Want to invest in Canada’s clean economy? Good luck

A solar project by iSolara at Maurice-Lapointe school in the Kanata area of Ottawa in August 2017. Photo by Alex Tétreault

As of last year, close to one thousand institutions with three per cent of global savings under management have engaged in some form of divestment from fossil fuels.

In June 2019, Norway’s parliament unanimously voted in favour of directing its $1.06 trillion Government Pension Global Fund (GPGF), the Norges Bank, to divest more than $13 billion from fossil fuels while dedicating more investments to clean technologies.

The caveat is that this will apply only to companies that are exclusively in the business of upstream oil and gas production and some coal sector investments. The GPGF is Norway’s sovereign fund derived from oil industry revenues to assure Norway has a steady source of revenues in the post-oil world.

Shell has expressed concern that the growing fossil fuel divestment movement could impact on the company’s performance.

Here in Canada, Export Development Canada has issued more than $2 billion in Green Bonds in the last half decade, however this option is only available to institutional investors. The Business Development Bank has a minimalist allotment in Budget 2017 through to fiscal year 2021-22 for clean technologies without opportunities to Canadian citizens to enhance the BDC clean tech activity.

Should a Canadian citizen want to make investments which exclude the fossil fuel sector or divest from fossil fuels, and is inclined to give priority for Canadian companies, they appear to be out of luck.

The problem is that, although there are a wide variety of socially responsible investing (SRI) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria funds in Canada, hardly any of these funds offer such a choice. And the options for priority for Canadian assets in this category are only slightly above zero.

A glance at the top ten investments of each SRI and ESG fund portfolio illustrates the problem. Typically, the portfolios of these funds include investments in one or more other financial institutions. This means that while one is investing in an “ethical fund” the third-party investors among the top holdings of a given portfolio are free to invest your money in anything they want, contrary to the good intentions of a purchaser of this stake in the fund.

To illustrate, should one want to give priority to placing one’s “ethical” money in Canada, there is the IA Clarington Inhance Canadian Equity SRI Class. The top 10 holdings for this portfolio include RBC; TD Bank; CIBC and the Scotia Bank. All of these banks are among the top 10 banks listed in the US as those that most heavily invest in fossil fuels. RBC tops the list for tar sands development. MORE

The Sad Reality of Liberal Partisans’ Response to Trudeau’s Scandal

‘Vote for us — we’ll screw you over in favour of cronies less often’ is hardly a pro-democracy campaign slogan.COVER.Trudeau-Two.jpg
Justin Trudeau promised a new way of doing politics. But his response to the ethics commissioner’s report on the SNC-Lavalin scandal was sadly familiar. Photo via Justin Trudeau Flickr.

The ethics commissioner’s report into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s abuse of power is depressing on many levels, from the sordid facts to the confirmation of the government’s past dishonesty to Trudeau’s attempt to dodge guilt.

But the saddest thing was the response of Liberal partisans.

The report is a litany of serious wrongdoing. Commissioner Mario Dion found the “authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of [Jody] Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”

Trudeau and his team were working to advance SNC-Lavalin’s “significant financial interests in deferring prosecution” on bribery and corruption charges. “The evidence showed that private political interests were also put before Ms. Wilson‑Raybould, directly or indirectly, on at least four separate occasions,” the report found. (Which the government had repeatedly and falsely denied.)

And the report also found Trudeau and company continued to push Wilson-Raybould to let SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution long after she made it clear that the actions were improper.

The findings leave the Liberals’ past denials of wrongdoing in tatters.

Trudeau’s response was the kind of political slipperiness that leaves voters dispirited.

He said Wednesday he accepts the report and takes responsibility “for everything that happened.”

But at the same time he said he disagrees with many of the findings, as if the report of the independent ethics commissioner was some sort of opinion, rather than a careful finding of fact.

And in the next breath Trudeau effectively denied wrongdoing. “I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs,” he said.

How many jobs? If SNC-Lavalin is convicted, it will be barred from bidding on federal government contracts for 10 years. But the work would go ahead. Other companies would bid, and would hire people to fill the jobs.

The company employs about 8,800 people in Canada. Not all of them work on federal projects. But say one-third of the jobs would be lost — that’s about 2,900 people. (Who still might be hired by the companies that do win the work.)

Some 3,900 workers have lost their jobs in the B.C. forest industry this year. Where is Trudeau’s willingness to stand up for their jobs? MORE


Gormley: SNC-Lavalin scandal is back and will haunt PM


Environment laws are stalling development in Ontario, study says

A major construction project on the 401 highway in Windsor and Essex County, Ontario. Flickr photo/Di Bédard

Imagine there’s a severe flood in a small Ontario town.

Imagine the flood washes out a key bridge, which serves as a fire and ambulance route.

