Canada opposition attacks government over CNOOC Nexen bid

Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:18pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's main opposition party criticized how the government is handling a $15.1 billion bid by China's CNOOC Ltd for Canadian oil producer Nexen Inc on Thursday, underlining how politically sensitive the matter has become.

The Conservative government is probing the offer -- China's richest foreign takeover bid yet -- to see if it is of net benefit to Canada.

Political sources say the cabinet is split over the CNOOC deal, in part because of concerns that China would gain more control over Canada's energy patch.

The left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which has long complained that the net benefit test is too opaque, demanded open hearings into the proposed takeover and noted that two former aides to Prime Minister Stephen Harper were lobbying the government on behalf of CNOOC.

Peter Julian, the party's natural resources spokesman, cited an online Abacus Data poll last week that found that 57 percent of respondents opposed the deal.

"When we look at how the Conservatives seem to be approaching this takeover, they seem to be doing it in a non-transparent and irresponsible way," Julian told a news conference.

"There are more and more Canadians who are concerned about this takeover ... we believe it is in the public interest to have a transparent and thorough review."

Although Ottawa is supposed to say nothing during the review period, Harper made clear last week that reciprocity and Canadian public opinion would be important factors in the government's decision.   Continued...

A woman walks into the Nexen building in downtown Calgary, Alberta, July 23, 2012. REUTERS/Todd Korol