The following is the second section of a work I’ve been preparing for my main site. As rumours of the federal government proceeding with the externally-developed policy framework I have been researching, and because of the length the work has grown to, I decided to post the work in parts here as sections are completed. (Part 1)
The May 19th announcement of the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery (TFRR) ended with, “The work of the Task force will conclude in July with the release of a final report,” but by August only a “Preliminary Report” had been shared, and that document is more of a mind mapping exercise than a reporting one. The mapping listed, as Funders, the Ivey, McConnell, Schad and Echo Foundations. The appearance of Ivey wasn’t unexpected as the task force included Bruce Lourie, who is the President of the Ivey Foundation and a key player in previous “green” campaigns including ending coal-fired electricity generation in Ontario and the Green Energy Act.
The Ivey Foundation is built on very old money: “The raw material for the Ivey family’s prosperity lay in the tin-mining industry that enhanced the value of their Cornish lands in the late 1700s.”. The Foundation was created 73 years ago, in 1947 (although the younger Ivey co-founder lived until last year). Until researching this work I was most familiar with the Ivey as a co-founder of the Green Energy Act Alliance, and its relationship with Bruce Lourie.
I’ve estimated the cost of the procurement inspired by the Ivey-supported Green Energy Act at $4 billion a year, for 20 years. Ivey associated damage could have gone well beyond that as the Financial Accountability Office Of Ontario estimated “a net cost to Ontarians of $21 billion” due to a Fair Hydro Plan defended by, and probably developed at, the Ivey Energy Policy and Management Centre.
I have a different view of Ontario’s eventually completed coal phase-out than Mr. Lourie, but I do agree with a statement from another person involved with the phase-out campaign, Jack Gibbons, on the message that propelled its success: “We demonized coal.”
Mr. Lourie’s description of a pivotal element in the campaign to rid the province describes how to make the devil of a sedimentary rock:
“We focused the campaign on health issues… The turning point for me in the campaign was really when the Ontario Medical Association came out with the numbers on how many people in Ontario die prematurely because of air quality problems and, I forget, it was about 1600 or 1800 was the number, but I do remember almost every newspaper in Ontario had that number in big bold numbers on the front page. We sort of had this idea if we talked about health it would be more successful but it wasn’t until we saw how tremendously effective the OMA’s work on this was and in particularly identifying very specifically, first of all how many people are being harmed by coal, and the second thing was when they started to put a cost number on what the cost to the health care system, basically what the cost to the taxpayer was, of the health effects of coal.
Within weeks of the announced formation of the TFRR this year a report was released by Environmental Defence and the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), containing “new evidence that cleaner vehicles like electric cars and buses will improve health in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area by reducing air pollution.” Environmental Defence, an organization with a history of producing zombie docs, has received over $1.2 million in grants from the Ivey and McConnell Foundations, and just last year Ivey granted the OPHA $150,000 for “Implementing a communication strategy for health-focused climate messaging.” The report finds 872 annual deaths, for the base, business-as-usual (BAU) case.
The importance of specificity, such as “872 annual deaths” from needlessly dirty transportation, was learned during the coal phase-out campaign. The use of coal in electricity generation had surged during the latter half of the 1990’s as, unsurprisingly, air quality declined as 8 nuclear reactors were mothballed. By 2000 the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) had developed software indicating 1,925 deaths due to air quality. By 2002 all parties in the Ontario legislature had agreed to phase-out coal (by 2015) and 2003’s election was won by the party that promised to do it quickest (by 2007). Then action to replace coal in Ontario’s electricity system stalled – until in 2005 a report was created, by DSS Management Consultants, with “big bold numbers”: 668 premature deaths, 1100 Emergency room visits, 928 hospital admissions and 333,660 minor illnesses – not from air quality in general, but specifically from the continued operation of the province’s coal-fired power plants. The numbers in that 2005 report were, at best, hand-wavy stuff, but they played their role in vilifying coal, regardless of how the report withstood scrutiny. It did not hurt that soon after the OMA would update its software and therefore figures on damages, and deaths, from poor air quality – all pushed much higher than the quite specific numbers it had provided 5 years earlier: 1,925 annual deaths had become 5,829 and was headed much higher in their forecast. The OMA’s 2005 report references DSS Management Consultants’ as preparing the OMA’s earlier (2000) report, so it’s not surprising DSS and OMA reports supported each other.
The very same month the OMA reported increased harm from coal the McGuinty Government [Unveiled a] Bold Plan To Clean Up Ontario’s Air, and that plan was the one that led to the end of coal in generating electricity in the province.
Collecting the hand-wavy numbers from respectably named organizations is an important step to take towards claiming, “the science tells us…” I now refer to such reports as zombie reports – they live on, regardless of whether or not they’ve been discredited, as support for new policies and to support future zombie reports . Today we have one report putting a number of deaths on internal combustion engines (ICE) in vehicles, and we also receive a “Healthy Recovery Plan” from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment with 25 “The federal government should” recommendations. And because it’s from a group with “Physicians” in the name you know it’s solid – like advice from America’s Frontline Doctors.
