Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Ottawa is awaiting the conclusion of another investigation before deciding on the future of a controversial organization.

Complaints, investigations and resignations: the still uncertain future of a green fund< /p>Open in full screen mode

Ottawa is awaiting the conclusion of another investigation before deciding on the future of a controversial organization.

  • Daniel Leblanc (Consult the profile)Daniel Leblanc

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Undermined by controversy, attacks from the opposition and the departure of its two main leaders, a federal green fund will have to take new steps before it can resume financing projects in the field of clean technologies.

According to the Minister of Innovation François-Philippe Champagne, the suspension imposed on Sustainable Development Technologies Canada (SDTC) continues pending a new investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct.

Getting to the bottom of things means that I have to actually understand [if] the allegations that have been raised are founded, what nature they are, what the scale or seriousness is, he recently said in response to questions from Radio-Canada.

Funded by Ottawa, SDTC is a federal foundation that supports small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the environmental technology sector.

She was the target of a whistleblower denunciation at the start of the year, as well as critical comments on her management of public funds by a senior civil servant.

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Its objective was to allow the implementation of corrective measures following the conclusions of an investigation by Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, who had noted numerous deficiencies in matters of conflicts of interest and project approval at SDTC.< /p>

New criteria for lifting the suspension have just been added, however, while the minister says he is awaiting the report of another investigation, led by McCarthy Tétrault, on complaints related to the treatment of employees.

I am not satisfied with the current situation, so I suspended the funding, explained François-Philippe Champagne. The employees […] will be able to express themselves in a framework with a law office, and on the basis of this report, I will make the best decision.

People who want to participate in this survey have until Friday, December 1 to register with the law firm. The duration and cost of the investigation remain undetermined, but the process will necessarily take several weeks to complete.

The final report will be made public, says the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

In the meantime, Ottawa maintains its suspension of any new funding granted by SDTC, barring circumstances deemed exceptional by an independent committee, says Minister Champagne's office.

According to an agreement in progress, Ottawa plans to grant one billion dollars to SDTC to finance SMEs in the field of clean technologies between 2021 and 2026. The amounts to be spent must increase each year, reaching $320 million in 2025-2026.

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The federal government is spending a billion dollars to finance the development of clean technologies.

The Conservative Party has already announced that it will close the foundation's door to save this money if it takes power after the next election.

We will eliminate the billion dollar green fund, which is full of waste and corruption.

A quote from Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

In addition, the Conservatives denounced the fact that the House of Commons ethics committee will not hear from whistleblowers who have denounced the management of public funds and human resources within SDTC.

One ​​of the members of this group of whistleblowers hopes that the government will wait for the results of an ongoing investigation by the Auditor General before ruling on the future of SDTC . This other investigation will last at least until the end of spring 2024.

For us, SDTC should not obtain the right to move forward until all investigations are completed, said a whistleblower, whose information Radio-Canada agrees to protect. identity.

Whistleblowers remain concerned about the confidentiality of the investigation led by McCarthy Tétrault, but are satisfied that the government intends to publish the results of the investigation, says a member of the group.

A SDTC spokesperson says the organization will have completed the implementation of the administrative measures required by the government by the end of the year. However, the foundation does not control the other ongoing investigation into human resources practices.

We are aware of the significant impact this situation has had on entrepreneurs in the clean technology sector, and SDTC is ready to resume funding as soon as the government gives it the green light, says spokesperson Janemary Banigan.

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Annette Verschuren has resigned from her position as chair of the board of directors of Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

SDTC's senior management is in the midst of a restructuring, following the recent departures of President and CEO Leah Lawrence and Chair of the Board of Directors. administration, Annette Verschuren.

The latter left her position after confirming that she had participated in the decision to grant additional funding, during the COVID-19 pandemic, to all companies that had funding agreements with SDTC. The move resulted in his own company receiving more than $200,000 in funding, a matter that is now under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner.

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Andrée-Lise Méthot during the standing committee industry and technology

Andrée-Lise Méthot, a businesswoman well known in the environmental technology community, believes that it is up to the government to decide the appropriate time to lift the suspension imposed on SDTC.

However, this former SDTC administrator adds that it will absolutely be necessary for the federal government to resume financing new projects in this sensitive area.

Canadian companies receive on average half as much money for clean technologies as their competitors Americans, then they fight for the same markets. […] Fundraising conditions for companies are much more difficult than they used to be. This is when governments matter.

A quote from Andrée-Lise Méthot, founder and managing partner of Cycle Capital

Stewart Elgie, who co-chairs the Environment Institute, at University of Ottawa, hopes that SDTC will succeed in maintaining the support of all parties in the House of Commons, despite their differences on environmental policy.

He believes that this foundation is a global model in the fight against climate change.

It's important to solve whatever problem there is, but it's essential to keep SDTC in place, says this law and economics professor. The environmental technology sector will be at the heart of Canada's success not only economically, but also environmentally, in the years to come.

With the collaboration of Louis Blouin

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