Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Foreign Takeover of Canada

Cardinal47 is not alone in worrying about a possible foreign takeover of Canada. There has been a lot of hand wringing about it of late. But really, is "Where is Pierre Trudeau when we need him?" the best we can come up with?

If you look at sheer numbers, you could probably make the case that Canadian firms are taking over more foreign firms than the number of foreign takeovers of Canadian firms. However, since Canadian takeovers tend to be considerably smaller in size, in dollar terms, it is probably the other way around.

Now the curious thing about all this is that Canada is running a big surplus on the current account, which means we are exporting capital. The problem is that Canadian foreign investment tends to be of the portfolio variety, not direct investment which gives one effective control.

What is it that makes our corporate elites so timid and risk averse? I would suggest it is past policies like FIRA and other measures that have shielded our businesses from competition. As a result, we just aren't very good capitalists.

Raising the shields is not going to make us better. Quite the opposite. However, in bringing down the barriers, we are likely to get a little bloody. It won't be pretty at first. But we are going to have to learn to compete globally or get used to being second rate.