Stephen Harper made the right decision on Nexen takeover – by Carol Goar (Toronto Star – December 14, 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.

It is easy to forget what a fine mind Stephen Harper has because he so frequently harnesses it to divisive partisan schemes. But every so often, the prime minister turns his intelligence to a difficult public issue and comes up with a smart solution.

His decision on the $15.1-billion bid by China National Offshore Oil Corporation Ltd. (CNOOC) to take over Calgary-based Nexen Inc. falls into that category. He said yes to the controversial acquisition, but no to future takeovers of Canadian energy firms by state-owned foreign companies.

His answer was pragmatic, balanced and shrewd enough to make a gambler smile. He gave the Chinese government what it wanted — but not what it really sought: a precedent it could use to buy up companies in the oilpatch, guaranteeing China a growing share of Canada’s energy wealth.

He gave the energy sector what it wanted — but not what it was really hoping for: an unrestricted infusion of Chinese-controlled capital into the oilsands. He gave Canadians what they wanted — a way to control who benefits from the oilsands — but not as quickly as most would have liked.

And he left his critics scrambling to pinpoint what they found objectionable. Some attacked him for abandoning his free market principles. Others accused him of knuckling under to Beijing, ignoring the environment and catering to Alberta. The majority resorted to words such as ambiguous, incoherent and irresponsible. No dominant voice emerged from the cacophony.

That is not to say the prime minister’s overall energy policy is praiseworthy.

He refuses to acknowledge or mitigate the damage petroleum extraction from the oilsands is doing to the atmosphere. He is using the power of the state to stifle dissenting voices. He is pouring taxpayers’ money into a dubious scheme to capture and bury carbon emissions. He is boosting pipeline construction despite local opposition. And he is waiting for the U.S. to set enforceable greenhouse gas caps before imposing limits on Canadian fossil fuel producers.

All that said, the issue at hand was the clash between China’s economic ambitions and Canada’s sovereignty.

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