Bruce Lourie is, “an honorary director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.”
The second key Lourie contribution to a TFRR campaign is his experience in taking advantage of a crisis. The Green Energy Act Alliance featured quickly collecting allies in the campaign. Parker Gallant once referred to Lourie as El Hefe as he attempted to trace the many connections made with other “Green” personalities/entities. Whatever else this says about the man, it is a testament to his alliance building skill.
The Green Energy Act Alliance (GEAA) formed 3 years after supply was contracted to replace coal. Unlike the ending-coal campaign’s half-decade effort, this campaign built a politically attractive base to quickly take advantage of an economic crisis. The goal of the GEAA: “to make Ontario a global leader in green energy development through the use of renewable energy, distributed energy and conservation.” A packaged product for advancing what was essentially Amory Lovins’ soft energy path was available in Germany, and the architect of Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act, Hermann Scheer, was active in promoting the transfer of his policies to Ontario. With the financial crisis providing the incentive for the political power in Ontario to seek candidates for powering a recovery, and a product to push, the campaign featured building a broad enough alliance to convince the government to turn away from the existing electricity system planning infrastructure already in place (the Ontario Power Authority).
Leah Stokes described the support gathered by the GEAA in a 2013 paper on the politics of Ontario’s feed in tariffs as “a broad coalition composed of renewable energy NGOs, environmental NGOs, farmers, First Nations, consultants, and, indirectly, organized labor.” The coalition was strong enough to win passage of the legislation and a brief period followed of heavily contracting industrial wind generation, but by August of 2011 that procurement party was over (a little longer period for solar). There had been no real studies to back the claims of the GEAA on job creation and costs, and there was no capability to withstand the scrutiny on those issues from critics and auditors.
While the GEA should be seen as failing to fulfill the vision of the Alliance that lobbied for it (Ontario is not a leader in green energy development), there are revenues to the contract holders of about $4 billion a year. For 20 years. For the participants, that must seem like success.
The mind mapping exercise that is the TFRR’s Preliminary Report lists “5 bold moves for a resilient recovery”, along with co-conspirators to gather for each and the size of the potential pot of government money to entice them along:
- Invest in climate resilient and energy efficient buildings ($27.25 billion: Home building, First Nations, Insurance, financial, MUSH, efficiency, utility and real estate sector lobbies);
- Jumpstart Canada’s production and adoption of zero-emission vehicles ($7 billion: automotive OEMs including parts manufactures and the consulting/innovating NGO industries);
- Go big on growing Canada’s clean energy sectors ($11.5 billion: consulting NGO’s working the innovation angle, MUSH, financial sectors);
- Invest in the nature that protects and sustains us ($3.15B: ENGOs, First nations, government, consultants);
- Grow clean competitiveness and jobs across the Canadian economy ($1 billion experts, institutes, financial, government, First Nations).
The task force notes “Canada will need to invest [approximately] $50 billion to be competitive with its G7 peers,” with a nice graphic of “new green recovery investments announced to date are $280 per capita in the UK, $714 in Germany, $988 in France, $1840 in the EU and the US Presidential candidate Biden has promised $8,288 per capita.” The broad variance doesn’t impede the TFRR concluding about $1330 per capita in Canada just makes sense, and now they’ve got $50 billion of public funds to plan the disbursement of in a final report which will doubtlessly maximize benefits for their civil society.
I ought not taint all who received funding from McConnell and Ivey foundations with the same broad brush. The Ecofiscal Commission received over $2.5 million in funding from Ivey and McConnell foundations. While I questioned the premise of Ecofiscal – that carbon pricing was THE solution to climate change – it was composed of economists promoting an economic tool as a solution, and it was formed with an end date. I credit the integrity of the head of the now defunct Commission with co-writing the op-ed “Engineering a ‘green recovery’ is a terrible idea.”
The funding that had flowed to Ecofiscal now appears to flow to Clean Energy Canada (CEC), which describes itself as “an energy think tank at SFU” (Simon Fraser University). Originally associated with Tides Canada (which has received at least ~$2 million in support from the Foundations supporting the TFRR), CEC has received at least $1.8 million from those Foundations. While Ecofiscal was, in my opinion, guilty of interpreting everything through the lens of their carbon-pricing-can-avoid-climate-catasprophe perspective, I’ve described the messaging of Clean Energy Canada as deliberately deceptive.
The mission of CEC is “to accelerate the transition to a renewable powered economy”, and the first strategy they claim to have developed is “getting the story out.” Where economics had previously been funded with Foundations’ green, creative storytelling now is.
Merram Smith, CEC’s Executive Director, is a member of the TFRR.
to be continued…