RBC to RAN: “we may indeed be able to have a productive discussion”

posted by Brant Ran

An article from Patricia Best in this week’s Macleans magazine offers a peek into how RBC is responding to RAN’s campaign. Here’s a peek into how RAN is responding to RBC.

But first a note to set the record straight. RBC Spokeswoman Katherine Gay claims in the Macleans article that our research into RBC financing activity in the tar sands is “broken and distorted”, citing criticism from unnamed NGOs. Unless she considers Bloomberg to be a buch of crackpots, she has some explaining to do. Our deal-by-deal breakdown of loans reported by Bloomberg shows RBC to have issued served as lead arranger  for $14.3 billion (USD) in credit to companies operating in the tar sands since 2007 and earned more than $84 million (USD) in debt and equity underwriting fees (see updated details on these numbers here). Gay claims RBC has “less than $2 billion” invested in the tar sands. We’re still waiting on the math.

Now for a bit of background. With help from activists across Canada, RAN has been crashing the tar sands party at Canada’s biggest bank for the last year and a half. We leafleted, we made signs, we staged die-ins and we even appealed to the CEO’s wife with our “Please Help Us Mrs. Nixon” stunt. For most of that time, RBC gave us the cold shoulder. Then last month things changed.  We sent a letter to CEO Gord Nixon offering to “turn the page in the New Year” in exchange for RBC updating its human rights and the environmental standards. A quick reply from Nixon dismissed action on human rights but offered that “we may indeed be able to have a productive discussion” on new environmental standards for its lending in the tar sands.

Today we confirmed a meeting with the Bank’s COO Barbara Stymiest in late February. If basic issues like Indigenous rights stay off the table, we don’t anticipate any breakthroughs. But since she does have the power to make big changes at the bank we offered a “no surprises” agreement in return for the face-time.  We won’t be pulling any punches, but we also won’t be showing up to the bank’s branches and speaking events unannounced. At least not for the next few weeks.

Meantime, we’re eager to hear reactions to the article from all sides in the comments.