You don't read much about it but Canada is a big juicy target for landgrabs by foreign corporations.
A couple of years ago Argentinian officials were alarmed to discover an attempt by a Chinese company to purchase a vast swathe of prime ranch land. The government moved to block the sale. The Chinese investors did an end run by purchasing a controlling interest in an Argentine company that owned the coveted lands.
Now it's Australia's turn.
The Australian government on Friday blocked once and for all a bid that would have seen a chunk of its land the size of Ireland — or more than 1 percent of the country's total landmass — sold to a private Chinese company.
The company at first seems like an extremely unlikely contender to become not only Australia's, but the world's, biggest private landowner. It's called Dakang, and it was once a struggling pig-breeding firm until it was bought in 2013 by Pengxin Group, a Shanghai-based company mostly involved in real estate.
But ever since a massive tainted milk scandal effectively shuttered China's domestic dairy industry in 2008, companies there have been seeking to source dairy products from overseas, and Pengxin has been particularly pioneering, if not very successful, in the endeavor. In September, New Zealand nixed its plan to buy one massive farm there, and Pengxin subsequently canceled its plans to buy 10 more in the country. The company has bought vast farms in Argentina, Bolivia and Cambodia.
You might never know it by anything you've heard from a Canadian government over the past 20-years but the world is rapidly entering an era of severe food insecurity. Foreign land grabs plague Africa and Southeast Asia. South America has been targeted. New Zealand was targeted, now Australia. We're ripe for the picking.
China is in a mess. It has severe water shortages and a good bit of what water does exist is industrially and agriculturally contaminated, unfit for human consumption and unsuitable for growing crops. China also has a major soil contamination problem, the result of smokestack emissions, especially arsenic, cadmium, mercury and other persistent heavy metals.
Local climate change impacts compounding other forms of environmental degradation can endanger domestic stability. If your ability to feed your own population is undermined, you have to find that food somewhere and your supply has to be both adequate and reliable. That means you have to control the land.
It's time we had another one of those "adult conversations" Catherine McKenna recently spoke about.