Corrupt Electricity Reporting Part 4: Additional Tyler Hamilton Chronology

How is it that Tyler Hamilton, Canada’s leading green energy science fiction writer, became the Ontario government’s stealth PR agent for their so-called “Smart Grid” spending spree? As discovered in the Gas Busters emails, originally presented in Part 59 of the Gas Busters series and also in this Corrupt Electricity Reporting series, top government’s communications experts — the OPA’s Ben Chin and the Energy Minister’s Alicia Johnston — were hard at it midnight on November 23, 2010 working up their plan to get Hamilton “engaged for central”. Their email explains that they were seeking to counter negative comments from Parker Gallant and myself about the government’s energy policies, but why midnight? What was keeping them up so late that night?

What follows here are additional notes on the chronology of events leading up to the November 23rd emails. This posting is intended as a supplement to other chronology notes included in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

The November 23rd email exchange is understandably incomplete. What pieces we have only came to light because the exchange included a reference to the Oakville gas plant cancellation that had been announced the previous month.

Published October 7, 2010, Hamilton’s column “Smart meters are here. Get over it“ in the Toronto Star lauded the government’s smart metering program, promoted IBM, and argued that consumers should embrace higher power rates. The column would have been a note perfect audition for further governmental Smart Grid PR work. Less than 3 weeks later, Hamilton received advanced notice to bid on IESO Smart Grid PR work (the IESO reports that advance notice is a routine practice for preferred contractors). IBM was a corporate sponsor of the IESO work and also a major beneficiary of Ontario government largess related to Smart Grid and also a contractor to many Ontario utilities now spending billions borrowed against ratepayer credit on projects branded as Smart Grid.

It appears that at least some of Energy Minister Duguid’s top communication official Alicia Johnston’s concerns, set out in Part 2, about my comments hostile to the government may have been focused on the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit.

In this post November 11, I broke the story of an upcoming electricity rebate scheme. (Almost 6 days later, the Toronto Star wrote its first article about the story and later claimed to have broken the story.)

On November 18, 2010, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan introduced his 2010 Fall Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review. A key element of his Fall Economic Statement was the introduction of the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit.

Here is how he presented the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit that day in the Legislature:

People want clean air and reliable electricity and they are also looking for a bit of help paying some of this additional cost until prices stabilize.
That’s why today we are introducing the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit.
The Ontario Clean Energy Benefit would give Ontario families, farms and small businesses a 10 per cent benefit on their bills for five years.
That would be 10 per cent off your electricity bill every month, effective January 1, 2011.
This would help families, it would help hard-working small business owners, and it would make a difference for Ontario’s farms.
The McGuinty government is doing this to help those who are feeling the pinch from the rising cost of living and, especially, rising electricity prices.
Every little bit helps during lean times.

The government appears to have been attentive around that time to my comments. On November 22, 2010, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan referenced me in debating smart meters. (Further comments on this remark are in this post, although note that I used an incorrect date in the title.)

In a column that appeared in the November 23, 2010 edition of the National Post called “Ontario’s shell game hides green costs“, I attacked the government generally and Duncan specifically for introducing the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit. The phoney “Benefit” was supposed to be a bromide mollifying public concern about the steep rate increases forecast in the Long Term Energy Plan. The thrust of my complaint was to identify the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit as a shell game that would have unfavourable implications for the deficit and future taxpayers.

Later that same day, the government released its Longer Term Energy Plan. In it, the government forecast that household power rates would rise at 7.9%/yr for several years into the future.

In the debate in the legislature that same day, the “shell game” criticism reappeared, with PC MPP Norm Miller repeating key elements of my newspaper column of that had appeared that morning:

Mr. Norm Miller: “In response to skyrocketing electricity bills, the Premier announced that he was going to give Ontario families a small-drop-in-the-bucket credit, one year away from an election: the so-called Ontario clean energy benefit, a $1-billion credit that will cost taxpayers more than $1 billion to pay for. Of course, this is nothing more than an elaborate bait and switch, a shell game that takes money from one taxpayer to pay another.”

Parker Gallant presents this fascinating look at the Smart Grid program, including a cabinet directive to the Ontario Energy Board from Energy Minister Duguid, also dated November 23, 2010, ordering an acceleration of the Smart Grid program. Parker documents a series of major Smart Grid contracts that IBM has in Ontario as well as at least one large government grant.

As the work day wound down on November 23, Ben Chin and Alicia Johnston had a lot on their minds. Chin’s comments that I was “out of our control” reflects the circumstance in the Legislature on November 22 and 23. Tyler Hamilton, whose fealty had already been demonstrated, such as here, was the solution they turned to.