Canadian government rejects public consultation on Nexen bid
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservatives will defeat a parliamentary motion asking the government to hold public consultations during its review of the $15.1 billion bid by China's state-owned CNOOC Ltd to buy Canadian oil company Nexen Inc, Industry Minister Christian Paradis said on Wednesday.
Parliament is expected to vote on the motion, presented by the main opposition party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), later on Wednesday.
"Oh no, we will oppose," Paradis told reporters when asked how the Conservatives would vote. The government has a majority in the House of Commons and can easily kill the proposal.
"What the NDP is asking is a public consultation and there is no way that, you know ... What I've said is that we have the tools we need to determine whether the transaction will provide a net benefit to Canada," he said.
The New Democrats said they would unveil their official stance on the deal at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) on Thursday. The party says it is concerned about the prospect of a Chinese state-owned enterprise buying up Canadian energy assets.
"Many Canadians are worried by the possible effects of this transaction when it comes to jobs, national security and the environment," NDP legislator Helene LeBlanc told the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Although the party cannot directly block the deal it could ratchet up public concern about the proposed takeover. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the government will take public opinion into account when studying the bid.
Under the Canada Investment Act, the federal industry minister must review any foreign investment worth more than C$330 million ($337 million) to determine whether it is of net benefit to Canada.
The bid for Nexen has divided Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet and sparked a polarizing debate, pitting fears about national security and control of strategic resources against the need for capital.
Nexen has a substantial interest in northern Alberta's oil sands, one of the world's biggest crude reserves.
"We're open to investment but this particular transaction will be scrutinized very closely," Paradis said.
In addition to asking for public consultations on the merits of the deal, the NDP motion called for a clarification of the concept of "net benefit" for Canada in making judgments on foreign takeovers, a term that critics say is too vague. It also calls for public hearings on the broader issue of foreign ownership in the Canadian energy sector.