Enbridge executive’s company awarded first crime Bill C-10 $38.5-million prison project (Updated)

by: Obert Madondo | Published Thur. July 5, 2012

Enbridge executive J. Richard Bird.

Enbridge executive J. Richard Bird.

Opponents of the Conservative government‘s crime Bill C-10 were justified to argue that private companies would profiteer from the new jail system the legislation proposed for Canada.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Press reported that a Toronto-based construction company, Bird Construction Inc., had been awarded the contract to build the $38.5-million North East Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Priestville, Pictou Co., Nova Scotia. The 200-bed facility, due to open in 2014, replaces the aging facilities in Antigonish and Cumberland counties.

Turns out there’s a connection between Bird Construction Inc. and Enbridge Inc.: a man named J. Richard Bird.

The 62-year old Harvard Business School and University of Toronto graduate has a strong connection with the federal government. He served as a member of the Minister of Finance’s Advisory Committee on Financing from 2009 to early 2010.

Enbridge Inc.

Canada’s CFO of the Year in 2010 holds multiple high level portfolios with Enbridge, the company that occupies ground zero in the ongoing debate over Alberta’s vast tar sands. Enbridge is planning to build the controversial Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.

The company’s official websites summarizes Bird’s bio this way:

“As Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Development, Richard Bird is responsible for all financial affairs of the company and corporate planning, mergers, acquisitions and corporate development. Mr. Bird joined Enbridge in 1995 as Vice President and Treasurer after holding senior financial executive positions at a number of other public companies. He has also served as Senior Vice President, Corporate Planning & Development. He led Enbridge’s involvement in winning the gas distribution franchise for New Brunswick, and acquiring the natural gas pipeline and gathering and processing business of Midcoast Energy. Mr. Bird led the acquisition of the public minority interest of Enbridge Consumers Gas, established Enbridge’s 32% interest in Noverco Inc. and led the successful launch of Enbridge Income Fund. Mr. Bird served most recently as Executive Vice President, Liquids Pipelines, including responsibility for initiatives to secure $12 billion of crude oil pipeline development opportunities.”

Bird also serves on multiple boards in “7 different organizations across 11 different industries. He is presently a director of Enbridge Pipelines Inc., Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. and Enbridge Income Fund Holdings Inc. His other affiliations include: Gaz Metro Limited Partnership, Enbridge Energy Partners LP and AltaGas Ltd.

Business Week pegs Bird’s calculated compensation for the fiscal year 2011 at CDN$2,320,921.

Bird Construction Inc.

According to Business Week, Bird “has been a Trustee of Bird Construction Inc. since December 1987.”

The company won the contract to build the North East Nova Scotia Correctional Facility after it “submitted the lowest bid among seven general contractors that pre-qualified in the tender competition”, according to the Canadian Press.

“Bird Construction had the lowest bid of seven pre-qualified general contracting companies,” said a July 2 press release from the Justice Department. “This is the third and final tender awarded for the project.”

Curiously, the lucrative contract arrives at a time Macleans Magazine is reporting that Enbridge has two new best friends in Canada: Ottawa and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

H.J. Bird founded Bird Construction Inc. in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in 1920. An elaborate profile on The Canadian Business Journal bills the company as “one of Canada’s largest and most successful general contractors” which is “encroaching upon the status of a Canadian institution…”

On it’s official website, the company brags about its rising profits: “Nineteen consecutive years of profitability and growth in sales from $88 million in 1988 to over $500 million in 2006, positioned Bird Construction for further expansion.”

The company’s high profile clients includes the Canadian military, Petro-Canada and the Manitoba cities of Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie. It has also benefited from provincial Public Private Partnerships (P3s).

Bird Construction dubs its decades-long partnership with the Canadian military “Keeping Canada Safe”, a mantra often repeated in policy pronouncements by the Harper government. The company recently built a new $105-million helicopter complex at Shearwater, Nova Scotia, “for the new naval helicopters that are getting delivered to replace the Sea Kings.”

Crime Bill C-10

The North East Nova Scotia Correctional Facility is the first of numerous multi-million prison projects expected under Bill C-10, the Conservative government’s flagship tough-on-crime legislation. The bill passed into a new law, the deceptively-named Safe Streets and Communities Act, in Parliament in March. Bill C-10 is a suite of crime legislation that will radically stir the Canadian justice system away from the prevention and restorative measures which have proven to be more humane, effective and cheaper for Canada, towards billion-dollar vindictive and exclusionary measures. It favors punishment over compassion and rehabilitation. The new law will facilitate a massive and costly overhaul of the Canada’s prison system, a transformation expected to cost Canadian taxpayers at least $19-billion. Ontario and other provinces are expected to shoulder significant costs, and divert funds from public goods to implement the law.

