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?
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.
Part II: Where Your CPP Money Really Goes
In part one of this two-part series, we examined the Canada Pension Plan’s (CPP) investment in drones, computerized soldiers, land occupation and an infamous prison scandal. Part two is dedicated to the many potential conflicts of interest — yours, mine, the executives’ and the PMO’s. Some might be moral. Some might be something more.
If you look at the CPP Investment Board of Directors, you will find that all but one executive was appointed since the determined change in strategy under the Harper government. These board members are skilled leaders from different industries, but no matter their background, most of them share something in common.
Ian Bourne is Chief Executive Officer of SNC-Lavalin. CPP invested $21 million in SNC-Lavalin in spite of the company being plagued by ties to the Gadhafi regime and fraud charges that are still winding through the courts.
Bourne is also the Director of Canadian Oil Sands Limited, which has a large stake in the Syncrude project — the project at the heart of a lawsuit involving Greenpeace and the death of wildlife. Syncrude was convicted and fined more than half a million dollars. Our CPP investments in this company total $80 million.
David Suzuki continues to educate about the misnomers of “ethical oil” and points to other companies in business with the Alberta oil sands. Exxon Mobil has a history of major oil spills. CPP gave them $553 million. Exxon funded a lobby against the Kyoto Protocol, and Canada eventually cancelled our commitment to the international community.
BP is responsible for the tragic Gulf Coast oil spill that may cost more than $7 billion in legal settlements to cover the damage. And if we look in our CPP foreign column, we’ll find $347 million invested in BP.
Nexen is another curious entry with $62 million in CPP investments. It’s unclear what will happen to this particular investment, since Harper made waves by allowing the company to be purchased by China. The deal was embroiled in controversy regarding national security. CSIS raised concerns about compromising Canadian intelligence, while the United States rebuked the purchaser’s energy partnership with Iran. Still, it went unreported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had to freeze assets to investigate cases of Nexen insider trading that resulted from our sell-off.
CPP also has $218 million invested in TransCanada Corp. They’re the ones fighting for the Keystone XL pipeline that was met with public backlash across the continent. We have another $201 million socked away in Enbridge, which has challenged Native land rights in preparation for the Northern Gateway pipeline.
Moving along in our Board of Directors, we arrive at Pierre Choquette was the CEO of Methanex. Douglas W. Mahaffy is the current director of Methanex. This company is the world’s largest producer of methanol for petrochemical use. It received $38 million from CPP. Choquette further served as a director at TELUS, which received $116 million from CPP. TELUS employs two former consultants linked to the E-Health scandal that rocked Ontario.
Heather Monroe-Blum sits on the Board of Directors for the Royal Bank of Canada. RBC received $707 million from CPP and is the Plan’s largest domestic holding. That’s putting a lot of our eggs in one basket, which seems unwise, especially when that one company has been implicated in the LIBOR scandal .
Karen Sheriff heads Bell Aliant as the CEO and president. CPP invested $21 million with that company. Joe Mark Zurel is listed as the Director of Major Drilling Group, which also received $12 million from CPP. Nancy Hopkins is the Director of Cameco Corporation. CPP invested $43 million there. Robert Brooks was the Vice Chair of Scotiabank. CPP invested $537 million in the company. Brooks also headed Dundee Wealth and CPP invested $20 million with Dundee’s parent company.
In addition to these revelations, the CPP is a substantial partner of Onex. The Onex Corporation purchased Raytheon’s air division in 2006. Raytheon is a defence contractor. It’s the world’s largest producer of guided missiles and nuclear warheads. These weapons are involved in conflicts from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Libya to Syria and everywhere the U.S. military sets foot. The acquisition of Raytheon’s flight technology created the Hawker Beechcraft company, putting Onex in the business of peddling combat planes to governments.
The managing director of Onex was Nigel Wright. He took leave from the position to become our Prime Minister’s chief of staff, exactly two months after CPP entered a multi-billion dollar partnership with his company. While the Conservatives called this “great news for Canada’s economic policy,” the NDP’s Charlie Angus cautioned Wright to “follow the rules” regarding conflict interest.
Wright was recently cleared in an ethics probe about the same issue with Barrick Gold (in which CPP holds a $330 million stake). The founding family of Barrick sat on the Onex board of directors and there were questions about personal lobbying that could have led to the PMO.
Despite the investigation’s positive outcome for Wright, MP Angus took issue with the commissioner’s process. When additional conflict issues were raised by OMERS, they were dismissed as mistakes in a hasty response from the Prime Minister on Wright’s behalf.
As we’ve seen, Harper’s chief of staff is also connected to Lockheed Martin (incidentally CPP holds $78 million in that company as well). Nigel Wright’s duties as director of Onex included oversight of Hawker Beechcraft, the partner to Lockheed Martin, which produced the fighter jets at the centre of F-35 debacle. This places the CPP in a bizarre love triangle with Onex and Lockheed, well beyond anything we purchased in stock.
Hawker Beechcraft’s Onex deals with Lockheed include supplying the US Air Force and Homeland Security with cannon equipped fighter jets. They produce a handful of warplanes with rocket capability and their accounts include the Canadian, American, Greek, Israeli, Iraqi, Moroccan and Mexican military. One of the shared executives (PDF) managed the Lockheed F-35 file before coming to head government relations at Onex’s Hawker Beechcraft.
So that introduces our business partner.
In July 2010, CPP and Onex purchased Tomkins PLC together, for $4.5 billion (£2.9 billion) with our retirement dollars. We are equally listed owners and our acquisition provides hydraulics to the oil, gas and mining industries. Tomkins was also the previous owner of Smith and Wesson guns before we bought them out.
In November 2012 CPP deepened its relationship with Onex to acquire Tomkins Air Distribution for an additional $1.1 billion (PDF); meaning when Nigel Wright leaves his position with the Prime Minister’s Office, he’ll presumably return to managing our CPP partnership from the private industry end.
With the 2012 expansion, Onex and the CPP came to own all subsidiaries under the parent heading. One of those spinoffs is Titus, a company that provides data security to the military in Canada, the U.S., Australia, Belgium and Denmark. Titus provides services to the whole of government, aerospace, police and financial industries.
The moral of the story is we’ve got to come clean about the unethical use of our retirement funds. There isn’t enough money to expand CPP because the surplus was earmarked to boost the military-industrial complex. When our hard-earned money isn’t being used to cause bloodshed, it’s going to companies affiliated with the CPP’s own CEOs and the Alberta oil sands.