See Comments down arrow

You don't need to see that information

12 Jun 2024 | News Roundup

The latest embarrassment for Canada’s Liberal administration is that they were caught deliberately suppressing information about their carbon tax. And also caught in massive ethics violations in grant-making to insiders by Sustainable Development Technology Canada. Or was it the same pattern government-wide with regard to McKinsey? No, we remember: it’s that they were caught suppressing information about subversion within the hallowed walls of our Parliament and when the news broke they refused even to apologize let alone mend their ways. So much for “openness by default”. But we’re going after the carbon tax scandal here because it’s a classic illustration of how zealotry so often looks like deceit when it’s actually a terrible form of sincerity.

It is a curious feature of public affairs, and not just in Canada, that the people who aspire to govern spend very little time studying government. It’s partly because whereas to gain entry to and promotion in almost any normal trade like, say, plumber or graphic designer, you show competence at plumbing or graphic design, whereas to flourish in government you have to be good at politics, quite a different business. But it’s also because so many people hold the naïve view that good intentions translate smoothly into good results especially in the public sector, so they worry obsessively about motives (their own pure ones and their adversaries’ wretched ones) and neglect methods.

This habit leads them to assume that whatever they want to happen, really want, will happen and have the results they seek. They do not study the law of unintended consequences, and the related massive issue of the importance of incentives. And particularly they do not ponder the importance of incentives in the public as in the private sector, and the enormous risk that those inside will learn to “game” the system in ways that range from job security to bonuses to hiding awkward information to steering contracts to outfits known to hire retired bureaucrats and politicians on generous terms.

As a result, when dreams do not transition seamlessly into reality, they assume they are being foiled by malevolent foes, that the apparent failure is just misinformation and everything’s secretly fine, or both. And then they become dismissive of criticism and frivolous in responses.

We mention this problem here particularly because the administration’s response to the mess in Sustainable Development Canada, which included the abrupt resignation of both CEO and chair under clouds last November, was to… fold it into another equally risk-prone entity. A press release from something called the Council of Canadian Innovators, inexplicably not available on this innovative “internet” thing, said:

“Today in Ottawa, Canada’s Auditor General published a report into Sustainable Development Technology Canada, identifying significant governance lapses and procedural failures when dispersing government funds. Following its release, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne immediately announced that SDTC will no longer exist as an arm’s length entity and will be folded into the National Research Council going forward.”

So pretty much shoot, shovel and shut up. And thus the other key point is that they aren’t hiding this information because they know it proves them wrong. They’re hiding it because they’re so sure they’re right that even their own research, when it says otherwise, is misleading and must be suppressed lest it cause confusion.

Humans are stubborn creatures, and rarely more so than when defending a cause. And we’re all for tenacity. But at a certain point firmness turns into idiocy. And the suppression of carbon-tax information was so far past that point, and so brazen, that even the normally fairly cautious Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) could stand it no longer. As the National Post reported:

“The federal government has a secret economic analysis of the impact of the carbon tax that confirms the parliamentary budget officer’s prior findings, and the budget watchdog said he believes that his office has been under a gag order to not talk about it.”

Strong words. But also a paraphrase so perhaps the press are dressing it up? Not at all. As the Post added, PBO Yves Giroux testified bluntly before the House of Commons finance committee that he and his staff had seen an in-house assessment but “we’ve been told explicitly not to disclose it and reference it.” And when:

“Conservative MP Marty Morantz asked Giroux if the government ‘put a gag’ on the PBO to not talk about their economic analysis. ‘That is my understanding,’ said Giroux.”

It’s no small matter, because the carbon tax and its true impact have been a matter of vigorous, even brutal partisan quarreling. The position of the administration is that the “price on pollution” actually gives most people more money than it takes from them; the Prime Minister has flatly accused the leader of the Official Opposition of wanting to take money from people by abolishing a tax.

Indeed, in response to this latest scandal, instead of expressing contrition and pledging to get back to that promised openness, Justin Trudeau robotically insisted that “We will continue to put money in people’s pockets and fight climate change,” although the only possible rational defence of a price on carbon is that it imposes behavioural changes on people by increasing the cost of actions you want to discourage. If it actually gives back more than it takes, people won’t buy less gas or natural gas; they might even buy more. (For those who understand economics, unlike our Prime Minister, a crucial point is that these fuels are highly price-inelastic because there are very limited available substitutes.)

Since everything in Canadian governments appears to be broken, the PBO was obliged to concede that the analysis by his office also included the impact of industrial as well as consumer carbon pricing. And as Giroux told the committee, the stuff the government wants to keep hidden proves them wrong:

“[It] confirms the report that we have published essentially, so that’s why I’m comfortable with what we have already published with the understanding that it provides the impact of the carbon tax and the OBPS.”

(OBPS, for those wishing to get down into the weeds, stands for Output-Based Pricing System aka the industrial carbon tax).

So the state broadcaster CBC naturally ran a piece defending the administration using the “Conservatives pounce” angle:

“In the middle of some haggling over his report on Monday at the House of Commons finance committee, Giroux said the government has its own analysis of the impact of carbon pricing but he doesn’t have permission to release the report himself. That led the Conservatives to allege that the government is hiding a ‘secret carbon tax report’ and that the PBO is under some kind of ‘gag’ order.”

