PM stresses Canadian sovereignty, key services after Aecon deal nixed

OTTAWA _ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is suggesting his government blocked a Chinese takeover of a Toronto-based construction firm to ensure Canadian control of a key industrial sector.

The Liberal government announced late Wednesday it had rejected the proposed purchase of Aecon Group Inc. by a Chinese state-owned company for reasons of national security.

Trudeau told reporters during a roundtable session in Quebec on Thursday that he wasn’t going “to be the person who gives details” on the confidential decision-making process.

But he cited the case of Australia, where people suddenly realized that “a significant portion of their energy grid, for example, is owned and controlled by a government that is not their own.”

“There are always going to be concerns about the ability of a country to continue to protect and deliver essential services to its citizens in a way that enhances and maintains their own sovereignty,” Trudeau said. “And how we move forward on that requires reflection and care.”

Trudeau stressed the need to defend Canadian interests, saying “a good trade deal” that sets clear rules and expectations, would be a good thing for Canada with respect to China.

The Conservatives and New Democrats support the federal decision to reject the planned takeover.

Conservative MP Tony Clement called the move a responsible decision, adding it raises questions about other Chinese enterprises flying under the radar to purchase strategic assets.

New Democrat MP Brian Masse said while he agrees with the government’s rejection of the bid, Ottawa took too long to come to a decision.

Experts had warned the Trudeau government to proceed cautiously when weighing any investment bids by Chinese state firms and to be as transparent as possible in reviewing the proposed deal.

The Liberals also came under intense domestic pressure to reject the proposal.

Ottawa announced a full national security review of the Aecon deal in February.