This morning's National Post newspaper features another breaking investigation by North Vancouver researcher and writer Vivian Krause (follow @FairQuestions). With only nine days left in the BC Liberal leadership (#leadbcl) Krause reveals the details of a well-financed campaign to influence the outcomes of current leadership contests which will determine who British Columbia's next Premier will be.
The campaign is being paid for by an American donor – a charity – based in Washington state.
Krause's story titled "U.S. environmentalists are meddling in B.C.’s election" details the financing and the strategy of Organizing for Change (OC), a consortium of environmental groups all dedicated to choking off oil exports off the B.C. coast. They are connected to a better known lobby organization called Conservation Voters of BC. It should be no surprise to regular readers of this blog that the money used for this campaign in our country has been funneled through Tides Canada, whose logo is prominently displayed on OC's website.
According to records revealed by Krause, Organizing for Change is funded by the Wilburforce Foundation.
Wilburforce is funded by James Letwin and his wife, Rosanna, friends of Bill Gates, and part of the original group that gave rise to Microsoft. Since 1999, the Letwins have given $80-million to Wilburforce. Rosanna Letwin has been the chair since 1999.
James Gordon Letwin was one of the first 11 employees of Microsoft, starting back in 1978.
If having a charity based in the United States funding a campaign to the tune of $329,000, which counsels environmentalists to sign up as member in constituencies with low membership in order to help decide who the next Premier of British Columbia sounds a little dodgy to you, you're not alone.
Murray Dobbin is one of the west coast's most well-known authors and critics from the left. He's often published in the Georgia Straight, Rabble.ca and TheTyee.ca. On Dobbin's blog he discusses what he describes as a "dishonest" campaign by these environmental groups to meddle with both the BC Liberal and BC NDP leadership campaigns.
I thought it might be a joke but reading the whole piece it was clear this group was serious. It is one of the most ill-considered and dishonest appeals I have ever received from normally progressive organizations. It represents incredibly bad judgement on the part of five respected organizations...
...this is a profoundly dishonest action. It is essentially political fraud... That progressive groups would do this is truly disgusting as it sets a precedent for any group to do the same thing.
...What on earth were these groups thinking?
Where Dobbin appears to underestimate the capabilities of the left-wing environmental movement is when he says:
Right wing organizations have much greater resources and therefore much greater ability to organize such actions.
It would appear that when it comes to financial resources, the playing field is balanced.
The question that comes to mind is basic. If a Canadian charity – the David Suzuki Foundation, for example – was paying US groups to counsel Americans to buy memberships in the Republican or Democratic party in order to knock off the current governor or a congressman, what do you think the reaction would be stateside?
Would Americans shrug at a blatent attempt to override its sovereignty? Probably not.
Krause argues convincingly that the goal of those who are funding environmental groups is simply about the long-range needs for energy in the USA. Blocking shipments of oil to a competitor – i.e. China or other Pacific Rim manufacturing economies – meets the needs of the US interests above all.
While it might be a shock to Liberal MP Joyce Murray (who has a private members bill seeking to block oil exports from B.C.'s coast), NDP MP Nathan Cullen (who also has pushed Parliament to end oil exports), and the sundry staff and volunteers of environmental organizations devoted to blocking tankers from our coast, but it would appear they are doing the bidding of US national interests at the expense of Canadian sovereignty.
Krause provides important background to this project:
[Organizing for Change] is a project of Tides Canada, a U.S.-funded charitable foundation. In practice, OC explicitly aims to influence the leadership picks of both the B.C. Liberals and the NDP. The campaign is directly funded by the Wilburforce Foundation, based in Seattle, through the U.S. Tides Foundation (“Tides USA”), based in San Francisco. Since 2003, Wilburforce has paid Tides USA a total of $329,000, specifically designated to support Tides Canada’s Operation for Change project, or its predecessor, the Environmental Resource Centre. In 2005, Wilburforce granted funds specifically for a “youth voting initiative” that would “give B.C. environmental groups access to a segment of the population that they are otherwise not usually exposed to,” according to the organization.
The member organizations of OC are paid well over $1-million per year from five U.S. foundations: Wilburforce, Brainerd, Bullitt, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. All five foundations fund projects that would block Canadian oil exports to Asia and give the U.S. a virtual monopoly on Canadian oil exports.
Krause urges Elections BC to become involved. At this late stage in the BC Liberal leadership contest I think this is unlikely. But what British Columbians might do is sit up and take notice of these groups, how they're funded, and question what the real goals are. Who wins? Who loses?
Finally, how come our mainstream media are not reporting this front page news?
We'll have more funny business to report involving Tides Canada in the days ahead, and how they're using Vancouver City Hall to add credibility to political movements they fund.
- post by Mike