As readers of this blog will know, I have concerns and questions with regards to a substantial amount of campaign finance ($411,703) that Mayor Gregor Robertson has received over the course of his political career with the NDP and Vision Vancouver. Of that $411,703, $339,625 went towards his 2008 mayoral campaign and Vision Vancouver. This money was reportedly contributed by a series of "investment firms," P.R. companies and a long list of individuals that are affiliated in various ways with the two registered charities: The Endswell Foundation and Tides Canada. If I could ask Mayor Robertson five questions, here's the list:
1) Joel Solomon
Joel Solomon is said to be the "founder" of the Endswell Foundation, along with Carol Newell. In the 2008 Vancouver civic election, Vision Vancouver's biggest backer was Joel Solomon. He has a reputation as a "millionaire philanthropist" but U.S. tax returns show that in fact, Solomon has been on Endswell's payroll for 14 years and has received at least $979,578 from Endswell over the years.
- Does it surprise the mayor that his biggest backer has in fact been paid nearly a million bucks by the charity that supposedly he "co-founded?"
- Who is Joel Solomon? Is he a "millionaire philanthropist" who has been giving away his personal wealth? Or is he a paid employee who has been "placing" other people's money through Endswell and Tides Canada, and if so, whose money?
2) Renewal Partners & Happy Planet
- In the previous election, the biggest financial contributors to Vision Vancouver were Renewal Partners ($71,533) and Strategic Communications ($116,529) which says that it is a "partner" of Renewal Partners. The president of Renewal Partners is Joel Solomon.
- Renewal Partners also "invested" in Happy Planet," the fruit juice company that is Mayor Robertson's claim to fame before politics.
- U.S. tax returns show that since 2003, staff salaries at Renewal Partners have been paid for by the Endswell Foundation - to the tune of $2.3 million. If Endswell paid staff salaries at Renewal Partners, its fair to ask, what else did it pay for?
- As it appears to me, Renewal Partners and Endswell appears to be part and parcel of the network of Tides Canada and Tides USA. The senior leadership of the three charities is the same and since 2003, Endswell's grant-making consisted solely of transferring money ($8.7 million) to Tides Canada.
- Did the $71,533 that Renewal Partners contributed to Vision Vancouver originate from Endswell, as did the money for staff salaries? What about the $116,529 that was contributed by Strategic Communications, a "partner" of Renewal Partners?
Did the money that Renewal Partners "invested" in Happy Planet originate from the Endswell Foundation? If not, where did Renewal Partners get that "investment" money?
3) Interdependent Investments Ltd. - $6,000
- Vision Vancouver campaign finance disclosure statements report aht a company named Interdependent Investments Ltd. contributed $6,000 to Vision Vancouver between 2008 and 2010. According to Jeff Lee, Interdependent Investments Ltd. also bought a table at a fundraiser a few weeks ago.
- U.S. tax returns show that the Endswell Foundation has paid $1.4 million to Interdependent Investments Ltd. over the years. For many years, the only two directors/officers of Interdependent Investments Ltd. were Joel Solomon and Martha Burton, company records show. Burton is (or has been) the treasurer of Vision Vancouver.
- In April of 2011 (merely one week after I wrote to Mayor Robertson to inquire about Interdependent Investments Ltd.), Martha Burton's name was removed from the list of directors/officers such that the only person who remains is Joel Solomon.
- What type of business is Interdependent Investments Ltd., the company from which Vision is accepting funds? Does it have any sources of revenue other than Endswell? If so, what are they? If not, then it follows that the $6,000 that Interdependent Investments Ltd. contributed to Vision Vancouver originated from Endswell, a registered charity.
4) The Hewlett/Tides Canada's "strategic plan" to address oil & gas in B.C.
- Back in 2004, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation paid Tides Canada $70,000 to develop a "strategic plan" to address the development of oil and gas in B.C..
- Since 2004, Hewlett has poured in $25.7 million to various green groups, mostly Tides USA/Tides Canada, for projects to tackle the Canadian energy industry, especially in Northern Alberta.
- Mayor Robertson was a director of Tides Canada back in 2004 so one would think that he would know the plan.
Question: What was/is the "strategic plan" to address oil & gas in B.C.? Did it involve:
- Funding a large number of small environmental groups to campaign in concert against Alberta oil, and especially to thwart Canadian oil exports to Asia in the name of protecting the Great Bear Rainforest? Tides USA has paid $10 million to 43 organizations involved in a "Tar Sands" campaign. Was this part of the "strategic plan?"
- Was it part of the "strategic plan" to create Coast Funds which is channelling tens of millions of dollars to First Nations, but only on the north coast of B.C?
- Was it part of the strategic plan to support Mayor Robertson's political career, both with the NDP and with Vision Vancouver, through a series of "investment firms" and P.R. companies?
5) Disclosure of U.S. Funding
- Through Tides USA, the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation granted $50,000 in 2010 "for expenses associated with the establishment of a fund to enable Vancouver, BC to realize its vision of becoming the greenest city in the world." This money will be used to work with the Vancouver Foundation and the City of Vancouver, Tides Canada announced in a press release earlier this year. This was only made public after I wrote to Tides Canada to inquire about it, back in January.
- In previous years, Bullitt has provided funds to stop major intrastructure projects in the lower mainland. For example, Bullit paid $70,000 to the Canadian Society for Environmental Protection, including $32,000 in 2006 "to prevent highway expansion and bridge construction in the Lower Mainland " and a further $25,000 in 2007 "To continue building a diverse coalition to advocate for transit and oppose efforts to widen Highway 1 and build a second bridge across the Fraser River."
- Through Tides USA, Bullitt paid the Dogwood Initiative $30,000, "To strengthen and enforce a 34-year moratorium on oil tanker traffic in the mid and north coast of British Columbia, and to prevent expansion of oil and gas infrastructure in Georgia Strait and the lower Fraser Basin."
- Indeed, if the agenda of the Tides USA and the Bullitt Foundation is to block infrastructure development in the lower mainland, it wouldn't hurt to have the Vancouver mayor and council on side.
- Will Mayor Robertson make a commitment to disclose his involvement and funding from U.S. foundations, particularly those that have an agenda that would thwart important Canadian resources-based industries?
- Would Mayor Robertson encourage Tides Canada to make public its U.S. tax returns so that Canadians can get the whole picture of what Tides Canada and its American backers are funding?
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