Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper stopped short of ratifying the Canada-China FIPA trade deal in 2012 under enormous public pressure. What will 2013 hold for FIPA and foreign ownership of Canadian energy companies?

2012: The Year of Energy Politics


CBC’s Power and Politics has chosen “energy politics” as the top Canadian news story for 2012 and we at the Common Sense Canadian couldn’t agree more.

Energy is the current which runs through a diverse array of issues presently reshaping our country – from omnibus budget bills that have slashed environmental regulations, to foreign trade deals, changes to our labour rules and, perhaps most significantly, the growing mobilization of First Nations, supported by non-aboriginal Canadians, to oppose many of these initiatives.

2012 was a year that began with Conservative Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver dismissing opponents of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines as “radicals” and ends with the Idle No More rallies sweeping the nation – with support coming in from as far away as Buckingham Palace (or just outside its gates, anyway).

It was a year when two very different visions for the future of Canada and its place in the world collided headlong with each other. One seeking to curb the Tar Sands and new arteries essential to its growth, the other striving to make Canada into a new Saudi Arabia – provider of oil, gas and coal to emerging Asian markets.

Each policy piece from the Harper Government was part of a bigger puzzle, designed to bring its new vision to fruition.

There was the first omnibus budget bill, C-38, which gutted the Fisheries Act, watered down environmental assessment processes and slashed ministry staff in monitoring and regulation. The Common Sense Canadian published retired senior DFO scientist and manager Otto Langer’s first warning of these intended changes to the Fisheries Act, which unleashed a media firestorm and spate of denials from senior Harperites.

We also published the sad farewell letter from one of the world’s top marine pollution experts, Dr. Peter Ross, who lost his job when the Harper Government essentially canned our entire ocean monitoring program. Even one of the world’s top monitoring stations for climate change and arctic ice melt, PEARL, could not escape this government’s ax (for a savings of a whopping million and a half a year).

Clearly, these changes grew out of and helped to further a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to climate science that is critical to the Harper Government’s hydrocarbon expansion agenda – which also demanded the smoothing of those pesky regulatory hurdles for resource project development.

But one of the Harper Government’s pet projects, the Northern Gateway pipeline, made defending its agenda more challenging, with an unrivaled string of public embarrassments. There was the damning US report on the company’s 2010 disaster in Michigan, then more spills in Canada, a badly bungled PR campaign, the infamous “missing islands”, and repeated blunders at the National Energy Board hearings into its proposal.

Yet, even with these public blemishes on the star of its new energy vision and with mounting evidence of catastrophic, fossil fuel-driven climate change, the Harper Government’s attitude remained unchanged, especially on the international stage. In 2012, we became the first country to formally pull out of the Kyoto Protocol (not that we ever took our commitments serious in the first place). At the same time, Canada was caught by the Guardian, through a leaked memo, working to block a resolution to end to public subsidies for fossil fuels at the Rio+20 summit.

Back in Ottawa, the latest omnibus budget, C-45, picked up where its predecessor left off, slashing the age-old Navigable Waters Protection Act – one of the main beefs of the Idle No More movement.

Provincially, energy politics have dominated the agenda too – from the well-publicized spat between BC Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford over revenue sharing from the proposed Enbridge pipeline, to Redford’s new alliance with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois over alternate plans to move bitumen East.

The media and public discourse in BC was particularly infused with with energy – beginning with the NDP and Liberals jostling for positioning on Enbridge, to the emergence of KinderMorgan’s proposed pipeline and tanker expansion for Vancouver as a major urban issue in the lead-up to next May’s election. Add to that natural gas fracking, proposed pipelines and the plan to build multiple Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals on the coast – all of which are increasingly on the media and public’s radar and sure to be election topics. The movement against the proposed Site C Dam, which would power gas and mining operations, is building momentum too.

The NDP has been all over the map on these issues, initially getting behind fracking, new pipelines and LNG plants with few reservations, then, recently, showing signs of feeling some of the public pressure building around these issues. This was evidenced by an op-ed in the Georgia Straight, co-penned by Energy Critic John Horgan and Environment Critic Rob Flemming, promising “a broad public review of fracking” and “immediate changes to protect B.C.’s water resources”.

The party appears caught between the growing concerns about fracking and LNG and a desire not to appear to be too “anti-business” or ignore an opportunity to reboot the BC industry and close the budget gap with increased royalties and related revenues. It will be very interesting to see where the NDP goes on this file in 2013.

Christy Clark, for her part, has left no doubt about her bullish outlook for natural gas and LNG, comparing BC’s potential with this resource to Alberta’s Tar Sands. Some of the nation’s top independent energy experts have poked big holes in Clark’s plan, though, suggesting that her numbers simply don’t add up.

Federally, the NDP’s selection of Thomas Mulcair shook up the political scene and energy debate. Unlike Harper’s former Liberal Opposition challengers, Mulcair seemed to have a firm grasp of energy and economic issues and was prepared to take on Harper on topics others would shy away from.

Take Mulcair’s rendering of the “Dutch Disease” into a Canadian household term. The concept, supported by the OECD and other highly reputable economic institutions and economists, holds that the downside of a petro-state economy is artificial currency inflation, which leads to the hollowing of a nation’s manufacturing sector. New jobs in Fort MacMurray mean layoffs in Hamilton. The fact Mulcair was able to get the traction he did with this discussion and to lodge it – even a little – in the national consciousness is a testament to his oratory skills, political sensibilities, and willingness to take some risks to differentiate himself from Harper. Mulcair also helped to re-frame pipeline politics, opposing Enbridge but getting behind the notion of shipping bitumen East (the source of another emerging public energy debate).

But the reach of energy politics extended far beyond provincial and national borders this year, as the Harper Government negotiated a new trade deal with China, ostensibly to stimulate investment in Canadian energy resources. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPA) came under great scrutiny – particularly in these pages – for eroding Canadian sovereignty and enshrining much diminished environmental protections as the law of the land for years to come.

Harper seemed caught off guard by the backlash generated by this deal and several concurrent foreign buyouts of Canadian energy companies – which seemed to be the very purpose of FIPA. When he finally approved the $15 Billion purchase of Nexen by Chninese state-owned CNOOC and Canadian gas company Progress Energy by Malaysian giant Petronas, it was late on a Friday afternoon, to avoid the media glare that had been focused on these deals. He promised then, surprisingly, that this marked the “end of a trend and not the beginning of one” with regards to such foreign buyouts of Canadian energy assets (PS we aren’t buying that line here).

Compounding the public and media pressure around FIPA and these energy company buyouts was the controversy that erupted from a coal mine in northeast BC. When it emerged the company, HD Mining, was hiring all imported Chinese workers for its Murray River mine, a heated back-and-forth ensued between the United Steelworkers’ Union and a Chinese worker who has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, alleging the union is “creating contempt for Chinese people”.

In the midst of this fracas, an embarrassed Immigration Minister Jason Kenney promised to review the labour rules that allowed this situation to happen. And yet, it was Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, with Kenney’s support,who just recently made the changes to the Canadian labour regulations that enable companies to hire foreign temporary workers for lower wages than they would pay Canadians.

The Harper Government’s labour policy seems designed precisely to encourage situations like the one at Murray River, directly undermining the government’s “jobs” rhetoric around resource development.

Likely as a result of all this scrutiny, Harper has delayed on ratifying the Chinese FIPA. A campaign led by social media-driven public advocacy groups Leadnow.ca and Sumofus.org generated over 80,000 petition signatures and thousands of letters and submissions to government officials protesting the proposed FIPA.

But the biggest story in 2012 has been the unprecedented coming together of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians to jointly confront these hydrocarbon projects and the Harper Government’s vision for Canada’s future. Even in the waning days of 2012, we saw another victory by First Nations and environmentalists working together to secure a long-term ban on coal bed methane fracking in the Sacred Headwaters. That the Clark Government saw this as politically expedient – or necessary – is interesting in and of itself.

It remains to be seen where the Idle No More movement goes from here. Will its intensity subside in the new year like the Occupy Movement of last year, or will it be forged into a formidable political force, crystallizing the burgeoning sense of discontent amongst many Canadians with the direction our political leaders are taking us?

2013 holds the answers to many other burning energy questions, like how the Enbridge pipeline hearings will conclude or when KinderMorgan will formally file its plans. Will this American company’s experience be smoother than that of Enbridge, or will an unprecedented urban environmental movement rise up to block its path? What role will natural gas will play in BC’s provincial election? Will this new energy alliance between Alberta and Quebec and the vision to pipe the Tar Sands East pan out? Perhaps most interesting, will Harper ratify or abandon FIPA and will he keep his word on nixing future foreign buyouts of Canadian energy assets?

