December 11, 2020
This is an open letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, the Prime Minster of Canada Justin Trudeau, the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) regarding the dangerous decision to pursue ‘branded content’, also known as ‘paid content’, ‘sponsored content’, and/or ‘advertorials’.
I’m a former CBC reporter who covered federal and provincial politics at CBC News and CBC.ca, as well as elections and economic segments for the Connect with Mark Kelley show. I will be forever indebted to them for providing my first shot at investigative journalism, before budgets were drastically cut to unsustainable levels that brought my craft to its knees. Over the years I’ve watched several intrepid reporters trying to come to terms with the effect of those cuts, as we found ourselves and the facts replaced by a stronger emphasis on editorial opinions. It’s true that fact-checking costs money and requires a strong cadre of producers with dynamic experience to support original content, but this death by a thousand cuts has finally hit rock bottom to the point that it will destroy the CBC.
I won’t waste everyone’s time banging the identical drum as www.stoppaidcontentoncbc.ca, though I do support every last word they’ve said. I believe I have a unique and legal angle to contribute that the Canadian government must thoughtfully consider. I believe it so deeply that I’m writing this despite recovering from eye surgery, because I became legally blind during the pandemic unexpectedly. I’m attempting to work through complete double vision as an artificial transplant begins to settle and this is my first experience with dictation software. The white computer screen is still overpowering and I won’t be healed until February, so please forgive any typos or grammatical errors. But let that sink in that I would accept these consequences to share my counsel with you before I’m truly able to be back on the scene.
The open letter signed by a growing number of past and present CBC staff soundly explains the problem with CBC Tandem from a journalist’s perspective regarding trust and reputation issues. It makes reference to fake news, leveraging the CBC’s reputation to benefit advertisers, and confusing the public by letting ads masquerade as articles that mimic the news. (1. original / archive)
Plenty has been written about the damage caused by advertorials, but in the era of digital revolution and disruptive innovation, most mainstream media executives care very little when tasked with finding a magic wand to resolve the logistics of collapsing revenue streams. The situation is so dire that it gives new meaning to the slur presstitute. Fear has chipped away at integrity enough that we can sell our souls to put food on the table, or deal with toxic workplaces for taking a stand in the name of truth and transparency. We were once paid for our integrity but now it’s becoming somewhat of a liability in the battle against fake news and profit margins. For context, it’s considered scandalous that so many CBC journos would speak out publicly against the Tandem project that it’s a news story in itself. (2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive, 6. original / archive)
In any event, I made similar complaints in a Twitter thread that focused on selling the CBC’s reputation. I further condemned advertorials as blatant fake news because their entire purpose is meant to trick readers by hiding the fact that it is an ad behind the veneer of a news article. If advertorials weren’t meant to mislead anyone, then why do they to pretend to be something they’re not?
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I didn’t have much space to elaborate on my concerns about the conflict of interest element that was introduced by CBC Tandem and I will do so now, because it’s dangerous to the Government of Canada in countless ways that even threaten our democracy. CBC is a Crown corporation and despite arms-length firewalls, it is funded by the government and public tax dollars. For better or for worse it’s a representative of the government and when anything goes wrong, blame is directed toward the prime minister. The board that oversees the CBC is appointed by the Governor in Council as well. (7. original / archive)
That sets up a formal legal relationship between CBC and the Government of Canada, with appointees swearing an oath to the Crown. Despite everything we’ve done in our democratic landscape to insulate the CBC to achieve press freedom, the rest of the world still views it as a state broadcaster. In that vein we’ve also done everything possible to distance ourselves from other state broadcasters such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea that are captured by political masters.
Our love was never for sale, at least until the CBC Tandem division was created. Now anyone can purchase the CBC’s integrity and by extension, that of its journalists. But that still isn’t the biggest problem confronting the government as a result of this development. The dark corner I’m trying to illuminate is much more ‘insidious’ than anyone’s reputation.
As an investigative reporter I spend ninety percent of my time researching and only ten percent of it actually publishing. In the bulk of my work I’ve discovered severe issues that are threatening western democracies, disorienting the public, and skewing the development of public policy. It would be impossible for me to recount the number of times I’ve come across opinion editorials (OpEds) insufficiently referenced in government studies on any given issue. So long as someone can get their viewpoint printed in the news, it’s assumed to be factual as a footnote that nobody verifies from a mountain of consultative submissions the government merely itemizes in transcripts and final reports.
There is no label to distinguish OpEds from bona fide news in our research systems and much of the public can’t tell you the difference between a columnist and a reporter. Even if a politician understands, the public isn’t taught to be skeptical about these footnotes because telling voters to be wary of government decisions based on that very material would weaken faith in our democracy and the process by which we evaluate issues. With no intention of being partisan, I came to understand this during the Harper administration. What I’m about to say next is motivated only by experience and the time frame any cobwebs of naïveté were being swept away from my vision.
In all my investigations during Conservative rule, I kept stumbling on right-wing organizations that held campaigns and competitions to flood Canadian media with OpEds in support of their various causes. Some of them even paid activists if they could manage to get published, so a politician could cite the opinion and present it to a House of Commons or Senate committee with the same effect as something factual. This happened on multiple issues, including but not limited to Indigenous rights, pro-choice rights, gay rights, gun rights, and climate change. This tactic of inorganic manipulation was successful and responsible for repealing human rights that used to protect Canadians against hate speech. (8. original / archive)
Since I discovered that deficiency in 2014, I watched the practice become adopted by left-wing organizations that sought to fight fire with fire. It’s quickly becoming a standard practice for various groups to pre-write letters of complaint and OpEds that supporters only have to sign and click to send through an agency’s automated system. Fake news was already automated in Canada before the term was coined or widely understood. It also taints nearly every government report on ideological wedge issues.
In addition to grassroots being harnessed to deceive legislators on an industrial scale, we also have partisan think-tanks that have grown more audacious. They too are spreading false information through Canadian media that becomes cited as fact, to form the basis of public policy on matters so integral to government as income tax. (9. original / archive, 10. original / archive)
Advertorials must be outlawed by the CRTC as a matter of false advertising. We already have tools to deal with it because it’s an unabashed and purposely misleading product. Even if the message is true the medium is not, inverse of ‘the medium is the message’. Something that isn’t fact-checked news should not be made to appear as if it is.
No democracy can afford the steep cost of advertorials becoming the basis of public policy. We don’t even have the manipulation of OpEds under control and this practice of influence deception will explode if given another avenue. Corporate retailers aren’t the only advertising clients and to ignore the rest would be worse than foolish, regardless of which side you might find yourself on pertaining to any issue. This will remove the science from poli-sci and turn back time to govern by folklore. If you have trouble believing, then enquire with climate scientists who spent the last decade contending with this exactly. Instead of making progress on carbon emissions we ended up with a new generation of flat-earthers and Creationism being taught in public schools again.
On that basis then consider that foreign governments are advertisers too. The Digital Cold War is upon us and most developed countries have entire units that pursue influence campaigns throughout the military-intelligence complex. Years ago I might have hesitated to make that statement and contemplated a more moderate description, but Canada was compelled to set up a task force to monitor that threat during the last federal election and it played a role in undermining Brexit in the United Kingdom, as well as a past election in the United States. None of us has devised a perfect solution yet and advertorials are set to open the floodgates.
If that wasn’t enough to give you pause for thought, then weigh the CBC’s relationship with domestic political parties and triangulate it with the government. From experience I can tell you how hard it is to avoid accusations of political bias at a Crown corporation. An inordinate amount of social media vitriol is hurled at CBC journos by partisans of every stripe, because tax payers sense their ownership of Crown reporters and they’re emotionally driven to have their own views reflected by them. As the line between advertising and journalism blurs, it further complicates this sticky wicket by lowering the bar for professionalism and respect. Most of us have received the odd death threat, a few of us have actually been assaulted, and female reporters have heard everything that would turn your hair blue about their sexuality and sometimes their children. Allowing political parties and/or fronts for political parties to purchase CBC advertorials will exacerbate these symptoms and increase the fever pitch.
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Source: Michael DeAdder, Twitter
Advertorials present a tantalizing opportunity for dark money in politics, but even on the surface it creates a curious conflict of interest with registered partisan entities. Whether it’s the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens, or Bloc, they could theoretically skirt advertising limits by using operatives to place advertorials on their behalf. Elections Canada doesn’t have the resources to police clandestine party spending and it would technically be subsidized by the Government of Canada because it’s the government that funds the CBC. I will leave that part for legal scholars to hash out, but I know enough to be sure that it doesn’t pass a sniff test. At the very least no sitting government would wish to subsidize an opposition party’s partisan propaganda. I’m not sure the public would be fine with paying taxes so the CBC could publish counterfeit news articles on behalf of anti-vaxxers either.
In the best case scenario, CBC Tandem is inviting public controversy every time it has to make a decision to run an advertorial related to any issue. They’ll be hauled in front of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal if they decline pandemic hoax pieces, anti-abortion pieces, anti-Indigenous pieces, anti-Muslim pieces, anti-immigration pieces, anti-climate pieces, anti-science pieces, or any of the opponents on the pro side. One way or another, one of these clients would be in a position to at least claim discrimination, often related to a religious belief. A Charter challenge could also result regarding the freedom of expression and Canada lacks a full skeleton of precedents to clearly define what press freedom is. What we do have though is a handful of constitutional activist organizations that prowl for opportunities to file cases like these, in the longstanding effort to shape our legal rights in the direction of libertarian ideology. The way journalism dealt with this problem is ‘both-sidesing’ everything, but that option isn’t available in the purchased marketing scheme.
Advertorials have no business defining Canadian law and the Canadian identity, but that’s exactly what they’re poised to do irrespective of the media agency that initiates open season on our Constitution. It doesn’t seem wise for CBC to become that brand new battleground that is muddled between journalism and advertising, or to waste its lean budget on successive legal challenges. It already can’t afford to perform regular, substantive, investigative journalism anymore, because the type of work that I do is cost prohibitive when it requires a small team of lawyers to vet it. I’ve been sitting on a major data breach investigation because everyone is constrained by budgets and adopting advertorials is not the path to pay for it. On the contrary and due to being in everyone’s political crosshairs, it could be a way to eventually bankrupt the CBC. I’m curious if there was a risk analysis performed for the Tandem project and if these perils were appraised holistically.
It would do no good to implement an advertorial policy that blanket-banned issues advertising in favour of retail products only. That’s because products are related to lifestyles and lifestyles are related to social issues. Take for example the gun. The morning after pill. Religious books and courses. Bicycles. Oil stocks. Green energy products. Indigenous cigarettes. Kotex. Natural medicines. The list goes on. So is CBC prepared to be the site of protests when those items are politically weaponized? And do executives believe it will boost the credibility or safety of its journalists?
