"Where's the f'ing money, Lebowski?"
Though they avoid the terrible press of their American peers, the past few weeks have been showing that Canadian companies are just as bad as ever when it comes to pulling money out of countries and general evil.
When it goes well, like in Guatemala, Canadian companies get to cover all the blood up with nice shiny silver.
Or at least that's what Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources Inc. is trying to do at one of the largest silver mines in the world. The locals in the region are none-too-happy about the effects on the local water supply and have made a point of strong opposition to the project at several consultations and blockades.
Both the government of Guatemala and Tahoe have responded by going on the attack against the (mostly indigenous) people of the region. In the past couple of months, security guards employed by the company shot and wounded 6 people, while the government declared public demonstrations and meetings in the region illegal. Dozens of people have been detained while there have been several cases of alleged harassment.
Early last-month, things got even more hairy for the company, when it was found that one of their executives had ordered protesters be killed and that the crime scene and police report be doctored...all on wire tap.
A bad day for Tahoe indeed, even though their company is still able to pull billions of dollars of silver out of Guatemala despite strong local opposition.
Of course other times, it goes slightly poorer. That's what Toronto-based First Quantum Minerals is facing today in Zambia.
Poor First-Quantum. Things haven't been going well for them in Africa. After breaking UN regulations by going into the Democratic Republic of Congo and buying mines during a civil war, they probably thought they were off the hook, given that the Canadian government wasn't going to do anything about it.
However, they were mighty sad with the government of Congo seized the mine from them, only to sell it to someone else.
Things have now gone to pot in Zambia where a new political veteran, Michael Sata, has taken power and is, (shockingly, I know!) trying to crack down on tax avoidance. The country says that over $2 Billion has been lost by companies not paying their fair share.
Unlike Canada, where we talk about cracking down only to ensure the exact opposite, Zambia is doing its best right now to ensure that those multi-national billionaires are paying their fair share.
Foreign companies are now doing what they do best in these scenarios - going on the counter offensive claiming the government is "interfering" and that they "are not sure the economic environment is being sustained."
According to the Financial Times, Seta's plan will really put the screws to companies like First Quantum, Glencore, ENRC, Vedanta and Vale. These companies (among others) are being forced to bring back to Zambia from offshore and home bank accounts any money over $10,000 that has been made in exports. A financial expert has been quoted as saying the plan "has been designed on the assumption that everybody is a criminal."
Speaking of criminals, though Tahoe and First-Quantum have it bad, things have gone even worse in Kyrgystan. The Central Asian state of 5 million has been having a similar issue to that of Zambia.
Mining profits for Toronto-based Centerra Gold have been great at the Kumtor gold mine, one of the largest gold mines in the former USSR. As it accounts for about 12 percent of the Kyrgystan economy, many folks in the country want to see it nationalized for public benefit.
Protesters are arguing that too much is going to the company, while the government and Canterra have said similar things such as in Zambia about needing to attract more foreign investment and maintaining a positive climate for foreign capitalists.
Things came to a head a couple weeks ago when hundreds of local protesters took over the mine and clashed with police. A week before, thousands of protesters stormed the mine and cut power, with other protests spreading to other parts of the country. The issue is long standing with protests calling for nationalization of the mine last October saw a bunch of opposition lawmakers jailed on coup charges.
Rather than nationalizing the mine, the president has declared a state of emergency sending in the military.
Though all three Canadian companies have had their share of bad news, little compares to the utter gong show that has engulfed Canadian stalwart SNC-Lavalin.
In September last year, the Montreal offices of the Montreal-based engineering goliath were raided by the RCMP looking into corruption in Bangladesh. This led to suspension of billions of dollars of World Bank loans to Bangladesh and a ten year ban on World Bank projects for the company.
The RCMP probe has gone from bad to worse for the company. In April, Swiss authorites asked the RCMP to raid the company again, this time focussing on the Toronto-offices. The probe uncovered all kinds of crazy allegations about SNC-Lavalin's operations in Libya and around the world.
According to the RCMP, they found SNC-Lavalin evidence that executives for the company fraudulently siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars for bribes among other things that ended up in a host of bank accounts, properties and in the hands of the son of Moammar Gadhafi. These executives had won billions in contracts for the company in Libya and one of them is now behind bars in Switerzerland. In addition, to Libya and Bangladesh, a further $56 million in 'mysterious' payments were found.
In classic fashion, the company went on a typical counter-offensive saying that it's all the work of a rogue employee. But not without some pretty difficult facts to face.
