Harper in China: Beyond the sea of troubles - Macleans.ca

Harper in China: Beyond the sea of troubles

Underneath all the hype something real is going on between Ottawa and Beijing, writes Paul Wells


The old-timers in the press gallery know how to defuse an announcement like this. We dust a toolkit from the early Chrétien days off. A Canadian prime minister shows up in a fancy Beijing ballroom with a bunch of business executives wielding Montblanc pens. A big number is being tossed around — say, “$3 billion.” But if we subtract the deals that would have happened anyway, and then subtract the deals that aren’t really deals — then we can wear that number down to some innocuous nub.

But while individual elements of Stephen Harper’s signing ceremony Thursday night in a fancy Beijing ballroom may not pan out, at some point the weight of evidence starts to suggest something real is going on. The evidence at hand comes, not just from Canadian sources, but from Chinese.

The first source of the morning was the semi-official English-language China Daily, which reserves real excitement for vice-premier Xi Jingping’s upcoming trip to the United States but which has been respectful, and a little more than that, toward Stephen Harper all week.

Later in the day came Harper’s bilateral meeting with Hu Jintao. Here, no trace of scolding for time spent posturing in the early years of Harper’s term as prime minister. Now, Hu said, “Mr. Prime Minister, you put a lot of value on Canada’s relationship with China and are strongly committed to promoting the practical cooperation between our two countries. I appreciate your efforts.” Translation: You’re out of the doghouse. Come here, ya big lug.

Then there were the umpty-dump agreements and protocols Harper and Hu announced, some of them rehashed just like yesterday’s, but notable for their sheer number. Harper and Barack Obama did not have this much stuff to announce after their first meeting in Ottawa in 2009. Taken together, the announcements suggest a resolve to strike up a working relationship.

Finally, besides the business deals, there was Harper’s speech to the assembled Chinese and Canadian CEOs. Once or twice the Prime Minister’s eagerness to make nice bordered on the clingy. “It is no accident, I think, that Canada and China came through the global recession avoiding the severity of the financial, economic and employment crises seen elsewhere,” he said.

Really? We rode out the recession because Canada and China are birds of a feather? He was really going to make this pitch, five blocks from Tiananmen Square? Stephen Harper of the National Citizens’ Coalition? Here was the manner of a rug merchant throwing his arm around the shoulder of a promising customer. “My friend! You and I are not like other men, my friend. We understand workmanship. We know good work when we see it. Here. Feel this weave.”

Still, once you got past that unfortunate bit, Harper’s speech offered a rationale for his turn toward China. “There exists a symmetry between our economic needs that you find only between a small number of our commercial partners,” he said.

“Canada has the resources, technological sophistication, and geo-strategic positioning to complement China’s economic growth strategy.”

“And China’s growth, in turn, complements our determination to diversify our export markets.”

Translated: I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Canada has things China will want to buy. China has… well, it has growth, doesn’t it?

Recall that Harper won the 2011 election, and his majority, by pitching himself as the last defender of prosperity. “Yes, Canada is doing relatively well,” he said again and again on the stump. “But a sea of troubles is lapping at our shores…. Disaster in the Pacific, chaos in the Middle East, debt problems in Europe, and all kinds of challenges — some very serious challenges — south of our border. Canada — this country — is the closest thing the world has to an island of stability and security. And we’ve got to keep it that way.”

It is not merely a prudential responsibility for Harper to keep Canada above the waters of the sea of troubles. It’s a political imperative. He cannot go back to Canadian voters as a custodian of our prosperity unless he has some prosperity. Hence the turn to China.

Perhaps like some conservatives, Harper spent his first years in office waiting for the Chinese bubble to burst. He must believe this country is on the wrong side of history. But while he waited for it to burst, the bubble got really big and made a lot of people really rich. At some point it looks like a game you don’t want to sit out.

Harper spent last spring warning against the sea of troubles. Now he looks beyond the sea and finds a land of opportunity. You bet he’s rowing toward it.

Filed under:

Harper in China: Beyond the sea of troubles


  2. Loved the metaphor about the rug merchant. The only thing I would add is that old Gruocho Marx quip “I have principles! And if you don’t like them, I have others!”

