Mount Polley owner donated half a million dollars to Liberals, gets easy ride from Minister Bennett

Mount Polley owner donated half a million dollars to Liberals, gets easy ride from Bennett

BC Minister of Mines Bill Bennett (CP)
BC Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett (CP)

By Alex Hanson

The Bill Bennett dog and pony show has been wheeled out in the media once again, this time to cover for his long time pal and major campaign contributor Murray Edwards – the biggest shareholder at the now infamous Mount Polley Mine.

Major Liberal donor Murray Edwards
Major Liberal donor Murray Edwards

The recent debacle at Mount Polley has the potential for being the biggest environmental disaster in BC history. It has the president of the mining company, Imperial Metals, running in circles with claims that the sludge from their tailings pond is “very close” to drinking water quality.

It also has Minister of Mines and Energy, Bill Bennett doing damage control on behalf of the BC Liberals for their mismanagement of mining in BC – choosing to let companies police themselves as the BC Liberals rid themselves of government inspectors.

Here’s what Postmedia columnist Stephen Hume had to say about Bennett’s response: “…the usually ebullient and forceful minister sounded uncharacteristically querulous, a hand-wringer rather than a strong leader. The best he could initially summon was the observation that the disaster shouldn’t have happened. Gosh, you don’t say! But it did happen, on his watch, and he is responsible for making sure accidents like this don’t happen.”

The most Bennett could muster was a whopping $1 million fine for this colossal fiasco.

But why would Bennett take a political hit by being so weak on the issue, when Imperial Metals has been so openly reckless in their stewardship of the environment?

Mount Polley owner one of Liberals’ biggest donors

Back in January 2013, two men – Murray Edwards and Rod Love – put on a $125 per plate fundraiser in Calgary for the BC Liberals, prior to last provincial election. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that various companies in which Calgary billionaire and Flames owner Edwards is a major investor gave an additional $482,857 to the BC Liberals over the last several years:

  • Imperial Metals: $178,300
  • Canadian Natural Resources: $153,480
  • Penn West Petroleum: $65,835
  • Mount Polley Mining: $46,720
  • Resorts of the Canadian Rockies: $23,522
  • Ensign Drilling: $15,000 (source: Elections BC)

No wonder the BC Liberals began gutting the Ministry of Mines and paving the way for pipelines as soon they got into power. Less regulation and enforcement means more room for profit.

And with the 18th richest billionaire in Canada as Bennett and Clark’s major campaign contributor, we should expect to see more of the Minister of Energy and Mines sitting pretty in front of the cameras, as he whitewashes the Mount Polley disaster for his buddy Mr. Edwards.

Say cheese Minister Bennett!

Alex Hanson
Fernie BC



31 thoughts on “Mount Polley owner donated half a million dollars to Liberals, gets easy ride from Bennett

  1. It happened because the mine is there. It would not have happened if the mine wasn’t there. It really is that simple. It was caused by human greed and a total disregard for life..

  2. Cris L,before u make a dumb comment u should check your facts.Teck-Cominco had a tailings pond failure in the 90’s.I worked there when it happened,the only saving grace was there was no major water system near!!!!!!!!

    1. No tailing pond failure like this has happened EVER to compare it to the “Teck-Cominco had a tailings pond failure in the 90′s” is an insult to this community, my community I might add, your comparison goes to show how ignorant you are to the severity to what some are already calling the largest environmental disaster in BC EVER. – Albert, bring a knife to a gun fight why don’t ya?! lol

  3. WELL then I can see where the clean up money should come from, A Calgary billionaire and hockey team owner!!!!!!!!!

  4. My oh my, what a tangled web the Liberals weave.

    So, Imperial Mining was forced to set aside $13,000,000.00 for contigency’s such as this. They may also be fined $1,000,000.00. One of the owners contributes another $500,000.00 to the Liberal campaign fund.
    Not bad.
    The cleanup could easily run into the half BILLION dollar range and they are legally on the hook for $14million.
    How much you wanna bet Imperial Mining declares bankruptcy in the next 2 years and leaves us taxpayers stuck with the clean up bill.

    Can you say “Lifes a Bitumen?”
    I knew you could

  5. Your facts are wrong – it wasn’t the sludge that was described as almost drinkable it was the water on top of the tailings pond. ALSO regulation or not we have to remember that with or without, this disaster may not have been preventable in the sense that – A It is the first time a tailing pond has failed in modern mining times in Canada and there is no previous data available for such an event & – B to suggest at this stage that regulations could have prevented this disaster which has yet to be scientifically determined by engineers is incarcerate and misleading. Promote facts not fear. Please don’t over Politicize this issue, articles related to the clean up efforts and progress are needed for the public to grasp what is currently going on, this is a race against time & rain.

