There's nothing that the Chinese government likes more than Western leaders dropping all that human rights stuff and instead coming around to kowtow before them, as Steven Harper will do with President Hu Jintao this week. The Chinese government is so pleased, it will even give him the panda treatment, freeing up two bears to visit the Toronto zoo.
And what has brought about this change? In a word: Oil.
A few years ago, the Chinese government was definitely not in the panda mood. Its pipeline to the tar sands across Northern B.C. was going nowhere, seemingly unloved by Harper who instead had the audacity to meet with the Dalai Lama, that notorious "splittist" still carrying on about how his homeland has been invaded and his people violently persecuted, even today.
PetroChina ended its agreement with Enbridge and the message was sent that Ottawa needed to do more to get the pipeline done.
Fast forward a few years and Enbridge puts together a secretive $100 million war fund from Chinese state oil companies and others to mount a regulatory and public relations push for the pipeline. But, has Harper heard the lesson? Has Harper heard his Hu?
Absolutely. About a month ago, the Harper government and its agents unleashed a bully campaign on behalf of China's pipeline, attacking opponents, discrediting Canadian voices, and even financially threatening a charity that supports one of the critics.
Team Harper's labelling of critics as "foreign radicals" would resonate with his Chinese hosts who use similar bully rhetoric, although it may also make them nervous considering all that Chinese money that has gone into Enbridge's lobbying campaign inside Canada. Harper can console them on this point though: Hypocrisy does not apply to those uninterested in self-reflection.
So Harper has heard his Hu and is now fully engaged on his behalf. Harper tries to wrap this pipeline up in language about Canada's "national interest," but allows no definition of that term that does not coincide exactly with what the tar sands industry wants, which is mindless expansion at any cost.
Yet Harper is unlikely to inform his hosts that despite his best efforts, the democracy called Canada is not ready to rubber stamp this pipeline just yet. He probably won't say that First Nations remain vehemently opposed and can at the very least tie the project up in court for many years. He also won't say that his bullying is backfiring, or that British Columbia simply doesn't want the pipeline and could very well elect a government that won't let it happen.
Overall, Canadians will be happy to see panda bears, but they want even more to protect their very own spirit bears from oil spills and that means no tar sands pipeline to China.
More importantly, they want a government that doesn't sell out Canadian values -- going from supporting victims like the Dalai Lama to bullying its own people -- all to promote a dirty product that is stealing the future from our children.
Here are a few details of the major investment deal coming soon between Canada and China, as well as a list of what CBC chief political correspondent Terry Milewski calls a "small blizzard of incremental agreements," signed in Beijing. <em>With files from CBC</em>. (Diego Azubel-PoolGetty Images)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement (FIPA) between Canada and China the first "comprehensive economic agreement" between the two countries. In fact, what was signed by Harper and Chinese Premier Wen Jaibao in Beijing is not the final deal, but a declaration of intent: Now it must be legally reviewed and ratified by both governments, which for Canada will mean a debate in the House of Commons. Once both countries complete this process, it will need to be formally signed to take effect. This deal will protect Canadians investing in China, as well as Chinese investors in Canada, from "discriminatory and arbitrary practices." Once in place, investors can have more confidence that rules will be enforced and valuable business deals will be subject to predictable legal practices. Harper told reporters in Beijing he "absolutely" expected that it will make a "practical difference." "The agreement does not override existing Canadian law in regard to foreign investment and foreign investment review," Harper said. "Those laws remain in place." Negotiations for this agreement took 18 years, and key players in manufacturing, mining and the financial sectors were consulted to get to this stage. It's not unusual for Canada to have this kind of an agreement with a trading partner. FIPAs are in force with 24 other countries that trade with Canada, and active negotiations are underway with 10 other countries, according to the government's announcement. (Diego Azubel-PoolGetty Images)
(AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)
- A new protocol, building on a 2010 agreement to restore Canada's market access to the Chinese market for Canadian beef following the 2003 BSE outbreak and resulting border closures, to allow industrial beef tallow (fat) to be imported for the first time in almost a decade. China used to be Canada's top export market for tallow ($31 million in 2002), and now Canada has a shot at a share of the $400 million in tallow China imports from around the world. - A memorandum of understanding (MOU) on canola research, to address a recent fungal disease in canola and rapeseed that threatens Canada's valuable trading relationship with China in canola. - On Tuesday, Chinese aquaculture feed company Tongwei announced it will increase its purchase of Canadian canola by up to $240 million per year by 2015. (DAVID BUSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
- A MOU between Natural Resources Canada and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to collaborate on scientific research on sustainable development of natural resources. The government release touts benefits including new technologies for resource firms, carbon emissions reduction strategies, reduced environmental impacts and natural hazards from resource development, and new opportunities for Canadian suppliers of equipment and services. - A MOU spelling out a "framework" for Parks Canada and China's state forestry administration to collaborate and share scientific expertise in the management of national parks, natural reserves and other protected areas. The agreement includes language around ecological restoration, conservation measures for endangered wildlife, wetlands development, and the preservation of forests and wetlands. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/47096398@N08/" target="_hplink">Flickr: eleephotography</a>)
- A continuation of the MOU, first signed in 2001 and renewed in 2006, on energy co-operation to "engage China on energy issues" through a Canada-China joint working group on energy co-operation, chaired by Natural Resources Canada and China's national energy administration, which is responsible for Chinese energy policy. The working group oversees joint research projects, exchange of expertise, and co-operation between energy companies in both countries, including the promotion of energy efficiency and renewables. It aims to both attract capital investment and improve market access for Canadian energy resources and technology. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
- Approval of seven projects, valued at $10 million, under the Canada-China framework for co-operation on science and technology and innovation, including: a diagnostic kit for acute kidney injuries, a wind energy seawater desalination system, a waste heat-recovery system to help oil refineries consume less fuel, new solar cells for renewable energy panels, a real-time multi-sensor navigational tracking device for hand-held devices, a blue-green algae bloom warning system and "next generation" large-scale geographic information systems. - Two more calls for proposals, valued at $18 million ($9 million from each country) for joint research under the same framework. These proposals are for the development of "innovations with high commercial potential" in the areas of human vaccines and clean automotive transportation. The Canada-China joint committee on science and technology, made up of individuals from industry, academia and government, sets the priorities and oversees these projects. (To date, 21 projects ranging from nuclear power to AIDS drugs, to clean technologies for pulp and paper have received some $28 million in funding.) (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
- A renewed MOU extending and modifying the Canada-China scholars' exchange program, which has seen 900 students travel between Canada and China since 1973. New eligibility rules and scholarships will be in place for the next round of competitions in 2012, including eight to 12 Canadian scholarships for Chinese professionals and 20 awards for Canadian university students. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/plutor/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Plutor</a>)