Apparently drawing inspiration from the opening lines of British stand-up comedian Alexie Sayle’s 1985 hit, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has again waded into the issue of foreign investment in Canada.  Harper’s is the only government to have used the Investment Canada Act to reject an announced acquisition of a Canadian business, first in 2008 and then again in 2010. Following the latter, BHP Billiton’s proposed hostile take-over of Potash Corporation, the government announced its intention to “clarify” the criteria used to evaluate transactions.  More than a year later, no clarification has been provided.

Government officials, including the prime minister, have signalled that the BHP case should not be seen as evidence of a shift in policy toward a more stringent approach to foreign investment review.  However, Prime Minister Harper himself has made a number of public comments recently that call into question that assertion, including:

  • Telling Reuters that “hostile takeovers of key Canadian businesses” and “takeovers of critical technology that the government’s invested in” are “obviously…widely understood [as] not in this country’s interest.”