Leading UK Sceptic Group Promotes Koch-Funded Canadian Climate Denier

by Kyla Mandel

Canadian climate denier Ross McKitrick has officially taken over as chairman of the academic advisory council of Lord Lawson’’s controversial climate-denying charity, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

The economics professor is also a Senior Fellow of the Koch- and Exxon-funded Fraser Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

McKitrick succeeds British economist David Henderson, 87 – the man responsible for inspiring Lawson’’s climate scepticism over a decade ago.

Henderson, who stepped down at his own request on 1 January 2015, had been chairman since the GWPF’’s inception in 2009. Prior to that he was the head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) from 1984 to 1992.

A visiting professor at the Westminster Business School, Henderson is also an advisory council member of free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Lawson’’s Inspiration

Lawson and Henderson knew each other long before they started talking about climate change. This fateful conversation would begin at the end of 2004, when Lawson revealed his interest in climate change during a lecture at the London School of Economics.

As Lawson recalls: ““I said there were two issues… that really did not come across my desk at the time I was Chancellor in 1989, which are now two big issues, which were the European Monetary Union and climate change, global warming. And, I made an allusion that I was rather concerned that the climate change issue was not being analysed in economic terms, and this whole dimension appeared to be missing and concerned me.

““After that, David Henderson, whom I had known for many years, who had been taking an interest in the subject for some time, starting talking to me about this,”” he explains.

So much of an inspiration was Henderson that Lawson even dedicated his book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, to him. It reads: “”To David Henderson, who first aroused my interest in all of this.””

Henderson also knew McKitrick in the lead-up to the GWPF’’s debut. In 2007, he spoke alongside the Canadian at the Fraser Institute’’s launch of their Independent Summary for Policymakers.

McKitrick was also invited by Henderson to speak at small, informal discussion panels in England with other like-minded individuals, including ‘global lukewarmist’ Peter Lilley.

Instrumental Feedback

But Benny Peiser, director general of the GWPF, seems a little confused about Henderson’’s role in the charity.

Speaking to Brendan Montague, editor of DeSmog UK, back in 2010, he said: “”David Henderson was heavily involved … The original idea was Lawson’’s but Henderson was instrumental by giving feedback.””

Later, in 2013, he said: “”David Henderson, to my knowledge, had nothing to do with GWPF … He wasn’’t involved in the set up.””

And as Sir Ian Byatt, member of the GWPF’s academic advisory council, told Montague: “”David knows the importance of getting influence on these things, and one of the great things that David did, which has all carried on in the Global Warming Policy Foundation, is the bringing together of science, economics and politics.””

McKitrick’’s Promotion

His successor certainly has some big shoes to fill. While Henderson will continue to remain an active member of the council, what does McKitrick’’s promotion signify for the future of the GWPF?

A member of the council since 2010, McKitrick was chosen from a slew of renowned climate sceptics. Other members include heir to a vast British coal fortune, Lord Matt Ridley, and Richard Lindzen, one of the original sceptic scientists to emerge during the 1980s.

Perhaps McKitrick’s contribution to climate sceptic blogger Steve McIntyre’’s critique of Michael Mann’’s hockey stick graph was one point in his favour. After all, the GWPF has praised McKitrick for being ““instrumental in exposing the fatal flaws of the so-called Hockey Stick.””

McKitrick has also authored a couple reports that have been submitted to the GWPF, including a 49-page report calling for ‘radical reform’ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and another arguing for an ‘evidence-based approach to pricing CO2 emissions’.

He has also become a regular speaker at the Koch-connected Heartland Institute’’s annual International Conference on Climate Change. So, whatever the deciding factor, McKitrick’’s climate denial stock has just gone up.

@kylamandel

Photo: Guelph University Wikimedia Commons

A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit

Author
IAN AUSTEN
Petroleum coke, a waste byproduct of refining oil sands oil, is piling up along the Detroit River.