RELATED: Obert Madondo’s indefinite hunger strike against crime Bill C-10: Letter to the Governor General of Canada

During the legislative process, experts, activists and opposition MPs advanced numerous progressive arguments against Bill C-10. They argued that the bill violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly: the right to equal protection before the law; the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment; the right to liberty; and the rights of Canadians convicted overseas. They suggested that the law’s mandatory minimum sentences undermine the judiciary by taking away judges’ discretion. The mandatory minimums and tougher sentences on young offenders nuke futures, they said. They grow tomorrow’s hardened criminals, and meaner streets. The lifting of publication ban on young offenders stigmatizes the offenders for life.

Even tough-on-crime Republicans of Texas warned Canada not to follow America’s failed path of mandatory minimum sentences and massive prison expansions, which cost them billions and drove crime rates up.

But the Harper government brushed aside all these arguments. It used its acquiescing majorities in the House of Commons and Senate to pass the legislation with minimal debate and public input.

The progressives also argued that Bill C-10 would grow mega jails and a war on drugs in Canada, which would punish vulnerable communities where high crime rates are rooted in poverty, lack of opportunity and historical disadvantage. Last March, a group of former high-ranking Canadian justice officials said in the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper: “There is something unethical with having corporations seeking profits from locking people up.”

RELATED: Unpacking my Canada Crime Bill C10 hunger strike

Private U.S. prison companies

During the heated public debates on the controversial legislation, progressives also argued that Bill C-10 was the beginning of the privatization of Canada’s prison system. Two weeks ago, The Guardian newspaper reported that two of the biggest U.S. private prison companies, Geo Group Inc.and Management and Training Corporation (MTC), had begun exploring opportunities in Canada. In the U.S., both companies “have consistently been the subject of critical media reports due to a long line of legal actions against them for trouble and neglect at some of their facilities.”

GEO, a major player in the global private correctional services industry, lobbied for Bill C-10 through The Parliamentary Group, an Ottawa-based consulting firm linked to Patrick Gagnon, a Liberal MP from 1993 to 1997.

RELATED: Coming to Canada: Prison industrial complex, punishment and profits

The company has profited from 9/11, the economic meltdown and recent anti-immigrant crackdowns in the U.S. It has profited from privatized corrections and detention operations in Australia and the UK. In South Africa, the company is connected with the African country’s unveiling massive prison privatization efforts. In the late 1990s, GEO was involved with Australia’s notorious Woomera Immigration Detention Center, once described by UN officials as a “great human tragedy” and likened to a “Nazi concentration camp.”

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad 

34 thoughts on “Enbridge executive’s company awarded first crime Bill C-10 $38.5-million prison project (Updated)”

  1. dennisearlbaker says:

    Thank-you Obert Madondo 

    The connection between my wrongful imprisonment and my solution to climate change has been made via Mr Bird!

    Urgent action required, appears to be the consensus of the most learned climate change advocates! 
    The collective wisdom acquired through trial and error test applications of alleged solutions, has been enlightening, and sobering.as agenda driven rhetoric failed time after time to deliver a replacement technology for the fossil fuel powered electrical generating facilities, which are the primary sources.of GHG the alleged culprits inducing global climatic destabilization!
    Most recently 2 documents have corroborated a much maligned document I wrote! 
    In My Opinion! http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Flnkd%2Ein%2FifM2au%40Inc&urlhash=UWTz&_t=tracking_disc
    * Leaked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the report says that agricultural output may drop by as much as two percent every decade for the rest of this century, compared to what it would have been without the effects of climate change. Demand for food is reportedly expected to rise 14 percent each decade during that time, exacerbating the food supply issue.
    * letter, by Kenneth Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, Kerry Emanuel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, James E. Hansen of Columbia University and Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Adelaide
    “To Those Influencing Environmental Policy But Opposed to Nuclear Power” 
    Unfortunately building conventional nuclear facilities is not realistic due to the costs associated with safety issues.
    This leaves you with one option other than Geo-engineering “A New Nuclear Technology”! 
    Geo-engineering is the newest subsidy for the fossil fuel industry and is wrought with unknown risks and dangers and therefore not an option.
    The New Nuclear Technology I propose is as follows: 
    Human Excrement + Nuclear Waste = Hydrogen
    http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Fdisq%2Eus%2F8en3l0&urlhash=RTRU&_t=tracking_dischttp://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Flnkd%2Ein%2FifM2au%40Inc&urlhash=UWTz&_t=tracking_dischttp://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Elinkedin%2Ecom%2FgroupItem%3Fview%3D%26gid%3D938667%26type%3Dmember%26item%3D5794160567027515392%26commentID%3D5794504904257064960%26report%252Esuccess%3D8ULbKyXO6NDvmoK7o030UNOYGZKrvdhBhypZ_w8EpQrrQI-BBjkmxwkEOwBjLE28YyDIxcyEO7_TA_giuRN%23commentID_5794504904257064960&urlhash=F9Ve&_t=tracking_disc … … … … … … … … … …
    You’ve tried everything else first and these have failed adding to the urgency of action required!
    Dennis Baker 
    1. – 998 Creston Avenue
    Penticton BC Canada V2A1P9 
    @dennisearlbaker @silenced_not

