When a Provincial Government is being “guided” by Lobbyists…..the Citizens LOSE!

Posted: July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

We all know that lobbyists roam the halls at Queen’s Park on a daily basis looking for their “buddies” who also hold a seat of power within the various Ministries that legislate the various sectors of our economy.

One of the busiest set of hinges on a door that swings both ways would be the Ministry of Energy and it seems to have been that way for decades.

An endless “conga line” of lobby groups and “hooked up advisor’s” are always coming and going with the endless list of Energy Ministers which bridge political parties regardless of their political philosophies. I suppose the “philosophy” part of a political party is only for use during election time while the true acts of a political party is the act of sucking as much money out of tax payers pockets as can be done in the short time a party is in power!

Bruce Lourie is a study in just that vein. He bridges two parties, first the PC party under Harris and now the Liberals under McGuinty.

His influences inside Queen’s Park for the past decade plus can be translated into what a complete dismal failure our Energy Sector has become today.

The following “no holds barred” look at this man and what his “finger in the energy pie” has done over the years must make one wonder: “WHO THE HELL DID WE VOTE FOR and WHY?”

Bruce Lourie: How he Set the Table for the Creation of the Ontario Power Authority

The most recent article penned about Bruce Lourie and his relationship with the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance (CEEA) failed to mention the latter’s influence on both the outgoing PC Party and the incoming Ontario Liberal Party in 2003.

If one looks back to 2003 and CEEA’s submission (undated) to the Ontario Energy Board under RP-2003-0144 (a Directive dated June 18, 2003 from Energy Minister, John Baird) you find that a “Vision for a Sustainable and Energy Efficient Ontario” was the thrust of their paper in response to the directive’s instruction to look at demand-side management (DSM) and demand response (DR). A footnote on Page 6 of CEEA’s 40 page “discussion paper” notes that ; “Some parts of this paper were developed by Bruce Lourie of Lourie and Love as a CEEA position paper which was provided to the Ontario government in 2001.”

The “Vision” portion of the paper looked forward to 2010 when among other visions they saw results that included:

  • Planning is long-term and comprehensive.
  • We’ve harnessed renewable resources and cleaned our environment.
  • Consumers’ purchasing decisions are significantly influenced by energy information.
  • A level playing field exists for investment in demand and supply.
  • Local energy networks increasingly replace reliance on provincial grid.
  • Comprehensive pricing structure reflects true cost of energy.
  • Smart metering and control systems are ubiquitous.
  • Research and development keeps expanding the potential for more savings.

It becomes obvious that the visions in the paper are at odds with each other if someone bothered to complete a cost/benefit analysis. Looking at the above in order we see the following:

Planning: 

Planning has been a shambles and here we are in 2012 still without a proper plan. Since the “Vision” paper was presented to the OEB, Ontario has seen two Integrated Power Systems Plans (IPSP) scrapped and we are now basing our forward looking energy plan on what the former Energy Minister, Brad Duguid labelled a “guide” when he released his Long-Term Energy Plan November 23, 2010.

Harnessing Renewables: 

Harnessing those renewable resources has resulted in 400 foot industrial wind turbines popping up throughout rural Ontario, reducing property values, killing birds and bats and creating a rural/urban divide while producing health problems in people living in close proximity to them. Adding renewables to Ontario’s supply has had no appreciable effect on cleaning our environment with both “advisory” and “smog days” in 2012 (as at July 25th) exceeding those of 2003 when Ontario’s consumption of electricity included 25% from coal-fired units.

Consumer Purchasing Decisions: 

Consumers purchasing decisions have been influenced by the price of electricity as many Ontarians living on fixed incomes struggle to pay their hydro bills. The influence felt is in their dietary habits, their ability to remain warm in the winter’s cold and cool in the summer’s heat, not in their choice of new appliances with the “energy efficiency” labels handed out by CEEA.

Level Playing Field
:
The level playing field envisioned for investment in the electricity sector has been simply, a ratepayer and taxpayer subsidization of mainly foreign wind and solar developers through above market rates of the FIT and MicroFIT programs as laid out in the Green Energy and Economy Act.

Local Energy Networks: 

There are no new “Local energy networks” as the FIT and MicroFIT program design demands that this above market contracted generation be hooked up to the Ontario grid, at the expense of the ratepayers.

