By Probe International

This is a race to the bottom! Export Development Corporation ‘will do anything’

Patricia Adams
Probe International
March 21, 2000

For 50 years the federal Crown export credit agency, the Export Development Corporation, has financed and insured the world’s most environmentally damaging and economically reckless projects, from the Three Gorges dam on China’s Yangtze River to the gold mines in South America and the former Soviet Union that spill cyanide into major waterways. With your help, we at Probe International have researched, documented, and analyzed the truth about what EDC does, where, and how.

    Now, after years of frustrating but persistent hard work, EDC is under fire as never before. 

  • The Ottawa Citizen has launched a series of articles attacking EDC for secretly financing and insuring billions of dollars worth of economically dubious and environmentally destructive projects and for extending billions of dollars in “mystery loans”;
  • Internal documents, released to the press, show that EDC inappropriately influenced its “independent” review commissioned for Parliament to ensure that it wouldn’t have to follow strict environmental or human rights guidelines;
  • The official opposition has accused EDC of operating in a “cloud of secrecy” and accused the government of “gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars” under EDC’s watch when it extends “sweetheart deals” for politically important constituencies;
  • Queen’s University School of Business Emeritus Professor Kristian Palda has called for a royal commission to investigate EDC’s endemic secrecy.

Rather than coming clean with the public, EDC’s spin doctors are on the defensive, putting out carefully crafted press statements that distort reality, perpetrate half-truths, and mislead the public.

The minister responsible for EDC, Pierre Pettigrew, claims that EDC doesn’t cost taxpayers money. Yet over the past ten years, the government has provided some $750 million to write off EDC’s bad loans to dictatorial regimes, such as Zaire, Benin, and Cameroon, to prevent these sour loans from showing up as losses on EDC’s books.

EDC argues that it is accountable to Parliament through Mr. Pettigrew. Yet he refuses to answer simple questions about EDC’s finances, the government refuses to release a list of Canadian companies on EDC’s dole, and EDC is not subject to the Access to Information Act, leading the Vancouver Sun and the Toronto Star to call the situation “a mockery of political accountability.”

EDC was the first foreign financier to support the Three Gorges dam and did so even though the World Bank and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation refused to, on the grounds that the dam is not environmentally or economically viable. Now EDC is lamely defending its position, hiding behind, for example, a discredited Chinese environmental assessment that didn’t even meet Chinese standards.

And this news, just in from China: Because others are making investments in cleaner and cheaper forms of energy, Three Gorges may not have customers for its power, which will cost two to three times more than the competition. As a result, the Three Gorges dam will saddle Canadian and Chinese taxpayers with the biggest boondoggle the world’s energy industry has ever seen.

EDC’s claims to being a self-sustaining enterprise that operates on commercial principles are a hoax.

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