Just how much of the Canadian economy should be controlled by communists? Welcome to the question that captured much of the media's attention over the weekend (and apologies to any Reagan-era coma patients just joining us now).
To summarize: a couple months ago, the China National Offshore Oil Coporation, proud subsidiary of Glorious People's Republic, announced that it would like to purchase Calgary oil firm Nexen, proud subsidiary of red-blooded Albertan capitalism. In response, the Canadian federal government agreed to review CNOOC's request in a timely fashion and determine whether or not Nexen should accept, because this is of course is how a free market works when people want to buy things.
And now we're in that other standard phase of capitalist commerce -- the long national debate in which self-righteous media ideologues cajole the state's central planners to bend their economic decisions to various esoteric political opinions.
I for one, am opposed to this sale, declares Terrance Corcoran in the National Post. I mean, we didn't privatize Air Canada just to roll out the welcome mat for the Reds and their state-owned enterprises. In his view, SOEs are real SOBs since they "pose a value-destruction risk," and you know how Canadians love value. When the state runs stuff, says Terry, there's no incentive for cost-saving or efficiency, just a lot of late Christmas cards and demands to please use the next window. In short, if we "have sound economic and political reasons for rejecting Canadian SOEs, how can we embrace foreign SOEs?"
I'll tell you how, says fellow Postie Andrew Coyne -- because the Chinese are suckers. Once the commies buy Nexen, "the potential for mismanagement and value destruction ceases to be a concern for us, and instead becomes a concern for them: the taxpayers of China." So who cares if they fritter away all their profits on overpriced orange juice? It's Joe and Jane Dim-Sum who are getting fleeced, not Frank and Frannie Dogsled.
Yes, well, be that as it may, cautions the Toronto Star editorial Board, there's still the little matter of, oh, I dunno, a hostile communist superpower owning our oil.
"You don't have to be anti-China to worry that an entity that is effectively an instrument of Beijing's foreign and energy policies may not work to the best interests of Canadian shareholders, workers and citizens," they say, adding that Ottawa really needs to clarify its "muddy rules" -- which, as we may recall, are famously arbitrary -- about what kind of foreign firms should be permitted to have their way with our heaving natural bounty.
If you're praying for a quick end to all this China intrigue, rest assured, you're not alone. But with Ottawa's final word on the Nexen deal not scheduled 'til Remembrance Day, and a Chinese investment treaty still looming on the horizon... well, let's just say it wouldn't hurt to order takeout.
Remember back when it seemed like everyone and their dog wanted to be premier of Ontario? Yeah, me neither.
In what's fast becoming one of the more depressing trends in Canadain politics, the sudden resignation of Premier McGuinty seems to have triggered a mass exodus of his party's senior braintrust, with ministers scrambling to avoid catching the leadership bouquet faster than a wedding reception of self-actualized feminist spinsters.
In the last week alone, we've heard enthusiastic "no's" from Dwight Duncan, Chris Bentley, Yasir Naqvi, Jim Watson, and David Orazietti -- practically a who's who of high-profile Queen's Park insiders whose names we can all pretend to recognize.
Now to be fair, the Ontario Liberals are dire straights right now, so it's hardly unexpected that a sequence of top cabinet officers would be inclined to protect their long-term reputations by distancing themselves from an inceasingly unpopular administration in what could prove to be its final days.
Or, as Christina Blizzard in the Toronto Sun somewhat less elegantly put it, "Another day, another rat follows their leader jumping off the sinking ship."
Blizzy figures there's no real hope for the Ont-Libs going forward, so it's simply common sense for everyone "to bail now, rather than have voters kick their butts in an election expected in the spring." Like many in the press, she suspects the iron law of slim-pickins will probably wind up placing ex-minister Sandra Pupatello in charge, allowing her to follow in the footsteps of trailblazers like Kim Campbell and Rita Johnston in becoming Ontario's first female premier to lose office in a massive landslide.
Adam Radwanski in the Globe, meanwhile, thinks the Grits' thin front bench is a symbol of something darker than mere natuical rodent acrobatics. The McGuinty Administration has not merely made the premiership unattractive to its brightest stars, he writes, it's actively "wound up eating its own" and ruined the careers of once-promising men like Minister Bentley through rank "bureaucratic incompetence" like close-all-the-power-plants-in-swing-ridings-gate.
Anyhoo, the new premier won't be chosen 'till January of 2013, through an electoral system the Star's Bob Hepburn notes is the only one on this continent "that refuses to let all of its members vote directly for its leader through a one-person, one-vote selection system."
Such an "affront to modern democracy," Bob fumes, this idea that "barely 2,000 people" will get to select the next ruler of the country's largest province.
Now now, Bob, let's not go nuts. If current trends continue, I'm sure the number will be much lower.
Follow J.J. McCullough on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JJ_McCullough