Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson's associate generated significant income from charity work

On the eve of a planned rally to oppose tankers in Burrard Inlet, there is a rising chorus of recriminations about the role of U.S.-based foundations and international oil companies in the future of the Canadian tar sands.

On October 15, the right-wing National Post focused on the U.S.-based Tides Foundation and the Tides Canada Foundation, which are linked to Joel Solomon, a close friend and financial backer of Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson.

Solomon’s sister Linda fired back today with an attack on her site suggesting that controversial U.S. talk-show host Glen Beck’s influence has crossed the border into Canada.

That’s because Beck has frequently targeted the Tides Foundation.

Beck's rants on Fox TV recently inspired a deluded California follower, Byron Williams, to take it upon himself to assassinate Tides Foundation founder Drummond Pike and others at the San Francisco-based charity.

Williams also wanted to kill people at the American Civil Liberties Union. Fortunately, the would-be assassin didn’t succeed.

Linda Solomon was understandably upset by this incident because her brother was at Tides’ San Francisco headquarters on the day that Williams was planning his killing spree. Joel Solomon is on the board of the U.S. foundation, which funds environmental groups, often with money from larger U.S. charitable foundations.

However, it was a bit rich for Linda Solomon to compare the author of the National Post article, North Vancouver researcher Vivian Krause, to Beck.

It’s true that Krause has demonstrated an obsessive zeal to dig up information on the Tides Foundation and its Canadian arm, as well as on other organizations linked to Solomon.

As a result of this, I have requested an interview with Mayor Robertson to discuss his connections with Solomon and the Tides Canada Foundation. Robertson served on the Tides Canada Foundation board from 2002 to 2004. His chief of staff, Mike Magee, was the foundation’s senior adviser from 2002 to 2007.

It's also true that in the past, Krause has worked in the fish-farming industry and has been highly critical of U.S. foundation-funded research linking sea lice to the decline of wild-salmon stocks. She has shared some of her research on these subjects with me.

In my dealings with Krause, she has presented factual information and has not engaged in the type of hyperbole that I have come to expect from Beck and some of the other right-wing screamers on Fox TV.

Here are a few things that Krause has brought to my attention:

Ӣ Joel Solomon is affiliated with six registered charities: U.S.-based Tides Foundation (director since 1998), Tides Canada Initiatives Society (director), Endswell Foundation (president), Tides Canada Foundation (vice-chair), Salal Foundation (secretary), and Nextwave Foundation (president).

Ӣ Joel Solomon, Joel Solomon Co., and JSCO received $872,000 in payments between 1997 and 2008 from the Endswell Foundation. More than half of that ($491,023) came in the last three years from 2006 to 2008.

”¢ The Endswell Foundation reported $417,054 in “professional and consulting fees” to the Canada Revenue Agency between 2003 and 2008. Meanwhile, the Endswell Foundation reported $2,084,547 in professional and consulting fees in its tax return over the same period to the Internal Revenue Service in the United States. That’s a difference of $1.67 million.

Ӣ Joel Solomon has ties to five companies: Hollyhock Farm Ltd. (chair, president), Hollyhock Centre Ltd. (president), Renewal Land Company (president), Interdependent Investments Ltd. (president), and Renewal Partners (president).

Ӣ Between 1997 and 2008, the Endswell Foundation reported $1.2 million in payments to Interdependent Investments Ltd. and IIL Ltd. It's a B.C.-based company with two directors: Joel Solomon and Martha Burton. Burton is Vision Vancouver's treasurer. (Interdependent Investments contributed $5,000 to Vision Vancouver in the 2008 civic election and another $1,000 this year.)

”¢ Mayor Robertson was treasurer of Hollyhock Farm Ltd. in 2004 and treasurer of Hollyhock Centre Ltd. in 2003 and 2004. In addition, Renewal Partners invested in Robertson’s company, Happy Planet juice company.

Ӣ Burton is senior vice president of the Endswell Foundation and a former assistant treasurer of Tides Canada Foundation. She was president of the Salal Foundation from 2000 to 2008, and president of Nextwave from 2000 to 2007. She is also secretary of Renewal Land Company and senior vice president of Renewal Partners.

Ӣ Burton was paid $72,036 by the Endswell Foundation in 2007 and then her compensation rose to $135,325 in 2008.

None of this adds up to a major scandal. It’s illegal to channel money from registered charities into partisan political activities, and this has never been proven in connection with any of the charities linked to Solomon.