Stay tuned to the Common Sense Canadian in the New Year to find out. Or maybe the evening of December 31st. Knowing the Harper Government, that’s when all the really important changes to our national fabric will be announced.


Despite PM’s Assurances, Floodgates Open to Chinese Govt as Encana, PetroChina Partner


“For the right price, anything is for sale” -Anthony Lambert, President and CEO of a Canadian arm of Chinese state-owned Sinopec, known as Sinopec Daylight Energy

Canadians are seeing red this week after a series of announcements reinforce concerns about the loss of Canadian resources and sovereignty.

The focus has been the Alberta Tar Sands, but natural gas plays are also in the mix. Four days after Stephen Harper boldly stated that the CNOOC/Nexen and Petronas/Progress takeovers marked the “end of a trend and not the beginning of one,” one of Canada’s largest oil and gas companies, Encana, announced a joint venture in a 4-plus billion dollar gas play in which PetroChina will have a 49.9 percent stake. A “minority” position such as this is seemingly an end-run on the “new,” yet unexplained criteria dictating the level of Chinese/foreign investment the Harper government would support.

CNOOC’s Nexen bid was a full takeover of a Canadian-based company with international holdings, however its mainstay is the Alberta oil patch and part of that takeover also includes a percentage of Syncrude. These companies have enjoyed years of Canadian taxpayer subsidies and support to make them profitable. The benefits of that multibillion dollar effort will now accrue to a Chinese “SOE”, or State Owned Enterprise, turning Canada into what the Alberta Federation of Labour’s recent detailed report describes as “China’s Gas Tank”.

Those supportive of foreign SOE investment in Canadian resource plays dismiss the concerns raised as unwarranted paranoia. A sort of “Reds under the bed” fear being mocked by folks like Bob Rae, outgoing liberal leader and supporter of Chinese investment. But this dismissive attitude shared by the supporters of such investment neglects the heart of the matter.

Joseph Stalin once said, “When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use,” which is in keeping with the Sinopec President’s view that “anything is for sale at the right price.” This point is pivotal. Chinese investment by SOE’s seems counter-intuitive to a “free enterprise” approach – a central plank in the ideologically driven agenda of Stephen Harper. So why does he abandon such principles along with his base and run far from the centre over to what many view as the extreme left?

It is largely due to the fact that SOEs have deep pockets and are paying real, serious, above-market premiums to snatch up Canadian oil and gas assets, which is enriching longstanding players in the patch and their investors. And it is true that they are doing so because there is profit to be made, and not simply in owning Canadian resources raw and sending them home to China.

But it’s really about the age-old geopolitical game of control over the world’s resources, exploiting them elsewhere while leaving one’s own in the ground, as United States has historically done (however, now you will note that they too are falling prey to exploitation and export of their “Homeland” resources.) All of which will fuel the growth of China’s economy into what people are proclaiming will be the world’s largest economy in as soon as a decade or two.

China has a stake in many nations around the globe and the forces that historically “nation build” are at work once again in boosting China to the forefront of the world, unfortunately their model has even less trickle down to the Chinese people, as they often live in squalor and cities that could house millions remain empty.

To accommodate this agenda the Harper government has created a very attractive investment “climate” in the Tar Sands. A much-reduced royalty rate, heavy subsidies, a gutted environmental regime, paralyzed environmental assessment processes. All this while accruing decision making to the top. Cabinet (read Chairman Harper) will decide cross-border pipelines, terms of trade and investment deals, criteria for foreign investment, and he has taken measures to lock in the new legislative framework dictating resource development and exploitation for decades to come.

During the minority reign of the Harper administration, he oversaw the single largest divestiture of a “public asset” in our nation’s history when he constructed the offloading and privatization of Petro Canada. The result was a gift to industry, a huge loss to Canadian taxpayers and it closed the public window we had on this industry from well to pump. Which is why Harper was so precise with his language when he approved the CNOOC/Nexen and Petronas/Progress takeovers.

Indeed, the first thing out of his mouth at the press conference announcing the approvals was, “To be blunt, Canadians have not spent years reducing the ownership of sectors of the economy by our own governments, only to see them bought and controlled by foreign governments instead.” However that is precisely what is occurring, no matter how you slice it.

But Harper ignores this reality and doubles down on his bold misrepresentation of the facts, “It is not an outcome any responsible government of Canada could ever allow to happen. We certainly will not.”  And they should not, Harper realizes its not what Canadians want, which is why he takes to the mike and says these things. So why does he do the exact opposite?

Foreign investment is already a serious issue in the oil and gas industry in Canada. Forest Ethics recently released a brief explaining how Canada’s major oil and gas players are on average 71% “foreign owned.”  In fact, the major players in the patch are almost entirely foreign owned; it is only the Canadian-based companies that bring that percentage down from fully foreign ownership. But even those Canadian-based companies are owned by foreign interests in the majority. All of this equals an exodus of cash from the country, only outdone by the flow of oil, gas and other raw resources.

If Canadian companies cannot find the money to invest in the oil and gas patch, despite outgoing Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney’s criticism that corporate Canada is sitting on over 600 billion dollars of “dead money” and Canadian “SOEs” needed to be sliced, diced, demonized and sold off, why are Chinese SOEs all the rage?

Jim Stanford, a highly respected, independent-minded Canadian economist, suggests the notion that Canada cannot capitalize its own resources and must therefore rely on foreign investment is balderdash. Moreover, the Conservatives still boast that Canada and its banking industry are a pillar of stability in a sea of insecurity and crashing economies. All of which runs counter to the oft-repeated cliché that “we need” this foreign investment, and is instead looking much like a foreign takeover of not only our resources but our sovereignty.

This is where the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPA) comes in. This government continues to claim that somehow FIPA is good for Canadian investment in China, yet there is no evidence of that. Preeminent Canadian economist Diane Francis, a polar opposite to Jim Stanford, would probably agree with him on this one, as she has suggested the FIPA should be ripped up. Meanwhile, even Canada-US free trade architect Brian Mulroney states that we are still at least a decade away from free trade with China.

So why FIPA? Why now? In corporate parlance this amounts to a “Friendly Takeover”, as both entities agree there are “synergies” with the syncrude and are supportive of the entire notion, therefore it’s not a hostile takeover.

In promoting this deal, the Harperites will tell you that we have dozens of other FIPAs and this one is simply just another one. However that too is very misleading. The others are largely with countries where Canadian-based companies, typically mining companies, are operating.

Once again, these companies maybe Canadian-based, but they are largely foreign-owned, and they base themselves in Canada because our legislative environment is accommodating to their agenda. Canada is to mining what Switzerland is to banking and the FIPAs we negotiated are in most cases as draconian for the less-developed nations as the Chinese FIPA is for us.

These FIPAs guarantee the exploitation of mineral rights in less developed countries, for Canadian-based mining companies, and ensure the governments are removed from the equation, unable to protect the environment or increase royalty rates. In fact, the governments are reduced to cheerleaders on the “promotion” side of these agreements. Any move to regain sovereignty, charge respectable royalties, protect the environment or impose any restrictions on unbridled exploitation is met with severe financial penalties, meted out by a new corporate judiciary established by these agreements, which works in secret and is entirely profit-motivated.

This is exactly what is happening to Canada with the Chinese FIPA.

However, a huge push back has occurred and Harper seems frozen in his tracks on this one.

After having restructured the very fabric of the nation with two omnibus bills – the largest we have ever seen – he has still not ratified the agreement. Ironically, Omnibus bills have been used very sparingly in history. In 1971 Liberals used the practice to establish the “Department of the Environment,” and then again in 1982 to establish Trudeau’s infamous “National Energy Program.” The Conservatives fought it then and had the bill divided into eight different sections. On the other hand, Conservative governments have used the practice more. They used it once to enact NAFTA, and now twice since Harper obtained his majority – for the opposite purpose of omnibus bills of old, which established our internationally-renowned environmental practices and the nation-building, sovereignty-securing laws of Trudeau’s NEP.

As we pointed out in painstaking detail here at the Common Sense Canadian, the recent Omnibus bills run contrary to the FIPA treaty process and, in our opinion, render it null and void. This could be at the very heart of the delays we are now experiencing. There were many petitions and expressions of outrage, however, the argument we forwarded was indisputable and has put the Harper Cabinet in a box. And now we have an opportunity to follow up and here is why.