  3. A nice step would be to stop telling them what to do, and treat them with respect.

    We are there looking for help after all.

    • What help do we need from the government of China?  Believe me, if PetroChina, Sinopec and other energy companies owned by the government of China get established in the Canadian energy industry, you will find that we get more harm than help.  The Chinese Communist government has no concept of a win-win business deal; everything they touch is win-lose. 

      • It’s that kind of nonsense that is ruining what’s left of western ‘civilization’.

  4. Interesting

  5. Typical of the conservatives, Money over morals.

    • Oh please, are you telling me you have forgotten the verbal spanking that Chretien gave Harper because Harper offended the Chinese by bringing up their human rights record.  Chretien was dying to get into bed with the Chinese and we all know he was not a conservative.

      • And now Harper’s morphed into Chretien and you’re happy…is that what you’re telling us? What happened to all that amoral liberal govt rhetoric now that AB’s future prospects have run up against the not quite immovable object known as ethical standards and and Human rights concerns?

        Not easy being in govt is it?

        • Goodness was I ever unhappy…that is your role Kcm2!    I am just reminding  you that you cannot always cast the “other team” as the bad guys.  I am an Albertan..born and bred…I make no apologies.  I like that we have a province full of employed people.  I like that we provide decent social programs.  I also like that CNN picked Calgary as a place to visit and that Calgary is a “cultural” centre.  I like that we have a Muslim mayor and that we are nothing like people want to pidgeon-hole us as.  I am even okay with the fact that we provide the funding for the fabulous social programs in Quebec. 
          What I am sorry about is that the rest of Canada sees our province as unworthy of their respect.  Who could visit Lake Louise, Banff, the Peace River Country and find them wanting?  Who could find the people the people of Calgary unhospitable?
          Recalling Jean Chretien calling out Stephen Harper for daring to chastise the Chinese because of Tinamen Square at a Liberal Convention in which Michael Ignatieff became leader is so fresh in my memory that I can only shake my head.  You think this is about being in government?  The Liberals were not in government when Chretien made the speech.

          • Why are you unhappy with me. Harper’s the guy’s who’s become Chretien – more or less. Take it up with him.
            And you wrong again…Wells posted a very good speech that the PM gave on HRs while in China a while back – naturally everyone thought it was given by Harper – it wasn’t; it was Chretien.
            And what’s with the poor me i’m an Albertan routine?”Born and bred”. Does that make you a better Albertan? I’ve told you before that i spent a dozen years there, i’m through there several times a year – love the place, don’t like it’s politics.

          • `Poor me“…..wrong again….`Lucky me!!!`…I am an Albertan..
            It is not a routine….I don`t think being `born and bred“ necessarily makes me better but it makes me abit distinct…it is like my husband who is a born and bred Calgarian…there aren`t that many.  
            If you don`t realize why I am tentative about my “politics“ and my distinction as an Albertan, you aren`t paying attention to the blogs on Macleans.  We are not exactly popular.

          • Oh come on! I can well believe you run into anti AB bigots all over the place but macleans is probably as fair as it gets. Besides i hear at least as much anti Quebec bigotry thrown around here as anti western – more so.
            Really be proud. I would be proud to if i was an Albertan , but please lay off the self pity i hear from more than a few Albertans in particular, its unbecoming. Aren’t we all Canadians?

          • Hahahah….you are so right about the Quebec bigotry but the difference is that WE in Alberta are really looking to split up the country.  It gets a little bit tired.  I do feel lucky to live in this province…that is what I told you and I wouldn’t lie to you!  I haven’t lived anywhere else; neither have my parents.  We don’t want to.  I don’t get why people aren’t happy to be here.  I tell you if you don’t have a job come here!  It is the land of opportunity.  We are really decent people.

          • Well it’s a big country. Ive travelled all over this country at one time or another .I’ve lived briefly in ON, the rest out west[ AB BC or presently nwt] it’s all good. Love the west coast best though.
            Try to remeber over half of Albertans are from somewhere else.