WINDSOR, Ontario — Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

Brian Masse, a member of the Canadian Parliament, wants a bilateral agency to investigate the pile accumulating in Detroit.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.

And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.

The company is controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy industrialists who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change. The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel.

The coke comes from a refinery alongside the river owned by Marathon Petroleum, which has been there since 1930. But it began refining exports from the Canadian oil sands — and producing the waste that is sold to Koch — only in November.

“What is really, really disturbing to me is how some companies treat the city of Detroit as a dumping ground,” said Rashida Tlaib, the Michigan state representative for that part of Detroit. “Nobody knew this was going to happen.” Almost 56 percent of Canada’s oil production is from the petroleum-soaked oil sands of northern Alberta, more than 2,000 miles north.

An initial refining process known as coking, which releases the oil from the tarlike bitumen in the oil sands, also leaves the petroleum coke, of which Canada has 79.8 million tons stockpiled. Some is dumped in open-pit oil sands mines and tailing ponds in Alberta. Much is just piled up there.

Detroit’s pile will not be the only one. Canada’s efforts to sell more products derived from oil sands to the United States, which include transporting it through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, have pulled more coking south to American refineries, creating more waste product here.

Marathon Petroleum’s plant in Detroit processes 28,000 barrels a day of the oil sands bitumen.

Residents on both sides of the Detroit River are concerned that the coke mountain is both an environmental threat and an eyesore.

“Here’s a little bit of Alberta,” said Brian Masse, one of Windsor’s Parliament members. “For those that thought they were immune from the oil sands and the consequences of them, we’re now seeing up front and center that we’re not.”

Mr. Masse wants the International Joint Commission, the bilateral agency that governs the Great Lakes, to investigate the pile. Michigan’s state environmental regulatory agency has submitted a formal request to Detroit Bulk Storage, the company holding the material for Koch Carbon, to change its storage methods. Michigan politicians and environmental groups have also joined cause with Windsor residents. Paul Baltzer, a spokesman for Koch’s parent company, Koch Companies Public Sector, did not respond to questions about its storage or the ultimate destination of the petroleum coke.

Coke, which is mainly carbon, is an essential ingredient in steelmaking as well as producing the electrical anodes used to make aluminum.

While there is high demand from both those industries, the small grains and high sulfur content of this petroleum coke make it largely unusable for those purposes, said Kerry Satterthwaite, a petroleum coke analyst at Roskill Information Services, a commodities analysis company based in London.

“It is worse than a byproduct,” Ms. Satterthwaite said.“It’s a waste byproduct that is costly and inconvenient to store, but effectively costs nothing to produce.”

Murray Gray, the scientific director for the Center for Oil Sands Innovation at the University of Alberta, said that about two years ago, Alberta backed away from plans to use the petroleum coke as a fuel source, partly over concerns about greenhouse-gas emissions. Some of it is burned there, however, to power coking plants.

The Keystone XL pipeline will provide Gulf Coast refineries with a steady supply of diluted bitumen from the oil sands. The plants on the coast, like the coking refineries concentrated in California to deal with that state’s heavy crude oil, are positioned to ship the waste to China or Mexico, where it is burned as a fuel. California exports about 128,000 barrels of petroleum coke a day, mainly to China.

Tony McCallum, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, played down the impact of Keystone XL. “Most of the Canadian oil earmarked for the U.S. Gulf Coast is to replace declining heavy oil imports from Mexico and Venezuela that produces the same amount of petcoke, so it doesn’t create a new issue,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Much of the new coking investment has gone into refineries in the Midwest to allow them to take advantage of the oil sands. BP, the British energy company, is building what it describes as the second-largest coke refinery in Whiting, Ind. When completed, the unit will be able to process about 102,000 barrels of bitumen or other heavy oils a day.

And what about the leftover coke? The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer allow any new licenses permitting the burning of petroleum coke in the United States. But D. Mark Routt, a staff energy consultant at KBC Advanced Technologies in Houston, said that overseas companies saw it as a cheap alternative to low-grade coal. In China, it is used to generate electricity, adding to that country’s air-quality problems. There is also strong demand from India and Latin America for American petroleum coke, where it mainly fuels cement-making kilns.

