Editorial — No talk on trade treaty

Information on a Canada-China trade treaty has been very short in supply.

Virtually every MLA’s office in B.C. was targeted by protesters on Wednesday, as opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline intensifies. These protests follow a protest outside the Parliament Buildings in Victoria last Monday, Oct. 22.

The level of opposition to the pipeline project continues to mount. Opposition crosses almost all divides, be they political, age, gender or geographic. In northern B.C., where people have traditionally supported resource-based projects much more strongly than in the Lower Mainland, opposition is just as intense as it is in this area.

While it seems unlikely that Northern Gateway will proceed, given not just the massive opposition but also an almost complete lack of support from First Nations, who legally have enormous clout over projects such as these, there is no lack of people willing to step up to the plate and object.

Unfortunately, they seem to be ignoring another looming policy decision that may have even more of an effect on B.C. resource projects.

The federal government is about to ratify a Canada-China investment treaty. While the treaty grants some additional rights to Canadian companies doing business in China, it also grants sweeping additional authority to Chinese companies in Canada.

Details of this treaty have not been debated in the House of Commons and don’t have to be. While the opposition is now mounting a campaign against the treaty, the government points out the opposition has had four opposition days since the treaty was tabled and ignored it on each occasion.

It would be nice to know what actual powers this treaty will grant China and Chinese companies in Canada. If Northern Gateway were turned down, for example, and it was proposed by a Chinese company, what kind of recourse would it have?

How are disputes to be resolved? What kind of compensation is due to a Chinese company that feels it hasn’t received fair treatment from a provincial or local government? And how do state-owned Chinese companies fit into the puzzle?

The agreement may be very benign and not have the negative impact that some people are suggesting. The trouble is, no one really knows.

Many Chinese companies are very interested in Canadian resources. Citizens need to know how this treaty will affect the ability of Canadian governments to make decsions affecting those resources.