Clement says no PotashCorp decision yet

Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement says the government has yet to make a decision about the BHP Billiton bid for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and "everyone should just cool their jets."

Opposition chasing 'one rumour after another,' says PM amid reports of sale

Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement says the government has yet to make a decision about the BHP Billiton bid for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and everyone "should just cool their jets."

The inside of the PotashCorp production facility in Rocanville, Sask., is shown in this 2007 file photo. Industry Minister Tony Clement says he has yet to make a decision on whether to allow a bid for the company by Australian firm BHP Billiton. ((Canadian Press))

"I will be giving as much of an answer as I possibly can at the appropriate time," Clement told the CBC's Julie Van Dusen on Tuesday outside the House of Commons in Ottawa. 

"I think people should just cool their jets and wait for the decision."

His comments to CBC News on Tuesday come after a sharply worded statement, in which the minister took the National Post to task for reporting that Industry Canada had approved the deal, with conditions.

Other news media had similar reports, but Clement's statement — emailed to reporters early Tuesday — only mentioned the Post.

"I want to be clear that the facts in the story are inaccurate," the email said. "No recommendation has been provided by Investment Canada officials."

During Tuesday's question period in the House of Commons, Liberal deputy leader Ralph Goodale and NDP Leader Jack Layton pressed Clement and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to confirm the report or "just say no" to the proposed sale.

The prime minister replied no decision has been made yet while the opposition parties "continue to chase one rumour after another."

Harper also said that while the Liberals "rubber-stamped" every single foreign takeover during their time in office, Clement would make a decision "based on the best interests of Canada."

Wall hits out at 'profound betrayal'

While BHP and PotashCorp declined to comment Tuesday, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall reacted angrily to the news report that the deal has already been approved.

Wall has said Saskatchewan would lose up $6 billion in revenue from taxes and royalties if the bid is approved, despite BHP's pledge to move the headquarters of its global potash operations there and ensure the provincial government coffers aren't hurt by the takeover.

The premier's aggressive campaigning against the proposed sale presents a political dilemma for Harper's Conservatives, who can ill afford to lose any of the 13 of 14 Saskatchewan federal seats they hold in a minority government.

"To have the potential answer be that they're going to do something other than what the province wants, after the case we've made I believe is a betrayal of our interests and our position and our standing in this takeover bid," Wall said on Tuesday morning. "This is a Saskatchewan takeover, let's make no mistake."

In a formal letter to Clement on Tuesday, Saskatchewan Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd also asked why "some unnamed 'Conservative insider' is providing information about Industry Canada's recommendations to the news media, which appears to be a flagrant violation of the strict confidentiality provisions contained in Section 36 of the Investment Canada Act."

Boyd said this was "particularly troubling" because the federal government had repeatedly told Saskatchewan officials to avoid leaks. He also asked Clement to confirm whether he would be launching an investigation into the leak.

Goodale, also Saskatchewan's lone non-Conservative MP, said the people of the province expect the premier to "pull every lever he could possible pull" to defend their interests.

"There is a very large body of opinion that opposes the loss of the Potash Corporation," Goodale told Van Dusen on Tuesday in Ottawa.

Clement has previously said the Wednesday deadline for making a decision on the proposed $38.6-billion US takeover is unchanged.

He stressed in his email Tuesday that he was the minister making the final call.

"As per the Investment Canada Act, when a decision is made it will be made by me in my capacity as minister of industry, not by the prime minister," Clement wrote.

With files from The Canadian Press