10/24/2012 01:19 EDT | Updated 12/24/2012 05:12 EST

Albertans Wary Of Chinese Investment, Poll Suggests

A new poll released today by the University of Alberta's China Institute suggests the majority of Albertans don't like the idea of China buying up natural resources companies.

The poll comes as the federal government is poised to decide on a proposal from a Chinese state-owned company to buy Calgary-based energy company Nexen.

The poll, conducted about two weeks before the oil-giant CNOOC made its friendly bid for Nexen public on July 23, asked Albertans for their attitudes toward China. Topics included trade, investment and even learning to speak Chinese.

The telephone survey's 1,200 participants were split evenly between Calgary, Edmonton and the rest of Alberta.

The survey found 59 per cent were in favour of exporting energy to China, with just 17 per cent opposed and 24 per cent not sure, but that support started to drop when it came to Chinese investment in the oil patch.

Participants were evenly split (37 per cent in favour, 36 per cent opposed) on whether they liked the idea of China having partial ownership in an Alberta resource company, but the majority — 64 per cent — were against full ownership. Just 15 per cent supported full ownership by China, with 21 per cent neither supporting nor opposed.

The federal government is expected to say soon whether the CNOOC-Nexen deal can go ahead or not. The deal was approved by Nexen shareholders Sept. 20.

Industry Canada turned down another proposed takeover by a state-owned enterprise late last week, when it rejected a $6.38-billion bid by Malaysian-owned oil company Petronas for Progress Energy.

In commenting on the government's decision Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised new guidelines soon on these type of takeover bids.

The poll was conducted by the University of Alberta's Population Research Lab. It is considered accurate within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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