Harper government crafts Canada’s energy policy in Ottawa’s back rooms – Toronto Star Editorial (December 11, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is catching flak from both sides of the political spectrum as Canadians ponder the implications of his decision to let Chinese and Malaysian state-owned companies buy $20 billion worth of our oilsands industry. On the left, New Democrats complain the Tories have recklessly “rubber-stamped” a deal with no great benefit to Canada. Critics on the right fret that Ottawa will scare off investment with its murkily “incoherent” policy on acquisitions.

There’s truth to both criticisms. The Conservatives haven’t yet articulated a credible energy strategy, for all their obsession with the sector. They are making it up as they go, in back rooms, without benefit of Parliamentary debate or public input, as the Star noted on this page on Saturday. In this case they tossed a sop to China and Malaysia, without getting much in return, then decreed the rest of the oilpatch off-limits to other similar actors.

In Parliament on Monday Harper struck a populist pose, positioning his Tories as careful stewards of the public interest, as against the Liberals, who in the past reflexively waved through foreign investment, and the New Democrats who reflexively opposed it. It was a clever, if disingenuous posture. In reality, after ragging the puck for two years, the Tories took the path of least resistance.

At the end of the day Canadians are still left looking for a coherent energy strategy. The Tories have yet to enunciate a credible plan to develop the oilsands in a sustainable manner, and to address climate change.We have unresolved political issues with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration over the stalled Keystone XL pipeline. We’re still captives of the U.S. energy market. And we are saddled with domestic pipeline wrangles of our own.

That’s the broader context in which to assess Harper’s handling of China National Offshore Oil Corp.’s $15-billion bid for control of Nexen Inc., and the $6-billion bid by Malaysia’s Petronas for Progress Energy Resources.

On Monday New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair accused the Tories of “colossal arrogance” by redefining the “net benefit” test without Parliamentary input, and of making up the rules as they go along. He’s got a point.

For the rest of this editorial, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1300279–harper-government-crafts-canada-s-energy-policy-in-ottawa-s-back-rooms