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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