Does it really matter whether the funding is from Huawei, Lockheed Martin, or Monsanto-Bayer? It seems like trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted.
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Decision on Chinese telecoms firm comes as national security concerns mount in the west
The university emailed doctoral students in computer science about the decision to suspend Huawei as a donor last week. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuter
The University of Oxford has placed an indefinite ban on accepting research grants or donations from the Chinese telecoms firm Huawei, which is facing mounting concerns from several governments about whether it poses a risk to national security.
The decision emerged the day after the US prosecutors reportedly opened an investigation into Huawei for alleged theft of trade secrets from American firms. Berlin is also reportedly weighing up measures to exclude the company from working on the rollout of 5G mobile infrastructure in Germany.
Oxford said its ban on Huawei funding was linked to “public concerns raised in recent months surrounding UK partnerships with Huawei”.
The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, and MPs on the foreign affairs select committee have voiced fears about the company’s role in 5G.
“We hope these matters can be resolved shortly and note Huawei’s own willingness to reassure governments about its role and activities,” Oxford said. “The university will continue with existing research contracts where funding from Huawei has already been received or committed.
“We currently have two such ongoing projects, with a combined funding from Huawei of £692k. Both projects were approved under the university’s regulatory processes before the current levels of uncertainty arose.”
“The [committee] met last week and have decided to suspend Huawei as an approved gift donor/research sponsor,” the email said.
“If you are in contact with anyone from Huawei, do note that this decision doesn’t prevent you from maintaining a relationship with them but we would recommend that no confidential or proprietary information is discussed.”
A Huawei spokesperson said: “We were not informed of this decision and await the university’s full explanation. As a private, employee-owned technology company, with a strong track record in R&D we believe partnership decisions should, like research, be evidence based.
“We have operated in the UK since 2001, employ 1,500 people here and have long standing collaborations with 20 other UK universities, working with them to research the technologies of the future.”
Details of its ban on Huawei funding emerged shortly after reports that the US Department of Justice was to investigate the alleged theft of trade secrets from US firms by the Shenzhen-based company.
The Chinese state-run Global Times said the latest moves were a form of “technological McCarthyism” aimed at politicising and blocking Chinese businesses. Hu Xijin, its editor, said he believed US attitudes toward China had reached a level of hysteria.
Huawei has been at the centre of a Sino-US row that came to a head with the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, the company’s finance chief and daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei.
Her father’s background, having served in the Chinese military and the Communist party, is among factors that have further stoked suspicion about Huawei in several countries.
The company has been banned from involvement in the installation of 5G mobile networks in India, New Zealand and Australia, blocked from making acquisitions in the US and banned by the Pentagon from selling phones on American military bases.
Glyphosate Objectors’ Concerns Heightened by Health Canada Response
Glyphosate Objectors’ Concerns Are Heightened Following Replies from Health Canada (being released January 14, 2019 online)
Responses Dismiss Key Science and Lack Transparency
Canadians at Risk, With no Independent Review of Roundup Herbicide
For Immediate Release
Ottawa, January 14, 2018 – Today, Health Canada is releasing online, responses to eight objections to re-registration of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide). Government responses leave objectors more concerned than ever.
Cancer, chronic disease and food quality were inadequately or inaccurately addressed by Health Canada (see Additional Information below).
Prevent Cancer Now and other health and environmental groups, university professor and researchers, are disappointed that an independent panel will not scrutinize Canada’s primary pesticide, despite a history of scientific interference and bias (see media release).
In briefings by PMRA officials on January 11, 2019, responses to questions from objectors revealed that public health, toxic metals in food and soil quality were summarily dismissed as being outside of the scope of pesticides assessment (see below).
Instead of an independent investigation of the re-registration of glyphosate, twenty Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) staff examined the work of their colleagues, based upon objections submitted in 2017. In briefings, objectors were told of rigorous scientific reviews, but there was no mention of key, current, relevant publicly available research.
Glyphosate is the world’s most-used herbicide. Canadian sales data places glyphosate in its own open-ended category – since 2007, more than 25 million kilograms are sold annually.
Quotes from Objectors and Experts
“Young Canadians are getting sicker, with chronic diseases earlier in life. Glyphosate effects on gut microbes can contribute to bowel, immune, metabolic and neurological conditions that cost society dearly, and the healthcare system billions of dollars. When Health Canada dismisses relevant science as out of scope, the goal to protect human health cannot be met,” said Dr. Meg Sears, Chair of Prevent Cancer Now.
“Acting only when extreme effects are seen in animals doesn’t protect human health. Even small effects can result in large impacts across the entire population,” cautioned Dr. David Bowering, former Medical Health Officer, Northern Health, BC.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that glyphosate probably causes human cancer. Health Canada responded that the IARC assessment is not relevant because it identified a hypothetical hazard rather than an exposure-associated risk. While IARC does not conduct a formal risk assessment, the panel does examine hazards in human, real-life studies. It is disingenuous to characterize findings of an IARC panel as irrelevant to everyday exposures, particularly when data on Canadians getting cancer was included in the IARC review.
“Multiple epidemiologic studies have indicated links between glyphosate and increased susceptibility to development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, as well as multidrug resistant bacteria. This is of sufficient concern that it warrants that an independent panel be struck to review the science backing the PMRA’s claim that there is no need to re-review this issue. What level of evidence would be sufficient to trigger a review of the status of glyphosate? Who were the reviewers and what is their expertise? Their clear requirement for “proof of harm” before further review is even more concerning for the Canadian public,” said Dr. Richard van der Jagt, MD, FRCP, a cancer specialist who has many years of cumulative experience treating lymphoma and myeloma patients.
“Monsanto’s influence has polluted the scientific literature and improper tactics have been employed by the agro-chemical industry to undermine regulatory decisions world-wide,” stated Kathleen Ruff of Right On Canada. “Ethical, scientific and transparency standards have not been followed, thus destroying public trust.”
When asked, Health Canada responded that it does not have a Code of Scientific Conduct.
Mary Lou McDonald of Safe Food Matters asked why some objections were not answered, including the fact that the government’s own data recognizes that labels are not followed. The response was that only objections based in science were responded too. She observed that it was clear from the call [January 11th] that there is no comprehensive scientific approach code adhered to by PMRA, and that the “scientific approach” of PMRA is limited to toxicology studies in the lab, and requires proof that these old, confidential studies were wrong.
Prof. Louise Vandelac, Professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, a researcher at CINBIOSE and director of CREPPA, seriously questions the scientific rigor and transparency of the PMRA . “It claims having consulted sources other than those mentioned in the consultation paper in support of its decision, but without identifying the documents. The PMRA’s decision is based mainly on dated and unpublished documents prepared by the agrochemical industry benefiting from the decision. This ethical problem is aggravated by the lack of systematic review of the scientific literature of the last 15 years which shows among others things, the need to perform whole-life analyzes on laboratory animals and to make a scientific assessment of the glyphosate-based commercial formulations, that are up to 1000-fold more toxic than the glyphosate analyzed (Mesnage et al. 2014). The PMRA claims to rely on other agencies such as EFSA in Europe, although registration in Europe was limited to 5 years, not 15 years as it is in Canada. The European report was significantly extracted from a Monsanto document, as revealed by Le Monde (Nov. 26, 2017).”
Josette Wier strongly disagreed with Health Canada’s claim to transparency. “This was the worse process I was ever part of. Requests brought no referral to a regulatory framework, the decision took one year and a half to be issued.”
Sears noted, “Despite transparency provisions introduced in the Pest Control Products Act (2002), pesticide assessment is opaque. The data evaluation remains confidential. The public sees the final decision, and can take pencil and paper to the Reading Room in Ottawa to copy information from hundreds of industry reports. As of December 31, 2018, Health Canada is required to have established an open Science Integrity Policy. We will see if this will bring more light to data evaluations.”