        • Abstaining from trade just pulls us away from having any influence over China. Furthermore, people are poor in China, and don’t live lives that any of us would find unacceptable. I feel like people are complaining about the choice of paint while the house is on fire. 

          I understand the idea that if we don’t support a regime that we see unfit, we might influence it to fall but I think we should be honest and accept that the Communist Party is pretty comfortable no matter what we do.

          • Thank you for not rambling about your home province and it’s hardships. The truth is you are right, but do you not feel like your playing the devils advocate saying that, knowing about Syria, Tibet, North Korea, and China’s overall lack of human rights and labour laws. I’m not saying oppose China but I don’t want our prime minister sucking up to them.

  6. As Paul Wells suggests, our Prime Minister is desperate to have some reason, any reaason, to cover over the myth that his government’s efforts had any positive effect on Canada’s economy over the past six years.  In his desperation he is casting about looking for a way to tame the deficit they created (cut OAS) and / or enhance government revenues (cheap oil over here).  “He cannot go back to Canadian voters as a custodian of our prosperity unless he has some prosperity.” So far none is on the horizon.  You can bet that with a Prime Minister as desperate as this one is, any of the deals he is cutting in China will be a lot better for the Chinese than for Canadians.  For decades Alberta’s energy policy has been to sell as much oil and gas as possible, before the price goes up, while enriching foreign investors and leaving as little as possible benefit for Albertans.  Harper appears to be following in Ralph’s footsteps. 

    • ” For decades Alberta’s energy policy has been to sell as much oil and gas as possible, before the price goes up, while enriching foreign investors and leaving as little as possible benefit for Albertans.” – Really?

      • To be fair, it’s not actually written down as policy. It’s just more an “understanding” between the PC government and the resource extractors.

        • Yes because afterall those “resource extractors” can just leave and go next door to Saskatchewan and get a better deal for their investment dollars….we’ve already been taught that lesson.

          • Because if we don’t get the oil out right this instant, it’ll spoil, is that it?

          • Oh Thwim, we all know that YOU don’t leave Alberta and the wonderful living it provides YOU because YOU would never let ideals get in the way of providing YOU with what you can benefit from.

          • Not only that, but I’m completely unapologetic about it as well. You see, having provided warning that what you’re doing is stupid, I’ll happily take advantage of it thereafter with my conscience clean. And when it’s wiped out, well, I’ve got the resources, skills, and lack of sympathies to enable me to pick up and move elsewhere.

            If Alberta slows down our oil sands development, takes more of what the energy is worth into the public pocket, it’ll certainly slow down development, but we’re already having trouble hiring here again, and slowing down now doesn’t mean prosperity ends completely, merely that we can’t live so high on the hog — but we’d be able to live reasonably for a hell of a longer than we’re going to at our current rates.

            Although to be honest, you and I will probably be fine. And if our grandkids suffer, who the hell cares, right?

          • Yes you are correct.  The oil and gas corporations have consistently threatened to go elsewhere in order to get whay they want.  Governments in Sasakatchewan and Alberta have allowed the corporations to play one against the other with the result that they both have the lowest royalty structures in the industry.  The oil and gas resources are not going anywhere and there is no place on earth where oil companies can go to get a better deal. 

          • Yes, they did go to Saskatchewan.  Perhaps Thwim lives in Edmonton and is not as invested in oil and gas as people in calgary are.  You, Sunshine Coaster, live in ????Nova Scotia and are an expert based on ?????what

        • Ah, I see, you and Sunshine share this paranoid fantasy – wow!

          • Fantasy? Look at facts. Alberta was going to adjust it’s royalty regime so it wasn’t at the very bottom of the pack of public benefits for private extraction. The new regime wouldn’t have put us anywhere near the top (which, when you consider our stability and reliability is probably a more natural place) but even so, there was a hell of a hullabaloo about it, and then as soon as the media pressure was off, the idea was dropped completely.

