Dalton McGuinty is being spotted in public again. The former Ontario premier has apparently spent the last year trying to book dates for hisuniversity lecture tour“Climate Change: Can We Win This? Be Honest.” He has already addressed audiences at University of Toronto, Queens and more recently at theUniversity of Windsor. He is scheduled to appear atWestern Universityon March 23. Get those tickets while you can.
Maybe someone else in Ontario thought we needed our own C-list version of Al Gore. It would seem McGuinty thought so. After resigning as premier in October 2012 amid his government’sgas-plant scandal— for which his former chief of staff would eventually serve prison time — McGuinty had for the last several years wisely stayed largely low profile. But as the Trudeau government is showing in cranking up its climate campaigning this week in hopes of distracting us from its own scandals, Liberals often think talking about global warming will make people forgive, or at least forget sleazy behaviour. The prime minister’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, even said as much in his letter resigning over the SNC-Lavalin scandal, when he wrote, “Our kids and grandkids will judge us on one issue above all others. That issue is climate change.” What do trivial scandals about government corruption matter when the atmosphere might be warming up a bit?
Perhaps McGuinty hopes Ontarians have also forgotten not only the gas-plant scandal and the subsequent criminal trials, but all the other policy transgressions: His promise of no tax increases, followed by the imposition of a health tax; the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA), which resulted in Ontario having the highest electricity prices in Canada; and a doubling of Ontario’s debt. There were others.
McGuinty himself was never charged with any crimes; his staffers were. But his seminars demonstrate that he remains fixated on the “climate change” obsession that put Ontario on such a calamitous path in the first place (thanks in large part to the aforementioned Butts, who worked for McGuinty and helped turn his image into the “green” premier). Still, McGuinty says Ontario still must sacrifice more for the climate, even now.
In aCTV news reporton his speech to the University of Windsor (about 100 people reportedly showed up) he insisted that Ontario must embrace the carbon tax, recently cancelled by the current Progressive Conservative government. “It’s the most effective and efficient way to demonstrate a commitment to addressing climate change,” he said. Now he tells us — years after upending Ontario’s electricity grid with overpriced renewals. Apparently Ontario’s taxpayers are bottomless pits of surplus cash to spend on endless green experiments.
But in reality not everyone has the earning opportunities McGuinty has enjoyed after leaving politics. Since resigning, he’s accepted board appointments to several corporations: Innergex Renewable Energy Inc., Pomerleau Inc., and Electrovaya Inc. He also became a lobbyist for Desire2Learn as well as being appointed its “special adviser.” As a man who knows well how businesses can benefit from government dealings (just ask the holders of those rich, above-market renewable-energy contracts McGuinty’s government signed) he had to have been a good get.
When McGuinty was premier, Desire2Learn, maker of educational software, received a$4.25 million provincial grantand another $3 million from the education ministry. Battery-maker Electrovaya got a$17 million dollar grantfrom the McGuinty government in 2009. After McGuinty resigned, he was discovered to be lobbying the government of his successor, Kathleen Wynne, on behalf of Desire2Learn. After the lobbying was discovered by reporters, a representative of McGuinty’s promised he would henceforth properly register as a lobbyist.
Pomerleau Inc., another company that appointed McGuinty to its board, post-politics, is a private civil works and building company based in Quebec. They have had good luck winning contracts in Ontario, including those involving provincial government funding.
And when McGuinty joined theElectrovayaboard in April 2017, the company was being investigated by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC)over improper disclosure issues, including allegations of “unbalanced” news releases and a failure to disclose that “revenue estimates announced in two previously announced commercial arrangements would not be realized.” A little over two months later,the OSC agreed to settlein a deal that ended up with just the CEO paying a $250,000 penalty and the company promising to appoint an independent chair of the board.
Still, not all of McGuinty’s board business would appear to be so intricately tied up with his former associates in the province’s government ministries and regulators.Innergex Renewable Energy Inc., headquarted in Montreal, only has a small footprint in Ontario: one solar generation unit of 33.2 megawatts and three small hydro generation units totalling 36 megawatts. It only gets six per cent of its revenue from Ontario. So clearly McGuinty’s value to a company is more than just what doors he can open at Queen’s Park.
And those doors may not open so easily anymore, anyway. The Liberals have no power anymore. McGuinty’s once-proud party was beaten down to a meagre rump in the legislature in last year’s provincial election after so many of his (and Wynne’s) ill-conceived policies ended up proving disastrous. Especially the climate ones.
Perhaps that’s why McGuinty has taken lately to trying to rehabilitate his reputation by presenting himself to the younger generation and university audiences as just a father and grandfather who’s worried about climate change. Maybe it will work. But most Ontarians will probably still recognize him as that guy who did so much damage to the province.
Parker Gallant is a retired bank executive who looked at his hydro bill and didn’t like what he saw.