For more information please contact:
Meg Sears PhD, Chair Prevent Cancer Now 613 297-6042
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The responses from Health Canada’s PMRA did not address or were factually incorrect regarding at least five points raised by objectors:
Objectors highlighted an analysis of the confidential animal carcinogenicity dataset by Dr. Christopher Portier highlighted eight tumours that were not counted in any analyses by international authorities, or presumably by the PMRA. The PMRA characterized this as an issue of statistics, rather than under-estimating cancers. At issue is improper use of historical “control” numbers, counting cancers in undosed animals from other studies, eating regular, presumably glyphosate-containing chow.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, in 2015. Dr. Connie Moase indicated during the briefing that IARC does not consider human exposure levels, despite the fact that IARC considered Canadian studies of cancers in workers exposed to glyphosate – example.
Glyphosate mobilizes cadmium and other toxic metals, that can then accumulate in grains and other crops. This is well known – In the 1990s then-Environment Canada assembled a database of plants that hyper-accumulate toxic metals, and accumulation in wheat is investigated by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Cadmium is a potent toxin and carcinogen, that is at higher concentrations in some Canadian agricultural regions, and in potash fertilizer. Canada has no standard for cadmium in food, but our grains have been refused at borders for exceeding international standards. Cadmium was not mentioned in the responses, nor apparently further investigated. In the telephone briefing, Health Canada representatives expressed unfounded hypothetical doubt, but the claimed rigorous review overlooked scientific proof of glyphosate actually mobilizing cadmium, and cadmium being lower in organic food, as has been the repeatedly expressed concern.
Glyphosate is an antibiotic. Antibiotics disturb the intestinal microbiome, and predispose to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD is increasing 7% annually in young Canadian children), and to colorectal cancer (increasing 7% annually in young Canadian adults). Inspecting confidential test data in the Reading Room revealed that the PMRA assessment dismissed “anal staining” in animal studies – clear signs of intestinal distress – as not “adverse.” Thus, the animal toxicity that would predict Canada’s public health crisis of IBD and colorectal cancer, had been discounted.
Differences in food quality when crops are “dessicated” and do not completely mature, were also out of scope. Glyphosate kills some soil microbes, resulting in more crop pathogens. To reduce toxic moulds, and for convenience in harvesting, crops may be “dessicated” by rapid killing with glyphosate before they mature completely and dry naturally. Pesticide application immediately pre-harvest is prohibited in some countries, to prevent the higher residue levels. Glyphosate accumulates in the seeds of legumes and beans, including chickpeas, and exceeds legal limits, but this magnification of dietary exposure was not considered. Canada Food Inspection Agency data shows that these crops, and grains, have exceeded science-based maximum residue limits. Health Canada explained that an exceedance indicates only that further investigation is warranted, but does not necessarily mean that there is a health risk. In fact, these exceedences warrant a transparent examination of current levels of toxins accumulating in seeds, the levels of consumption by the population, an evaluation of the unaccounted for risks, and rapid action.
Details of the incident emerged shortly after a court heard about alleged attempts by officers to hide records needed by Vice Admiral Mark Norman
Judge Advocate General Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez, who endorsed a recommendation by one of her staff to tell DND officials that the report didn’t exist, according to a briefing document.David Kawai/The Canadian Press/File
by David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen
Despite being warned what they were doing was potentially illegal and punishable by imprisonment, top military officers failed to disclose important documents under the Access to Information law, the National Post can reveal.
The military officials claimed an internal report highlighting problems with the court martial system didn’t exist — even though there were electronic and paper copies of the draft document.
However, other officers were so worried about the ethical and legal issues that they alerted the highest level — with the office of Canada’s top soldier, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, being warned that such a response was “potentially unlawful.”
Details about the 2017 incident have emerged just a month after an Ottawa court heard about alleged attempts by military officers to hide records needed by Vice Admiral Mark Norman to defend himself against one count of breach of trust. The two incidents are separate but some military sources warn they show a pattern of failure to adhere to the access law.
The 2017 incident involves responses sent by the Office of the JAG (Judge Advocate General) to the Directorate of Access to Information, according to an Aug. 28, 2017 Canadian Forces briefing note.
Judge Advocate General Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez, who oversees the military justice system and is the top legal advisor to the Canadian Forces, endorsed a recommendation by one of her staff to tell Department of National Defence’s access to information officials that the documents didn’t exist, according to the briefing document for Vance’s office. The JAG organization sent a “nil” response following two requests for a draft report of the court martial system review.
However, two officers on Bernatchez’s staff prepared a briefing for Vance because they felt that military regulations required them to alert the senior leadership about potential wrongdoing.
Vance’s office was told that the response “that the requested records do not exist is potentially unlawful in that it seeks to deny a right of access to a record.
“The records that were requested clearly exist, and have existed since at least 21 July 2017.”
The briefing warned that it was an indictable offence under the Access to Information law to conceal a record with “intent to deny a right of access.”
“This offence is punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment,” Vance’s office was told.
At least three officers in Bernatchez’s organization raised ethical or legal concerns about the decision to withhold the requested records but were ignored, according to the document.
The military’s National Investigation Service examined the concerns but determined that there was insufficient evidence to “support that an offence had occurred,” the DND noted in a statement to Postmedia Wednesday.
The decision to claim “the ‘nil reply’ was due to a misapplication of the Access to Information Act and was not due to malicious intent,” the DND stated.
Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard, who worked as the legal counsel at the Judge Advocate General’s Office from 2001 to 2006, investigated the incident and noted in a Dec. 12, 2018 letter to the DND that the department’s claim that no records existed because the document was a draft report “is not an appropriate reply” under the law.
Her investigation found the records did exist and she flagged what her office considered “a lack of oversight” on the part of the DND.
This offence is punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment
The briefing to Vance’s office outlined the behind-the-scene debate over how to respond to the access request for the report.
One officer on Aug. 14, 2017 wrote her supervisors to express her ethical and legal concerns about the decision to claim the records didn’t exist. On Aug. 15 and Aug. 16, 2017 another officer talked to the deputy JAG for Military Justice, Col. David Antonyshyn, to “advise him of the legal and potentially criminal risks associated with the Office of the JAG’s denial of the existence of a record that clearly existed.”
On Aug. 16, 2017 another officer emailed Antonyshyn to remind him that a copy of the requested record had been given to Bernatchez and warned of “the legal risks associated with a denial of this record’s existence.”
Bernatchez’s office also sought advice from a legal advisor who pointed out that such draft documents were not exempt from being released under the access law.
Despite the concerns and advice, the JAG’s office told the DND access branch that no records existed.
The records that were requested clearly exist
The DND in its statement to Postmedia noted steps were being taken to improve the department’s compliance with the law. The department also released a Jan. 11, 2019 response to the Information Commissioner, in which DND Deputy Minister Jody Thomas said she would consult with Vance and Bernatchez to consider ways to improve complying with the law.
“We remain committed to maintaining open and transparent access to information services to Canadians and have taken steps to strengthen the function,” the DND added in its statement.
This is the second allegation that the Canadian Forces have been involved in attempts to prevent the disclosure of records under the Access law. In December a witness at the court hearing involving Vice Admiral Norman outlined how a brigadier general informed him of a method used by the military to avoid having to produce records. The witness, whose name is protected by the court to prevent retaliation by the Canadian Forces, said he was told to send a “nil return” to an access request, indicating no documents related to Norman could be found.
When he sought clarification, the witness testified the general smiled and told him: “Don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo. We made sure we never used his name.”
Vance is scheduled to testify at the end of the month in the Norman case about those allegations.
“Cash-for-access dinners have made a return to Ontario politics and it’s a bad sign for democracy. Pay-to-play politics is good for those with deep pockets, but not good for the people,” said Schreiner.
“At $1,250 per-plate to buy the ear of the premier, this is not a ‘government for the people.’ It’s a government for big banks, big developers, big nuclear, and big oil.”
Premier Doug Ford’s governing Progressive Conservatives are revving up their money machine.
After loosening campaign finance laws introduced by former premier Kathleen Wynne following a 2016 Star exposé of Liberal fundraising, the Tories are banking on a cash windfall.
Ford will headline the $1,250-a-plate Toronto Leader’s Dinner on Feb. 27 at the Toronto Congress Centre on Dixon Road in Etobicoke.