For one the company's chief executive, Pierre Duhaime, was forced to resign because he signed off on on at least some of the $56 million in payments.
For another, a woman who has been accused of trying to smuggle members of the Gadhafi family out of Libya was hired by several SNC-Lavalin executives, including those who have been accused of laundering the hundreds of millions. This was coming out right around the company was found to have offered the Gadhafi son a vice-president position in the company and asked the Canadian government for a permit to bring him to Canada.
And it keeps rolling. The companies offices in Algeria were raided last week as part of an expanded and ever-growing probe into their construction projects all over the world.
I gotta say, this 'rogue employee' line is looking pretty thin to me. Now the company itself (not just the executives) have been accused by the RCMP of being a party to the fraud and bribery charges. None of the RCMP allegations have been proven in court.
American Eugene V Debs, once said that “The class which has the power to rob upon a large scale also has the power to control the government to legalize their robbery”
Just another another day for Canadian companies abroad.
The Liebowski blog tracks big piles of money. It appears regularily on the Toronto Media Co-op.
S'cuse me! We ex-journalists are permitted to do whatever we like! And if Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair wants to appoint me to the Senate, I'm taking the job!
The same thing goes for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau if he makes the offer, if you must know.
But then, I haven't worked as a journalist in this century and, with a little luck and the intervention of a kindly and progressive prime minister, I'll never have to consider such a fate again.
Labour updates from the Asia Pacific region.
Interview with Satyam Varna, a labour activist from New Delhi, about the importance of May Day for workers even though the political content of the day has often been diluted by conservative organizations.
Asia Pacific Currents is the program of Australia Asia Worker Links.
APC is produced in the studios of 3CR Radio in Melbourne.apc_20130608wav.mp3
Free Speech TV and Deep Dish TV are teaming up June 7th - 9th to bring you live coverage of the 2013 Left Forum. A unique phenomenon, Left Forum convenes the largest annual gathering of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public. Conference participants come together to engage a wide range of critical perspectives on the world, to discuss differences, commonalities and alternatives to current predicaments, and to share ideas for understanding and transforming the world. The conference is held each year in New York City.The streaming schedule is below.
Sometimes strong wording and firm denials don't add up to much.
Take the Conservative Party's official, if belated, reaction to Greg Weston's CBC story about the secret Conservative Party "slush fund" controlled by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff.
There is cause for cautious celebration in B.C., just over two weeks after an election result that was devastating to progressive and environmentally minded people in British Columbia.
The good news: the B.C. government formally came out against Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline proposal. The B.C. Liberals' Minister of Environment, Terry Lake, announced the official position in conjunction with submitting a formal letter from the province to the Joint Review Panel currently underway.
The government has conceded the human right to water exists, but thats not enough.
Alarm bells continue to sound in the media about fracking -- from heated debates about its safety in Illinois, New York, and California to even the threat it poses to German beer.
Yesterday the Conservatives launched another salvo in their war against working people.
Conservative backbencher Blaine Calkins unveiled a private members bill (C-525) that will make it far harder to form a new union and much easier to decertify an existing one.
With the next federal election a little more than two years away, it is time we started asking the Liberals and New Democrats what kind of government they will deliver if either one can bounce the Conservatives from power.
It would be unwise to underestimate the Conservatives' devious political smarts, but it increasingly looks like we may have a dramatic change in Ottawa -- perhaps a Liberal government.
In a timely reminder of where the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement goes terribly wrong, a new report out of British Columbia explains the importance of "buy local" policies to the strength of communities. The report, The Power of Purchasing: The Economic Impacts of Local Procurement, is a co-production of the Columbia Institute, LOCO BC and ISIS Research Centre. Its astounding, though not surprising, main finding is that municipal purchasing from locally-based suppliers "creates nearly twice as much benefit to the local economy as buying from multinational chains."
The scandals around Harper seem to be sticking and change is in the air. Change is also in your pockets. At rabble.ca your change makes change. For $5/month (or about 16 cents/day) you can have a real impact on the news and views that get reported.
That’s not a lot of coin to take on Harper and his cronies, to expose the misinformation on the Tar Sands, to bring you the news of grassroots democratic struggles and to go beyond the mainstream headlines. Please give us your change and become a supporting member of rabble right now.
In a Global interview with Laura Stone, I am quoted as saying that Stephen Harper is "not Canadian."
