The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board should support the public good, not Trudeau's pipeline

Over the years, The Council of Canadians has been critical of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board's investments in Goldcorp (the transnational mining corporation), Laricina Energy Ltd. (that has major holdings in the tar sands), and Anglian Water (the private, for-profit water company in England).

One year ago today, Council of Canadians organizer Mark Calzavara delivered boxes of petitions - signed by more than 8,000 people - to the head office of the CPPIB in Toronto calling on the investment board to not invest in the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline.

In the months leading up to that action, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan had made it clear that it wasn't in talks to finance the pipeline (though it is one of eight large Canadian investors that in total own nearly $2 billion worth of shares in Kinder Morgan Inc.), but the CPPIB remained silent.

Yesterday, Bob Farkas wrote in The Bullet, "In the weeks and months ahead, there will be many political casualties of the Liberal government’s crisis surrounding the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. The first of these, however, was the carefully-crafted illusion that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board’s investment decisions are free from political influence."

Farkas notes, "In mid-May, this pretence was laid to rest."

That's because on May 18, The Globe and Mail reported, "[Morneau] says even if Kinder Morgan walks away, there would likely be other investors willing to take the project over — including, potentially, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board." The day before, Reuters had reported, "Mark Machin, chief executive of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, said the pension fund manager ... could consider the project. 'If it's an opportunity that has decent returns then we'll look at it', Machin said, adding the government's pledge to protect investors against political risk was helpful."

Farkas highlights, "Now, the federal government will assume the construction risk of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, transferring ownership to private investors once the political and first-phase uncertainties are overcome. If the CPPIB is among these investors, there will be no going back to the Board’s guise of a politically-independent global investor."

Rather than investing in a 65-year-old pipeline (that has spilled six times in Jasper National Park) and the infrastructure for the expansion of the pipeline (that would increase Canada's carbon emissions, endanger waterways, and violate Indigenous rights), the pension plan could be used for social good.

Farkas recommends a "conditional levy on pension surpluses [that would] preserve benefit security and leave plan provisions unchanged." That levy could help fund "childcare, or school renovations, hospital beds or community care facilities" as well as "on-the-job training and apprenticeships", "renewable energy, energy conservation, and electrified transit", libraries, and public housing.

He adds, "With the Kinder Morgan fiasco, the Liberal government has spilled the beans about the CPPIB, and reminded the Left to think ambitiously and creatively about socializing investment. Let’s seize the chance."

Further reading
The Council of Canadians calls for transformative change (May 2018)