Thursday, November 4, 2010

Going To Pot?

"Stupid is as stupid does", says Forrest Gump.  First, the government blind-sided investors with the reversal of their position on income trusts.  Then, the Alberta provincial government drove energy companies out of the province with punitive increases in royalties. After that the government blocked the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler for (seemingly valid) reasons of national security.  Now our government has stepped in to block the sale of Potash Corporation.  This, while extolling the virtues of a "business friendly" environment.  Do they not understand that foreign investors, like kids, listen to nothing we say and notice everything we do.  After all, the way to tell when all too many politicians are lying is when their lips are moving.

While we can argue whether, or not, we are business friendly, we cannot say we are investment friendly.

Personally, I did not want the BHP Billiton deal to be accepted.  I thought the bid was too low.  I felt BHP was trying to take advantage of the situation and steal a valuable resource at a rock bottom price.  But, it doesn't matter what I think, or necessarily what some government minister thinks.  The only people with a say in the matter should be the share holders.  If, collectively, they didn't think the deal was fair, then it is up to them to say so.

It was abundantly clear that public sentiment was not in favour of this deal.  What bothers me, though, is any government that would make choices that further their own political agenda, regardless of the impact on shareholders and Canada's reputation at large.  I know people will say it doesn't make any difference in the long run, and perhaps it won't.  It isn't this one incident that concerns me, however.  It is the growing trend of saying one thing while actually doing another.

I even appreciate the patriotism that compels people to want to hold onto this valuable Canadian resource.  Whoops, did I say Canadian?  Did anyone point out the fact it is already an American company, with a head office in the U.S.?  Different politicians and labour leaders were quick to point out that other jurisdictions would never allow such an important national resource to be taken over.  My question to them is, "How is that working for their economies?"  Would you rather adopt the Russian economy?  How about the U.S.?  Perhaps any of the European economies, most especially Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain, or the U.K.?  I have to believe one of the most important catalysts to growth in this country has been, and is, foreign investment.

We should all demand governments with vision, one's not afraid to deviate from the herd and stand for real principles and not just follow public opinion of the day.  Not that I believe Canada is the only country to blame.  If the world economy is currently on a downswing, as anybody but those trying to hawk debt would believe, protectionism is surely alive, well, and on the spread.  Do we really want to repeat the mistakes of the past?  As Forrest would say, that would just be stupid!

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