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Post under ‘Senator’ tag

French connection in AECL sale sparks conflict concerns

28 June 2021 at 10h21
June 25, 2021

Joan Bryden


OTTAWA—French nuclear giant Areva may have been given the inside track to snap up Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s reactor business, critics say.

Some industry watchers and politicians are raising concerns about potential conflict of interest after learning that N.M. Rothschild and Sons — the investment bank hired by Ottawa to develop the restructuring plan for AECL — has also acted as financial adviser to Areva on numerous acquisitions and takeovers in the past.

The bidding process for AECL’s commercial reactor business is a closely guarded secret. But there are only a handful of major nuclear players in a position to bid and industry insiders say the Paris-based, state-owned Areva is likely one of them.

Finalists could be announced as early as this month.

“I’m calling that an incestuous relationship,” said Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, who uncovered the link during examination of the Harper government’s massive budget bill.

“The investment banker that is analysing (the bids) on behalf of our government has a very close relationship with a company that I suspect has made a proposal.”

The omnibus budget bill has been approved by the House of Commons and is currently being studied by a Senate committee. It contains a host of non-budgetary provisions, including provisions for the potential privatization of AECL.

Hervieux-Payette’s suspicions were further fuelled when she discovered that Areva, which for years employed a small army of outside consultants to lobby the federal government, abruptly stopped all lobbying activity three months after the government hired Rothschild in May 2009.

According to the federal lobbyist registry, no one has lobbied on Areva’s behalf since last August.

“By some coincidence, they have been using (lobbyists) for many years … and all of a sudden, no more, they don’t need anybody,” Hervieux-Payette said in an interview.

“Well, if they have somebody inside, they really don’t need a lobbyist.”

Rothschild did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Roger Alexander, president and CEO of Areva Canada Inc., confirmed his company “has been engaged with the Rothschild process with the federal government” related to restructuring proposals for AECL.

He would not confirm or deny that Areva has made an offer for AECL, citing confidentiality of the bidding process.

Other than that, he said: “I’m not aware of any prior relationships that Areva and Rothschild may have had in the past.”

However, records show Rothschild was listed as financial adviser to Areva on numerous deals around the globe, including the $2.5-billion takeover of UraMin, an international uranium mining company with operations in Canada, in 2007.

Also that year, Rothschild advised Areva on a strategic alliance with Summit Resources Ltd. and the acquisition of Northern Uranium Ltd.

Alexander acknowledged Areva’s parent company may have worked closely with Rothschild — hardly surprising given that both are based in Paris. He likened it to a Canadian company seeking financial advice from the Royal Bank.

But he doubted any of the deals involved operations in Canada.

In any event, Alexander said, Rothschild is running an “independent, verifiable” process for evaluating AECL proposals and doubted any concerns about apparent conflict of interest with regards to Areva would arise.

“I can’t imagine that there’s any issue with any of that.”

Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis’ office referred questions about Rothschild’s relationship with Areva to a departmental spokesman who, in turn, referred the matter to the Public Works Department, which awards government contracts.

Public Works spokeswoman Marjolaine Rocheleau said in an email that Rothschild was chosen through a competitive process from a list of 25 candidates to advise the government on AECL’s restructuring.

As part of the terms of its contract, she said Rothschild “must not have a conflict of interest in connection with the performance of its obligations and is required to declare any such conflict should it arise at any time.”

As for the sudden absence of lobbyists employed by Areva, Alexander said that’s “not related to the AECL activity or Rothschild’s activity.”

“Just for internal Areva strategic and financial reasons, we decided to not continue with those lobbying relationships,” he said.

Still, some industry players are concerned that Areva’s past relationships with Rothschild may give the company a leg up when it comes to AECL.

If Rothschild ends up recommending the sale of AECL to Areva, David Shier, president of the Canadian Nuclear Workers Council, said: “I definitely think it would be more than us saying, hey, there’s a conflict there.”

Indeed, sale of AECL’s reactor business to Areva is among the worst-case scenarios envisaged by some of those involved in the Canadian nuclear industry. They fear Areva, which manufactures a reactor that is incompatible with AECL’s unique Candu technology, would move the cream of Canadian nuclear engineers to France while shutting down the entire Candu operation in Canada.