If FIPA is ratified, it will mark the end of Canadian sovereignty in the oil and gas patch. It will also ensure that China becomes the major driver of activity in both oil and gas. The terms are so favourable for “Chinese investment” that it will force partnering with them on resource plays as evidenced in the recent PetroChina/Encana joint venture announcement. The FIPA offers such attractive terms that partnering with any other private companies or SOEs would put one at a disadvantage. This essentially makes the draconian FIPA terms the new de facto law of the land and not simply a bilateral investment agreement. Can you imagine the Harper government or any other government making laws – or restoring those recently stripped away – which apply to everyone but Chinese companies?

I raised these points and many others in my submission to the FIPA environmental assessment process and we encouraged you to do the same. The campaign was picked up by savvy internet politicos who run Leadnow and similar organizations. The end result was thousands of submissions to various levels of government on this issue, on top of the 100 thousand-plus petition signatures these groups garnered against FIPA. Others chimed in as well, and the result so far has been positive.

However there is still an opportunity to communicate once again our adamant disapproval of the FIPA agreement. It is important we do so in order to send a message loud and clear that we do not approve locking in subsidies, much-reduced royalty rates, much-diminished environmental processes and reduced protection for over thirty years – an eternity in terms of the timeline required to liquidate our oil and gas  resources.

It may have made sense in the beginning to give the resource away and subsidize its growth, in an effort to get a capital-intensive exercise on a solid economic footing, but at a time where balanced budgets elude us, debt is racking up at any amazing pace and our standard of living is eroding, we cannot afford to allow these conditions to persist so long into the future. It will spell our demise.

So take the time and visit this link related to the Chinese FIPA and share these concerns with them. At this point the Minister of Industry has stated uncertainty around the ratification of FIPA, therefore we need to continue to apply pressure in order to at the very least delay, if not entirely avoid, ratification of this treaty. Our future and our kids depend on it.

You can visit this link and copy and paste the letter there, as it is still relevant and they invite more comments to that final FIPA Environmental Assessment, despite the closing of the public window for submissions.

Comments on this report may be sent by email, mail or fax to:

Environmental Assessments of Trade Agreements
Trade Agreements and NAFTA Secretariat
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
Fax: (613) 992-9392
E-mail: EAconsultationsEE@international.gc.ca


In praise of Science and Reason


I’ve never been a member of a political party, although I did consider joining the NDP earlier this year, just so I could vote for Nathan Cullen in the leadership contest. Now I’m considering joining the Liberals, just so I can vote for Joyce Murray.

In the rarified air of Parliament Hill, where so many Opposition MPs seem to exist in an alternative reality, these two brave souls have pointed out what any sane Canadian can already see: if we want to escape from Harperland and return to something resembling the Canada most of us know and love, the NDP, the Liberals and the Greens are going to have to co-operate and run candidates strategically in the next federal election.

It is (perhaps) interesting that both these MPs are from the invisible province of British Columbia. I say “invisible” because, in the current debate about the East/West divide, it seems to have escaped the notice of many eastern commentators that there is an entire province to the west of Alberta which, by and large, does not share its eastern neighbour’s rapacious, laissez faire attitude towards the environment.

I can remember a time when American backpackers wore Canadian flag pins to make their appearance in many countries less unwelcome. Other than Israel (where our Foreign Minister’s shamefully vitriolic rejection of the Palestinian people’s statehood aspirations were very welcome indeed), I’m not sure how helpful a maple leaf is these days.

I hate feeling embarrassed about being a Canadian. And on an almost daily basis the number of reasons for embarrassment grows. No sooner had the Harper Tories rejected efforts to supply cheaper generic drugs to desperate countries, then our International Co-operation Minister was boasting about how useful the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) can and should be to Canadian mining companies and other corporations. (Anyone wondering why this is a very bad idea should read Samantha Nutt’s excellent book Damned Nations.)

If I had to pick one reason – and it isn’t easy – it would be the Harper government’s flagrant disdain for science (which, for the Prime Minister and his oil sands cronies, really is an inconvenient truth).

Denying the existence and dire consequences of manmade climate change would almost be less embarrassing than paying lip service to both, then tossing its Kyoto protocol obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions out the window, as this government has done. Then there’s the embarrassment of watching the Harper contingent swanning around this month’s climate change negotiations in Doha attempting to stymie any meaningful action by others. When pundits conclude that Canada could learn from the US on emissions reduction, you know you’re in serious trouble.

Meanwhile, back in Ottawa, following a limited debate, the number of rivers and lakes protected by the Navigable Waters Act was reduced this month from more than 2.5 million to 159.

Protection of Canada’s ocean ecosystems had already been tossed out the window with the decision by the Harper government that the primary remit of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should be boosting fish farms. This “trade uber alles” mandate was threatened last year when the Cohen enquiry heard from Fred Kibenge of the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island that Infectious Salmon Anaemia virus had been found in samples of BC salmon. Kibenge predicted that he would be attacked by the government and he was right.

Unfortunately, attacking independent scientists, gagging or simply firing vexatious government scientists and gutting existing environmental legislation is not enough for this government.  As Dr Darryl Luscombe warns in a recent Watershed Sentinel article, a primary goal of the controversial Bill C-38 is to curb the participation of an informed public in environmental reviews of contentious projects.

Neil deGrasse Tyson once said: “To be scientifically literate is to empower yourself to know when someone else is full of bullshit.” Sadly, scientific literacy does not help when your government legislates against it.

And so I appeal to the Liberals and the NDP and the Bloc and the Greens: For the sake of Archimedes and Galileo and Darwin (and all of Canada’s dedicated and currently harassed government and independent scientists), please put partisanship aside and bring back informed, civilised debate.


NDP, Civil Groups Slam Harper Government’s Approval of CNOOC Nexen Buyout


Read this story from Rabble.ca on the Harper Government’s announcement this past Friday that it is approving Chinese state-owned CNOOC’s proposed $15 Billion buyout of Canadian energy company Nexen and the criticism it has drawn from the Opposition and various civil groups. (Dec. 7, 2012)

At a press conference held late Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that his government had approved the $15 billion takeover of Nexen by the Chinese Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

Reaction to Friday’s announcement was swift.

NDP Energy and Natural Resources critic Peter Julian, who recently held a social media Town Hall on the subject, call the decision “irresponsible” and “a farce.”

Two of the civil society organizations that have led a high profile campaign against the Nexen takeover, and against the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA), issued this statement.

SumOfUs.org and Leadnow.ca Slam Prime Minister Harper’s Approval Of CNOOC-Nexen Takeover 

Today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the approval of the controversial takeover of Nexen by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company. Harper called the Nexen decision and the prospect of further takeovers of oil sands firms “not the beginning of a trend, but rather the end of a trend.” 

This government’s decision to announce the takeover at 5pm on a Friday, and to say that they will limit future takeovers in our resource sector, shows that this government is feeling intense pressure from Canadians across the political spectrum to ensure Canadian control of our resources. However, the in-limbo FIPA deal raises serious questions about Harper’s statement, as it is designed to encourage China’s companies to invest in the Canadian resource sector.

“This decision makes the prospect of the Canada-China FIPA even more troubling,” said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of SumOfUs.org. “Now that CNOOC will have control of a major Canadian fossil fuel giant, Canada can’t risk signing a treaty with China that will give CNOOC vast powers to stop Canadian government regulation.”

Read more: http://rabble.ca/news/2012/12/opposition-parties-civil-society-groups-condemn-government-approval-cnooc-nexen-takeove


Stopping FIPA: Follow-up Action You Can Take to Halt Canada-China Trade Deal


Call to Action to support Our Follow-up Correspondence with Lead Negotiator and Cabinet

We have been overwhelmed with your support for the Common Sense Canadian’s effort to prevent the ratification of FIPA and want to extend our thanks to the many readers who have participated so far.

Since November 1, the Common Sense Canadian has been reporting about the significant FIPA Environmental Assessment (EA) process not yet completed. Our reports have detailed how the FIPA Environmental Assessment offers us a clear path for an effective action to prevent ratification.

Our detailed reporting has uncovered many serious shortcomings that we have worked to bring to your attention and we have therefore encouraged people to submit some of these concerns to the FIPA EA committee through a public hearing process that is open until November 11, 2012 for the General Public.

