China not welcome as irrigation investor

The Western Producer editorial of Jan. 15 advocating the infusion of foreign and pension fund investment in Saskatchewan’s irrigation infrastructure requires some re-thinking.

Undoubtedly, Saskatchewan’s potential for expanded irrigation is an opportunity that must be pursued. That logic is self-evident. How it can be achieved is the issue.

First, let’s set aside any involvement by the People’s Republic of China or Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, China is investing heavily in Africa and other under-developed nations, but its agenda is self serving. Its strategy is to capture and exploit all of the agricultural resources it can to establish food security for China.

Why would we want China to pursue that same agenda here in Canada?

Its human rights record is abysmal. Its commercial practices are unprincipled: cyber espionage, patent theft and currency manipulation. Its wealth has been created out of worker exploitation and environmental destruction.

China is considered the most corrupt of wealthy nations. The National Bank of China published a report in 2009 that revealed that 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product was being stolen by bureaucrats and moved out of the country for investment. It is well known that much of the Saskatchewan farmland purchases by permanent residents from China are funded by money stolen from the Chinese people.

And Saudi Arabia?

The royals controlling that country behead more people than ISIS. Women aren’t allowed to drive. The Saudi royal family has financed Al Qaeda terrorism around the world.

Petroleum market experts are convinced the oil price crash has been orchestrated by the Saudis to sabotage Canada’s oilsands production. They want North America to be dependent on Mideast oil and are apparently prepared to keep crude oil prices low enough, for long enough, to break our high cost producers.

The Western Producer’s editorial board pronounces that Canada cannot afford to fund its own infrastructure requirements. Why? We are one of the world’s wealthiest nations. What we are lacking is the vision and the determination — not the capacity.

The current governments in Ottawa and Regina are disinclined to expand government debt. However, public investment in critical infrastructure should not be equated to public debt created by deficit budgeting. As a capital investment, it can be paid for over time.

With the Bank of Canada interest rate now set at .75 percent, the federal government has the capacity and opportunity to borrow over the long term to put in place the infrastructure critical to our ascendancy as a world food power.

Yes, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds are an additional possible source of support. Perhaps Norway’s trillion dollar heritage fund achieved through shrewd management of its natural resources could participate.

However, the bottom line is that Saskatchewan’s irrigation potential should be reserved for our farmers and communities and not given away to foreign interests.

Dan Patterson is a former chair of the Saskatchewan Farm Land Security Board.

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