By Leah Schnurr
TORONTO Nov 15 The leader of Canada's main
oil-producing province issued a rare direct rebuke of Prime
Minister Stephen Harper's foreign investment policy on Friday,
saying uncertainty over the rules was taking a serious toll on
investment by foreigners.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford was speaking a week after
Harper said it would be "foolish" for the Canadian government to
provide absolute clarity on the rules because it needed some
discretion in considering takeover bids.
After a meeting of provincial premiers, which called for
greater clarity on the rules, she told reporters that the rules
had changed so often and so unilaterally that they were
deterring foreign investors.
"It's too easy to say there needs to be a little bit of
uncertainty. There is too much uncertainty right now," Redford
Harper brought in new rules in December as he allowed
China's CNOOC Ltd to buy domestic energy company Nexen
Inc despite unhappiness among some legislators in the ruling
Conservative Party, who did not like the idea of Chinese
state-owned enterprise scooping up Canadian energy assets.
He announced that henceforth state-owned companies would be
able to buy majority stakes in Canadian oil sands only in
"This isn't just about state-owned enterprises in China.
Unfortunately many of us who are looking to equity firms in
different parts of the world have heard commentary that there's
so much uncertainty right now with respect to the rules in
Canada that it's giving them pause," Redford said.
The premier added that these were "sophisticated investors
who understand that there's always going to be a little give and
take. But the rules have been changing so quickly and so
unilaterally in Canada for far too long."
Redford said there had been a "drastic drop in volume" of
merger and acquisition activity from foreign investors in the
Redford is from the provincial Progressive Conservative
Party, part of the same family as the federal Conservative Party
but widely seen as closer to the center.
Her remarks were the strongest public comments among the 10
provincial premiers, which agreed as a group on the need to
reassure international investors that Canada remains open to
They asked the federal government to define more clearly key
procedures under the Investment Canada Act, and to publish the
reasons for declining or accepting foreign investments.
Peter Julian of the left-of-center federal New Democrats,
said of her remarks: "What we have is another messed up economic
file from the Conservatives that does not provide clarity. It
does not have foreign or Canadian investors' confidence."
Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald said the rules had been
clarified but he stuck with the message that the government
still needed latitude in deciding which investments to accept.
"Canada welcomes and encourages foreign investment and we
are always prepared to talk with investors, but the government
will always retain its ability to exercise discretion," he said
in an email to Reuters.