Martyn Brown: Team Trudeau’s $12-million gift to Loblaw is half-baked

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      Let’s talk climate change.

      Specifically, what might be done to change the political climate that is threatening Planet Liberal in the wake of Justin Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin scandal?

      Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has just the answer.

      Give up to $12 million in taxpayers’ money from her $450-million Low Carbon Economy Challenge slush fund to food giant Loblaw, to “help” it convert its refrigeration systems in some 370 Canadian stores and reduce its emissions by about 23 percent. 

      If that leaves you stone-cold and makes your blood boil, Trudeau and his chief climate warrior don’t seem the least bit troubled.

      Indeed, I’m wondering if that might be yet another wacky part of the prime minister’s “strategy” to give Canadians something other than LavScam to vent about as they buy their Wonder Bread and dream of making toast of his government.

      Yes, that would be the same company whose executive chairman, Galen Weston, was listed as the third richest person in Canada in 2017. As of today, he has a net family fortune of CDN$11.6 billion (i.e. US$8.7 billion), according to Forbes.

      His mega-rich Weston family essentially pleaded poor in speaking out against the “aggressive” $15 per hour minimum wage hike plans for Alberta and Ontario before it was dropped in the latter province by the Ford government.

      Since then, some 17,359 people have signed the SumofUs petition urging Loblaw to “pay a living wage” to all of its employees.

      Oh, those cranky employees who are always so quick to scream, “Workers of the world, unite!” 

      For Loblaw it’s all about the customers. As in “Food lovers unite!”—one for all and all for one, for however far your buck will stretch these days at any Loblaw.

      $12 million? Really?

      To help Loblaw Companies Ltd., which reported an adjusted gross profit of $13.5 billion in 2018?

      A company that in late 2017 admitted to having participated in a price-fixing scheme with other companies to increase packaged bread prices for over 14 years?

      Let them eat cake, if they can’t afford bread, Loblaw’s now long-gone evildoers might have chafed at those who ultimately blew the whistle.

      They were fired as part of Loblaw’s clean-up effort to make right its past wrongs to its customers, including through a time-limited $25 gift card program that is now closed.

      Whistle-blowers. You know. Like Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.

      Trudeau hasn’t much time for them and sure doesn’t want any of their ilk in his caucus.

      Loblaw divisions include Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaw Market, Shoppers Drug Mart, President's Choice Financial, and Joe Fresh.

      For Andrew Scheer—and probably Alberta’s premier-in-waiting Jason Kenney—McKenna’s “investment” is also manna from heaven in their war on the Trudeau government’s carbon tax.

      Though I must confess, neither them, nor their fellow carbon-tax haters in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, are very keen on talking about the other cheques cut from McKenna’s pots to help other equally well-heeled corporations.

      They include the $27.3 million in taxpayer handouts that Alberta oil leviathan Canadian Natural Resources will receive from Trudeau’s $2 billion Low Carbon Economy Fund and Clean Growth Program. And the $45 million also previously announced for Titanium Corps. “for a technology designed to remediate oil sands tailings at Canadian Natural’s Horizon Oil Sands site”.

      All of those taxpayer-funded gifts are reprehensible, in my view, insofar as they actually help advance the Conservatives’ politically motivated war against the carbon tax.

      Why are we poor suckers all being forced to shell out for new taxes on our carbon emissions, tax-strapped average Canadians might ask themselves, when Canada’s largest greenhouse gas emitters and richest companies are getting handouts to meet their carbon reduction obligations?

      Why are we being taxed to help pad their profits, instead of just letting those companies figure out on their own, as we must, how to juggle and minimize the added new costs of their carbon emissions?

      It’s a good question. One that I will tackle in a future column, as someone who was intimately involved in creating British Columbia’s carbon tax back in 2008.

      As I have previously written, I still strongly support the carbon tax.

      But I am mad as hell at how the concept of carbon pricing has been flipped on its head to pay Canada’s worst polluters and to subsidize corporate behemoths. They should damn well pay the full freight of their own carbon reduction initiatives that will also ultimately make them even more profitable.

      But I digress. Back to McKenna’s $12-million present to Loblaw.

      Why, in God’s name, do that?

      If you watch the video of her announcement, she tries to defend it in the context of her government’s own abysmal failure in making good on its own disingenuous climate action commitments.

      For that much is now abundantly clear: Trudeau’s Paris Agreement commitments are just so much b.s.

      Video: Watch Catherine McKenna defend payments to companies like Loblaw.

      As McKenna notes, her government’s own new report revealed that Canada is “warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Three times as fast, or more, when you look at our North.”

