Joseph Conrad was not noted for his sense of humour. But, if he were writing Heart of Darkness at the beginning of the 21st century, instead of at the end of the 19th, Mr. Kurtz' last words might be these. Certainly, China's bid for Nexen Energy is fraught with irony. Jeffrey Simpson writes:
For those with a sense of history, a delicious irony attends the CNOOC bid and the largely enthusiastic reaction it has received from the provincial government and the Alberta oil patch.
Three decades ago, these same voices excoriated the creation of a Canadian state-owned energy company, Petro-Canada, calling its Calgary headquarters “Red Square” and denouncing it as a government-favoured intruder in the midst of free-enterprise heaven. When a Chinese SOE enters the field some decades later, its arrival is greeted with open arms.
Brian Mulroney's Conservatives put an end to Canada's state owned oil company. Now Stephen Harper's Conservatives must decide whether a foreign state owned company should be allowed into the oil patch. And Harper is in a bind:
Blocking the CNOOC takeover would imperil both the improved relations and the possibility of a free-trade negotiation, something the Chinese government had proposed. Mr. Harper’s government has also boasted about Canada welcoming foreign investment and opposing protectionism – except when it stopped the Australian firm BHP Billiton Ltd. from taking over Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan.
Harper didn't allow a privately owned Australian company into Canada's resource rich economy. Too many votes -- in his own backyard -- were at stake. Who knows what he will do now?