Next Tuesday, Energy Minister Greg Rickford will speak at an $800-a-ticket cocktail party at the Albany Club on King St. East.
The two events are the first big-ticket fundraisers since the Conservatives, who defeated the Liberals last June, amended the previous campaign finance legislation in the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act.
In a message to supporters, PC Ontario Fund chair Tony Miele said the Tories “need your help to build up our party’s financial resources as quickly as possible.”
Miele touted the premier’s dinner as “the biggest fundraiser in our party’s history.”
Last Friday, Ford attended a modest $25-a-plate spaghetti dinner for 200 supporters at Kitchener’s Bingemans Conference Centre.
Under Wynne’s restrictions, all MPPs, candidates, and staff were forbidden from attending any event where money was raised for political parties.
But last November Finance Minister Vic Fedeli changed the law to enable politicians and their staff to go to fundraisers.
That had been the case prior to Wynne’s reforms almost three years ago amid accusations of the Liberals accepting “cash-for-access.”
Green Leader Mike Schreiner said Tuesday he was “disappointed” with the trend back to such fundraisers.
“Cash-for-access dinners have made a return to Ontario politics and it’s a bad sign for democracy. Pay-to-play politics is good for those with deep pockets, but not good for the people,” said Schreiner.
“At $1,250 per-plate to buy the ear of the premier, this is not a ‘government for the people.’ It’s a government for big banks, big developers, big nuclear, and big oil.”
In his amendments last fall, Fedeli retained the Grits’ prohibition on corporate and union donations, but some loopholes have emerged in the new legislation.
The Tories repealed a section that forced donors to “certify, in a form approved by the Chief Electoral Officer, that the person has not acted contrary” to the ban on trade unions or corporations donating cash in the name of their members or employees.
Both Conservative and Liberal fundraising experts have privately said all political parties could exploit that.
“If you don’t fill out a disclosure form, then what’s to stop a corporation donating on your behalf?” a veteran Liberal confided last fall, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the fundraising practices.
“It was the only thing in the act that required any threshold of activity on behalf of a donor to prove that a corporation wasn’t funnelling money through the backdoor,” the Liberal said.
A veteran Tory, who also requested anonymity, joked at the time that “it’s a loophole you could drive a Brink’s truck through.”
However, Ford’s government has said filling out the disclosure form was a nuisance to donors. The Tories stress that it is still illegal to accept money from a corporation or union to donate as an individual.
The revamped provincial legislation mirrors existing federal campaign laws.
In the 2016 Liberal bill, donors would have to certify in writing that they did not donate “funds that do not actually belong to the person; or any funds that have been given or furnished by any person or group of persons or by a corporation or trade union for the purpose of making a contribution.”
Fedeli is also phasing out the public $2.71 per-vote subsidies for political parties before the 2022 election.
The governing Tories, who got more than 2.3 million votes, receive almost $6.3 million a year, while the NDP get $5.2 million, the Liberals around $3 million, and the Greens about $700,000.
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie
With about 0.5 percent of the world’s population, Canada has a disproportionate share of global water supply with seven percent of the globe’s renewable water and roughly half of the world’s lakes. Groundwater is just one of the many water sources in Canada, but the lack of federal and provincial regulation with regards to groundwater extraction has made it very easy for big companies like Nestle to swoop in and monopolize groundwater resources.
In fact, Nestle Waters Canada—a subsidiary of the multi-billion dollar Swiss company Nestle Group actually has a pretty long history of extracting clean groundwater from all across Canada, specifically British Columbia. Nestle Waters has two plants in Canada—one in Hope, BC, the other in Aberfoyle, near the city of Guelph, Ontario. There have been ongoing water disputes between the community and Nestle in both those regions.
Kawkawa Lake, District of Hope, BC
Nestle and the residents of the District of Hope have been at loggerheads over water supply from the Kawkawa Lake since 2000, when Nestle opened a water-bottling facility in Hope, using water from only one source, the Kawkawa Lake. Nestle vehemently defends its operations, stating that they withdraw less than 1 percent of the available groundwater in the Kawkawa Lake aquifer. But the issue arises when a drought hits and the residents of Hope are forced to restrict water use, while Nestle is allowed to continue the same pace of production.
Nestle bottles approximately 265 million litres of water from BC. Up until the beginning of this year, Nestle paid absolutely nothing for water it took from Kawkawa Lake. It was only in 2016 after much pressure primarily from the residents of Hope, that the province instituted regulations requiring any company extracting clean drinking water to pay $2.25 per million litres of water. According to activist group The Council of Canadians, the $2.25 rate is low compared to other provinces. In Ontario, for instance, companies have to pay up to $15 to extract a million litres of clean drinking water. In 2011, as a gesture of appreciation of sorts, Nestle donated $45,000 to the District of Hope for the construction of a playground.
The BC government takes a different stance on the issue of payment. They say charging a fee for water could have the potential of raising legal questions over who owns that water. In addition, they claim that Nestle is hardly affected by a small fee for water, but many smaller bottling companies would be priced out of the market. Until the Water Sustainability Act was instituted in 2016, BC’s only water regulation related to ensuring groundwater extraction techniques were environmentally safe. Clean groundwater is up for bids in most of BC, with corporations like Nestle often having the upper hand because of their scale of production, and ability to ensure that extraction methods do not hurt the environment. Now however, the provincial government has the authority to step in with mandatory restrictions in the case of a drought.
In 2005, the former CEO of Nestle, Peter Brabeck was quoted as saying that water should not be considered a human right and be instead treated as a “foodstuff commodity.” That video was leaked and went viral in 2013—the same year that Nestle was in the middle of another dispute with the town of Hillsburgh, Ontario, near Guelph. Nestle withdraws as much as 1.1 million litres of water daily from a well in Hillsburgh, which has suffered three major droughts since 2007.
2013 was one of the driest years in Hillsburgh, yet Nestle continued to extract the same amount of water from that one well. Public pressure caused the province to intervene, and when it renewed Nestle’s contract on the Hillsburgh Well, it made it mandatory for Nestle to reduce the amount of groundwater it extracts during times of drought. The story didn’t end there, unfortunately. Nestle aggressively appealed the new permit’s restrictions and a few months later, the Ontario’s Environment Ministry agreed to remove the restrictions.
Just a couple of days ago, Nestle outbid the Township of Centre Wellington, Ontario, for it’s only new source of clean drinking water—a local well. The Township sits entirely on what is called glacial moraine, an unconsolidated accumulation of soil and rock that once used to be a glacier. This unique geological formation makes it particularly difficult for residents of the town to have access to a safe supply of drinking water. In fact, there is only one new source of clean drinking water in Centre Wellington—the local well that Nestle now owns.
The same activist group that was involved in getting Nestle to pay for water in BC put out a petition last week calling for the boycott of Nestle, which actually already owns a large bottling plant in nearby Aberfoyle, Ontario. According to the petition, Nestle pays less than $15 a day for clean groundwater from this particular well, and “ships it out of the community in hundreds of millions of single use plastic bottles for sale all over North America—at an astronomical markup.”
However, according to Andreanne Simard, Nestle’s Natural Resource Manager at its plant near Guelph, the Township of Centre Wellington is “lucky to have a company that monitors and manages a resource like water so well.”
“We’re very particular that there is no adverse, negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem.”
Simard claims that in August this year, at the height of the drought in Centre Wellington, Nestle voluntarily reduced their water extraction by 20 percent. “One thing we have in common with the community is our shared passion for water,” Simard said.
But the declaration from the Council of Canadians is asking for more than just a boycott of Nestle because of its activities in the Township of Central Wellington, it’s calling for Nestle to “stop profiting from water altogether.”
“Wasting our limited groundwater on frivolous and consumptive uses such as bottled water is madness,” it said.
However, Ontario’s government has come to the defence of Nestle. Treasury Board President Liz Sandals, who reps Guelph, says the public often has the wrong facts about the company.
“There’s no doubt that there is a lot of concern, but my point to you is that many of the things that people will express a concern about actually turn out to be based on misinformation,” she said, according to the Canadian Press.
