Guest Post: Proactive Purveyors of Positivity

The National Post published an insider’s view of Ontario’s electricity situation back on September 2nd.

Here was a board member of the Canadian Solar Industries Association, Jon Kieran, explaining the consumer impact of Wynne government’s ongoing practice of procuring even more costly wind and solar generation at a time when supply already vastly exceeds declining demand. He specifically fingered the government’s massive 1300 MW Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) program as avoidable, unjustified consumer pain. The Liberals have timed contract awards from the next round of the LRP to be six weeks before the next Ontario election — perfect for political fundraising.

The article attracted a lot of attention on the National Post site and on social media. I was asked on Tom McConnell’s radio show to comment on article (podcast here around minute 25:00)

Jon Kieran’s National Post column was followed by another insider piece arguing against interest on how to contain soaring power rates, this time from the distribution utility Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro.

Jon Kieran has generously agreed to contribute his thoughts in the following guest post. I could fairly be described as a “nattering nabob of negativism” with respect to Ontario’s electricity situation, so Jon’s encouraging piece resonates with me. I hope his guest post encourages vigorous discussion and debate.

An economist by training, Jon Kieran has led origination, development, due diligence and transaction efforts in the commercialization of more than $1 billion of renewable energy projects in Canada. He is a Toronto-based renewable energy consultant with Integrus Consulting Inc., and who advocates for ethical, sensible and sustainable prosperity. You can follow him on Twitter @JonWKieran and find him on LinkedIn here.


By Jon Kieran

In the decaying years of President Nixon’s first administration, circa 1970/71, American media and Democrat political opponents unleashed an unwavering criticism of the prevailing problems ““ racism, war, urban strife ““ befalling the United States. Mixed in with this message of grief and frustration was the accusation that the administration had no ability to fix things.

As Nixon geared up for re-election, it fell to Vice President Spiro Agnew, mouthing the words of speechwriter and journalist, William Safire, to remind Americans that the “nattering nabobs of negativism” would never resonate with America’s optimistic spirit. Nixon and Agnew belittled the pessimism of opponents during the 1972 election and won in a landslide, taking 49 of 50 states.

Almost 50 years later, the battleground between upbeat and downcast has moved northward. Here in Ontario, people have a lot to say these days about energy and electricity. Most of it is wildly negative. And with good reason. The crises befalling Ontario’s power system today are costly, self-inflicted and without any immediate solutions.

Liberal government critics slide easily into a apoplectic rage as they enumerate the myriad failures of energy policies and programs during the past decade: rampaging hydro bills that are multiples the cost of living; a fumbled and gold-plated implementation of time-of-use meters; over-market procurement of unneeded large renewable capacity; ubiquitous wind turbines in south western Ontario and the local communities they’ve fractured apart; costly demand response programs at a time when peak demand is falling; politically expedient but expensive cancellations of Liberal riding gas plants in the GTA; an “Access-to Ministers” fund raising effort that enabled industry insiders to buy $5,000 dinners with the Premier; taxpayer support for Tesla millionaires; the emerging cap and trade fund fiasco; continued large renewable procurement amidst one of the largest (and costliest) power surpluses in Ontario history. The list goes on, and is buttressed by related scandals in e-health, MaRs, Ornge, Pan Am games executive compensation, the (momentary) Ontario pension plan, after-hours deletion of public service Emails by the boyfriend of a deputy chief of staff ““ the depth and breadth of material is jaw dropping in its cynicism!

Which raises an interesting challenge for those who are relentless in their criticism of the Liberal record. Don’t be a nattering nabob of negativity! Focus on solutions. Offer an alternative. Sketch out a path for Ontario that will address the historic failures of Liberal government ““ but will invite citizens and voters to embrace real/progressive change. I (humbly) call it, “Proactive Purveyors of Positivity”.

Pretty sure the phrase has no copyright protection so go ahead and use it. The next time you find yourself frothing at the mouth as you rant about the terminal incompetence of the Liberal government, keep in mind they will be entering their 16thgoverning year by the time of the next election. Their message resonates with a segment of the Ontario public. The challenge for critics is to help that segment and other undecided voters understand why Liberal energy policies are on a trajectory to failure, while also getting them to appreciate a superior and more responsible alternative.

The task at hand is to get people excited about an Ontario that could emerge as soon as 2018 ““ better governed, confronting its problems, fixing them optimistically. I am determined to be a proactive purveyor of this positive alternative.

My next post: what are these positive energy and electricity policy directions, and how would they put Ontario on the right path?


  1. I respectfully disagree.

    The Liberals were elected in 2003, in part on an irresponsible but attractive lie that coal would be eliminated by 2007 – shortly after the election they had the value of the coal plants written off, and then blamed the conservatives for leaving a deficit.
    Also telling pretty lies would be a vile way to compete against the vile OLP.

    The political saying is “anger is not sustainable”
    and yet we have Brexit
    the National Front…

    There is an elite that counts on anger not being sustainable who are being surprised of late.

    I think the difference is that while anger, an emotion, isn’t sustainable, disgust, more of a sense, becomes ingrained.
    We are now as Pavlov’s dog. A picture of Wynne inclusive of the word “hydro” is our bell – invoking a sensory response.
    That will only change if other parties confuse people with competing complex plans nobody understands.

    Why risk turning disgust back to ordinary anger?

  2. An interesting perspective, Scott…

    I’m reluctant to analyze the roots of voter psychology in Ontario. Ditto the strategic decisions being made by political elites. I don’t know. And frankly, not sure that I even care…

    What I do know is that we Ontarians are poorly governed on an epic scale. Just as despairing, we (and our children/grandchildren) will pay a steep price over decades and decades for the incompetence, corruption and cynicism of Liberal Party decisions during the past 10+ years.

    The renewable energy file is a jarring example of this gross misgovernance. There are many others.

    But the purpose of my commentary was to force myself to find positive options that might replace the status quo — if only to prevent the rot that permeates virtually all public discussions of government energy policy.

    It’s not enough to disparage Kathleen Wynne’s leadership and performance. That’s easy pickins’. Our obligation at some point on the energy file (as interested/informed commentators) is to present a better, smarter vision.

    I believe in renewable energy, but don’t think its implementation could have been more screwed up than it has been in Ontario. I believe in distributed generation, but don’t think Ontario electricity customers needed to be so tortured financially to have some DG introduced in the province. I believe in wind energy, but don’t think that government ramming down 500-foot turbines in southern Ontario serves any purpose except political expediency for the Liberal Party. Do these beliefs and thoughts make me emotional? Yes, certainly. Do they make me disgusted with the joke of a government that we endure here in Ontario? Yes, certainly.

    I don’t wanna overthink what it is. I wanna explore how to fix it. My comments have alienated a whole bunch of folks within the renewable energy industry, and their faux shock and dismay kinda makes me chuckle. Most tell me “off the record” what a scam LRP is, but can’t imagine a member of the industry threatening such a lucrative deal for the industry’s biggest/richest firms…

    Economic conditions are bad here. Thank Premier Wynne. You don’t need a spiralling hydro bill to get emotional and disgusted about it.

    Sure…Let’s spend an appropriate amount of time dwelling on the problems. But let’s commit all our remaining energies to actually making things better.

  3. Pingback: Guest Post: Positive Energy by Jon Kieran | Tom Adams Energy - ideas for a smarter grid

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