Now we are going to communicate our closing argument and we need your continued support.

This is our final call to action in advance of the closing of this public comment window – Only 3 Days Left to send this crucial message. We will, however, continue to stay on top of the FIPA file and explore and share other means by the public can work to prevent this disastrous treaty.

We have drafted the letter below as our closing correspondence regarding the EA process to FIPA’s Lead Negotiator, demanding ratification of FIPA not occur at this time and detailing our reasons.

We are requesting that the Lead Negotiator of the FIPA Treaty, who is also the Chairman of the EA process, take into account the obvious facts we present in this letter which prove that the treaty-enabling EA is severely compromised and no longer relevant or even applicable, and therefore cannot be completed at this time and must be extended or reopened.

This is a crucial requirement for the ratification process and an enabling mechanism of the FIPA Treaty. We are confident that sending this message loud and clear will have an impact.

In a nutshell, we are arguing that the entire decade-long process was done under laws and processes that no longer exist as a result of Harper’s Omnibus Bill which occurred after the negotiations were officially completed and before the Final Treaty is to be ratified.

This move of Harper’s is unconscionable and fatally detrimental to the Treaty Process.

The FIPA EAC has concluded that no increase in investment is expected from the Treaty and therefore no appreciable environmental impacts were anticipated as a result. Yet, plainly, under Canada’s new, severely-lacking environmental regulatory regime and the stated policy of the Harper Government to advance Canadian hydrocarbon development through this and other trade initiatives, the original conclusions of the FIPA EA are no longer valid and that a new process must be undertaken to ensure the best interests of the Canadian public and environment are properly protected.

If we ratify the Treaty now, we effectively lock in the new, much-diminished environmental laws and regulations he ushered in with the highly controversial Bill C-38 for up to 31 years, according to independent trade experts. Contrary to the FIPA EAC’s conclusions, this would have profoundly negative long-term impacts on Canada’s environment and thus must be prevented.

What You Can Do to Help One More Time – It’s easy!

We are asking those who agree with the findings and recommendations contained in the following letter to simply copy and paste the letter and send it to the e-mail addresses below.

We urge you to do so even if you have already submitted comments.

Doing so will send this definitive message, loud and clear, that the FIPA Ratification CAN AND MUST BE STOPPED as a result of the information clearly laid out in this letter that proves the EA process is defunct and void of legitimacy and therefore needs to be revisited BEFORE Cabinet moves to ratify the agreement or deliberate any enabling measures, including Orders in Council.


To the Lead Negotiator of the FINAL FIPA EAC,

It is our understanding that the Canada-China FIPA Environmental Assessment Committee (EAC) is chaired by the Lead Negotiator of the entire treaty process.

The Environmental Assessment is a significant, enabling component of FIPA. Its Guiding Framework, established in 2001, explains that the lead negotiator/chairman oversees the entire FIPA EA process which involves, at its very core, a “detailed analysis including ways in which the GoC’s current analysis could be strengthened.” The EA Framework goes onto outline that, “It is important to keep in mind that the assessment is focused on the possible positive and negative environmental impacts in Canada.”

The EAC specifically points out that the EA process and analysis is largely based on the fact that, “…investors, whether they are Canadian or foreign, are bound by environmental protection regulations and projects resulting from these investments are subject to applicable environmental assessment legislation.”

This is a pivotal point because the legislation referred to here, for which this detailed analysis and related conclusions are based upon, is the same legislation the Harper Government recently gutted and replaced with an entirely new and much-diminished legislative framework – through its Omnibus Bill C-38, which was introduced mere weeks after the FIPA negotiations were officially completed in February of 2012.

Moreover, even more changes have just recently been introduced in the second Omnibus Budget Bill.

This means the EAC conducted its “detailed analysis” on a legislative framework that no longer exists and is no longer relevant to the FIPA process, which clearly renders this key conclusion contained in the FIPA EA final report baseless and therefore irrelevant and invalid:

The Initial EA of the Canada-China FIPA concludes that significant changes to investment in Canada are not expected as a result of the Canada-China FIPA negotiations as there are no specific investments known to be dependent on the FIPA’s conclusion or no direct known causal links between FIPAs and expansion of investment. As such, the environmental impacts on Canada are expected to be minimal.

Quite the contrary, the new reality is that this FIPA and the industrial hydrocarbon development and trade it is clearly designed stimulate under Stephen Harper’s direction present grave threats to Canada’s environment. Given that the final conclusions (in bold above) are therefore no longer of any practical use or application, it is an absolute imperative that the Final FIPA EA be extended or re-opened to allow for proper analysis in light of the wholesale changes that have occurred since the EAC came to those conclusions.

Furthermore, throughout the entire FIPA EA process it is apparent that there was no stakeholder feedback, as two, month-long stakeholder input periods – one in 2005 and another in 2008 – passed without a single submission from anyone, including the general public.

Therefore, we are calling on the Lead Negotiator of the FIPA and chair of the FIPA Environmental Assessment Committee move to extend and/or reopen the Environmental Assessment process in order to perform the required detailed analysis and undertake the consultative stakeholder engagements necessary to properly assess the environmental impacts resulting from the ratification of FIPA under an entirely new legislative framework.

We are also insisting that Cabinet recognize the necessity of the Lead Negotiator to undertake this crucial extension of the FIPA EA in order to properly fulfill the legislated mandate of the FIPA EAC by delaying any Order in Council related to the enabling of the Chinese FIPA. The same should apply to any and all enabling legislation, acts or approval by the Governor General of Canada.

Under Canada’s new, severely-lacking environmental regulatory regime and the stated policy of the Harper Government to advance Canadian hydrocarbon development through this and other trade initiatives, it is clear that the original conclusions of the FIPA EA are no longer valid and that a new process must be undertaken to ensure the best interests of the Canadian public and environment are properly protected.


Kevin Logan
Damien Gillis
Common Sense Canadians

Send your letter to this address: EAconsultationsEE@international.gc.ca

It is important that you also copy Cabinet – in addition, you may wish to include your MP or the full list from BC:

Cabinet (full list):

diane.ablonczy@parl.gc.ca, leona.aglukkaq@parl.gc.ca, rona.ambrose@parl.gc.ca, keith.ashfield@parl.gc.ca, john.baird@parl.gc.ca, maxime.bernier@parl.gc.ca, steven.blaney@parl.gc.ca, ron.cannan@parl.gc.ca, michael.chong@parl.gc.ca, tony.clement@parl.gc.ca, john.duncan@parl.gc.ca, julian.fantino@parl.gc.ca, ed.fast@parl.gc.ca, diane.finley@parl.gc.ca, jim.flaherty@parl.gc.ca, steven.fletcher@parl.gc.ca, gary.goodyear@parl.gc.ca, Bal.Gosal@parl.gc.ca, stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca, laurie.hawn@parl.gc.ca, jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca, peter.kent@parl.gc.ca, mike.lake@parl.gc.ca, denis.lebel@parl.gc.ca, peter.mackay@parl.gc.ca, ted.menzies@parl.gc.ca, rob.merrifield@parl.gc.ca, james.moore@parl.gc.ca, rob.moore@parl.gc.ca, rob.nicholson@parl.gc.ca, gordon.oconnor@parl.gc.ca, Joe.Oliver@parl.gc.ca, christian.paradis@parl.gc.ca, Peter.Penashue@parl.gc.ca, lisa.raitt@parl.gc.ca, gerry.ritz@parl.gc.ca, andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca, gail.shea@parl.gc.ca, vic.toews@parl.gc.ca, tim.uppal@parl.gc.ca, Bernard.Valcourt@parl.gc.ca, peter.vanloan@parl.gc.ca, alice.wong@parl.gc.ca, lynne.yelich@parl.gc.ca


Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca, ron.cannan@parl.gc.ca, john.duncan@parl.gc.ca, ed.fast@parl.gc.ca, Kerry-Lynne.Findlay@parl.gc.ca, nina.grewal@parl.gc.ca, richard.harris@parl.gc.ca, russ.hiebert@parl.gc.ca, randy.kamp@parl.gc.ca, james.lunney@parl.gc.ca, colin.mayes@parl.gc.ca, cathy.mcleod@parl.gc.ca, james.moore@parl.gc.ca, andrew.saxton@parl.gc.ca, Mark.Strahl@parl.gc.ca, mark.warawa@parl.gc.ca, john.weston@parl.gc.ca, David.Wilks@parl.gc.ca, alice.wong@parl.gc.ca, Wai.Young@parl.gc.ca, Bob.Zimmer@parl.gc.ca

By riding:



URGENT FIPA UPDATE: Public Comment Period Still Open for Canada-China Trade Deal


UPDATE: Step-by step ininstructions on how to submit your comments to the FIPA EA process by November 11 – act now!

