Occupy Wall Street is about challenging the power of the richest 1%. But what happens when that 1% owns the land of the occupation? It has been revealed that a Canadian company was behind efforts to shut down the birthplace of the movement, Zuccotti Park.
Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD notified Occupy Wall Street participants about plans to “clean the park”— the site of the occupation—starting this morning at 7am. “Cleaning” has been repeatedly as a pretense to shut down peaceful occupations. It was used to evict protesters from the Wisconsin state house. It was used by Bloomberg himself to shut down a peaceable demonstration against budget cuts. The “cleaning” was essentially a ploy to evict protesters, but in a remarkable turn of events, the company backed down from threats to evict the park.
The attempted eviction comes hours before a global day of solidarity actions. The movement is taking the world by storm with a message that resonates powerfully with the millions of regular people: growing economic inequality is corrupting our democracies and making most people’s lives worse.
So, who is behind the eviction threats? Brookfield Asset Management, a Canadian company, owns Zuccotti Park and the adjacent office building, One Liberty Plaza. The company has an agreement with the city that the park will be open to public use.
Brookfield, formerly Brascan Limited, is one of the largest companies in Canada, a global asset manager with a wide range of interests. The company has over $120 billion in assets. Brookfield is headquartered in Toronto and New York City; the parent company is publicly traded on the NYSE and Toronto Stock Exchange. It was founded in 1899 as the São Paulo Railway, Light and Power Company.
So why would a Canadian company want to shut down a movement that is asking powerful questions about how the richest 1% has managed to soak up almost all the new wealth created in the last thirty years?
Well, Brookfield is at the top of the 1%. They are connected to the biggest players on Wall Street - the people who feel most threatened by Occupy Wall Street. Brookfield’s buildings are literally filled with the offices of the 1%. According to a Canadian Business article, at its peak, the represented a third of the Toronto Stock Exchange’s value and owned parts of more than 200 companies, including Labatt Ltd., MacMillan Bloedel, Royal LePage and Royal Trust, all connected through a web of holding companies.
One of the central focuses of the company is power generation, and the giant owns 165 power plants. They certainly have an interest in maintaining the status quo, a world without climate action where oil interests dominate.
The board of Brookfield Asset Management paints a picture of how the the very top of the 1% are networked together with strong connections to Big Oil. The total assets of all board members is close to $10 billion dollars.
Let's look at some of the oily connections from Brookfield Asset Management’s Board of Directors:
The Chairman of the Board of Directors, Frank J McKenna is the former premier of New Brunswick. He has been Chairman of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. since 2010. Hon. McKenna’s corporate history has included board positions with Major Drilling Group International Inc., and Acier Leroux, Inc. (formerly Leroux Steel Inc.). He has been a Director of Canadian Natural Resources Limited since 2006 and Director of CD Howe Institute and serves on the board of Xstrata Canada Corporation (formerly Falconbridge Limited, Noranda Inc.), and FNX Mining Company Inc. He is now Deputy Chair of TD Bank Financial.
David Kerr is Managing Partner, Edper Financial Group, an investment holding company. He was the former director of Noranda (now Xstrata Canada Corporation), a natural resources company with operations in 18 countries, involved in the exploration, mining, processing, and marketing of metal and mineral products.
Jack L. Cockwell is the former CEO of Brookfield Asset Management CEO, and represents Brookfield as a director on the Board of Brookfield Properties Corporation and other subsidiaries. He is a director for Teck Resources, a major player in Alberta’s tar sands that has been repeatedly criticized and sued for violating environmental laws and standards. The company’s Red Dog mine operation in north-western Alaska was ranked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of the most polluting facilities in the United States.
Dr. Jack Mintz is the Director of Palmer Chair in Public Policy at University of Calgary. He is a director of Imperial Oil Limited and Morneau Shepell Inc. He is also the past President and CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute, a think tank funded mainly by large corporations that generally advocates market-oriented economic policies such as tax cuts. He has been published with the Fraser Institute.
Marcel J. Coutu is the President of Canadian Oil Sands, Chairman of the board of Syncrude and is a Governor with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Coutu was formerly the Senior Vice President International and Vice President Finance for TransCanada Pipelines, the company hoping to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
James K. Gray is involved in Canadian oil and natural gas and founded one of Canada’s largest natural gas producers, Canadian Hunter Exploration. Mr. Gray is a member of the Board of Directors of Atlanta Gold Inc., Phoenix Technology Income Fund and Resin Systems Inc (RS). He is Chairman of Temple Energy Inc., a private Calgary oil and gas exploration company. He formerly served as director with Nova Scotia Power, Cequence Energy, PHX Energy Services Corp., and Emera Corp. Mr. Gray most recently became a member of the Alberta Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy. He is an honourary chair of the Canada West Foundation.
Maureen Kempston Darkes is connected the retired Group Vice President and President Latin America, Africa and Middle East for General Motors Corporation. She is a board member with Canadian National Railway Company. She was appointed to the board of Enbridge in November 2010, and sits on the board of Irving Oil.
Patricia M. Newson has been a Director of Brookfield Residential Properties Inc. since March 31, 2011. She served as a Director of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. since April 2008 until 2010. She is worth mentioning because she has been the President of AltaGas Utility Group Inc., a subsidiary of AltaGas Ltd. since 2005. Newson's energy industry experience includes experience with Gulf Canada, GW Utilities and Olympia and York Enterprises. She has worked for BC Gas Ltd. and currently serves as Director of Heritage Gas Limited, Galleon Energy Inc. and the Canadian Gas Association.