It remains to be seen what the ramifications of advertorials might be from another perspective still. Based solely on retail products, who bears the legal onus when a consumer is harmed by a dangerous item that was misrepresented by what appeared to be a CBC article to a 65-year-old audience member? If the CBC was to indemnify itself in advertorial contracts, would it also not be jeopardizing the collective reputation of all reporters? After all,
It’s also CBC staff that would write or collaborate on the counterfeit article, with final approval that lacked legal fact-checking to verify the claims made by a Crown corporation on behalf of its private ad clients. In essence that further implies government confidence in the client, even if tacit to a layperson. It creates stark inequality between company divisions as well, despite products that appear to be identical as articles except for a miniature sticker that says ‘branded content’ in a diminished corner. For that matter the term ‘branded content’ is deceptive and it’s meant to soothe the reader’s skepticism by avoiding words like ‘paid’ and ‘advertisement’.
This is a concept that hasn’t been legally tested and I was all for CBC setting journalistic standards, until this development posed a risky gamble to everyone who is still working there. If something looks too good to be true it usually is, and trying to take this easy way out of a funding shortfall is a catastrophe waiting to happen. There are no easy answers to the ripple effects of COVID-19, just as there are no simple steps to combat disruptive innovation in a digital revolution. These are both once-in-a-lifetime challenges that no echo chamber in a boardroom can solve by putting lipstick on a pig. I applaud CBC for its general open-mindedness but respectfully and with great concern, this Tandem advertorial venture needs to be put on ice.
I stress this is not a problem unique to the CBC and while they must cancel this project to maintain their own house, the government and/or CRTC must also act swiftly to prohibit the use of advertorials by any media organization in Canada. It must be a level playing field and one that is based on principles of the Fourth Estate, instead of a product that by its definition is masquerading as something it’s not. To put it plainly, advertorials are promoted and sold as counterfeit news articles, when the real news is in the fight of its life to save its own reputation and viability. Talk about inviting a ‘FOX’ into a henhouse.
May my letter greet you well and please don’t take it personally. This is just so important that it needed to be addressed frankly, as the implications of ignoring these impacts could cause irreparable harm on a grand scale. The startling and vast majority of Facebook users already can’t tell the difference between journalism and fake news. Neither can students. At the end of the day we need everyone to comprehend the facts to develop sound public policy, more than anyone needs a shot at quick money to make the business of journalism an easier ride. If we value our democracy we will have to commit to defending it with tax dollars to fund the CBC away from temptation and the advertorial mirage. (12. original / archive, 13. original / archive, 14. original / archive, 15. original / archive)
In closing, I kindly leave you with a sample of public sentiments to assist with your deliberations.
Yours very truly,
May 7, 2020
Part of the challenge in finding a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic is determining the original source of infection. The majority of scientists are convinced it came from bats, but they don’t yet know how it transmitted to humans. Others suggest it was caused by accidental release from a research lab, while war hawks propose theories that relate to a bioweapon. But the best answer to complex mysteries is often simple and Free The Press Canada has determined the likely culprit.
The solution for this missing link is so unassuming that it was under everyone’s nose all along. The records have existed since the 1700’s and this bat-to-human conduit is cited as the legal basis for the American Empire. It’s the original cause of blackbirding (kidnapping) and Chinese slavery, Indigenous slavery, as well as Black slavery, in case anyone didn’t grasp the meaning of that famous Beatles song. It solidified Peru’s existence and reshaped entire countries in South America. It poured the foundation for British and European wealth. It won and lost wars as a prime ingredient to make gunpowder. Its Indigenous name appears in an early American law and it traces all the way back to 5,000 years ago, as a resource worshipped by the Incas. (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive, 6. original / archive, 7. original / archive, 8. original / archive, 9. original / archive, 10. original / archive, 11. original / archive, 12. original / archive, 13. original – PDF)
Today this product is exported by Africa and Asia and it can fetch as much as $350USD per ton, or $2,400USD every three hours with a very small crew of labourers. The organic food revolution, hydroponic agriculture, and the legalization of marijuana have made it so popular again that western grandmothers are trying to produce their own. The colloquial phrase ‘bat-sh*t-crazy’ may even be derived from this common carrier of several coronavirus types. So what could be in everyone’s garden shed that has the potential to elevate or wipe out the human race, depending on the quality of each batch? (14. original / archive, 15. original / archive, 16. original / archive)
Bat Guano – The Garden Saviour
Bat guano is the feces of this hideous looking creature that makes a cameo appearance each year at Halloween. It’s long been known as the best crop fertilizer on earth, at half the cost of chemical competitors and usually with no negative side effects. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that comes with organic certification and it gained special prominence with cannabis producers, as well as moms and dads with tabletop hydroponic kits. (17. original / archive, 18. original / archive, 19. original / archive)
The high concentrations of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and potassium are so effective that bat guano can rehabilitate soil and reduce the need for crop rotation in large agricultural operations. It is Mother Nature’s wonder drug and can be used in the pharmaceutical setting to grow the ingredients used in medicines that are increasingly sourced in China. That’s not to suggest guano residues could appear in medications, but the workers who handle raw materials at the beginning of the supply chain may certainly come in contact with it. (20. original / archive, 21. original / archive)
The versatility of guano is far greater than industrial grow-ops and it can be found just as easily at community gardens and retirement villas. Across the world in Portland, Oregon a seniors residence is getting into the guano business to support the retiree neighbourhood, in addition to a farmers market and popular local restaurant. Plants as delicate as lettuce are treated with the natural fertilizer and it’s reported to sweeten the taste of produce as an added benefit. (22. original / archive, 23. original / archive, 24. original / archive)
Bat guano is also easy to purchase, if you’re not down with keeping them as pets to generate a self-sustaining and free supply. It can be found through Walmart, Amazon, Alibaba, or any hydroponic store. It comes in dry and wet ‘tea’ slurries that are pre-mixed to make using it rather simple. This wonder-dust is so spectacular that it can allegedly grow pumpkins the size of Smart cars. It’s possible there may be off-label uses in the beauty market as well. (25. original / archive, 26. original / archive, 27. original / archive, 28. original / archive, 29. original / archive, 30. original / archive)
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Needless to say there’s an obvious means of transmission between bats and humans that strikes at the heart of the global food chain and every nation’s ports of entry. It’s further been discovered that coronavirus and COVID-19 can be spread to humans through fecal matter. (31. original / archive)
Bat Guano – The Agent Of Death
Unbeknownst to the vast majority of home gardeners and organic farms, bat guano was confirmed by the Canadian government to be contaminated with the Ebola virus in years prior. (32. original / archive)
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Bats are also an established carrier of several coronavirus types, according to the Wuhan lab researcher who is central to the current pandemic. A single cave can produce numerous samples of various strains, meaning they’re a plausible breeding ground for mutations as bats interact with each other and the natural environment. (33. original / archive)
Through the guano specifically, bats can infect humans with histoplasmosis and it has much in common with the symptoms of COVID-19. Although the former is bacterial and the latter is viral, complications can result in death for young children, seniors, and immuno-compromised patients in both examples. (34. original / archive, 35. original – PDF)
Research on the coronavirus family appears to be limited to the bats directly, or humans directly, but little is known about the bridge between them. At least that’s what the mainstream media and governments generally report. But bat guano serves as that very connection and Canada highlighted its ability to vector an even deadlier virus, many years before the appearance of COVID-19.
Despite the sparse availability of public data, relevant studies have been conducted involving bat guano since 2006. The World Health Organization (WHO) participated in that early sequencing more than a decade ago. It was determined that bat guano carries the family of coronaviruses in a study arising from the guano caves (mines) in Thailand. Deeper investigation of that yearlong data appears to indicate that positive samples follow a cyclical pattern that coincides with spring and fall flu seasons as well. The guano seems to test negative during the summer and winter months and this phenomenon may need to be considered in future research endeavours to achieve an unbiased interpretation. (36. original / archive)
Another study was conducted by scientists in Myanmar from May 2016 to August 2018. Testing was done by the University of California – Davis that produced results consistent with Thailand. They confirmed coronavirus pathogens in bat guano including new strains that hadn’t been discovered prior, as well as seasonal fluctuations. They also identified that guano samples produce a much higher rate of infection than oral and rectal swabs taken from bats. (37. original / archive)
Islands in the Western Indian Ocean were studied from 2014 to 2015, but the researchers failed to sample guano and only tested the bats. Even lacking that crucial context, several types of coronavirus were detected that share a relationship to COV strains in Africa. Unfortunately the authors pursued their study with a mistaken hypothesis that an intermediary host is required to affect humans, so they were left with questions about transmission pathways. Due to that regrettable bias, they overlooked the role of bat guano in the spread between different regions. (38. original / archive)
The Smoking Gun
Free The Press Canada did its own research to assess the prevalence of bat guano testing on Google Scholar. It was there that a noteworthy result appeared, amounting to a smoking gun. (39. original / archive)
In October 2018, genomic researchers completed the sequence for a bat guano miner who tested positive for a coronavirus in Thailand. Coincidentally, he worked in the same region referenced earlier in a separate study assisted by the World Health Organization, from 2006/2007. (40. original / archive, 41. original / archive, 42. original – PDF)
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The results indicate that a bat guano miner in Thailand carried the same strain of coronavirus (99 percent match) as samples that were tested from Hong Kong in 2006. It came from the same group of pathogens (with a common ancestor) as samples arising from China and the United States in 2016 as well.
It’s unlikely that either superpower is responsible for infecting a bat cave in Thailand, where several coronavirus types are naturally occurring. The alternative is American and Chinese growers may have purchased guano fertilizer that originated from a Thai source. In any event what this demonstrates is an intercontinental transmission pathway that was indirectly established over a period of twelve years, specifically related to a guano mine.
Free The Press Canada stresses that this data via Thailand doesn’t pinpoint the exact origin of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It doesn’t make any individual country responsible for the spread of coronaviruses. Guano mining occurs on every continent except Antarctica and every country may contribute to infection rates by failing to regulate this product as a hazardous substance. Every country that has bats also has a wide array of coronaviruses lurking within them. Therefore comprehensive study of bat guano in its wet and dry forms is immediately required and it may assist scientists to address COVID-19 from this perspective. (43. original / archive)
Origin of the Spanish Flu remains a mystery akin to the way COVID-19 developed. Researchers may wish to revisit those theories with the guano aspect in mind, because during that era it was the primary ingredient in gunpowder and explosives. It may explain the peculiar onset of cases geographically. (44. original / archive, 45. original / archive)
Successive years of ‘cutting red tape’ to appease the stock market and business class has led us to this place. Regulations might require commitment to one’s product, but they were not designed to be the enemy. Instead they’ve been developed to safeguard human health and avert the insurmountable cost of failing to do so.
