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Tony Clement looks to the undead as he weighs Potash takeover

1. The battle for Potash. Tony Clement does not seem worried. He watched a zombie movie Sunday night.

The Industry Minister is to decide this week on the foreign takeover of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. It's a controversial choice that could split the Conservative base in the West.

Does the free-enterprising Tory government go against opening Canada's doors to foreign investment? Or does it risk alienating a good friend in Saskatchewan and 13 of 14 seats in the province.

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Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has captured public opinion in his fight against the takeover of Potash Corp. by the Anglo-Australian firm BHP Billiton. In fact, three other premiers, including Alberta's Ed Stelmach, are supporting Mr. Wall.

So does Mr. Clement seem worried? Not really, at least according to his Twitter feed.

"Watching The Walking Dead. Very scary. Kids: a world fill of zombies is no bowl of cherries!" he said Sunday night.

That tweet arrived just after he and his wife returned from a " romantic Hallows Eve dinner!"

They had managed to sneak out, he wrote, after having "outsourced trick or treat answering duties to our son."

On Saturday Mr. Clement watched a little hockey; his beloved Montreal Canadiens lost. On Friday he knocked on some doors in his constituency and that wiped him right out: "It's 8:49 ET & I'm in my pajamas," he said.

Does that sound like a man wrestling with a difficult decision? Between the romantic dinner, the early night Friday and the Habs game it seems unlikely Mr. Clement feels stressed as he tries to determine whether the foreign takeover of Potash Corp. is of "net benefit" to Canada - the test the government must apply under the Canada Investment Act when considering such a move.

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Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, meanwhile, appears slightly more agitated about what Mr. Clement and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are planning. "I don't think there's another, well I know there's not another takeover in Canadian history, and I don't believe there's another takeover in world history that's ever involved up to 30 percent of the world's supply of a very strategic resource," Mr. Wall told CTV's Question Period Sunday.

"That's what's in play here. Saskatchewan is blessed to have 53 percent of the world's potash reserves and about 25 to 30 per cent of the world's reserves are in play with this deal. I think that makes it different because we know that this strategic resource, this fertilizer is fundamentally important to questions around agricultural and food security that Asia has, that the whole world has."

Mr. Wall dodged questions about the political implications for the Conservatives if Mr. Clement and Mr. Harper approve the deal. But he did make the case that the issue is now non-partisan, as premiers from all three parties are supporting him.

"I can tell you, this crosses party lines," Mr. Wall said. "This position of maybe it's time we get a little bit circumspect about losing Canadian-led companies is a position held by many, many Conservatives, and Liberals and New Democrats. It's a Canadian position. And I think that's probably why you're seeing that kind of bipartisan support or tri-partisan support for this."

2. Cross-border rallying cry. So much has been written and said about the perceived anti-elite backlash in Canada. Recent municipal elections that saw a Muslim elected in cowboy-friendly Calgary and a populist right-winger taking office in left-leaning Toronto underscore this view.

That same phenomenon also U.S. President Barack Obama, who stands to lose control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday's crucial mid-term elections. Sunday's New York Times reported that the dirty word for the Democrats ahead of the vote is " elitist."

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It just sounds so familiar.

"The notion that voters would reject Democrats only because they don't understand the facts prompted a round of recriminations - 'Obama the snob', read the headline on a Washington Post column by Michael Gerson, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush - and fueled the underlying argument of the campaign that ends Tuesday. For all the discussion of health care and spending and jobs, at the core of the nation's debate this fall has been the battle of elitism."

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff must be nodding his head, sagely, while sipping his latte at Stornoway.

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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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