Whistleblower Alleges ‘Corruption’ in Federal Green Fund’s Disbursement of $150M

He accused the leadership of ‘gross mismanagement’ for how it handled taxpayer dollars, and of ‘gross misconduct’ for how they treated employees.
Whistleblower Alleges ‘Corruption’ in Federal Green Fund’s Disbursement of $150M
Parliament Hill is seen in Ottawa, Ont., in a file photo. (Simon Hayter/Getty Images)
Noé Chartier

A whistleblower who sounded the alarm about mismanagement and conflict of interest at a federal green fund says nearly $150 million in taxpayer dollars were improperly given to private companies, some with direct links to the fund’s top leadership.

The whistleblower, a former employee of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), testified before the House of Commons industry committee on Dec. 11.

He accused the SDTC leadership of “gross mismanagement” for how they handled taxpayer dollars as well as “gross misconduct” for how “countless employees” were treated.

SDTC is a federal arm’s-length not-for-profit foundation that provides funding for green technology projects, falling under Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). It approved $196.4 million in project funding in 2022–23, according to its annual report for that fiscal year.

The whistleblower said a 345-page complaint against SDTC initially filed with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada was subsequently submitted to the Privy Council Office (PCO). PCO is involved because the government appoints seven directors, including the chair, out of SDTC’s 15 board members.

“It highlighted non-compliance with the SDTC Act and contribution agreement across all of the organization’s funding streams, and serious breaches of the conflict of interest policies by the executives and board,” said the whistleblower, whose name was withheld.

The information was then passed to ISED, which commissioned a fact-finding exercise by third-party firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton (RCGT). The findings of the report were made public in October. The report’s release was followed by an announcement by Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, the minister responsible for ISED, that the funding of new projects by SDTC was being temporarily suspended.

RCGT said that conflict-of-interest rules were not being “consistently applied.”

The whistleblower said ISED had the RCGT findings back in May but only raised the issue publicly on Oct. 3.

He blamed the federal government for how it handled SDTC and the allegations, calling it an “embarrassing lack of oversight” and an “egregious coverup of the truth.”

“This is a staggering level of incompetence, willful ignorance, and corruption that has resulted in SDTC improperly distributing almost $150 million in taxpayer dollars just in the past few years, and abusing dozens of people that have only tried to talk about the truth,” said the whistleblower.

He said no individual had been fired or reprimanded after the allegations came to light.

Minister ‘Lied’

The whistleblower also claimed that Mr. Champagne lied to the committee concerning when he learned about the RCGT findings.
Mr. Champagne told the ethics committee on Nov. 6 that he received the findings on Sept. 27.

“On September 27—you will be happy because that’s also going to be a matter of public record—I was briefed on the results of the fact-finding exercise and the proposed next steps,” Mr. Champagne said.

According to the whistleblower, “that’s definitively not true. And he has lied at the ethics committee.”

The whistleblower also alleges that the minister and his office took steps to minimize the impact of the complaint.

“The deputy minister [Simon Kennedy] spoke to the minister’s office and the minister on several occasions before the briefings were finalized, including edits that were made on behalf of the minister’s office,” he said.

The whistleblower also said that there was a “definitive consensus” within the bureaucracy at ISED and PCO that the full board of directors and the executive needed to be fired.

“This was described to us in detail and on multiple occasions in late August and September. The outcome of the situation only changed when the minister’s office became involved,” he said.

The Conservatives asked Mr. Champagne in November why he had not fired anyone at SDTC. The minister replied saying that the evidence was insufficient.

The Epoch Times reached out to the minister’s office for comment on the lying accusation, but the issue was not directly addressed in the response, with a spokesperson referencing a media scrum by Mr. Champagne.

Asked by reporters on Dec. 12 about the alleged coverup, Mr. Champagne said proper steps have been taken in hiring a third-party firm to investigate.

“When you have allegations of wrongdoing, what do you do? You investigate,” he said. “That’s what we did. We appointed one of the top accounting firms in the country to do that investigation because that’s what Canadians expect.”

Ethics Probes

Several senior SDTC leaders appeared before House committees after Mr. Champagne’s appearance before the ethics committee on Nov. 6 and admitted to awarding fund money to their own companies.
Then-CEO Leah Lawrence testified before the ethics committee on Nov. 8 and said she had not recused herself when SDTC was discussing providing funds to a company employing one of her friends. She resigned shortly thereafter citing a “sustained and malicious campaign to undermine my leadership.”
Also testifying at the same meeting was then-board chair Annette Verschuren. MPs heard that she had moved a motion at the board to provide COVID-19 relief payments to all companies being supported by SDTC, including her own, which received $217,000.
Board director Guy Ouimet, who appeared before the industry committee on Dec. 5, also voted to approve the payments, which provided $393,805 to a company where has serving as a director.

The whistleblower said some recipient companies had a lot of cash on hand and didn’t require the relief payments, so much so that those payments made them ineligible to receive support from SDTC.

The Ethics Commissioner has launched probes into Ms. Verschuren and Mr. Ouimet over allegations of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act.

The whistleblower provided additional information on Ms. Verschuren’s involvement with SDTC. He said executives of the fund brought forward a proposal to give money to Ms. Verschuren’s own Verschuren Centre, which isn’t a green tech company.

He said that during the financial analysis of the project it was found the centre would go bankrupt without a cash injection.

“How much was the chair seeking for her ego project from the green slush fund?” asked Conservative MP Rick Perkins.

The whistleblower said she had applied with SDTC to have her own Verschuren Centre receive $2.2 million and that she was indirectly emailing executives to check on the progress of the application.

The executives approved of it, but it was stopped during the project review committee stage over conflict-of-interest concerns, said the whistleblower.

It didn’t end there, the whistleblower said, who added that there are subsequent board meeting minutes that “clearly stated that SDTC employees would help the Verschuren Centre and move that application into other sources of funding.”

Ms. Verchuren stepped down from her role in late November and was set to appear before the industry committee on Dec. 12. An attempt to reach her via her company NRStor has been unsuccessful. SDTC and the PCO also have not returned requests for comment.