INTREXON STOCKS FALL – EXPOSED FOR BEING A SHAM OF A CORPORATION
On April 21, a report was released from Seeking Alpha condemning Intrexon (stock symbol: XON) as a failed biotech investment corporation. For the anti-GMO movement, this is a moment to celebrate. Intrexon, the owner of the genetically engineered (GE) Salmon, the GE Arctic Apple and the GE Mosquito has been financially exposed. The report titled “The Public Markets Theranos Part 1: Zika Virus Hype is Nonsensical” is alleged to be the reason Intrexon’s stock’s plummeted 26 percent by the time the stock market closed on April 21. Although Intrexon’s stock has fluctuated since then, as of April 26, the stocks have dropped below the closing and have not recovered.
Intrexon is in the hot seat. Three separate law firms Goldberg Law PC, Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman, LLC & Harwood Feffer LLP are opening investigations as to whether Intrexon provided misleading information to investors violating Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Their cases are open to those who owned stock of Intrexon for a class action lawsuit against the company.
In a move that could indicate nervousness, Intrexon published a press release on their website the following day (April 22) claiming they are “taking appropriate steps” and that “Intrexon believes that it is the target of a campaign to manipulate trading in the company’s securities, interfere with the company’s business operations, and destroy the reputation of the company and its chairman and CEO.”
Intrexon should be nervous. In addition to their stocks falling, Costco, Red Lobster, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Kroger and Safeway have pledged not sell their GE Salmon and McDonald’s, Gerbers and Wendy’s have pledged not to sell their GE Arctic Apple thanks to public pressure garnered from organizations such as Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Food and Water Watch.
Regarding updates on Intrexon’s genetically modified mosquito’s (GMM) created by Oxitec, just last week the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) decided to hold a nonbinding referendum for the residents of Key Haven to determine the public’s opinion about the release of Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitoes (GMM). Although nonbinding, most of the board of the FKMCD say they will stick to the public’s decision on the matter.
THE FKMCD is conducting this referendum as a response to overwhelming public opposition to the release of the GMM. Recent polls showing support for GMM’s from Politico were discovered to have been funded by Oxitec, making the question’s skewed in their favor benefiting off the fear around the Zika virus. Many community members of Key Haven and the Keys have stated publicly that they do not consent to being forced into experimentation with GMM’s and that there is not enough data on the GMM’s.
Historically, the fight against the release of GMM has been won in the Keys, with the initial proposed test site in Key West being struck down by the Keys Commission in 2012. In addition, the public comment session of the Food and Drug Administration’s Finding of No Significant Impact has been extended until May 13, 2016. With the report released on Thursday claiming that the GMM’s will be incredibly cost inefficient compared to other mosquito eradication methods and that Intrexon is a corporation that fails to make a profit, movement towards release of GMM is looking grim for Intrexon and Oxitec.
A PDF of Seeking Alpha’s report is available here.
1 Intrexon Provides Update on Recent Stock Trading Activity April 22nd 2016http://investors.dna.com/2016-04-22-
2 Wendy’s Says NO to GMO Apple Oct 20th 2015http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/4099/wendys-says-
3 Key Haven Residents to Vote on Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in Nonbinding Referendum April 23rd 2016
4 The Fate of Anti-Zika GMO Mosquitoes in the US Rests on Florida 04-22-2016
Seeing red: The roof on BC Place Stadium is just one of many cost overruns on the BC Liberals’ watch
Posted July 17, 2014 by Damien Gillis in Economics
Oh, for the days of the fast ferries…compared to what we have now.
Most British Columbians will recall Premier Glen Clark’s late 1990’s boondoggle, which saw the construction of three new coastal vessels balloon from a projected $210 million to nearly $460 million.
How could we forget? After the relentless salvos from pundits like Vaughan Palmer and Mike Smyth led to the NDP government’s collapse, in every election cycle since, the incumbent BC Liberals have dragged out these ghost ships to bolster their own economic credentials. To Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark, the fast ferries are the gift that keeps on giving.
Liberal fiscal record sets new lows
The only problem is the Liberals’ own fiscal fiascos absolutely dwarf those of their NDP predecessors – though they’re consistently able to get away with it.
Sure, Mr. Palmer has poked holes in the government’s laughable election promise of a debt-free BC and raised red flags over the government’s routine cost overruns, but the pundits’ knives have been decidedly less sharp over the past 13 years. Unlike the NDP, Liberal governments face no real consequences for their misdeeds.
With the Liberals on track to double the $34 Billion provincial debt they inherited from what history would now suggest was a surprisingly restrained NDP, it’s high time for an update to their fiscal report card. (That debt doesn’t even include an additional $100 Billion in contractual taxpayer obligations, like private power contracts, which they’ve swept under rug).
This is especially important with projects like the $8 Billion proposed Site C Dam currently under review (and if you believe that sticker price, I’ve got some pond-front property in northern Alberta you may be interested in).
In the real world, budgets don’t double
On that last point, Fort St. John businessman Bob Fedderly put the Liberals’ woeful record of project management in perspective when I interviewed him recently about Site C, which he and a growing number of businesspeople are opposed to.