The freedom gained by corporations to ignore those responsibilities has resulted in the entire world’s lockdown and loss of the most basic collective freedoms required to beat the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no reason why a Q4 profit margin should result in the loss of visiting family, ability to celebrate birthdays and weddings, or permission to walk out the front door. Imprisoning the working class is not sustainable to generate dividends and every taxpayer is on the hook to pay for this debacle over the next entire decade. That behaviour represents an untenable proposition for business to outsource its overhead to every citizen on the planet.
In the case of bat guano, the few rules that do exist are woefully insufficient and incongruent from one region to another. For example, Canada dragged its feet with respect to classifying guano as a fertilizer so it didn’t fall within any regulatory category whatsoever. The United States has a conflict between which agency oversees the product and each state compounds the problem with different rules or lack thereof, depending on various governors. Certainly no country around the globe is testing guano for coronavirus as a condition of import, export, and public sale. (46. original / archive, 47. original / archive, 48. original / archive)
Bat guano remains a superior fertilizer that is also appropriate for organically certified agriculture. It’s safe in the vast majority of cases, but it only takes one bad batch, one bad season, or one susceptible cave to result in a pandemic. Strict testing and parameters must be implemented to protect this valuable resource, guano mining labourers, and the public. Strict guidelines need to be established for home gardeners who plan to experiment with backyard production and strict enforcement surrounding guano must be genuinely contemplated.
Furthermore, the effects of climate change are now severe enough to impact human health. A warming planet is predicted to affect the emergence of viruses, mutations, and intensity of contagious outbreaks. Bat caves are environmentally sensitive and given the detrimental consequences to the global economy under quarantine, it doesn’t seem wise to ignore the guano they produce when it’s a common additive to the food supply. (49. original / archive)
How Was Guano Overlooked?
International media is in a state of disrepair since the disruption of digital technology. In Canada the regular ‘beats’ were axed in a process of austerity and downsizing. Remaining reporters are now expected to cover any topic that arises while lacking the expertise to tackle complex subjects, especially related to science. The industry is fighting for its life as artificial intelligence (AI) is introduced to automate articles based on business data and algorithms. It’s removing humans from the equation who were able to evaluate context, history, demeanour, insincerity, conflicts of interest, and most importantly, fact-checking. (50. original / archive)
(Full disclosure: I was forced out of mainstream media because investigative journalism is quite expensive and it was the first ilk to be cut. That’s why I started Free The Press Canada, because you can take the reporter out of the newsroom but you can’t take the inquiring mind out of any journo worth their salt.)
The Fourth Estate is what informs governments in any democracy, while holding lawmakers to account. That this bat guano information was always available is proof that something went awry in the absence of subject matter experts to edit, assign, and report.
In North America there’s an extreme problem with media ownership too. No matter what anyone says, the free press has been muzzled by the billionaire class and this guano issue punctuates that unfortunate reality.
Pertaining to the Thai cave that tested positive for coronaviruses at various intervals from 2006 to 2018, there was one report from China and another from a multinational agency that is headquartered in Canada.
The South China Morning Post explained that despite the abundance of bat viruses, if they could make the leap to humans then we would already be extinct. The article emphasized the importance of bat meat to certain cultures and the value of guano to agriculture. It downplayed the rate of COVID-19 infections in Thailand and completely omitted that one of the cave’s miners contracted the coronavirus. It even disinformed readers by suggesting the guano is safe and that humans can only be infected through contact with bat saliva or urine. The erroneous article was then syndicated by Bloomberg in the United States. (51. original / archive)
In Canada, Reuters followed suit with an article about the same Thai cave a few weeks later. It produced a false title that claimed there was only a possible link between bat guano and human infection. Through that statement the editor denied evidence of the miner who contracted the coronavirus that was thoroughly studied. Reuters effectively denied the entire genomic sequence that was conducted on that person. (52. original / archive)
The body of the article goes on to describe the importance of bat guano to the agriculture industry. It implies that keeping the cave ‘clean’ protects miners from catching the coronavirus, at the same time discouraging belief that the guano could carry these pathogens. It further proposes the debunked hypothesis that coronaviruses require an intermediary to jump from bats to another host before the ability to infect humans. An interview with a miner (who’s in an absolute conflict of interest) reinforces this disinformation by claiming no one from the Thai caves has ever become ill from these bat-borne diseases. They assert the coronavirus didn’t originate there, despite undeniable proof in scientific journals that records several strains in that bat cave over a number of years.
No competing press agencies reported on the topic and neither of these entries was ever challenged in the headlines.
To understand how this could happen, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland used to work for Reuters as a managing director. Free The Press Canada is not in any way alleging collusion, but the Canadian government chose a sympathetic stance that is disinclined to point fingers. Reuters is also more than a media empire. It owns Thomson Financial, Thomson Legal & Regulatory, Thomson Reference, Scientific & Healthcare, as well as Thomson Learning. Under any of these banners, billionaire David Thomson could be looking to governments for various contracts and is therefore in a conflict of interest between serving the public and his personal wealth accumulation. (53. original / archive, 54. original / archive)
The bulk of competing newspapers in Canada are managed by Postmedia. This company is owned by American hedge funds, with a controlling interest that is deeply connected to David Pecker. Mr. Pecker is the same person who shielded President Trump in the Stormy Daniels scandal at the National Enquirer and his immunity deal with the Department of Justice may be in jeopardy over what Jeff Bezos claims is extortion. This is due to Pecker’s company acquiring his private text messages and an alleged threat for Bezos to stop investigating Trump or face the embarrassment of his intimate photos being published. Two prominent journalists also claimed to receive blackmail threats in a campaign to end their reporting about Trump, Pecker, Daniels, and the National Enquirer. (55. original / archive, 56. original / archive)
Concentrated and foreign media ownership is not supposed to be permitted in Canada, but for unknown reasons the Competition Bureau has refused to intervene throughout the tenure of both Conservative and Liberal governments. (57. original / archive)
On the stateside, fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos is owner of The Washington Post. He’s also the owner of Amazon, that has entered the media business to compete with Netflix while providing a marketplace for sellers to peddle their bat guano. If all of this wasn’t confusing enough, Bezos is friends with Michael Bloomberg, who is the owner of Bloomberg News. Bezos is the person who encouraged Bloomberg to run for president as a Democrat, in the effort to dethrone the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump. (58. original / archive)
Meanwhile in Asia, billionaire Jack Ma owns the South China Morning Post. He’s also the owner of Alibaba, that provides a marketplace for sellers to peddle their bat guano, in the identical manner as Jeff Bezos. Both men receive a cut for every bag of the natural fertilizer that passes through their platforms and could potentially carry the coronavirus around the entire world. Don’t forget that Ma further syndicates his articles through Bloomberg. (59. original / archive)
Canadian and American media are hopelessly compromised by partisan warfare, whether Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican. Chinese media is directly controlled by the Communist government. Each of these factions has a financial interest in the success of bat guano and matters of food security. But none of the billionaires appear to have an interest in the survival of average citizens in relation to a pandemic. Instead the press keeps bantering about herd immunity that would cleave the weakest demographics from the global population.
Ontario residents have been kept in the dark, but Canada’s most populous province is about to become an unlikely and international battleground. After all, how many times does the Great White North threaten the drinking water of more than 40 million people, including their neighbours in America?
Legislators from south of the border have already taken issue with plans for a deep geologic repository. Less than a mile from the shores of Lake Huron, Bruce Power intends to store 200,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste within the natural rock formation. Senators and congressmen shared their dissent with the Canadian government, but the fed responded by sending police to the homes of eco protesters, in what some would call an act of intimidation.
(photo credit: Ontario Power Generation)
It will take at least 300 years for the nuclear waste to decay, to a point that radioactive catastrophes are not a threat to human populations. This Kincardine, Ontario location was also chosen for its low seismic activity, reducing the likelihood of water and soil contamination by earthquake.
This much we’ve always known, due to the federal environment assessment that required public consultation. The Harper government has since levied time restrictions to speed the process along, but this is one project that was too big and too perilous to keep from the radar at all.
Seemingly unrelated, the controversy over fracking and in-situ technologies to harvest oil has been raging around the world. Ohio experts claim it causes earthquakes. Texans say it releases benzene and hydrogen sulfide in the air, causing everything from cancer to nosebleeds and skin rashes. British scientists say it causes radioactive contamination. Researchers at Duke University say it makes water flammable in Pennsylvania and New York, where investigators cite enough contamination to blow up homes with families in them. In Canada, the Idle No More movement continuously defends First Nations from plans to frack their tribal territory and there’s still the argument of numerous toxic chemicals used in the extraction process.
(photo credit: HBO, GasLand)
The topic of hydraulic fracturing is so polarizing that countless provinces, states and cities have sought a moratorium. The mayor of New York City added his voice to the opposition, with strong reservations about the impact to water safety. By contrast and north of this shared water source, scientists from Canada were abruptly silenced by the federal government and environmental laws were gutted, so there is no mechanism or freedom to complain above the forty-ninth parallel any longer.
This much we also knew, but how could it possibly relate to a nuclear waste dump?
Critics warned that sweeping changes to de-monitor water, curtail public input and failure to assess smaller power projects would have a grave and lasting impact on the Canadian ecosystem. They denounced newly legislated secrecy and threw their hands in the air when the government conducted a good old-fashioned, scientific book burning. They went so far as to accuse the Harper administration of oppressing Canadians for the sake of Alberta oil profits, meant to benefit the Prime Minister’s friends at a cost to every other industry in the country. With few studies or consultations required anymore, the public wouldn’t be privy to projects that conflict with each other either.
It was a Nostradamus moment that wouldn’t take a thousand years to come true. It’s just that our first example arises in Ontario, further east than they predicted when pitted against bitumen, LNG or coastal pipelines as the likely candidates. When people think about oil, they don’t naturally imagine the Great Lakes region as an epicenter for this development.
No one can blame residents for being remiss, when information became inaccessible to the public and for that matter to Americans who are impacted by Canadian activity. Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty claimed there would be no fracking until the province studied evidence to determine if the practice was safe. The new premier has never commented and no elected officials have alluded to anything different.
With all this government subterfuge from provincial and federal levels, the only way to learn about energy projects is through private company investor reports and knowing which ones to research now.
Bruce Power, meet Dundee Energy Limited. The former is an Ontario nuclear giant and the latter has the largest stake in Ontario oil. The two may operate side by side, but you’d never know from asking any level of government including municipal managers. These companies also favour the same rock formation, but for very different reasons.
Nuclear proponents believe the shale is strong enough to store radioactive waste, while oil competitors have chosen the area due to rich deposits and the porous nature of the same rock, making it a perfect specimen for fracking. It’s hard to see how both could be correct, but everyone drinking water along the Great Lakes is in the crosshairs of this corporate aggression.