The town leaders want to replace the bridge but in a different location, so that it’s safe from future weather events. They also want to elevate it, and reinforce the river banks below.

Under Ontario’s current environmental assessment laws, it will be two to four years before the town can even begin construction, said Frank Zechner, a civil engineer in Alberta’s oil and gas sector turned environmental lawyer.

It should take only five to eight months, he said in an interview with National Observer.

Zechner has written a new report that highlights the shortcomings of Ontario’s current Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA) process, which designates the planning and design of municipal infrastructure projects according to the requirements of the province’s Environmental Assessment Act to ensure that all environmental impacts of a development project are considered, and any effects appropriately mitigated before construction.

Entitled “Case Studies that Support Reforming Ontario’s Municipal Class Environmental Assessment Process,” the report is the sixth in a series commissioned by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) — an advocacy group for engineers and construction workers in the province — since 2009.

Zechner investigated 12 infrastructure projects across the province that faced significant delays and additional costs arising from “red tape and duplication.” Nine were road-related projects, two were bridges and one was a sewage water infrastructure project. In 10 cases, the MCEA process took between two and five years. Four of the projects required more than $2 million for consultants and reports; six required more than $500,000. These amounts, Zechner argues in the report, are too high.


Five things our next federal government needs to know about what Canadians think about climate change

Image result for Five things our next federal government needs to know about what Canadians think about climate change
Photo via Shutterstock

The numbers are in: poll after poll shows climate change is one of the top issues on Canadians’ minds heading into the federal election this fall.

To get a better picture of Canadian attitudes towards the climate crisis, Ecojustice and Climate Action Network Canada commissioned Environics to conduct an exclusive survey of our own. The results shed light on what Canadians think about the country’s climate progress to date and what type of laws they consider necessary to combat the climate emergency.

We drew on these survey results and other recent polling to come up with five key takeaways any party vying to form the next government should know:

Infographic - Climate polling

1.      Canadians care about climate change. Four in 10 say we’re in an emergency situation. (Abacus Data)

A survey from Abacus Data, released on Aug. 12, shows 82 per cent of Canadians say climate change is a serious problem. Seth Klein, an adjunct professor with Simon Fraser University’s Urban Studies program, commissioned the polling.

When asked to rate the seriousness of five key issues, respondents’ concern about climate change ranked second only to the rising cost of living. Concern about climate change surpassed worries about wealth and income inequality in society, increasing automation of work, and the loss of good paying jobs, and increasing immigration to Canada.

Furthermore, 42 per cent of Canadians told Abacus Data they believe climate change is now an emergency. Another 20 per cent said they feel climate change is not yet an emergency, but will likely be one in the next few years.

2.      Canadians have mixed views about the country’s efforts to date at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (Environics)

Just under half (46 per cent) of Canadians say Canada’s been very or somewhat effective at reducing GHG emissions. A similar percentage (45 per cent) say Canada hasn’t been very effective or has not been effective at all at reducing emissions.

Interestingly, however, the results suggest there is uncertainty across the board when it comes to how Canadians view efforts to tackle climate change.

When asked their views on Canada’s effectiveness to date at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, 72 per cent of Canadians opted for middle categories of “somewhat effective” or “not very effective.”

3.      A majority of Canadians say we need strict emissions targets to address climate change (Environics)

We know that Canadians care about climate change, but Ecojustice and Climate Action Network also wanted to understand what type of solutions people want to see. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, we were particularly interested in solutions grounded in the law.

Our polling suggests the majority of Canadians (61 per cent) think strict emissions reductions targets are necessary if governments are to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

4.      A majority of Canadians believe that, in order to be effective, emissions reductions targets must be legally-binding, rather than voluntary. (Environics)

Importantly, Environics polling also showed Canadians support making emissions reduction targets mandatory and legally-binding. More than two-thirds of Canadians (66 per cent) told Environics that targets must be enshrined in the law in order to ensure governments take responsibility for meeting them and sticking to their deadlines.

5.      When Canadians head to the polls in October, climate change will be one of the top issues influencing their votes. (Abacus Data)

In March, a total of 69 per cent of respondents said climate change will be in the top five issues they’re voting on, according to a nation-wide Abacus Data survey.

According to the data, concern about climate change was relatively consistent across the country, with only a few provinces standing out as outliers. Concern over climate change was lower than average in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but notably higher in Quebec. MORE

Critics call for new rules for retired judges in wake of SNC-Lavalin affair

Judges judged: Former Justice John Major, left; former Justice Frank Iacobucci, and former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

OTTAWA—The jury’s out on the judges.

As Justin Trudeau again refused to apologize Thursday after ethics commissioner Mario Dion found the prime minister violated the conflict of interest law by attempting to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, some critics turned their attention to the role played in the affair by three former Supreme Court of Canada judges.