“If you look back over the last 10 or 12 years to every project of any magnitude, it’s ballooned right out of proportion – two times, three times is not uncommon,” Fedderly noted. “This is a pattern that’s appearing on project cost management.”
Contrasting the government’s track record with his own companies’ construction projects, he acknowledged a 10% margin for error was acceptable – but no more than that.
How bad is the government’s legacy with major capital projects? Pretty darned awful. Here are a few lowlights:
1. Port Mann Bridge/Hwy 1 widening: 550% of initial estimate
According to The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, “Originally, the government said the cost of improvements to the Port Mann would be $600 million. That ballooned to $1.5 billion in 2006 when the government announced it would twin the bridge. Now, the total cost of the project is expected to be $3.3 billion” (that’s $2.46 Billion, rising to $3.3 Billion including operation and maintenance costs).
Extra demerits for a serious design flaw that led to falling ice bombs, putting passengers at risk and ringing up $400,000 in insurance claims for ICBC.
2. BC Place Stadium roof upgrade: 514% of initial estimate
While the official line is that the upgrade to BC Place Stadium skyrocketed from $365 to $514 million, a January 2008 letter from operator PAVCO’s Chairman David Podmore to Vancouver City Manager Judy Rogers pegged the total cost at just $100 million. I’m no architect, but that seems like a reasonable price, whereas $514 million does not. After all, Seattle built a perfectly good stadium for its Seahawks in 2002 for just $360 million. All we got is a roof.
Extra demerits for design flaws which restricted the retractable roof’s ability to…well, retract.
3. Northwest Transmission Line: 182% of initial estimate
Crown corporation BC Hydro’s construction of the Northwest Transmission Line – designed to power an assortment of proposed mines in the Sacred Headwaters region of the province – has nearly doubled from initial estimates of $404 million to the most recent tally of $736 million (expect the final number to be considerably higher).
Extra demerits for management error that could cost BC $130 million in federal “green infrastructure” support for the project. The Liberal government received the grant to electrify the village of Iskut, getting it off diesel power. All the province had to do was file a plan for the spur with the feds by June 30, 2012 – but it missed its deadline by nearly a year, meaning that, technically, the BC public is on the hook to repay the entire $130 million.
4. Vancouver Convention Centre: 178% of initial estimate
For all its LEED certifications and architectural attributes, the Vancouver Convention Centre also exploded from estimates of under $500 million to nearly $900 million by its 2009 completion.
What’s worse, all this could have been avoided if the Liberal government simply followed its own critique of the NDP’s fast ferries experience – namely, not having people without construction experience overseeing the project (i.e. Liberal powerbroker Ken Dobell) and being sure to have finalized plans for the contractor to execute. Lacking the latter, a fixed-price contract proved impossible to nail down.
5. South Fraser Perimeter Road: 169% of initial estimate
Perhaps the only way for the Liberal government to assert it’s on time and on budget with a major project is to lie about it, as this unnecessary, convoluted truck highway through Delta and Surrey demonstrates. Laila Yuile, a blogger and one of the province’s shrewdest transportation project watchdogs, recalled last year that initial estimates for the project ranged from $700-800 million.
By the time it was completed in 2013, it was a year late and the cost had risen to $1.264 Billion – significantly more than a revised estimate of around a billion dollars. But that didn’t stop the government from boasting that its project was “on time and on budget”. As Vaughan Palmer quipped at the time, “Regular readers of this space will be familiar with the more flexible approach that the B.C. Liberals have taken toward the concept of being on time and on budget.”
Why won’t the NDP stand up for itself?
Perhaps the biggest mystery in all of this is the NDP opposition’s failure to call the government out for its dismal fiscal record. How “Mr. Nice Guy” Adrian Dix saw fit to let the Liberals off the hook for this series of blunders that make the fast ferry overruns look like pocket change is baffling. It cost them the last election, as I noted in the aftermath of that sorry affair.
Liberal record a harbinger of Site C boondoggle
These numbers and examples of the Liberals’ fiscal ineptitude should be of real concern to BC taxpayers today as we ponder projects like Site C Dam – whose $8 Billion estimate (making it one of the highest-priced government infrastructure undertakings in Canadian history) is surely only the tip of the iceberg. Dams, as a rule, are highly prone to cost overruns – the World Bank estimates an average of 27% around the globe.
This is a project that will not serve the homes and businesses of BC, which are already self-sufficient in electricity far into the foreseeable future – rather, we’re told it’s to power liquefied natural gas production or to export to California (likely at a considerable loss for some time).
When you factor in the usual Liberal premium of doubling the cost, it’s not hard to see how this dam could sink us in more ways than one.
About the Author
BC Hydro being used to funnel tens of billions to Liberal friends
Posted April 26, 2016 by Common Sense Canadian in WATER
By Norman Farrell – republished from In-sights
Readers may tire of reports on BC Hydro but the more I examine this public utility, the more convinced I am that citizens of BC are victims of massive financial deception.
In 20 years leading up to 1996, BC Hydro’s average annual revenue from trading in North American electricity markets was $115 million. In three years ended March 2003, the utility realized gross trading revenue of $11.25 billion, although that sum was tempered by the $1 billion or so BC Hydro paid to end a subsequent lawsuit by California.