“I’m not making a value statement, but it comes down to emission controls,” Mr. Routt said. “Other people don’t seem to have a problem, which is why it is going to Mexico, which is why it is going to China.”

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” he said. One of the world’s largest dealers of petroleum coke is the Oxbow Corporation, which sells about 11 million tons of fuel-grade coke a year. It is owned by William I. Koch, a brother of David and Charles.

Lorne Stockman, who recently published a study on petroleum coke for the environmental group Oil Change International, says, “It’s really the dirtiest residue from the dirtiest oil on earth,” he said.

Rhonda Anderson, an organizing representative of the Sierra Club in Detroit, said that the mountain’s rise took her group by surprise, but it had one benefit.

“Those piles kind of hit us upside to the head,” she said. “But it also triggered a kind of relationship between Canada and the United States that’s allowed us to work together.”

U.S. Republican Koch oil billionaires help fund the Fraser Institute. Why the Fraser Institute?

Author
Jenny Uechi
U.S. libertarian oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have poured at least half a million dollars into The Fraser Institute over the last few years. In case you haven’t been following their trail, here’s a bit about them:

If the Koch brothers didn’t exist, the left would have to invent them. They’re the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits.

— Rolling Stone Magazine

The Koch brothers are the funders of the Americans for Prosperity group that just launched a $6.1 million television ad targeting President Barack Obama in eight states. Based in Witchita, Kansas, they own the second largest privately held company in America. Their father, Fred Koch, was a member of the radical right-wing John Birch Society.

“Charitable” Fraser Institute accepted $500k in foreign funding from Koch oil billionaires
Fraser Institute co-founder confirms ‘years and years’ of U.S. oil billionaires’ funding

According to The New Yorker, “The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.”

Republican commentator Glenn Beck has attended their private retreats, where U.S. Supreme Court Justices and a host of congressmen and political back-roomers mingle to strategize about moving America further right. They are widely suspected of having funded Herman Cain’s failed Republican presidential bid.

Both in their seventies, the Kochs have given tens of millions of dollars to Republican candidates. They fund projects that help undermine climate change, fight taxes, trade unions and battle Obama’s health care reforms.

“Most organisations which benefit from the Kochs’ largesse have one thing in common: they help advance an unflinching brand of libertarian conservatism,” writes Guy Adams in The Independent. “Some lobby against environmental regulation, or seek to undermine public perception of the threat of climate change, others battle taxes, trade unions and Barack Obama’s health care reforms.”
So why are the Koch brothers in Canada and why have they selected the Fraser Institute to be the repository of their generosity? A trip to The Fraser Institute’s website offers clues, if not answers.

Fraser Institute Branding: Freedom, Prosperity, Choice

Fraser’s website and Facebook page boldly promote a conservative political agenda. And although the Fraser Institute claims to be “independent” and “non-partisan”, the institute has been a connecting point for many leading conservatives in Canada.

On the front page of the Fraser Institute’s website, a bold headline reads: “Canada among the world’s biggest spenders on health care.”

Other articles include “Electricity prices soar when governments subsidize green energy,” and “The BC roots of Albertan conservatism”. The institute’s research topics are varied, ranging from “aboriginal issues” to energy to urban issues. But reports are completely consistent with a the right-wing, free-market agenda: in the health section, every study in the past several years is a critique of public health care, its long wait lines and high costs. On the energy front, studies call for reduced red tape on Albertan oil sands, and on education, private schools are praised while public schools are strongly criticized.

As a registered charity, the Fraser Institute is only allowed to devote a small part of its resources to political activity, and can never be partisan. Yet the institute has played a significant role in shaping the conservative movement and tone of political discourse in Canada today.

