Energy Minister Thibeault manipulates public health data

The reason given by the McGuinty and Wynne governments for their ambitious (and now seen as economically disastrous) green energy program, instituted without any cost-benefit analysis, is the need for clean air in Ontario.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault was interviewed in his home riding recently, and had this to say in defence of the program, and to boost his party’s record to voters: “There’s lots of positives that are happening that we need to start talking about. Even, for example, when I talk about energy, we don’t [talk] about the fact we haven’t had a smog day in three years. Our air pollution hospitalizations are down by 41 per cent, deaths are down 23 per cent.

Deaths down 23 per cent”?

That statement seemed dramatic to me and a few others who regularly analyze and comment on energy in Ontario. So, I queried the Minister in an e-mail about his source of the information.

What I received back was a link to a charity called “Toronto Foundation” and a 265-page report they called “Toronto’s Vital(R.) Report” which contained this statement:

“Premature deaths and hospitalizations as a result of air pollution have dropped by 23% and 41% respectively since 2004.[16]

The figures Minister Thibeault used during his interview were apparently taken from that line in the report and the referenced link “[16]” to the actual source of the information which was a Toronto Public Health (TPH) report of April 2014.

What it actually said had nothing to do with the Energy Minister’s spin.

Here is that section from the TPH report:

Findings

Based on the most current information available, TPH estimates that air pollution in Toronto from all sources currently gives rise to 1,300 premature deaths and 3,550 hospitalizations annually (see Table 1). These estimates include the impact of pollution originating in other parts of Ontario and the United States and represent a decrease of 23% in premature deaths and 41% in hospitalizations as compared with 2004 estimates. Air pollution in Toronto comes mainly from traffic, industrial sources, residential and commercial sources, and off-road mobile sources such as rail, air, and marine sources. Of these sources, traffic has the greatest impact on health, contributing to about 280 premature deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations each year, or about 20% of all premature deaths and 30% of all hospitalizations due to air pollution.

The report contained no reference to the coal plants or their closing as Minister Thibeault’s “energy” inference suggests as the source of either causing premature deaths or hospitalizations!

As Guelph University economics professor Ross McKitrick recently reported, “Turns out Ontario’s painful coal phase-out didn’t help pollution—and Queens Park even knew it wouldn’t”.

It is a very serious matter when the government of the day manipulates public health data to suit its public relations agenda.

Letter to Energy Minister Thibeault: facts not insults, please

The Honourable Glenn Thibeault, Minister of Energy

Dear Minister Thibeault:

I just read your “Guest Column” in the Toronto Sun headlined: “Energy minister rips report on closing coal plants.”

Your article seeks to discredit the work of the Fraser Institute referring to it as a “right-wing” institution, and the principal author as a “climate change denier” despite their record of achievements!

Interestingly enough, you don’t stop there to insult the authors, but ramble on with further insults and launch into rhetoric without any discernable facts.   You cite a variety of organizations without offering any specifics on how they; either researched the relationships between Ontario’s coal plants and those in neighbouring jurisdictions, or the effects of what those plants were spewing that wound up in Ontario’s air.   If you bothered to actually research the information the report contains you will see the authors effectively proved closing Ontario’s coal plants did little to improve air quality but what was effective turned out to be the switching of electricity generation in our neighbours’ land from coal generation to gas generation.  The prevailing winds did the rest! 

Throwing insults around is not an effective way to make a point.

It is interesting that you pick one year only to note the number of “smog days” Ontario experienced.  If you had checked with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change you would have learned that in  2012 we had 30 such days, in 2009 we had only five, but in 2007 we had 39.  If you are going to cite statistics you should not just pick one that makes the weak point you are striving for unless you can prove it wasn’t an aberration.

Your closing was presumably meant to show your compassion (like the Prime Minister’s hug the other night) and it does a nice job but I would note a lot of people remember back in July, August and September when all the bad news was hitting the press about energy poverty, people having to choose between eating or paying their electricity bill.  At that time Ontarians found out that at the end of 2015 there were 566,902 ratepaying households in arrears and 60,000 ratepayers were disconnected.  Those households in arrears represented over 12% of all of Ontario’s ratepayers and the many of the 60,000 households cut off had some very sad stories that the mainstream media picked up on.

Your compassion at that time was not flattering and the fix you brought in has been mitigated by the advent of the “cap and trade” tax that will continue to cause energy poverty. 

It is time your Ministry accepted responsibility for the mess that has been created in this province, home to the highest electricity prices in the country and the fastest rising in the U.S. or Canada.

Yours truly,

Parker Gallant,

A concerned citizen