Although the American power market had been manipulated by Enron and other criminal fixers, Gordon Campbell and his colleagues believed that British Columbia could become a permanent power supplier to the western USA. Liberals wanted the electricity to be created by private operators, but it was soon clear that private entrepreneurs were not prepared to take significant financial risks.
The provincial government was determined to proceed so it decided that BC Hydro would sign long-term contracts to purchase power produced by independents at prices that made projects attractive to investors. This effectively transferred all business risks from private operators to the public. While dumb, it’s a fairly common occurrence today when governments are keen to be seen as business-friendly.
Compounding the situation was the Liberals’ misjudgment of future markets because they didn’t anticipate improved technologies and growing availability and affordability of alternative power. Consumption efficiencies, declining heavy industries and falling costs of solar and wind permanently changed the energy industries.
A losing proposition
BC Hydro has contracted with independent power producers for increasing quantities at prices adjusted upwards each year for inflation. But, domestic demand has been flat for a decade and the export market in the last five years has returned only 2.8¢ per KWh, a fraction of the 22.8¢ gained in the heyday of 2001.
Because it is buying each KWh from IPPs at over 9¢ but has no need for the total it must buy, BC Hydro is left with two choices. One is to generate less power in its own facilities and the other is to dump power outside the province at prices less than 1/3 of the amount IPPs are paid. BC Hydro is doing both.
Spending more to make less
I’ve had utility defenders argue the company has never reduced its own output to accommodate private power so I reviewed sources of power reports for more than two decades. Here is a chart showing the last five years under Premier Clark’ leadership and the five years between 1996 and 2001.
The situation is not improving. In FY 2015, BC Hydro facilities generated 41,443 GWh of electricity. In FY 2001, those very same sites produced 49,940 GWh, which is 20% more.
However, here’s a vital point. In 2001, BC Hydro had assets of $12.6 billion. In 2015, assets had grown to $27.8 billion. The company has been spending heavily, allegedly to make the system more efficient. In fact, what is continuing is misappropriation of public wealth for the benefit of suppliers, contractors and other BC Liberal friends.
Some people believe the government intention is to privatize BC Hydro. However, I believe the present situation, with another $10 billion of public funds being thrown at Site C, is working just fine for Christy Clark, her cabinet colleagues and their sponsors.
Citizens should be asking for explanations, from politicians and the pro-media journalists who choose to ignore these facts.
A longtime blogger and publisher of In-sights, North Shore resident Norman Farrell has experience in a broad range of small business activities with a particular focus on accounting and financial management.
Less use during winter given as reason by OEB
Ontario households and small businesses will be paying increased electricity prices starting May 1 and the reasoning given by the Ontario Energy Board has opposition politicians up in arms.
On April 14, the Ontario Energy Board announced time-of-use electricity prices will increase by approximately $3.13 per month on the “electricity” line, and about 2.5 per cent on the total bill, for a household that consumes 750 kWh per month.
The off-peak price will increase 0.4 cents to 8.7 cents per kilowatt hour between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. The mid-peak price also increases 0.4 cents to 13.2 cents per kilowatt hour between 7-11 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. The off-peak price will increase 0.5 cents to 18 cents per kilowatt hour between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The explanation given was “Ontarians consumed less electricity than expected over the recent milder winter. As a result of lower usage, Regulated Price Plan (RPP) prices did not recover the full cost of serving RPP customers. One of the main reasons prices are increasing in May is to recover this shortfall.”
“The blame is not on mild weather, or that we are or aren’t consuming. It rests squarely on the shoulders of government,” said Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell (NDP). “(The government) keeps signing lucrative contracts with generators. There is no need for the power and yet they are still signing these costly contracts. If we don’t need the power, not only are we paying the high prices (to the power generators) but selling it off for pennies on the dollar.”
Campbell said Ontarians are rightfully frustrated that the government introduced time-of-use smart meters on the basis of having to conserve electricity and now being told that is why electricity costs are going up.
The NDP claims the cost of electricity is increasing by more than nine per cent for the eighth year in a row.
“The government is out of touch with the priorities and struggles Ontarians are facing,” said Campbell, noting she’s been told by seniors in the riding they’ve had Hyrdo One bills larger than a pension cheque and for other constituents bills totalling more than their mortgage.
Last week during Question Period, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown referenced a Hydro One bill which has been making traction on social media.
“I came across a photo of a Hydro One bill the other day – it was dated April 13, 2016. It read: On-peak: 0 kilowatts per hour used. Mid-peak: 0 kilowatts per hour used. Off-peak: 0 kilowatts per hour used. Total cost of electricity charges: $113,” Brown said.
“Why is it acceptable for Hydro One to charge this family $113 for not using any electricity?” Brown added.
Campbell said to put pressure on the Liberal majority government, it is stories like this that have to be brought forward.
“Send me, send the government messages that tell about your troubles,” said Campbell. She can be reached on facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brewmaster Sid Ruhland pours a pint of his craft beer. A new draught system will be the main addition to the beer tasting room he hopes to have ready within a few weeks. Photo by Trevor Nichol
When Sid Ruhland, the “brew chief” at Oliver’s Firehall Brewery, needed money to expand the business, he didn’t go to a bank for a loan, or hunt down rich investors; he simply asked the Internet. And the Internet responded.