Fraser Institute All-Stars

Some famous figures include Ezra Levant, a Sun media columnist and author of Ethical Oil, who came to intern at the Fraser Institute after a fellowship with the Koch Foundation. Kathryn Marshall, political commentator and former Ethical Oil spokesperson, was also a development associate at the Fraser Institute. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith took on an internship with the Fraser Institute during her twenties that “imbued her with a passion for Ayn Rand and charter schools”, according to a recent Walrus article. She became an intern with the encouragement of Tom Flanagan, a Fraser Institute senior fellow and Stephen Harper mentor. Vancouver Sun editorial pages editor and columnist Fazil Milhar is the former regulatory studies director at the Fraser Institute.

The top tier at the Fraser Institute is filled with highly-respected economists and researchers whose names and faces are constantly present in national newspapers.

Fraser Institute’s president, Niels Veldhuis, is a respected economist who has written over 200 commentaries in publications such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and The Globe and Mail. In March 2011, he co-authored an article in The Financial Post titled, “We need Scott Walker here.” Scott Walker is the Wisconsin governor whose campaign was heavily financed by the Koch Industries PAC, and sparked a lengthy and much publicized stand-off against public sector workers last year after trying to remove their collective bargaining rights.

The institute’s director of health system performance studies, Nadeem Esmail, writes in National Post, Globe and Mail and the Wall Street Journal on health care policy and reform — his writings repeatedly depict Canada’s public health care as a financial sinkhole and urge privatization while warning readers in the U.S. not to emulate Canada’s system.

For many, the Fraser Institute is a foot in the door to climb the ranks of conservative organizations in Canada.

A typical case might be someone like Candice Malcolm. She got her start in 2007 as the student programs assistant at the Fraser Institute, then went on to became a Koch Summer fellow, going through a “rigorous” public policy program in Washington, attending seminars at the Cato institute. She went on to work for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, (which paid blogger Vivian Krause her first honorarium), then rose to the executive assistant position at Alberta’s Wildrose Party. She now works in Ottawa as the Parliament press secretary.

Grooming the next generation

So where exactly does the Fraser Institute find its conservatives? Some, like the Wildrose leader, are recognized for their potential and recruited by the Fraser Institute during university. But in recent years, the institute has been cultivating young minds from an early stage.

For starters, the institute devotes a lot of resources training and recruiting youth. According the Canada Revenue Agency, the Fraser Institute spent $1.6 million in grants and scholarships for the 2010 year and almost $2.1 million the year before that.

One of the institute’s most effective tools are its free one-day seminars for youth across BC, which which writer and researcher Donald Gutstein describes as its “initial recruitment tool”. High school and post-secondary students participate in discussions on issues such as heath care and First Nations’ rights, and listen to high-profile guest speakers including Ezra Levant, journalist (and former George W. Bush economic speechwriter) David Frum, and Danielle Smith. Anyone can participate, even if only to enjoy a free lunch at a swanky hotel.

For participants, the real fun begins as students break off into small groups and begin debating and discussing public policy. Recruiters take down the names of students who express views aligned with those of the Fraser Institute (the left-leaning ones are never contacted again) and get in touch with them for further orientation.

The institute also has a student video contest, and the chosen winners (who receive a $625 – $2,000 prize) are invariably those whose work promotes a right-wing, free-market ideology.

Last year, the Fraser Institute gave first prize to a video entitled “Government During Crisis: Help or Hinderance?” which claimed that government got in the way during crisis situations, and that the “most effective relief came from faith-based organizations” as well as local businesses. In the previous year, the top honours went to a video called “Canadian Health Care: a monopoly on lives” that harshly criticized public health care, while the second prize that year was based on the theme, “The nanny state: is government regulation threatening your personal freedom?”, which argued that well-meaning legislation such as the anti-cyber bullying laws disrupted personal freedom.

