Ontario Teacher Pension Plan Using our Tax Dollars to Create “Green” Jobs in Other Countries

The OTPP Board of Directors just announced they are investing $1 billion dollars of Ontario taxpayers’ contributions to their pension plan but it will be in other countries. They claim it’s a good thing as it will help them achieve “net-zero emissions” presumably by creating jobs elsewhere! We should not it’s not the first time they have done that! 

Earlier investments have gone to Cubico Sustainable Investments, with their headquarters in London, England.  Cubico has offices in ten (10) countries but Canada is not one of them and their portfolio includes onshore wind, solar, transmission and distribution assets.  OTPP have invested in Anbaric Development Partners who are involved in transmission and storage projects in the U.S.A.  They are also invested in NextEra Energy (U.S.$864 million invested) another US company.  NextEra took advantage of Ontario’s Green Energy Act to build several intermittent and unreliably IWT (industrial wind turbines) and solar projects in Ontario and then sold them off to none other than the CPPIB (Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board).

The latest announcement relates to OTPP’s US$1 billion investment in Corio Generationof Australia who actively pursue offshore wind contracts and the article in the Financial Post noted:  “The joint venture will fund the development of 14 fixed-bottom and floating projects in South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Ireland and the United Kingdom, all of which are currently in development by Corio with an initial target of up to nine gigawatts.”  Once again, the OTPP is investing in other countries to create jobs.

In 2020-2021, there were 130,923.28 full time equivalent (FTE) teachers, according to the Ontario Ministry of Education and 2,025,258 students which on average is 15.46 students per teacher.  The 2021 OTPP report noted: “We deliver retirement security to 333,000 working members and pensioners.”  The average pension benefit per retired teacher was $36K; based on the 2021 OTPP report noting $6.909 billion was the amount delivered for “pension benefits! On another note, the Ontario Ministry of Education’s annual budget for 2021-2022 year was $33 billion which works out to $250K per “full time equivalent” teacher for just that year.

Based on the above information we taxpayers are doing a fine job of ensuring public school teachers are; not overworked, well paid and secure in the pension benefits they will receive when they retire! 

So, the question becomes why is their Pension Plan so determined to create jobs in other countries instead of Ontario and Canada whose private sector taxpayers pick up all the costs associated with their employment and retirement benefits?

The investments they continue to make suggest it is apparent the Board of the OTPP have fully endorsed “net-zero” and all of the false promises our PM Justin Trudeau made at the COP-26 Conference related to job creation. 

No doubt us taxpayers should assume if those OTPP investments don’t work out the teachers using our contributions to create those “net-zero” jobs (everywhere but Canada) will come cap-in-hand to the Ontario Ministry of Education seeking more of our tax dollars to ensure they are able to retire in comfort. 

Ruminations on the Ontario Liberal Electricity Legacy and Premier Ford’s inactions to correct them

I was on the Marc Patrone Show at 960 AM March 23, 2021 to discuss the Ontario Liberal Party legacy in respect to the electricity sector in the province.  We pointed out the billions of dollars in costs of the OLP legacy and how they continue!  At the same time the discussion noted that after almost three years in power the Ford led Ontario Conservative Party has done hardly anything to change the system other than shifting billions of $$$ in costs from ratepayers to taxpayers.

You can listen to our conversation on Sauga 960 AM here on the March 23rd podcast starting at 46:1 ending at 1:02.

Charities are not what they appear to be

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of the word charity* is: “generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering”. Most Canadians have probably wondered since the “WE Charity” scandal broke, how that definition fits into the CRA’s granting of charitable status to applicants and then how they administer them from that point. 

Well, presumably to put our minds at ease, the CRA recently released a “Report on the Charities Program 2018 to 2020” and they applaud themselves.  As an example, the Director General, Tony Manconi in his overview noted the Charities Directorate: “aims to promote compliance with the charity-related income tax legislation and regulations in order to support charitable giving and development of the sector, while protecting charities and the public from abuse.”

The foregoing is to suggest we taxpayers should relax as those within the CRA are managing the charities really well, but are they? 

From all appearances the MSM totally ignored the CRA report as a search for responses to it suggests the only parties who even looked at it were a couple of law firms and a few charities.  