The Common Sense Canadian posted a detailed breakdown of the Environmental Assessment process for the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) between Canada and China earlier this week.

In that piece we noted the fact that the final Environmental Assessment seemed absent in the soon-to-be-ratified FIPA.

Since publishing the story we have learned that indeed the final EA report has not been completed AND there is still time for input from Canadians.

We urge our readers to share their concerns about the process and inform the Government of Canada about the significant environmental impacts of FIPA.

Learn more about the FIPA EA at this government website.

And submit your comments by emailing: EAconsultationsEE@international.gc.ca

We will soon be posting more details about FIPA impacts that people can include their submissions.


Did Enviro Groups Drop the Ball on Canada-China Trade Deal?


IMPORTANT UPDATE TO FIPA STORY: Public Comment Window Still Open for Canada-China Trade Deal Environmental Assessment. Learn how to officially register your concerns with FIPA here.


An in-depth, out-of-the-box, common sense analysis and discussion paper issued on the day of the expected FIPA ratification.

Since May of this year we here at the Common Sense Canadian have been uncovering the behind-the -scenes legal and administrative practices undertaken by governments and industry collaborators to ensure the success of the oil and gas agenda.

Starting with “The Myth of BC Liberal Neutrality on Enbridge”, we have meticulously uncovered details of behind-the-scenes agreements that have seen British Columbia’s elected officials surrender our sovereignty, abandon our jurisdiction and capitulate to the mega-oil and gas agenda. All of which was done in silence, with the governments responsible boosted by organizations mandated to involve themselves in public processes on behalf of British Columbians to protect our rights and further our interests.

Over the past month we have seen an incredible flurry of concern arise from the Harper Government’s move to ratify the Chinese FIPA (Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement). However much of the consternation expressed has not focused on the fact that this agreement is 15 years in the making and has involved the same players responsible for ensuring the success of behind-the-scenes agreements like the Equivalency Agreement of June 2010 between the Governments of BC and Canada.

Starting in 2001, FIPA laid out a Framework for the Environmental Assessment of Trade Negotiations, which resulted in a myriad of activities and outreach to stakeholders, many of which where the same stakeholders whom must have been consulted in the similar overlapping process which resulted in the Equivalency Agreement.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) component of the Chinese FIPA was sparked in 1998, however this detailed framework led to a process that spanned over a decade, but more specifically negotiations were “re-launched in 2004” and were “expected to successfully conclude in 2008.” And just like the 2010 Equivalency Agreement, the FIPA environmental assessment component included an open invitation for a “30 day time period for input from stakeholders and the general public” which occurred between February 20 and March 21, 2008 at the end of the multi-year FIPA EA consultative process dictated by the framework linked to above and detailed on that website.

In fact, the entire Chinese FIPA Environmental Assessment component included three phases, which were designed for transparency and broad input – here is the exact text:

Three phases of assessment are generally undertaken: the Initial, Draft, and Final EA. These phases correspond to progress within the negotiations. The Initial EA is a preliminary examination to identify key issues. It occurs earlier on in the negotiations. The Draft EA builds on the findings of the Initial EA and requires detailed analysis. A Draft EA is not undertaken if the negotiation is not expected to yield large economic changes. The Final EA takes place at the end of the negotiations. At the conclusion of each phase, a public report is issued with a request for feedback.

“Negotiations, Correspondence, Public Reports” and “Requests for Feedback” were all an integral part of the multi-year Environmental Assessment Process enabling the FIPA agreement, yet few of us heard anything about it and no doubt average Canadians were completely unaware.

This process also included outreach to specific groups – again, here is the text from the government website:

 4. Invitation to Submit Comments In keeping with the Framework, an Environmental Assessment Committee (EAC) has been formed to undertake the analysis of the Canada-China FIPA. Coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, the Canada-China FIPA EAC includes representatives from other federal government departments, including Environment Canada, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and Natural Resources Canada, and is formally chaired by the lead negotiator for the agreement. An important responsibility of the EAC is to gather input from provinces and territories, stakeholders representing business, academics, and non-governmental organizations, as well as the general public.
As part of its commitment to an open and transparent process, the Government has opened this Initial EA for public comment from February 20, 2008 to March 21, 2008. Feedback on the likely economic effects and the likelihood and significance of resultant environmental impacts is especially welcome, including ways in which the GoC’s current analysis could be strengthened. It is important to keep in mind that the assessment is focused on the possible positive and negative environmental impacts in Canada.All feedback received is documented in keeping with the guidance contained in the EA Handbook, and circulated to the EAC. It will inform the Final EA of the Canada-China FIPA, as well as ongoing EA work within the Government of Canada. (emphasis added)

Please take the time to visit the link this text has been taken from as it explains in exhaustive detail the Environmental Assessment’s “Open and Transparent” Process required to enable FIPA and the way in which the process was conducted. Furthermore, it outlines in detail how Environmental Non Government Organizations (ENGOs) were solicited for input as key stakeholders in the FIPA process.

Once again, as with the June 2010 Equivalency Agreement, we are learning after the fact that our sovereign rights, interests and ability to exert jurisdictional control and decision making over our land and water are being quietly abandoned without our knowledge and seemingly behind closed doors.

This is once again occurring despite the fact that ENGOs, remunerated by governments to participate in Environmental Assessments and related processes, have mandates that read like this one from a prominent BC ENGO known as the Dogwood Initiative, whose organization has been at the forefront of the high profile tanker and pipeline issues unfolding in British Columbia for several years now:

Everything we do is about giving British Columbians ways to take back decision-making power over their land and water. Right now, 96 per cent of British Columbia’s land is owned by the people, but 88 per cent of that land is controlled by large timber, mining and oil companies. That stinks.

We believe British Columbians should have the right to make their own decisions about how the land they live on is used and we know that there is power in numbers. That’s why we work with more than 100,000 supporters, as well as First Nations, businesses and communities, to leverage political victories and find common sense solutions to some of B.C.’s most pressing problems.

Ultimately responsible for these unseemly agreements are our elected leaders like Allison Redford and yet-to-be-elected Premier Christy Clark who have continued the very public bun fight over who gets what – and in so doing Redford maintains her appointed role as the front-woman for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC) energy strategy, while Clark simply works to cling to power.

However, it is becoming crystal clear that the strategy to massively escalate oil and gas exploitation and liquidation was in the can long ago, just like Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver recently exclaimed in a story entitled, “No need for a National Energy Strategy”:

Oliver said Tuesday he has spoken with Alberta Premier Alison Redford on a number of occasions about her plans for a National Energy Strategy. But he said as far as he could tell, Redford mentioned nothing in their conversations that his government wasn’t already covering
“[But] if you want to put a bow on it and call it a National Energy Strategy, go ahead,” Oliver said at the closing news conference of the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Indeed, all Clark and Redford seem to be fighting over is what colour bow to put on a now longstanding and complete capitulation to the oil and gas industry and its EPIC agenda. As Rafe Mair outlined in his recent column, the BC Liberal government was admittedly consulted throughout the 15-year Chinese FIPA negotiation period – all Provinces and Territories were (as linked to and outline above).

And they have not only quietly ushered it in, but they are also boosting it at high level international investment summits and overseas junkets to the new BC government Shanghai Office. As Rafe points, out doing so has virtually removed any legal ability for Provinces to reclaim their sovereignty and push back on the Federal Government and the FIPA deal.

It is therefore no wonder why they have boosted the FIPA deal at high-level investment meetings, while resisting pushing it in the media, which has worked to keep the 15 year process away from prying eyes, such as those of local blogger and professionally trained researcher Laila Yuile. Ms. Yuile, has distinguished herself among the BC blogosphere as an astounding researcher with impeccable journalistic integrity. She has made the China file her hobby horse for quite some time now and recently felt compelled to apologize for not being aware of FIPA and issues related to the BC Government. All of which attests to the strategically stealthy component of the British Columbian collaborators on FIPA. If this stuff got by Laila, then you can rest assured very few observers, if any, know of these important issues in the entire Province.

