On Sunday, Premier Jason Kenney announced that the provincial government had ordered Alberta’s Gaming, Alcohol and Cannabis Commission to stop accepting liquor products made in Russia and to stop selling current inventory to retailers.
The announcement also stated without details that retailers had been ordered to stop selling Russian vodka and the like.
“Alberta stands in solidarity with the citizens of Ukraine and we will support those fighting against tyranny in any way we can.,” Mr Kenney said in the short statement posted on the Government of Alberta website and sent to the media.
He also tweeted that “Alberta stands with #Ukraine. We have ordered @AGLC to suspend the purchase and sale of all products made in Russia.
Naturally, the announcement of the vodka ban generated positive media coverage without many questions about whether stores with stock on their shelves would be allowed to sell their inventory.
Meanwhile, the progress report says yesterday that Alberta Investment Management Corp., better known as AIMCo, owns some 500,000 shares of a Russian investment fund worth millions of dollars.
This is very important because AIMCo is the underperforming provincial investment Crown corporation that Mr Kenney’s United Conservative Party government has forced all public sector pension plans in Alberta to use to manage their funds. .
And it’s to AIMCo that Kenney dreams of transferring all of Albertans’ Canada Pension Plan savings so he can set up an Alberta pension plan that’s easier to access for politically motivated investments.
Yet, surprisingly given the Alberta premier’s enthusiasm for boycotting and sanctioning Russian companies following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine last week, no one at AIMCo or the Department of Finance of Alberta did not return phone calls from Progress Alberta about the investment.
So does the Alberta government have a plan to divest itself of these funds? Curious Albertans deserve to know.
Not atypical for AIMCo, the VanEck Vectors Russia Exchange Trading Fund in which the state-owned company invested $13.2 million last year is now worth just $5.4 million and is likely to decline.
It’s not as big of a loss as the $2.1 billion AIMCo lost on a high-risk volatility bet in 2020, but you have to wonder what the firm’s investment experts thought when they poured millions into a fund that owns at least half the stock it holds in businesses with their related income and assets in Russia.
After all, the tensions that led to the current crisis in Ukraine date back at least to 2014, when Russia occupied and annexed Crimea, resulting in some sanctions. It has been no secret since then that tensions between the two former Soviet republics have been growing ever since.
The fund’s main holdings are in Gazprom, Sberbank and Lukoil. The majority of shares in Gazprom and Sberbank are owned by the Russian state. Lukoil is Russia’s largest non-state company.
The fund also holds shares of EVRAZ, the parent company of EVRAZ North America, which owns the only steel mill in Western Canada capable of manufacturing pipe suitable for pipelines.
The EVRAZ steel mill in Regina manufactures 75% of the tubing for the ongoing Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion project.
While technically EVRAZ was structured to be legally a UK company so it could sell shares on UK stock markets, 60% of the company is owned by three Russian men who meet the common Western media definition of oligarchs, at least one of whom has ties to President Putin.
Mr. Kenney tweeted that “if Canada really wants to help Putin get rid of the tooth, then let’s build pipelines.”
So far, however, he seems to have said nothing about using steel from a Russian plant for the TMX project, or about the province of Saskatchewan’s reliance on such a company for well-needed jobs. paid in Regina.
A few thoughtful comments on the way forward from Mr. Kenney, as well as Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, seem in order.