"The election of Mayor Robertson is the result of creating conditions where these things could take hold. Nearly 20 years of moving in a purposeful direction."
- Joel Solomon, The Huffington Post
Tides Canada says that it is a non-partisan, national public foundation that supports social and environmental philanthropy. This sounds great but perhaps there's more to it than that.
Tides Canada funds hundreds of charities, it says, but a close analysis of the U.S. tax returns finds that more than half of Tides Canada's grantees receive less than $10,000. The major thrust of work of Tides Canada appears to be to channel large amounts of money, especially from American foundations, to First Nations and environmental groups, particularly on the strategic, north coast of British Columbia.
Tides Canada has made grants to a wide variety of organizations including children's hospitals and the Dalai Lama but its biggest project, by far, has been the Great Bear Rainforest on B.C.'s north coast. This area is a huge, relatively intact and undisturbed ecosystem, the largest coastal temperate rainforest in the world. From an economic and trade perspective, this area is also Canada's strategic gateway to Asia.
In 2009, about half of Tides Canada's grants went for projects on the northern B.C. coast and for "reforming" Canada's energy sector, according to my analysis of tax returns. Obviously, something about this relatively small but very strategic part of Canada's coastline - the gateway to Asia - is very important to Tides Canada.
Since 2000, Tides Canada has been granted about $60 million by American charitable foundations, tax returns show. In 2010, more than half of Tides Canada's revenue was from foreign sources, Canadian tax returns say.
Through Tides Canada, American foundations fund multi-million dollar campaigns to "reform" forestry, mining, aquaculture and most recently, Alberta oil. In some ways, these campaigns would make Canadian industries less competitive and less profitable while protecting U.S. economic, market and trade interests - all in the name of protecting the environment.
One of the initiatives with which Tides Canada is involved is the Dogwood Initiative ("Dogwood") which seeks a federal ban on coastal oil tanker traffic - all in the name of protecting the a rare, blonde bear called the kermode bear (AKA The Great Spirit Bear). Since this ban would only cover the north coast of British Columbia, this isn't really a tanker ban. What this amounts to is an ingenious trade barrier. No oil tanker traffic means no Canadian oil exports to Asia. If the real concern is preventing an oil spill, it would make more sense for environmental organizations to argue for tightening regulations that apply over the entire coastline of Canada, not only a small part of it.
Interestingly enough, Dogwood's web-site is run out of Seattle by Groundwire which has been paid at least $2 million over the years by the same American foundations that support Dogwood. Groundwire has Microsoft veterans on staff and uses state-of-the-art, Salesforce software that Dogwood probably could not afford. One of Dogwood's campaigns, supported by Groundwire, is to defile one million one dollar coins by putting a sticker on them that makes the loon look like its stuck in an oil slick. "No Tankers," say the stickers. The Canadian Mint issued a cease and desist order but the campaign goes on. Groundwire also helped Dogwood to send 12,000 letters to Chinese and Korean companies to discourage them from signing agreements with Alberta oil suppliers.
Another campaign that Tides Canada appears to support indirectly is Pipe Up Against Enbridge. This campaign aims to stop the construction of pipeline that would carry Canadian oil from Alberta to the port town of Kitimat, B.C., where it could then be exported to Asia. Several of the member organizations involved in Pipe Up Against Enbridge (eg. Living Oceans Society, Skeena Wild Conservation Trust and Forest Ethics), are funded by Tides Canada.
The people of British Columbia are fiercely protective of the environment so it was never going to be difficult for environmental organizations to get the public on-side against oil tanker traffic or an oil pipeline. Millions of dollars from American foundations probably made that task even easier.
Another "environmental" campaign with significant market and trade impacts is the campaign against farmed salmon. With an initial $346,500 from the San Francisco-based, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Tides Canada helped to start the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) which runs the Farmed and Dangerous campaign that scares consumers and retailers away from farmed salmon. Positioning farmed salmon as unsafe and unsustainable helps to position wild salmon as safe and sustainable. Since 2002 and the campaign against imported, farmed salmon, the ex-vessel value of domestic, Alaskan salmon has more than quadrupled from $125 million to $533 million. Even the Alaskan commercial fishermen say that the fish farm fuss has boosted their markets. CAAR also runs Wild Salmon Supporters, a marketing program that promotes specific, high-end restaurants that feature wild salmon.
If all of the bad things that environmentalists say about farmed salmon and salmon farming are true, it goes without saying that farmed salmon should be boycotted and banned. But, as I have explained in detail in papers about PCBs and sea lice, much of what environmentalists have been saying is inaccurate and misleading, and in some instances, its plainly false. A classic example of this is David Suzuki's false claim that he had "uncovered the fact" that B.C. farmed salmon is heavily contaminated with PCBs and other toxins. But that's another story...
$90 Million From Two American Foundations
U.S. tax returns show that since 2000, two American foundations created by the founders of Hewlett-Packard have granted $90 million to environmental groups and campaigns operating in Canada.The majority of this American money was for B.C. organizations and in particular, for projects to tackle the oil and gas industry and to establish a huge park smack on the gateway to Asia. This park, however, isn't called the Hewlett Packard Park. Instead, its called the Great Bear Rainforest and its now used as a pretext for banning oil tanker traffic - all in the name of protecting the kermode bear. Whether or not this was the plan all along, the Great Bear Rainforest has become The Great Trade Barrier.
I'm all for protecting the kermode bear but surely there are ways of doing so without turning Canada's entire, strategic gateway to Asia, into a park.
