On Monday, in a strange twist of business, the Stoney Nakoda First Nation signed a huge agreement with a Chinese private company to develop the oil & gas deposits located on their lands. Located on four different reserves just outside Stampede City, the Stoney Nakoda First Nation—actually composed of many smaller cooperating nations, the Stoney, the Bearspaw, the Chiniki, and the Wesley—have committed approximately 49,000 hectares of land to this joint venture with the Hong-Kong based Huatong Petrochemical Holdings Ltd. While Huatong would provide all the necessary funding, Nakoda Oil & Gas Inc. would be serving as the primary operator for the joint venture. Now, this all sounds vaguely conniving, but, it is likely because my only previous experience between Native Canadian/American and Chinese businessmen can be summed up in a few episodes of House of Cards (it is just a coincidence that the Stoney Nakoda First Nation owns a casino on the side, right?).
However, barring the fact that this whole story could easily be tied into a theory about Stephen Harper being Frank Underwood, it is still hard not to get a sense that there is a conflict of interest at the heart of the matter. I mean, I was under the impression that these sorts of dealings were going to be taken off the table after Stephen Harper put those foreign acquisition regulations into place following the Nexen deal with CNOOC last year. Oh, but wait… it was only for state-owned companies. After all, we don’t want the Communists to own us! But, we will still gladly accept money if it is from a particularly steely entrepreneur! Not a problem. Case closed.
Except anyone who believes that a Chinese company is able to grow to such an extent so as to embark on multimillion dollar projects overseas without the help of Chinese government officials should probably be inspected for lobotomy scars. In an article released just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal even analyses some of the major Canadian energy projects that may be potentially embroiled in Chinese scandals—how much specificity can one ask for? Furthermore, any attempts to do serious research into the company (by Googling the company’s name) leads to nothing more than a labyrinth of half-constructed “.cn” pages, knock-off retail products, and the news articles. It might be a “private company” on paper but it is a well-curated public company behind doors. Which doors? The doors to Zhongnanhai, where Xi Jinping probably just gleefully exclaimed, ‘Thanks Steve!” before pouring beaver tears over breakfast bun cakes (presumably a little known delicacy).
But, why blame Stephen Harper? Blame is a strong word. However, it would be naive to think that he was not involved. After all, while it seems that the Stoney Nakoda First Nations is mostly self-reliant, does it not still reap millions of dollars of extraordinary benefits from the Canadian government? As someone must have said before, “Nobody who gets to suck from a tit that big ever really gets a chance to wean off of it…”
Now, Harper is not the kind of parent that would continue to breastfeed well into a kid’s early twenties, but, neither is he the kind of parent to slack off when an opportunity to sell the kid off as a cash cow presents itself. As we have seen with the Canada-China FIPA, Harper will literally clear any hurdle for the Chinese as long as it brings in money… And pandas.
At the end of the day, what really bothers me is this: after fighting for centuries to kick the Europeans out, this First Nation would elect to finally sell its land rights to a Chinese firm. I bet if those Sioux ancestors were alive right now they would need more than a few hits from the peace pipe to stop themselves from going into conniptions. Yet, seeing as the very reason why so many people, companies, and resource-starved empires are attracted to Canada is because we respect free enterprise, perhaps it is best if we just went with the old Alberta motto — “Onward.”