Another day, another Canadian oil company swallowed up by its foreign competitors. Oh well, right?
Here’s a fun fact from history: Stephen Harper used to be a Liberal activist, even after he moved to Alberta. He abandoned Trudeau over the National Energy Policy, and the NEP still provokes howls of outrage from right-wingers across the country. No National Energy Plan for Canada. On the other hand, if the Chinese approach us and offer to buy out the oil patch to serve their National Energy Plan? Well, full steam ahead! The mind boggles.
And it’s not just Harper. Here’s John Ibbitson, who would join most of his colleagues in even louder howls of outrage if the government ever, ever, ever nationalized an industry, or, just for example, started up a state-owned oil company:
Uncomfortably, [the Chinese] practice a form of state capitalism, with corporations operating more or less independently, but with government often the owner rather than simply the regulator. It’s not our way; it may not be the best way for China and other economies over time. But right now it’s the way of the world.
Tell me something, John. If “right now the way of the world” is to develop natural resources using government-owned companies, then why the hell doesn’t Canada have its own oil company anymore? Oh, we did. It used to be called Petro-Canada. It was created by the Trudeau Liberals and privatized by the Chretien Liberals. You know, those far-left big-state socialists that we hear so much about from the right.
On the same subject, it’s worth pointing out that when the immeasurably corrupt Treasury Board President Tony Clement announced a new museum dedicated to a Canadian communist who spent his career working as a doctor in revolutionary China, the right went ape-shit. Clement took to Twitter to defend himself by condemning Canadian aid workers who live in communist countries today, because as we all know, what was right yesterday is wrong today. So let me get the right-wing logic straight: Communist doctors bad. Communist oil companies good.
But I’m not just trying to make a petty political point here. If we want to be a “petro-state,” which journalists of almost all stripes are now advocating for some idiotic reason, then we need to behave like one. And petro-states have state-run oil companies. Some of them don’t really do anything other than enter into required partnerships with foreign oil companies — so that the government always has a steady revenue stream from the oil patch, taxes or no taxes. Some of them are more active, like China’s CNOOC. This strategy tends to make petro-states fabulously wealthy. Witness Norway and most of the states in the Middle East.
There’s another disturbing consequence to being a “petro-state”, though. Let’s say we approve all the current projects. Then, we’ll have an oil-patch that is almost 100% foreign-owned, largely a joint venture between American and Chinese oil companies (with Shell and Statoil thrown in for good measure). There’s one pipeline running south to the United States, and there’s another pipeline running west towards China. And then, at some point in the future, we decide to do any of the following: (a) raise taxes on oil companies; (b) regulate the industry in a far-too-late and probably futile attempt to “save the climate”; (c) require the oil industry to employ a certain percentage of Canadians, or even be a certain percentage Canadian-owned; or (d) anything else that would annoy the foreign oil companies.
And then what happens?
The record is not good on the sovereignty and the prosperity of “petro-states.” The following are “petro-states” in the grand new category of “success” that Canada is looking forward to: Saudi Arabia. Iran. Iraq. Qatar. United Arab Emirates. Venezuela. Norway. Kuwait. Kazakhstan. And so on.
Excited, yet? There’s one stable democracy on that list, other than Canada. The United States has sponsored military coups in at least two of them, sponsored totalitarian dictatorships in most of the rest. These governments know what side their bread is buttered on. They create their state-owned oil companies, their elites get a cut of the foreign companies’ profits from their respective oil fields, and most of the rest of the people live in poverty. That’s Canada’s future, ladies and gentlemen.
And the Nexen deal isn’t the beginning; we’re too late in the game to stop now except with decisive government action. CNOOC was already active in the oil patch, and it’s not the only foreign state-owned company there. It’s not even the only Chinese one. To all extents and purposes short of outright nationalization, Canada has already lost the oil patch.
And in the meantime, do you think we should be worried about the temperatures in this country, or is selling oil to communists a bigger priority?
That one’s Alert. Find your city here.Tweet