          • The idea was dropped completely because it was massively unpopular in the oil patch and had an instantly negative effect on investment and capital-raising in the oil patch.  Oil and gas companies have a lot of influence in Alberta, because, you know, most people in the province work for them or otherwise depend on their revenues in order to earn a livelihood and feed, clothe and shelter their families.  Does any of this surprise or shock you?

          • Nope. As I mentioned before. It’s the easy way out for the government. Doesn’t require any thought or hard decisions. Because until they start making those hard decisions, oil and gas companies will continue to have that kind of influence in Alberta.. right to the point where we’re dry, and then they’ll leave and we’ll have nothing.

            Of course, we probably means our grandkids, not you and I specifically. So yeah, who gives a shit about how they end up living, right?

          • Inflation is a real concern for the oil patch right now. It is killing off investment there, and in other sectors.  A good indication as any that royalty/tax regime is out of whack.

          • Not really, because barring some sort of fusion technology, oil prices aren’t going to be decreasing in a meaningful way any time soon.

            The industry is extremely capital intensive, of course, so momentary inflation will slow it down, but energy demand will eventually make it profitable again regardless of inflation.

            What we should be asking ourselves is do we want to make as much as we can now, or should we perhaps tighten our belts a bit so that we can make greater public investments in the future, and thus start preparing this province for the day when it’s no longer economically viable to pump any more out?

          • Thwim,

            If royalty rates aren’t high enough, taxes are low, and there is unfettered development, you get out of control projects and run away inflation leading to boom/bust big time and increasing lack of diversity.

            Yes, for SOME it is great while riding the boom wave. Then there’s the second part…

            Reguly wrote on this some time ago. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/article319395.ece

      • Yeah really. 

        I spent forty years working in the oil and gas industry starting out in Edmonton.  The last half of my career I spent working on international projects, living mostly overseas.  Part of my job was to analyse the fiscal regimes created by various countries and oil and gas regions and determine which ones provided the most net return for the company I was working for.  This is done by all oil companies and a table ranking fiscal regimes is prepared and distributed to anyone making investment decisions.  The table shows the highest net return for the oil companies at the top and the lowest net return at the bottom.  Alberta is consistently at or very near the top of these tables.  To be clear, this means that the countries or regions at the top of the list return the least net economic benefits to the citizens of that region.  All investment firms have similar tables to entice investors; Prime Minister Harper is likely showing one to the Chinese at this very moment: cheap oil available here!.

        • Wow, so supposedly Sunshine is an expert on Royalties and Oil and Gas overall (although not a lot of substance provided on that claim). However. Sunshine has retired to the West Coast and now wants the industry shut down

          Hmm …having spent time on the coast in areas such as the Sunshine Coast, – not surprising – selfish reborn new-age hippy

          • I am not retired and I have sufficient knowledge of oil and gas issues in general that several clients pay me well to advise them.  I have no wish for the oil and gas industry to be shut down; that would clearly be in nobody’s interest.  What I would like to see is a set of political and corporate leaders willing to work towards something other than their own self interest entirely, which is what Harper and the folks with him in China surely are doing. 

            What is this nonsense about “selfish reborn rew-age hippy?  Aside from the fact that it makes no sense, how can you possibly think it adds to any debate to make up stuff about other individuals commenting here?  If you have an opion, try to articulate it, instead of resorting to adolescent name calling. 

    • You and a bunch of Alberta-haters want to believe that Albertans have not prospered yet all evidence is to the contrary…Calgary has more millionaires per capita than any other city in Canada.  Anyone who wants a job in Alberta can get one and they pay well because the competition for workers is stiff.  Are you concerned because we don’t get a cut in our gasoline rate at the pump?   We pay no provincial sales tax.  We pay lower provincial income tax.  We pay no healthcare premiums.  Our housing market is stable….just how have Albertans not benefited?

      • Nobody’s saying Alberta hasn’t prospered at all. We’re saying that the amount Alberta has prospered in comparison to what has been removed from us — forever — is minuscule and not fair compensation.

        • Alberta is ‘eating it’s seed corn.’

          Temporary benefits that only postpone a future disaster.

          • Yes, Emily I know you LOVE Alberta….it will really disappoint you if the latest oilsands project isn`t as massive as they are predicting….