From Neil Young to Yoko Ono, concerned stars have raised alarm bells regarding each of these topics, but no one thought to consider the impact of running these operations together. Fracking beside nuclear waste is a new concept for sure. The consequence of either practice is still a new frontier and combining them won’t be studied in Canada, nor will anyone be informed to care.
This situation is complicated by a few key players. Nuclear behemoth Bruce Power is technically owned by TransCanada Corp, that is better known for the KeystoneXL oil pipeline and tribulations visiting the White House. It’s also owned by Cameco, recently accused of tax evasion related to uranium sales. This partnership is completed by the retirement funds of municipal employees and the Power Workers Union, otherwise known as an affiliate of the left-wing labour movement and CUPE. As these strange bedfellows negotiate long term destruction of the environment for short term gain, the public is none the wiser because every brand of elected official appears to have taken a vow of silence.
In the case of Dundee Energy, it’s a subsidiary of the Dundee Corporation and federal Labour Minister Kellie Leitch was implicated in an alleged conflict of interest with this very consortium. While sitting on a board of directors for Dundee (REIT), Leitch was also debating legislation that impacted her environmentally averse tenants. In addition to meeting the needs of numerous oil clients under the Dundee real estate umbrella, this MP’s company position included an asset-based relationship with the National Energy Board (pgs 20-26).
The National Energy Board is Canada’s environmental regulator and the body that oversees public consultation in a situation like the Bruce Power nuclear waste dump. It no longer needs to conduct environmental hearings related to Dundee’s oil pursuits, as a result of the Labour Minister and Conservative government’s plight to de-monitor water and “streamline” approvals.
It’s now come to light that Leitch’s business associate was buying considerable land for oil extraction, with an eye for the riding she continues to represent. Dundee Energy also purchased junior speculators with rights to harvest oil in Ontario, around the same time she was named a trustee to the sister company with shared executives.
For context, the Labour Minister’s family established the Fort McMurray oil sands town in Alberta, before her career was transferred to Ontario where the process may be repeating. This time brings us to Collingwood, Ontario and begins with thousands of acres around Blue Mountain that the oil industry took an interest in.
This location boasts a farming heartland and world class ski resort, with waterside tourism in the summer. It’s unlikely Intrawest realizes the surrounding property is on the fracking horizon. It doesn’t bode well for stable snow formations if earthquakes are indeed caused by fracking. Yacht owners may pull their boats from oil-slicked waters and tourism around the protected Niagara Escarpment Biosphere may soon resemble the tar sands on this deregulated trajectory. The groundwaters sustaining agriculture in the bins at your local grocery store may also become poisonous if the experience of early adopters is any indication.
To manage a complex and conflicting set of developments, here’s a recap to give clarity that illuminates who might have known what.
1857 – 1863: Canada’s first shale gas operation was founded in Collingwood, Ontario. It originally supplied the market in Toronto. This enterprise eventually failed due to competition from Lambton County and this local history would be forgotten, until the present day when it’s repeated.
April 2008: Bruce Power begins drilling boreholes to test Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Georgian Bay and Manitoulin shales, in preparation for the nuclear waste deep geologic repository. A layout of the project is included, depicting the proximity to Lake Huron and a railway passing directly above the proposed radioactive location.
September 2008: Mooncor begins aggressive acquisition of Ontario shale oil assets. They have access to 23,000 acres with the ability to develop Collingwood and Blue Mountain formations.
November 2008: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Talisman and Torque Energy, as well as Enbridge, Haliburton and the US Energy Development Corp. Exhibitors include the Government of Newfoundland and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The latter presents “Shale Gas Opportunities in Ontario” during the session dedicated to fracking. The Ontario Power Generation also speaks about the Bruce Power waste site. That seminar is sandwiched between the effect of petrochemicals and how to fight back against eco protesters.
February 2009: A Calgary based oil and gas consultant is hired to conduct seismic testing for the Ontario Bruce Power nuclear site. Data is borrowed from a nearby Texaco well and Shell oil pipeline. Many gas wells are noted in the area and previous studies failed to indicate a seismic fault line. With newer technology however, faults were discovered around the nuclear site and this information will be submitted to the National Energy Board.
May 2009: The federal government finalizes a process of environmental review for the proposed Bruce Power nuclear waste site.
November 2009: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Torque Energy, Talisman Energy and Enbridge. Shale gas opportunities are promoted in Ontario and the Minister of Natural Resources is a keynote speaker this year. Numerous reps from the Ontario government provide seminars as well as a report for oil companies, enticing hundreds of new explorations. The Collingwood and Blue Mountain deposits are given special attention, closest to the nuclear waste site. Health Canada is also an exhibitor.
March 2010: Central Ontario oil was predominantly owned by Mooncor and Talisman Energy. The Dundee Corporation purchases “the largest accumulation of oil and natural gas assets in Ontario” for $131 million from Talisman, to overtake their interest in the area.
June 2010: Simcoe and Bruce Counties experience an uncharacteristic earthquake. The area surrounding a proposed nuclear waste dump and fracking locale, shakes enough to startle half the province awake.
October 2010: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsor information was withheld this year, but exhibitors include the Canadian Consulate General and various members of the Ontario government. Keynote speakers include disgraced Congressman Chris Lee (R-NY) and seminars are provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources, in addition to the Ministry of Northern Development. Dundee Energy updated their progress in purchasing Ontario shale assets, as the government updated its list of shale assets for promotion. Additional seminars were offered regarding hydraulic fracturing and the difficulty moving enough sand, water and chemicals to supply the fracking industry.
April 2011: The Bruce Power nuclear site tests for the presence of gas. It’s found in the Collingwood, Blue Mountain and Georgian Bay formations, among others. Upon detailed analysis, the highest concentration of oil is noted in the Collingwood shale samples (closest to the nuclear repository), while the highest gas concentrations can be found in the Blue Mountain companion. This study and many more were submitted to the National Energy Board.
April 2011: Mooncor creates spinoff company DRGN Resources to handle its Ontario shale oil and gas assets. The long term strategy includes overtaking smaller companies to become a major player in the province.
May 2011: Kellie Leitch is elected Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey, after accusations of being parachuted from out of town. This riding consists of Collingwood, Blue Mountain and much of Georgian Bay. She still works with Dundee REIT and will not resign the executive position until the end of the next quarter, representing both the public and a corporation at the same time.
June 2011: Dundee Energy Limited establishes 100 percent ownership of its Ontario oil assets, further retained by the Dundee conglomerate as the parent company. New horizontal wells are planned for extraction.
June 2011: Several fish begin dying in Lake Simcoe. It’s part of the same glacial movement that created the Great Lakes system and it’s a 30 minute drive from the shores of Lake Huron. A magnificent amount of oil and gas tests are occurring at the same time (from government, the fracking and nuclear industries), but this is not considered a possible culprit because the public is unaware.
August 2011: Dundee Energy purchases Torque Energy – a former sponsor of the Ontario Petroleum Institute and a remaining holdout competitor. Torque Energy includes oil assets in Ontario and the acquisition helps to pad Dundee’s dominant market share.
September 2011: Mooncor retains a small amount of stock in Torque Energy, now owned by the Dundee corporation (pg. 12). At the end of this month, Member of Parliament Kellie Leitch resigns from her position with Dundee’s real estate branch as well.
October 2011: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Dundee Energy, Torque Energy (under Dundee ownership) and Mooncor (with stock interest in Dundee). Keynote speakers include the Mayor of London and First Nations elders. Seminars are provided by the federal government’s Indian Oil and Gas Canada agency, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Energy Board. Topics covered Aboriginal affairs and fracking, with a hydrofracturing demonstration to close the event.
October 2011: Six thousand dead birds and fish scatter the shores of Wasaga Beach. It’s the longest freshwater beach in the entire world and lines much of Georgian Bay, connecting to Collingwood at Lake Huron. Both shale formations were being tested for oil and gas reserves, but botulism is the suspected culprit with little explanation regarding changes to the lake’s chemistry. The area never saw a die-off like this before and experts were left to guess a reason.
November 2011: Mooncor engages the Dundee conglomerate for help to raise $5 million toward expansion.
November 2011: An executive lawyer for Bruce Power and the nuclear waste site is appointed to the Ontario Centre of Excellence, to guide the provincial economy. This centre is funded by the Ontario government and Bruce Power continues to be owned by the same curious partners.
May 2012: Thousands of dead fish appear on the shores of Lake Simcoe. The second time is worse than the first. The Ministry of Natural Resources waited a number of months before informing the public of a widespread infection and no detailed cause was ever given.
September 2012: The Ontario government promotes shale fuel extraction at a conference in the United States. Collingwood, Blue Mountain and Georgian Bay formations are the focus, with 31 percent oil saturation and 77 percent gas saturation to encourage deeper investment. One of the wells cited is adjacent to the Bruce Power nuclear waste site. (A similar situation between oil wells and nuclear generators occurs in the Pickering location on Lake Ontario.)
September 2012: Dundee Energy invests $13.7 million in Ontario assets. Another $3.4 million is spent to acquire maps with seismic data, needed to plan the next harvesting sites. Inland extraction has become a priority to increase production, that offsets lower gas prices affected by greater American penetration and the Canadian petro dollar. A rig is purchased to assist with new drilling, allowing expansion in the Toronto gas market. In the process, they reserve $3.3 million for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, in anticipation of future environmental costs.
October 2012: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. The sponsor list is excluded again, but the Ministry of Natural Resources, Conservative MPP Bob Bailey and a National Post editor were mentioned as speakers. Embattled Liberal Energy Minister Chris Bentley was invited to give the keynote address and topics narrowly focused on pipelines, fracking and promoting Ontario’s shale assets for exploration.
November 2012: The Ontario government releases a comprehensive report (490 pages) meant to attract investment, reform applicable laws and assist corporations in negotiating with First Nations. Shale gas and oil in the Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Georgian Bay, Nottawasaga and Manitoulin areas is given special attention (pgs. 222-240), with specific mention of fuels (pgs. 275-286). Each is promoted as having the best potential for fracking related extraction. At least 360 samples were tested from wells and new boreholes in the years preceding, as part of the larger “shale gas assessment project” the public was never informed about. Groundwater mapping for Simcoe County is thoroughly noted (pgs. 295-306) and includes data from Lake Huron to Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe, the Nottawasaga River, Newmarket Till and Oak Ridges Moraine. It is further identified as one of the most significant glacial aquifers, responsible for drinking water obtained from the Great Lakes and every connecting path from Canada to Chicago, Illinois.
November 2012: At the same time Ontario promoted shale extraction, Premier Dalton McGuinty informed the media there was no reason to worry about fracking in the province. He offered this reassurance despite public objection to Dundee Energy and Mooncor buying land for the same purpose. This message was supported by the Ministry of Natural Resources when they confirmed one new shale well was drilled, but denied any knowledge of plans to continue. All political parties responded as if the premise of fracking was hypothetical, but each shared a connection to this series of concrete developments. The Liberal government spent millions to encourage fracking extraction and accepted millions from interested companies. Elected Conservatives spoke at fracking events and/or occupied an executive table with the most aggressive corporation. The NDP also enjoys considerable input from the labour movement, as business partners with an oil giant involved in testing the area.