Watershed Sentinel writer Gavin MacRae examines how well the new Water Sustainability Act is working in the context of a water bottling controversy in Merville
BC’s original Water Act was a relic, drafted when Vancouver was still a fledgling city and before Canada’s first airplane took to the skies. It would govern water use in the province for over a century, until in 2016, a long overdue replacement arrived: the Water Sustainability Act (WSA). Conceived after a long period of public consultation, the WSA aims to “address the new challenges of the 21st century, including climate change, population growth and increasing pressure on water resources.”
This may come as surprise to residents of the community of Merville, on Vancouver Island. The hamlet has been roiling since residents learned of a commercial groundwater licence, granted by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development (FLNRORD), to sell water from an aquifer beneath Merville.
The licence was approved without public notification, and against the wishes of K’omoks First Nation and the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). Amid public outcry over the ministry decision, the plan was halted when the CVRD denied a rezoning application by the well licence holder that would have allowed the proposed bottling business to process the water at the well site.
Opponents of the proposed business are concerned increased traffic and noise will ruin the bucolic ambiance of the small community, and worry about the effect the business could have on their own wells. Some residents said the business would set a precedent of for-profit extraction of a common resource, squandering precious groundwater when water scarcity from climate change looms.
An unassuming rural lot with a mobile home and a few scattered outbuildings is the epicentre of the controversy
Bruce Gibbons lives down the road from the proposed bottled water business, and is a vocal critic. He said residents were unaware of the licence until the rezoning decision came before the CVRD. After finding out about the well licence “through the neighbourhood grapevine,” Gibbons rallied neighbours to attend the zoning meeting. “We packed the CVRD board room and overflowed into the parking lot, on a Monday morning,” he said.
Since then, Gibbons has launched an unsuccessful appeal against the well licence, formed an advocacy group called the Merville Water Guardians, and had an independent hydro-geology consultant review the technical reports underpinning FLNRORD’s decision to approve the well.
An unassuming rural lot with a mobile home and a few scattered outbuildings is the epicentre of the controversy. It is the home of married couple Christopher MacKenzie and Regula Heynck, holders of the well licence.
MacKenzie was visibly frustrated talking about his so-far thwarted plans to operate the water business. He said social-media-fuelled fear from well-meaning but misguided activists factored in to his zoning defeat. He also viewed the denied rezoning as a pre-meditated campaign by officials at the regional district. “[The CVRD] came up with a plan to direct us down the wrong garden path, knowing all along we had the right zoning, that we exhausted all our avenues chasing a rezoning application.”
“We’re not the first people to do this,” said MacKenzie, “we’re just the same as everybody else, a young family with a little bit of luck, who have drilled water and want to offer it locally to poorly water-serviced communities.”
The 10,000 litre-per-day draw of well water (roughly equivalent to 10 homes) was negligible, said MacKenzie. “How are we going to drain the aquifer when we’re only allowed to take 10,000 litres, and there’s 34 trillion litres in there?”
In a media release, the K’omoks First Nation came out in opposition to the well licence, describing it as an “insult to our nation and people.” The Nation stated they were in a treaty process, negotiating for groundwater allocations in their traditional territories, and were opposed to the volume and indefinite term of the well licence.
The Nation was also “extremely disappointed” with the province’s failure to meaningfully consult with them. Chief Nicole Rempel said: “The province needs to smarten up, negotiate in good faith and in accordance with [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples]”
Edwin Grieve, Director of Area C of the CVRD, said the licence was issued despite the district informing FLNRORD that the licence ran contrary to their official community plan and regional growth strategy.
MacKenzie said he now plans to apply for a different exception to his current zoning that would allow him to bottle the water on his land. “Not only is it a brand new application, we’re going in with the lawyers, and the [provincial] ombudsman, they’re all behind us.”
In a document provided by MacKenzie, which he intends to submit to the CVRD for the zoning, a passage attributed to a hydrogeologist retained by Mackenzie read: “The proposed groundwater withdrawal is not a significant stress on the aquifer; no neighbouring wells will be significantly impacted by the proposed groundwater use.”
In contrast, the report by a consultant hydrogeologist commissioned by Bruce Gibbons to critique FLNRORD’s study of the well application was critical on several points. Chiefly, the report cast doubt on FLNRORD’s conclusion that the aquifer to be drilled is “not likely hydraulically connected to surface water,” citing the ministry’s lack of accounting for factors associated with connections between ground and surface water. The report also critically highlighted FLNRORD’s reliance on data from a monitoring well 12km away from the water bottling site, and 18-year-old data.
In the Merville case, FLNRORD has acted within their directive in granting the well license, as prescribed by the WSA. A worker following orders, FLNRORD has no mandate to inform the public of groundwater well applications. To qualify for an appeal of a well license, a complainant must be either an existing well holder or riparian owner (someone who owns waterfront property) whose water would be affected, or own land that would be physically disturbed.
Don’t throw the baby out with the groundwater
Stepping back from the play-by-play of raucous town hall meetings, quashed business plans, and dueling technical reports, the debate in Merville begs the question, how well is the WSA working?
Rosie Simms is a researcher at the University of Victoria’s POLIS project. She described some parts of the WSA as analogous to a promising but unfinished construction project. She said the potential for the WSA to provide “robust protections for fresh water” exists, but “until there’s further follow through, and actual work to get the most important parts of the act implemented and working on the ground, it’s still an incomplete process.”
Simms listed water sustainability plans, water objectives, and environmental flows provisions as tools for improving water governance available in the WSA, but currently underused. “Basically, there’s a whole lot of opportunity, it just needs to land,” she said. Despite that opportunity, there are still holes in the act. “There’s some major gaps. It’s silent on Aboriginal rights and title, which is a significant issue,” she said.
Emma Lui, a water campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said a major omission to the WSA is the recognition of water as a human right. Instead, the WSA relies on a gold-rush era rule called “first in time, first in right” for prioritizing water use. In the case of scarcity, first in time, first in right (mirrored by the phrase “first come, first served”) ignores the use of the water and rewards previously established water licences priority over subsequent licences.
First in time, first in right may have been a sensible principle for prospectors to follow a century ago, but Lui said it no longer makes sense. “When you have a system like first in time, first in right, you’re just not going to be able to prioritize water for communities,” she said.
But first in time, first in right, is not absolute. Simms said community water sustainability plans do have the power to change, cancel, or put conditions on water use for existing licences. During drought conditions, the province can also issue temporary orders to licence holders to reduce or stop flow to protect ecosystems and fish.
Lui said it’s pretty simple why such a dated principle made it into the new legislation. “I think the government was really not wanting to change the system in such a way that could threaten existing industries, like bottled water or fracking. But that’s really what needs to be done. We need to think about where water is being used and how that’s going to be impacting people and communities in the future.”
The Merville case demonstrates clearly that British Columbians are taking the governance of their water seriously. And rightly so, considering what’s at stake. For concerned citizens, water advocates, and commercial bottled water interests, the worst-case scenario is ultimately the same: running dry.
Gavin MacRae is the Watershed Sentinel’s new editorial assistant. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org For other stories about environmental issues and their broader social implications go to the Watershed Sentinel website
The rise of plastics recycling plants may stunt demand for oil
Reaction against the environmentally damaging effect of plastic packaging is fuelling the development of plants in Europe and elsewhere that can recycle it as liquid feedstock or fuel in a trend that is likely to reduce refineries’ demand for oil. Many say the chemicals industry will have to undertake a fundamental shift towards recycling if it wants to prevent consumers rejecting plastics—and especially single-use packaging—in a widespread swing against harmful materials.
Coincidentally, public consciousness of the dangers that packaging represents for marine life rose following the release of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II documentary. But further pressure is mounting from major brands that use packaging and are evaluating shifts to alternatives other than plastic.
One of the consequences may be a reduction in demand for oil-based petrochemical feedstock. In recent years it has been a mantra within the oil and chemicals industry and energy watchdogs such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) that demand for oil will be sustained by the growing need for petrochemicals. In its 2018 The Future of Petrochemicals, the IEA estimates that the petrochemicals sector uses up to 13mn bl/d of oil and that demand will grow by an additional 3mn bl/d to 2030. BP’s Energy Outlook 2018 comes to similar conclusions.
