Canada

NDP critic demands pulp and paper giant appear before MPs

NDP natural resources critic Charlie Angus speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 7.  (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - photo credit)

NDP natural resources critic Charlie Angus speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 7. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press – photo credit)

Charlie Angus, the NDP’s natural resources critic, is calling for hearings in the parliamentary committee to investigate who is behind the company that has become Canada’s largest pulp producer.

Angus says he will propose later this month that the House of Commons Natural Resources Committee summons the Paper Excellence chief executive along with Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and others to testify.

“I think it’s the company’s responsibility to be transparent. If not, we need to bring them before the committee to get answers, get the CEO to testify and get access to documents so we know exactly how they are structured and their ties to forest operations in Indonesia and funding from China have,” Angus told CBC News.

Angus’ comments follow a CBC News, in collaboration with other media, investigation into Paper Excellence, which was part of a broader look at the global forest industry under the umbrella of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The investigation found that those behind or associated with Paper Excellence appear to have a pattern that uses corporate thickets, including in tax havens, to effectively shield transactions and assets from public and government scrutiny.

The company will not comment on its previous funding, some of which was facilitated at one point by a $1.25 billion US Demand Note at China Development Bank, owned by the Chinese government.

BolsonaroSP/Twitter

BolsonaroSP/Twitter

CBC’s investigation also found leaked records and insider reports showing that, at least until a few years ago, Paper Excellence appeared to have closely – and covertly – coordinated business and strategic decisions with Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest pulp companies – and paper manufacturer, which environmental groups have complained about, has a track record of environmental degradation.

Paper Excellence claims that it is entirely independent from APP and is solely owned by Jackson Wijaya. Wijaya is a member of the family that owns both APP and Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas.

With the recent acquisition of Quebec-based Resolute Forest Products, Paper Excellence is now Canada’s largest pulp producer, managing nearly 22 million hectares of the country’s forests.

Laurie Bouchard, a spokeswoman for Champagne, said Thursday that Paper Excellence’s acquisition of Resolute is subject to national security regulations under the Investment Canada Act and that Canada’s top security agencies have been consulted on the transaction.

“Recognizing the need to ensure that this investment continues to be in Canada’s best interests, the investor has made significant commitments to Canada as part of the review process, including ensuring high levels of investment for Quebec facilities, maintaining existing Canadian patents and maintaining Canadian participation on the Resolute Canada board of directors and senior management team and compliance with Canadian labor and environmental laws,” she said in a statement.

Angus says Canada’s forests are fragile and a public trust of the Canadian people. He said it didn’t take investigative journalism for Canadians to know how Paper Excellence works.

Christine Pussy/Reuters

Christine Pussy/Reuters

“I found the information about this company very disturbing. This is a company that controls vast tracts of Canada’s forest. A lot of it is public land, forests owned by the people of the country,” he said.

“We have a right to know who owns this, what their ownership structure is, how their funding is going, what their connections are with the China Development Bank, what their connections are with Asia Pulp & Paper, what their connections are with this company in Indonesia . As a company operating in Canada’s forests, they must be clear and transparent.”

Mario Simard, the Bloc Québécois natural resources critic, also has concerns about paper excellence; He worked unsuccessfully to persuade the federal government to block the Resolute takeover.

“A quarter of Quebec’s forests are going into the hands of a company that we’ve seen with questionable practices in the past,” Simard said in an interview.

Simard said he would like Paper Excellence to disclose its business plan and outline its plans to invest in Resolute’s Quebec facilities. He also wants guarantees that the company’s employee retirement plan will be properly funded and whether it will continue developing cellulosic filaments, which Resolute said in a 2020 press release can increase product resilience and durability .

Green Party vice-leader Elizabeth May said she had long-standing concerns about paper excellence, having watched it grow in Canada over the years.

“Without making a fuss or even realizing it, it bought up a large chunk of Canada’s pulp and paper mills,” she said, adding that she was unaware that the company had received funding from the China Development Bank.

“We are very naïve about foreign investment and should watch very carefully, particularly given the scale of the role being played in the Canadian pulp and paper industry with a company that we know so little about who really owns whose interests it is… The China Development Bank investment should have sounded an alarm somewhere.”

The Conservative Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at [email protected] Zach Dubinsky can be reached at [email protected]

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