The government of Alberta is considering a private sector rail project connecting Edmonton and Calgary that has secured investment from a Chinese state-owned company.
The Alberta government is partnering with Toronto-based TransPod for a fully electric, 1,000 kilometre-per-hour rail line between Edmonton and Calgary which would reduce the trip to 45 minutes from around three hours by vehicle. Transpod signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government of Alberta for the project in August 2020, which is a pretext to a contract, and not a binding contract.
In March 2022, TransPod announced that the UK-based Broughton Capital Group, in cooperation with China-East Resources Import & Export Co. (CERIECO), agreed in principle to provide a combined US $550 million finance and Master EPC arrangement respectively, to accelerate the development of the multibillion-dollar hyperloop. CERIECO is a Chinese state-owned company with independent legal status.
The Government of Alberta is not a partner in TransPod’s arrangement with Broughton Capital Group and CERIECO, said Hadyn Place, spokesperson for Alberta Transportation Minister Prasad Panda.
“TransPod’s proposal is a private-sector proposal and the Alberta Government has not committed any funding to TransPod’s project,” he said in an email to The Epoch Times.
When TransPod announced the investment in March, then-Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney—now a contender in the leadership race to replace Premier Jason Kenney—congratulated the firm on securing private investment.
“Alberta’s government is always encouraged to see innovative private sector ideas that have potential to grow our economy and create jobs,” Sawhney said in a statement.
The investment would finance the first phase of the project, which consists of the airport connection of Edmonton, co-founder and CEO of TransPod Sebastien Gendron said in March, according to Global News. Gendron also said this initial investment is a key step in the overall project, because it proves there’s a market for it.
The connection of the proposed funding for the project to the Chinese state-owned company was first reported on by Rebel News.
The presence of China’s state-owned enterprises (SOE) in Canada have become a controversial issue in recent times as China has taken on an increasingly aggressive stance on the international stage, including aggressions in the South China Sea and military exercises in the vicinity of Taiwan. Beijing has also taken on a more hostile stance toward Canada in recent years, after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request. In apparent retaliation, China detained two Canadian citizens, and blocked Canadian imports, after warning Canada of severe consequences for Meng’s arrest.
In a high-profile case, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper approved the takeover of the Alberta-based energy company Nexen Inc. in 2012 by a Chinese SOE , while expressing discomfort with SOEs and tightening the rules about such takeovers in the future.
The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau in recent years has allowed a number of takeovers by Chinese companies in sensitive sectors, to the criticism of Conservatives, and in some cases, U.S. politicians. This includes the takeover of Norsat, a Vancouver-based satellite communications firm, by a Chinese company in 2017, as well as the takeover of the Montreal-based ITF Technologies, a laser technology company, by a Hong Kong-based company in the same year.
Ottawa has also in some instances blocked takeovers by Chinese companies in recent years. This includes banning the takeover of Canadian construction giant Aecon by a Chinese SOE in 2018 on security grounds.
Earlier this year, Ottawa banned Chinese telecom company Huawei from taking part in Canada’s 4G and 5G networks amidst security concerns by Canada’s allies.
Charles Burton, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, told a parliamentary committee in 2020 that Chinese SOEs try to invest in Canada in key sectors to advance the strategic influence of the Chinese regime.
“A lot of things that we think are commercial enterprises are in fact actors whose primary mandate is to further the interests of the Chinese strategic and military apparatus,” Burton told MPs on June 8, 2020.