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NDP riding association calls on B.C. government to investigate wood pulp giant Paper Excellence's operations

CANADA (From news reports) -- A Kamloops-region riding association affiliated with B.C.'s ruling NDP party is calling on the provincial government to investigate Canada's largest paper and pulp producer.

Members of the B.C. NDP's Kamloops-North Thompson electoral district association passed a motion two weeks ago demanding the Ministry of Forests launch a detailed investigation into Richmond, B.C.-based forestry company Paper Excellence and its connections to Jakarta-based Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

Association president Rick Turner said the motion is set to be presented next month at the party's provincial council meeting, where delegates from different electoral district associations gather to discuss resolutions on public policies.

A months-long probe conducted by CBC News, in collaboration with other media outlets under the umbrella of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealed that Paper Excellence appears to have close ties with APP, one of the world's major pulp operators, which has a track record of environmental destruction.

Paper Excellence maintains it is completely independent from APP and is owned solely by Jackson Wijaya, a member of the family that owns both APP and the Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas -- which has itself been the target of environmental advocacy groups for years.

Motion to determine if company serves B.C. well

Turner says Wijaya should be asked to appear at a hearing as part of a "thorough investigation" looking at Paper Excellence's connections to APP and its business plan and operations across B.C.

"[We're] also asking where they received the fibre and the guarantees they have for long-term fibre supply, and also who their customers are and to whom they ship most of their products," Turner said.

"The point of all these is to determine whether or not British Columbia is being well served by the operations and actions of the Paper Excellence company.

"Bringing this resolution forward will raise awareness of a lot of the [district associations] in British Columbia all over," he added. "That will propel the B.C. NDP government, specifically the Ministry of Forests, to conduct this investigation to find out just what the heck is going on."

The riding association's motion comes after the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources passed a motion on March 31 to investigate the ownership of Paper Excellence.

Federal NDP natural resource critic Charlie Angus introduced the motion, and said Wijaya, along with Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and others, should testify at parliamentary hearings.

"I think it is incumbent on the company to be transparent. If not, I think we need to bring them before committee to get answers, to have the CEO testify and to be able to get access to documents so we know exactly how they are structured and what their connections are to forestry operations in Indonesia and financing from China," Angus told CBC News last month.

Thickets of corporations

ICIJ's investigation found that the people behind or associated with Paper Excellence appear to have a pattern of using thickets of corporations, including in tax havens, effectively shielding transactions and assets from public and government scrutiny.

The company won't open up about its past financing, some of which was facilitated at one point by a $1.25 billion US demand debenture with the China Development Bank, which is owned by the Chinese government.

With its recent acquisition of the Quebec-based Resolute Forest Products, Paper Excellence is now Canada's largest producer of wood pulp, managing nearly 220,000 square kilometres of the country's forests.

On March 21, federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Ottawa will work with provinces to ensure Paper Excellence respects federal and provincial laws and regulations.

Greenpeace Canada says it welcomes the Kamloops NDP riding association's motion.

"We need much more transparency from Paper Excellence about their corporate connections and plans for the future -- the public deserves to know who owns, controls and benefits from the company," said Shane Moffatt, head of the environmental advocacy group's nature and food campaign, in a written statement.

"This motion comes at a critical time for forests across British Columbia, with loss of wildlife, soaring logging emissions and historic old growth protests."

In an emailed statement, B.C.'s Ministry of Forests says it will continue monitoring the proceedings in Ottawa regarding Paper Excellence, and will await the results of the federal review.

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