But recent concern over the proliferation of plastics in the environment is leading large and small companies to study the possibility of recycling plastics as liquid feedstock or fuel. The key impetus for these technologies has come from the EU’s 2018 Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, which aims to ensure that half of all plastics packaging used in the EU is either reusable or cost-effectively recycled by 2025. And by 2030 the target is that all plastics packaging meets the same criteria. Pressure is also being applied in the US. In May 2018, the American Chemistry Council’s plastics division announced that its members had agreed that 100pc of plastics packaging in America is recyclable or recoverable by 2030.
Most of the recycling technologies are either still in the pilot plant stage or just leaving it. However the results are encouraging. At opposite ends of the size scale, OMV AG, Austria’s national oil company, and Renewlogy, a privately-held company based in Utah, have concentrated on recycling used plastics into liquid feedstocks. Other companies are engaged in recycling plastics back to their chemicals components.
“The transition will be much faster than people expect. We always underestimate how quickly these things develop”—Hodges, eChem
OMV’s technology uses thermal cracking at temperatures of about 400C in the presence of a hot liquid solvent to return waste plastics to crude oil. The company says the resulting synthetic product is a sulphur-free, very light crude that can be processed with other oil in a refinery. OMV claims its pilot plant, which is integrated within its 190,000 bl/d Schwechat refinery, can produce 100 litres of synthetic crude from 100 kilograms of plastic feedstock. The feedstock can include common packaging materials made of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene.
Renewlogy’s technology is also based on thermal cracking of inputs, but it is calibrated to produce naphtha, a chemical and gasoline feedstock, or a middle distillate suitable for use as diesel, if blended in a 50–50 ratio with typical refinery diesel. Renewlogy founder and chief executive Priyanka Bakaya points out that “mixed plastics lend themselves well to recycling”. Renewlogy is currently supplying product for refiners in Utah and in 2018 delivered a commercial unit to Sustane Technologies in Nova Scotia.
OMV doesn’t release the economics of its project, saying it is still in the pilot plant stage, but Bakaya says Renewlogy can produce its diesel-suitable product at an operating cost of $30 a barrel, compared with a sales value of $100 a barrel. Neither have publicly released capital costs. Renewlogy says it doesn’t require payment from waste processors-so-called “tipping fees”-in order for the technology to be economic.
Other companies are also exploring similar recycling technologies. In July, OMV affiliate Borealis AG said it had agreed to acquire Ecoplast Kunststoffrecycling, an Austrian plastics recycler which produces low and high-density polyethylene from waste. Another firm, Finland’s Neste Corporation, a leader in biofuels, says it expects to achieve commercial-scale production from a plastics-to-liquid-feedstock technology by 2019. Neste has formed a joint venture with UK’s ReNew and Austria’s Licella to explore the use of mixed-waste plastic as a refinery and chemicals raw material. Neste says its goal is to process over a million tonnes a year of waste plastic by 2030.
Chemicals producers’ enthusiasm for recycling also extends to Asia where governments, including China and Indonesia, are implementing recycling programmes to avoid problems such as those that occurred in April when Indonesia’s army was deployed to clean up plastic clogging the Citarum river.
The rapid progress being made isn’t surprising, given the deadlines the EU and American Chemistry Council have set. “If you need to be prepared by 2025, you’ve got to tell people it’ll work by 2022–23”, says Paul Hodges, chairman of International eChem, a chemicals industry consultancy. He adds that the stark alternative could be the plastics packaging sector will fade away as alternative packaging such as paper gains ground at its expense.
In either case he expects crude oil demand to be significantly affected. Hodges thinks that the recycling of polyethylene and polypropylene could lead to a net medium-term loss of a million bl/d of oil demand from today’s level, cancelling out all of the growth that many oil companies have been expecting. “If you’re an oil company, you’re whistling in the wind if you think you’ll be selling all that oil into plastics”, he says.
100 litres of crude from 100kg of plastic—the output of OMV’s recycling plant in Austria
Hodges also notes that oil is facing competition from natural gas liquids, particularly in the US where high ethane supplies from wet gas, particularly in the Northeastern Marcellus/Utica shale region, are luring new ethane-based projects such as those by units of Shell and Global Chemical. Many new chemicals developments along the US Gulf are also ethane-based, while in Europe Ineos is importing US ethane for its operations.
Not everyone thinks plastics recycling is the only wave of the future. Many believe product switching also has a role to play. “I don’t think it’s going to be one or the other. I think it’s going to be both”, predicts a European oil analyst. An American industry executive points out that waste-to-energy projects have a long history of difficulty in maintaining long-term raw materials supply, particularly in rural areas.
Yet OMV and Renewlogy appear to have cleared this hurdle. OMV’s Schwechat refinery is near Vienna. Renewlogy’s Bakaya notes that her commercial-scale technology requires that it is based in the vicinity of a city with a population of around a million in order to obtain enough waste for processing. Renewlogy’s strategy for larger plants is to partner with waste-processing companies. Smaller Renewlogy plants are being designed for developing countries—these are usually sponsored.
Meantime International eChem’s Hodges believes that eventually a distributed waste recycling industry may arise. “The transition will be much faster than people expect. We always underestimate how quickly these things develop”, he says.
Meanwhile the challenge from plastics recycling will only grow. When added to the environmental and technological pressures on the automotive industries where electric vehicle output is growing, and to developments in the shipping industry where regulations on emissions are prompting the development of LNG-fuelled ships, current forecasts of oil demand growth may prove well wide of the mark.
Bill Barnes is Director of Pisgah Partners, a specialist in the development of energy projects
The first article below is an update: An award of damages has yet to be made in this case. . . . the trial judge held not only the relevant official, then-Premier William Vander Zalm liable, but also the Province itself on the basis that it was a “collective public body.” The case is decades old.
FOR THE STORY – – scroll further down to the news reports (2016). (The first report is technical.)
Misfeasance in public office is a difficult claim to prove. A successful action requires plaintiffs to demonstrate that a public officer engaged in deliberate misconduct knowing that such misconduct was likely to cause harm to the plaintiff. In many cases, evidence of the requisite mental element is lacking.
Rain Coast was one of several water export companies vying for potentially lucrative licenses to export water. Over a period of several years, the plaintiff had alternating success in obtaining one of two necessary licenses. However, the plaintiff was unable to secure both licenses simultaneously because of a series of “Kafkaesque” (as the trial judge put it) bureaucratic entanglements. Meanwhile, a competitor of Rain Coast owned by a former B.C. Cabinet Minister was successful in securing governmental approval for bulk water export.
The trial judge found misfeasance in public office on three grounds:
(i) the province’s failure to disclose the existence of a $5,000 maximum tariff to Rain Coast;
(ii) the unlawful cancellation of one of Rain Coast’s licenses; and
(iii) the preferential treatment of Rain Coast’s competitor.
On the first two issues, the trial judge held British Columbia liable despite the fact that different officials were involved in each act, relying on the vicarious liability doctrine of respondeat superior.
With respect to the preferential treatment of Rain Coast’s competitor, the trial judge held not only the relevant official, then-Premier William Vander Zalm liable, but also the Province itself on the basis that it was a “collective public body.” Although initially of the view that it would be “difficult” to establish the requisite mental elements for the Province itself, the trial judge concluded that in the “unusual circumstances” of this case, it would be appropriate to do so.
The decision in Rain Coast highlights one way in which plaintiffs may find increasing success in proving the tort of misfeasance in public office, but also raises challenging questions about the appropriateness of relying on concepts of collective knowledge and action in holding large governmental bodies liable. An award of damages has yet to be made in this case.
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B.C. businessman waged a two-decade legal battle against his province. A judge finally sided with him
Colin Beach is ‘persistent,’ said the judge, ruling that the B.C. government
conducted dubious lobbying for Leach’s water exporting opponent in the 1980s
VANCOUVER — Colin Beach has been called many things over the course of his 20-year legal battle with the B.C. government and former premier William Vander Zalm. A lawyer for the province once complained in court that the 66-year-old West Vancouver resident is “just stubborn.” A B.C. Supreme Court judge overruled him.
