Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Standard Life offers SRI funds for group plans

Investors looking for SRI options in their company pension plans have had precious little to choose from. Standard Life aims to fill that void, announcing that it will now offer four Meritas SRI funds for group savings and retirement plans.

“Employers and their advisors can include these investment options immediately as part of a customized plan or, starting at the end of 2011, through the new Monitored Avenue Portfolio Program™ - Socially Responsible Investment options (MAPP-SRI options),” the insurer said in a release. “Standard Life chose funds for the MAPP-SRI options to provide long-term returns that aim to meet the needs of socially responsible investors and proper diversification amongst asset classes. “

A recent survey conducted for Standard Life found that one-third of Canadian investors said they are "very" or "somewhat" interested in SRIs, and 55% indicated that they would consider SRIs if the return was "as good or better" than other investments.

In September, Standard Life added three Meritas SRI Funds to its family of retail segregated funds.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Caisse invests $25M in Québec wind farm

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec has announced a $25 million contribution to the Seigneurie de Beaupré Wind Farms project. The consortium - providing $725 million in financing to the project - includes Boralex, Gaz Metro and Valener. The cash will be used to construct and operate a 272MW wind farm in Québec, one of the largest wind energy development sites in the province.

“This financing enables us to support established business partners and offers us a long-term opportunity ideally aligned to our investment strategy,” said Marc Cormier, executive vice-president, fixed income, the Caisse. “With our investment in this project, we are contributing to a renewable energy initiative in Québec while generating a return that meets the objectives of our depositors.”

The first phase of the project will consist of 126 wind turbines, scheduled for start-up in December 2013.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

He blinded me with science...

Speaking to a packed house at U of T's University College yesterday, David Schindler presented scientific data to back up claims of the devastation wreaked by oil sands development.

A noted limnologist and environmental activist, Dr. Schindler's presentation, entitled The Oil Sands: Economic Saviour or Environmental Disaster, was filled with results of experiments and slides of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). As someone with limited knowledge of chemistry and biology, I couldn't keep up with the details so I will give you what I took away as the big picture conclusions. Dr. Schindler kindly offered to send the presentation deck out to those who were interested, so you can contact him for a copy.

  • oil sands development has been too rapid for monitoring or regulation to keep up. Cumulative Effects Assessments need to be done in a more thorough manner to document what is really happening.
  • Cancer incidence is higher in Fort Chipewyan. Check out the related article in This magazine .
  • an experiment he conducted melting snow from the frozen Athabasca River and analyzing it showed that contaminants were usually much higher in sites impacted by industry.
  • tributaries in watersheds that were more disturbed had higher element concentrations than tributaries in less disturbed watersheds.
  • it is possible that land around the oil sands can never be properly reclaimed, oil company claims notwithstanding. This one really got to me and I will try to follow up. Dr. Schindler believes that the type of planting being done, wooded fens, will not be sustainable over the long term due to the salinity of the soil and water.
  • He suggested some logical next steps. First, a detailed study of fish health and effects of contaminants on reproduction and survival. Second, a detailed health study of people living in the area. And finally, better monitoring, to be done by Environment Canada, the only agency with the capacity to do an effective job.

    Dr. Schindler stated there is very little possibility that nothing (meaning no contaminants) is flowing into the Athabasca, and ended with the question, 'Why do we have to proceed with development much faster than we know what we are doing?'