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British Columbia rushes approval of Anbang Insurance purchase of retirement homes

The Council of Canadians opposes the Trudeau government’s approval of Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group purchasing the Retirement Concepts chain of twenty-four seniors care facilities in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.

That decision was announced on February 21, the day after exploratory talks for a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement began in Beijing.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives had noted, “The deal may yet fall through [given] various B.C. regional health authorities have still to decide whether operating licences should be granted to the new owners.”

But this morning The Globe and Mail reports, “The sale of British Columbia’s largest provider of seniors’ care to a Chinese insurance conglomerate has cleared the last hurdles. B.C. health officials have granted all the required licences to allow the sale of Retirement Concepts to a subsidiary of Anbang Insurance. It took a little more than a week after Ottawa approved the sale for the province to complete its ‘due diligence’ reviews and issue the new licences for 20 seniors’ care facilities across the province. That timeline has raised concerns from public-health-care advocates.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow tweeted “There are huge trade implications here” just after the Trudeau government approved the sale of the chain of retirement homes.

Barlow was referring to the controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) passed by the Harper Conservative government and the Liberal opposition led by Justin Trudeau in 2014.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives researchers Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew have highlighted, “[FIPA] provides Cedar Tree, and its Anbang backers, an extrajudicial means to contest new regulations, such as those to protect vulnerable seniors, ensure quality of care or maintain adequate training and staffing levels in the fast-growing private retirement home industry.”

They add, “If an established Chinese investor objects to stronger regulations (e.g., stricter training requirements, staffing levels or standards of care in retirement homes), the FIPA gives it the option to sue the Canadian government before unaccountable tribunals that are outside the Canadian legal system and courts. Such tribunals are not concerned with whether those regulations are consistent with Canadian law and norms, but only whether they were ‘necessary’, applied in an ‘arbitrary’ manner or violate some other aspect of the FIPA’s broadly worded investor rights.”

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the sale of these retirement homes and is disappointed by the lack of public process and the speed at which both the federal and provincial governments made their decision on a matter that has serious implications for the level of care provided to seniors in this country.