Who (and what) is the Ecofiscal Commission?

It recently came to light that when Canadian universities hand out doctorates thus allowing an individual to be called an “economist,” some recipients feel they can also call themselves “Commissioners” with attendant heightened gravitas.

For example, if you examine the “Ecofiscal Commission” the 13 economists are listed as “commissioners”. If you thought a “Commission”* as it relates to Canada is normally appointed by the legislature of the country or the province, you are apparently wrong.  In the spirit of appointing themselves as “commissioners” they also created the word “ecofiscal” proposing a its definition as follows:

An ecofiscal policy corrects market price signals to encourage the economic activities we do want (job creation, investment, and innovation) while reducing those we don’t want (greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of our land, air, and water).

Reviewing the bios of the 13 commissioners is an interesting exercise: not one seems to have spent any meaningful time working in the private sector. They are all university professors or engaged as government employees — only one appears to have actually worked for a short time outside of a government position not paid for by taxpayers.

The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) likes “commissions” : “Indigenous Peoples Commission”, “Young Liberals of Canada”, “National Women’s Liberal Commission” and the “Senior Liberal’s Commission”.  Presumably they were also simply created without legislative involvement?

My interest in Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission was triggered by an interview on the “Agenda” that Steve Paikin had with Chris Ragan, Chair, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, and specifically the claims made by him when responding to Paikin’s questions.  The interview title was “The Battle Over Carbon Pricing” and Ragan was effective at simply walking over any of the questions posed by Paikin, providing superficial answers as if they were facts. “Commissioner” Ragan’s purpose in life seems to be to support “carbon pricing” come hell or high water!  He, his fellow commissioners and the assembled team of “Advisors” believe the science is settled and Canada, along with a few other countries, will solve the AGW/climate change/pollution (pick one) problems plaguing the world due to human consumption.

Perhaps the 13 economists/commissioners lack confidence, otherwise why would they also need 15 “Advisors” composed of representatives from the NDP (Michael Harcourt, former BC Premier), the Liberals (Paul Martin, former PM) and the Reform/Conservative Party (Preston Manning, former Leader of the Opposition) and Jim Dinning (former Alberta Treasury Minister)! The other 12 “Advisors” come from industry such as GE Canada, Mattamy Homes, TD Bank and even Suncor Energy. Sprinkled in are others with a decidedly biased view on how to save the world from global warming.  The latter include individuals like Bruce Lourie (Ivey Foundation) and Peter Robinson (former CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation).

On top of all those economists/commissioners and advisors the Ecofiscal Commission also has nine permanent staff, most of whom were drawn from the public sector.

I am unsure as to how the “Commission” survives and pays staff as it doesn’t appear to have charitable status, nor does it solicit funds via their website. It also doesn’t appear they receive funding from either the federal or provincial governments.  They do, however, thank their funders in their abbreviated and unaudited “annual reports”. The 2017 annual report (day and month not disclosed) suggest they received and spent $1.3 million with 7% ($91K) spent on “contract research.” The latter seems to be a very small amount to reach the conclusions they claim and publicize, but perhaps they are of the view that the “science is settled” and therefore their role now is to convince the masses.  That goal was noted in the Chair’s letter in the annual report which stated: “Meanwhile, as governments at every level recognize the benefits of ecofiscal instruments, we piloted a series of workshops for public servants on the practical details of designing good ecofiscal policies.”

The “Funders” consist of eight charity foundations and three corporate funders with the latter being TD Bank, Suncor Energy and KTG Public Affairs Partners, formed in 2013 by two former Liberal insiders and one NDP insider. Clicks on the TD logo and you are taken to TD’s “corporate giving” site; click on the Suncor logo you are taken to Suncor Energy Foundation. The eight charitable foundations have total assets of $1.3 billion*** and use their annual earnings to dole the funds out to apparently worthy causes. One of them, the Peter Gilgan Foundation however, seems to operate by disbursing almost all of the funds received annually by the charity. Peter Gilgan, an Ecofiscal “advisor,” is the founder and CEO of Mattamy Homes which claims to be the largest privately-owned home builder in North America. Interestingly enough all eight are members of Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network (CEGN)! CEGN was created by another “advisor,” namely, Bruce Lourie, President of the Ivey Foundation and a past Board member of the Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Power Authority and former Chair of Environmental Defence Canada. In addition, two of the corporate members of CEGN are Suncor Energy Foundation and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. (It should be noted Mr. Lourie together with Rick Smith, former CEO of Environmental Defence, are also two-time winners of the prestigious Financial Post’s “Rubber Duckies” award!)

