Stephen Harper’s Right Hand Man Helped Organize Anti-Kyoto Astroturf Group

A good indicator of a man's character is the company he keeps. So DesmogBlog decided to have a closer look at the all-powerful staff in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Office.

We started at the top with Guy Giorno, who was appointed Chief of Staff when Ian Brodie had to slink out of the building in humiliation after he was caught leading information to the media that seriously impacted the U.S. nomination race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - part of the so-called  NAFTA-gate.

Giorno is a Toronto-based lawyer, corporate lobbyist and chief of staff to then-Ontario premier Mike Harris during the so-called “common sense revolution”.

Giorno was also a vocal opponent of the Kyoto protocol – to the point that he was a key member of an anti-kyoto front group group called Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions (CCRES).

According to Source Watch, CCRES was set up by National Public Relations - Canada’s largest public relations firm - when Giorno worked for them.

National Public Relations is also the Canadian affiliate of the often controversial international firm Burson-Marsteller.

In classic Astroturf fashion, CCRES members are a who’s who of industries that would be affected by mandatory CO2 emission reductions. They include:

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Petroleum Services Association of Canada
Propane Gas Association of Canada
Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors
Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association
Alberta Chamber of Resources
Alberta Chambers of Commerce
The Cement Association of Canada
Canadian Council of Chief Executives

Giorno organized a wine and shrimp fete in 2002 to allow CCRES members to lobby top-level Ontario cabinet ministers in an effort to oppose action on climate change.

The As Harper’s chief of staff, Giorno is now one of the most powerful people in the country, from which position it must be considerably easier to represent industries that are hostile to climate change regulation.

Keeping in mind the unfolding economic mess south of the border, it is also interesting that Giorno is an enthusiastic fan of the policies that have failed so miserably in the US.

Ten years after the disastrous reign of Mike Harris in Ontario, Giorno wrote in the National Post, “Despite the caterwauling about the severity of its agenda, the Harris government's spending cuts were too timid.”

Having lived in Ontario in 1990’s, I can assure you that statement is enough to make George Bush blush.


You’re stretching the definition of “astroturf” beyond all recognition Mitchell.

The CCRES represented themselves accurately consisting of biz orgs, industry groups and consumer groups.

What exactly are the “consumer groups” that the CCRES supposedly represent?

What do these “consumer groups” look like?

Do they exist?


CCRES was misleading in purporting to represent “consumer groups.” But it might also be a stretch to call it a “fake grassroots” i.e. “astroturf” group. In fact, you could argue that CCRES was ineffective precisely because it was too transparent about its sponsors. True “astroturf” groups, like Friends of Science and NRSP, don’t make that mistake.

None of this excuses the involvement of PR professionals in what was clearly a disinformation campaign, however.

From Wikipedia:
“Astroturfing is a form of propaganda whose techniques usually consist of a few people attempting to give the impression that mass numbers of enthusiasts advocate some specific cause.”

Industry viewed Kyoto as an economy killer. Opposing it was the only reasonable course. Giorno was part of that effort.

I don’t see the problem.

Of course they have to defend their companies. Not only for the employees who work for them, but share holders too. Many of those shareholders are pension funds. So I guess these people want to not only see thousands unemployed but retirees loose their nest eggs too. Nice.

I lived in Ontario too during that time and the absolute worse government we have ever had was the NDP with, now Liberal leader hopeful, Bob Rea. Not only did he spend the province into a $110B debt we are still paying interest on, he also outlawed collective agreements between government and employees, including passing a law to prevent themselves from being sued. Nice labour relations!

You also failed to mention that Harris had to deal with massive cuts from the Federal Liberals in their attempt to balance their books. Harris did so as well. Hard choices had to be made as the province was on the verge of bankruptcy. Though Harris did manage to keep increasing funding for heathcare when the Federal Liberals cut healthcare transfers.

It’s so easy to be an armchair critic, especially when you are politically the opposite. But it does not make you right. In fact, in this case quite wrong. It wouldn’t have mattered who ran the province then, they would have had to do the very same things.

First, Paul Martin must assume a good deal of responsibility.

When he was finance minister in the 1990s, he ruined a good part of the Liberal’s left-wing legacy by slashing federal social programs, right down to reversing promises made by Jean Chrétien in his 1993 campaign Red Book.

Martin, the leader of the socially conservative wing of the party, pushed the party away from its liberal social agenda roots by cutting spending on initiatives such as affordable housing and health care. These moves made many progressive Liberals wonder why they continued to back the party.

Oct 01, 2008
The U.S. Faces Serious Risks of Brownouts or Blackouts in 2009, Study Warns

Enviro Group Lawsuits, Cost Concerns, Climate Regulation Uncertainty Cited As Major Obstacles To Grid Improvements. A new study released this week highlights what experts have been saying for years: the U.S. faces significant risk of power brownouts and blackouts as early as next summer that may cost tens of billions of dollars and threaten lives.

The study estimated that the U.S. will require about 120 gigawatts (GW) of new generation just to maintain a 15 percent reserve margin. That will require at least $300 billion in generation and transmission facility investments by 2016.