          • Focus Heathcare Insider….I was married there.  My daughter was born there.

            But Albertans are lousy money managers….and a massive oilsands project will just make it worse.

          • Who gives a crap if you married in Alberta or had a child here…according to you we are still stuck in the 1950`s.   Never mind if CNN picks Calgary as a great destination to visit or if Calgary is picked as a Cultural Capital.   You, Emily, will never change your small mind about Alberta or about Albertans.
            We will always fit in some small box that you have constructed for us so WHY should we listen to you or anybody else who has disdain for us or our province….
            Remember, natural resources are owned by the province.   Go after Newfoundland.

          • @57fc79f8528c0aa6c4b4330d53700334:disqus 

            YOU do…if fact you care a great deal about my life….goodness knows why.

            You ARE still stuck in the 50’s….you are pre-industrial for gawds sake!  That’s pre-1750!!!

            A trip to the rodeo on the Price is Right….well that puts you waaaay over Paris right?  Cheezus!

            You are eating your seed corn, and too stupid to see it.

          • The problem, Emily, is that you think we are all defined by a trip to the rodeo on the Price is Right.

          • @57fc79f8528c0aa6c4b4330d53700334:disqus 

            The problem is….many of you are defined by just that.

            It’s a cinch that no one in your province looks ahead.

            Not even your new premier.

            It’s all ‘live for today’, and ignore tomorrow

            The exact definition of Dutch disease, and a petro-state.

          • Emily, you are not keeping up with Premier Redford…she just promised that the province of Alberta would diversify from oil and gas…no Dutch Disease there my dear.

        • Really…are you concerned that the Cold Lake oilsands aren`t going to be as big as they are saying…

      • I am defineitely NOT an Alberta hater; your attempt to add a nasty personal twist to a debate is unbecoming.  

        I spent forty years working in the oil and gas industry starting out in Edmonton.  The last half of my career I spent working on international projects, living mostly overseas.  Part of my job was to analyse the fiscal regimes created by various countries and oil and gas regions and determine which ones provided the most net return for the company I was working for.  This is done by all oil companies and a table ranking fiscal regimes is prepared and distributed to anyone making investment decisions.  The table shows the highest net return for the oil companies at the top and the lowest net return at the bottom.  Alberta is consistently at or very near the top of these tables.  To be clear, this means that the countries or regions at the top of the list return the least net economic benefits to the citizens of that region.  All investment firms have similar tables to entice investors; Prime Minister Harper is likely showing one to the Chinese at this very moment: cheap oil available here!. 

        Yes Calgary has a high proportion of millionaires and you will also find that a very high proportion of them have US or other foreign passports.  Yes Albertans have access to jobs, but the number of permanent jobs created by oil and gas development is about one tenth what can be achieved by spending the same capital on manufacturing or processing of hydrocarbons.  The benefits Albertans do receive are a direct result of the happy circumstance that there is oil and gas under the ground, not because of good management, clever investment plans or beneficial royalty structures. 

        One thing that Mr Harper and various Alberta Premiers advertise is a very stable government, but the oil and gas companies long ago figured out that this means the politicians sit around and do whatever the corporate executives tell them to. 

        I do not hate Albertans, but I do hate watching them get ripped off.

        • Yes, I can see where you are REALLY concerned about the good of the province of Alberta.  It is a REAL SHAME that you didn`t choose to stay in our lovely province but instead chose the east coast. 
          I am sorry but your suggestion that the Calgary millionaires hold foreign passports is just incorrect.  Also, you can say that there has been `mismanagement“ of the Alberta oil and gas industry but the fact that you yourself have found a `tidy`retirement in Nova Scotia shows that you just aren`t that invested.  Meanwhile, many of your fellow maritimers are finding jobs in Alberta and providing for their families in the maritimes.  It is easy for you and your other friends who are retired and live away from Alberta to make judgements.   Maybe you should ask questions of your neighbours who work in this province and depend on it to feed their families, what they think of the Àlberta advantage“.

