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Business in Vancouver

BC Canadians have mixed feelings about economic ties with Asia

Survey finds support in BC and Canada for trade but fears about erosion of Canadian values, sovereignty

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 2:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 4:34pm

A growing number of people are optimistic about future economic relations with Asia but most Canadians, British Columbians in particular, are generally wary of allowing foreign investment into Canada, according to a new poll.

The national poll conducted by EKOS research associates and commissioned by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada found that 43 per cent of Canadians disagree that the country would benefit from increased Asian investment, compared to 44 per cent who agreed. Fifty-one per cent of British Columbians disagreed that Canada would benefit from Asian investment, while 39 per cent agreed.

“Our 2016 National Opinion Poll results reflect a Canadian public that is open to expanding relationships in Asia, but feels our federal engagement strategy must take into account Canadian values and national interests,” said Stewart Beck, president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation, in a press release.

Canada’s view of the region as a whole is improving, and more people consider Canada to be apart of the Asia Pacific region. While this view is more widely held further west, 34 per cent of Canadians say they are part of the Asia Pacific region compared to 58 per cent who disagree. Canada’s westernmost province was the only one where most people (52 per cent) agreed that Canada is a part of the Pacific Rim. The number of Canadians who agreed that Canada is apart of the Asian Pacific region is up 12 per cent from 2014.

While Canadians are wary of any foreign investment from Asia, they are particularly concerned about investments from China.

According the same poll conducted last year, Canadians associated Chinese investment with losing control of the country’s resources. This contrasted with views on investment from Japan, which was associated with new technology, and investment from the United States, which was associated with economic growth.

Canadawide, most of those polled were in favour of investment from privately owned companies within the Pacific Rim. Australia topped the list with an 84 per cent national approval rate. Japanese investment received the second largest approval at 77 per cent. Approval for investments from South Korea, India, Malaysia and China had approval rates of 66 per cent, 63 per cent, 55 per cent and 51 per cent respectively.

Canadians as a whole had negative views of investments from government corporations in any Pacific Rim country.

Canadians are particularly concerned about Chinese investment in Canadian real estate. This concern is strongest inBritish Columbia, where 73 per cent of those polled said they were concerned about real estate investment from China. This is 11 per cent higher then the national average of 63 per cent.

Generally, Quebec and Ontario had more positive views of foreign investment of any kind, from both private and government corporations. Alberta was most supportive of oil sales to Asia and the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement geared the Asia Pacific region.

While Canadians may be skeptical about allowing foreign investment in Canada, their view of Asia is improving. Close to half of all Canadians think strengthening economic and political relations with Asia should be Canada’s top foreign policy priority, up from 37 per cent in 2014. Half of Canadians also view China’s growing importance as an opportunity rather than a threat. Yet 65 per cent of Canadians see the country’s growing military power as a threat and 46 per cent worry that an increasing Chinese presence in Canada is threat to “the country’s values and way of life.”