June 2013: Dundee Energy plans to invest $13.2 million in new Ontario wells and exploration to increase production. Another $2 million will be spent to map 314 kilometers of prospective shale opportunities. The corporation pays an extra $270,000 to the Ministry of Natural Resources in anticipation of future abandonment costs (pgs. 8, 28). This expansion is again reported to offset losses incurred by the American market and complication from the petro dollar (pgs. 10-13).
September 2013: Dundee’s rig is used in Lambton County, Ontario to fracture-stimulate a new well. Additional projects are planned for summer the next year.
October 2013: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. This time it’s at the Windsor casino and sponsors are dwindling as companies are bought up, but Dundee Energy has attained the gold level. Seminars are provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Dundee itself, regarding radial jet drilling and its benefits to the fracking industry. This talk was followed by a presentation regarding the Blue Mountain shale formation and the majority of that day was dedicated to hydraulic fracturing topics. The smaller event was then closed by the Ontario Minister of Rural Affairs. It should be noted that a few days earlier, First Nations made international news with a government standoff against fracking. A Chief close to Bruce Power was also protesting the nuclear waste dump.
In other curious developments, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources defers to the oil industry as its spokesperson. Visiting the government internet page to learn about provincial resources not only misinforms about Ontario’s history (forgetting Collingwood as the first producer), but it also directs readers to the “Discovery Education Centre” as the government’s source for facts.
It just so happens the Discovery Education Centre is owned by Discovery Drilling Funds. They were purchased by LongBow Energy Corp and this business is steeped in the Alberta oil sands. Head office is located in Calgary, Alberta and one of the key executives is a former Koch Petroleum manager (of Koch Industries fame). It’s unclear why a private group of five western oil companies is now speaking for the Government of Ontario.
Regarding competition between fracking and nuclear waste, the town of Walkerton, Ontario is located at the midpoint between them. Driving half an hour west, residents will arrive at Bruce Power and driving half an hour east, they’ll arrive at the heavily promoted Collingwood oil deposits. If they dare to drive south, they’ll arrive at Sarnia’s petrochemical industry and advanced plans for fracking in Lambton County as well.
This tiny hamlet was foisted to world news when the water supply was contaminated and more than 2,300 residents became severely ill. Several died. Criminal charges were laid. The Conservative government of the day was blamed for legislation that privatized the testing of water safety. Now the same families may serve as a test, to see what happens when government policy allows fracking beside nuclear waste, fourteen years later in a repeat performance.
Everyone who obtains drinking water associated with the Great Lakes will also be affected, if any part of this experiment goes wrong. And despite Ontario denying plans to frack, taxpayers footed the bill to produce widespread tests for shale oil, in addition to yearly seminars designed to entice extraction.
These water tables come from one of the most important Precambrian aquifers. It supplies the local area and stretches deep into the United States. This underground water highway also supports Toronto and all the towns branching out along the way. The only thing that doesn’t appear to support 40 million North Americans, is politics north of the border and its friends in the energy industry. If all bureaucracies have skin in the game, who’s left to speak for the water?
Will the Ethics Minister Investigate this MP’s Failure to Disclose Her Income?
Surprising developments continue to challenge the Harper government and it doesn’t appear the recent cabinet shuffle was enough to contain the party’s troubles. In July, the prime minister embarked on a public relations makeover to soften the blow from repeated allegations of criminal activity and impropriety against a growing number of Conservatives.
To quell chatter about Duffy and the senate spending scandal — followed by charges against Del Mastro, the Prime Minister appointed a fresh batch of faces to populate his inner circle. In this rejuvenation process, a faithful MP from Simcoe-Grey was promoted to Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women. It seemed a safe bet, as the member was not only a minority female but also a paediatric surgeon who proved her loyalty by supporting the export of asbestos. Surely her silence in the face of criticism from the health care industry could merit responsibility for two portfolios in a beleaguered government.
Doubly minted Minister Kellie Leitch keeps a low profile with the local public, but she’s been a staple in the Conservative party since the days of her youth. The doctor wasn’t familiar to residents of Simcoe-Grey until the 2011 federal election, because she normally hailed from Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and the University of Western Ontario in London. Leitch’s life was centred many hours away and she survived this controversy with stellar endorsements from CPC stars like Jim Flaherty, Peter MacKay, Hugh Segal, Julian Fantino and Stephen Harper. The campaigning efforts of Pamela Wallin weren’t quite as glowing, since her visits have become a point of contention in the senate investigation (see April 26 and 29, expanded to include Jan. 17).
This prominent attention must have felt remarkable. In a rural region known for farming and rustic getaways, the area was transformed into a political Hollywood for the election. The only caveat is it required this much effort to help Leitch overcome the toxic atmosphere she was about to inherit. Her predecessor in Simcoe-Grey was also a Minister for the Status of Women, but Helena Guergis was in the process of being turfed as her replacement was parachuted by the Prime Minister. It was a timely campaign of false and tawdry allegations. Ms. Guergis saw her career destroyed to create a vacancy in the riding and much of the local executive quit to protest their loss of democracy.
Amid the many accusations against Kellie Leitch, it became apparent she would need to open up and endear herself to the locals. In a rare interview with the tiny Wasaga Beach newspaper, a limited number of constituents received a glimpse into the world of our prospective Labour Minister. This included a rare epiphany explaining just how far she traveled. In her own words, Kellie Leitch professes it wasn’t in her plans to become a doctor and she was keen to build on her father’s legacy as a founder of Fort McMurray.
The Alberta oil sands are more than a stone’s throw from the shores of central Ontario and according to Leitch, her family should be credited with bringing the oil rush to Canada because they’re the ones who built the infrastructure to make the harvest area inhabitable. This MP was proud of the environment she helped create, despite Neil Young’s comparison of Fort McMurray to Hiroshima. Of course the latter was banned from the former’s radio station, so perhaps Minister Leitch will never hear about the opposition.
This brings us to the ethical hurdles facing the Conservative party and whether Harper’s judgement would improve in time for the cabinet shuffle, meant to save the government’s reputation. These new ministers should be impervious to criticism, or rather investigation. Ideally they would lead the way by filing items properly and insulate the Canadian Parliament from any more questions of fraud or conflicts of interest. Or contempt. Or bribery. Or voter suppression. Or criminal charges. With such a turbulent track record, it only seems reasonable the Prime Minister would benefit from hindsight and wisdom in selecting his next executives.
It was previously reported that Minister Leitch was in good standing with the Ethics Commissioner and she did not declare any additional income in her report for the public registry. This is the information she provided to media in a congenial, receptive email. But that registry and the Canadian Securities Regulators at Sedar appear to have a different opinion.
The following is a public version of events, expressed in a timeline with commentary:
May 4, 2010 — Kellie Leitch causes a stir with Conservatives in Simcoe-Grey, when she attends private meetings as a star candidate who was parachuted from Toronto.
May 6, 2010 — Kellie Leitch becomes a paid trustee at Dundee REIT (see also May 10, 2010 – report of voting results). As part of a Declaration of Trust, she must agree to a non-competition clause with the company. She is not permitted to acquire an interest, even indirectly from commercial real estate, without first allowing Dundee the option of purchasing said investment (see page 37).
Dundee REIT is a subsidiary of Dundee Corporation and Ned Goodman is the owner, occupying a seat at the same table as MP Leitch. Mr. Goodman is better known as one of the richest people in Canada (see page 18). The REIT is better known for its main accounts, as landlord to the Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, Government of British Columbia, Government of Alberta, Government of Saskatchewan, Government of Quebec, Government of Northwest Territories, Enbridge Pipelines and SNC Lavalin. This is in addition to the Canada Revenue Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Cities of Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta Health Services, CAE and Ministry of the Attorney General (see page 20).
In media it’s not mentioned that Dundee REIT is behind the Toronto Pan Am village, but annual filings detail the company’s $15 million investment, with an expected profit of $50 million when the properties are finally sold (see page 12).
In the same report Mr. Goodman shares his executive insight with underlings like Minister Leitch. He says,
“Inflation is a certainty because without any other reasons, and there are many, it is a political and financial tool that allows for de-leveraging of debt and payment of deficits. In addition, politicians very seldom get elected by causing deflation. Almost everyone likes inflation. If you are a government and inflate prices, then you keep people struggling and working hard to keep pace with inflation. The poorer the people are, the more likely they can be kept under control. In addition, inflation for rich people is taxable and deflation is less so. No government ever has an incentive to deflate, but has incentive in fact to inflate. Voters prefer inflation to deflation.” (seepage 19)
He would have said this while also acting as the Chancellor of Brock University.
May 10, 2010 — The appointment of Dr. Leitch to Dundee REIT is confirmed by Sedar.com (see May 10, 2010, report of voting results).
May 2010 — Kellie Leitch is slated to receive 4,607 deferred REIT units for her services as a trustee in the first year (see April 18, 2011, management information circular – within report, view page 6). Her access to sensitive information about the company and advice from owners like Mr. Goodman is granted (view page 9). The compensation structure is outlined and as a trustee, Dr. Leitch will play a role in determining these amounts, including the amount of payment due to Mr. Goodman and approval of deferred units like she received (view pages 12-13). In addition to receiving property investments and a personal stake in government tenants, Leitch receives $21,000 in cash for meeting fees (see page 18). It’s important to understand this compensation was negotiated at the onset, but actual payment would be received into the next year. The deferred units go through a 5 year vesting period, with parts maturing at each anniversary. This would provide Dr. Leitch with steady income for a minimum of 5 years (view page 16).
May 2010 — Dundee REIT confirms it will invest $20 million to construct a building for the Government of Canada in Yellowknife, fully leased to the government for 10 years (see May 6, 2010, interim financial statements – within report, view page 21).
December 31, 2010 — Kellie Leitch is confirmed to receive $21,000 in cash, for her services at Dundee REIT (see page 18).
March 21, 2011 — Much of the Conservative riding executive quits in Simcoe-Grey, due to the ouster of Helena Guergis and the parachuting of Kellie Leitch.
March 31, 2011 — As Defence Minister, Peter MacKay visits the riding of Simcoe-Grey to campaign on behalf of Dr. Leitch. On the same day, Dundee REIT releases a business update to Sedar.com that includes important information about its trustees. Leitch is legally reported to live in the municipality of Toronto (see March 31, 2011 – annual information form – within report, view pages 30, 31). This supports the accusation that she was parachuted to another riding.
April 12, 2011 — Leitch’s business partner and Dundee Corporation owner, Ned Goodman,purchases considerable interest in resource extraction from the Ring of Fire – a point of deep contention for Northern Ontario Native communities.
