Hydro-Quebec’s environmental impact report on the proposed Great Whale River Project was created largely by companies headed by Liberal Party donors, The Nation has learned.
Of the 34 companies that conducted studies for the report, 15 are run by Liberal donors, or nearly one-half. In total, these donors gave $88,695 to the Quebec Liberals during the five-year period in which the studies were performed—1989-93.
The total risesbto $125,400 if you include donations by other people living at the same address as these presidents.
For comparison, the same companies’ presidents gave only $16,945 to the PQ in the last five years.
“That’s not surprising,” said Whapmagoostui Chief Matthew Mukash upon hearing of the Liberal donations. “It’s sure these people were selected very carefully. There is a strong movement within the government to make sure the final word will be ‘yes’ to the construction of Great Whale.”
Chief Mukash said the Liberal donations raise questions about the objectivity of Hydro’s report. “Native people have to raise a lot of questions about the study and its validity,”he said.
“In my opinion, science doesn’t have the answers to all these questions.”
Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman Marie-Pierre Bonassieux denied that politics had any influence on who was chosen to do the studies for Hydro. “We choose based simply on competence,” she said. “There is no connection with the fact that the presidents of some of the companies might have some political links.”
The report is a summary of 230 studies conducted for Hydro by Quebec-based companies and individuals. About a fifth of these were done by two subsidiaries of one company called the Cartier Group. The Cartier Group’s chief executive officer, Serge Piotte, gave the Liberals $7,500 over the last five years. The chair of the Cartier Group is Paul Beauchemin, who gave the Liberals $13,420 in the last five years.
Beauchemin is also president of another company, Beauchemin Beaton Lapointe, a subsidiary of the Cartier Group. This subsidiary performed 11 of the 230 studies that make up Hydro’s impact report. Another Cartier Group subsidiary, SOMER Ltd., took part in 37 of the impact studies.
In total, the impact studies cost Hydro $400 million. Hydro gave the lucrative contracts for the impact studies only to companies it had already worked with before, instead of going to public tender. Susan Hilton, scientific coordinator of the Great Whale Environmental Assessment Office, said this allowed Hydro to choose only those companies that could be expected to give the Great Whale Project a positive report.
The report must satisfy guidelines set by five federal and provincial committees in 1992. The report, which was made public in August 1993, is Hydro’s 5,000-page summary of all 230 studies looking at the impact of Great Whale. Altogether, the studies are over 50,000 pages long. After public hearings this summer, the committees will decide whether the report meets their guidelines on Sept. 15.
Under Quebec law, only individuals—not corporations or unions—can donate to political parties. The maximum annual donation is $3,000. The Director-General of Elections publishes donor lists for all parties each year.