          • You are so far off the mark it is not even funny any more.  I live on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.  I have a consulting practice with almost all my clients in the Alberta oil industry.  I have am still very “invested” in Alberta.  I live in BC because of the climate and because I have family here.  Many of my friends are Americans from my international days, all of them very wealthy and living comfortably in Calgary.  Yes Alberta provides work for many folks from the maritine Provinces, but nowhere near as many as would be provided by the same investment in processing of hydrocarbons.  In comparison to other countries with similar resources, Alberta has less benefits for it citizens, less accumulated savings and less invested in long term high productivity activity.  Alberta also passes the most benefits on to foreign investors.  It is easy for me to make judgements because I have a lot of skills and experience in the oil and gas industy, in Alberta and internationally.  The Alberta advantage is a fabrication of past Conservative governments who have wasted the potential of the resources in Alberta.  I spend enough time in Calgary to meet many “health care insiders” none of whom have the same rose tinted glasses that you do. 

  7. “Canada has the resources, technological sophistication, and geo-strategic positioning to complement China’s economic growth strategy.”

    Nit picking i suppose but what does…geo-strategic positioning mean, if anything?…we are close to the other big guy remember that? 

    It’s the latent Orwell in me i guess, i just can’t abide such empty vacuous language.

    • “geo-strategic positioning” == railroads from the developing port of Prince Rupert through BC and prairies direct into the American heartland and Midwest and points eastward.  

      Ditto the port of Vancouver, which is why Bill Ackman and Hunter Harrison are trying to shake up dunderheads like John Cleghorn and John Manley at Canadian Pacific before they destroy another company (i.e. Nortel).

    • It refers to Canada’s:
      Physical geography – bordering on 3 oceans, all gateways to resources, and massive infrastructure linkages to the United States, huge natural resources
      Economic geography – The worlds largest economy (still the U.S) is our largest trading partner
      Human geography – Relatively well educated workforce, culturally diverse, with immigrants from around the world.
      Political geography – membership and cultural links to organizations as diverse as, NATO, Commonwealth, Francophonie, APEC.

      Combined with the will and ability to use this position strategically.

      Sometimes in these things you have to use one word, when you’d rather use 100. But I think the positioning is pretty clear.

  8. “But while individual elements of Stephen Harper’s signing ceremony Thursday night in a fancy Beijing ballroom may not pan out, at some point the weight of evidence starts to suggest something real is going on. The evidence at hand comes, not just from Canadian sources, but from Chinese”

    The difference is that now the Chinese want the deals as bad as we do. That should give us pause for concern. This is not just the business friendly, back slapping, hard ball yanks we are talking about here, who despite their faults do have some respect for the rule of law, equity and basic justice…this is a new power with distinct self interests and global ambitions all of its own.
    Sure do business with them, it might even open them up enough to make another Tiananamen square unthinkable, but we need to make sure the alignment of their interests and our interests don’t paint us into a corner we’re going to someday regret being in.

    • Just ask yourself “did it bother me this much when Jean Chretien was williing to overlook Tianamen Square to make a deal with the Chinese?” and you’ll have your answer….is it just that it is the conservatives making the deal or am I really concerned about working with the Chinese?

      • http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/Canada+doesn+know+protect+interests/6102877/story.html

        You must get tired of making assumptions that are wrong.
        Glavin has been writing a series of articles about this very issue – nothing to do with Chretien. I’m sure you could dig up his previous articles if you cared to, but since you like tossing around accusations of bias catch this one…i don’t think you can be bothered.
        Would you like to point out how exactly Chretien overlooked Tiananamen square. It’s all pretty hazy to me now, but i’m sure you have something ready to back up your accusation.
        Just for the record i disliked a good number of Chretien’s policies or lack of them…do nothing to rock the boat, and don’t fix what they don’t know is broke, being among them. In some ways Chretien’s passivity, particularly domestically set up Harper and this neo con govt

        • Perhaps I judged you wrong and you are not one of those people who ignores the hypocrosy of politics.  Chretien used his speech at the Liberal convention where Michael Ignatieff was made leader to chastise Harper for offending Chinese after he (Chretien) had made great inroads in trade with them.  Harper had only pointed out their behavior at Tianamen Square. 
          I only want to remind people that provinces have the right to the ownership of their own resources.  I also want to remind people on this blog that there has been an inordinate amount of disdain shown toward the province of Alberta in interactions.   To pretend that some national energy program should exist whereby other provinces should benefit from Alberta`s resources in a way that exeeds those benefits which are provided by a have province to have-not provinces, is disengenuous.  Afterall, other provinces also have natural resources.  Should they also be unduly influenced by the other provinces of Canada to manage those resources in a way that benefits not necessarily the province in which they are found but the country as whole.

