Fraser Institute co-founder confirms 'years and years' of U.S. oil billionaires' funding

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The David Suzuki Foundation declared that 5.2 per cent of its budget for the same year – $0.55 million – came from outside Canada; likewise, the Sierra Club of Canada declared 15.2 per cent – $0.15 million – in foreign revenues. The Fraser Institute's left-leaning equivalent – the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) – accepted a paltry $5,414 from outside the country, roughly 0.1 per cent of its budget.

Unlike the DSF and the Sierra Club, however – which both declared they spent within CRA's allowable 10 per cent cap on “political activities, inside or outside Canada” – the Fraser Institute did not declare any such expenditures in 2010, the latest report year available.

Koch-funded Fraser Institute: working for "A free and prosperous world"

Described by the New York Times as both “conservative” and “libertarian," the Fraser Institute's mission is to work towards “a free and prosperous world where individuals benefit from greater choice, competitive markets, and personal responsibility.” 

From supporting the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to opposing increases to welfare rates, and pushing for immigration policy reform, the institute is highly influential.

During the recent Alberta provincial elections, the institute chimed in on the hustings with a National Post op-ed. The editorial, written by a Fraser Institute senior economist, criticized Conservative Party rivals – Wildrose and the New Democrats – for backing subsidies to companies refining oil sands in-province.

In the 2011 federal election, the Fraser Institute's president, Niels Veldhuis, called on federal parties to “significantly limit the size and scope of government, quickly balance the budget, provide substantial tax relief and dramatically reduce burdensome regulations.” Veldhuis criticized aspects of the campaign promises of the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats – but uniquely offered praise for the Tories:

  • “The Conservative platform balances the budget by a specific date (2014-15) and does so without increasing taxes.”
  •  “While the Conservative platform targets select groups and industries with tax credits that further complicate and distort the tax system, it does maintain the previously scheduled corporate income tax rate reduction to 15 per cent in 2012.”
  • “The Conservatives promise to reduce red-tape.”

Although noting that “all of the platforms are far from ideal,” Veldhuis' editorial offered few supportive words about opposition parties. He described the Liberals as “economically damaging” and “less decisive” on global trade, and criticized the NDP: “Unfortunately, the NDP platform makes no mention of the importance of trade.”

Walker, 67, was the Fraser Institute's executive director from its creation in 1974 until Sept. 2005, when he became president of the Fraser Institute Foundation and a Senior Fellow on its board.

In an interview with the Vancouver Observer, he spoke glowingly of the group's Koch-funded international work – notably the institute's “Economic Freedom Index” which he developed with Nobel prize-winning neoliberal economist Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, which today involves organizations in roughly 80 countries, he added.

“People here are not aware, generally, in Canada,” he said of the Koch-backed programs, “but we have a very extensive, a very respected international program.

“We work in India, we work in China – we're trying to get some of these ideas that are very important to development accepted. . . I don't think they are particularly (interested in Canada).”

In 2003, the Fraser Institute accepted $120,000 from ExxonMobil oil company, using the money for “climate research”, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The institute – which supports the development of the Alberta oil sands as well as oil pipelines through BC – has also employed both Sun News Network host Ezra Levant (author of the pro-oil sands book Ethical Oil) and former Ethical Oil organization spokesperson Kathryn Marshall.

With files from Alexis Stoymenoff.

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"Koch Industries is responsible for 25 per cent of Canadian oil sands imports, or roughly 250,000 barrels a year, to the United States."

This is incorrect. It should read: "......250,000 barrels a DAY.....".

'Economic Freedom' over everything else

SFU communications professor Donald Gutstein provides a fascinating account of the key role the Fraser Institute has played in establishing a 'neo-liberal' story line, one where 'economic freedom' trumps political freedom.  The central premise is the need for a strong central government, dedicated to eliminating regulatory barriers that prevent the market from growing.  Fuelled by massive funding from a variety of trusts and corporations, a whole string of institutes sponsor various indices and studies, all predestined to condition the public toward that philosophy. Gutstein says the entire effort is aided by media, which loves surveys and indices, and sycophantic academics. 

I had a personal go-round with the Fraser Institute back in the early 1990's when it began publishing 'studies' out to prove that BC's motorists would be better off with a return to private auto insurance.  It was clear that they started with that conclusion and worked back to cook the research.  This was followed by a concerted push by the Insurance Bureau of Canada to convince Bill Bennett's Social Credit government to abandon ICBC. 

Unfortunately for them, the private sector insurers had too many skeletons in their closet and too many British Columbians remembered the stunts they used to pull off.  In the end, both the Fraser Institute and the IBC slunk back into the bushes.  But the Fraser Institute soldiers on, with items like their annual school rankings that appear to have the same trademark as their work against ICBC.  The story line is the same:  public bad, private good.  It comes as no surprise that the Koch Brothers have been feeding this effort.

It seems that, over time and through persistence, they have been successful in convincing most people that they are 'consumers' and 'taxpayers' above all, not citizens of a nation that also has social values centred around 'the common good'.  Mr. Gutstein's efforts to dig into the details may well give substance to a nagging feeling many have had that we've been royally snookered.