For educators who want to teach youth to “think objectively” about climate change and other issues, the institute offers free lesson plans online. In the lesson plan for “Understanding Climate Change”, students are shown graphs used by climate change scientists to show the correlation between CO2 and temperature, such as the one that Al Gore showed in his 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. In the “answer key,” students learn that ”correlation is not causation”, and are fed the conclusion that climate change is not, in fact, caused by carbon-generating activities.

There’s plenty of tools for latecomers to the program as well: an attractive student internship gives $2,000 to $2,500 a month for a four-month period during which interns take part in seminars and discussions while contributing to the Fraser Institute’s work. Preference is given to strong writers and “candidates who are interested in educating students about economics and public policy”.

The “Economics for Journalists” course, meanwhile, uses reading material from the Fraser Institute publications to school future “opinion leaders” such as emerging journalists on free market principals. The course includes two “attitude surveys” to identify participants’ economic views both before and after the course.

All of these initiatives are deemed “educational”, but they are linked to a free-market agenda. Students and participants are armed with knowledge and arguments to debunk and discredit theories around climate change and public welfare as un-scientific or delusional, while actively pushing U.S.-style free market and privatization as the best option for Canada. And many of them have a powerful presence in right-wing-owned media to spread and legitimize their views.

The Left’s answer to the Fraser Institute?

By contrast, the progressive movement in Canada doesn’t have much of a counterpart to organizations like the Fraser Institute in terms of recruiting and training. In 2010, the progressive Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives think tank had a total revenue of just $1,724,894 — a far cry from the Fraser Institute’s $10,834,410.

And people have started taking notice. An April 2011 newsletter from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives notes:

“For years, through its seminar and internship programs,
the Fraser Institute has been identifying and training
young conservative leaders. . . comprehensive education opportunities,which welcome youth into the movement and provide them with theory, mentorship, networking opportunities and skills development, are remarkably lacking in the world of social justice work.”

In response, things are changing: rather than allow leaders for progressive politics to develop in an “organic” way, the CCPA’s teamed up in 2007 with environmental organization Check Your Head to create Next Up, a youth leadership to help emerging leaders from the progressive movement.

A counter-movement is also growing with progressive organizations such as LeadNow.ca, but will it be enough to produce someone with as much influence or prominence as Danielle Smith or Ezra Levant?

Time will tell.

One thing’s for sure: half a million dollars rarely comes without trust, or with no strings attached.

The Koch brothers know why they fund Fraser. The rest of us can guess.

U.S. Republican Koch oil billionaires help fund the Fraser Institute. Why the Fraser Institute?

Author
Jenny Uechi
U.S. Republican Koch oil billionaires help fund the Fraser Institute. Why the Fraser Institute?

Billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch contributed richly to Canada’s Fraser Institute think tank

U.S. libertarian oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have poured at least half a million dollars into The Fraser Institute over the last few years. In case you haven’t been following their trail, here’s a bit about them:

If the Koch brothers didn’t exist, the left would have to invent them. They’re the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits.

— Rolling Stone Magazine

The Koch brothers are the funders of the Americans for Prosperity group that just launched a $6.1 million television ad targeting President Barack Obama in eight states. Based in Witchita, Kansas, they own the second largest privately held company in America. Their father, Fred Koch, was a member of the radical right-wing John Birch Society.

“Charitable” Fraser Institute accepted $500k in foreign funding from Koch oil billionaires
Fraser Institute co-founder confirms ‘years and years’ of U.S. oil billionaires’ funding

According to The New Yorker, “The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.”

Republican commentator Glenn Beck has attended their private retreats, where U.S. Supreme Court Justices and a host of congressmen and political back-roomers mingle to strategize about moving America further right. They are widely suspected of having funded Herman Cain’s failed Republican presidential bid.

Both in their seventies, the Kochs have given tens of millions of dollars to Republican candidates. They fund projects that help undermine climate change, fight taxes, trade unions and battle Obama’s health care reforms.