That said, key environmental stakeholders canvassed to be involved are defined as “a very important aspect” of the FIPA process. The Environmental Assessment component, as I touched on above, seems to be one of the most exhaustive components according to the government website. Indeed, the process and its vast implications, of which I formally wrote about in detail at another fine BC political blog, are immense and far reaching.

For instance, in that piece, I mention the fact that Harper’s gutting and rewriting of the entire legislative framework pertaining to environmental regulations and processes will be locked in for as long as 31 years and applicable to any Chinese investments occurring after this agreement is ratified. Remember, during the CNOOC/Nexen review it was widely reported that the “we ain’t seen nothing yet”, as that deal only marked the opening of the Chinese investment floodgates into the oil and gas sector.

Moreover, the Chinese FIPA involved exhaustive and pivotal processes spanning 15 years, resulting in the development of numerous environmental Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on matters related to protected areas, cooperation on climate change and many on “environmental cooperation”, which included the “building of partnerships and facilitation of dialogue among environmental protection agencies, organizations and enterprises in both countries.”

While the EA framework for FIPA was established in 2001, the international environmental undertakings began in 1998, however these Bilateral Trade Agreements (FIPAs) were largely left dormant as relics of the past when Canada had struck deals in the 80s and 90 with mostly underdeveloped countries.

However, after globetrotting international financiers who stick-handle trade agreements suffered the very public death of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), a renewed strategic focus was born on bilateral agreements done in a stealth-like, one-off fashion.

This was apparently appealing to David Emerson, who entered the fray after crossing the floor to be Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway (before returning to the private sector to work for the China Investment Corporation.) In 2004 he eagerly went to work slam dunking FIPAs, and attempted to complete 4 during his time in office, ranging from little one-offs with minor countries like Peru to larger emerging economies like India.

However, his crowning achievement was the Chinese FIPA, which he kicked into high gear claiming it to be his “Ultimate Goal”, as published in the Chinese in Vancouver blog at the time. Once again these deals were left largely unreported in the mainstream media, and even the Chinese in Vancouver blog stated that Emerson’s “in camera” meetings had the opposition NDP complaining how hard it was to get “details”.

However, the blog did publish all the details of an exhaustive FIPA-related agenda dictated by the Chamber of Commerce, who were among NGOs and governments solicited by the FIPA process, all of which of course has been accomplished and will be complete if FIPA is indeed ratified.

Emerson, who wrote the forward to a Fraser Institute study on FIPA, used his history of “public service” as a catalyst to establish EPIC, which has been busy rewriting the entire legislative framework for oil and gas development ever since. Everything EPIC published was subsequently contained in Harper’s Omnibus bills while he positioned his huge corporate coalition as the chief architects of Canada’s new “National Energy Strategy.”

More recently a key British Columbia-based organization from Emerson’s hometown was invited into his EPIC National Energy Strategy at a kick-off meeting in Alberta. Tides Canada, who also established a loose coalition of over 150 endorsers for their strategic tome entitled, “A New Energy Vision for Canada”, laid out their vision within the EPIC strategic framework with the backdrop of the scenic Kanaskis mountain range, away from peering eyes and protests – and among governments and oil and gas industrialists, while along side Emerson and his EPIC directors.

Tides is headed up by Joel Solomon, infamously depicted as the “Greenfather” and a shrewd “business first socialist”, who is the funding engine behind most all of British Columbian Environmental Organizations (ENGOs), and of course two-term Mayor of the world’s “Greenest City”, Gregor Robertson.

Solomon’s labyrinth of foundations, investment companies and network of “social entrepreneurs” and activists spawned the internationally renowned “Green Think Tank” known as Hollyhock, which led to the development of Hollyhock Leadership Institute among myriad other well-resourced and connected organizations which have become the commanding heights of green, socially responsible development as well as the strategic headquarters for the “Greening the Oil Sands” initiative being communicated through the well-known internet E-zine The Tyee and supported by the online publication more intimately connected to Solomon, the Vancouver Observer.

All of these developments occurred during the course of the exhaustive and far-reaching FIPA Environmental Assessment process and much, much more. During this time we also saw other major achievements in the oil and gas legal and administrative agenda. TILMA (the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement) was negotiated and then established in 2006, with barely a whimper from the environmental community, when the BC Liberals invoked closure to ram it through – despite the vast implications for oil and gas developments and the provincial sovereignty that agreement left in an abandon pile on the negotiating room floor.

Then there was the incredible, inconceivable BC Liberal move that spawned the Equivalency Agreement in June of 2010, which iced the cake for the oil and gas lobby. This agreement, done away from the limelight and while the government responsible was being celebrated for a Clean Energy Climate Change Strategy – and lauded by the environmental community – saw BC forfeit its last vestige of sovereignty and jurisdictional control by giving up any and all decision-making capacity on four major oil and gas projects in BC’s north, including the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Amazingly, this agreement was implemented by senior staff and not the minister responsible, as the law dictates.

Each one of these far reaching and legally binding agreements would have involved BC stakeholders at all levels, but ENGOS in particular would have been solicited for serious roles as precisely outlined in the FIPA EA framework linked to above. Both the FIPA EA and June 2010 Equivalency Agreement involved a 30-day time period for broad stakeholder commentary, advertized in the Canadian Gazette – a process intimately familiar to British Columbian ENGOs.

When one considers each one of these separately, they appear relatively reasonable and were communicated as if they had little if anything to do with the oil and gas agenda and ultimately were pitched as integral to ensuring an investment climate that would grow our economy. However, after a closer look we learn that the exact opposite is the case. Indeed, these three agreements completely wrap up most every aspect of oil and gas development related to our jurisdiction and leave British Columbians in the cold as virtual bystanders, literally legally stranded as voiceless squatters on their own land.


  • Works from “the bottom up” versus “the top down” approach the FIPA trade agreement employs – dovetailing nicely
  • Ensures no level of government can create trade obstacles on or “through” their jurisdictions – doing so results in penalties up to 5 million per infraction
  • Ensures free flow of “investment” throughout the jurisdictions of all levels of government
  • Ensures the free flow of labour for all oil and gas projects
  • Involves a myriad of other details related to labour mobility, Trade and Investments
  • Was ushered in to law by BC liberals, who invoked closure
  • Recently updated and renewed as NWPA


  • Locks in complete legal framework ushered in by Harper for a generation
  • Negates any future changes to environmental protection or processes
  • Locks in Royalty Regimes for a generation
  • Negates future governments from making any changes

Equivalency Agreement

  • Forfeits BC’s sovereignty and decision-making capacity
  • Involves four major oil and gas projects including Enbridge NGP
  • Negates jurisdiction over land and water

Indeed it would seem that Minister Oliver was exactly right and boldly honest as all Clark and Redford are fighting over is the colour of the bow on the now longstanding strategy for massive escalation in the exploitation and liquidation of Canada’s oil and gas resources. The detailed terms in these three agreements leave British Columbians with little if anything else to decide. This is especially true when you consider reams of other supporting agreements like temporary foreign worker legislation and myriad other streamlining legislation which works to sideline all levels of government in deciding the fate and from of major developments slated to occur in British Columbia.

Further to this mind-blowing array of far-reaching, long-lasting, legally-binding policies riddled with serious implications for British Columbia, the Canada-Chinese FIPA also involved a detailed outreach effort to international investment and environmental organizations, resulting in The Canada-China Climate Change Working Group which was formed in March 2004, as a follow up to the Canada-China Joint Statement on Climate Change Cooperation. The Working Group co-ordinates and advances the bilateral effort to respond to climate change.

Other joint efforts include The Framework Statement which created the Canada-China Joint Committee on Environment Cooperation (JCEC) with Environment Canada and the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) as the lead agencies. All of which started when Canada and China signed the “Canada-China Framework Statement for Cooperation on Environment into the 21st Century” during Premier Zhu Rongji’s visit to Canada in November 1998.

All of this, while substantial, is not the entirety of the FIPA Environmental Assessment component which was supposed to be released when the FIPA agreement was complete, however Stephen Harper signed the agreement almost six weeks ago and the final Environmental Assessment reporting which enabled FIPA seems absent.

