Government Contracts

Last week, an article about me appeared in outlets including the Western Standard. This post addresses a few of the claims made there and elsewhere.

Were you awarded contracts from federal ministries between November 2015 and today?

Yes. I billed two federal government ministries an average of roughly $3600 per year between November 2015 and today.

The listing of contracts shown in the Western Standard article was produced based on an information disclosure tabled in Parliament in response to a request by MP Chris Warkentin. The disclosure lists 4 contracts which I signed over that period with a total potential value of $68,248. The disclosure omits one contract from 2019, listed here, but I didn’t end up billing for any of the limited time I spent on work under this contract before the COVID pandemic turned our world upside down. I expect that’s why this contract was was not disclosed along with the other 4.

The Western Standard wonders why my “official biography does not mention $68,248 in payments.” I don’t generally post a cumulative sum of consulting revenue by client in my online bio, but were I to have done so, that total would not have appeared. Why? Because three of the listed contracts included hourly billing arrangements and I worked far below the maximum time allowed for in these contracts. Over the time period in question, my fees for service under all sole-source federal contracts (those listed in the information release) amounted to $30,725: $20,750 from Environment and Climate Change Canada with the balance from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Over a period of a little more than 8.5 years, my average billing for consulting work done for federal government ministries was $3554.55 per 365 day year.

Did any of these contracts have anything to do with your Twitter account? Or were they tied to your support for carbon pricing?

No. And No.

The Western Standard article and other public discussion of this disclosure has implied that the contracts under which I worked for federal ministries involved express or implied rewards for my social media engagement and/or for my support for carbon pricing.

That’s preposterous.

The contracts disclosed in the Parliamentary information request were for analysis and advice related to federal environmental policies and measures within my areas of expertise: the administration of the Low Carbon Economy Fund, assessing the impact of the Clean Fuel Regulations, the appropriate value to assign to reductions in GHG emissions realized in Canada, and the impact of carbon pricing policies on Canadian agricultural producers. The contract omitted from the disclosure was for analysis and advice related to the design of GHG mitigation policies for the electricity sector.

And, I’ve been a supporter of carbon pricing for much longer than the current government has been in power. I helped implement a carbon pricing plan in Alberta in 2015 and many design features of the policy I helped develop were adopted in federal carbon pricing legislation. Before that, I also worked on a price-based approach to oil and gas emissions at Environment Canada in 2012-13. And, I have been writing publicly on carbon pricing for more than a decade. See here and here for some early examples. I was asked to do the contract work in question because of my expertise in carbon pricing and related policies, not to encourage my support for them. The open letter from Canadian economists supporting carbon pricing reflects the basic economic arguments for carbon pricing that I have made in many forums for more than a decade. My decision to sign the letter and my support for carbon pricing policies in general have nothing to do with federal government contracts.

Did you disclose this work publicly?


As with any of my paid or pro-bono consulting work, my work for Environment and Climate Change Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has been clearly disclosed here.

The link provided on my Twitter and other social media accounts as well as on my academic CV leads to a landing page which includes my conflict of interest disclosure, as shown below:

And, my official biography on my university directory page has clearly and consistently referenced my work consulting for federal and provincial government departments. I have also added a further direct link to my conflict of interest disclosure on my university directory page and on my academic CV since these stories were released.

Why aren’t these details reflected in last week’s articles?

My only correspondence with the reporter who wrote the story was brief and touched only on whether the contracts listed in the Parliamentary disclosure were, in fact, offered to me (I confirmed that they were), and on whether I had disclosed my consulting work publicly (I provided a link to my own disclosure page as well as to the federal government’s disclosure of sole-source contracts). The reporter did not ask what the listed contracts were for (see above) nor how much I had billed under their terms (see above). The reporter also did not ask whether there was any relationship between this work and my use of Twitter or my support for carbon pricing (there isn’t), other than noting that I did not identify my acceptance of federal contracts on my Twitter account (I noted that the site linked from my Twitter account includes my disclosure).

For the record, here is the entirety of my correspondence with Tom Korski:

I had not, at the time of my communication with the reporter, seen the information disclosure provided in response to the request by MP Warkentin, and so my replies in this thread were based on an assumption on my part that the total value of my initial contract with Agriculture Canada ($39,637.50) was used to arrive at the total being cited by the reporter instead of or in addition to the amended value ($9,975). This was the reason for my directing the reporter to check the federal sole-source contract disclosure site more carefully. The reporter never responded to provide me with a copy of the article posted on June 19th, 2024.

Does the University of Alberta know that you do this kind of work?

Absolutely. In fact, such work is encouraged.

The University of Alberta faculty agreement demands that faculty members “remain current with recent developments in the discipline through personal professional development,” and notes that this may be accomplished through many means including “professional activity which is supplementary to the primary obligations to the University.” (Article A3) The agreement explicitly states that such activities could include “(…) b) consulting; c) personal services contracts; and d) private practice of the Academic Faculty member’s profession.” It is explicit that these activities “shall be taken into account in the evaluation of an Academic Faculty member’s performance.” There are conditions and disclosure requirements on this work. In particular, we are required to disclose “a) the category or type of client or affiliation; b) the nature of services performed; c) an estimate of the total time devoted to each SPA; and d) the names and nature of any continuing contractual arrangements with outside organizations,” along with any real or perceived conflicts of interest. We are not required to disclose revenue, hourly billing rates, or any other financial information.

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