Beach isn’t stubborn, said Justice Peter Leask, he’s “persistent.”
Persistent enough to have spent two decades pursuing a civil claim he filed against the province, Vander Zalm, several former B.C. cabinet ministers and bureaucrats, and an erstwhile business rival, a mysterious Vancouver woman named Margaret Annett.
Beach claimed that Annett and her now-defunct company, Western Canada Water Enterprises Inc. (WCW), were given preferential treatment by Vander Zalm and his Social Credit government, when the grinning gardener and theme-park impresario was B.C. premier in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Despite the fact he has no formal legal training, Beach spent years building his case before hiring lawyers to represent him in court. He worked with private investigators, filed access to information requests, searched through boxes filled with musty documents and interviewed potential witnesses. He even put Vander Zalm through an intense interrogation process known as a discovery.
Beach says his efforts were slowed by procedural delays and the late disclosure of relevant materials. He refused to let things rest. “I just kept putting bricks in the wall,” he says.
Nor did he mind working alone through much of the process. “I’m a self-starter. Rarely have I enjoyed working with other people.”
His persistence appear to have paid off. Last month, after two decades of on-again, off-again proceedings, Justice Leask ruled in his favour, finding that the province, Vander Zalm and several other co-defendants intentionally — and unlawfully — assisted Annett’s company, by making exclusive arrangements with it and conducting dubious lobbying efforts on its behalf, mainly in the U.S.
Justice Leask found the provincial government and Vander Zalm guilty of misfeasance in public office. Misfeasance is defined to include the deliberate disregard of official duty, coupled with knowledge that the misconduct is likely to injure.
Misfeasance in public office is an exceedingly rare finding, and the first against a premier or former premier since 1959, when Quebec strongman Maurice Duplessis was found to have overstepped his authority in cancelling a provincial liquor licence.
At issue in the Beach case was fresh B.C. water, prized around the world for its purity and abundance. In the mid-1980s, several local entrepreneurs, including Beach and Annett, hatched plans to capture millions of gallons of surface water — from lakes, streams and waterfalls — then ship the commodity in bulk to the United States and other countries.
What the entrepreneurs needed were licences and agreements from the province. Under suspicious circumstances, Beach eventually struck out. Annett and WCW did not.
Vander Zalm and his government’s “strange” and “unlawful” actions were against the public interest and were made at the expense of WCW’s competitors, including a company owned by Beach, Justice Leask wrote in his judgment.
Remarkably, neither Vander Zalm nor his fellow defendants were called by the province’s lawyers to testify at trial, a “failure” from which the judge says he drew “an adverse inference.”
Margaret Annett did not testify either; however, her son William Annett did. While Justice Leask said he found him “self-contradictory,” “untruthful” and not credible, Annett insists he was open and completely honest with the court. (The National Post was unable to find Margaret Annett for comment. Her son refused to say whether or not she is still living).
Vander Zalm, now 82, professes bewilderment at the judge’s findings. Reached at his home outside Vancouver, he says he has only “glanced” at the lengthy judgment, adding that he “doesn’t know a whole lot about it.”
Why did he, his cabinet colleagues and provincial bureaucrats go out of their way to unlawfully assist WCW, a fledgling, Vancouver-based penny stock outfit, in its efforts to secure and then sell a public commodity outside Canada?
While last month’s judgment doesn’t wade into that, Vander Zalm says he merely lent some “public relations” muscle to WCW, as any premier would have done for a local company asking for help.
But case documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court suggest that other factors may have been at work, including alleged scenarios involving Vander Zalm, his former environment minister, John Reynolds, political considerations and money.
Margaret Annett had a certain style, recalls her former communications and marketing consultant, Gerard Lenoski. A diminutive woman who favoured Chanel suits, she “could be quite charming, but she definitely exhibited a good dose of ruthlessness,” he says.
Annett founded WCW with her son William in 1985. William was designated its chief executive officer, and his mother the president. But she seemed to run the show, says Lenoski, while the soft-spoken William stayed in the background.
The Annetts managed to list their company on the Vancouver Stock Exchange, and later on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ in New York. Investors included political strategist and pollster Alan Gregg, members of the Black family that once controlled a national chain of camera and photography supply stores, and a few London, England-based investment firms.
According to various press accounts, the company raised about $25 million. Lenoski says the Annetts spent lavishly. They threw celebrity studded parties to promote the water company, including a $400,000 extravaganza at a famous Manhattan restaurant. Canadian-born TV actor Alan Thicke was flown in from Los Angeles to host the event, Lenoski recalls. Chefs from Annett’s favourite restaurant outside Vancouver were also flown to the party, to prepare meals for hundreds of guests.
Another of Annett’s grand affairs — the opening of a water-bottling plant near Vancouver — was attended by then-premier Vander Zalm himself. He delivered a speech praising WCW and its efforts to sell fresh B.C. water abroad.
According to Justice Leask, the B.C. government was working behind the scenes to give WCW favourable treatment over its competitors, including Colin Beach.
Beach was a young man when he first approached the province with a plan to export fresh B.C. water in bulk. That was in 1983, two years before WCW was incorporated. He had found what seemed like an endless supply of fresh water, from a source just north of Vancouver. On behalf of a company he formed, Coast Mountain Aquasource Ltd., he applied for provincial licences that would allow him to export the commodity.
In 1984, Beach was given conditional approval to develop the foreshore at his selected site, an important first phase in his water export plan. Meanwhile, negotiations continued over the price he would pay the province for pulling water from the source.
There is evidence of other acts by provincial authorities favouring WCW
WCW entered the scene and managed to quickly secure an attractive and lucrative supply of fresh water from a lake further up the coast. The source was a former Crown asset, which the province dealt to WCW with “no proper public process providing for expressions of public interest,” according to Justice Leask.
WCW was not required to apply for a provincial water licence, nor was it asked to meet other requirements imposed on Beach and other hopeful water magnates, men and women who wanted to compete in the bulk water export business.
“Aside from the favourable terms in the agreements between the province and WCW, there is evidence of other acts by provincial authorities favouring WCW,” Justice Leask wrote in his judgment. These included, he noted, assistance in 1991 from Vander Zalm, in letters of support he wrote on behalf of WCW to public officials in California.
At the time, the company was, attempting to arrange bulk water sales to California, which was experiencing a drought. Beach’s company and another company were also trying to land contracts there.
B.C.’s then-environment minister, John Reynolds, a career politician who would later become a Reform party and Canadian Alliance party MP, also wrote letters of support for WCW. According to the judgment, while he was environment minister, Reynolds wrote 10 letters to officials in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The letters “were drafted for the minister’s signature by Mrs. Annett,” Justice Leask found. At the bottom of her draft copy was a note in her handwriting. “John, thanks for going to bat for us again …”
WCW also encouraged Vander Zalm to write letters of support on its behalf, and he obliged, the court found. A water resources official in one drought-stricken California district testified that she received a letter from the then-premier, promoting WCW. At the time, the district was negotiating with several potential suppliers of water, including Beach.
The California official told the court that the lobbying effort made her feel “very uneasy … I did not find it appropriate for Premier Vander Zalm to insert himself in the process.”
The district decided to go with a local water company, which had supply contracts with Beach’s company, Aquasource, and another Canadian outfit called Snowcap. This did not sit well with Margaret Annett. She wrote to Vander Zalm again, complaining that Aquasource and Snowcap “are, in effect, ‘fronts’ for a purely American operation put in place to avoid British Columbia’s restriction on transferring water licences to non-Canadians.”
Almost immediately, the B.C. government declared a moratorium on new bulk water export permits. The moratorium did not apply to WCW, which already had an agreement with the province to export water, but it effectively killed Beach’s dream of shipping the commodity to thirsty ports around the world.
Former WCW consultant Lenoski claims in a sworn affidavit filed in court that an official in the Vander Zalm government told him the water export moratorium “had been drafted intentionally so as to stop new licences from being issued to potential competitors of WCW, while not restricting WCW’s rights to ship (water).”