BTW, 120 GW would be the same as 400,000,000 wind turbines.


WSJ Environmental Capital, 30 September 2008

Posted by Keith Johnson

The big debate over how to tackle climate change generally boils down to what kind of pain a climate plan will do to the economy; environmental benefits are generally assumed.

But what if the economic pain doesn’t even translate into environmental gain? That’s what happened in Norway, a pioneer in putting a pricetag on carbon emissions almost twenty years ago. Net result? Carbon emissions have increased 15% since then. Leila Abboud writes today in the WSJ:

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. By making it more expensive to pollute, carbon taxes should spur companies and individuals to clean up. Norway’s sobering experience shows how difficult it is to cut emissions in the real world, where elegant theoretical solutions are complicated by economic changes, entrenched behaviors and political realities.

For economic changes, read “growth.” Norway’s growth in emissions has been a lot less than its economic growth over the same period, so the economy is clearly getting cleaner. But not enough to offset the simple math of more economic activity spewing more emissions into the atmosphere. Norway’s oil industry became one of the world’s cleanest since it started paying to pollute; but it’s grown so much in the meantime, oil and gas emissions have quadrupled, the WSJ notes.

People also learn to roll with punches. While $4 gasoline has changed some driving habits in the U.S., $10 gasoline hasn’t in Norway-car sales surged in the last decade and people still choose expensive commutes. Does that mean expectations that pricey gasoline will end America’s car addiction are overblown?

Then there’s politics. Norway isn’t alone in giving some economic sectors, like fishing, preferential treatment. China and India don’t even want to talk about emissions curbs. Germany and Poland are rapidly backpedaling on environmental commitments to save key industries at a time of economic strife. Australia has tied itself in knots trying to figure out how to clean up a coal-fired export economy without killing it.

Which brings us back to one of the bigger questions. If Norway can’t slash emissions almost two decades after slapping a hefty pricetag on carbon, what does that say about the belief that “making polluters pay” will automatically transform America’s economy?

Copyright 2008, WSJ

Without spending 10 minutes looking into this, here are two superficial thoughts:
1. If the carbon tax was so hefty, how come fossil fuel industries in Norway grew so much? Kind of kills the inactivists’ claim that a carbon tax will destroy the economy, especially in Alberta.
2. Oooh, they bought cars in the last decade? What kind of cars were they? Hummers, I’m sure? Probably they were very efficient vehicles. A good analysis would have compared per capita &/or total carbon emission growth among countries with carbon taxes (or other policies supposed to reduce emissions) with others (Canada’s emissions have gained ~30% vs Norway’s 15%). This crappy WSJ article is cherry-picking factoids.

I think there’s a good news story about carbon taxes behind this facade.

More items on Norways carbon taxes

According to Northwestern University sociology professor Monica Prasad, Norway’s emissions have increased 43% since a form of carbon tax was introduced in the mid 1990s. As Norway relies heavily on its North Sea oil reserves, natural gas and shipping, the Norwegian government provided exemptions, at times full tax exemptions to many of its highest polluters. The smell of economic turmoil on an already heavily taxed economic infrastructure was obviously worse then that of the spew from emissions. The real threat of companies being forced and pushed into alternative forms of energy would have reduced government tax coffers, the proverbial, “killing the goose that lays the golden egg”.

According to Statistics Norway, the relation between carbon taxes and reduced rates showed the tax implementation attributed a very modest 2% reduction – at very high rates of taxation.

From the first WSJ thing you posted: “in Norway, a pioneer in putting a pricetag on carbon emissions almost twenty years ago. Net result? Carbon emissions have increased 15% since then.”

From what you posted above: “emissions have increased 43% since a form of carbon tax was introduced in the mid 1990s.”

Which is it? I tend to think an article that uses imagery like, “the smell of economic turmoil … worse then [sic] that of the spew from emissions” is less reliable.

Once again, JR shows how selective he is in reporting the facts. And that’s why you’ve won this week’s DDA Award!


He quotes Monica Prasad above; she’s a researcher at Northwestern University. In fact, the study that he quotes above is a study PROVING that carbon taxes work.

Thanks for making my job so easy!

Here’s what Professor Prasad thinks: she believes that carbon taxes are the best way to reduce CO2 emissions if governments follow Denmark’s lead and reinvest those taxes into transforming heavy-emitting industries. Prasad suggests that carbon taxes aren’t a new idea, as Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway all created carbon taxes in the 1990s, but Denmark has done particularly well — they’ve managed to significantly reduce emissions by 15 percent over 1990 levels - without needing nuclear reactors and without harming their economy. What’s even more impressive is that in 1990, Denmark relied more on coal-fired energy generation than its neighbors, and that fact suggests Denmark’s insight would work in North America.

“If we want lower emissions,” she suggests, “the goal of a carbon tax is to prompt producers to change their behavior, not to allow them to continue polluting while handing over cash to the government.” Carbon taxes in Denmark are used to push industry away from fossil fuels while pulling companies toward renewables, and the money is invested to make it easy - and affordable - for industry to switch to low-carbon technologies. (Source: New York Times, March 26, 2008).

