Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Should you trust the Pacific Carbon Trust?

Get ready for Premier Christy Clark to tell you sometime before the May 14 election day about how her BC Liberal Party is committed to openness. She might even say it's the most open in British Columbia history.

Don't believe her. It's just not true. 

Here is evidence of yet another public body in B.C. that just refuses to respect that government information belongs to the people who pay for government. Public bodies, like Pacific Carbon Trust, prefer to be inefficient and resist the simplicity of transparency, for fear of uncomfortable questions that might (gasp!) embarrass the ruling Liberal politicians.

I made a Freedom of Information request on Oct. 19, 2012 to PCT for a list of its suppliers and contractors, $25,000 or more. I wanted to find out how much it was paying for carbon offsets, the modern version of the 16th century sin-absolving scam dreamed up by the Catholic Church. Today's indulgences allow polluters to voluntarily pay for their planet-staining sins. 

PCT is a B.C. Crown corporation dreamed-up by Gordon Campbell when he was premier, to force government to go "carbon neutral." Whether it's school boards or hospital authorities, if they don't meet targets for reducing carbon emissions, they pay a $25 per tonne penalty to PCT. PCT then funds private sector projects. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives did a good job of deconstructing this government scheme.

PCT responded on Nov. 28, 2012 with a list of contractors and suppliers. But many names and dollar values were missing. The 16 amounts paid in 2011 and 2012 for carbon offsets were censored. PCT tried claiming it could withhold names and dollar amounts under section 3 (outside the scope), 14 (solicitor-client privilege) or 17 (risk of harm to financial interests) of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. 

I complained to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. On Feb. 13, 2013, I received all the information that had been withheld from me.PCT's original use of sec. 3, 14 and 17 was, for lack of a better word, bogus. 

My colleague from Business in Vancouver, Nelson Bennett, also received his information from PCT. His quest was a year-long and he wrote about it in this story on

What do we know now? 

Over the last two years, a whopping $17,497,877 was spent by PCT under the guise of offsets.

Encana $1,617,716
Blue Source $1,228,173
Canfor Pulp Ltd. $329,910
South Coast B.C. Transportation (TransLink) $213,564
B.C. Transit $29,289

PCT also spent money on lawyers and accountants.

Lawyer Kai Alderson $27,019

No comments:

Blog Archive