By Peter Worthington
David Kilgour was a Member of Parliament for 27 years, and during that time served in both Conservative and Liberal governments, and finally became an independent MP on issues of principle.
At present he is best known for investigative work with human rights lawyer David Matas, into China’s appalling record of harvesting human organs from convicts and Falun Gong dissidents for sale to foreigners. Their book, Bloody Harvest, is a powerful indictment of the practice and is taken seriously in the UN and around the world
So Kilgour is no fan of Beijing’s policies or methods.
Right now he’s upset — justifiably so — at the China’s bid to buy Nexen, Inc., Canada’s sixth largest oil company, for $15 billion. The sale would reap a tidy profit for Nexen share holders, who overwhelmingly have voted to accept the offer.
The prospective buyer is the China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), which means the Beijing government. Kilgour notes that it is now up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to decide whether the sale represents a “net benefit” to Canada, and doesn’t undermine of threaten “national security,” as defined by the Investment Canada Act.
According to Kilgour: “Harper should block the proposed takeover and make it clear that any state-owned enterprise, regardless of national origin, will be limited to a minority share-holding in any Canadian business.”
It’s pretty hard to argue with that.
As Kilgour says: “Beijing would not for a moment allow a foreign company or government to buy control of one of its natural resource companies.”
Canadians in a Sun News-Abacus Data poll seem to endorse Kilgour’s views, with 69 per cent saying the government should not approve the CNOOC take-over of Calgary-based Nexen, and eight per cent favouring the sale.
Doubtless, China needs energy sources. But it seems folly for a country like Canada to sell and loose control of a resource that is increasingly going to be needed in the future, and which will always have willing customers elsewhere.
Kilgour takes it a step further: “The conduct of Chinese state-owned enterprises globally is outrageous.” He says when the China National Petroleum Corp bought into Sudan’s oil fields in 1996, Beijing immediately supported Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, for whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague issued an arrest warrant in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Beijing has provided arms to Sudan, and is complicit in atrocities committed in South Sudan and Darfur, and provided diplomatic cover for the Bashir regime at the UN.
Chinese resource companies are accused of underbidding local firms in Africa, and not hiring local workers. “In Zambia, Chinese mining companies banned union activity,” says Kilgour, “and in two instances were charged with attempted murder after opening fire on local employees protesting work conditions.”
State-owned corporations in China are above the law when it comes to safety, environmental and employment considerations, and Kilgour fears “they will demonstrate no more respect for the rule of law in Canada than they do in China — and will act always as agents of the party-state that controls them.”
Anyone familiar with China knows all this — as does Prime Minister Harper.
He also knows China is buying up all the resources it can around the world — not for world domination so much as to satisfy its own population and growing needs.
Kilgour and others point out that the government has an obligation to prevent control of its resources being in the hands or another country.
Cooperate, sure, if it is in Canada’s interests, but to cede control to a regime like China’s is not only folly, but verges on treason.