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Business Comment

Mark Leftly: Peppa Pig's breakthrough may finally stop Canada hogging all the action

Outlook As ever in life, Peppa Pig is the best barometer of cultural advancement. Today, the co-owners of the bossy animated porcus, Entertainment One, completed its $228m (£142m) purchase of Alliance Films, a Canadian distributor of flicks ranging from quip-laden classic Pulp Fiction to the dreadful Twilight series.

Last week, eOne got the deal past the Canadian Competition Bureau, which, bearing in mind that there's not an awful lot of crossover between the businesses, is a bit of a no-brainer. Yet Peppa succeeded where many of our humanoid FTSE 100 titans failed.

In 2010, BHP Billiton boss Marius Kloppers abandoned his $39bn bid for fertiliser group Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan as the government seemed determined to veto the deal in the national interest. A year later, there were plenty of nationalistic moans when the London Stock Exchange tried, and failed, to merge with its Toronto counterpart.

Canada appeared to be closed for businesses – to yucky foreigners at least. Then-industry minister Tony Clement argued that the Potash Corp offer would not have been of "net benefit" to Canada under a foreign ownership test, while the leader of Saskatchewan province premier Brad Wall warned that there were no conditions that would ever allow a sale to non-Canadian investors.

While it is a stretch to argue Alliance has the same strategic importance as a salt that can help grow the crops to feed a fast-growing global population, or an exchange that is home to Canada's biggest companies, this deal might just prove to be a crack in the country's protectionist views.

At the end of 2011, without even the slightest irony, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada laughably sent out a press release stating: "Canada's leadership on the world stage in support of free and open trade was once again on display today as the Honourable Ed Fast, minister of international trade and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, helped lead efforts that resulted in a strongly worded pledge by 23 members of the World Trade Organisation 'to fight all forms of protectionism in the strongest terms'."

Then, in a classic case of the head brewer telling the master vintner to lay off the sauce, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper accused the United States of a "surprising amount of protectionism in… political discourse" and argued that critics of free trade lacked "credibility".

Maybe Peppa is an indication that these comments aren't knowing in-jokes, but that overseas money is now welcome in Canada, a change of cultural, as well as economic, philosophy. However, the test will be when another foreign outfit comes in for one of the country's big natural resources groups.

Who knows? Maybe another FTSE 100 miner or multinational will take a crack at Potash Corp – $39bn might even look like a decent sum after developing nations held back on purchasing potash last year while negotiations on long-term contracts took place.

One thing's for certain: as proved by the oinking little madam's ability to crack markets from the Americas to Asia, following Peppa's lead is always a good bet.