In 2016 and 2017 Canadian ministers approved the sale of two Canadian companies to opaque foreign interests. Today, Retirement Concepts is owned by an arm of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), while InnVest Hotels is controlled by a mysterious offshore shell company.
When federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains approved the foreign takeovers of Retirement Concepts, B.C.’s largest retirement home chain, and InnVest, Canada’s largest hotel owner, he said the takeovers would prove to be a “net benefit” for Canadians. But what safeguards did the Minister put in place for Canadians?
Few questions asked?
The PRC’s role in possibly both Canadian firms should prompt questions for the federal Innovation Minister and relevant provincial ministers. Both takeovers raise questions about the level of due diligence taken by the firms that sold out and by the elected officials who gave them the green light. Although tensions between Canada and China are at an all time high today, there were plenty of red flags at the time Minister Bains originally reviewed the takeovers.
At what cost did sellers and regulators look the other way for the sake of short-term gain?
“Net economic benefit” for who?
An affiliate of Pacific Reach Properties pocketed $1 billion when they sold a majority stake in Retirement Concepts to Anbang in 2017. Pacific Reach continues to operate the retirement homes in their partnership with Anbang. Only one year after the deal was approved by federal and provincial minsters, Anbang was seized by an arm of the People’s Republic of China and now holds a 98% ownership stake in the firm.
Meanwhile, they receive roughly $100 million in public dollars from the province of B.C. to care for seniors. How much of the province’s money goes to the People’s Republic of China while it detains Canadian citizens and retaliates by blocking Canada’s beef, pork and canola exports?
In 2016, Minister Bains also approved the foreign takeover of InnVest Hotels by Bluesky Hotels, which is owned by a shell company and potentially tied to Anbang. Press reports speculate that Anbang may have been behind Bluesky’s acquisition of InnVest, Canada’s largest hotel owner with a portfolio of 81 hotels in major cities across the country.
Who ultimately controls Canada’s largest hotel owner?
Then there are privacy concerns.
Prior to China’s recent retaliatory actions, the Chinese government has been traced to major incidents of cyber espionage and other aggressive efforts to obtain sensitive data. For example, China’s Ministry of State Security, which arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens, was reportedly behind the massive cyberattack against the Marriott hotel chain, which affected nearly 500 million guests over a four-year period. That Ministry has been tied to other cyber attacks as well.
The foreign takeovers of Retirement Concepts and InnVest are in sectors with access to large troves of personally identifiable data on Canadians who live and work in home care facilities, those working in hotels as well as the travelling public. Senior living facilities may have access to sensitive information, including social insurance numbers, medical histories, medications, financial and other personal information, while hotels offer access to credit card information and other sensitive data.