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Canadian MP Questions Finance Minister on Private Prison Investments

After Documented uncovered Canada invested public money in the private prison industry, an MP is probing the finance minister for answers

Following a Documented story, a Canadian member of parliament is calling on Finance Minister Bill Morneau to answer for the county’s pension fund’s investments into private prison companies, cigarette companies and weapons manufacturers.

Last Friday, a Documented story, co-published with The Guardian US, revealed that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) grew its investment in an American private prison company 1100 percent during the Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigrants. Overall, the CPPIB has about $5.9 million invested in GEO Group and CoreCivic, the two main private prison companies that contract with the U.S. government to detain immigrants.

On Monday, Charlie Angus, a member of parliament from the New Democratic Party questioned Morneau during the Parliament’s question and answer period.

“Does [Finance Minister Morneau] believe investing in cigarette companies and privatized prisons meet a credible standard of investment for the Canada Pension Plan?” Angus asked.

“The Canada Pension Plan’s investment board is an independent agency from government. This is important in order to protect the pensions,” Morneau replied, adding they expect the CPPIB “to live up to the highest standards of ethics and behavior, and that is in fact exactly what they’re doing.”

Today, Angus sent a letter to Morneau to express concern over the investments. “You pointed out that CPPIB is an independent board, about which you are of course correct,” Angus wrote, adding it was established through an act of Parliament and is accountable to Parliament. “They have their own policy for responsible investment, but it is plainly insufficient.”

On Tuesday, Angus hammered Morneau on the pension fund investments in Parliament again, reiterating they were unethical and saying the finance minister went from “arm’s length to cheerleader,” of the CPPIB, after his response to the MP’s questioning yesterday. Morneau said the CPPIB is an independent entity and operates under tight ethical guidelines. As he spoke, cries of “shame” rang out in the room.

Angus told Documented, “The finance minister has the power to look at enshrining stronger obligations,” adding that “many Canadians were shocked by these revelations and are asking for the minister to take action.”

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