The little-known colossus behind the Conservatives' anti-climate agenda - 2019-10-19
Beyond the tight-knit world of Calgary's oil patch executives and a redoubt of Ottawa-based conservative activists, few Canadians had heard of the "Modern Miracle Network" (MMN) before The Globe and Mail in late April revealed that the group had convened a private retreat near Calgary for energy industry operatives, senior Conservative advisors and leader Andrew Scheer. The top agenda item, according to the Globe's account: plotting out a strategy for this fall's federal election battle with Justin Trudeau's Liberals. Incorporated in 2016 by Michael Binnion – an Alberta accountant turned energy entrepreneur who has been trying for years to persuade Quebeckers to let his company frack in the St. Lawrence Lowlands– MMN exists, publicly, as a Twitter feed, a Facebook page and a bare bones website. Its mandate is to "educate" the public about hydrocarbon-based energy. According to The Globe's account, MMN's board includes other Calgary oil and gas activists, including Patrick Ward, who heads Painted Pony Energy, and Susan Riddell Rose and Mike Rose, who head Perpetual Energy and Tourmaline Oil respectively.
The organization, such as it is, operates out of the headquarters of Binnion's firm, Questerre Energy, and its other directors include two Questerre employees. At first glimpse, MMN looks to be scarcely more than a ripple in a sea of social media turbulence – an Astroturf. advocacy operation with a curiously anachronistic handle. Even some veteran Tories outside Alberta haven't heard of either MMN or Binnion, who did not respond to numerous requests for an interview for this story.
Yet in the oil and gas industry, which has a great deal riding on the outcome of an excruciatingly close race, Binnion is an A-list operator, and his expressed views are well reflected in the Tories' platform. As chair of the Manning Foundation (which is a separate entity from the Manning Centre, a conservative networking organization based in Calgary) and a member of the board of governors of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the sector's lobby group, according to media accounts, he was also one of 146 attendees at a private June fundraiser for Scheer, held in a Calgary hotel.