Should one scan the following chart which provides the sources of revenue flowing to charities over the “annual average” of the years 2016 to 2018 it is rather shocking to note 86.6% ($183.9 billion) was labelled as “Revenue from Government”. A cursory look at some of the CRA charities labeled “universities” or “hospitals” suggest this is where the bulk of that “Government Revenue” flowed. The CRA’s report notes as of the end of 2019 there were still 4975 “Public Foundations” down from 5027 in 2018.

Curiosity piqued; an examination of The Governing Council of the University of Toronto’s CRA filings followed which led to the discovery over the five years of their filed reports they had received $5.157 billion collectively from Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments.  They have 61 people on the “Governing Council” and 10 of them (probably many more) have incomes exceeding $350K per annum.  A look at the Ontario “Sunshine list” for “universities” show 10 of the top 20 names on the list were U. of T. employees with the lowest earning almost $458K in 2019.

U. of T. employees reputedly number about 15,600 operating on three campuses and the April 30, 2020 CRA filing indicates total compensation of $2.3 billion which suggests average income of $147K per employee and represented about 65% of U. of T’s gross revenue of $3.54 billion.

Some of the $1,043 million U. of T. received in their year-ended April 30, 2020 from the various governments (paid by taxpayers) flows to University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM) established in April 2000. UTAM have responsibility to manage three U. of T. pools of funds which are; the Long Term Capital Appreciation Pool (assets from endowments) of $3.2 billion, the Expendable Funds Investment Pool (short-term working capital) of $2.5 billion and the University of Toronto Master Trust (Pension Fund) of $5.6 billion. So UTAM were managing (as of December 31, 2019) assets of $11.4 billion much of which us kindly taxpayers contributed over the years. 

Further, and as a matter of interest, UTAM have gone full blown ESG (environmental, social and governance) signing up to the UN PRI (principles for responsible investment) back in December 2016. They have obviously bought into the new economic theories pushed by the WEF and many others including our former Bank of Canada governor, Mark Carney!  They even have a picture of industrial wind turbines on the website to augment their belief in ESG. No doubt, if UTAM come up short and unable to generate sufficient revenue in their management of the pension fund the university will go hat in hand to the various government bodies and seek more of our private sector tax dollars!

Now, returning to the CRA report another interesting disclosure was the fact charities as of December 31, 2020 had filed over 91,000 applications for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and almost all of them were approved.  That resulted in another $2.4 billion of tax dollars flowing to charities (with employees such as U. of T.) and one should imagine many of those dollars flowed to the lower paid employees within the various universities, colleges, and other public sector charities as well as to many environmental groups such as WWF, Pembina Foundation, Environmental Defence, etc. etc.

Canada is in need of new legislation in respect to charities in order to meet the true definition of what a charity really is. 

The public is being abused despite the rhetoric from the Director General!

*To be clear I am a member of a charity but it is a “not for profit” so doesn’t issue tax receipts and has no paid employees but we do our best to help the needy and contribute to the community!

The Great Reset, Climate Blueprint, ESG, Building Back Better, Green New Deal, Net-zero Emissions or the Circular Economy—Pick One!

As the Covid-19 pandemic closes in on its zenith with the forthcoming vaccine(s) to immunize us, most are hoping it will allow a return to a normal life but don’t count on it!  It seems when we read an MSM article about the pandemic they frequently mention the next major upcoming global pandemic is the “climate change crisis”.  If we don’t reduce our emissions the planet will die and mankind will be doomed!  The hope, we are told by many, is to choose one of the plans proposed by those ENGO surviving with the tax dollars they receive or the philanthropy of billionaires like the Bloomberg’s, Bezos’s or George Soros’s of the world.

It is becoming evident the influences of the billionaires and the cash they hand out to ENGO pushing their agenda is gaining much traction with not only politicians but financial institutions such as Canada’s largest bank; the RBC. The RBC recently launched their “Climate Blueprint” (3 pages) and on October 7, 2020 put out a YouTube video to tell the world they will “Increase our sourcing of electricity from renewable and non-emitting sources to 100% by 2025”.  One wonders; will they put solar panels on their 1209 branches and install batteries to back them up?  Supplying ATMs with renewable energy will also be tricky and expensive and those additional costs will result in an increase in bank fees.  Will Brinks be required to use EV trucks to deliver cash to their branches and ATMS?

