Andrew Nikiforuk’s latest piece in The Tyee argues that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (inadvertently) explains the logic of Stephen Harper’s approval of the sale of Canadian oil companies to China. The Wall Street Journal suggests that Canadian bitumen may no longer be the hot commodity that it was, and Nikiforuk posits that tar sands developers and the Harper government have realized this and are using Chinese foreign investment to stave off economic stagnation in the tar sands – despite the fact that the Nexen buyout was rubber-stamped against the voice of Canadian public opinion.
Bitumen mining projects are not viable without a global oil price higher than $75 a barrel, states Nikiforuk, and with a decline in this global price, the oil sands will not be able to sustain the level of growth that has been forecasted without the infusion of billions of dollars of investment. It would seem that Chinese foreign investment is the logical answer to this problem.
However, by dealing in this way, Nikiforuk argues, Harper has “seemingly abandoned his own conscience on China.” A new foreign policy document produced by the Foreign Affairs Department posits that “to succeed [Canada] will need to pursue political relationships in tandem with economic interests even where political interests or values may not align,” and whereas several years ago Harper even refused to attend the Beijing Olympics because of China’s human rights record, he is now staking the future of Canada’s bitumen-driven economy on “a corrupt state that employs virtual slaves in its factories, jails dissidents, disparages the United States and flaunts the rule of law.”