The NDP refused to say whether it would support China’s bid to acquire a Calgary-based oil producer on Thursday but that didn’t stop them from complaining about how the Conservatives are handling the proposal.
The party, traditionally opposed to major foreign takeovers, has not decided if it opposes China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC)’s $15-billion proposal to take over Nexen Inc. CNOOC is a Chinese-state owned company.
"We are opposed to a transaction taking place without a transparent review process and without the new rules they have committed to. Have we taken a position on it? Not yet," the NDP’s energy and resource critic Peter Julian told reporters.
The NDP said more transparency is needed and suggests the feds appear ready to rubber stamp the bid. The proposed takeover is currently under review by cabinet.
"Of course we’d be taking a position, but we think the Conservatives already have and that’s perhaps a fundamental difference between us and them," Julian said, citing the NDP has been meeting with stakeholders to discuss the proposal.
According to rules outlined in the Investment Canada Act, foreign takeovers must be of "net benefit" to the country. A 45-day review of the CNOOC’s proposal is now underway, but a 30-day extension can be granted.
The NDP says the government needs to clearly define what "net benefit" means after it nixed a bid from an Australian company that wished to take over Saskatchewan-based Potash Corp. almost two years ago.
The Opposition has also asked for "public hearings" on CNOOC’s proposal because it says the Tories have refused discussions at the industry and natural resource committees.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last week the government would only approve the deal if it met specific conditions.
"Our government will take the time we have to properly scrutinize this transaction and to assess that if it is to go ahead, it will only go ahead if it is in the best long-term interest of the Canadian economy. Not just net benefit for Canada, but in the best long-term interest of the Canadian economy," Harper said in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, last Thursday.
A recent Abacus Data poll conducted for QMI Agency revealed six in 10 Canadians think the government should reject the proposed takeover.
— with files from David Akin
On Twitter: @kkirkup