Andrew Coyne's Connections to Free Market Think Tanks; Disclosure Lacking

Read time: 3 mins

Andrew Coyne, the a former editor of Maclean's magazine, founding opinionator for the National Post and frequent political pundit on CBC, has a rather long history tying him to free-market think tanks in Canada. 

According to the Canadian government's charity registry, Coyne has been a director for at least the last six years in a group called the Aurea Foundation. The Aurea Foundation was founded by Peter Munk, the head of Barrick Gold, and is a major funder of a small but influential network of free-market think tanks in Canada, including: The Fraser Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Frontier Center for Public Policy, the Montreal Economic Institute and the MacDonald Laurier Institute. 

Most of these groups espouse a philosophy similar to US free market think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Instiute, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. In fact, most of these think tanks and some of their Canadian counterparts have been a major focus of the DeSmog team's work dissecting and exposing the climate change denial machine.

Making this complicated for Coyne is that the fact that some of these Canadian think tanks have been used as sources of information for Coyne's articles and op-ed pieces without the disclosure by Coyne that he sits on the board of Aurea.

Some examples:

A 2010 Maclean's article on stimulus spending, in which Coyne cites a Fraser Institute article, with no mention that he sits on the board of the Aurea Foundation which has donated more than $1 million to the Fraser Institiute since 2006.

A 2009 Maclean's article by Coyne that cites an Atlantic Institute for Market Studies report commissioned by Macleans. No mention in the article that Aurea donated $100,000 to the Atlantic Institute the prior year. The same article also cites a study by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy which received $633,000 from Aurea in 2009.

The relationship between these think tanks, the Aurea Foundation and Andrew Coyne is a tricky one. I personally don't see anything wrong with such relationships as long as they are fully disclosed. To me, citing research to back an opinion where there is such a close tie is important especially for someone like Coyne who holds such a prominent position in Canadian media.  

This type of disclosure is easy enough to do and I think adds to the overall trust a reader has in the writer. For example, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, in a 2011 opinion piece on nuclear energy quotes a group called Energy Probe of which she sits on the board. Wente dislcoses this in the article writing:

“The Japanese weren't expecting a magnitude 9.0 earthquake or a 33-foot tsunami, and they are the most experienced earthquake watchers in the world,” says Norm Rubin, director of research at Energy Probe. “We are neophytes at this.” (Disclosure: I sit on the advisory board, and am a nuclear agnostic.)”

Do I agree with Wente? Hardly. In fact over the years DeSmogBlog has written a lot in oppostion to her arguments. And the same goes for Energy Probe. But I do appreciate her openness and willingness to disclose such relationships. 

The same can't be said for Coyne.

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Coyne tweeted a link to this but didn't comment, I think.

Meanwhile , George Monbiot is also writing about think tanks:

“…Over the last few years I have been trying better to understand how the demands of big business and the very rich are projected into policymaking, and I have come to see the neoliberal thinktanks as central to this process. These are the groups which claim to champion the free market but whose proposals often look like a prescription for corporate power…”

Thanks to Mr. Coyne for joining the discussion in the comments. I've fixed the 'the' / 'an' issue in the post, as well as the missing apostrophe in Maclean's. 

Peter, you wouldn't be the first to be confused about the apostrophe, especially since the Maclean's homepage is not even consistent. Their header banner places the maple leaf apostrophe after the s, as you can see from this screen shot of the homepage: 

Mr. Coyne, DeSmog and our readers are far more interested in hearing about your response to the central argument in the piece - that you fail to disclose your role at Aurea and the subsequent financial ties to the very groups you often cite in your appearances. Do you plan to address this? Don't your viewers deserve full disclosure?