As a couple of Plasticine figures turn their hands (and paws) to running what little is left of Nortel ("It's the wrong company Gromit, and it's gone wrong!) the Canadian Federal Government in far Ottawa is sitting on its hands and refusing to act on demands that it intervene in the process and prevent the sale of what many Canadians believe to be strategic national assets to overseas investors, reports Martyn Warwick.
In legislative terms the government could still move to stall, prevent and overturn the sale of the bankrupt company's crown jewels to Ericsson of Sweden but it's refusing to do so - for reasons that are far from clear.
Indeed, so far all the Commons Committee on Industry and Technology has done to date is to trot a out a catalogue of excuses as to why it hasn't done something to address what is a very real problem that many people are deeply concerned about.
Among the "reasons" cited for the determined inertia are that the sale of Nortel's wireless division - at US$1.13 billion - does not trigger the threshold at which the government must intervene (under the provisions of the Investment Canada Act that requires the federal authorities to examine and review the sale of Canadian assets to foreign companies) - even though that threshold is actually set at $312 million!
The government says it won't intervene because although the $1.3 billion offer will be paid in real, hard cash the artificially and arbitrarily calculated "book value" of the deal is just a quarter of that and means that the government doesn't have to take cognisance of the Investment Canada legislation.
How's that for twisted logic?
The Conservatives are also saying that the sale cannot be prevented an the grounds of "National Security" because the sale of Nortel assets "falls outside the definition of what constitutes national security". The Canadian media, meanwhile, is pointing out in no uncertain terms that "national security" has never been clearly defined in federal law and that the government could make a case for it if it wanted to.
The committee's attitude to Research in Motion (RIM, the maker of the incredibly popular suite of Blackberry devices and a home-grown Canadian success story to boot, is even more revealing. It is point-blank refusing to investigate why Nortel decided to prevent RIM for bidding for its assets whilst welcoming the attentions of foreign buyers.
What's more, the committee actually goes so far as to call RIM's submissions as being "hypocritical" because, whilst the company is agitating to prevent the transfer of Nortel's wireless patents to overseas companies, RIM itself has, in the past, had the audacity to buy patents from foreigners. With friends like the Committee on Industry and Technology, who needs enemies?
To put the top hat on it the chairman of the committee, Conservative MP Michael Chong, told RIM, "Your submissions have put the government in a very difficult position".
So that's it then. RIM in following defined procedures and citing various pieces of legislation in its own defence, has caused problems for the committee that was set up to examine the sale of Nortel's assets in the first place. Welcome to Planet Ottawa, where nothing is as it seems.
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