CityCaucus.com is pleased to present the writing and research of Vivian Krause. Ms. Krause is an expert on the financing of Canadian-based ENGOs and their connections to foreign (U.S.) interests. Today we present her 'fair questions' regarding Renewal Partners, run by Vision Vancouver insiders Joel Solomon and Martha Burton. Renewal Partners is recorded as the single largest business political campaign donor in the history of B.C. municipal politics.
"The difference with Solomon and Newell, both born and raised in the United States, was that they focused their investments in one region to make the most sweeping change possible on a social, business, environmental, and political scale. The area they chose was Metro Vancouver, where the pair has been responsible for millions and millions of dollars in various types of business investments, charitable contributions and, more recently, enthusiastic backing for the city's new left-leaning mayor, Gregor Robertson."
- Lori Culbert, Vancouver SUN, 8 August 2010.
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In Vancouver's 2008 municipal election, the biggest financial backers of the winning political party were Renewal Partners and Strategic Communications, a P.R. company that says that it is a "partner" of Renewal Partners. According to the Vancouver Sun's on-line database, Renewal Partners contributed $70,469 and Strategic Communications contributed $83,314. Considering their financial heft in Vancouver's most recent election, its fair for the public to inquire to some extent about these companies.
One of first things that surprises me is that both Renewal Partners and Strategic Communications are "extra-provincial." Renewal Partners is registered in Halifax and Strategic Communications, in Ontario.
Renewal Partners describes itself as a seed-capital investment firm and says that it invests in "new products and services needed for sustainability, such as organic food production and distribution, responsible investing, independent media, and greener consumer products." Whether or not those are the products and services that are most needed for sustainability, is a separate issue. Nonetheless, that's what Renewal Partners says that it is investing in.
Renewal Partners says that it has invested in "over 75 companies." At the web-site of Renewal Partners, I could find the names of only 26 of these companies. For three of these 26 companies (Altrushares, Eatmore Sprouts and The Nimble Company), I could not find a B.C. company summary or any other on-line information about the existence of these companies.
Renewal Partners says that it has invested "heavily" in British Columbia. Of the 23 companies for which I could find information, only eight are or were located in Vancouver. A further five companies are in Canada but not based in Vancouver. Ten of the 23 companies - nearly half - in which Renewal Partners has invested are based in the U.S..
Why so much investment in the United States?
Joel Solomon talks about Vancouver as his crucible for social change. "Vancouver is the city that Solomon believes is best positioned to move to a new plane," Solomon told Vancouver journalist, Frances Bula. If so, why is it that Renewal Partners has invested in more companies in the United States than in Vancouver?
Joel Solomon has been asked these questions since September 13, 2010. No reply has been received.
The American companies in which Renewal Partners reports that it has invested are:
- a pizza company and an organic yoghurt company in New Hampshire
- a cosmetics company in New York
- an environmentally-friendly cleaning products company in Vermont
- a packaged goods company in San Francisco
- a wild seafood company based in Altos, California
- a music publishing company in Colorado
- a company that sells solar-powered battery chargers, based in Berkeley
- a seed-capital investment firm in Vermont.
All of these companies may be helping to make the world a better place, but if Joel Solomon and Renewal Partners' primary interest is in making Vancouver a model for social change and sustainability, why are they investing in companies in New Hampshire, New York, Colorado, Vermont and California?
To lead a shift towards sustainability - as Joel Solomon and Renewal Partners aim to do - aren't there higher priorities than fruit juice, cosmetics and grocery delivery? Of all the "green" products that Renewal Partners could invest in, why pizza? Why re-usable maxipads?
Two of the companies in which Renewal Partners has apparently invested, are real estate companies: Renewal Land Company and Village Real Estate, based in Nashville, Tennessee. According to U.S. tax returns, Joel Solomon has 10 percent ownership in Village Real Estate. If true, what this means, if I'm not mistaken, is that Renewal Partners has invested in a company in which Joel Solomons has partial ownership.
Another entity which the Endswell Foundation says that is has supported, is Hollyhock, an ocean-front facility on Cortes Island. B.C. company summaries show that the president of both Hollyhock Farm Ltd. and Hollyhock Centre Ltd. is Joel Solomon. During the summer of 2010, Hollyhock had at least 10 employees who provided "bodywork" services which cost from $85 to $170 per hour. Bodywork is offered by Hollyhock Farm Ltd., a for-profit corporation that operates on the grounds of Hollyhock, the ocean-front charity facility.
Prior to entering B.C. politics, the treasurer of Hollyhock Farm Ltd., in 2004, was Mayor Gregor Robertson. The only other two officers of this company, at the time, were Joel Solomon and Martha Burton, the current treasurer of Vision Vancouver.
- Happy Planet - part-owned by Mayor Gregor Robertson, 60% owned by Naheb Mathoo, according to Business in Vancouver. For info, click here.
- Horizon Distributors - household delivery of groceries, specialized in organic foods. For info, click here.
- Small Potatoes Urban Delivery - household delivery of groceries, specialized in organic foods. For info, click here.
- Inhance Investment Management Inc. - Vancity?
- Jorg. & Olif. - now in the U.K.
- Shared Vision - in hiatus as of April 2009
Canadian Companies Outside of B.C.:
- Alter-ecos Americas - packaged goods, specialized in fair trade & organic products
- Better Energy Systems LLC - (www.solio.com) - solar-powered batter chargers
- Blue Horizon Foods - a wild seafood company, based in Aptos, CA
- Peacekeeper Cause-metics - a cosmetics company in New York
- Rustic Crust - a pizza company in New Hampshire
- Sounds True Inc. - a media publishing company, based in Colorado
- Stonyfield Farm - an organic yogurt company in New Hampshire. For info from Renewal Partners, click here.
- Underdog Ventures - based in Vermont
Read previous posts on CityCaucus.com by Vivian:
- Vivian Krause: My open letter to Joel Solomon
- Krause gets the big kiss off from Gregor
- Krause: My fair questions to Gregor Robertson
- Did Vision Vancouver get $153,783 in campaign funds from a charity?
- North Vancouver mom exposes $US millions for oil sands activism
- Robertson's links to powerful foreign funders demands full transparency