Off-shore investments still questionable

Quesnel residents must be delighted to learn that Canfor, while closing its mill in that city, plans to invest in a new mill in China.

Quesnel residents must be delighted to learn that  Canfor, while closing its mill in that city, plans to invest in a new mill  in China.

This new mill will  import lumber from British Columbia and cut it into metric sizes for Chinese buyers.

Private companies do what they have to do to make a profit, but why are our provincial and federal governments so determined  to give our natural resources to foreign interests, particularly Asian state-owned interests?

For example, PetroChina, Sinopec, CNOOC and Petronas have, or will have, big investments in BC’s Liquid Natural Gas industry, including export markets and domestic distribution. The rationale is that these companies will provide jobs and pay taxes to benefit British Columbians. I’d like to know if it’s OK for foreign governments to invest in our natural resources, why don’t our own governments do it themselves?

What’s missing — money or business expertise? If the B.C. government is lacking both, why can’t Premier Clark do a trade mission here at home to encourage B.C. companies to invest in our oil, natural gas, logs, metals, and water resources?

One issue with foreign investment is that  our federal government keeps signing free trade agreements which give foreign companies the right to sue if our rules interfere with their profits, and they often do.

Times change, or at least politicians do. Back in the 1980s, Premier Bill Bennett insisted  B.C. was not for sale. He interpreted the BNA act as saying “those people who choose to live in a province of our country shall have perpetual ownership and control of all of the province’s natural resources.”

His successors have had different ideas and U.S.-based companies began gobbling B.C. resources shortly after Mr. Bennett left politics. Since then foreign state-owned companies have been invited to join the feast.

The questions are, where will it end, and who will benefit in the long term?

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.