Inside EDC one of Canada's most secretive agencies

(The Walrus, Toronto, 19 December 2017) Export Development Canada lends foreign buyers billions of taxpayer dollars. Critics say it's knowingly banking some of the world's worst regimes.  EDC has perfected the art of lending billions of taxpayer dollars to scandal-ridden foreign buyers. In May 2017, a trove of hundreds of thousands of emails was leaked to the press from an organization belonging to the Gupta family of South Africa. In a lengthy email thread strung out over the course of 2014, it was revealed that Bombardier had negotiated a C$52 million sale of a luxury jet to a Gupta subsidiary, with US$41 million of the jet’s financing provided directly to the Guptas by Export Development Canada, a Canadian Crown corporation. The Guptas are not EDC’s only controversial clients. The agency’s client list is studded with some of the most ­scandal-ridden multinationals on the planet including Kinross Gold whose West ­African mining operations were, as of 2016, under investigation by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for bribery and corruption. [ECA-Watch member Above Ground has questioned EDC financing for controversial projects such as Omai Gold Mines in Guyana and Petrobas in Brazil, with EDC refusing to comment on the possible illegal or inappropriate use of Canadian tax dollars. Above Ground's 11 December 2017 report on Kinross Gold shows that, among other harms, Kinross’ dramatic expansion of the mine displaced the residents of traditional communities formed over a century ago by former African slaves who have land rights under Brazilian law. The legal process to formalize their collective title was well underway when Kinross announced its expansion plan and Export Development Canada provided financing, forcing them off their land. The report also raises concern about environmental oversight of the mine, which is located within 500 metres of neighbourhoods where hundreds of families live, as well as safety measures to keep people from entering the mine site.]  EDC activities are protected by disclosure protocols that are entirely opaque, with the result that few in ­Canada - including the Minister presiding over it - seem to know the full details about what the agency does, who it finances, and why. With EDC’s mandate up for review in 2018, it seems like a good time to examine the considerable reputational risks the agency often takes. [As well as its compliance with its own international, WTO and OECD agreed due diligence requirements on human rights, environmental standards and corruption.] On December 21, 2017, 2 days after this article was published online, EDC announced that it was suddenly terminating its $41 million loan to the Guptas for the purchase of a luxury Bombardier jet.