Last month’s court decision does not refer to Lenoski’s affidavit or his allegations. But Justice Leask did find the government had imposed the moratorium with an intention of assisting WCW.
Lenoski also claimed in his affidavit that Vander Zalm and his Social Credit government showed “recurrent and blatant favouritism to WCW,” explained in part “by Annett’s self-professed cultivation of familiar relationships with both Vander Zalm and Reynolds, and her financial and other political support of their Social Credit party.”
In another sworn affidavit filed in B.C. Supreme Court for this case, a former assistant to Margaret Annett claims that Reynolds used to telephone her boss “every couple of weeks” and that he occasionally visited Annett in her downtown Vancouver office after regular business hours.
Dianne McBride, now deceased, also claimed in her affidavit that more than once, “Margaret Annett handed an envelope to me, which she asked me to courier to John Reynolds at his office on the north shore of Vancouver … The envelope contained cheques. I knew there were cheques inside the envelope because they (sic) were not sealed.”
McBride added that she “did not know if the cheques were made payable to John Reynolds or to the Social Credit party.” In his judgment, Justice Leask makes no reference to the McBride allegations.
Reynolds was not a defendant in Beach’s lawsuit and was not called as a witness at trial. He is not accused of any wrongdoing.
He is now special strategic adviser for McMillan LLP, a Canadian law firm. Reached at his office in Vancouver this week, he denied acting inappropriately. He said that writing letters of support for local constituents and businesses “isn’t unusual at all,” and he said he never personally received any cheques from Annett or WCW.
His party could have received cheques from Annett and WCW, he added, but he can’t recall if that ever happened.
“My staff looked after that stuff,” Reynolds said, adding that he’s aware of last month’s court decision, and that he’s happy for Colin Beach. “When someone has something taken away from them, they deserve restitution.”
Beach says it’s “very good of Mr. Reynolds to take that position.” But he’s still looking forward to a court assessment of damages for his lost income, which could be in the tens of millions of dollars.
The assessment may be some time coming; Beach’s lonely legal odyssey isn’t over yet. Last week, the B.C. government, Vander Zalm and a former senior government bureaucrat served notice they will appeal the guilty verdict.
Province appeals damning water export case, Vancouver Sun
VICTORIA — When a damning court judgment against the provincial government arrived in my email inbox recently, my first thought was that it had been transmitted from the other side of a time warp.
June 15, 2016
VICTORIA — When a damning court judgment against the provincial government arrived in my email inbox recently, my first thought was that it had been transmitted from the other side of a time warp.
The list of defendants on the first page — other than “Her Majesty the Queen in right of the province of British Columbia” — were all names from the distant political past.
There was Cliff Serwa, the former Kelowna MLA and cabinet minister who was the last person to hold a seat in the B.C. legislature (and perhaps anywhere else) under the Social Credit party label.
Plus you had ex-Socred cabinet ministers Dave Parker, sent into retirement by the electorate in his Skeena riding some 25 years ago, and Elwood Veitch, the ex-MLA for Burnaby who died in 1993.
Another of those named, Bill Vander Zalm, qualifies as current, leastways in the bad dreams of those B.C. Liberals who remember his role in slaying the harmonized sales tax. But his role in the case was confined to the last couple of years of his term as premier, which ended in 1991.
Still, the date on the judgment was present day — May 12, 2016 — and so was the prospect that provincial taxpayers will be stuck with the bill for the wrongdoing on display within its pages.
The case is as complicated as it is backdated. In essence, the Vander Zalm government was found guilty of abuse of power in dealings with Rain Coast Water, a B.C. company seeking to export water in bulk quantities from an inlet near Powell River to California.
The Socreds eventually slapped a last-minute moratorium on bulk water exports. But before doing so, they froze out Rain Coast in favour of rival Western Canada Water, which was also angling to ship water to California from a site further up the coast.
Court heard how Vander Zalm himself intervened on behalf of Western Canada Water with one of the would-be buyers, the Goleta water district serving the city of Santa Barbara.
The deal never came off. But Goleta’s president, Katherine Crawford testified in court about how she felt “very uneasy” about the letter of endorsement that Vander Zalm wrote to her directly.
“This was a commercial transaction between us, in California, and whichever entity we chose to provide us with water. I did not find it appropriate for Premier Vander Zalm to insert himself into the process.”
The most telling passages in the 60-page judgment from Justice Peter Leask of the B.C. Supreme Court address matters of credibility.
Here he is on Rain Coast owner Colin Beach and his decades-long fight for vindication: “I found him to be a credible witness. His recollection of events which occurred between 20 and 30 years before he gave evidence was impressive. I am satisfied that he did his best to tell a long complicated story in a truthful manner.”
Less flattering was the judge’s take on William Annett of rival Western Canada Water: “I did not find Mr. Annett to be a credible witness. His answer to many specific questions put to him on relevant topics was ‘I don’t recall.’”
The judge paid particular attention to what Annett said about dealings between his mother (also a principal of Western Canada Water), and Vander Zalm and his ministers.
“Essentially, he denied high level political contact with the government and claimed to have no knowledge of his mother’s contacts with premier Vander Zalm and other cabinet members. Considering that he and his mother were the two principals of WCW from its inception and throughout the relevant period, this evidence was frankly incredible.”
Despite all the concerns raised in court about the actions of Vander Zalm, his ministers and senior public servants in the Social Credit government,the province did not call them as witnesses for the defence.
”Such failure amounts to an implied admission that the evidence of the absent witness would be contrary to the party’s case, or at least would not support it,” wrote the judge. “I have also drawn an adverse inference against the province for the failure of the ex-premier to testify or call other witnesses to testify.”
When the judgment was published a month ago, Vander Zalm was mystified. “I don’t know why I get to wear it, “he told reporter Dan Fumano of the Province. “Not having read the material, not having been (in court), I don’t know exactly what the judge ruled on or why he ruled as he did.”
Evidence that reflected badly on an ex-premier who is no friend of the B.C. Liberals. Fault-finding against a political party that is reduced to the status of a relic in the provincial museum. An issue, bulk water exports, that has been a non-starter politically for almost as long as the Socreds existed.
Perhaps the current government’s heart was not really in the case. But if that were so, the Liberals might have taken the judge’s invitation to make submissions on damages, since he dropped no hints on either score in his judgment. After all, taxpayers would already be on the hook for the legal costs for both sides.
Instead, the province last week decided to run up the legal tab, by filing an appeal. The case is headed back to court this fall, just in time for the 35th anniversary of Beach filing his initial application for an export licence.
A legal dispute over bulk water exports from a B.C. ghost town to drought-stricken California has finally ended – 30 years after it began.
BC Supreme Court Justice Lesak ruled this week that former premier Bill Vander Zalm and the Social Credit government of the day were guilty of misfeasance in public office in giving a company named Western Canada Water (WCW) “preferential treatment in an unlawful manner.”
Damages will be decided at a later date. The current government hasn’t said whether it will appeal.
In the mid 1980s, the provincial government allowed private companies to sell bulk water to the United States from the area around Ocean Falls.
The stated aims of the government were twofold: to create a new source of revenue and to revitalize Ocean Falls, at one point the largest city on the Central Coast, which had been decaying ever since the pulp and paper mill shut down.
WATCH: The quest to sell water from Ocean Falls began 30 years ago. John Daly reported live from Ocean Falls on March 28, 1986.
The government made several agreements with WCW in the late 1980s and early 90s. But Justice Lesak ruled the government gave an unfair advantage over other companies, including Rain Coast Water Corp., whose owner initiated the lawsuit.
“The initial selection of WCW was a clear example of giving favorable treatment to one competitor at the expense of others, including the plaintiff, and against the public interest,” wrote Lesak.
“I am prepared to find the Provincial Government to be guilty of Category B misfeasance in public office as well as the then Premier, Bill Vander Zalm.”
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Premier Bill Vander Zalm and the Water War Crimes
If the Water War Crimes started underPremier Bill Bennett, they were taken to a higher level of duplicity by Premier Bill Vander Zalm who became Premier of British Columbia in 1986.