    1. Obert Madondo says:

      Three developments, two of which occurred after I published the piece support my argument that the Harper government will eventually allow private corporations to play a significant part in, and profit from, our corrections system.

      July 4, The Guardian (UK) published this article: Private prison companies look to Canada as industry faces lawsuits in US. http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com/2012/07/04/private-prison-companies-look-to-canada-as-industry-faces-lawsuits-in-us/. The article argues that “Two of the biggest operators in an industry once regarded as recession-proof, Geo Group and Management and Training Corporation (MTC), have been lobbying various government departments in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.” Both companies have already been connected to private prison projects in two Canadian provinces in the past. MTC was awarded the first-ever contract to operate a facility in Penetanguishene, Ontario, in the mid-1990s by the then-provincial conservative government. Geo, previously know as Wackenhut, still has a “maintenance-only” contract for the Miramichi Youth Detention Facility, in New Brunswick.

      Also in July, we published this article http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com/2012/07/15/bill-c10-vic-toews-met-with-lobbyist-for-u-s-prisons-profiteer-geo/, based on evidence unearthed by Bloomberg News. The piece shows that “a leading U.S. prison profiteering company lobbied the federal Public Safety Minister and other Canadian officials.” That company is GEO Group Inc. Further, the Conservative government is now “studying the use of private companies to deliver some prison services as it cuts spending and imposes tougher sentences on criminals, which may benefit companies like GEO Group Inc.”

      Finally, the history of GEO Group Inc, which connects with immigration changes currently under way in Canada through Bill C-31 and measures against “foreign criminals”, etc. The company has profited from 9/11, the economic meltdown and recent anti-immigrant crackdowns in the U.S. It has profited from privatized corrections and detention operations in Australia and the UK. In the late 1990s, GEO was involved with Australia’s notorious Woomera Immigration Detention Center, once described by UN officials as a “great human tragedy” and likened to a “Nazi concentration camp.” In South Africa, the company is connected with the African country’s unveiling massive prison privatization efforts.

      And of course the government will never openly admit its true intentions. We just have to put together the pieces to get to the truth.

      Obert Madondo, Editor

  2. Melissa Munro says:

    Well, just as it’s supposed to go. Next, it will be Enbridge Bottled Water. And Enbridge Childcare. And Enbridge Environmental Assessment. This is the way they do it in Texas – MacDonnell Douglas suddenly in the business of prisons AND weaponry, and using prisoners as cheap labour. How medieval! Where is my country?

    1. Obert Madondo says:

      I’m not giving up on Canada. Never will. In fact, the current corporations-serving politics make things a bit clear for me… Just below the surface of the Harper tyranny lies potentially the greatest country in the world: Canada. Harper will be out of office some day. Soon, I hope. And yet, I’m deeply concerned about whether we’ll be able to undo the damage. I’ve yet to hear the opposition talking about reversing Bill C-38, Bill C-10, etc. Or limiting the growing influence of corporations. As you clearly point out with your example of MacDonnell Douglas, these corporations eventually become entrenched in the political process. Those based on energy and resources usually turn states into “petro-states.” – Ed

  3. michael banfield says:

    Pretty horrible living under a quasi fasciat megalomaniac

    1. Obert Madondo says:

      Essentially, Bill C-10 – and its goal of transforming Canada’s justice system – is a federal initiative. It’s a financial imposition on the provinces, which will now be forced to divert resources away from public goods to implement it. Ontario and Quebec fiercely opposed the bill on that basis. Also, on the fact that the law would result in “additional inmates” in their overburdened correctional facilities. Once Ontario Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur said: “Ontario taxpayers cannot be expected to pay the full costs for federal anti-crime initiatives…” – Ed.

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