[February 18, 2000]
THE NASCENT CANADIAN DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN AGAINST
Smith College 413-585-3326
Northampton, MA firstname.lastname@example.org
For almost four months now, Canadians committed to ending the destructive consequences of oil development in Sudan have been forced into a “wait and see” mode. Though not optimistic about Mr. Axworthy’s commitment to Sudan, they have been without a way to move directly against Talisman Energy’s ruthless participation in Sudan’s Greater Nile project.
Many have looked longingly at the roaring American divestment campaign, which has produced the sale of 2.5 million shares of TLM—with a number of other divestment sales impending. But now, with Mr. Axworthy’s abysmal moral failure of Monday, they no longer need look southward, and the communications I’m receiving, from many quarters and many contacts, make it clear that divestment will soon be a potent Canadian reality. Since 75% of Talisman shares are in Canada, there are both more and bigger targets of divestment opportunity. And some—like the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan [4.5 million shares] and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement plan [3 million shares]—are ripe for extremely high-profile political activism. Canadian university campuses are also primed for action.
It’s also the case that the coverage of Sudan and Talisman has been much greater in Canada than in the US (which makes all the more impressive the successes of the American divestment campaign). As a result there will be less time between the application of divestment forces and the resulting divestment-driven sales: those owning or controlling TLM shares know full well what Sudan represents, what Talisman’s presence in Sudan represents—and just how angry vast numbers of Canadians are.
Canadians are much more likely than Americans (especially after the divestments of pension-plan giants TIAA-CREF and CalPERS) to have Talisman in their pension plans. That makes virtually every Canadian someone who might vote with his or her (financial) feet: “Divest from Talisman or: I’ll take my money elsewhere OR vote out the board that won’t divest OR sell shares held in my personal retirement account OR look for “Talisman-free mutual funds.” There are lots and lots of ways for Canadians to divest, or put pressures on those holding or controlling Talisman shares.
“High-priced spread” oil analysts in Canada have been scoffing at the American divestment campaign for some time, though rather less noisily recently. I suspect once Canadians get into the full swing of divestment the scoffing will cease altogether.