    1. Chris, there were 7 years of warnings to the mine indicating the “pond” was at risk of breach. More importantly, at the peak this risk, with the pond over capacity, the company chose to drastically ramp up production – and the government allowed all this to transpire:

      So to say it wasn’t preventable is “misleading” or naive. Build a proper containment facility, maintain it properly, operate it to specification, and you likely won’t have a problem.

      As for “politicizing” the issue, it is inherently political, as the author demonstrates. A key fundraiser for the Liberal Party receives lax regulatory standards and then a paltry fine and kid glove treatment when all too predictable disaster strikes. That’s political. How can someone pointing out these facts be guilty of politicizing the issue?


        Christy Clark says ‘No one knows what happened so it is impossible to assign blame’.

        She seems able to make the absurd sound reasonable to some people.

        The dam failed. Everyone knows what happened. And it is the governing authority’s responsibility , the BC Libs, to ensure there is no risk from their approved projects. Not ‘minimal risk’. NO risk. Or don’t approve the project.

        This tells us the entire story about Clark’s ‘five conditions.’ for Enbridge. If anyone is still not certain, she cannot be trusted.

    2. You Chris L are a blooming idiot. Creeks gouged right out. Hundreds upon hundreds of trees and vegetation destroyed. How many acres of land now rendered useless. Get your head out from between your legs and look at reality.

    3. You can all say what you want and politicize as much as you want but I doubt you were there at ground zero as I was. The (Typo incarcerate was meant to be “inaccurate” in my previous post.

      THIS QUOTE IS INACCURATE – It has the president of the mining company, Imperial Metals, running in circles with claims that the sludge from their tailings pond is “very close” to drinking water quality. – He never said “sludge” he said water there is a big difference if you know anything about mining. That is a fact.
      You sound like either you don’t know what your talking about or made a mistake.
      Please correct or clarify.

      No tailing pond failure like this has happened EVER to compare it to the “Teck-Cominco had a tailings pond failure in the 90′s” is an insult to this community, my community I might add, your comparison goes to show how ignorant you are to the severity to what some are already calling the largest environmental disaster in BC EVER. – Albert, bring a knife to a gun fight why don’t ya?! lol

      The actual facts surrounding the “cause” are still yet to be determined again my point is regulations or not, donations to campaigns or not IT MAY NOT have been able to prevent this from happening.THAT WAS MY POINT – There are over 1000 tailings ponds on various types of projects across Canada it is obvious as to how how often breaches big or small happen “NOT VERY” therefore there is little data available like I previously said. Negligence or freak accident no one knows YET!

      The lively hood and economy of small towns like Likely depend on tourism, forestry and mining to survive, the majority of the locals want this Imperial Mine to continue BUT only if they make the commitment to clean this mess up and adhere to a full disclosure and make the necessary steps to prevent a disaster like from happening again. My family have been in this area for 5 generations, I have been on the ground for the last week , say what you want from the comfort of your arm chair with remote in hand but what are you doing to help this situation? Honestly.
      The community has come together and will work hard to see this disaster clean up through by putting pressure on the powers that be and getting long term commitments from the Ministries for monitoring, this has already been agreed upon. Now it is a time for action to their words!

      I am waiting on an engineers report and a proper scientific assessment before I
      pass judgement one way or the other to who’s at fault, thats just using my common sense. Imperial Metals, the Ministries and the 3rd party engineering company that built the damn – pond in the first place have a lot of questions to be answered, on that I think we can all agree.

      NOTE: One major rainfall in Likely and we could very easily have another major breach, and or more of the tailings trapped in what was Polley Lake will escape into the pristine Quesnel Lake, time is of the essence blame game doesn’t do much for the people who lives are directly effected by this tragedy at this time. The locals I suspect will take matters into their own hands if the Ministries and Imperial Mines don’t get their act together in a timely fashion.

      There will be snow on the ground in Likely in 11 to 12 weeks people, think about that.
      (The Facebook page “Polley Mine Clean Up” has lots of local updates & info on it)

      1. Chris, lets draw a distinction here between structural failures and regulatory failures. I don’t see anyone here expressing certainty about the precise mechanics of the engineering failure at the tailings “pond” (though a former employee has lots of specifics to say about that – more below). But I think we can say with some confidence that there were clear, specific regulatory failings. Pointing these things out is essential to ensuring the political and regulatory issues that contributed to this disaster are sorted out, so as to prevent another such calamity from taking place in the future.

        This exercise does not in any way hamper much-needed cleanup efforts, as you suggest. In some ways, it is in fact essential to cleanup efforts, to whatever extent it helps ensure the company is made to follow through with its responsibilities. I don’t have high hopes for this, as the company has a woefully inadequate $15 million in cleanup insurance, but we must keep the pressure on.

