Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to loosen restrictions on foreign investment if he’s re-elected next month, in a bid to bolster the country’s competitiveness.
The governing Conservative Party would raise the threshold at which a foreign acquisition triggers a government review to US$1-billion, and allow non-Canadians to own bigger stakes in airlines and uranium miners, according to a statement released by the party today in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
It’s not much, but it’s a start: the limit on airlines would only be raised to 49%, and then only where other countries agree do to likewise. So Canadian air travellers will remain hostage to the domestic oligopoly for years to come. And there’s no mention of loosening similar restrictions in telecoms or the financial sector.
Baby steps, then. But at least it’s a baby step in the right direction!
It’s also good politics. After the serial fiascos of recent days — the failed debate putsch, puffin-poop, Ryan Sparrow, the way over-the-top attack on the Green Shift — the Tories needed to change the subject. Campaign 101: you make news — and yards — with policy.
Of course, whether they would keep this promise, or whether Harper might one day suddenly decide to lurch in exactly the opposite direction — as, for example, in the MDA deal — remains as unknowable as ever.