The brewery’s Kickstarter campaign wrapped up late last week, with the final tally coming in at $16,891. That money will allow Ruhland and his crew to open a brand new tasting room, installing a draught system, fridge and refurbishing with new furniture and decorations.
“The people have spoken,” Ruhland wrote on the Kickstarter web page after reaching the fundraising goal. “We cannot overemphasize our sincerest thanks of deep appreciation to every backer for joining the effort by taking action. We look forward to rewarding you for your belief in our dream.”
That kind of communication, the enthusiastic thanks and frequent public updates, are some of the hallmarks of crowdfunding. As Ruhland pointed out in an interview after the campaign reached its goal, crowdfunding is all about the community.
Crowdfunding works by harnessing the power of the Internet to bring a whole bunch of small donations together in one place. A Kickstarter campaign, for example, will ask backers to pledge a small sum in exchange for a “gift” of appreciation (the Firehall’s gifts ranged from free high-fives for small donations, to designing a beer with the brewmaster for the largest).
If hundreds of people all donate a small amount, it can quickly add up to a significant chunk of change. Typically, crowdfunding is used to collect money for charitable causes or to fund passion projects, but Ruhland also saw it as an opportunity for his for-profit business.
Collecting many small donations from individuals and community members on the Internet is a powerful way to raise money, but it also allows a business to bypass the monolithic organizations that for so long have controlled the flow of money.
“We could have gone to a bank as well, or look for investors, but crowdfunding allowed us to go straight to the people who will use this new beer room,” he said.
“That is part of what the Kickstarter was about, was instead of taking years accumulating the stuff we need and eventually get the doors open down the road … if everybody is willing to chip in 25 bucks, it’s getting a shop open now.”
Ruhland said he sees crowdfunding as part of the “share economy,” which he says “seems like it’s an answer to the capitalism that has been created by past generations.”
“Opening a business, there’s just an incredible amount of organizations that put their fingers in your pocket: every year some of our biggest expense items are licences and dues and fees and permits, and everything like that,” he said, adding that the share economy can be a great way to build a strong local economy with businesses that aren’t’ dependent on big banks.
But Ruhland admitted a Kickstarter campaign is not the same as a typical loan or investment; the money raised is all from donations, and the people who donated naturally feel like they have a stake in the business now.
Ruhland said that is actually a good thing for him, as it will help create more of a sense of ownership and belonging with the new tasting room, but it also means people will expect more.
“I’m sure that if people pledge for the project, and they’re also people in town who would become customers, if we create something they’re not happy with then they’re going to feel not only that it’s not a business they want to spend money at, but also that their investment, so to speak, is not a success,” he said.
To combat any potential ill will, Ruhland said he has spent a lot of time interacting with backers on social media, asking for input on T-shirt designs, the colour of the beer fridge and even some larger operational questions.
There is also a detailed financial plan on display on the campaign’s website outlining exactly what all the donated money will be used for.
Ruhland said they’ve already started ordering equipment, and the new tasting room could be open within a few weeks.
The lion’s share of the money collected will go towards the new draught system, with a little more going to the product fridge and the rest to spruce up the room with new furniture and signage.
Ruhland said the final product will be a retail space that has a pub feel to it, featuring an open space with standing tables and a bar. Customers will be able to come in during the day and evening and drink a pint, listen to a few tunes on the record player and hang out for a while.
There’s more plans for the future, but Ruhland said they will be starting with the most important things first.
“We’re going to start simple: beer.”
Ruhland says the new beer tasting room will feel a little like a cross between a traditional pub and a wine tasting room.
By Trevor Nichols
A worker inspects bottles of water at the Nestlé Waters Canada plant near Guelph, Ont.
KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/BLOOMBERG
WATER FIGHT: Bottles, wells, big business
Who owns water? Nestlé’s ambitions in Southern Ontario raise big questions about an essential – and finite – resource
Formerly the site of a chicken-processing plant and, later, a small water-bottling facility, the five-acre plot at 7334 Middlebrook Road near Elora, Ont., attracted no more attention than neighbouring land when it quietly came up for sale last spring.
But that was before one of the world’s largest multinational companies offered to buy it. Nestlé Waters Canada, a subsidiary of Swiss-based food giant Nestlé S.A., didn’t come for the land: It sought what lies beneath. The title comes with a 110-metre-deep well and, more importantly, the right to pump 1,300 litres of water per minute.
“We’re looking at this as a supplementary well for future business growth and to allow for redundancy for our current operations,” explains Andreanne Simard, natural resources manager for Nestlé Waters Canada.
The backlash arrived swiftly. Wellington Water Watchers, a non-profit group that casts itself as the area’s groundwater watchdog, deems Nestlé’s consumption “a wasteful use of our community’s precious water resources.”
Save Our Water, another local organization, argues Elora will get a raw deal. “They’ll be putting it into large tankers and driving it over our roads and bridges and paying taxes on five acres of land,” says spokesperson Donna McCaw. She points out that industrial users across Ontario pay $3.71 per million litres of water. Elora residents pay $2.14 per thousand litres – a rate 576 times higher.
FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Nestlé Waters North America, an affiliate of the Canadian company, has found itself at the centre of many similar disputes across the continent. Concerns about water are spreading in step with the advance of global warming, drawing attention to businesses that depend on cheap sources. At the heart of the conflicts lie fundamental questions about ownership of an increasingly scarce resource.
As the battle lines are drawn in Elora, water activists say Nestlé is a lightning rod for a much bigger issue. Other industrial water users – in agriculture, paper manufacturing and metals extraction, to name but a few – use far greater volumes than bottlers do, yet seldom receive a commensurate level of scrutiny.
Fears of water scarcity remain fresh in the minds of many in neighbouring Waterloo region. The area suffered shortages in the late 1980s, prompting a flurry of groundwater monitoring and conservation measures. James Etienne, senior water resources engineer with the Grand River Conservation Authority in Cambridge, Ont., says the Elora area’s existing water supply is adequate. But the area “has been flagged as a longer-term drought concern,” depending on future municipal demand. “We’re in the middle of the largest lake system in the world, and we don’t draw any water from it,” he explains. “The main communities – Guelph, Waterloo Region – are all groundwater fed.”
Nestlé points out that the Middlebrook well has been permitted and operated for two decades, without incident. “This is not additional water that’s being pumped out of the watershed,” says Nestlé Waters Canada spokesman John Challinor. “It’s already in the province’s inventory.” And regular testing has never identified any contamination.
Nestlé’s Middlebrook Road purchase is conditional on a regimen of pumping tests and data analysis to ensure the well meets the company’s requirements, and also on a water permit renewal. The public consultation period for a pumping-test permit, which ended in mid-November, attracted about 1,200 comments. Should the province approve its 60-day pump-testing permit, Nestlé will confirm the water’s quality and quantity, and study how proposed bottling operations would impact nearby wells, fish, animals and plants. If Middlebrook passes, Nestlé will apply to Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment for a water permit. It seeks the same maximum pumping volumes enjoyed by the previous owner, whose permit expired Oct. 31, 2015. Nestlé then plans to buy the property at an undisclosed price.
0102030DanoneNestléCoca ColaPepsiCoTing Hsin
Bottled water is big business. During the last two decades, Nestlé’s bottled-water sales in North America exploded tenfold from $400-million (U.S.) to approximately $4-billion. “Over the last decade we’ve seen a shift away from carbonated soft drinks towards bottled water,” says Howard Telfer, a beverage analyst with Euromonitor International. “And Nestlé has been at the top of the pack, at least in North America.” It has become Canada’s largest bottled water manufacturer, and according to Euromonitor sells 9.5% of all soft drinks in Canada, making it the second-largest soft drink vendor behind Coca-Cola, and ahead of Pepsi.
Nestlé’s sprawling water production apparatus comprises a crucial component of its competitive advantage. It operates 29 bottling facilities across the continent; Canadian operations include plants in Puslinch, Ont., and Hope, B.C. Although many brands (including Nestlé’s Pure Life) are little more than filtered municipal water, many of Nestlé’s mid-priced brands require spring sources. Through direct ownership, leases, easements and other arrangements, Nestlé accesses 75 springs across North America in 40 locations. “They control most of the production capacity,” and the springs, Mr. Telfer notes, which has “allowed them to remain fairly dominant.”
In 2013, Nestlé Waters North America chief executive Tim Brown said his company had enough to meet its water needs for a decade. “But we will always be looking for springs, because water is finite,” he added. “We’ll always be on the lookout for it, all around the world. And we will never sell a spring.”
Nestlé’s market dominance made the company a natural target for environmental non-governmental organizations, some of which also decry the environmental impacts of the plastic bottles most beverage products ship in. They also point to the extraordinarily low fees the company pays for the water it bottles.
Tony Clarke, president of the Polaris Institute, founded his organization in 1997 as a response to what he regarded as transnational corporations seizing control of public policy. Nestlé soon entered his crosshairs. “Often, these water-takings on the part of Nestlé are in areas that are prone to drought,” he says.“There have been major cases in California and Florida, and more recently in Oregon and British Columbia.”
Those activists in Ontario better be ready for a long fight – the company doesn’t back down easily. Nestlé first suggested establishing a bottling plant in Cascade Locks, Ore., (population 1,200), for example, in 2008. Now, six of seven city councillors support the project; Gordon Zimmerman, the city’s administrator, welcomes Nestlé as a potential employer in a community wracked by an unemployment rate of nearly 19 per cent.
But to secure water from the nearby Oxbow Springs, the company and the municipality must negotiate with arms of the state. NGOs litigated throughout the regulatory approval process. “They were successful in getting this shoved into court,” Mr. Zimmerman says.
A dwindling snowpack last winter in Oregon led to droughts this year declared in most of the state’s counties, including Hood River County where Cascade Locks is situated. Julia DeGraw, an organizer with Food & Water Watch, one of Nestlé’s NGO opponents, says Nestlé’s proposed extractions from Oxbow Springs, albeit small, are part of a larger effort to access springs throughout the Columbia River Gorge. “They’re not going to open up shop and bottle 118-million gallons out of Oxbow Springs per year,” she says. “This is their foothold.”