On top of the $90 million from the Hewlett and the Packard foundations, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation granted $87 million to B.C. environmental groups. Of that, nearly $30 million was specifically for the PNCIMA Initiative which works with the same First Nations and the same environmental organizations as the Great Bear Rainforest Initiative, in the same strategic part of the north coast of B.C. The Pew Charitable Trusts has granted $77 million for environmental campaigns and projects in Canada. That's a total of $254 million from four U.S. foundations over the past decade (Hewlett, Packard, Moore & Pew).
Interestingly enough, the Seattle-based, Wilburforce Foundation paid Tides USA to get the Dogwood Initiative ".... to devolve control over land on B.C.'s central coast to First Nations and communities in the interest of long-term habitat protection." Of all the places in the world where an American foundation could support aboriginal people to get control of their traditional lands, are the first nations on the B.C. coast really the most in need of American philanthropy?
One of the peculiar things about the Wilburforce Foundation is that it was not founded by Wilberforce, the 18th century English philanthropist and abolistionist. Rather, the Wilburforce Foundation was founded by Gordon Letwin, one of the original founders of Microsoft. Gordon and Rose Letwin have granted $93 million to endow the Wilburforce foundation, including $63 million in Microsoft shares.
In 2009 and 2010, Tides USA paid $10 million to 43 organizations involved in a "Tar Sands Campaign," U.S. tax returns say. All of the organizations involved in this campaign are depicting Canadian oil in a negative light.
In 2009, Tides USA also paid nearly $17 million to consultants while Tides Canada paid $5.5 million in professional and consulting fees. That's just part of the $164 million that Tides USA, Tides Canada and Endswell have spent on consultants over the past decade.
The senior leadership of Tides USA and Tides Canada was the same for many years. In fact, the "founding chair" of Tides Canada, Drummond Pike, is also the founder of Tides USA and was CEO for 34 years until he quietly stepped down in 2010. Pike is also the chairman of Endswell and a senior advisor to Renewal Partners which "invested" in Happy Planet, or so the story goes. Happy Planet is the juice company that is Mayor Robertson's claim to fame before politics.
Tides USA and Tides Canada are legally distinct entities but in some projects, they appear to be intertwined. Some of the grants to Tides Canada go through Tides USA. For example, money for Organizing for Change, a project of Tides Canada, was paid to Tides USA by the Bullitt foundation. Early in 2011, one of the activities of Organizing for Change was to encourage people to temporarily join the B.C. Liberal party in order to influence the leadership race and determine who became the premier of British Columbia after Gordon Campbell's resignation.
Indeed, if one has an interest in influencing B.C. politics, the mayor of Vancouver is a good place to put your money. Two of the previous five mayors of Vancouver (Gordon Campbell and Mike Harcourt) have gone on to become long-time premiers.
The "Strategic Plan"
Back in 2004, the Hewlett Foundation paid Tides Canada $70,000 "for the development of a strategic plan to address the oil and gas industry in British Columbia." Since then, Hewlett has granted $26 million to Tides Canada and other groups to tackle the oil and gas industry in Canada. That's a lot of money, and it raises a fair question: What was the strategic plan?
Since Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was a director of Tides Canada back in 2004 when the plan was hatched, one would think that he would know the plan.
- Does Tides Canada's "strategic plan" involve funding a particular scientist or a particular body of science such as the research by Dr. David Schindler on the Athabasca river, which was partially funded by Tides USA? (See also: Tarred by Science).
- Does Tides Canada's "strategic plan" involve funding a large number of small environmental groups and First Nations to campaign in concert against Canadian oil, such as the $10 million that Tides USA has paid to more than 40 groups (2009-2010)? (See also U.S. foundations against the oilsands and Demarketing Alberta).
- Does Tides Canada's "strategic plan" involve thwarting oil exports to Asia by blocking oil tanker traffic on the strategic, north coast of B.C. - all in the name of protecting the kermode bear (AKA the Great Spirit Bear)?
- Does Tides Canada's "strategic plan" involve setting up a funding mechanism, such as Coast Funds so that American foundations can channel millions of dollars directly to First Nations - but only on the strategic, north coast of B.C., such as the $27.3 Million that Tides Canada paid to two, First Nations, in a single cheque, in 2008? Shown to the right is the allocation of $120 million to First Nations on the B.C. coast, according to the Conservation Investments & Incentives Agreement between Tides Canada, its USA funders and B.C. First Nations.
- Does Tides Canada's "strategic plan" involve supporting a particular political party or a particular politician, such as Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver?
- Does Tides Canada's "strategic plan" involve substantial payments to P.R. companies to co-ordinate all of the above? P.R. companies that have been funded by the Hewlett foundation and by Hewlett-funded initiatives include Fenton Communications, FD Element which has done substantial work on the Great Spirit Bear Initiative as well as P.R. work for Mayor Gregor Robertson, and Convergence Communications, the P.R. company of Mike Magee, the Chief of Staff at Vancouver City Hall. Among its clients, Convergence Communications lists at least six American foundations and 16 projects of Tides Canada as well as "several anonymous donors and investors."
More than a year ago, these questions were initially raised in a letter of November 26, 2010 to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. No answers were received. Charlie Smith wrote about this in The Straight, November 26, 2010. At the time, Mayor Robertson told The Straight that it was unfortunate that this story was getting traction in the national media.
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Updated November 22, 2011
For the spreadsheet on which the above table is based, click here.
For the spreadsheet of the table on which the above figure is based, click here.