RBC’s three page “Climate Blueprint” includes a message from their CEO, David McKay promising: “$100 billion in sustainable financing by 2025.” The “$100 billion” would represent approximately 16% of their total loan portfolio as of October 31, 2019 and 51% of their wholesale loan portfolio. The “Blueprint” highlights nine (9) organizations RBC “partner with” which are: UNEP Finance Initiative, the PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment), The Green Bond Principles, TCFD (Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures) CDP (a not-for-profit charity), CPLC (Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition), Smart Prosperity, the Business Renewable Centre and the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI).

It appears the CPLC was created at the COP 21 Paris Accord in 2015 and a picture on their website indicates a strong Canadian presence with at least four Premiers, the Federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Glen Murray, then Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in the picture. 

The Climate Bond Initiative’s (CBI) purpose is summed up as “a hugely ambitious agenda to mobilize bond markets for climate change solutions.” The CBI was a UK creation and has a large Advisory Panel from many countries but only one is from Canada. That individual is Cynthia Williams the Osler Chair in Business Law, Osgoode Hall Law School for the Canada Climate Law Initiative. The latter is out of the University of British Columbia and York University.  Williams authored and in September 2020 released a report titled: “Troubling Incrementalism’: Is the Canadian Pension Plan Fund Doing Enough to Advance the Transition to a Low-carbon Economy?“. 

Williams report is sprinkled with words we continue to hear from other lawyers such as Stewart Elgie of Smart Prosperity including; “Building Back Better, ESG, zero emissions by 2050, circular economy as well as wind and solar energy”!  Needless to say, MS. Williams is critical of CPP stating; “CPP Investment’s actions could have the effect of contributing to Canada’s failure to meet its international and domestic commitments to transition to a low-carbon economy.” After itemizing some of CPPI’s investment of approximately $10/12 billion (about 3% of total assets) made in the oil and gas sector Williams states the following in a Summary: “There is much of concern in this pattern of investments from a climate change perspective. These are all investments in expanding fossil fuel technologies and producing more oil and gas at a time when every scientifically credible analysis shows the world needs to be transitioning away from oil and gas.”

It seems in the minds of someone with a law degree and operating in the public sector, they are also blessed with talents in both science and economics but fail to examine opposing scientific analysis. As a lawyer one would assume Williams is mindful, in a court of law there are both the plaintiff and the defendant!  Her opinion is judgmental suggesting we defendants have no “scientifically credible analysis”!

Williams was paid $171,501 by York University in 2019. She presumably has an indexed government pension plan that will reward her nicely when she retires.  To top that off her pension is taxpayer guaranteed in the event her plan is unable to meet its commitments! Despite her presumably knowing that, she thinks CPP investments, whose maximum payout to millions of Canadians is $14,110 annually should only be invested in zero emission companies in a “circular economy”! The hypocrisy of those pushing the net-zero emissions economy is mind blowing and indicates they truly believe they are the “elites” of our society!

MaRS Discovery District lives on Government Grants and miss Fundraising Targets by Miles

The MaRS Discovery District (MDD) is a registered charity owned by the Ontario Provincial Government. MDD was one of the major issues (together with the expanding electricity mess) that resulted in turning the majority McGuinty led Ontario Liberal Party in the 2011 election into a minority!  MDD was conceived in “2001 to develop a world-class innovation and convergence centre (the MaRS Centre) in Toronto dedicated to improving Canada’s economic prosperity from innovation in the life sciences sector.”

MDD didn’t get rolling until the Liberals gained power in 2003 but from that point on MDD took off with incredible support from Provincial taxpayers. As evidence, Provincial support to the end of 2011 was in excess of $150 million and reviewing the 10 years from 2010 to 2019, MDD received $228 million in provincial funding as well as $9.4 million in Federal funds. Actual donations, for which MDD issued tax receipts, were a paltry $4.6 million or an average of $460K annually for those 10 years.

MDD had originally arranged financing for their Phase 2 expansion via IO (Infrastructure Ontario) another provincial entity established by the McGuinty led government but it was never clear* how the $235 million they arranged to borrow via IO would be able to pay the estimated cost of the building of $344 million.  As it turned out IO’s 2015 annual report noted: “The Loan receivable from the Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) was transferred to the Ministry of Research and Innovation on March 31, 2015.”  The money supplied by the Provincial government at that time reached at least $400 million to cover the expansion.  As time went on and the building was completed Brad Duguid, then Ontario Economic Development Minister, was finally able to announce MaRS had  “completed a $290-million private financing of its west tower building project, which has enabled it to repay three-quarters of the nearly $400-million in loans received from Ontario to complete the stalled project.”  The Globe and Mail carried the story on February 9, 2017. Ironically one of the “premier” tenants in the Phase 2 building is none other than Public Health Ontario (PHO) an outgrowth of the 2003 SARS epidemic! PHO is now guiding the Ford led government on the Covid-19 pandemic!