On September 25, 1989, the Government of British Columbia, again, acting illegally and operating outside the authority of the Water Act, signed a new and hugely more beneficial agreement with W.C.W. Western Canada Water Enterprises Ltd.
Four days later, the Canadian law firms of Clark Wilson, McMillan Binch andMcCarthy Tetraultclosed a financial transaction that saw $4.2 million dollars invested in W.C.W. in exchange for 4 million shares. Approximately, one half, or 50 %, of those shares went to offshore accounts that the RCMP also refused to investigate. Although W.C.W. was a public company, the material terms of the contract were a closely guarded secret and never disclosed to the market.
This was insider trading at its finest, facilitated by the Government of British Columbia under the leadership Premier Bill Vander Zalm and three of Canada’s top law firms
In addition, eighteen months later, on March 15, 1991, four days afterSun Belt Water Inc. were selected by the Goleta Water District to supply fresh water from British Columbia because the price was $50 million less that the W.C.W. price [over seven years], Premier Vander Zalm and his Minister of the Environment, Cliff Serwa, destroyed all competition to W.C.W., by a Cabinet Order that gave W.C.W. an exclusive bulk water export monopoly through the creation of an illegal moratorium on the issuance of new permits to acquire water for export purposes.
With the secret contract and the moratorium by Order In Council, Premier Bill Vander Zalm, his cabinet and the Queen’s Representative, violated the Water Act, the Canada US Free Trade Agreement, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs and enacted measures that were intended to restrict or lessen competition and have the practical effect of creating a monopoly, in the USA, all of which amounted to contravention of American legislation aimed monopolistic trade practices.
A few weeks later, Premier Vander Zalm resigned as premier when a provincial conflict of interest report found he had mixed private business with his public office in the sale of the gardens. He was charged with criminal breach of trust, but found not guilty in B.C. Supreme Court in 1992
The United States stands almost entirely alone among developed nations in adding industrial silicofluorides to its drinking water—imposing the community-wide measure without informed consent. Globally, roughly 5% of the population consumes chemically fluoridated water, but more people in the U.S. drink fluoride-adulterated water than in all other countries combined. Within the U.S., just under a third (30%) of local water supplies are not fluoridated; these municipalities have either held the practice at bay since fluoridation’s inception or have won hard-fought battles to halt water fluoridation.
Dozens of studies and reviews—including in top-tier journals such as The Lancet—have shown that fluoride is neurotoxic and lowers children’s IQ.
The fluoride chemicals added to drinking water are unprocessed toxic waste products—captured pollutants from Florida’s phosphate fertilizer industry or unregulated chemical imports from China. The chemicals undergo no purification before being dumped into drinking water and often harbor significant levels of arsenic and other heavy metal contamination; one researcher describes this unavoidable contamination as a “regulatory blind spot that jeopardizes any safe use of fluoride additives.”
Dozens of studies and reviews—including in top-tier journals such as The Lancet—have shown that fluoride is neurotoxic and lowers children’s IQ. Fluoride is also associated with a variety of other health risks in both children and adults. However, U.S. officialdom persists in making hollow claims that water fluoridation is safe and beneficial, choosing to ignore even its own research! A multimillion-dollar longitudinal study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in September, 2017, for example, was largely funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences—and the seminal study revealed a strong relationship between fluoride exposure in pregnant women and lowered cognitive function in offspring. Considered in the context of other research, the study’s implications are, according to the nonprofit Fluoride Action Network, “enormous”—“a cannon shot across the bow of the 80 year old practice of artificial fluoridation.”
According to declassified government documents summarized by Project Censored, Manhattan Project scientists discovered early on that fluoride was a leading health hazard to bomb program workers and surrounding communities.
A little history
During World War II, fluoride (a compound formed from the chemical element fluorine) came into large-scale production and use as part of the Manhattan Project. According to declassified government documents summarized by Project Censored, Manhattan Project scientists discovered early on that fluoride was a “leading health hazard to bomb program workers and surrounding communities.” In order to stave off lawsuits, government scientists “embarked on a campaign to calm the social panic about fluoride…by promoting its usefulness in preventing tooth decay.”
To prop up its “exaggerated claims of reduction in tooth decay,” government researchers began carrying out a series of poorly designed and fatally flawed community trials of water fluoridation in a handful of U.S. cities in the mid-1940s. In a critique decades later, a University of California-Davis statistician characterized these early agenda-driven fluoridation trials as “especially rich in fallacies, improper design, invalid use of statistical methods, omissions of contrary data, and just plain muddleheadedness and hebetude.” As one example, a 15-year trial launched in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945 used a nearby city as a non-fluoridated control, but after the control city began fluoridating its own water supply five years into the study, the design switched from a comparison with the non-fluoridated community to a before-and-after assessment of Grand Rapids. Fluoridation’s proponents admitted that this change substantially “compromised” the quality of the study.
In 1950, well before any of the community trials could reach any conclusions about the systemic health effects of long-term fluoride ingestion, the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) endorsed water fluoridation as official public health policy, strongly encouraging communities across the country to adopt the unproven measure for dental caries prevention. Describing this astonishingly non-evidence-based step as “the Great Fluoridation Gamble,” the authors of the 2010 book, The Case Against Fluoride, argue that:
“Not only was safety not demonstrated in anything approaching a comprehensive and scientific study, but also a large number of studies implicating fluoride’s impact on both the bones and the thyroid gland were ignored or downplayed” (p. 86).
In 2015, Newsweek magazine not only agreed that the scientific rationale for putting fluoride in drinking water was not as “clear-cut” as once thought but also shared the “shocking” finding of a more recent Cochrane Collaboration review, namely, that there is no evidence to support the use of fluoride in drinking water.
Bad science and powerful politics
The authors of The Case Against Fluoride persuasively argue that “bad science” and “powerful politics” are primary factors explaining why government agencies continue to defend the indefensible practice of water fluoridation, despite abundant evidence that it is unsafe both developmentally and after “a lifetime of exposure to uncontrolled doses.” Comparable to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, which summarizes studies that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and “credulous journalists swear don’t exist,” The Case Against Fluoride is an extensively referenced tour de force, pulling together hundreds of studies showing evidence of fluoride-related harm.
… death rates in the ten most fluoridated U.S. states are 5% to 26% higher than in the ten least fluoridated states, with triple the rate of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research assembled by the book’s authors includes studies on fluoride biochemistry; cancer; fluoride’s effects on the brain, endocrine system and bones; and dental fluorosis. With regard to the latter, public health agencies like to define dental fluorosis as a purely cosmetic issue involving “changes in the appearance of tooth enamel,” but the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT)—a global network of dentists, health professionals and scientists dedicated to science-based biological dentistry—describes the damaged enamel and mottled and brittle teeth that characterize dental fluorosis as “the first visible sign of fluoride toxicity.”
The important 2017 study that showed decrements in IQ following fluoride exposure during pregnancy is far from the only research sounding the alarm about fluoride’s adverse developmental effects. In his 2017 volume, Pregnancy and Fluoride Do Not Mix, John D. MacArthur pulls together hundreds of studies linking fluoride to premature birth and impaired neurological development (93 studies), preelampsia (77 studies) and autism (110 studies). The book points out that rates of premature birth are “unusually high” in the United States. At the other end of the lifespan, MacArthur observes that death rates in the ten most fluoridated U.S. states are 5% to 26% higher than in the ten least fluoridated states, with triple the rate of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2006 report by the National Research Council warned that exposure to fluoride might increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The word is out
Pregnancy and Fluoride Do Not Mix shows that the Institute of Medicine, National Research Council, Harvard’s National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Toxicology Program all are well aware of the substantial evidence of fluoride’s developmental neurotoxicity, yet no action has been taken to warn pregnant women. Instead, scientists with integrity, legal professionals and the public increasingly are taking matters into their own hands. A Citizens Petition submitted in 2016 to the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act requested that the EPA “exercise its authority to prohibit the purposeful addition of fluoridation chemicals to U.S. water supplies.” This request—the focus of a lawsuit to be argued in court later in 2019—poses a landmark challenge to the dangerous practice of water fluoridation and has the potential to end one of the most significant chemical assaults on our children’s developing bodies and brains.