A former chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada says the country must do a better job of attracting foreign investment.

“From a global perspective, we’re not encouraging investment from a lot of areas that are important, in terms of investing in Canada,” Gord Nixon told BNN Bloomberg in a television interview on Tuesday.

“Without that investment, it’s hard to generate higher rates of productivity.”

The former banking executive’s comments come weeks after the federal Liberal government’s fall fiscal update, when Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland described Canada as a “global investment destination of choice.”

Nixon, who served as RBC’s CEO from 2001 to 2014, said he sees more work to be done.

“We’ve got to create a better environment for foreign investment. This is a country that has, to some degree, been built on foreign investment and we’re doing everything to discourage it,” he said.

Nixon, who is also chairman of BNN Bloomberg’s parent company BCE Inc., said government policies directed at industries such as banking, telecommunications and oil and gas are among the factors weighing on investor sentiment.

“In terms of industrial policy, we’re very quick to put up barriers or penalties towards industries that are part of Canada’s lifeblood,” Nixon explained.

“We seem to want to go after industries that have the ability to grow and be a strength to Canada.”


Meanwhile, Nixon said if the government were to block RBC’s proposed $13.5-billion acquisition of HSBC Canada, it would feed into the narrative he’s worried about.

“If we want to encourage people to invest in this country, we’ve got to have open markets, open opportunities. To make a decision like that from a pure political perspective, it may make sense politically but it doesn’t make sense from a policy perspective,” Nixon said.

The Competition Bureau has already approved the transaction, though it noted that financial services are concentrated in Canada. Freeland must now give final approval of the deal.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called on the Liberal government to block the deal, arguing it will reduce competition and negatively affect Canadians.

Nixon said he does not think Freeland will block the deal in the end.

“There’s no significant reason to do it, other than the politics of … (the) perception of less competition,” he said.

BCE is the parent company of BNN Bloomberg through its Bell Media division.