Council of Canadians concerned by Trudeau's approval of Chinese corporation's purchase of retirement homes in Canada

A Retirement Concepts seniors home in Montreal.

The Council of Canadians is raising concerns about the trade implications of a Beijing-based company purchasing a chain of retirement homes in Canada.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, "There are huge trade implications here."

In December 2016, The Council of Canadians Northwest Territories chapter wrote 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 Anbang 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.

At that time, The Globe and Mail reported, "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."

In her letter to Bains, Northwest Territories 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 (FIPA) 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."

This morning, The Globe and Mail reports, "The Trudeau government has green-lighted the sale of one of British Columbia's biggest retirement home chains to a Beijing-based insurance titan with a murky ownership structure in a deal that gives China a foothold in Canada's health-care sector. On paper, a majority stake in Vancouver-based Retirement Concepts – believed to exceed $1-billion in value – is being sold to a Chinese-owned company called Cedar Tree Investment Canada. That is the deal that federal officials in Ottawa announced they had approved this week. However, Cedar Tree is the company that China's Anbang Insurance is using to make the acquisition."

The newspaper adds, "The Canadian government is eager to attract foreign money to make up for insufficient investment capital within Canada; acquisitions by foreigners are rarely rejected. Mr. Trudeau particularly wants more investment from China, and has begun exploratory free-trade talks with Beijing. The Liberals have signaled they are open to rolling back a ban on state-owned Chinese investment in the oil sands that former prime minister Stephen Harper imposed."

Four days of exploratory free trade talks between Canada and China began this Monday February 20 in Beijing.

So-called 'free trade' agreements, including the proposed Canada-China Free Trade Agreement, restrict future policy options for federal and provincial governments with respect to the public ownership and operation of retirement homes as transnational corporations increasingly "invest" in the health care sector in Canada.

The Council of Canadians stands with the British Columbia-based Hospital Employees' Union which has called on the Trudeau government to reject the sale of the retirement homes to Anbang Insurance.