Is this the kind of corporate neighbor we want to have?
Would you attend a discount jewelry party in your neighborhood? Everything at 25% original value or less?
There are such parties and I would advise you to stay as far away as possible - you don't have to be a brain surgeon to understand why. Your hosts will no doubt tell you that it's all "legit" but you know that everything is sure to be hot as hell and that sometimes these parties are set ups and many good citizens of the neighborhood wind up being charged with receiving stolen property. That would be the practical reason you would stay away.
Might you also stay away because you don't want to reward criminals? You might muse "I wonder what supports the famous Thieves Market in Mexico City?" Or I wonder if that expensive broach that Aunt Tilly had pinched might just show up at one of these parties? You might also ponder to whether you become an integral, albeit small, part of a worldwide criminal activity just by going to one small party and buying one watch?
Now, what do you now think about your neighbors holding this party, being such nice, pleasant folks while subjecting their neighbors to risk of jail and presumably making a little something for their trouble??
When anyone comes into our communities to do business we expect them to be honest. Now, we know that is not always going to be the case. There is no way we can check their honesty up front but we use our instincts, our eyes and our ears, and if the store gains a bad reputation we take our trade elsewhere. Moreover we go to the local police and the Better Business Bureau, not just for our own benefit but our neighbors as well. While we know we can't stamp out corporate crime we do know that we don't condone it.
In short there's a moral issue involved. But there's also a very practical one for while you may not know what's the precise consequence of a bad company in your community, you do know that it will cost you money even though you can't actually see it happen.
One more thing before we get down to cases. You also expect vigilance from the authorities.
Let's say that your City Council licenced a company that did unlawful things, cheated on taxes, and made environmental messes but you're satisfied they did their best to check them out. Fair enough. But what if you find that they did no "due diligence" and perhaps even took campaign money for their Council seats and Mayor's chair from this company? Or maybe the company put on a big fundraiser for the mayor at a swank golf club?
Wanting badly to come to our community is a company called Woodfibre LNG, which is owned and controlled by an Indonesian billionaire named SukantoTanoto. Not to put too fine a point on it, this man is a crock and lest you worry that I libel the man, that's one of the kinder things he's been called in print around the world.
Tanoto is a big-time tax cheat having been fined $200 million for tax evasion. Considering that if he did that in Indonesia there's every likelihood he would do it in British Columbia if he could get away with it. Research shows that not only has the provincial government taken no particular steps to protect the treasury from Mr. Tanoto cheating but that with the corporate structure he has, it would be mere child's play.
I don't say he will steal; I only say that he has stolen, big league, and we've invited him into our community having taken no special steps to ensure that he doesn't whiz his profits into tax free Singapore.
Mr. Tanoto overall has also a reputation as a serial environment destroyer. Burning down jungles is one of his specialties and he has shown no inclination whatsoever to care what he does to land or the people living thereon or how he leaves it at once he's taking his profits.
Are you satisfied that our environmental safeguards covering this magnificent fjord where we live are sufficient to guarantee that this kind of person is going to obey even the letter of the law - much less go out of his way to protect our environment?
Degrading of the environment is the industrialists cash cow and even the best regarded of them will cut corners wherever they can. It's money in the bank. I could go on but I invite you to do your own due diligence - you'll not find it difficult I assure you.
We already have strong signals from Mr. Tanoto that he doesn't give a fiddler's fart for the environment in our great inlet. Woodfibre LNG proposes using huge LNG tankers to transport their product from Squamish to market even though, by international standards and even the standards set by the industry itself, Howe Sound is far too narrow for this traffic and almost every part is exposed to danger ranging from relatively minor to catastrophic.
Woodfibre LNG's spokesperson, Vice-President Byng Giraud, who learned the dissembling trade while an executive with Mount Polley, is somewhat disingenuous on the safety issue of LNG tankers saying it's 100% safe, that there's not been an accident for 75 years!
But that statement is a tad tricky. You see he's just talking about accidents "on the high seas", not coasts, inlets, harbors, rivers and fjords! This is how industries like Woodfibre LNG "tell the truth".
I subscribe to highly regarded gCaptain, which reported something in the order of 30 or 40 major accidents last year involving large freighters in inlets, harbours, rivers and fjords just like Howe Sound. Some were grounded or even capsized by high winds, hit other ships, smacked the shore, ran into the tugs guiding them or just ran aground. Listening to Woodfibre's Giraud and reading gCaptain reminds me of the man caught by his wife in bed with another woman, and the man says "do you believe me, or your eyes?"
Here is the meat of the matter. Not only has premier Christy Clark and her poodle, Rich Coleman, accepted Woodfibre LNG without any questions about their fiscal or environmental integrity, they've chased them all over the world getting them to come into our community! This is the "due diligence" done by our business oriented government!
We've all been lied to by a disreputable international corporation; we have been lied to by our government. A hell of a lot of Howe Sounders and British Columbians, but not enough, know what's happening and are fighting back.
Woodfibre LNG, their duplicitous shills, Resource Works (with their formal partners, The Vancouver Province), and Christy Clark are relying on those who "don't want to get involved" who are cheerfully trotting off to the neighborhood jewellry party. My question to them - Is it worse to be a crook or a fool?
WC Fields was right when he said "you can't cheat an honest man".
Rafe Mair is a former lawyer, cabinet minister, political junkie and scratch golfer who went into honest work and became a broadcaster and writer on public affairs.