Just months before the foregoing announcement the Globe ran an article stating: “The long-time CEO of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, Ilse Treurnicht, has informed its board she will be stepping down as of June, 2017, ending a 12-year run at the head of the non-profit innovation hub funded primarily by the province.”  If one looks at the “Sunshine list” it is obvious Ms. Treurnicht was extremely well paid particularly when one realizes that she was the CEO of a “charity”! In most years she was paid over $500K.  Comparing her salary to the average annual tax receipted donations of $460K indicates they didn’t even receive enough to pay her salary.  From 2010 the number of employees at MaRS grew from 51 to 211 and compensation costs in 2019 were $23.5 million meaning the average salary for all employees was $111,000!

The foregoing is humorous as when MDD were finally able to arrange partial private financing for their Phase 2 expansion and repaid the Province $290 million of the $400 million of debt they had incurred, Ms. Treurnicht was quoted in a Globe article and presumably the reporter obtained all of the following information from her in addition to her quote.

When the building is fully occupied later this year, it will generate about $20-million in annualized net operating income, enough to make it self-sustaining, MaRS CEO Ilse Treurnicht said.

MaRS will now focus on fundraising, with a goal of bringing in more than $50-million from private donors for programming to help startups. MaRS board members have personally pledged close to $7-million of that amount.

“It’s really exciting because we now have what we always needed – long-term stable financial base for the infrastructure of Mars,” Ms. Treurnicht said.”

MDD have recently released their March 31, 2020 Annual Report but haven’t filed it with the CRA.  Nevertheless, there are parts of the report that make for interesting reading including the fact they once again they finished their year without showing a profit.

What is also interesting is reading the auditor’s notes which indicate their realty and other holdings.  Note 1 tells us about “MaRS Phase 1 Investment Trust, MaRS Phase 1 Inc. and 2550106 Ontario Inc.” as well as “Phase 2 Investment Trust and MaRS Phase 2 Inc.”. They note those realty holdings are “Ontario for-profit” companies.  Other “for profits” owned by MDD include: MaRS Discovery Enterprises Inc., MaRS Catalyst Fund and MaRS 101 Investments. The “not for profits” under the MaRS wing are; MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund Inc. and MaRS Discovery Services Inc. The latter owns 100% of MaRS 101 Ventures and 100% of MaRS Catalyst General Partner Inc. There are companies, etc. MDD claim an interest in but for the sake of brevity let’s stop there.

After reviewing the “not-for-profits” and the “for-profits” owned by a “charity” owned by the taxpayers of the Province of Ontario one wonders; did the Kielburgers’ get their WE to ME organization abilities from the former Ontario Liberals who for 15 years were running the Province?  Just saying!

In reviewing the 2018 and 2019 CRA filing’s for MDD the $50 million goal of donations, cited by their former CEO, Ms. Treurnicht as noted above, appears to be “pie in the sky” as receipted donations in 2018 were $704K and in 2019 were $538K.  That’s a big miss by any planning standards and brings to light an article Peter Foster had in the Financial Post in June 2014 about MDD where he wrote!

MaRS DD was based on the zombie delusion that governments can pick winners or, in this case, carefully select those whom they will guide across the so-called “valley of death” – a place littered with the bleached bones of brilliant innovators who couldn’t sell their dreams to blinkered, flinty-eyed financiers.”

Six years later and MaRS Discovery District is still convinced they can pick the winners out of the clouds of their organization and guide them over the “valley of death”!

The time has come for Ontario’s Auditor General to examine this labyrinth and give Ontario taxpayers the facts about their charity; MaRS Discovery District!  From the outside MaRS looks more like a realty company than a Charity!

*Refer an article by the author in the Financial Post on June 10, 2014.

MaRS Discovery District, Greenbelt Foundation and Ontario Trillium Foundation redefine the word “charity”

With all that is going on in Ontario and the rest of the world associated with the pandemic perhaps it is time for some of our politicians to look inward and try to determine if their past creations make sense and if those creations should be tossed aside.  The result might be to save some hard-earned tax dollars that could be re-deployed to cope with some of today’s Covid-19 fallout.  This looks at just three of those creations.