April 19, 2011 — Peter Cosgrove donates $1,000 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 29). If this was a misspelling, a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT also goes by the name of Peter Cossgrove.
May 2, 2011 — Michael Knowlton donates $250 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 69). He was the president, COO, executive vice president and CFO at Dundee REIT. He made this contribution two weeks before retiring from the president’s position.
Most donations were recorded at the last minute. Forty per cent arrived on Election Day and this indicates Leitch was in contact with her business partners from Toronto, while the riding of Simcoe-Grey was busy voting. No trustees at Dundee REIT are residents of this riding, according to available financial records. In addition to these individuals, the majority of political donors hail from the Toronto area and their contributions were accepted on May 2, 2011.
The return submitted to Elections Canada includes donor names such as Lara Zink (136),Dori Segal (106), David R. Wingfield (133), Kevin Warn-Schindel (128), Linda Rorabeck(100), Lori Turik (122), Kim Shannon (107), Michael S. Ras (95), Partick Meneley (83),Frank Magliocco (77), Onorio Lucchese (75), Blair Levinsky (73), William E. Lardner (71),Landon French (49), Victor Dodig (40), Bradley Cutsey (34), William J. Corcoran (28) andRita Ciccolini. It is this calibre of GTA powerhouses that funded an election campaign in rural Ontario.
(To view a candidate’s return within the Elections Canada database, a fresh search must be performed. Once the information for Leitch, Kellie, in the riding of Simcoe–Grey is displayed, select Form 2A to browse donations. Screen captures of this information are also provided below. Please be advised there is nothing improper about the donations, but they did arise from out of town, predominantly on the day of election.)
May 2, 2011 — Kellie Leitch is elected Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey, defeating Helena Guergis as a new face for the Conservatives.
May 12, 2011 — Ten days after the election, MP Leitch accepts paid re-appointment to the Board of Trustees at Dundee REIT (see May 16, 2011 — report of voting results). This happened at a specially scheduled event, in the Toronto Board of Trade, East Ballroom. It would have been clear to everyone that Kellie Leitch was celebrating her election, when she accepted their overtures to oversee a business that relied heavily on the favour of federal government (see pages 1, 6).
May 16, 2011 — Kellie Leitch is recorded in the Canada Gazette as being elected to Parliament. According to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, she has 60 days from this moment to file her private interests with the Ethics Commissioner for inspection. Since Dr. Leitch was immediately appointed to parliamentary secretary, her ability to engage in private employment would not have been appropriate (seeitem 7). She would not have been able to engage in contracts with the government for which she received benefit, without the Commissioner’s permission and only if the arrangement wouldn’t affect her parliamentary obligations (see items 16, 17, 18). MP Leitch was also required to disclose any income greater than $1,000, including its source, for the 12 months preceding election (see item 21).
May 25, 2011 — MP Leitch is appointed to parliamentary secretary by the Prime Minister.
July 16, 2011 — MP Leitch was due to submit her disclosure of private income and conflicts of interest to the Ethics Commissioner, in keeping with the 60 day mandate. She failed to do this within the required time and remained engaged with Dundee REIT as a parliamentary secretary.
August 15, 2011 — Dundee REIT acquires the Blackstone portfolio for $703 million (seepage 23). It was the largest portfolio ever purchased by a REIT in Canada and this transaction contained significant addresses in the heart of Toronto’s financial district (Bay Street).
2011 — Dundee REIT becomes landlord to the National Energy Board, numerous oil and resource companies, WSIB and Government Services for the Department of National Defence (see pages 20-26). Due to the nature of their tenants, Dundee’s liability for environmental protection and the cost of remediating contaminated sites is considered (seepage 27).
September 22, 2011 — Parliamentary Secretary Leitch resigns from her position at Dundee REIT. The company attributes this departure to her successful election nearly five months earlier. They note she attended four of five regularly scheduled meetings, meaning it’s probable that some of them occurred while she was a Member of Parliament — unless all the company’s business was conducted prior to May 2nd and the federal election. Leitch accepted remuneration for her service in 2011, in the form of $6,000 cash, 35,000 REIT units and 110,000 deferred REIT units, for a reported value of $151,600 (see April 11, 2012 –management information circular – within report, view page 20 – or see alternate source atpage 20, here).
September 26, 2011 — MP Leitch discloses her private interests to the Ethics Commissioner on the public registry. She reports a blind trust and income from the University of Toronto, University of Western and the Ministry of Health. She does not report the $21,000 plus $6,000 received in cash, for her previous twelve months at Dundee REIT, or the current term. She does not report her significant interest in the company’s contracts with government tenants or the oil and resource industries. In fact, there is no mention of Dundee REIT, even though this report is filed four days after resigning the private position and two months after the parliamentary due date.
September 29, 2011 — Three days later, MP Leitch makes a correction to her Ethics disclosure. This time she adds ownership of the Khristinn Kellie Leitch Medicine Professional Corporation, but still there is no mention of Dundee REIT.
2010 – 2011 — During the first year of Dr. Leitch’s tenure at Dundee REIT in 2010, the Government of Canada leased 333,187 square feet from the company (see page 21). Although she was elected to Parliament in May 2011, MP Leitch didn’t resign the position with Dundee until the end of September. During this period of dual representation, the Government of Canada became the company’s largest tenant, increasing their lease to 1,209,973 square feet in 2011 (see page 19). That’s an unprecedented increase in the company’s history of 263 percent, around the same time this parliamentary secretary was working for both entities. Since her departure from Dundee REIT, the federal government expanded their account to 1,658,129 square feet.
2012 — Dundee REIT releases an annual report that cites considerable political influence on their business ventures (see page 44).
As the current Minister of Labour, Kellie Leitch could impact the employment concerns of Dundee REIT. She will continue to receive income until her payment cycle completes in 2016, with incentive to meet their needs. There is no concern from government to abstain from voting in parliament, on matters that affect the company or any of the tenants. There is no mention of the environmental pressures to keep many of these clients profitable. The REIT units owned by the minister are more than security investments and there is nothing to indicate the Ethics Commissioner identifies these holdings as remuneration. Minister Leitch could choose between cash and securities, opting for the latter as a lion’s share of compensation. This relationship is further complicated by Dundee’s political interest in the outcome of government decisions from a number of different perspectives.
January 17, 2012 — Dundee completes their acquisition of the Whiterock portfolio, becoming a landlord to the Government of New Brunswick, Government of Nova Scotia, Quebec public health, Air Canada, provincial hydro organizations, the US Bank, TD Canada Trust, Royal Bank, Molson, PEI Liquor Control Commission, Nova Scotia Liquor Corp and the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (see last pages, B-1 to B-4).
February 14, 2013 — MP Leitch makes the last update to her ethics disclosure file. This time she adds publicly traded securities and an extra blind trust to the assets column. It’s likely these securities arise from her payment at Dundee REIT; but still there is no cash declared, no mention of remuneration and no mention of the company or its interests.
July 15, 2013 — MP Leitch is appointed to Minister of Labour and Minister of the Status of Women.
Minister Leitch has been contacted for comment, but none has been forthcoming. The only question that remains is if the commissioner will evaluate these potential conflicts of interest, the primary address of MP Leitch on Election Day and the apparent failure to disclose earned income.
***February 13, 2014 UPDATE: It is now known that MP Leitch donated to the Rob Ford election campaign. In his financial documents, it lists her home address in the City of Toronto. FreeThePressCanada will not disclose the exact location, but the election documents are a matter of public record, stored online.
(This was previously published by CBC when I was an Occupy Toronto correspondent. All Occupy related articles have since been migrated to the archives section. A live link is no longer accessible and the original would need to be sought by request from the broadcaster.)
It’s a widespread, global phenomenon; the greatest revolution of our time – and yet no one can seem to put their finger on it. The participants haven’t summarized the problem in three weeks’ time and the media isn’t sure where to begin. So what’s this Occupy Movement all about?
On Saturday, October 15th, I will join with citizens from every nation in what is set to be a record breaking event, with the Toronto chapter. Representatives for 99% of the world’s population are intent to be heard, uniting their voices as one. This movement now spans every continent except Antarctica. But is this for teachers, pilots, unionists, the unemployed, middle class, impoverished… or is it a bunch of communists as some corners have suggested?
The first question that begs answering is who are the 99% and how did they get that way. They are you and me and everyone we’ve ever known. Unless you’re part of the 1%, you’re part of the 99 and it’s just that simple. The middle class has a tendency to view themselves separate from the woes of common man, but rest assured the consequences apply to them too – especially them, in fact.
Ultimately the occupation results from “trickle down economics”, to put a very complex set of circumstances in a single nutshell. According to the Conference Board of Canada, the gap has been growing between rich and poor for more than two decades. The disparity grew by the greatest proportion in Canada, where average incomes remain stagnant with levels of the 1970’s. After factoring inflation and debt, our value from wages has actually decreased 10%. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives paints a stark contrast for the top 1%, who happened to increase their value 219 times greater than any of us.
The score is -10 versus +219. This kind of disparity hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression and even then society’s wealthiest only controlled 8% of income growth, whereas they control an entire third today. In response to that historic calamity, governments were forced to respond with public policy that addressed fair taxation and wages. The goal was to redistribute prosperity even-handedly to prevent another collapse of the country. Presently however, they control as much as 42.5% of our wealth and government has insisted on lowering their taxes, again to levels not seen since the Depression. It’s apparent those lessons have been forgotten and astute historians are intent on getting the message out before lines under Salvation Army signs quadruple.
The theory to cut taxes for the 1% says this will result in trickle down benefits for the other 99. It’s supposed to create jobs and cause the market to remunerate us properly based on natural forces. It’s supported by both the IMF and OECD in the global view of financing. Except all data shows the benefactors continue to pocket the overwhelming profits and fail to invest in our workforce. They’reinvesting 40% less in their businesses than they were before the gift of major tax reductions. That means our so-called stimulus is filtered straight to their bank accounts and they’re taking even more from profit margins.
This is like asking us to ignore an elephant in the room. There have been 11,724 foreign takeovers of Canadian companies in the last 25 years and all our jobs are exported with them. It was thought through even distribution of global competition that we could replace these countless industries. But we’ve been forced to reckon with the inability to maintain a system of minimum wage, health or safety regulations and remain competitive with countries that don’t have them. We’ve already cut costs at a detriment to safety and felt the repercussions through Walkerton and Maple Leaf. The utilization of employment agencies and repeated attempts at union busting already serve to decrease our wages or any access we had to benefits. All in the name of shining us up, so we look our best for the 1%.
In another bid to win their favour, our governments are deregulating everything from banking to trade, takeovers, wheat, power, food and pharmaceuticals. Canada has been undergoing a personality makeover to morph into the US and it’s been a harsh battle to keep our social network balanced with the shift toward total capitalism.