It’s obvious the economists/commissioners, advisors and funders of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commissioner are firm believers in climate change and represent a major force in supporting those beliefs.  They seem willing to cause great pain to Canadian families through advocating for a carbon tax despite questions about the effectiveness of such a tax, and Canada’s role in global warming generally.  Imposing a carbon tax in Canada while countries representing 86% of global emissions do nothing, will make Canada un-competitive and reflect in lost jobs and considerable harm to low-income families.

 

PARKER GALLANT

 

Coming soon: Part two, an exploration of the Agenda interview with Chris Randal, Chief Commissioner of Ecofiscal.

*The Federal Government has had a Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development dating back to at least 2002.

**Merriam Webster’s definition of “economist” is simply; “one who practices economy”.

***Based on the writer’s review of the latest financial statements filed by the eight foundations on the CRA “charities” site.

 

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Is it time for Canada to claim environmental hero status?

Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are well below the world average and despite a resource extraction economy, our air pollution improvement is among the best in the world—so why are we made to feel so guilty?

Recently, I discussed to how politicians continue to “virtue signal when advocating for renewable energy.  And sometimes, they omit facts. That might be because the omitted facts fail to support the “virtue” they are promoting, like a clean green environment, or maybe, the politicians don’t feel the need to discuss  cost/benefit or examine that closely.

New information has come to light as to why politicians leave out the facts sometimes.

On December 19, 2018 an article by Philip Cross published in the Financial Post on renewable energy was blunt in its lede: “StatCan just exposed how worthless ‘green’ industries are to Canada’s economy” — that was exactly what many have long suspected.  Mr. Cross  detailed how false or exaggerated information is fed to politicians by proponents of ventures (wind and solar power, for example) and how those politicians in turn, embarked on “virtuous” actions, based on those supposed facts.

They issue press releases which are then gobbled up by the media for the masses to digest.

Excerpts from the Cross article highlight the failings of those “green” industries. 

“Environmental and clean-technology industries accounted for a puny 3.1 per cent of Canada’s GDP in 2017. More importantly, StatCan noted that this ratio has remained relatively stable since 2007 when the data began. The green economy’s share of GDP stagnated for 10 of the biggest years for pro-green policies and hefty government support, and against historically slow growth in the rest of the economy. If the green economy cannot flourish in these circumstances, it is doubtful it ever will.

The green economy is even less important for jobs, contributing only 1.6 per cent of total employment. If clean-tech and green-tech are the jobs of tomorrow, as their boosters tirelessly claim, then our job prospects are bleak indeed.”

A few weeks after the StatCan report, another discovery the media apparently missed (or ignored) came to light.

At some point in early 2018, just before the Wynne-led Ontario government lost the election, Global Affairs Canada issued a 144-page Voluntary National Review in respect to the 2030 Agenda.  The “Agenda” was a precursor to The Paris Agreement and the synergies in respect to aligning issues related to climate change are significant.

