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NWT chapter opposes sale of seniors-care facilities to Chinese company, cites FIPPA concerns

A Retirement Concepts seniors home in Montreal.

The Council of Canadians Northwest Territories chapter has written federal Minister of Innovation Navdeep Bains to request an extension of his ministry’s review under the provisions of the Investment Canada Act of the Ambang Insurance Group’s proposed purchase of the Canadian assets of Retirement Concepts.

Retirement Concepts owns twenty-four seniors-care facilities in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.

The Globe and Mail reports, “A massive Chinese insurance company with a murky ownership structure is buying a majority stake in one of British Columbia’s biggest retirement home chains, a deal believed to exceed $1-billion that would give Beijing-based Anbang Insurance an important role in the delivery of health care in B.C. Anbang Insurance Group, which has emerged in recent years to launch a global buying spree, has cut a deal to buy Vancouver-based Retirement Concepts, a family-owned retirement home business established in 1988.”

The news article notes, “This foreign takeover is currently under scrutiny by the federal government’s Investment Review Division because it exceeds the $600-million threshold and it will ultimately be up to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to make a decision. …Foreign investments are reviewed to determine whether they provide a net benefit to Canada and are compatible with this country’s industrial, economic and cultural policies and what impact they will have on Canadian participation in the business. …Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is particularly eager to attract more investment from China and has begun exploratory free-trade talks with Beijing.”

And it highlights, “Under international trade deals that Canada has signed, the provinces retain the right to refuse to give health-care contracts to foreign companies. That’s because Canada reserved the right in trade agreements for governments to discriminate against foreign suppliers of services in the health-care sector and foreign investors when it comes to health care. Retirement Concepts, however, says it will remain as operator under a deal with Cedar Tree. …The B.C. government said nothing also prevents a foreign-owned company from owning a health-care provider.”

On November 28, The Globe and Mail reported, “[The Investment Review Division at the federal department of Innovation] likely received the application in late September or early October but it will not confirm the date the review began. ‘In general terms, the Minister has 45 days from the date the application is received to make a decision. However, the Minister can extend this period by 30 days. Further extensions are possible with the investor’s consent’, [according to a department spokesperson]. ‘Due to the confidentiality provisions of the Investment Canada Act, we cannot comment further on the timing of the review.'”

In her letter to Bains, chapter activist Lois Little writes, “The NWT Chapter is concerned that a full and comprehensive opportunity for public review and commentary on this proposal is required, meriting the extension of review period scheduling. That the proposed takeover would invoke the provisions of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA) is further cause for caution and review, to ensure that Canadian national interests are safeguarded and any potential for action under investor state dispute resolution claims is prevented.”

Retirement Concepts runs two supportive living facilities in Alberta. Friends of Medicare executive director Sandra Azocar says, “This move is only going to make the situation worse in terms of opening up the door to the type of for-profit business that health care should never be.”

The British Columbia-based Hospital Employees’ Union is also calling on the federal government to reject the deal.