In early November, Oregon Governor Kate Brown intervened to prevent a transfer of water rights. Seven years on, Nestlé has made little discernible progress. Following another protracted dispute, in 2009 the company abandoned entirely efforts to construct a plant in McCloud, Calif. Mr. Zimmerman says he’s worried the company’s patience might wear thin. “We’re hoping they’re sticking this out,” he says. “I mean, they’ve waited this long. They might as well wait a couple of years more.”
Nestlé has been thwarted in finding a backup well in Ontario, albeit primarily by hydrology. In 2008, Nestlé considered siting a backup well near its Puslinch plant. But the property straddled two water basins; despite considerable testing, Nestlé couldn’t figure out which it was pumping from. Because Nestlé was permitted to draw water from one basin and not the other, the obstacle proved insurmountable.
Middlebrook presents its own technical challenges. It’s artesian (meaning it’s under pressure), which makes testing more difficult. “If you take the cap off, it would naturally flow 15 metres above ground surface,” says Ms. Simard. The greater challenges, though, are human. Ms. McCaw’s organization, Save Our Water, wants a moratorium on new water permits while further studies are conducted. Pointing to new subdivisions sprouting up around Elora and nearby Fergus, she wonders whether the area’s groundwater can accommodate both Nestlé’s pumping and future expected growth. She cites projections suggesting the population of the Township of Centre Wellington (which includes Elora) will grow about 40% over the next 15 years, from today’s 27,000 to more than 41,000. “New residents and business coming in are going to need water,” she says.
Ian MacRae grew up in a farmhouse adjacent to the Middlebrook property; his father owned the land in the 1960s and operated a chicken-processing plant there. Back then, water was used to thaw and wash chickens, then spread on nearby fields. He recalls that his godfather went cross-country skiing along Elora’s gorge one winter. “He saw something odd in the cracks of the rocks,” Mr. MacRae says. “On closer examination, he noticed it was chicken fat.” The plant ceased spraying contaminated water on the fields afterward, he says.
Mr. MacRae now lives about a kilometre away in the nearby community of Salem, where he has a 20-metre well. He worries large-scale pumping on the Middlebrook property could draw contaminants into the aquifer, or might lower groundwater levels. “If I’m suddenly inconvenienced by not having any water in my well, then I’m going to have to drill a deeper well. And that’s obviously going to be at my cost.”
Nestlé and its defenders frequently point out that the entire bottling industry’s water consumption is small in relation to other industries. Nestlé’s Mr. Challinor, for instance, cites data showing Nestlé and other bottlers extract just 0.6 per cent of permitted water from the Grand River watershed, in which Elora is situated. (Agricultural irrigation accounts for more than 6 per cent, while aggregate washing and livestock both account for 4 per cent each.)
Jane Lazgin, a spokesperson for Nestlé Waters North America, believes the obvious link between her company’s products and water consumption helps explain the challenges it faces when winning communities over. “I don’t think people necessarily look at other beverages, or their blue jeans, or their iPhones or the tires on their car and say, ‘Oh my goodness, they use so much water,’” she says.
Water activists are hoping to train the spotlight on many other industries that are heavy water-consumers. “The focus does tend to be very much on Nestlé,” says Ian Stephen, an organizer for WaterWealth, a non-profit based in Chilliwack, B.C. He laments that other large industrial water users largely escape scrutiny. “Agriculture is the biggest user in B.C., and really gets overlooked,” he says. “Our agricultural practices will certainly have to be looked at, especially as things get drier and drier.”
Five key Nestlé disputes
1. Aberfoyle, Ont.
Dispute duration: 2012-2013
When Nestlé applied to renew its water-taking permit in Erin, Ont., in 2012, the province sought to impose new mandatory pumping restrictions during droughts. Nestlé retorted that other municipal or commercial water users didn’t face such restrictions and proposed the requirements be relaxed. The Ministry backed down and reached an agreement with the company, but three NGOs — Wellington Water Watchers, Ecojustice and the Council of Canadians — intervened and persuaded the Environmental Review Tribunal that the matter should receive a full hearing. Nestlé bowed out a month later, and the NGOs declared victory.
Outcome: Opponents win
INTERACTIVE BY DANIELLE WEBB AND MATTHEW MCCLEARN
Health Canada blocked quit-smoking aid after Pfizer complaint
Health Canada set out to drive a Canadian-made stop-smoking aid from the market after a complaint from Pfizer Canada Inc., a pharmaceutical company that makes competing products, a judge has found.
In its first few months on the market, a lozenge called Resolve, billed as a natural way to stop or reduce smoking, sold more than 250,000 cartons across Canada, according to its manufacturer, The Winning Combination Inc. (TWC) of Winnipeg. Then Pfizer wrote Health Canada a letter saying the product posed health risks. (That same year – 2007 – Pfizer sought and obtained Health Canada approval for a quit-smoking prescription medication, Champix.)