Its absence may be a result of this bombshell directly from the Government’s FIPA EA report:

6. Stakeholder Feedback

The notice of intent to conduct an EA of the Canada-China FIPA was in the Canada Gazette on November 5, 2005. The notice included an invitation to interested parties to submit their views on the likely environmental impacts of the Canada-China FIPA on Canada. There were no comments received on the Notice of Intent. (emphasis added)

8. Conclusion and Next Steps

Canada’s Framework for Conducting EAs of Trade Negotiations calls for national assessments and allows for consideration of transboundary, regional, and global environmental impacts if they have a direct impact on the Canadian environment. However, it is outside of the scope of this study to assess the potential for positive or negative environmental impacts that could occur in China because of these negotiations, or to judge the measures in place within China to enhance or mitigate such impacts.

Investments in sectors of interest to China may have an impact on the environment. However, the impact would be the same whether the investment is made by a Chinese investors or a domestic investor. In addition, investors, whether they are Canadian or foreign, are bound by environmental protection regulations and projects resulting from these investments are subject to applicable environmental assessment legislation. (that is the same legislation Harper just gutted and rewrote)

The Initial EA of the Canada-China FIPA concludes that significant changes to investment in Canada are not expected as a result of the Canada-China FIPA negotiations as there are no specific investments known to be dependent on the FIPA’s conclusion or no direct known causal links between FIPAs and expansion of investment. As such, the environmental impacts on Canada are expected to be minimal.

The Initial EA will be circulated to decision makers to inform the conclusion of the Canada-China FIPA negotiations as well as other policy development activities.

Following the receipt of public comments on the Initial EA, the Final EA will be completed taking into account the consultative findings. In the light of the Initial EA’s conclusions regarding the unlikelihood of significant economic activity and environmental impacts in Canada, preparation of a Draft EA is deemed to be unnecessary. The Final EA will coincide with the conclusion of the Canada-China FIPA negotiations. (emphasis added)

Did you catch that? That underlined bit.

No specific investments known to be dependent on FIPA’s conclusion? Nor do they believe there are any links between FIPA and the expansion of investment!

Then what did we do it for and why was it Emerson’s “Ultimate Goal?”

And then the kicker: “In the light of the Initial EA’s conclusions regarding the unlikelihood of significant economic activity and environmental impacts in Canada, preparation of a Draft EA is deemed to be unnecessary.”

This stuff is incomprehensible! Due to a complete lack of input from the environmental side of the equation or any submission of appropriate analysis, the Federal Government has concluded that there will be no significant impacts on our environment as a result of hundreds of billions of dollars invested in Canada’s oil and gas industry.

And how does it all square with Harper’s election campaign platform? Here is a snippet from his Energy Platform:

Prohibiting the Export of Raw Bitumen to Higher Polluting Jurisdictions

A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will prevent any company from exporting raw bitumen (unprocessed oil from the oil sands) outside of Canada for upgrading in order to take advantage of lower pollution or greenhouse gas emissions standards elsewhere.

In conclusion, we have to consider very important impacts that are solidified as a result of the overlapping trade agreements coupled with the forfeiting of British Columbia’s sovereignty which demonstrate the green failing on FIPA is less about the environment and more about the cash. This is true as a result of two easy-to-comprehend concepts which are definitive. You cannot change the rules of the game after the investment has occurred and doing so will result in being sued. These notions run through all trade agreements and are at the very heart of the purpose of the FIPA.

  • Less about the Environment: The wholesale environmental and legislative changes authored by EPIC and ushered in by the Harper Government rewrite the entire legal framework for oil and gas development. As a result of ratifying FIPA on the heels of these changes, each and every future investment in the industry in Canada is therefore guaranteed under these terms for thirty years and many subsequent governments. If however, a subsequent government decides to restore any one of the rollbacks of the Harper government they will be sued under these agreements. If they decide to scrap the FIPA altogether they must give at least one year notice, and each and every investment that occurred during the time FIPA was ratified, will be protected automatically for an additional 15 years upon the revoking of FIPA and all of the existing legislative framework will apply for that time. And, once again, if subsequent changes are made, lawsuits will result reaching into the millions, if not billions. All of which locks in the gutting of environmental legislation and processes that have occurred thus far for a generation as making any changes is too punitive.
  • More about the Cash: The very same dynamics described in detail above apply to royalty regimes at all levels of government. Currently, oil and gas royalty regimes in Canada are some of the lowest in the world. FIPA locks in those rates for a generation or more and, once again, if any subsequent government wishes to adjust the rates to harmonize them with other jurisdictions – say, like those of oil producing countries in Africa who have recently struck deals with the same major oil companies operating in Canada – that involve Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) which reach as high as 75% of total production being steered to public coffers, we will be sued for doing so and it will involve “forecasts of lost profits” which could range into the hundreds of billions, effectively destroying any potential whatsoever of altering royalty regimes away from being the lowest anywhere in the world. Moreover, Chinese companies are not just investing in production and market potential but rather are purchasing companies outright making our exposure to being sued for profit potential enormous. In the final analysis, this agreement is all about the cold, hard cash because even if we never are sued, FIPA ensures profiteering for anyone investing under the terms it dictates, the likes of which is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. It is important to remember that at current royalty rates, both BC and Alberta are filing huge deficits. And Canada itself has filed over 125 billion dollars in deficits just since 2008, meanwhile the Tar Sands peaked to its highest production rates in 2010 the same year Harper filed the country’s largest deficit in history. Clearly, adjusting some of the lowest royalty rates in the world is required to pull Canada out of the fiscal fire and attempt to return to balanced budgets.

Regardless of what seems to be total insanity as we explore the details of FIPA and supporting agreements. It is important to go through such great lengths and review all of these painstaking details in order to understand how and why it is most Canadians, and British Columbians in particular, where not aware of this agreement.

There was very little mainstream coverage and negotiations seemingly took place out of the public eye and away from the scrutiny of the media. Intentional or otherwise, it has left Canadians very vulnerable. Maybe they believe this agreement means nothing and has no impacts, as this report says, but as is clearly outlined here that is definitely not the case. And it clearly was the National Energy Strategy’s chief architect David Emerson’s “ultimate goal” for a reason.

Fortunately, some civil society organizations and (NGOs) made the effort to warn Canadians early on, despite not being engaged in the process in any way, or solicited directly for their input. That list includes groups like Canada’s Coalition to End Global Poverty, who produced this handy must read handbook entitled, Bilateral Investment Treaties: A Canadian Primer that works to hit the high points of these agreements and their immense implications, including the impacts on sovereignty, the environment and the economy. There were also independent, uninvolved, unsolicited lawyers who have drawn up abstracts which really work to inform Canadians. And the Council of Canadians jumped on FIPA as soon as it came to their attention in September.

In the end, it is difficult if not impossible to conceive how the FIPA’s pivotal and enabling environmental assessment process, spanning 15 years, received little if any attention. And it is impossible to understand how an Environmental Assessment involving legislated outreach to stakeholders as an important and pivotal aspect to the success of the agreement garnered “no comments” over a month-long input period at the end of a multi-year process – resulting in conclusions that there was little if any environmental impact, despite the obvious, far -eaching impacts explained here and elsewhere.

The FIPA EA resulted in multiple memorandums of understanding, the establishment of multiple joint international committees, in addition to policy certainty and harmonization. Cooperation on Climate Change initiatives and the list goes on and on, yet somehow all this escaped the lead environmental organizations in British Columbia who are mandated to represent our interests while protecting and furthering our jurisdictional and legal rights.

The lawyers who lead the ENGOS on the forefront of tankers and pipeline issues who signed up thousands for the Enbridge Environmental Assessment alone while undertaking a media campaign spanning years, were somehow unable to comment on, involve themselves in, or write as much as one press release in regard to the FIPA EA since its inception 15 years ago which, when in effect, locks in Harper’s gutting of environmental standards for any all Chinese investments now and for thirty years into the future.

To top it all off we learn of all this AFTER the agreement is signed by the Prime Minister and mere months after we first heard that as far back as June 2010, BC gave up its right to its own Environmental Assessment to decide on four major oil and gas development projects, including the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project. Which was accomplished through the establishment of a “secret” equivalency agreement that saw us abandon our sovereign rights and legal jurisdiction in a process that also had been advertised in the Canadian Gazette and involved a month-long period for input from stakeholders. But, once again, the ENGO community who is mandated and remunerated to be involved in these processes said and did nothing.

Adrian Dix stood up for BC and made the move to restore our sovereignty by pledging to revoke the Equivalency Agreement within one week upon being elected.

It is time for all Canadian citizens to stand up and pledge to do whatever it takes to prevent FIPA from being ratified tomorrow or ever.

Its time to stand on guard for Canada!