Prasad’s paper on Taxation as a Regulatory Tool is available as a PDF at:

Secondly, Wakefield must have closed his eyes while reading, because he’s ignoring dozens of very real FACTS about Norway that render his entire diatribe pointless.

1) One: Norway is an oil and gas producing country. Though the country’s emissions have risen in the last 15 years, they are doing far better than Canada, and most other oil and gas producing nations.

2) Norway had an industrial accident in 2007 that inflated its overall emissions by 3 points.

3) Norway has pledged to become Carbon Neutral by 2030.

4) Norway is leading the world in carbon capture and sequestration, so they have a whole bevy of projects coming online over the next six years that will cut their emissions dramatically. They are expected to exceed their Kyoto obligations.

5) Just this week, Norway doubled state funding to renewable energy projects to almost $4 billion

6) Norway is one of six nations that have given $6.1 billion to fund clean energy projects in the developing world

7) Norway has funded the first stage of the Forest Carbon Partnership (to preserve rain forests)

8) Norway is looking to invest more than $44 billion in a series of offshore wind farms that, by 2020, will have enough energy to power all of Northern Europe.

9) Norway’s per capita CO2 emissions are less than half that of Canadian.

10) Norway is home to the world’s largest electric car maker… that will sell 10,000 cars this year.

Since I did not write what I posted, It’s not my diatribe. Classic dogmatic reaction to shoot the messenger.

Pledging to become carbon free is a far cry from being carbin free. I guess the whole population will just stop breathing and no one will light a fire in their woodstoves. It’s BS.

Know why Norway is able to pump in some much money into these things? Because they sold oil around the world to those who then burned it. Shouldn’t those emissions from Norway oil be counted as part of their emissions? Norway is lucky, but the point is emissions went up due to economic growth. See my post today below.

Seems carbon taxes don’t do the job of reducing carbon. Shouldn’t the AGW groups therefore be demanding something much more severe?

something that will really decimate the fossil fuel industry and destroy the economy altogether.

Yes - why not push for the painful Earth saving, humanity destroying solution?

there are polar bears at risk for heavens sake.

The fact that Norway is a prosperous, low corruption, high latitude country with far lower emissions per capita than Canada should tell us we can tax carbon successfully. But no, you guys want so much to believe that it’s all an elaborate conspiracy to ‘destroy the economy’ that you can’t interpret a simple comparison.

If CO2 was actually a polutant, most of use would back the tax plans.
But since it is not and has very little to do with GW, carbon taxes are clearly what they appear to be..
Socialist weath transfer plans.

Nothing more.

I keep seeing references to the great economies of countries like Norway and Finland and Sweeden.

They seem to be getting by but would you really want to live there?

Take a look at this chart and remember it only shows Income Tax.
It does not show Sales tax, Carbon tax or any other screw tax.

Now aint that interesting, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway have LOWER corporate tax rates than Canada! Gee I wonder why! Cause taxing corporations on their emissions simply sends the companies away and jobs are lost.

Jack Layton better have a serious look at this with his ranting to increase corporate taxes. Then again, he’ll never be government, though he could be official opposition, disposing of the Liberals.

Just 18 months ago the European Union promised to save the world from climate change. The heroic mood is gone now. In March 2007 Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and chairman of the summit, was a green champion. Today she sounds like a lobbyist for German business, listing the industries that must be shielded from the full costs of her package. In truth, almost every country has found reasons why the climate-change promises may be impossible to meet in their current form.
–The Economist, 2 October 2008


Soaring household energy costs have left a million more people having to choose between heating and eating, according to official figures. The statistics, released on Thursday, show that 3.5million households were in fuel poverty in 2006 - an increase of one million on 2005. But charities claim the number spending more than 10 per cent of their income on power bills is now much higher. They say that since 2006 it has increased by another two million to around 5.5 million.
–Sean Poulter, Daily Mail, 3 October 2008

On Tuesday, courtesy of the Bow Group, I spoke at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. In my talk, I stressed over-and-over that, where energy is concerned, Britain stands on the brink, and that the looming energy crunch would make the credit crunch seem like small beer. Depressingly, there is little sign that the current leaders of the Conservative Party have grasped the magnitude of the energy juggernaut hurtling towards us. They are still taking political refuge in vapid ‘Green’ waffle, and in pandering to dangerous ‘Green’ utopias.
–Philip Stott, 2 October 2008

H&V News, 1 October 2008

The Government will fail to reach its goal of producing 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, a group of academics has predicted.

According to figures contained in Cambridge Econometrics’ UK Energy and the Environment report, renewables will account for only approximately 5 per cent of UK electricity sales to final users by 2010, just half of the 10 per cent target.

The report argues that, even if electricity demand were to grow at around 1 to 1.5 per cent per annum between 2010 and 2020 and fossil fuel prices were to remain relatively high, the share of renewables in UK electricity sales is only expected to increase to around 10.25 per cent by 2015.