Here are a just few examples:

  1. “The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the poorest and most-vulnerable populations affected by climate change and has committed $2.65 billion in climate finance by 2020-2021 to help developing countries transition to a lower-carbon, climate-resilient economy.”
  2. “The Investing in Canada Plan allocates $9.2 billion to provinces and territories for green infrastructure investments to support mitigation projects, build infrastructure to help communities respond and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, and build other green infrastructure that supports a healthy environment, including water and wastewater infrastructure.”
  3. “Significant investments are being made to develop a national network of charging and re-fuelling stations for alternative fuel vehicles. This infrastructure will enable Canadians to use lower-carbon or zero-emission vehicles.”
  4. ”In addition, Canada is working with its continental partners on the North American Renewable Integration Study (NARIS). By 2019, NARIS is expected to identify the key opportunities and challenges of integrating large amounts of wind, solar and hydro capacity into the North American electricity grid.”
  5. “Clean, non-emitting electricity systems will be the cornerstone of a modern, lower-carbon economy. Several programs have been introduced to support this goal, including initiatives to reduce the use of diesel in rural and remote areas, including for Indigenous communities, and support renewable power technologies, such as geothermal, tidal and offshore wind projects.”

Those five examples are a demonstration of the current Canadian government’s belief that simply spending billions of Canadian tax dollars in Canada and around the world will somehow impact climate change.

Climate change advocacy via continued virtue signaling about a carbon-tax is being challenged by several provinces; however, Canada’s federal government seems intent on causing further damage to Canada’s economy despite the evidence on “green” fails by StatCan.

The “Voluntary National Review” suggests how the spending will be paid for: “… revenues from oil and gas production will help fund the lower-carbon transition.” Clearly, “revenues from oil and gas production” is a reference to the “carbon tax” which will increase substantially over a short time period, affecting all Canadians and pushing our economic prospects down as those “revenues” a.k.a. “carbon taxes” drive up the price of everything we consume.

The “Review” references other reports/studies, for example, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and a report on health, the “Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project [which] ranked air pollution as the fourth-leading risk factor contributing to early deaths (6.9 million deaths worldwide) each year. In Canada, the GBD ranked air pollution as the 11th leading risk factor for premature death.”

The GBD report compares data from 2007 to 2017 and provides + or – percentages. For Canada, the drop in the “air pollution” risk factor was negative 17.5% and appears to be one of the biggest drops of any country. Surprisingly, Poland which gets 80% of its electricity from coal, shows a drop of 14.4%. China was up by 1.7% whereas India was down 2.7% and the USA by 5%. Germany (the bastion of renewable energy) was down by only 2.7%. This data suggests Canada is a leader in reducing air pollution.

As one would expect, the Review says a lot about GHGs and climate change, and laid out reputed accomplishments and future plans. The Review also lectures us, telling us to use less: “The best energy is the energy we do not use. By doing more with less, Canadians can significantly reduce GHG emissions, save money, improve their environment and make their homes more comfortable.”

Most of us heard similar lectures by the Ontario Liberal government (Premier Wynne once chided Ontarians for being “bad actors” when it came to electricity use) and we did consume less. However, we failed to see any savings. In fact, we paid more for less!  (Voters didn’t buy the non-truths, judging from the election results last June.)

On the issue of GHG emissions the data available is extensive and varying.  A simple Google search on list of countries by carbon dioxide emission provides almost 8.7 million hits. Canadians are generally told they contribute 1.6% of Global GHG and from what was available in reviewing some Google links, that appears to be in the ballpark.

One measure where Canada seems to stand out favourably is in the measurement of “Emissions (kg) per $1,000 [US$] of GDP” despite our dependence on agriculture, energy, forestry and mining which collectively represent over 50% of our exports.  Canada’s emissions were 301.0 kg/$1,000 of GDP versus the world average of 490.8 kg. The USA is 324.2 kg and China is 1,235.0/kg. France stands out as the lowest at 110.5 kg and Uzbekistan is the highest at 1960.9.

Taking all this into account, and with the knowledge that Canada is leading the world in reducing air pollution while actually being a low emitter of GHGs in respect to our GDP, and despite our dependence on extraction of natural resources including oil and gas, the question is this — why is the Government of Canada demanding a carbon tax from us and penalizing us domestically with useless intermittent renewable energy and massive conservation spending? With only 1.6% of global emissions we are unable to save the world.

It’s time to let the rest of the world and their 98.4% of emissions catch up!

PARKER GALLANT