The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
Opinion
  |  
Energy
  |  
Federal Politics

Will Trudeau Rein in the Export Development Bank? Or Disappoint Once Again?

Canadians should be shamed by billions in backing for dubious corporations and projects.

By Mitchell Anderson 23 Jul 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer based in Vancouver and a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

Canadians have a big decision to make this fall. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in deep trouble and desperately trying to court progressive voters, who are understandably not in an amorous mood.

Displays of high hypocrisy such as approving a bitumen export pipeline the day after declaring a climate emergency, or glibly throwing electoral reform under the bus are not easily forgotten by those who care about such things.

Beyond these obvious blights on the Liberal brand, there is another boat anchor that could help drag Trudeau into the depths of electoral oblivion: Export Development Canada.

EDC is a Crown corporation tasked with promoting international trade by supporting Canadian and foreign companies through loans and insurance.

One of the largest such government credit agencies in the world, EDC currently has about $55 billion in outstanding loans to Canadian and foreign corporations. While EDC loans out its own funds, those loans are backstopped by Canadian taxpayers, and hopefully are therefore being used to project Canadian values around the world.

EDC claims to be a good corporate citizen. However, reality and political rhetoric are like salad dressing — spontaneous separation may occur without constant agitation. The Crown corporation has a record of supporting some dubious people and projects.

Political enthusiasts will recall that just as the toxic SNC-Lavalin scandal was beginning to subside, a whistleblower alleged that EDC had provided loans to the Quebec company that may have been used to bribe officials in Angola and elsewhere. The whistleblower told the CBC that it was an “open secret” within the company that funds earmarked for bribes were listed as “technical fees” of up to 10 per cent of total budget in proposals to EDC.

The former CEO of the corporation vigorously denied allegations that loan support to SNC-Lavalin could have helped bankroll bribes.

Other EDC-supported projects seem starkly at odds with the stated sunny ways of the Trudeau government. According to an investigation by Above Ground, an NGO focused on corporate accountability, Canadian-based mining company Kinross Gold received five EDC loans between 2012 and 2017 totalling up to $1.2 billion.

A 2017 report found Kinross’s Morro do Ouro mine, the largest gold mine in Brazil, “displaced the residents of traditional communities formed over a century ago by former African slaves.”

“These communities have land rights under Brazilian law, and the process to formalize their collective title was well under way when Kinross announced its expansion plan and Export Development Canada (EDC) provided financing,” said the report by Above Ground and Justiça Global.

Despite sustained legal action by federal prosecutors seeking to block the project, state authorities gave Kinross the green light to use the communities’ land for its expanded operations, the report said.

Another report by Steven H. Emerman, a geophysicist and hydrologist, raised concerns about arsenic contamination from the mine.

When pressed for comment on how EDC could support such a destructive project, a vice-president intoned that Kinross took “appropriate and responsible actions... consistent with international and industry best practices” — no doubt cold comfort to the eliminated community in question.

EDC has also funded a company in Colombia building the country’s largest dam — a disastrous project that almost collapsed in 2018 forcing the evacuation of 25,000 people. Two community members opposed to the project were murdered in 2018 and several company executives were charged with corruption and bribery in Colombia and Brazil.

Frustration with the lack of accountability and transparency at EDC extends to right-wing voices as well. Some have accused the Crown corporation of acting as a slush fund for fattened Quebec favourites such as Bombardier, which enjoyed $11 billion in EDC loans on top of another $4 billion in various public bailouts over the years. SNC-Lavalin was likewise awash in about $4.7 billion of EDC loans over the last two and half decades.

EDC is a public body, doling out over twice as much money around the world as Canada spends on foreign aid.

Yet there is no government representation on its board of directors. So opaque is EDC’s reporting that it makes the World Bank look good in comparison.

A recent federal review also noted there are no statutory requirements for EDC to even consider the environmental or human rights implications of its global loan program.

This freedom from moral considerations is also revealed in another enormous area of EDC investment — the Alberta oil sands. Since 2010, EDC has shovelled up to $14.1 billion in loans to five of the largest oil sands operators. This is in contrast to other lending institutions around the world that are divesting from fossil fuels in general, and the oil sands in particular. Even the $1-trillion Norwegian oil fund is getting out of oil and gas investments.

EDC has become an avatar of everything annoying about Liberal party doublespeak on ethics and the environment. If Trudeau wants to avoid being a laughingstock on the campaign trail this fall, he needs to start backing up the Liberal brand with some actual action on progressive issues. A good place to start would be reigning in EDC with some long-overdue reforms. Thankfully the EDC is undergoing its mandated 10-year review — an excellent opportunity to do just that.

Will the Liberal government accomplish anything beyond its usual tiresome virtue signalling? The whole country should be watching.  [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, Federal Politics

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities

Do:

  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

What Issue Is Most Important to You This Election?

Take this week's poll