All three of the captioned companies were creations of the Ontario provincial government and annually receive tens of millions of taxpayer funds which they then reputedly hand out in a “charitable” way.

Their annual reports filed for just the year ended March 31, 2019 indicates they collectively received almost $155 million from the province and $3.7 million from the Federal government. Those funds in turn supposedly resulted in $153 million expended on “charitable activities”.

It’s unclear how many employees the three charities have in total but a review of the recently released Ontario “Sunshine List” indicates 78 employees made the list and received just over $12.7 million in compensation indicating, the “average” salary received was just shy of $163,000 each.*

While the Ontario Trillium Foundation appears incorporated as a “not-for-profit” both MaRS and the Greenbelt are registered charities and their files can be found on the CRA Charities list under the names of “Greenbelt Foundation” and “MaRS Discovery District”.  Let’s examine the three!

Greenbelt Foundation:

In Greenbelt’s filings with the CRA for the March 31, 2019 year-end they provide a list of other “charities” whom they granted funds to and on that list are several towns, municipalities and even Ryerson University.  Also, on that list can be found donations made to the David Suzuki Foundation (revenue of $12.7 million in the most recent year-end), Environmental Defence (annual revenue $3.7 million) and the World Wildlife Fund (annual revenue of almost $25 million).  The other amusing (not for taxpayers) thing about Greenbelt is they spent $564,854 on advertising and promotion and received a miserly $2,929 in actual charitable donations for which they issued tax receipts. What the foregoing infers is our tax dollars are being wasted and also handed out to help charities (we may not willingly support) and municipalities but we taxpayers have no say in the matter.

MaRS Discovery District:

In the case of MaRS we should recall that it was $50.5 million of Ontario taxpayer dollars that first funded them when Dalton McGuinty was the Premier as noted in a 2005 Press Release.  Another $20 million came from the Federal Government.  Since then the province has annually provided them with $20/30 million and the Federal Government with a few million more.  Additionally most will recall the taxpayers back in 2014 bailed them out of their “Phase 2” $344 million expansion.  In their latest CRA filing they record spending $653 thousand on advertising and promotion and raised $528 thousand for which they issued charitable receipts.  Better than Greenbelt but, they still didn’t cover their “A and D spending”!  Major expenditures included $7.5 million on office supplies, $4.4 million on consulting and professional fees, $23.1 million on compensation, $12,3 million on management and administration and $14.4 million on “other expenditures”!  They then have the audacity to suggest and report $40.6 was spent on “charitable activities” but for some unknown reason are not required to report who the beneficiaries were of their largess with our tax dollars.  Needless to say, they lost $3.4 million yet they have 62 people on the recent Sunshine list! Many of those** they funded or provided with their “expert” advice and our tax dollars are reputedly connected to the MaRS “cleantech” sector.

Ontario Trillium Foundation:

As noted above the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is not registered as a charity however, in their most recent year-end financial statement they record having pledged $108,148,100 in grants to numerous parties.  Their year-end, March 31, 2019, discloses over 410 grants averaging approximately $263,000 with several spread over 2 or 3 years and many of them are true “charities”.  Never-the-less sprinkled among them are grants to the likes of Tides Canada (annual revenue of $35.9 million) and the IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development) with annual revenue of $29.8 million and a few smaller ones. Donations to other “climate change” charities in the past were much higher and went to: David Suzuki Foundation, Pembina, WWF, Environmental Defence, Sierra Club, etc. etc. Perhaps those now responsible for handing out our hard-earned tax dollars at OTF realized the meaning of what a “charitable institution” really is? Despite the foregoing it should be up to us taxpayers to pick the charity we would support which would eliminate the approximately $30 million of expenses they incur for administration, compensation, etc. Let us decide where some of our taxes should go!

At the present time the three “charities”, briefly reviewed, are providing no meaningful contribution to the pandemic and instead are consuming tax dollars that may be better applied to keep the province from collapsing in an economic heap.  Those 78 employees on the “Sunshine” list could be redeployed to actually contribute to the real charitable activities currently needed.

Our governments must make decisions now to consider our economic future and not penalize our younger generation by creating insurmountable debt.

*Full disclosure.  The writer is a member of a small charitable organization (40 members) and each and every member is paid absolutely NOTHING.

**Represented by 56 “startups” whom MaRS reputedly helped to reach that stage.