Having lunch with a reporter on virtually no sleep is a high-risk proposition, but I didn't say anything I didn't mean. I did make it clear that I was not saying Mr. Harper is "not Canadian." What I did say was that Stephen Harper's political orientation was informed by an American/ Republican approach to politics. In other words, I am not, like the crazed anti-Obama crowd asking him to produce his birth certificate. The issue is this: unlike any prime minister in our history -- Liberal or Conservative -- Mr. Harper reflects a political culture foreign to Canada.
An NDP private member’s bill designed to protect child performers in the entertainment industry passed Second Reading in the Ontario Legislature on Thursday.
Bill 71, The Protecting Child Performers ACT, was introduced by NDP MPP Paul Miller and passed First Reading on May 15 has now been referred to the Standing Committee on General Government.
“After ten long years of hard work by Equity and ACTRA, we have finally come this far,” said Miller late Thursday afternoon.
“I look forward to the Standing Committee debates and, hopefully, to moving Bill 71 to Third Reading and Royal Assent this Fall.”
So does Shirley Douglas, a Canadian television, film, and stage actress and activist who’s worked in the entertainment industry for 60 years.
"I have nothing but contempt for people who wish to deny women one of the fundamental rights to control their reproduction." - Dr. Henry Morgentaler, 2010.In the media avalanche following Dr. Henry Morgentaler's death on May 29, two radically different views of the man quickly emerged. The 25th anniversary reader: Key readings on the Morgentaler decision and Canada's abortion rights struggle On January 28, 2013, Canada celebrated 25 years of no abortion law. I've put together a selection of key works on the history of the pro-choice campaign and the Supreme Court decision. Judy Rebick: Henry Morgentaler was a 'lightning-rod for the women's movement' Author and rabble.ca co-founder Judy Rebick spoke with the Media Mornings show about how she remembers the late Dr. Henry Morgentaler, and his reproductive rights legacy today. Farewell to a brave, inspiring fighter: Canadians pay tribute to Dr. Henry Morgentaler Many prominent Canadian individuals and organizations paid tribute to Morgentaler, a pioneering medical professional who took great personal risks to support women's right to abortion.
May 30 will be a date to remember. It was the day thousands tuned in -- some in person, many online -- to find out the long awaited name of our new union.
The word "Unifor" appeared on screen midway through a spectacular public event in Toronto. The new name appeared alongside a bold new logo -- a shield housing a stylized letter "U" in the middle, reflecting the coming together of two unions.
Fifty mind-numbingly respectable groups have asked Ontario to implement its highly prudent new sex ed curriculum. It was ready three years ago but Dalton McGuinty backed away after some hysterical fundamentalist protests. I'm not belittling political caution, it's part of the game, but something else may be at work: fear of a general panic among adults about what the hell is going on with kids and sex on the Internet.
A sophisticated arts critic recently told me she was aghast at sexual imagery her nieces can now access. A battle-scarred senior journalist who's fearlessly exposed major public horrors says the oral and anal sex that kids see online is "just wrong." As if it's all too much for them to handle. I'd like to add a touch of historical perspective.Bullying (or what it ineptly refers to) and sexuality aren't sidelines to juggle so that the real task of taking arid tests like this week's EQAO exams can occur. Conservative attacks are nothing but bullying Bullying is an expansive phenomenon, running along a wide continuum, ranging from physical to verbal abuse. For some reason, society deems much of it to be perfectly acceptable, at least in politics. The Christian right and Ontario's new sex ed guidelines Charles McVety has no concerns about frightening children with tales of demons and hellfire, but teach kids about homosexuality? Perish the thought. Teens and sex Teen birth rates are eight times higher in the U.S. than in Holland. Abortion rates are twice as high. The American AIDS rate is three times greater than that of the Dutch. What are they doing right that we're not?
Here are a few facts.
The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff is part of what is known as 'exempt staff,' that is, he or she can be hired outside the normal civil service process.
However, that same Chief of Staff is employed by -- and paid by -- the Government of Canada, not by a political party.
The Prime Minister is, at one and the same time, leader of a political party -- currently the Conservative Party -- and chief executive of the Canadian government.
So, for his next act, does Brent Rathgeber plan to take up the Wildrose banner and challenge Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk in the Edmonton-Castle Downs riding?
Or will he re-emerge as one of Alison Redford's PCs, as others are speculating?
The Ontario Premier and members of her cabinet received a letter this week from an unusual alliance of organizations urging her government to swiftly adopt a meaningful price on climate-altering carbon pollution.