Law Professor Warns Harper About Canada-China Trade Deal


Read this letter by Osgoode Law Professor and international trade expert Gus Van Harten, republished in The Tyee, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sounding alarms over a controversial new Canada-China trade deal, the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA). (Oct. 16, 2012)

Dear Prime Minister Harper and Minister Fast,

I am an expert in investment treaties. As a Canadian, I am deeply concerned about the implications for Canada of the Canada-China investment treaty. As I understand, the treaty is slated for ratification by your government on or about Oct. 31. I hope you will reconsider this course of action for these reasons. 

1. The legal consequences of the treaty will be irreversible by any Canadian court, legislature or other decision-maker for 31 years after the treaty is given effect. The treaty has a 15-year minimum term, requires one year’s notice prior to termination, and adds another 15-years of treaty coverage for assets that are Chinese-owned at the time of termination. By contrast, NAFTA for example can be terminated on six months notice.

2. Other investment treaties (aka FIPAs) signed by Canada have a similar duration and, in this respect, are exceptional among modern treaties. Yet none put Canada primarily in the capital-importing position. As such, the Canada-China treaty effectively concedes legislative and judicial elements of our sovereignty in a way that other FIPAs do not. Chinese asset-owners in Canada will be able, at their option, to challenge Canadian legislative, executive, or judicial decisions outside of the Canadian legal system and Canadian courts.

3. To elaborate, the treaty will likely be largely de facto non-reciprocal due to anticipated in-flows of Chinese investment to Canada outstripping Canadian investment in China. The deal gives Cadillac legal status to Canadian investors in China and vice versa. Yet Canada will be much more exposed to claims and corresponding constraints as a result of the de facto non-reciprocity. Two awards of a billion dollars-plus, and many over $100 million, have been issued against countries to date under these treaties, with more likely on the way. The awards are immune from judicial review, largely or entirely, and are often extra-territorial, depending on how the investor’s lawyers frame the claim.

Read more: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/10/16/China-Investment-Treaty/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=171012

photo: Kin Cheung/Associated Press

Harper’s China Syndrome: PM in a Pickle Over Nexen Buyout, Trade Deal


Following an eventful couple of weeks for the Canada-China energy trade file, Stephen Harper finds himself in quite a pickle. The Prime Minster is stuck between his resolute commitment to opening up a carbon corridor to Asian markets and the increasingly politically untenable position of supporting wholesale Chinese state ownership of strategic Canadian resources.

In addition to Harper’s mounting challenges over the proposed $15 Billion buyout of Canadian oil and gas firm Nexen by Chinese state-owned CNOOC, several prominent Canadian voices – including Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Council of Canadians founder and world-renowned trade expert Maude Barlow – have piped up about a controversial trade deal quietly signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month, which they say would give unprecedented rights to Chinese corporations over Canadian resources.

As the tide of opposition to the Nexen deal continues to rise, Harper was forced to acknowledge this week, “This particular transaction raises a range of difficult policy questions, difficult and forward-looking issues.”

That’s putting it mildly.

The Nexen deal is problematic for the Conservatives for three main reasons:

  1. Public opinion is squarely against it, with some 70% of Canadians opposing it and four in ten viewing China as a threat, according to National Post columnist John Ivison (who nevertheless urges Harper to approve the deal as it’s in Canada’s best long-term interests)
  2. The Official Opposition has finally come out against the deal this week and appears poised to make political hay with its position.
  3. Most importantly, by far, powerful American political forces are lining up against the deal – charging that allowing these resources to flow to China constitutes a national security threat (our own CSIS concurs).

On that last point, Congressman Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee of Natural Resources, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in July, imploring his office to block the deal (someone needs to inform the congressman that this deal doesn’t technically fall under Geithner’s jurisdiction, but it’s nevertheless a noteworthy and influential objection). Wrote Markey, “Giving valuable American resources away to wealthy multinational corporations is wasteful but giving valuable American resources away to a foreign government is far worse.”

Apparently even the Americans – whose resources these are notrecognize the danger in handing them over to the Chinese!

Meanwhile, with the NDP continuing to nip at the Conservatives’ heels, Harper might do well to ignore the advice of John Ivison and consider the short and long-term implications of accepting such an unpopular deal. Heck, even some of Harper’s own MPs oppose it!

NDP Energy and Natural Resources Critic Peter Julian laid out his party’s opposition to the deal at a press conference Thursday, as reported by the Globe and Mail:

New Democrats “cannot support the rubber-stamping of the CNOOC takeover of Nexen,” Mr. Julian said. “We cannot see the net benefit when we look at a variety of concerns and criteria that have been raised by the Canadian public.” Those concerns, he said, included the environmental and human-rights record of CNOOC, the potential for job losses and the risk of decision-making gravitating away from Nexen’s Calgary head office, plus risks to national security.

It is this “net benefit” test, under the Investment Canada Act, that is at the core of the decision Harper faces – which is expected by October 12, but can and may well be delayed by another month. The NDP has expressed doubt that the Harper Government will conduct this “net benefit” test in a transparent enough manner to reassure Canadians.

According to the party’s industry critic Helene LeBlanc, “By studying this transaction behind closed doors and not specifying what criteria they used to determine what represents a net benefit for the country, the Conservatives have given us no choice. When in doubt, it’s best to back off.”

Conservative Industry Minister Christian Paradis called the NDP’s position “reckless and irresponsible” in a news release.

Meanwhile, Harper’s quiet trade deal with China has drawn heated rebuke the past several weeks, as the two issues inevitably dovetail into each other.

A statement from the Council of Canadians last week noted:

A bilateral investment treaty between Canada and China, which was signed earlier this month and made public by the Harper government yesterday, will put unacceptable constraints on Canadian energy and environmental policy…The organization is once again calling on MPs to reject the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), and to stop signing what are essentially corporate rights pacts inside standalone treaties and Canada’s broader free trade agreements.

The organization’s National Chairperson, Maude Barlow, drew together FIPA and the Nexen deal, stating, “Canadians need to know that as Harper considers selling off Canadian energy firms to foreign investors in China and elsewhere, he’s also signing investment pacts that let these firms sue the federal government when delays or environmental protection measures interfere with profits.”

Council of Canadians’ Trade Campaigner Stewart Trew suggested these deals do little to promote investment, as is their stated mandate. “They are very useful, on the other hand, for extorting governments when things don’t go their way. That could be delays or cancellations to energy and mining projects, environmental policies that eat into profits, even financial rules designed to create stability or avoid crises can be challenged.”

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May shared many of these concerns with the House of Commons this week, calling for an emergency debate on FIPA, suggesting it bears “grave and sweeping implications for Canada’s sovereignty, security, and democracy.”

In a statement on her website this week, May said, “I pointed out in my notice to the Speaker that this is perhaps the most significant trade agreement since NAFTA, and the fact that it can be negotiated and ratified behind closed doors is very corrosive to our democracy.”

“I also realize that an emergency debate is far from sufficient under the circumstances, but it might be the only opportunity Parliamentarians have to review and discuss FIPA before we are bound to it for the next 15 years, especially if neither the NDP nor the Liberals focus on it during their Opposition Days.”

Whether FIPA receives its due attention politically – let alone gets cancelled – remains to seen, but the more it becomes connected to the clearly unpopular Nexen deal in the coming weeks, the more scrutiny it will face.

The exploding national debate around theses issues puts Harper in a tough spot. On the one hand, the Prime Minister has been very clear about his policy vision for the country – and expanding energy trade to Asia has been the centre plank in this platform, underscored by a visit to China earlier this year, during which energy issues were the main topic of discussion. He has made public and private commitments to Asian trading partners and to the Canadian oil patch.

Moreover, with US leaders promising to become far more self-sufficient in oil and gas resources over the next decade by massively boosting domestic production, there is increasing pressure on Canada to develop new export markets for its fossil fuels.

And yet, as prospects for the proposed Enbridge pipeline continue to wane and opposition mounts to Nexen and this new trade deal, the Prime Minster is gambling his political future on an increasingly unpopular strategy – whether he believes it’s in the country’s best interests or not. Add to that the concerns raised by CSIS last month about threats to Canada’s national security from such deals and you have a recipe for real political problems if the PM continues down this path.

As University of Ottawa Law Professor Penny Collenette put it in the Globe and Mail’s story yesterday, with the NDP jumping on the issue, “Now it is burst wide open onto the political scene,” and becoming “a kitchen table national debate.”

That’s the last thing Stephen Harper’s energy plan needs right now.