(October 7, 2013) In Ontario it’s a well-known fact that the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) was developed because a small group of people convinced a past Energy Minister, George Smitherman, it was needed. That group, the Green Energy Act Alliance (GEAA), even claim they helped him write the Act!
Several Ministers later and things haven’t changed even though current Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli has talked a lot about engaging communities, smaller municipalities and other stakeholders in revisions to the siting of gas, wind and solar generating plants. Minister Chiarelli has even invited input on revisions to the Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP). Despite the rhetoric however, it still appears that the time spent by all but the environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) will fall on deaf ears.
The writing was on the wall from the first announcement by Minister Chiarelli on April 16, 2013, when he was the keynote speaker at the Ontario Power Conference, where he told all present that revisions to siting, the feed-in tariff (FIT) program and the LTEP would shortly occur and that Ontarians would have a chance to provide input. Since that announcement the renewable energy approvals (REAs) issued by the Ministry of the Environment have not stopped. All have been issued without the consultations that were promised by Minister Chiarelli back on that April day!
In keeping with the way the ENGOs had influenced previous energy ministers, it came as no great shock that OSEA (Ontario Sustainable Energy Association – the ENGO behind the GEAA) had had a one-on-one meeting with Minister Chiarelli in early June and posted their letter of thanks to the minister on their website!
The foregoing discovery led to a freedom of information (FOI) request to the Ministry of Energy by the writer, sent August 26, 2013, shortly after an article in the Ottawa Citizen. The article in the Citizen carried the story about how 62 communities (now 69) had declared themselves “unwilling hosts” for any industrial wind turbines at a meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). The article went on to say that Premier Wynne had approached OSEA:
“Wynne has asked the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association to raise awareness in communities slated for the turbine projects about the benefits of hosting, including the financial gains that can come from being power generators in a cash-strapped economy.”
Interestingly enough the Wynne engagement of OSEA would seem to be nothing more than a PR endeavour with OSEA launching a program they call “Green Energy Doors Open” which, on October 5 showcased the iconic small, useless Exhibition Place wind turbine as well as another group of events meant to convince communities of the wonders of renewable energy. It is unlikely that the 69 “unwilling host” communities will buy into what OSEA is selling.
The FOI asked for a copy of Minister Chiarelli’s diary in respect to any meeting(s) he had with any ENGOs from the date of his April 16, 2013 announcement. The response was received a few days ago.
As it turns out, the minister met with several ENGOs. The first meeting occurred on April 18 and the last on June 26, 2013. The first meeting was with the Ontario Clean Air Alliance and doesn’t identify who the minister met with but expect that it would have been Jack Gibbons and perhaps Angela Bischoff who show up on their website as the only staff. We note that the OCAA does not appear to be registered with the Ontario Lobbyist Registry. As a matter of interest the OCAA show total revenues for their 2012 year were a shade over $120,000. Considering the expense associated with having an office in downtown Toronto there wouldn’t be much left to pay those two employees! Do these two staff work for free like the people fighting to keep industrial wind turbines away from their communities?
The second meeting with Minister Chiarelli was with three individuals from Environmental Defence whom he met with on May 7 and again on June 26. In the latter case, it appears that only Gillian McEachern, the campaign director, attended. I would note that Ms. McEachern is not listed as an ED’s representative on the Lobbyist Registry. The third meeting that Minister Chiarelli had was on June 3with three members of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). A search of the Lobbyist Registry came up blank for CAPE. Tagging along for that meeting were the two members of the Asthma Society of Canada (not found in the Lobbyist Registry) and one representative (senior economist Kim Jarvi) of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario who were registered but Ms. Jarvi was not listed as their representative. The meeting with OSEA occurred on June 4.
The question now becomes, exactly how much influence will those meetings (each a minimum of 45 minutes in length) have on what we will see in the way of changes to the siting of industrial wind turbines or gas plants and changes in the FIT program or the LTEP?
In the latter stages (July 16, 2013) of the Energy Minister’s announcements came one that jumped on the “Conservation” bandwagon, which has been aggressively promoted by those who met with Minister Chiarelli. These ENGOs did exactly that in their testimonials, putting “conservation” first. The support came from: CAPE, OCAA, Pembina, Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance (CEEA), Ryerson University and the Electricity Distributors Association (EDA). One would expect that the CAPE, OCCA, CEEA, Pembina ENGO crowd would be quick to add their support but what of the latter two? Well, one can only suspect that Ryerson University’s, President, Sheldon Levy, knew that endorsing the “conservation” movement would result in a favourable announcement on August 26 that would disclose Ryerson was chosen to receive provincial funds to establish a “smart grid laboratory”. In respect to the endorsement by the Chairman of the EDA, perhaps the fact that Chiarelli has done absolutely nothing about the recommendations contained in the Ontario Distribution Sector Review Panel’s report may have been sufficient for him to endorse the concept.
Now if one delves further into the various relationships between the ENGOs that add their weight by endorsing Minister Chiarelli’s announcement, one should go to an August 2013 study released by “BLUE GREEN CANADA” posted on the Environmental Defence website.
“BLUE GREEN CANADA is an alliance between Canadian labour unions, environmental and civil society organizations to advocate for working people and the environment by promoting solutions to environmental issues.”
BLUE GREEN occupy the same premises as Environmental Defence and the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and their members are identified as: United Steelworkers Union, Environmental Defence, CEP (Community, Energy & Paperworkers Union), Columbia Institute (an offshoot of Working Enterprises- a group of union enterprises), Pembina Institute and Clean Energy Canada, an offshoot of Tides Canada. The “BLUE GREEN study does not identify the authors but is full of unsupported rhetoric; promising 25,000 jobs, reduction of the Provincial and Federal deficits by $1-billion each, cutting global warming pollution by 9% and the biggest lie in the study: “We use less energy and pay lower bills as a result.”
The unfortunate part of this whole ministerial exercise is that the ENGOs have set past policies for the Energy Ministry and appear to have the current energy minister firmly under their control.
The policy changes we are likely to see later this fall, (after the Auditor General releases her report on the costs of the Oakville gas plant move), will be reflective of what the ENGOs have recommended to Minister Chiarelli. We should not expect any radical change to the GEA or any deviation from the original targets for wind and solar generation that formed the backbone of the LTEP.
Minister Chiarelli is well aware that the Ontario Liberal Party is dependent on donations from the unions and the many corporations that rushed to Ontario to erect industrial wind turbines and plant solar panels. In 2011 they collectively donated $1.4 million to the OLP and the unions, via Working Families, along with Environmental Defence and OSEA and other ENGOs spent millions condemning the Ontario PC party because of their promise to kill the GEA.
Ontario’s ratepayers will be stuck with the same energy policies that George Smitherman promised us would only raise our electricity rates by 1% – which has become one of the Liberal’s biggest lies.
Keep on smiling; only two years left before the next provincial election or sooner, if Andrea Horvath decides to finally pull the plug!
Parker Gallant is a retired bank executive and a former director of Energy Probe Research Foundation. As with all independent bloggers on this site, Parker’s views do not necessarily reflect those of Energy Probe.