The FIAT monetary system also bears mention. At the same time a gap defining rich from poor was allowed to establish, so too was this currency adopted. No longer was money gold-backed and instead it became traded on the stock market based on debt, wars, ability to repay, GDP, employment rates, investment and poverty. Since debt is now factored into dollar value, governments have found themselves printing money without the ability to repay it and as a result cause hyperinflation. The history of FIAT currency has ended in complete failure, without exception, since the beginning of money in 800 AD and bureaucracy only turns to this method of calculating wealth in times of trouble to artificially pad their value.
But the moment of truth has arrived and 99% can no longer afford to live within reason. We’re not making enough to afford inflation, depreciation of wages, or repayment of a deficit to cushion the elite. We can least afford the cuts to public services that are sacrificed to maintain this pretense of funny-money in our time of suffering.
Financial industry employment already outnumbers public sector jobs by 4% to 0.82% respectively. By the year 2023 they are predicted to control the majority of employment across Canada, should present trends continue. For every doctor, teacher, police officer, fire fighter, social worker, EI counselor, garbage collector and soldier – there are four stock brokers, insurance agents and bankers to steer our agendas and speak for our needs.
This is how pressure becomes placed on our governments to accommodate deregulation that increases prices, again in an effort to pad the 1% at our expense. They’re the folks who do the advising, they approve loans for governments in trouble and they fund a majority of major political parties. Talk about a conflict of interest! And yet the current Canadian federal government is making laws to end subsidy based on votes and force every party to embrace financing from the 1%. They also do what they can to prevent unions representing public interests from participating.
When that wasn’t enough, the deregulated markets took up the art of speculating. For those who don’t understand, speculation is the process of buying something (in large quantities) without the need or perhaps intention to sell it. This artificially manufactures shortages and drives up prices for the 99%. You’ve watched the result of this activity unfold at the gas pump increasingly throughout the years. We’re paying the same price per barrel of oil today, as we were when it cost 79 cents at the gas station. The price has only risen to $1.30/litre now, specifically because of speculation.
Since middle class incomes haven’t risen effectively for more than a quarter century and the cost of living has gone through the roof, we also lost our buying power – which is essential to keep a capitalist system functioning. We were thoroughly supported by manufacturing to meet our own demands, but can only need so many TVs, cars or new clothing patterns and our ability to purchase them on a whim has diminished.
So enters the business of speculation and commodities. We still must eat, drive and light up our homes. Again through deregulation and privatization, we’ve seen hydro, insurance and interest only climb and once those avenues were saturated they started tinkering with our food. The 1% is now gambling with our ability to eat, the same way they did with hedge funds and everything else that bubbled over.
Global markets are now speculating on corn, grains, sugar and water – the basis we need to make all else. Like clockwork it’s already doubled our prices at the grocery store, the same as they did with oil. The 1% has run out of things to increase their incomes beyond the 220% benchmark and they haven’t stopped at anything to maintain their status quo.
Further complicating matters is the logistical problem with 1% holding everyone’s wealth. We’re told they’re “too big to fail” and have to cover their tab for unbridled, vicious grabs at even more of the economy. They created the internet bubble, housing bubble, finance bubble, food bubble and oil bubble, but the system is set up so they continue to benefit no matter what they’ve done to the economy while you and I are forced to pay for it – WE, the 99%.
Last but not least this eats into our tax base, as they lobby governments for deeper cuts and fewer regulations still. The bulk of our services like health care, child care, education, pensions, EI and housing are on the chopping block because we can’t afford to provide public services while covering the debts of the rich. The 99%’s debts are forever owed to the 1% and the 1% shift their debts to the 99%. It might be brilliant if it wasn’t so blatant.
The result of these high stakes experiments is the disappearance of a middle class. It’s predicted for 2025 in Toronto and most cities around the world are similar. I don’t think there’s any coincidence between financial markets dominating the workforce by 2023 and the collapse of families on its heels 2 years later.
I hope this explains why we’re the 99% and everyone needs to support this movement, no matter which path they take to get there. Ultimately you’re not protesting the people who work on Bay Street, or the police for that matter (they’re the 99% too)! The financial district was chosen as a symbol of capitalism gone awry, without the courage of governments to control them in the best interests of their people. And make no mistake; while Canadian banking is more regulated than our counterparts, the entire act of trading, speculation, lending and borrowing is still done on the same global playing field, to the same rules and repercussions. The attitude of governments is how to become a bigger player in that game, as opposed to moderating the Billionaires Gone Wild before we’re manipulated to ruin.
The Occupy movement is not asking for “a” program. They’re not asking for “a” tax rebate. What they’re asking for is fundamental change within our system and readdressing priorities like our forefathers had to do in times of disparity past. This is no easy task on a global scale, but it’s precisely why we elect governments and it’s their job to enter an open discussion in favour of solutions. The gig is up and 99% of us are ready to take our balls home – or stare through windows in every financial district until they have the courage to notice.
This isn’t a fringe group of radicals or anyone holding a grudge from the G20. This is Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad; Suzy, Bobby and Rufus too. The most people ever documented in history will be joining together to begin a dialogue with their governments on Saturday. We can’t afford what amounts to trickle down economics to support the 1% anymore. Two thousand new entries were made on the critical housing list in Toronto just last month. 40% of our food bank users are now children. A full third of many communities are already dining there.
When situations were radically unfair and unmanageable in the 1960s, our families united and led the way for reluctant governments then too. Call them hippies, call them whatever you like. But I call them honest and courageous, agents of positive change. No one in history will argue they didn’t do something necessary that shaped our future for the better. The time has come for us to show the same care to our children.
***Added February 13, 2014 for educational value. Please see this fantastic animation that makes the economic situation crystal clear.
Was Rob Ford Talking About Drugs on the Danforth?
This weekend marks a staple celebration in Toronto, and the mayor of Canada’s largest city was there. Rob Ford attended Taste of the Danforth; not as a proper ambassador, but rather as a patron intent to enjoy the festivities intoxicated.
YouTube users have been flooding the site with video evidence of their concerns, prolonging the mayor’s woes with media inquiries into his suspected struggles with substance abuse. The Toronto Star as well as the Globe and Mail have addressed the recent spectacle, but what seems to be overlooked is a poignant entry that may indicate a reference to cocaine.
As Ford poses for pictures with festival goers on the street, he comes across a fellow who he repeatedly refers to as “brother”. Amid the intoxicated slurs, the mayor appears to ask if someone in the group is looking for “blow” and confirms that he has some (although what he claims to possess is unproven). See this clip at 0:17 (UPDATE: The Toronto Star enhanced this audio and found Rob Ford said “cologne” not “blow”)
(Video now removed from source, a copy can be found at the Toronto Star)
Blow is a nickname for cocaine, raising new suspicions about the infamous crack video first covered by Gawker. The fallout has claimed numerous members of the Ford political entourage, as they departed from City Hall and the world at large encouraged the mayor to seek help for drug addiction.
The newest “drug video” has been viewed nearly 18,000 times on some sites, as listeners attempt to discern a controversial quote attributed to Rob Ford,
“You want some blow? I’ll get you some blow. I have it, seriously!”
These words do appear to be uttered by Toronto’s mayor and whether Ford raised the issue of drugs with constituents or one of them inquired about his troubles, it should be noted that he didn’t condemn the conversation. Instead it was a jovial and carefree moment that substances can induce, when a user isn’t sober enough to realize the consequence of their words and actions.
Toronto is a world class city that deserves to be represented in kind and regardless of any smack talk about illicit drugs, there is still the issue of alcohol to contend with. Sarah Thomson previously accused the mayor of inappropriate behaviour while under the influence and despite his denials, the Danforth reinforces similar concerns.
Another resident posted video citing worries the mayor was drunk and had driven to the festival. In fairness to Ford he does say that he isn’t driving when pressed on the issue, but others reported him by the vehicle later in the evening.
Ford used his party time to seek the spotlight while posing for countless pictures. He knew all eyes were on him because he was smiling for the attention. He knows the cloud of suspicion that surrounds him is darkening the city’s reputation and causing dysfunction within city council. He didn’t use this opportunity to speak about responsible drinking or provide a good example, nor did he address the economic and cultural benefits that come from hosting events like Taste of the Danforth.
That was too much to ask from a man who is tasked with managing the concerns of millions and the only business Rob Ford wishes to discuss is where to find the next venue with mind-altering substances. In lieu of drumming up support for business and community, the mayor was concerned with partying. He promoted public intoxication over public safety and couldn’t see beyond enjoyment of self in what some would call a slurring stupor.
So the question begs to be asked, is this the face constituents want to represent their interests while attracting committed business to the metropolis? Is this how the mayor behaves when negotiating deals with corporate friends? Are these the actions of a leader or truly Conservatives ideals? Is Ford’s judgement sound or is it really shaded by addiction?
Let us not forget the mayor is a fishing buddy to our Prime Minister and a previous party to celebrate their pursuit of a Tory trifecta was attended by the most powerful CPC personalities.
They say we’re judged by the company we keep and to date the mayor is alleged to be friendly with convicted, stabbed and/or dead drug dealers. Stephen Harper considers Ford to be part of his inner circle and our country’s leader was surrounded by Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, Patrick Brazeau, and Mike Sona as well. All individuals are innocent until proven guilty, but can we name another Prime Minister who was dogged by so many illicit allegations in his entourage, or intoxicated partners who repeatedly star in questionable videos?
David Suzuki Empowers 8,000 Youth to Wake Up Canada!
The saying goes, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? According to 8,000 Ontario youths it surely does. You just wouldn’t know from media outside this Windsor community despite their resounding hollers and applause.
On April 25, 2013, renowned scientist Dr. David Suzuki attended the WFCU Centre to empower the crowd with his Wake Up Canada call. It’s a campaign organized by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition (CYCC) to support a day of action, encouraging kids to advocate for their environmental future through the very media that overlooked them this time around.
The event was broadcast province-wide with the help of TVCogeco, but still there was little response from adults or acknowledgement of this priceless opportunity for students across Ontario. Guest speakers came all the way from British Columbia to help unite Canadians and foster our understanding that we’re all in this together — that the legacy we leave our children really does matter, especially to them.
This jam-packed hockey stadium hosted fellow speakers in the Wake Up Canada entourage. They included a First Nations activist with Greenpeace, Melina Laboucan Massimo. She explained the damage of Alberta bitumen harvesting practices and oppression that caused her to leave the reserve she always knew as home.
Pictures of tailings ponds shocked the crowd on the overhead screen. Although most of the kids were high school students, some of them were a bit younger. Explaining the threat of chemical leachates contaminating drinking water wasn’t lost on any of them though.