What followed, according to a scathing ruling from Federal Court Justice James Russell, was a process in which a lone bureaucrat, Robin Marles, set up roadblocks to Resolve while other Health Canada officials stood by or supported his efforts. At every stage, as the company tried to make its case for a licence to sell Resolve, Dr. Marles, the director of Health Canada’s clinical trials bureau, denied it any fairness, Justice Russell said. (Under Health Canada rules at the time, a company could sell a natural health product while its application for a licence was under consideration.)
Checks and balances “were abandoned and those with the authority and responsibility to make the decision simply followed Dr. Marles’ directions, whose directing mind appears to have lost all sense of objectivity and procedural fairness as he attempted to shore up his own misperceived conclusions,” Justice Russell wrote in his 68-page ruling this month.
The result: Resolve was wrongly banned from the market for eight years, he said. Rather than send the matter back to Health Canada to rethink whether Resolve meets its standards – the normal course for this situation, he said – he ordered Health Canada to approve a natural-health-product licence within 30 days.
“To simply return the matter for reconsideration to a system that has shown itself to be so dysfunctional might simply plunge TWC back into the quagmire and trigger more litigation,” he said. The judge did not criticize Pfizer.
Shazad Bukhari, chief executive officer of The Winning Combination, said the company did not receive fair treatment from Health Canada. “The sense of fair play you would expect and you hope the government would provide isn’t always the case,” he said in an interview.
Dr. Marles would not comment when reached by phone.
A spokeswoman for Health Canada said the department is appealing the court’s decision. “The department remains committed to a fair and impartial review of all health product licence applications,” she said.
Pfizer said it had been beyond reproach. “Pfizer Canada always conducts itself appropriately,” a spokesman said by e-mail after receiving a copy of the ruling from The Globe and Mail. “There is absolutely no conclusion or statement in the court decision to indicate otherwise.”
Justice Russell said that after Pfizer complained to Health Canada in mid-2007, the government claimed Resolve contained a substance drawn from passionflower, and would be harmful. The company showed independent lab tests confirming the product contained no passionflower, and Health Canada ultimately accepted that it was not harmful.
Next, the judge said, Health Canada said Resolve was not a natural health product, defined as one whose key ingredient occurs in nature, or is a synthetic version of a natural product. Instead, it said, Resolve was a drug, and would need a more thorough process to prove its effectiveness.
“Dr. Marles has conceded that he had no evidence that the active ingredient in Resolve was not a [natural health product]. All he had was his own opinion,” Justice Russsell wrote. “And yet Dr. Marles actively sought to have the Active Ingredient delisted … without giving any notice to TWC that classification was a problem.”
Then came a “reconsideration,” at the company’s request, in which Health Canada retained an expert – Dr. Marles’s former postdoctoral supervisor. The reconsideration came to the same conclusion – that the key ingredient was not natural. But the ruling said the expert had done a faulty search of a database, and missed convincing evidence that it was natural.
Finally, accepting that Resolve was a natural product and not a drug, Health Canada said it would need conclusive evidence it was effective – a standard that it had not applied to any other natural health products, or even to drugs, Justice Russell found.
Even in its handling of the court case, Health Canada allowed Dr. Marles to serve as its front man, the source of all evidence about how it handled Resolve.
“He is an advocate for himself. Health Canada remains firmly in the hands of Dr. Marles and is apparently unwilling to provide the court with reliable factual evidence from others in the system who were involved,” Justice Russell wrote in the ruling. Health Canada never should have fought to uphold Dr. Marles’s conduct in court, the judge said.
So reprehensible was the government’s conduct, he said, that Health Canada must pay The Winning Combination’s legal costs, which Mr. Bukhari estimates at $1-million. The company laid off 15 employees, at a time when it had just 35, and its suppliers laid off more, Mr. Bukhari said, adding that the company now has 100 employees, and plans to launch Resolve in Europe, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.
Pfizer’s quit-smoking prescription medication, Champix, was described in a Canadian Medical Association Journal article in 2011 as being linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. Health Canada has published warnings, but has allowed it to be sold.
Analysis revealed the presence of glyphosate in oatmeal, bagels, eggs, potatoes and even non-GMO soy coffee creamer. Photo credit: iStock
Glyphosate Found in Popular Breakfast Foods
One on one with Trustee Bruce Johnson on school closures in district 67
Is Carbon tax or Carbon Fraud responsible for the closing of schools? You decide!
Summary of Research
Note : In 2010, the B.C. government starting making schools, hospitals and universities reduce their net carbon emissions to zero, and as a result the public institutions were forced to pay to have outside projects reduce carbon emissions in their stead. These reductions are often called carbon credits or offsets.
Note : British Columbia had paid out $53.4 million to buy these carbon offsets from major forest companies such as Canfor and Interfor, energy companies such as ARC Resources, and increasingly from a First Nation consortium whose traditional territory encompass the Great Bear Rainforest on B.C.’s central coast, according to data assembled by The Vancouver Sun.
Note : “In 2014 alone, the province purchased $10.2 million in carbon offsets from the Great Bear initiative.”
Note : Under the program, the province put a $25 a tonne price on the carbon emissions of the schools, hospitals and universities to provide an incentive for them to reduce emissions. (The carbon offsets from industry have been purchased at an average price of less than $12 a tonne).