Dion’s damning report put the blame squarely on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s shoulders for pressuring his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal to allow the Quebec engineering firm to escape criminal conviction.

But the report released Wednesday also shone a harsh light on the conduct of retired justices Frank Iacobucci and John Major and former chief justice Beverley McLachlin, who got involved to differing extents at the company’s behest.

And it has prompted new calls for tougher guidelines for former judges. MORE


Ethics Report Shows How Ex-Supreme Court Justices Got Involved In SNC-Lavalin Affair
Canadians want limits on post-retirement work for judges, survey finds
SNC-Lavalin report puts new focus on activities of retired Supreme Court of Canada judges


‘This is Our Land’: An Interview with Ellen Gabriel about Ongoing Land Fraud at Kanesatake

Land back is land back.

For the Kanien’kéha:ka (Mohawk) of Kanehsatà:ke, the return of stolen land – fraudulently sold first by a religious order and then by the municipality of Oka, Quebec and the Government of Canada – has been at the heart of their demands for 300 years. Mohawk resistance to the ongoing theft of Kanien’kéha:ka homelands is well-known. Most notably, in the summer of 1990, during the so-called “Oka Crisis,” Mohawks defended a forested area known as the Pines from development. Since then, community members like Ellen Gabriel (Katsi’tsakwas, Turtle Clan) have continued to protect the Pines and call on all levels of settler government – municipal, provincial, and federal – to return the land.

So when news broke in July that a developer was going to gift 60 hectares of land, including the Pines, to the community, many people declared it a win for the Mohawks. The developer – Gregoire Gollin – said that he is making the gift “in the spirit of reconciliation.” What’s more, Gollin has stated that he’s willing to sell an additional 150 hectares of the disputed land to the Government of Canada to then transfer back to the community.

On the surface, this story seems to offer a model for what reconciliation in Canada could look like. Stolen land is being returned.

But the devil is always in the details.

Gollin’s “reconciliation” comes with strings attached. His “gift” to the Mohawk does not actually return the land to the community, and his promises to stop development on disputed land is contingent on the federal government compensating him for land he fraudulently purchased with no guarantee that the land will be returned to the Mohawks.

More information, and a longer view of colonization at Kanehsatà:ke, reveals that Gollin is not unselfishly contributing to reconciliation but is rather continuing accumulation by dispossession. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ellen Gabriel to shed more light on the situation. MORE

Billionaire Koch brothers dump Canada’s oilsands leases as foreign exodus continues

Once one of the largest landholders in the oilsands, Koch Industries sold off its upstream leases and abandoned licences, Financial Post confirms

CALGARY – Once among the largest landholders in the oilsands, industrial conglomerate Koch Industries Inc. has sold off its upstream leases and abandoned licences in the heavy oil play, joining a stream of foreign companies exiting the bitumen-bearing formation.

Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries struck an agreement to sell thousands of hectares of land in the oilsands to Calgary-based Cavalier Energy Inc., a subsidiary of the Riddell family-controlled Paramount Resources Ltd., in a transaction that occurred in June, the Financial Post has confirmed.

Koch, one of the world’s largest private companies owned by American billionaires and Republican donors Charles and David Koch, has also abandoned the licences it did not sell in the transaction with Paramount and has been allowing its leases in the play to expire.

“The majority of Koch Oil Sands licences have been transferred to Paramount Resources Ltd. All of the remaining licences for well sites have been abandoned, which means that they have been permanently sealed and taken out of service,” Alberta Energy Regulator spokesperson Shawn Roth said in an email. MORE


‘We’re not open for business’: Calgary financier not surprised at Koch’s exit from Alberta oilsands

Bleak Financial Outlook for US Fracking Industry

Drilling rig at twilight

In early 2018 when major financial publications like the Wall Street Journal were predicting a bright and profitable future for the fracking industry, DeSmog began a series detailing the failing business model of fracking shale deposits for oil and gas in America.

Over a year later, the fracking industry is having to reckon with many of the issues DeSmog highlighted, in addition to one new issue — investors are finally giving up on the industry.

Billionaire oil CEO Harold Hamm — who has been touted as a “Shale King” — made comments this week reflecting how weak investment interest is in oil and gas fracking, going so far as to say that it wasn’t worth being a publicly traded company. “In today’s market, we don’t see a lot of value in it,” he said on his company’s earnings call.

A similar sentiment has appeared in The Financial Post, which this week reported how “unloved” by investors the Canadian tar sands industry — which DeSmog also has highlighted as a financial disaster — currently is.

General investors are saying, ‘To heck with energy,’” Jennifer Rowland, an oil and gas analyst for Edward Jones, told The Financial Post.

After years of patience as the fracking and tar sands industries continued to pile up losses, investors are understandably tired of losing money. MORE


Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, tar sands oil operations

Why Canadian Tar Sands Oil May Be Doomed