Next was Sam Harrison, from Kids for Climate Action. His message was politically focused and it packed a memorable punch. He’s only a young fellow and talking politics to children might have seemed out of place, until he riled his peers with tremendous enthusiasm for what he came this far to say.
Six-million children will turn 18 in time to vote in the next federal election. If they all participate, these newly minted adults could be the difference between a minority or majority government of their own doing. He proudly sported a button saying “Future Climate Voter” and the idea of kids having a say in their destiny penetrated deeper than society gives them credit.
Some may see our children as playing in parks without a care in the world; but the truth is we uprooted the trees, paved over the grass and polluted the air so badly that they can’t breathe during summer. We replaced their time at parks with a reliance on air conditioning and slathering their bodies in sunscreen to avoid skin cancer. It’s not so much that kids are maturing faster in modern times, as we’re responsible for forcing them to grow up and solve the issues they’ve inherited.
Mr. Harrison’s message dovetailed with Dr. Suzuki’s description of the environmental challenges we’ve bestowed upon our children. He candidly offered,
“You see, my generation and those that followed, we partied like there was no tomorrow and forgot that there were consequences. We now see the results of living so extravagantly in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s. My generation left a legacy that you will have to deal with.”
He also mentioned that he was speaking with students as a concerned grandfather, after political bullying forced him to abdicate his own board of directors at the David Suzuki Foundation. He wasn’t shy to explain his challenges and this example of muzzling Canada’s scientists brought a rare moment of silence to the arena. Suzuki was genuine and heartfelt in his delivery. The effect was disarming and somehow more real than hearing these issues discussed by concerned pundits on television.
But the guests of honour wouldn’t let this gathering end on a sore note. The sobering moments were perhaps so powerful because the rest of the time was filled with laughter, hope, a ton of cheering and a positive plan for the future. On May 30, 2013, kids will share their Wake Up Canada messages to let us know how much they care and that we can all do something about it! It’s a national event, there’s enough time for schools to get involved and the only thing they need from us is a moment to truly listen.
Following the grand production a smaller group broke away to meet with Dr. Suzuki and the cast of traveling speakers, barely five minutes away in Tecumseh, Ontario. At the local museum they were joined by Cameron Fenton from the CYCC and Kevin Millsip from Next Up, known for youth leadership training.
The purpose of this detour was meant to inaugurate a very special project that was co-founded by the CAW’s Ken Lewenza Jr. (Full disclosure: Lewenza Jr. organized the larger event in Windsor and both were planned together. I’m connected to the latter through social justice initiatives.)
The Canvas Campus is a “street tank” of sorts, akin to a think tank but for ordinary people. Young, old, experts and beginners are welcomed to sign on. Its purpose is to offer free education and the Dean of Canvas Campus is the respected Len Wallace, a professor from the University of Windsor.
With blessings from David Suzuki and a collective pledge of $50,000 from the labour community, things were off to a good start. The Ontario Federation of Labour‘s Antoni Shelton stopped by for the celebration as well.
The Canvas Campus is situated in an Aboriginal Tipi adjacent to the museum and it was launched through consultations with First Nations elders. They cautiously lent Indigenous support and friends of the project attended for the inspiring grand opening. Native art adorns the interior of this culturally respected structure and teaching is shared in the spirit of Tecumseh. (See pictures below)
The Tipi is cherished by locals in the Windsor-Essex area, but the initiative isn’t limited by its physical location. Equipped with audio, video, Internet and Skype; the Canvas Campus began its first class by reaching out long distance.
Fifty-five students were present with Dr. Suzuki and the many guests who came to share their knowledge. A classroom from Peel Region joined them on a screen set in the centre and this is where the real magic happened, as youths were able to interact and ask questions.
Here’s one of the more poignant answers regarding the corporate agenda, the politics of environment and the power of children in this equation:
In case anyone thought our kids didn’t care about corporate responsibility, here’s another glimpse of the business minds and curiosity that propelled their teach-in forward:
In the end these grand ideas and global challenges circled back to our own communities. As Dr. Suzuki explained in his experience, it’s been too overwhelming for individuals to contemplate climate change on an international scale. Trying to solve the problems of entire industries or continents can become daunting in a hurry, but it doesn’t need to be that way if we focus on issues in our neighbourhoods.
The overarching theme that tied everything together is we can each do our small part and combined it makes a difference. Training ourselves to pick up a piece of garbage each day can equate to 33-million plastic water bottles or cardboard sandwich containers being recycled, also in a single day (Canada alone).
The Canvas Campus will continue to provide free learning opportunities and it hopes to grow through membership. Upcoming guests include quantum physicist Bill Baylis and while this educational street-tank began with scientific issues, experts from social justice fields will be added to the roster shortly.
If you wish to share your expertise or request a class in the physical and/or Skype audience, you’re invited to contact the Canvas Campus. Topic proposals will be accepted and they’ll do their best to provide an appropriate instructor to meet your needs.
This project is dedicated to uniting knowledge from all across the country, as well as fostering a sense of unity and strength at the local community level. Eventually there may be satellites and those interested in expansion should direct their inquiries to Ken Lewenza Jr. Finally, here’s a photo album to demonstrate what all the hype is about.
Your CPP Is Funding War Crimes
How would you feel if someone told you that every one of your paycheques was being used to support war crimes and keep the companies accused of these atrocities rolling in lucrative business? And how would you feel if you lived off the avails of torture and bloodshed through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), upon your long-awaited retirement after paying into it? This appears to be our dirty little secret, that Canadians enjoy prosperity at the unethical demise of others.
In a recent interview with Harry Fear we touched on CPP investments and how they contribute to the Israel-Palestine conflict; through complicity in drone warfare, an illegal wall, the death of children and suppression of human rights.
While this was enough to make anyone angry, it wasn’t until I received mortified responses from baby boomers that I investigated further. The messages from this demographic were compelling and show that we’re ready to take action to restore our reputation and the shame of these transgressions will not be tolerated.
It’s claimed the amounts we contribute to CPP are not enough to cover the population’s living expenses and as a result, the plan turns to the stock market in an effort to generate a sustainable future. We’ve done well enough that organizations are pushing for expansion, to allow Canadian retirees a degree of pride that sustains them above the poverty line. With the amount of privatization, downloading and user fees they will surely need it; but the Harper government says we can’t afford to treat our own a little better.
It may indeed be a matter of priorities, but not as we are led to believe from a lack of funding. Instead it’s the difference between humanitarian care for Canadians, versus the pursuit of power in a vicious, military-industrial complex. At the end of the day CPP relief is not available to seniors because the government wants a greater share to invest in pet projects of warfare.
Our domestic (PDF) and foreign portfolios (PDF) are available on the CPP Investment Board website. Scanning through the foreign list we come across L-3 Communications Holdings, where we invested $10 million in solidarity with a company held responsible for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
Everyone remembers the horrifically iconic photographs that circulated media from the darkest corners of Iraq. What Canadians may not have realized is that our holding, L-3 Communications, was the first private contractor to settle with victims for $5.8 million to account for their role in the torture and inhumanity.
Reprieve is a UK charity focused on the human rights of prisoners. They cite L-3 Communications as not just a violator in the Abu Ghraib case, but also as a”key drone component manufacturer” for the American-made predator. This is the weaponized, remote control aircraft responsible for increasing attacks on civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.
According to international law it’s illegal to use armed drones in non-war zones, but no one from the company will acknowledge these concerns. In the meantime, as many as 885 innocents were killed, accounting for 176 children in Pakistan alone. That means every working person in Canada paid about $5 in CPP contributions to make it happen and we continue to perpetuate violence in this corner of the world.
But our unethical investments don’t end there. We support Elbit Systems Ltd., on the forefront of miniature drone cars that also kill by remote control. They can take action of their own accord, without the need for human intervention to shoot whatever these Guardium models deem a threat in their computerized judgement. Automatic killing machines pose a challenge to human rights and yet the Canada Pension Plan is behind pushing them to market.
Canadians hold another $16 million in CAE, as a partner to Elbit for the purpose of developing Integrated Soldier Systems. Most information has been removed from public view by the Department of National Defence since the project was approved for a tendering process by the Canadian government. Earlier research (PDF) indicates the creation of veritable robo-cops like what we’ve seen in the movies, complimented by eyepieces with pop-up TV screens to feed intel to the troops. This is the military meets Xbox and CPP facilitates this development too.
With the presence of hacktivist groups like Anonymous watching over the battlefield and increased warnings from CSIS regarding digital espionage as the biggest threat to our security, a new industry of war games is birthed against conventional wisdom that places profit front of mind with little regard for human beings.
In fact, Chinese-based servers are responsible for hacking into Canada’s defence research, treasury and finance departments in an unprecedented breach of our most classified information. Ironically, the Integrated Soldier System was housed in a compromised department and it may still come to pass that the government looks to Anonymous for protection at the rate we’re going.
By no means are these the only examples of our financial stake in conflict, but they do represent some of the most heinous crimes and self-inflicted danger that our savings are used to promote. With every paycheque we’re breaking human rights around the world. CPP has been manipulated to terrorize Palestinian children by the hundreds of thousands. Hundreds more are killed across the Middle East and a majority of countries where drones are hovering equipped with missiles. The ones that aren’t weaponized perform surveillance to challenge North American civil liberties and we’re so heavily invested in warfare that if peace occurred, our retirement fund would become bankrupt.
It’s important to understand that CPP is not a tax and therefore doesn’t qualify as government revenue (PDF) to do with as it pleases. Despite this, the investment board is a crown corporation that is directly responsible to the federal government and immediately after Prime Minister Stephen Harper was elected in 2006, they updated their policies to encourage aggressive tactics.
Dramatic changes followed quickly. In 2007, new legislation altered CPP practices through measures contained in Bill C-36. By April 2007, all CCP assets were transferred to control of the investment board (PDF, see pg. 18, New Investment Policy) and in 2012 they changed from passive management to active management techniques. Aggressive trading requires a team of involved experts and staff at the CPP ballooned from 70 to 811 in the same short period. They’ve opened offices in Hong Kong and London, took on riskier markets, decreased Canadian equities in favour of foreign projects, hedged currency and shifted public holdings to private interests. Our hard-working dollars used to find their place in safer government bonds, but the lion’s share was migrated to a war-centric market.
The investment board explains they’re unique from other retirement funds and they’re padded to take on the risk. They’re only expected to share 25 per cent of profits to provide for CPP benefits and the working class pays the rest. With $170 billion in assets now and 18 million people to cover, the plan can already sustain itself for another 75 years. (PDF, see pgs. 1-21, CCPIB Annual Report 2012).
Since Conservative rule and the CPP makeover, we’ve borne the brunt of losses great as 18.6 per cent. We must divest from the war machine and put our money where it doesn’t kill, if not for humanitarian grounds then because financially it doesn’t make sense. As international diplomats have said, “Canada is not the good guys anymore — we all have a bit of blood on our hands.”