Comprehensive Pricing Structure: 

The “comprehensive pricing structure” does reflect the costs of energy as electricity rates have soared by over 100% since 2003 driven principally by the rush for renewable energy and the closing of Ontario’s coal-fired generation while adding (must pay) gas generation to back up wind and solar. The creation of the FIT programs giving wind and solar generation first to the grid rights has harmed the publicly owned institutions and repayment of the stranded debt, by IESO having to instruct OPG to spill hydro production without any revenue offset to ensure the grid remains stable.

Smart Metering: 
Smart Metering turns out to be not so smart as local distribution companies (LDCs) do not yet have the ability to even determine where blackouts or brownouts occur. This is despite the estimated $2 billion plus spent on smart meters that ratepayers now pay for on the regulatory line of their bills. Homeowners are able to view their consumption levels inside their house but have little ability to alter their consumption to actually save money as prices have climbed faster in all time-of-use categories and LDCs are allowed rate increases for distribution in the event their revenue falls.

Research: 
It is obvious that the Provincial Government has thrown tens of million of dollars at research with no tangible results. Between the $50 million allocated to the “smart grid fund”, monies spent to support the MaRS Discovery District’s “clean tech” group, whatever money is being spent (upwards of $80 million) by Hydro One for its “Distribution Management System” pilot and by the Federal Government on the Centres of Excellence focused on energy efficiency; the efforts to create new technologies is consuming tax dollars but so far we have not seen any appreciable results that will produce “more savings.”

It now appears those Lourie “visions” were being viewed through rose coloured glasses by our politicians!

As noted in the earlier article Pollution Probe is a member of CEEA and perhaps that has something to do with the fact that Bruce Lourie was once employed with them as the “Mercury Program Director”. Prior articles have pointed out Lourie’s numerous relationships and his ability to influence people within the confines of government and crown corporations and in my opinion he appears to use his past relationships to influence government policy that will benefit his numerous entities.

On the latter point it is interesting to note that Pollution Probe made a submission to the OEB under EB-2007-0707 (the first IPSP) filed September 2, 2008 which uses a Lourie and Love (Peter Love-former Energy Conservation Officer with the OPA) Environmental Management Consulting report from August 2000 as a principal reference. At that time Lourie was an employee of Pollution Probe.

CEEA held it’s 2nd DSM summit September 5, 2003 in Toronto at Metro Hall with “almost 100 registered for the session.” Those registered included many from the public sector such as the Ontario Ministry of Energy, the City of Toronto, Hamilton Hydro, Enersource, Oakville Hydro, Toronto Hydro, the OEB, IMO (forerunner to IESO), etc. The summit also included a number of groups that would eventually wind up lobbying for the Green Energy & Economy Act and the latter participants included the Ontario Sustainability Energy Association, Marion Fraser, Pollution Probe, etc. Readers will recall that approximately 6 months after this “summit” Ontario’s governing Liberal party would amend the Electricity Act 1998 to create the Ontario Power Authority which produced the two IPSPs that were tossed in file 13 (the garbage); the first one by then Energy Minister George Smitherman and the 2nd one just recently by Energy Minister Chris Bentley.

In the writer’s humble opinion, Bruce Lourie has used his influence, with gullible politicians, to achieve positions of authority. When in those positions he has used the power of those positions to generate benefits for his cadre of charities, not-for profits and for profit companies and associates to gain wealth and power. That he has been able to do so with relative impunity is a sign that our political system is in big need of a major overhaul and that our elected representatives are greatly influenced by what should be considered professional lobbyists. On the latter point only CEEA is registered with the Ontario Lobbyist Registry out of the 10 companies Mr. Lourie claims he founded or co-founded and of the 11 entities where he sits as a “director” or “adviser” only Environmental Defence is registered.

It is amusing that the Ivey Foundation where Mr. Lourie holds the title of President, posts its “Conflict of Interest” policy on their website. As a juxtaposition; Mr. Lourie (holding positions within the confines of Ontario’s taxpayer owned and funded entities) doesn’t bother to get his companies such as Summerhill to even register with the Lobbyist Registrar despite the contracts and government grants that it and others in his group have obtained from various ministries, local distribution companies and crown corporations.

Transparency is in the eye of the beholder!

Parker Gallant,
July 27, 2012

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