      • The oil and gas companies owned by the government of China (PetriChina, Sinopec, etc) are very savvy business people.  Most oil companies have the familiar objective of making money for their investors, but not these companies.  They have very strong nationalist objectives that override things like the rule of law, humane treatment of employees and the like.  Over the past decade or so these companies have obtained immense control over the natural resources of many third world countries.  They invite political leaders and corporate executives from the host countries to Beijing for meetings much like the one Stephen Harper is at now.  During some of those meetings a deal is struck that benefits those host country politicians and corporate executives at the extreme expense of the citizens of those countries.  Of course none of this is on paper and there are no annoucnements.  But people start to notice Chinese workers and Chinese manufactured equipment in their oil fields and Chinese tankers hauling away quantities of their oil. But those same people also notice that their standard of living hasn’t gone up in spite of the fact their resources are depleted. 

        This is what Stephen Harper is inviting to our oil fields.  Jean Chretien is irrelevant since it is about right years since he retired and you might notice that Chinese national oil companies didn’t get a foothold in Canada until after that. 

        • Are you suggesting that the heads of our oil and gas companies in Calgary aren`t smart enough to take on the Chinese?  You and others might think that Albertans aren’t smart and educated but I am here to assure you that they are.
          It sickens me to think that the rest of our country holds my province in so little esteem.  Do you think no one in my province has an MBA?
          Oh and Sunshine Coaster, just to remind you…you left Alberta….they aren’t “our oilfields”…..those resources belong to the province.

          • HCI, here’s the “progressive” reasoning:

            – all conservatives are stupid
            – all Albertans are conservatives
            – ergo, all Albertans are stupid
            – ergo, in any negotiation between and Albertan and a Mainland Chinese person, that Albertan will get taken to the cleaners, like the drooling, slack-jawed yokel that he/she is.

          • Good gracious…The University of Alberta must be filled with idiots…how ever does it keep its accreditation?   Never mind the people who come from the east to Alberta….they lose their IQ once they come east from Ontario, even if they graduated from Queens.

          • Jesus, do you ever get tired of putting words in other people’s mouths, Orson?

          • The heads of your oil and gas companies are certainly smart.  They will collude with the Chinese to create enterprises that enrich them at your expense, as has happened around the world.  I’ve been around the oil patch long enough to know who actually owns the oilfields in Alberta and that it is the citizens on Alberta.  The problem is that your politicians in both Alberta and Ottawa are planning to let Chinese national oil companies take a huge interest in them with the assistance of the executives of the oil companies in Alberta.  Ditto for the export infrastructure.  I don’t hold your Porvince in low esteem, it is folks like you who are selling it off cheap for such short term benefit. 

          • Yes, we all know that foreign investment is inherently evil.  Especially when those foreigners are really really foreign-looking like the Chinese.  The Americans aren’t really foreign-looking, but they’re evil too, because all progressives agree that America is evil.  Except for American environmentalists.  They’re good.

          • Mr Bean,

            I disagree completely.  Foriegn investment is definitely NOT evil when it is provided by investors that believe in free market behaviour and the rule of law.  But it is not a good idea to allow foreign governments, not foreign corporations but foreign governments, to take over a major position in what our Prime Minister describes as a critical strategic economic endeavour.  The evil resides with political leaders who pretend to be against government influence over ecomonic matters while campaigning, and then actively facilitate foreign government influence over important economic matters in Canada while in office. 

            Foreign environmentalists are a logical consequence of foreign investment if you are into logic at all; being foeign or domestic doesn’t make them good or bad. 

