Monday, August 30, 2010

Stephen Harper Again Shows That Multi-Nationals Come Before the Canadian People

News this week is that Stephen Harper handed over 130 million dollars of taxpayer money to a multi-national corporation, AbitibiBowater Inc., that was guilty of environmental crime, and the exploitation of our natural resources.

Of course, that's not how our corporate media is selling it. Instead, they are allowing the premier of Newfoundland, Danny Williams, to shoulder all of the "blame", while Stephen Harper is made the hero for coming to the "rescue". What a strange world we live in.

And of course Jason Kenney's Canadian Taxpayer Federation is leading the charge.
Taxpayer watchdogs didn't exactly see it that way. “Danny Williams has managed to put taxpayers in Toronto, Weyburn, Vancouver, Kamloops, Halifax on the hook for his big ego,” said Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Williams should have been congratulated for standing up to a company who reneged on it's agreement with the province, when they closed up shop in Grand Falls-Windsor, throwing 750 people out of work, yet still demanded water and forestry rights. They also refused to clean up the mess they left behind.

"Newfoundlanders and Labradorians expect them to honour their historic commitments to the province. If they cannot do that, then they have no right to assets that rightfully belong to the people of the province." He was right. But not according to Stephen Harper. To Harper, Williams was threatening a large corporation, despite the fact that they threw Canadians out of work.

It used to be that we fought against multi-nationals on behalf of our citizens. Now we are being asked to fight for multi-nationals, regardless of their impact on our citizens, our environment and the well being of our country.

AbitibiBowater Inc.

AbitibiBowater Inc. came about with the merger of Bowater and Abitibi-Consolidated, in January of 2007.
A union representing forestry workers said the move by Abitibi and Bowater should cause concern in government and community circles. "There are many issues underlying this announced merger which should raise alarm bells in Ottawa," said David Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. "Our forest-based industries and communities are already in crisis with the loss of some 10,000 jobs over the past few years. "Our history with mergers and acquisitions has been that so-called 'synergies' really mean more mill closures, job losses and devastation in our communities," he said. The union called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to convene a national summit on the future of the forestry industry.
Within months of the merger, the company was also at the center of controversy in Canada's Boreal Forest over the loss of old-growth and intact forests, and related impacts on threatened wildlife including woodland caribou.

Greenpeace launched an aggressive campaign, resulting in a number of major customers either reducing or cancelling their contracts, to reduce their exposure to environmental and reputational risk. A deal was finally reached in May of this year.

But Stephen Harper did not step in until the corporation was being denied access to resources, after the predicted layoffs and environmental damage was done. The company has since filed for bankruptcy protection.

The 130 Million Dollar Gift

So why did they get 130 million tax dollars?
Canada’s federal government made an important announcement this week. It was kept deliberately quiet: with a news release issued at 4:45 pm on a calm Tuesday in the middle of the late-summer news “dead zone.” But it should set alarm bells ringing for anyone concerned with the anti-democratic direction of global trade law. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government reached a $130 million out-of-court settlement with the bankruptcy trustees overseeing the restructuring of AbitibiBowater Inc., a failed forestry and paper giant. The settlement relates to a claim that Abitibi brought against Canada under NAFTA’s notorious Chapter 11 process.

Since NAFTA is an international treaty, it is the federal government who speaks for Canada - even when the claim is directed against a provincial government. Usually these Chapter 11 cases drag on for years. Amazingly, however, Canada’s federal officials settled the case out of court this week. They agreed to pay damages of $130 million, only 6 months after Abitibi formally filed its NAFTA complaint.

There was no “national treatment” aspect to the seizure of Abitibi’s rights (it was Abitibi’s socially irresponsible actions, not its nationality, that sparked the Newfoundland action). Indeed, Abitibi is functionally headquartered in Montreal, Canada, and is, for most intents and purposes, a Canadian company (its U.S. “identity” merely reflects a Delaware incorporation - no doubt for tax avoidance reasons). This makes it all the more bizarre that it could use the NAFTA process (rather than normal courts) to sue its own government. There should have been plenty of grounds to fight the case as a dramatic over-reaching of NAFTA’s rules.
Harper didn't even try to fight this, and would instead say that this was a one of, and that from here on in, provinces would pay for their own lawsuits, if they even try to put their citizens first.

There is a clear message here. You don't challenge Harper's multi-nationals. The battle lines have been drawn and we are on the losing side.

One more reason to get rid of this man before he completely destroys us.


  1. "It used to be that we fought against multi-nationals on behalf of our citizens. Now we are being asked to fight for multi-nationals, regardless of their impact on our citizens, our environment and the well being of our country."
    It is still hard for me, on some level, to believe Canada has come to this, Emily. Some part of me still clings to the wide-eyed trust I had in Canada when I was young. I even remember when Canada was trusted by the world, when Canadian troops acted only as peacekeepers.
    Now, somehow, our troops have become warriors and we, as taxpayers, have lost the right to fight for ourselves.
    It's a sad world when Canada, of all places, has come to this.

  2. The Abitibi suit was filed in February 2010, more than a year after the province expropriated the assets.

    Because the federal government negotiated and signed the NAFTA treaty, it had to defend against the Abitibi court challenge, not the province.

    Clarkson said the settlement caught him off guard.

    “I was surprised that they would settle so early,” he said, adding that Ottawa could have dragged out the process for years. “Why not? For one thing, it delays having to pay. You have legal expenses, but there’s so much obstructionism that you can carry out during a legal procedure.”

    Clarkson said as a result of the settlement — where Ottawa will pay the $130 million — other provinces may be less fearful of NAFTA consequences.