UPDATE 1-Alberta to Canada's Harper: Clarify foreign investment rules

Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:20pm EST
 
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO Nov 15 (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's main oil-producing province issued a rare direct rebuke of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's foreign investment policy on Friday, saying uncertainty over the rules was taking a serious toll on investment by foreigners.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford was speaking a week after Harper said it would be "foolish" for the Canadian government to provide absolute clarity on the rules because it needed some discretion in considering takeover bids.

After a meeting of provincial premiers, which called for greater clarity on the rules, she told reporters that the rules had changed so often and so unilaterally that they were deterring foreign investors.

"It's too easy to say there needs to be a little bit of uncertainty. There is too much uncertainty right now," Redford said.

Harper brought in new rules in December as he allowed China's CNOOC Ltd to buy domestic energy company Nexen Inc despite unhappiness among some legislators in the ruling Conservative Party, who did not like the idea of Chinese state-owned enterprise scooping up Canadian energy assets.

He announced that henceforth state-owned companies would be able to buy majority stakes in Canadian oil sands only in exceptional circumstances.

"This isn't just about state-owned enterprises in China. Unfortunately many of us who are looking to equity firms in different parts of the world have heard commentary that there's so much uncertainty right now with respect to the rules in Canada that it's giving them pause," Redford said.   Continued...