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Canadians open to foreign investment, except from China

 Canadians are generally open to foreign investment, as long as it doesn’t come from China, according to the latest poll from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

Photograph by: PETER PARKS , AFP/Getty Images

Canadians are generally open to foreign investment, as long as it doesn’t come from China, according to the latest poll from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

British Columbians, while sharing the nationwide concern about Chinese investment, are particularly worried about environmental issues when it comes to investment.

“More than any other province, British Columbians view investment through the lens of environmental concerns,” concludes the foundation’s analysis of a poll of 1,548 Canadians, including 225 from B.C. and Yukon. The poll asked about views toward investment from the U.S. and four key Asian economies – China, Japan, India and South Korea. A large majority of respondents (in the 77-78 per cent range) view American and Japanese investment positively, 67 per cent put their thumbs up to investment from South Korea, and 59 per cent like the idea of Indian firms spending their money in Canada.

“Only in the case of China are opinions more mixed,” the foundation says in its analysis, noting that 42 per cent of respondents were favourable compared with 49 per cent who were opposed.

And 56 per cent of Canadian respondents said there was “too much” investment from China, compared with 28 per cent who felt that way about the U.S., 19 per cent for India, 13 per cent for South Korea and just 10 per cent for Japan.

Canadians are “open to Asian investment, but cautious of big, new investors like China that have yet to prove themselves in the minds of many Canadians.”

The report suggests a number of factors drive the negative views, including concerns

– particularly in Alberta – about investment by state-owned Chinese firms in the oil and gas industry. Other factors that troubled Canadians were corruption, national security, the use of temporary foreign workers in Canada, and “loss of control of our resources.” It also noted that while Canadians who are knowledgeable about foreign investment tend to generally support it, that doesn’t apply to China. Those who know the most about the subject are far less likely to support investment from China as they are from other countries cited in the survey.

The poll found that Canadians assume that one-quarter of all direct foreign investment in Canada comes from China, according to the poll. The actual number in 2013 was $20.4 billion, or three per cent of the total, which was up from under $1 billion in 2003.

When British Columbians were asked about possible concerns about foreign investment, almost half – 47 per cent – cited “environmental damage.” That was the highest of any province and well above the national average of 40 per cent.

B.C. respondents were also more likely than other Canadians to say that foreign investors pay their workers in Canada less than Canadian-owned companies, with 25 per cent of British Columbians taking that position compared with a national average of 20 per cent.

And 17 per cent of B.C. respondents say foreign companies in Canada aren’t subject to Canadian laws, the highest of any region and well above the national average of 12 per cent.

The report doesn’t single out events that may have shaped public attitudes, like the plan by Chinese commercial interests to mine coal in northeastern B.C. using Chinese nationals earning wages which, according to union officials, were less than the prevailing Canadian wages.

The 2015 poll was conducted by Ekos Research between March 24 and April 6 and is considered accurate to within 2.5 percentage points, according to the pollster. The error margin for the B.C. sub-sample is plus or minus 6.5 percentage points.




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