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Canadian prosperity depends on foreign investment: Mulroney

Former prime minister suggests investment by foreign companies is necessary to further develop Western Canada.


October 24, 2012
by The Canadian Press

CALGARY—Canada—and especially the West—can’t function without foreign investment, said former prime minister Brian Mulroney as observers were still digesting Ottawa’s surprise rejection of a Malaysian company’s takeover of Calgary-based Progress Energy Resources.

“The oil and gas industry requires massive foreign investment to develop the oil sands and other major projects,” Mulroney told reporters before delivering a speech in Calgary hosted by St. Francis Xavier University.

“So obviously I’m very much in favour of foreign investment because it also gives the opportunity to Canadians to invest elsewhere around the world, which Canadians do in huge degrees and vast sums. So you need that freedom of movement.”

While in office, Mulroney scrapped the Foreign Investment Review Agency in 1985 and brought in the Investment Canada Act—the legislation under which Malaysian state-owned Petronas was rebuffed and China National Offshore Oil Co’s controversial $15.1-billion takeover of Calgary-based Nexen Inc. is currently being weighed.

“The government appears to be looking for a little running room so as to bring in a new piece of legislation that would cover the new circumstances that have developed in the last 25 years in respect of foreign investment,” he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised on Monday to issue new guidelines “soon” on foreign takeovers amid growing unease following his government’s rejection of the Progress deal.

There is still hope Petronas and Progress may still get their deal done, as Industry Minister Christian Paradis gave them 30 days to address problems and send their proposal back to Ottawa.

In his speech, Mulroney touted the free trade deal his government signed with the US about 25 years ago—particularly the economic benefits to Alberta.

Recently deceased former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed—“perhaps the greatest Albertan of them all,” according to Mulroney—was a strong proponent of free trade, he noted.

Mulroney recalled hearing the mantra “the West wants in” decades ago, but said the West was already in during his time in office.

“That chant became part of the mythology of Canadian politics in which, like all myths, the truth became the first and most important victim. And why? Because the West was in fact already in and had been since the day our government took office on September 17th, 1984.”

©The Canadian Press