“Of all the competitors out there, Areva is the one I’d be most concerned about grabbing the talent pool and basically shutting down the business,” said Chris Hughes, president and owner of Laker Energy Products Ltd., which manufactures Candu components.

“If Rothschild is working tightly with them, the more I think about it, the more concerned I get.”

Shier echoed the concern: “We’re quite clear on the fact that if it was bought by Areva, then that would be the end of our industry. … There’d be lots of jobs in France but there wouldn’t be that many left in Canada.”

However, David Novog, associate professor of nuclear engineering at McMaster University, said Areva shouldn’t be viewed as “the bogeyman.”

Whether AECL ends up in Canadian or foreign hands or in some sort of public-private partnership doesn’t matter, he said, provided the restructuring ensures the continued survival of the domestic nuclear industry with its many ties to the high tech, nuclear medicine and university sectors — the combination of which has made Canada a world leader in nuclear science.

Done properly, Novog said: “I think (AECL) can come out of this much stronger than they were before.”

Nevertheless, Novog said he’s concerned the entire process has been carried out secretly thus far so there’s no way of knowing if such matters are being taken into consideration.

“So far, there’s been no information available on how that process will work or how we ensure that we’re getting the appropriate debate or public input with respect to those indirect but very important parts of the industry.”

The Conservatives must be “released immediately” from Government

5 May 2021 at 14h50


SENATE QUESTION PERIOD -  Quality of translation

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Along the same lines, but regarding matters not nearly as serious as the publication of official reports, on April 22, 2010, you said you would make inquiries regarding the translation errors that abounded in an invitation from your colleague, Gary Lunn, that was sent to all parliamentarians, the French version of which was positively appalling.

Today’s Le Devoir published — on the front page no less — this invitation addressed to all parliamentarians, including everyone here today, in a French that was so terrible that the journalist summed it up as follows:

How could anyone possibly understand the French version of the invitation?

The title of the invitation read as follows:

“Pour la Libération Immédiate” . . . [for immediate liberation]

I do not know if that means the liberation of the government, but really!

. . . the press release proclaims, instead of the usual “Pour diffusion immediate.” [for immediate release]

It really takes some imagination to understand. Perhaps if you understand it, you could explain it to me.

The text reads as follows:

Le Ministre de Défense Peter MacKay, le Ministre de Sécurité Publique Vic Toews et M.P.s de tous les partis politiques tiendra un événement sur la Colline de Parlement dans le soutien de troupes canadiennes servant en Afghanistan.

An MP or “Member of Parliament” should be rendered as “un député” in French. The text continues:

L’événement doit lever de l’argent pour acheter des cartes de cadeau pour le retour à la maison de membres CAF de l’Afghanistan. Pour l’instant, $45,000 a été levé. Le sénateur Pamela Wallin exercera les fonctions du maître du soir de cérémonies.

Based on the distribution list, the message was sent to at least 1,100 people. Messages that contain a typographical error are sometimes recalled by the sender, usually minutes after the message is sent. Five hours after the message was received, the invitation had not yet been recalled.

It was sent at noon yesterday. Today, it was on the front page of Le Devoir, and so far, no changes have been made. The journalist concluded that Vic Toews must be blushing from embarrassment or perhaps he was not informed by his assistants that a French message, obviously translated using software, was unintelligible.

Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate know when her government will truly value the francophones of this country and send invitations in correct French?


Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I saw the report in Le Devoir by Hélène Buzzetti with regard to this particular invitation.

When I first heard about this event, I thought, what a wonderful idea, what a terrific cause and what a great location. I then read the comments of Hélène Buzzetti.

I think it is a stretch for Senator Hervieux-Payette to try to impugn motives of the government; that somehow the government is being disrespectful to one of our official languages.

When Senator De Bané raised the issue of the invitation sent from the office of Minister Lunn, he was apologetic and embarrassed by the incident and indicated he had taken steps to ensure that when invitations are sent from his office, careful measures will be taken to ensure they are properly communicated.

In this particular case, I cannot answer for the people responsible for sending invitations like this out, but I believe, honourable senators, that no one, whether anglophone or francophone, whether bilingual or not, would see any ulterior motives in mistakes made by various officials, whether the mistakes are made in English or in French. It is regrettable, but it is hardly an indication that the government is somehow, as the honourable senator seems to indicate, not being respectful of Canada’s official languages, in particular the French language, when we have a Prime Minister who always goes out of his way to demonstrate the importance of both official languages in this country, French and English.


Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, first of all, I would like the minister to confirm that this message will be corrected and sent to francophone guests in a language they can understand. Second, would she please indicate what measures have been taken by her government to ensure that representatives of all departments have sufficient knowledge of French to draft messages? And given that we still have the impression that these messages go through the Prime Minister’s office, who in that office is responsible for verifying language quality? Who allowed such an unintelligible message to be sent?


Senator LeBreton: We do not have language police in some jurisdictions in this country.

Senator Mercer: No, they police everything else.

Senator Ringuette: Is there a mandatory sentence in here?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, this invitation was sent out by a minister, as was the case with Minister Lunn. To suggest that, for some reason, this was indicative of a lack of respect is troubling. It is beneath any of us to impugn motives that are not intended.

Honourable senators, obviously, a staffer in this particular minister’s office sent this invitation, but I do not know the exact process that they followed. As with all areas of government, with respect to anything sent out from the government or from ministers’ offices, we urge senders to be careful to use the proper language, whether it is French or English. As I mentioned to the Honourable Senator De Bané, I see errors in English on almost a daily basis.

Having said that, in this case, let us take the matter for what it is. It was a well-intended invitation that, in the view of some, was not properly communicated. I take that criticism as genuine, and, as I did with Minister Lunn, I will refer the matter to Minister Toews and ask him to ensure that these things do not happen again.

With regard to the Prime Minister’s Office, we were accused enough and unfairly so. Honourable senators can imagine what the media and the opposition would say if we went around checking everyone’s invitations. There would be no end to criticism over that.

Canadian Mortgage Crisis?

21 April 2021 at 09h59

Yesterday, I questioned the Leader of the Government in the Senate about the looming mortgage crisis in Canada. Please find attached the transcript of my questions and her answers.


Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Canadians’ ratio of debt to net income now sits at approximately 146 per cent. This figure clearly indicates that we are headed towards a financial crisis that could equal the 2008 crisis in the U.S.

New mortgage rules announced by the Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, went into effect yesterday in order to reduce the number of Canadians tempted by low interest rates and rising housing prices and who commit to a mortgage that they may no longer have the means to pay should interest rates increase.

The Conservative government has attempted on a number of occasions to persuade the Canadian public, wrongly, that the housing bubble was not about to burst and has made no tangible efforts to prevent Canadians from going into debt in such a volatile area. What additional measures has this government taken to force financial institutions to exercise more caution when providing mortgages guaranteed by the government?



Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): The honourable senator underscored in her question the problem that the government acknowledged. Changes were made to avoid a situation like that which occurred in the United States with regard to the mortgage market and problems created by people taking on mortgages they could not afford, thereby starting the whole financial meltdown.

The government has taken a number of measures to help consumers, as the honourable senator knows. These include protecting consumers in regard to debit and credit cards.

There are many suggestions as to how government can encourage banks and consumers to be more fiscally responsible. However, we live in a free economy, honourable senators. The government has taken measures in the banking and mortgage industries over the last two years, culminating in the changes that came into effect yesterday.

Based on reports I have seen, experts do not believe Canada is yet in a position — and hopefully never will be, as was the case in the United States — where people are so overextended that they cannot afford to pay their bills to keep themselves in the homes they have purchased.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I wish to salute our colleague, Senator Pierrette Ringuette, for the work she has done on credit cards. I am happy the minister recognized this work and made some changes. It is a good step in the right direction.

However, in his 51-page report, Alexandre Pestov, of the Schulich School of Business, said:

According to the CMHC financial statements, the corporation has only $8 billion equity backing $200 billion in assets. Once defaults rise, the Canadian government will have no choice, but to bail out CMHC. The scale of bailout will likely dwarf all other financial emergency responses done by the Canadian government in the history of Canada. Higher national debt, increased taxes and reduced social services will be the direct result of the Harper government’s intervention to maintain an illusion of the Canadian housing market health.

What steps will this government take to prevent CMHC from the need to be bailed out with the hard-earned money of Canadian taxpayers once mortgage rates start to increase and Canadians default on their mortgage payments?

Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is reading the opinion of one person that is not shared by others. She is running around like Henny Penny crying that the sky is falling. Other experts believe that, although there is concern, Canada is in no way in the same position as was the United States. The Department of Finance Canada and the minister will closely monitor the situation.

To go as far as to say it will be necessary to bail out CMHC is the opinion of one particular individual quoted by the honourable senator. I will refer the statement to the Ministry of Finance and ask if they wish to comment on it. I will be happy to table their reply as a delayed answer.


Animal rights groups are the real slaughterers

5 March 2021 at 15h44


Response to the article by Bob Hepburn in “The Star”

Understanding why the market for seal related products has imploded is very simple. Groups such as PETA, HSUS, IFAW or Sea Shepherd claim to be defending animal rights and use seals to generate insane amounts of donations. This money serves to destabilize the sealing industry. By obtaining the closure of the European market, they themselves are causing the problem.

Mr. Hepburn believes that rural Canadians live the Toronto lifestyle; they wake up, get some coffee at Starbucks, work in a skyscraper, come home and put a frozen meal in the microwave for dinner. But they can’t just put on a suit and a tie and become a banker, they do a job that has been perfected over hundreds of years and no one can deny them the right to earn a living through the sustainable harvesting of animal resources like seals.

The role of the senate is to protect the interests of minorities and regions. Mr. Hepburn’s argument that seal hunting represents only 0.05% of Newfoundland’s economy is irrelevant. 15 000 people earn a living from seal hunting and this activity represents up to 35% of their family income.

Animal rights groups are the real slaughterers, they single handedly sabotaged an entire industry.

In 2009, I presided a group of scientists to draft a Universal Declaration on the Ethical Harvest of Seals. Supported by the Governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Québec it balances animal welfare while protecting the wellbeing of communities.

 Why would we be embarrassed by hard working Canadians who follow the law and take extraordinary measures to follow stringent standards set by veterinarians who actively promote animal welfare?

Next week when my colleagues and I will eat seal meat in the parliamentary restaurant we will not be doing this as a “gimmick” like Mr. Hepburn says; but as a testament to the solidarity of parliamentarians who support Canadians who fully contribute to the prosperity and diversity of this country.



Dear Editor,

Following the arguments of Bob Hepburn against the seal hunt (Opinion, 03/04), one would figure that he should be supporting efforts to promote seal products.  If seal hunting “makes little economic sense”, then why should we shun Senator Payette’s attempt to remedy the matter?

Many activists against sealing have an odd way of creating the problems they in turn complain about.  It is absolutely despicable the way these anti-animal-use groups are telling sealers and their families that their livelihoods just aren’t worth “enough” to allow them to continue - this after a forty year history of unfounded public degradation at the hands of the same groups.

I wonder how many other industries make up “only” 0.05 percent of their provincial economies, or amount to less than $15 million dollars in yearly revenue.  Canada’s bison meat exports last year were about $11 million - should we scrap that industry?  

Sure, their meat is tasty, but it doesn’t stand up to some of the seal I’ve eaten.


David Barry
Seals and Sealing Network

Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette seeks $ 15.4 million per year in funding to ensure a minimum income for sealers

10 December 2021 at 10h49

North Canada Village

OTTAWA, December 10th, 2009 - “We must not add contempt to cynicism,” said Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette to summarize her demand to the Conservative government to intervene on behalf of sealers, who face a cynical and unfair European boycott of seal products.

In a study published in April 2009, Professor of Economics John Livernois estimated the revenues of sealers to be 15.4 million for 2005 hunting season. 2005 was a good year but was not exceptional and was the last year before vegetarian groups led their final offensive in Europe. “I believe that as long as we have to fight against this unjust boycott, the income sealers received in 2005 from the hunt should be insured by the Government of Canada,” said Senator Hervieux-Payette who thinks that aid in developing new markets for seal products would decrease funding.

The Senator is also concerned about the Inuit, “the price of sealskins in Nunavut has dropped dramatically in the last year from $ 70 to $ 25 which proves that the exemption of Inuit consumption products from the European boycott
is an additional aberration.”


Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette urges all governments to promote and study the application of the Universal Declaration on the Ethical Harvest of Seals (www.sealsonline.com) written by a panel of experts and scientists from Canada and the United States. To this day, the government of Québec, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the international organization for animal conservation IWMC World Conservation Trust based in Switzerland have officially supported the Declaration.


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