        As to your comments that there was no way of seeing this coming listen to this foreman who quit the company out of concern for this very thing:

        “You just know this is gonna happen, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, God, this could happen. I was hoping they would fix things…well, they didn’t.”

        This 7-year Mount Polley employee in charge of the tailings pond, Gerald McBurney, quit his job in June after failing to pressure management into key structural reforms.

        “I fought those guys for 2 years – the management at Polley – to get rock like they were supposed to and build the dam properly, doing my job. And then they would not do the stuff that you wanted, so I just couldn’t take it anymore…They needed put in 5 million tonnes around the dam because…once they went to a bigger mine life, they added 5 times the amount of water. That dam was never intended to hold that amount of water.”

        McBurney and other former employees say there was an earlier breach of the pond in May, which the company denies.

        But here’s the important thing: Large-scale industrial projects with the potential to wreak havoc on human health and the environment need to be operated to the highest standards, implementing the Precautionary Principle. Dams need to be OVER-engineered to ensure maximum safety. Here, we have the exact opposite: a company that pushed the limits beyond the breaking point. That they were even in the ballpark of the structural limitations of the dam is the problem.

  6. Let’s judge how the ‘world class clean-up’ fairs after the collapse of a ‘world class tailings-pond’ into the ‘world’s cleanest lake’ and use it as the litmus test regarding allowing the construction of any more new tailings ponds.

      1. The last tailings “pond” disaster of this magnitude was in the US (Virginia) at an open pit coal mine with easy access to the river.and 5 years later only 13% of the original river has been cleaned. At a cost of $500,000,000.00 US. Half a BILLION dollars.
        My guess is Imperial Mines will declare bankruptcy and run.

        And the taxpayers will on the hook for the cleanup costs. AGAIN.

        Gee one wonders if the Liberals will try and fast tract the oil pipeline now that there’s some bad press…………

  7. According to CBC yesterday, this company received seven years of warnings…” SEVEN YEARS of “warnings” aren’t warnings, they are “nudge-nudge, wink-winks” from a government bereft of any ideas how 2 build the economy who have bought instead those hawked by resource extractors, hook line and stinker… Feel a blog coming on…

  8. READ THIS EXCERPT and then go to the whole piece, linked below….

    Edwards, who reads four newspapers a day, understands better than most the intersection of business and politics and has been privately instrumental in key political events.

    To highlight a few: When British Columbia’s Liberal Premier, Christy Clark, was in danger of losing last spring’s election, Edwards helped sponsor a fundraiser in Calgary; he advised Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the controversial takeover last year of Nexen Inc. by China’s CNOOC Ltd. and on future foreign investment by state-owned enterprises; he was instrumental in clenching a deal with Jean Chretien in 2003 that limited the oil sands’ financial exposure to the Kyoto Accord on greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, he co-hosted a tour of the oil sands for Warren Buffet, one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s top advisors, who has since invested in oil sands producers Suncor Energy Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp.

    “I wouldn’t say that I am involved in politics, but I truly believe in the importance of good public policy,” Edwards says. “I think businessmen today have an obligation, not to be in the political process, but to be in the public policy process, to help the government understand the challenges and opportunities of their decisions and help develop public policy that achieves the objectives of a society.”

  9. What they are doing and have done tour lakes and rivers and all the life they held, they are also doing to us.

    How much more do we take before we storm the Bastille?

    1. This province needs a recall election but that cannot occur because of election law. But MLA’s can be recalled this fall and that is the next best thing for getting rid of a corrupt, unethical and immoral administration.

      1. Gee, ANOTHER recall election for Christy Clark?

        It would kinda have a poetic justice to it.

        Not a bad idea but the Liberals would replace her with someone else just as vacantly idiotic………….Bill Bennet comes to mind.

      2. Imperative to Recall Mines Min. He’s been so busy running Core Review & Min. of Ag., with his focus on the ALC/ ALR & fast tracking Bill 24, its 30 day Reg. Consult, which includes key phrases throughout, ” without an application” and ” other prescribed considerations”. Campaign contributors’ payback at environmental and residents’ cost and loss. ALC’s budget had been axed early in Liberal takeover, making enforcement effectively impossible, sounds similar for mines inspections. Bennett’s no idiot ……………the definition of Bully. Bill 24 ALC Amendment Act Regulation Consultation closes Aug. 22.

    2. Really really hard to storm anything with a liberal and conservative herd of sheep. These ones follow blindly but really do nothing. The few who see past the century, or so, of accumulated manure spouted by these groups are really in an uphill battle. But i like your idea.

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