The Endswell Foundation was a major financial backer of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation in the late 1990s when its president, David Cadman, was preparing to launch his political career. Endswell money helped keep Cadman in the news prior to his unsuccessful 1999 run for mayor with the Coalition of Progressive Electors. Cadman was elected to council in 2002 and won reelection in 2005 and 2008 with COPE.

I recall Robertson’s chief of staff, Magee, working with other business-friendly COPE members in an unsuccessful attempt to take over the party board at a meeting at the Vancouver Public Library on April 3, 2004. The following year, some of those same people created Vision Vancouver.

Magee was also instrumental in Robertson’s campaign to get elected as the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview in 2005.

After it became clear that NDP Leader Carole James was going to lead the party into the 2009 election, Robertson jumped ship and ran successfully for mayor of Vancouver in 2008. Magee was the Vision Vancouver campaign manager and was seen by some in 2007 as the invisible hand guiding Robertson’s decisions.

Magee was generating an income from the Tides Canada Foundation as its senior adviser while Robertson was still in the NDP caucus. But Magee’s relationship with the charity was severed by the time he began formally heading up the mayor’s civic-election campaign.

There's no smoking gun. But it doesn't mean that the business and charitable dealings of Solomon—a close friend of both Robertson and Magee—aren't worthy of scrutiny, notwithstanding what Solomon's sister wrote today.



glen p robbins

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:47pm

Good reporting Charlie. It does show that politicians on the left (and not just the right) are able to finance their forward motion - when most people would not be able to do the same.

These are all pretty nice incomes - without looking too greedy - but one wonders if they did not have the benefactors through the charities - or on the right from corporations or other entities - would some of these actors have wilted away?

Taxpayers R Us

Oct 17, 2010 at 12:02am

This is some great investigation work.

If anyone questions why some people are leery of foundations and charities, just look at Burton's salary - $135,325, or keep your eyes peeled for the pink Shopper's Drug Mart Breast Cancer charity Mercedes Benz driving around the west end - and imagine what the driver has as a salary.

Good Grief

Oct 17, 2010 at 1:04am

It never ceases to amaze me how inter-related these "charitable" foundations are with our own Vision Vancouver party. The Americans don't allow Canadians to finance their civic political campaigns.

Why do we think it appropriate that they are able to finance ours?


Oct 17, 2010 at 9:24am

Amazing, a journalist who actually works instead of just typing.

glen p I don't understand your left/right distinction. To me there are the <a href=""> "owners of money"</a> and those (politicians) paid to do their bidding (raid the public treasury.) I see the left/right/democracy ruse as theater for those being robbed ( the public).

Why a roof $500 million roof on a stadium that no one uses when we struggle to keep clean drinking water: pillage and looting. No?


Oct 17, 2010 at 3:10pm

i almost feel asleep reading that.

East Van Arts

Oct 17, 2010 at 3:33pm

As always, follow the money.

Left or right, Green or Mauve, it makes no difference. Follow the money. When politicians of any hue are indebted to their sponsors, the people always lose. When VISION takes big money from big developers, or big American businessmen, the people lose.

VISION's green sheen faded long ago. It is now being held to account for what it has actually done, or failed to do. And it is being held to account for what it has permitted to be done. Look at the links between Concord's planned development on False Creek and the grotesque expenditure of half a billion dollars on the BC Place roof. Who benefits? This has all happened on VISION's watch.

The Joel Solomon connection is just one part of their problem. The fiscal nightmare of the Olympic Village is just beginning. Follow the money.

glen p robbins

Oct 17, 2010 at 8:41pm

apeasant - Yea

Matthew Barnes

Oct 18, 2010 at 6:45pm

Vivian Krause was director of corporate development and public relations for the largest foreign-owned fish farm and feed company in the world. Her facts may be accurate, but where's the scandal? It's all public information. We should be happy that some philanthropists are willing to put their money into efforts to make the world a healthier and better place. We already have enough rich people (Koch brothers, anyone?) putting billions into ruining the world and attacking environmentalists for self interest. And they aren't so transparent. One should question Ms. Krause's motives as much as her information.

Petar Ticinovic

Oct 19, 2010 at 8:02am

Do you think any of these liberal, "big American businessman"-bashing Captain Canada types hesitates for a second to get in on a good tip on an American stock when they get one, speaking of following the money?


Oct 19, 2010 at 12:33pm

anyone care to tell me what the actual story is here? rich people, doing things with their money? boring.

show me that they might be doing 'bad' things with their money... then i'll start paying attention.