it’s a high bar for the robocall court case to go ahead, unlike the Rob Ford case, and he’s not sure that the involvement of the Council of Canadians helps it going forward.
  • Ontario education minister Laurel Broten said that they want to keep teachers employed, with full-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes, which is why they needed to freeze salaries and eliminate bankable sick days.
  • Jean Lapierre said that he was amazed by Justin Trudeau being unconcerned with getting Quebec to sign the constitution, which is antithetical to most federalists in the province.
  • CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson recapped the “end of life” case at the Supreme Court today.
  • John Ibbitson said that court cases and ethical cases will abound in the future when it comes to end-of-life issues, particularly as the costs of care escalate as the population ages.



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