That Giroux himself said as much somehow didn’t make it into their copy. What did, however, was an insistence that unless you factor in the hideous cost of climate change you can’t really measure just how great the tax really is:

“‘The PBO compares costs relative to a world in which Canada simply ignores its emissions – and faces no consequences,’ experts with the Canadian Climate Institute wrote last year.”

No prize for guessing who funds these independent “experts”. It’s the same people who fund the CBC and created the tax in question. (To be precise, “Our work is supported through a multi-year contribution agreement with Environment and Climate Change Canada and a growing list of philanthropic funders.” Growing how fast they delicately do not specify.) But even the highly conventional Globe & Mail wrote that:

“The Liberal government is declining to release its internal analysis of the economic impacts of carbon pricing and refusing to say why it is keeping the data secret, even as it criticizes the federal budget watchdog for an error in its analysis of the policy…. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s office has repeatedly declined Globe and Mail requests to explain why it is keeping its internal analysis secret. It also did not respond to a request for the documents.”

Indeed it was difficult to figure out who even did the analysis. Journalists’ regrettable habit of referring to the Liberal administration as the Liberal “government”, as if the entire public service, the legislature and the judiciary all belonged to the Prime Minister and his associates, makes it difficult to know if it was done by or for the Prime Minister’s Office, Privy Council Office, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change or, say, the McKinsey consulting firm.

Mind you columnist Brian Lilley did say that:

“Giroux and his staff explained that their office had filed a formal request to Environment and Climate Change Canada asking for the economic impacts of the government’s carbon pricing plan. The department provided the PBO with estimates on the impact of the carbon tax, or carbon pricing plan, with estimates on real GDP, on labour income and capital income but told the PBO they could not share this information.”

So apparently it ended up in ECCC, wherever it came from. In the usual Canadian jedi mind trick, we mere citizens don’t need to see those papers. It’s not the information we’re looking for. It never is. And they carry blithely on with their glorious and noble cause, unhindered by grubby factual details easily brushed off as irrelevant or as “misinformation”.

Indeed rather than appearing contrite or embarrassed, Guilbeault himself charged ahead with, uh, partisan misinformation, saying that the “Conservatives’ insinuation that we are gagging the PBO is outrageous” and calling it a “desperate attempt … to deflect from the fact they have been basing their communications over the past year on a faulty report.”

Then he lashed out at the PBO:

“The fact remains the PBO overestimated the impacts of the consumer carbon price on the Canadian economy and fails to account for the costs of climate change, which is costing the Canadian economy billions annually.”

Oh really? Where’d you get that number, given that historical data show no increase in extreme weather here? Or is it a state secret too?

8 comments on “You don't need to see that information”

  1. "Today in Ottawa, Canada’s Auditor General published a report into Sustainable Development Technology Canada, identifying significant governance lapses and procedural failures when dispersing government funds."
    No kidding. Some years ago I was running a small hi-tech company and initially we would respond to government requests for proposals in our line of business. We soon learned that this was a waste of time and effort because in almost every case a favoured contractor had been settled on long before the RFP had been published, and our responses were only needed to make the whole process look kosher as far as the Auditor General was concerned. The only sure way to get a government contract was to hire someone who had recently retired from the government and use that person's contacts to become the favoured contractor.

  2. Lie-berals are squirming big time.They know the raison d'etre for a carbon tax is hogwash.The actual carbon tax you pay is usually hidden,but anything
    that needs fossil fuel to grow,manufacture,process,transport,etc has a carbon tax that gets passed on to the consumer.

  3. Let's use Occam's Razor and KISS. The Carbon Tax (not even properly named) effect must be ZERO. Look, in order to fight CC funds are required. Correct?? We're being told two things. One, more revenue is being returned than collected. Two, the tax is Revenue Neutral. In either event the government will have ZERO or less than ZERO therefore CO2 will actually increase. Am I correct??

  4. The reason the Jacobins and Bolsheviks invert, obfuscate, hide, deceive, and massage the truth on such maters is that they know their climate rationalized agenda and policies are antithetical to prosperity and people don't usually intentionally vote for poverty. Hence the longer that they can hide the reality, the further they can advance their "terrible form of sincerity". If one takes what is now happening in European elections as an indication of increasing awareness of the agenda, the game maybe thankfully nearing its conclusion.

  5. Yes, everything this government does on the climate file reeks of rank dishonesty. But let's keep pretending that they are at least honest in their zealotry for climate action.

  6. This analysis is worthy of another monetary donation to CDN.com. At least I know my $s are being put to good use!

  7. Today, June 14, we read that Guillbeault revealed the contents of that report, immediately before parliament was about to vote to force it open. The carbon tax costs (on average, I presume) the Canadian family $1200 per year, rising to $1834 by 2030.

    I think that is likely conservative. So much merchandise has nearly doubled since the implementation of that tax. I know, Covid caused some inflation, and certainly the appalling borrowing and printing of money contributed, but this tax reaches into every crevice of every wallet and every purse.

    I don't recall getting $1200 in rebates in any year. The really bad part is that the Liberals knew this all along, but chose to lie and deflect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *