The right-leaning government of Canada's most populous province has created a new job for a former Conservative cabinet minister who dismisses scientific evidence showing how much humans are changing the planet's climate.

Joe Oliver, 76, previously a natural resources and finance minister in the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper, is now a board member of Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), a Crown corporation that oversees and manages the province's electricity operations.

Energy Minister Greg Rickford, who also sat with Oliver in Harper's cabinet and replaced the former as federal natural resources minister, announced the nomination through a news release on Thursday afternoon.

The move comes as Ontario Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government is under fire for slashing policies to address climate change and criticizing the federal government for requiring polluters to pay a tax for contributing to the problem. Peer-reviewed scientific research shows that climate change threatens to cause irreversible damage to the Earth's ecosystems and its economy.

"Joe has shown an unwavering commitment to public service and has enjoyed a distinguished career in financial services," Rickford, Ontario's energy minister, said in a statement. "I am confident that he will provide excellent leadership and strategic thinking to support the management and supervision of the IESO's business and affairs. The IESO is the heart of Ontario's power system, ensuring there is enough power to keep the lights on, today and into the future and Joe will be a great addition to the team."

In a tweet, Oliver said he was "pleased" by the appointment.

A lawyer and banker by profession Oliver made headlines in 2013 after granting an interview to Montreal daily newspaper, La Presse, in which he claimed, without evidence, that scientists said "our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated."

As natural resources minister, Oliver attacked anti-pipeline groups as foreign-funded radicals, in an open letter that is widely considered to have caused members of the public to lose trust in federal oversight of major industrial development projects.

In his first three years in Ottawa, Oliver became "one of the Conservative government's most well-traveled ministers," according to a 2014 Globe and Mail profile. He went around the world to praise Canada's energy sector, especially the oilsands.

Oliver has a master of business administration from Harvard University and is a fluently bilingual Montreal native. He has worked as an investment banker with Merrill Lynch brokerage and subsequently as the executive director of the Ontario Securities Commission. He has also served as chief executive of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada, a lobby group and self-regulating body for the securities industry.

He attempted to become a provincial candidate under former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown in 2016 and lost the Ontario PC bid to now sitting MPP Roman Barber.

Megan Leslie, a former NDP environment critic, is shouted down after starting a question to then 70-year-old Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver by referring to him as "a grumpy old man" on Nov. 24, 2011. Oliver responded by saying she was disrepectful towards senior citizens. Video by CBC

Oliver has also penned op-eds against Ontario's and Canada's climate change policies, and was opposed to Brown's position in favour of putting a price on carbon.

In a June 2016 opinion piece titled "Ontario’s electricity fiasco is going to get much, much worse" for example," Olivier wrote called the former Liberal government's climate plan "a useless intrusion in our lives" that would "infringe on people’s freedom, impose debilitating costs, set impossible targets and fail to produce meaningful reductions in GHG emissions."

"A profound belief that climate change will doom the planet does not give licence to pursue unworkable policies at great cost. To the contrary, the result of this dysfunctional plan will be a missed opportunity to do something effective," Oliver wrote in 2016.

In a November 2018 column for Toronto Sun titled "Climate change alarmists seriously harm the economy," Oliver said that efforts to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels to mitigate the impacts of climate change were based on beliefs that are "grossly exaggerated or simply false."

"Predictions have also been wrong, sometimes spectacularly, about temperature increases, endangered polar bears, disappearing polar ice and islands sinking into the sea. As well, computer models consistently overestimate warming," he said.

Oliver's appointment to the IESO comes one day after he penned an op-ed in the Financial Post that denied climate change, stating that "the evidence simply does not substantiate the apocalyptic prophesies."

"The climate is always changing. Doubling Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions increases the temperature by 1.1 degree Celsius and secondary effects have not multiplied that number. Increased GHG makes plants more drought resistant and increases arable land. Human beings contribute to raising emissions, but it is unclear how much warming is anthropogenic. Extreme weather events have not increased, according to the IPCC. There is no satisfactory explanation for why temperatures have risen, fallen and remained flat during the last century of steadily increasing emissions. Since our grasp of climatology is obviously imperfect, we cannot claim that the science is settled," Oliver wrote on Wednesday.

Oliver's claims aren't consistent with peer-reviewed scientific evidence. Climate change is real. Greenhouse gas emissions produced as a result of burning fossil fuels like oil and gas for home heating and transportation have contributed to raising the Earth's temperatures. This has in turn led to severe weather events like forest fires, heat warnings, harsh winters and more serious rainstorms.

Oliver's appointment also comes a day after Dianne Saxe, Ontario's environment watchdog, released her last report on energy conservation in the province and, in doing so, said that the government's cancellation of all energy conservation programs last week would increase pollution, costs and health impacts.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's energy conservation noted that the IESO's conservation programs have "saved ratepayers and the province money, have helped reduce the province’s GHG emissions and have made homes more liveable and businesses more competitive by making them more energy efficient."

The report recommends a focused energy conservation policy as the IESO is projecting that the province may be facing a supply shortage by as early as 2023. According to the electricity manager's mid-term 2018 review, "all stakeholders who were part of the mid-term review process emphasized the importance of conservation continuing post-2020" so that the province can make "a clean transition" to an energy efficient electricity framework that will be include "better measuring and valuing greenhouse gas emissions reductions."

Sax said that Ontario’s climate policies were "very frightening."

In light of all this, environment activists and opposition MPPs are not happy with Oliver's appointment.

"Climate denier Joe Oliver appointed to the body that runs Ontario's electricity system (IESO). He doesn't accept science or the government's stated position on climate change, he doesn't belong on a body that will have to protect our electrical supply from climate disruption," NDP MPP and energy critic Peter Tabuns wrote on Twitter.

Green Party leader and MPP Mike Schreiner said the appointment of someone "who has publically espoused climate change skepticism" was "reckless."

"Ford’s efforts to sabotage climate solutions are now reaching into the highest levels of the regulators who will oversee the modernization of Ontario’s electricity system," Schreiner said in a statement. "This appointment of an outspoken climate skeptic sends the wrong signal — that Ontario is closed for business to the clean energy systems growing around the world.”

Greenpeace's Keith Stewart agreed. "Appointing a climate denier to the IESO at a time when the electricity sector needs to be updated for a low-carbon future is like appointing an alchemist to oversee drug approvals," he said in a tweet following the announcement.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 5:17 p.m. ET on March 28, 2019 with new comments from Ontario Green Leader Mike Schreiner.

Comments

What an irresponsible piece of supposed reporting. Reread what Oliver said. To me, he is effectively saying that climate change is not a religion that cannot be questioned, and that the evidence of human caused net harm is not overwhelming and unambiguous- which it obviously is not. And finally he is saying that there are bery important benefits to hydrocarbon consumption that are not considered in studies that alarmists rely on as the whole and only truth- and that these benefits may well outweigh any harm from human caused global warming that was cynically rebranded to the always true label of climate change. Shame on the reporter for adopting the attack dog tactics of extremists without thinking about and reporting on the issues in appropriately broad and scientifically sceptical terms.

Wake up Dave. There is only one reason Fatima quoted Joe, to expose his stupidity, ignorance and greed. This is NOT irresponsible, in fact it's what is called responsible journalism. This is something that you and your cronies don't do. You make blanket statements but never provide any kind of evidence to support your claims. You are the Doberman Dave. Fatima is not an extremist, she is an honest journalist.

It’s nothing but a hoax. In my life, “scientists” have told us we about to enter an era of global cooling. We would not have any fresh water to drink due to acid rain. We would all get skin cancer because we will depleting the ozone layer. We would be under water, no crops, etc, etc due to man-made global warming. Now, its climate change. A catch all term that if it does or doesn’t rain, its climate change. Tornadoes or no tornadoes, climate change. No snow or too much snow, climate change, on and on…

The short of it is, nothing the “scientists” said would happen, has happened. I can’t count how many; “we only have X number of years left to save the planet.”

GK Chesterton said; when people don’t believe in anything, they will believe in everything. Climate change is the religion of the god-less left. It’s all driven by faith, not science.

Your turn Rob. I know you don't care, but I do. You suggest that nothing the scientists have claimed has actually happened. No floods, no forest fires, no droughts, no cancers, no extinctions, no successful lawsuits? Just business as usual, right Rob. Except that we have really seen some extreme climate impacts in California and Alberta, or very recently extreme .flooding throughout he U.S. midwest. How about the melting of permafrost, glaciers, the icecap. Bring it on man, I'm waiting for you and your empty arguments.

Gee Wiz, can't wait until Doug Ford brings back Asbestos to insulate our houses, send people back in a toxic hole in coal mines, bring back black lungs while cutting health benefits, the right to smoke in hospital, hockey game without helmet or driving a car without a seat belt or slavery.
How can we live without these freedoms?
Hey Doug, to stimulate the economy, encourage the youth into juvenile prostitution to pay for school fees in order to have a 'good job' later on.
How about appointing alcoholics on the board of directors at Liquor Commission.
I am running our of ideas, I will have to see what tRump is doing to understand what Doug is trying to do.

Way to go Doug!

So I see how Fatima and National Observer are gaining some traction in our international climate debate. Dave and Daniel, our most recent oil industry trolls, are challenging democracy. I think I even heard them claiming "fake news." Go ahead and make your unsupported, non-scientific claims. You're not going to overturn our progress. You're too late. The momentum is in favour of Greta Thunberg, AOC and Earth.

Hum hum M. Smith, I am responsible for I write but I cannot be responsible for what you understand.

I suggest you read my comment again, slowly and

you will realize that I cannot share Dave's ideology, because I do believe in science and what Greta is trying to make these irresponsible leaders understand about climate.

OK so this ecomodernist (anti-nature pro-business as usual) named Michael Schellenberg published an article in Forbes on 28Mar2019. He suggests he is an environmental policy writer (never heard the job description before, must be Trumpian). In this article, Schelly claims that both Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, two of our greatest environmentalists, are actually fossil fuel industry supporters.
I'm just a bit confused here. These two individuals have faced our climate deniers and talked them down, told them they are killing our environment, our species. Yet these eejits, Dave Donald and Rob included, challenged them and believe they support fossils? The environment, planet Earth, are both extremely strong and are prepared to fact-check every single untruthful statement you make. The environment isn't listening to your TRASH anymore, it is reclaiming it's proper place in the order of things.

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