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Ignatieff accuses PM of alienating Western provinces on Potash

Michael Ignatieff called on Stephen Harper to reject the takeover bid of Saskatchewan's Potash Corp. Wednesday, warning this has become a "very serious moment in federal-provincial relations."

Emerging from his weekly caucus meeting, Mr. Ignatieff blasted the Prime Minister for refusing to listen to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who wants the federal government to reject the bid for the former Crown corporation by an Anglo-Australian firm.

But it goes even farther, the Liberal Leader warned.

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"He is not listening to a province - a Western province," Mr. Ignatieff said. "And not just not listening to Brad Wall in Saskatchewan but not listening to [former Tory premier of Alberta]Peter Lougheed, not listening to the NDP Premier in Manitoba [Greg Selinger]"

"And I implore the Prime Minister even at this late hour to listen to what the unified voice of Western Canada is saying on the potash deal."

Mr. Ignatieff also laughed off any suggestion that the decision - expected after markets close Wednesday - is being made only by Industry Minister Tony Clement.

According to the Canada Investment Act, it is the Industry Minister who decides. The PMO has made much of this, trying to dampen down commentary that Mr. Harper, who is often characterized by many pundits as a control freak, will ultimately decide for himself.

"You know who makes things move? ... It doesn't move without Stephen Harper. This idea that it's Tony Clement is ridiculous," Mr. Ignatieff said.

There is doubt, too, among Liberals that any conditions or promises made to Saskatchewan by BHP Billiton, the company that wants to takeover the Potash Corp., would be respected. And such conditions are usually kept secret between Investment Canada and the company.

The Liberal Leader denied his opposition to the deal is a "protectionist play." He said his party welcomes foreign investment but this deal is different, involving a control of a strategic natural resource.

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"We should not cede strategic control over a strategic resource," he said. "We think this is the wrong deal for Saskatchewan and we think it's the wrong deal for Canada."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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