      And so, it’s time to take new action. By giving a company that is so deserving of Canadians’ munificence $12 million for its climate action initiatives.

      A company that—unlike SNC-Lavalin—volunteered its discovered wrongdoings, as the Globe explained, “under the federal competition bureau's ‘immunity and leniency’ program, which gives incentives for parties in exchange for ‘co-operation against others involved in the cartel.’ "

      “As a result of their co-operation, Loblaw and George Weston will not face criminal charges or other penalties in the continuing investigation, the companies said.”

      A company whose price-fixing scheme from 2001 to 2015, according to Maclean’s, “may have cost you at least $400” in illegitimate higher bread prices.

      Who cares if that $12 million might have been better spent on so many other priorities? Like helping the homeless, putting food on the table for families in need, or maybe increasing federal enforcement efforts aimed at catching corporate cheats and money launderers.

      What’s $12 million, anyway, to a government that has no qualms about spending $19 billion more than it receives in revenues each year? A government that has no intention whatsoever of honouring Trudeau’s election promise to balance the budget by 2019—maybe ever.

      Loblaw’s former partners in crime must be licking their chops in anticipation of all that they, too, might be eligible to receive in “climate action” funding, if they play their cards right.

      Evidently, the bucks didn’t stop with Loblaw’s bank accounts.

      Might any of those former partners in crime also get their own “just desserts” for climate action, courtesy of Canadian taxpayers?

      Who knows? But it will be worth watching and comparing those recipients’ names to Liberal party donor lists. Not that there’s any connection, I’m sure.

      Poor SNC-Lavalin.

      It gave over $100,000 in illegal political contributions to the Liberal party during the 2000s and all it got was its crummy criminal charges. Not that it ever expected anything in return, mind you.

      It hasn’t yet got its cherished deferred prosecution agreement. In part, we are led to understand, because it failed to voluntarily divulge its discovered misdeeds to the federal authorities back in 2012-13.

      Hell, why should that stop Trudeau’s government from perhaps also cutting that engineering giant a slice of the same funding pie for its carbon reduction efforts?

      There is yet so much more of that too-rich sweet stuff to be yet dished out in the name of “climate action”.

      The $12 million McKenna just served up to so generously benefit poor, needy Loblaw in “leveraging up to $36 million in investments” barely made a dent in that federal slush fund.

      On an order of magnitude, you have to believe that SNC-Lavalin is so much needier these days, given the size, scope, and nature of its infrastructure operations and its plummeting stock value.

      I mean, if the government’s generosity to Loblaw isn’t enough to help change the channel on the LavScam scandal, there’s always one thing dumber Trudeau can do to frustrate that end.

      After all, it has been a whole day since it has done anything new to give Scheer’s Conservatives any new fodder for energizing its target voters over the SNC-Lavalin fiasco.

      That is, up until today’s (April 9) bombshell accusation by Jane Philpott that Trudeau violated her privileges—if not also the law—by his unilateral expulsion of her and Wilson-Raybould from caucus.

      That action clearly disregarded provisions in the 2014 Reform Act, as I have previously noted and as its author, Conservative MP Michael Chong so clearly explained.

      Indeed, it suggests an apparent breach that ex-Federal Liberal Agency of Canada director Elbert (Bert) Paul  has requested Liberal Party of Canada president, Suzanne Cowan, to independently investigate.

      So many angles, so little time.

      The fall election is fast approaching and there must be new ways to keep LavScam in the news with new boneheaded “strategies” aimed at the opposite objective.

      Never mind that SNC-Lavalin hasn’t likely yet asked for, or even imagined, that it might be eligible for untold loonies in more broadly cleaning up its act.

      McKenna to the rescue, Trudeau’s strategic brain trust might now be thinking.

      If that frustrating director of public prosecutions won’t do what Jody Wilson-Raybould refused to do in helping SNC-Lavalin save 9,000 jobs that were never at risk, maybe the least Team Trudeau can do is step up to the plate to help that Canadian “Crown jewel” save the Liberals’ precious planet.

      Just saying.

      It’s a legitimate company with a legitimate need that is doing so much legitimate good work to reduce its carbon emissions.

      The pork in the carbon-reduction pot won’t eat itself.

      Can’t let Philpott, Wilson-Raybould, or Trudeau’s legal counsel do all the heavy lifting in keeping LavScam front and centre.

      Dig in and dole it out, you misguided Liberals.

      Give Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, and Elizabeth May all new cause for celebration at your government’s ethics-addled expense.


      One reader has started a petition to ask Loblaw to return the $12 million to taxpayers. Click here if you are interested in reading it.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at