Note : schools, hospital and universities have reduced emissions by 7.4 per cent or just under 63,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, according to government data.
Note : And there are some public sector emissions under B.C.’s rules that have been deemed exempt from having to be offset — such as carbon emissions from school buses and the B.C. Transit fleet. Emissions from those exempt categories have increased about 20,000 tonnes between 2010 and 2014.
Note : The B.C. Liberal government has shown no intent to dismantle its carbon offset system, and B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said there are no plans to make any changes.
Note : “I would hold this up as a really good example of how to take incentives and turn them into benefits that are pretty direct,” Polak said in an interview.
Note : She is referring to the $14.5 million a year the province provides to schools, hospitals and universities to help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Note : In essence, the B.C. government is giving back money they collected from the $25 a tonne of emissions, but it has to be directed to emission-reduction projects.
Note : NDP environment critic George Heyman says the province’s carbon trading scheme is a shell game.
Note : “The real question here is why are they taking additional money from schools and hospitals instead of letting them upgrade and retrofit their buildings for energy conservation directly,” he said.
Note : Asked why the province does not simply let the public institutions keep the money, which they could plow into projects to reduce carbon emissions, particularly given hospitals and colleges are already paying a $30 a tonne carbon tax as well, Polak said the $25 a tonne additional charge provides a needed incentive to change behaviour.
Note : Asked why this additional $25 charge was then not applied to the private sector as well, where there are much larger gains to be had in emission reductions, Polak said that question may be answered in the province’s updated climate change plan expected to be released this year.
Note : After shutting down the Pacific Carbon Trust in 2013, and moving its operations into the secretariat, the B.C. Liberal government said it would save $5.6 million a year and use only five government workers.
Note : The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been highly critical of the Pacific Carbon Trust, and continues to have concerns of the program now being run within government.
Note : B.C. spokesman Jordan Bateman called the carbon system a farce, saying the program is not about reducing emissions but a public relations exercise so the government can call itself carbon neutral.
Note : He noted that replacing boilers sounded like routine maintenance.
Note : More fundamentally, he said most people would not consider schools and hospitals priorities for reducing carbon emissions, said Bateman. “The whole program seems really ridiculous.”
AN AUDIT OF CARBON NEUTRAL GOVERNMENT (Must Read)
Public Accounts (Ministry of Finance BC)
Things that still make you go “Hmmm” (Must Read)
Pacific Carbon Trust Finacials (Lots of information 2008/14)
Pacific Carbon Trust Folded Into B.C. Government In Cost-Cutting Move (Article)
BC Conservatives Promise Pacific Carbon Trust Shutdown (Article)
Auditor General Carbon Neutral Report Scalds BC Government (Article)
B.C. Taxpayers Pay Millions in Carbon Corporate Welfare–Again (Article)
Why Fear B.C.’s Clean Energy Policy? (Article)
Meaning of “Secretariat” (Related to the change to Pacific Carbon Trust)
Carbon Neutral Local Government (Review Material)
The following links are for Deloitte, this firm is presently working with the provincial government carbon tax dept! (Research Connection)
Deloitte works with the Sinularity University! (Research Connection)
Sinularity University (Research Connection)
Child services grills Winnipeg mom after she let her kids play alone in their fenced-in backyard
BY THE CANADIAN PRESS
“We’ve taught both the (older) kids so far that you look after each other. That’s kind of the point. The older ones should be looking after the younger ones.”
WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg woman says she was reported to and investigated by Child and Family Services simply for letting her children play in her backyard.
Jacqui Kendrick, a stay-at-home mom, says a CFS worker showed up unexpectedly in early April, saying they had received a complaint about her children being unsupervised.
Kendrick has three children ages two, five and 10, and says they often played in her fenced-in backyard after school.
Kendrick says she’s either with them or watching them from her living room, though she says her oldest child also helps out by looking after her younger siblings.
But she says because a file has been created, she’s worried that any future complaints could end up with her children being taken from her.
She also says the grilling she underwent from the CFS worker left her in tears.
“(The worker was) asking me about if we’ve ever dealt with CFS before, what my childhood was like, how I punish my children,” Kendrick says. “She had to look to see where my kid slept. She had to see if we had enough food in the house.”
CFS officials did not respond to requests for an interview.
Winnipeg psychologist Dr. Toby Rutner says children should be as independent as their abilities allow.
He says with increased use of the Internet, “it has created a situation where everyone feels entitled to give an opinion, but this approach that says everyone’s opinion is equal in value.”
He calls the case common passive-aggressive behaviour; where in the past, concerned neighbours would have had to knock on someone’s door, now they can make an anonymous complaint.
Kendrick says her children have been well trained in how to be safe.
“We’ve taught both the (older) kids so far that you look after each other. That’s kind of the point. The older ones should be looking after the younger ones,” Kendrick says.
“My 10-year-old is very responsible. We’ve taught the older ones already the whole stranger danger, and they know what to do. When my five-year-old’s out there, she knows she’s not supposed to go up to the fence.”
Manitoba’s Child and Family Services Act states a child 12 or older can be left home alone unsupervised. It doesn’t say anything about children playing in a backyard.