          • But SC, where do you draw the line?  To me, that’s a potentially slippery slope, this whole thing about “government” entities being somehow offside.  For example, what about the Caisse de Depot in Quebec?  Is it “government”?  Arguably yes.  What about the CPP Investment Board?  I take your point that Chinese state-owned investment enterprises aren’t like other classic private market players, but once you start town that road of saying that foreign government entities shouldn’t be allowed to do inbound investment, it becomes a bit of a difficult line-drawing exercise, potentially.

            Fact is, if we as a country want to stop takeover or investment activity that we deem not to be in the national interest, we have the power to do that under the Investment Canada Act — as was aptly demonstrated in the Potash and MDA cases.

          • In general I would say that we draw the line at any foreign government entity.  I think that is the rule in most western countries.  Regarding outfits like Caisse, CPP, etc, Canadian voters have some control over the behaviour and even the continued existance of these.  I realize that other countries, for example Norway, have significant ownership of their national oil companies.  But they also have transparent arrangements that provide for these companies to operate at arms length from the government and transparent rules requiring them to follow international standards of behaviour.  China’s national corporations are exactly the opposite.  It would not be rocket science for Canada to protect itself agains undue control by foreign governments. 

            More specifically China has demonstrated in many developing countries that they have no intention of requiring their national corporations to follow any rules that would be recognizable in Canada.  The only rule they have followed is to ensure resources are made available to China by whatever means is necessary.  I would say it is not in our national interest to have companies that behave like this exerting significant influence on our energy industry. 

  9. The China Daily editorial PW provided yesterday was really warm and fuzzy.   After losing billions in Libya, China is looking for stability – Canada and Australia, both resource rich, are seen as safe places to do business.
    “As a sign of enhanced political mutual trust, high-level exchange visits have also become more frequent, highlighted by President Hu Jintao’s state visit to Canada in June 2010, when leaders of the two nations decided to further promote the China-Canada strategic partnership in an all-round way. 
    Differences aside, there is no conflict of fundamental interests between China and Canada. The growth in Sino-Canadian ties has brought concrete benefits to both nations and at the same time promoted peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and the whole world. 
    For the smooth and healthy development of bilateral ties, both sides should treat each other with respect, accommodate each other’s core interests and major concerns, and appropriately handle sensitive issues. It is hoped the two countries can make their relationship a model for relations between countries of different social systems and modes of development. 
    Aside from bilateral ties, pressing international issues are also expected to figure in Harper’s talks with Chinese leaders. A mutual exchange of views and mutual understanding of each other’s stance in this regard will help cement their cooperation on the world stage.”

  10. Another question I would have Paul is how many of these deals which indicate that, “something real is going on” are 5-6 years delayed from when they would have started?

    How much has Harper’s petulance put the country behind the curve in the China “sweepstakes?”

    Also, I loved the rug merchant analogy.

  11. Prosperity indeed. 

    There is a massive housing bubble crash coming and frankly I have no confidence whatsoever that the Conservative Party has the wisdom and humility to deal with it. 

    We need the guidance of a Dodge, a Martin, a Wilson, an Ilsley, a Walter Gordon, hell even a Donald Fleming (sorry Coyne….).

    What do we have? A personal injury lawyer. 

    • I’m constantly amazed at the little details i miss…who’s the personal injury lawyer? Or were you getting all metaphorical on us? 

      * oh i get it, you were talking about jumbo Flaherty right? Didn’t you hear he’s the best in the bis according to that well known judge of horse flesh, our globe trotting PM.

    • I think you missed the complete story…the only REAL massivng housing bubble crash is coming in Vancouver due to foreign investment from Asia. 
      Everywhere else the prices are not unreasonable…..

  12. oops, nested incorrectly

  13. Bean, you’re a corporate lawyer, no? Originally from AB, no?

    Btw, I have worked the oil patch as well (not as long as Sunshine_Coaster). He has some wisdom here, IMO. But will be attacked by the usual suspects.

    Why I am censored on twitter and economics blogs as well.