Diamonds and best friends?

Last week, Public Eye exclusively reported on Montana public service commissioner Ken Toole's concerns about "undue" corporate influence at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region - a public-private partnership that encourages cooperation between provincial and state politicians. And it's easy to find the cause of Mr. Toole's concern. In fiscal 2006/07 corporate largess is only expected to make up 15.8 percent of the economic region's $1.2 million in revenue. But companies that contribute at the diamond ($50,000) or platinum ($35,000) get some extra perks.

According to the organization's Website, platinum sponsors are promised a "leadership role in the programmatic partnership of your choice" as well as an "invitation to participate" in capital city meetings with the economic region's political leaders.

Meanwhile, diamond donors - a newly introduced sponsorship level - will receive invitations to participate "in select events during the PNWER officer trips to Washington DC and Ottawa." And, at the organization's annual summit, there will be an "opportunity" for sponsor chief executive officers "to address conference participants."

Addressing concerns about those perks, the economic region's policy and communications director Neil Parekh said in a written statement, "There is no exclusivity involved" in the sponsorship program.

"Although we have private sector sponsors who are involved in helping to identify issues relevant to the region, it is important to note that representatives of other private sector organizations (non-sponsors, often in the same sector as sponsors) are equally involved in this process."

Moreover, Mr. Parekh says, "All of the sessions held at the Summit are on-the-record and media have full access to the delegates and speakers." The following is a complete copy of the economic region's 2007 sponsors.


Consulate General of Canada


Princess Cruises


Alaska Railroad Corporation
ATCO Power
Holland America Line
Royal Celebrity Tours


Alyeska Pipeline Service Company
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation
Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia
British Columbia Transmission Corporation
Canadian Centre for Energy Information
Horizon Air
Idaho National Laboratory
Merck Frosst
Phillips Cruises and Tours
Puget Sound Energy
Spectra Energy
Vancouver Port Authority


Alaska Airlines
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation
Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta
Association of Washington Business
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Flint Hills Resources
Northwest Cruise Ship Association
Premera Blue Cross
Providence Hospital
Tesoro Companies, Inc.
Totem Ocean Trailer Express, Inc.
Tourism BC
Tourism Vancouver
University of Lethbridge
Vancouver Coastal Health


What a non-story. I don't know if the ironically named "Mr. Toole" was actually at the Anchorage event last week but to argue that corporations were over-represented takes an extreme stretch of the imagination. All four of the working groups I attended (Energy, Tourism, Workforce Development and Health Care) were dominated by public sector presenters and discussion topics. Every major hospitality suite and dinner was hosted on by a government body, and the vast majority of the attendees I spoke to were either legislators or government agency employees.

As for the financial contribution of corporate members, if the states and provinces were kicking in a little more for the enormous value (and direct financial benefit) they get from this organization perhaps they wouldn't be having to bend over backwards to get some private money to keep this dream alive.

The financing of this is very important to know, Andrew. It not only keeps the "dream" alive, it tells us whose dream it is.

Thanks for stating the obvious. From PNWER's website (, the mission statement is:

- To increase the economic well-being and quality of life for all citizens of the region.
- To coordinate provincial and state policies throughout the region; to identify and promote "models of success;" and to serve as a conduit to exchange information.

If our governments are happy to benefit from the tremendous achievements of PNWER, but not to pay for it, then we should be asking our questions of them, not demonstrating a lack of gratitude to the corporations who are generously willing to fill in when governments fail to fund properly.

Golly, I just LOVE generous corporations who are so altruistic. I'll remember them in my prayers.

"Golly, I just LOVE generous corporations who are so altruistic. I'll remember them in my prayers."

You may have heard how forestry tycoon Ike Barber has contributed several million dollars to the reconstruction and expansion of the UBC Main Library, to now be called the Barber Learning Centre (or something like that). A less reported story is that Barber asked UBC to remove some of the trees on the East Mall so that people would have a better view of the new building. The trees on that Mall were planted by previous graduation classes, mostly in the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties, by those who went on to face the challenges of the Depression and the Second War.

A few years ago when I was walking on the northern stretches of the Main Mall, I noticed what appeared to be some kind of monument or memorial, a low concrete structure with paths running through it and name plaques attached. At first I guessed that these must be the names of UBC staff and students who had died during the World Wars and in Korea. But no, they were the names of large donors to UBC! I may be wrong, but I think this particular small edifice was the work of Martha Piper's team.

Budd, I assume you mean that the exception proves the rule. You look at the list of corporate sponsors here and tell me which ones aren't there to secure their own self-interests.

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