“Most organisations which benefit from the Kochs’ largesse have one thing in common: they help advance an unflinching brand of libertarian conservatism,” writes Guy Adams in The Independent. “Some lobby against environmental regulation, or seek to undermine public perception of the threat of climate change, others battle taxes, trade unions and Barack Obama’s health care reforms.”
So why are the Koch brothers in Canada and why have they selected the Fraser Institute to be the repository of their generosity? A trip to The Fraser Institute’s website offers clues, if not answers.

Fraser Institute Branding: Freedom, Prosperity, Choice

Fraser’s website and Facebook page boldly promote a conservative political agenda. And although the Fraser Institute claims to be “independent” and “non-partisan”, the institute has been a connecting point for many leading conservatives in Canada.

On the front page of the Fraser Institute’s website, a bold headline reads: “Canada among the world’s biggest spenders on health care.”

Other articles include “Electricity prices soar when governments subsidize green energy,” and “The BC roots of Albertan conservatism”. The institute’s research topics are varied, ranging from “aboriginal issues” to energy to urban issues. But reports are completely consistent with a the right-wing, free-market agenda: in the health section, every study in the past several years is a critique of public health care, its long wait lines and high costs. On the energy front, studies call for reduced red tape on Albertan oil sands, and on education, private schools are praised while public schools are strongly criticized.

As a registered charity, the Fraser Institute is only allowed to devote a small part of its resources to political activity, and can never be partisan. Yet the institute has played a significant role in shaping the conservative movement and tone of political discourse in Canada today.

Fraser Institute All-Stars

Some famous figures include Ezra Levant, a Sun media columnist and author of Ethical Oil, who came to intern at the Fraser Institute after a fellowship with the Koch Foundation. Kathryn Marshall, political commentator and former Ethical Oil spokesperson, was also a development associate at the Fraser Institute. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith took on an internship with the Fraser Institute during her twenties that “imbued her with a passion for Ayn Rand and charter schools”, according to a recent Walrus article. She became an intern with the encouragement of Tom Flanagan, a Fraser Institute senior fellow and Stephen Harper mentor. Vancouver Sun editorial pages editor and columnist Fazil Milhar is the former regulatory studies director at the Fraser Institute.

The top tier at the Fraser Institute is filled with highly-respected economists and researchers whose names and faces are constantly present in national newspapers.

Fraser Institute’s president, Niels Veldhuis, is a respected economist who has written over 200 commentaries in publications such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and The Globe and Mail. In March 2011, he co-authored an article in The Financial Post titled, “We need Scott Walker here.” Scott Walker is the Wisconsin governor whose campaign was heavily financed by the Koch Industries PAC, and sparked a lengthy and much publicized stand-off against public sector workers last year after trying to remove their collective bargaining rights.

The institute’s director of health system performance studies, Nadeem Esmail, writes in National Post, Globe and Mail and the Wall Street Journal on health care policy and reform — his writings repeatedly depict Canada’s public health care as a financial sinkhole and urge privatization while warning readers in the U.S. not to emulate Canada’s system.

For many, the Fraser Institute is a foot in the door to climb the ranks of conservative organizations in Canada.

A typical case might be someone like Candice Malcolm. She got her start in 2007 as the student programs assistant at the Fraser Institute, then went on to became a Koch Summer fellow, going through a “rigorous” public policy program in Washington, attending seminars at the Cato institute. She went on to work for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, (which paid blogger Vivian Krause her first honorarium), then rose to the executive assistant position at Alberta’s Wildrose Party. She now works in Ottawa as the Parliament press secretary.

Grooming the next generation

So where exactly does the Fraser Institute find its conservatives? Some, like the Wildrose leader, are recognized for their potential and recruited by the Fraser Institute during university. But in recent years, the institute has been cultivating young minds from an early stage.

For starters, the institute devotes a lot of resources training and recruiting youth. According the Canada Revenue Agency, the Fraser Institute spent $1.6 million in grants and scholarships for the 2010 year and almost $2.1 million the year before that.

One of the institute’s most effective tools are its free one-day seminars for youth across BC, which which writer and researcher Donald Gutstein describes as its “initial recruitment tool”. High school and post-secondary students participate in discussions on issues such as heath care and First Nations’ rights, and listen to high-profile guest speakers including Ezra Levant, journalist (and former George W. Bush economic speechwriter) David Frum, and Danielle Smith. Anyone can participate, even if only to enjoy a free lunch at a swanky hotel.

For participants, the real fun begins as students break off into small groups and begin debating and discussing public policy. Recruiters take down the names of students who express views aligned with those of the Fraser Institute (the left-leaning ones are never contacted again) and get in touch with them for further orientation.

The institute also has a student video contest, and the chosen winners (who receive a $625 – $2,000 prize) are invariably those whose work promotes a right-wing, free-market ideology.

Last year, the Fraser Institute gave first prize to a video entitled “Government During Crisis: Help or Hinderance?” which claimed that government got in the way during crisis situations, and that the “most effective relief came from faith-based organizations” as well as local businesses. In the previous year, the top honours went to a video called “Canadian Health Care: a monopoly on lives” that harshly criticized public health care, while the second prize that year was based on the theme, “The nanny state: is government regulation threatening your personal freedom?”, which argued that well-meaning legislation such as the anti-cyber bullying laws disrupted personal freedom.

For educators who want to teach youth to “think objectively” about climate change and other issues, the institute offers free lesson plans online. In the lesson plan for “Understanding Climate Change”, students are shown graphs used by climate change scientists to show the correlation between CO2 and temperature, such as the one that Al Gore showed in his 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. In the “answer key,” students learn that ”correlation is not causation”, and are fed the conclusion that climate change is not, in fact, caused by carbon-generating activities.

There’s plenty of tools for latecomers to the program as well: an attractive student internship gives $2,000 to $2,500 a month for a four-month period during which interns take part in seminars and discussions while contributing to the Fraser Institute’s work. Preference is given to strong writers and “candidates who are interested in educating students about economics and public policy”.

The “Economics for Journalists” course, meanwhile, uses reading material from the Fraser Institute publications to school future “opinion leaders” such as emerging journalists on free market principals. The course includes two “attitude surveys” to identify participants’ economic views both before and after the course.

All of these initiatives are deemed “educational”, but they are linked to a free-market agenda. Students and participants are armed with knowledge and arguments to debunk and discredit theories around climate change and public welfare as un-scientific or delusional, while actively pushing U.S.-style free market and privatization as the best option for Canada. And many of them have a powerful presence in right-wing-owned media to spread and legitimize their views.

The Left’s answer to the Fraser Institute?

By contrast, the progressive movement in Canada doesn’t have much of a counterpart to organizations like the Fraser Institute in terms of recruiting and training. In 2010, the progressive Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives think tank had a total revenue of just $1,724,894 — a far cry from the Fraser Institute’s $10,834,410.

And people have started taking notice. An April 2011 newsletter from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives notes:

“For years, through its seminar and internship programs,
the Fraser Institute has been identifying and training
young conservative leaders. . . comprehensive education opportunities,which welcome youth into the movement and provide them with theory, mentorship, networking opportunities and skills development, are remarkably lacking in the world of social justice work.”

In response, things are changing: rather than allow leaders for progressive politics to develop in an “organic” way, the CCPA’s teamed up in 2007 with environmental organization Check Your Head to create Next Up, a youth leadership to help emerging leaders from the progressive movement.

A counter-movement is also growing with progressive organizations such as LeadNow.ca, but will it be enough to produce someone with as much influence or prominence as Danielle Smith or Ezra Levant?

Time will tell.

One thing’s for sure: half a million dollars rarely comes without trust, or with no strings attached.

The Koch brothers know why they fund Fraser. The rest of us can guess.

Why do you think North America’s richest oil barons, who are also the effective founders and funders of the Tea Party movement, would donate to a Canadian think tank? Please comment below…