Corruption, Saunderson and the CBC

J'accuse!It’s a seven-year old story about the abuse of power, of corruption, of personal ambition thwarted, of an insatiable sense of entitlement, a craving for attention, and a clique of ruthless people determined to exact vengeance for a perceived slight. And it’s still being told today.

It began in 2011 after the former council refused to build Brian Saunderson’s proposed $35 million “Taj Mahal” rec centre with public money and give it to the YMCA. Instead, an alternate staff plan was approved: two new, state-of-the-art rec facilities were erected at a fraction of the cost, and kept in public ownership. That annoyed Sanderson  began a seven-year vendetta against everyone involved. Street protests were organized with Saunderson as their loudly vocal spokesperson. Deborah Doherty’s partner paraded in front of a town hall with a sign demanding officials “inpeach” council (Doherty is now on council).

And in 2014, several election platforms were built on stories produced by one reporter at the CBC.

CBC reporter Dave Seglins, is back in town, sniffing around for another story that will no doubt again discredit those associated with that 2011 decision, plus others who have been targets of various council motions and actions this term (the airport, the sale of Collus, the judicial inquiry, for example).

In between is our sordid tale about revenge, and a determined smear campaign using taxpayer-funded resources. Corruption is defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Who stands to gain by any of this? Look to the council table.

The story that Seglins is writing will rehash what he published in 2013; pieces that discredited incumbent politicians, residents and town staff without anything even resembling evidence of any wrongdoing. (more on that, below).

The question you need to ask yourself is when reading this is: Cui Bono? Whose good? Who benefits from these stories and the harassment? Whose campaigns will wave them about in the municipal election and without a hint of the hypocrisy, decry this “corruption”?

Seglins has approached at least five people here in the past week, alleging he has “court documents” about some of them. These include Mayor Sandra Cooper, former MP Paul Bonwick, former Deputy Mayor Rick Lloyd, former Collus utility CEO Ed Houghton, and myself. There may be others who have not contacted me about it. 

All but Cooper are all private citizens, not politicians or public servants today. To date none of these people have told me they have seen the alleged documents, nor been contacted by the police for any wrongdoing or investigation, nor served documents for court appearances. Their lawyers, I’m told, have not seen them, either. Are we going to get another story based solely on unfounded allegation and innuendo? 

In Canadian justice, an accused has the right to know the name and see the face of the accuser. Not, apparently, in the CBC: anonymous attackers can discredit and smear their opponents from the shadows. 

Where is the accountability?

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Brian’s new campaign slogan

PettinessBrian Saunderson needs a new campaign slogan, now he’s officially filed papers in his ill-fated race to become mayor against the hard-working, well-liked, ethical, community-minded, former police chief, John Trude. It’s not good enough for Brian to run on his slogans from last election – “I’ll Show ‘Em Who’s Boss!”, “My Way or the Highway!”, “Why Be Open and Accountable When Secrecy and Deception Get My Way So Much Better?” and the local favourite, “I’ll Get Even With All of You!”

Last election, he launched his campaign on the coattails of a phony OPP investigation based on innuendo, wildly unfounded allegation and a nasty conspiracy theory. That story was hyped by his ski-hill buddy, a CBC reporter. But because  the public are onto his game and know the story was a hoax – after more than six years, the police have not identified or interviewed, much less charged, anyone – now Brian must fling his feces from new places to gain traction.

This spring, he launched his campaign by burdening taxpayers with a potentially $6 million, yet entirely unnecessary judicial inquiry to look into an open, transparent and legal process that happened way back in 2011-12. Sure, it’s another transparent attention-getting hoax cooked up with his desperate campaign team, and I suspect it will carve him a place in local history as the most vindictive, petulant politician ever. But it did get him attention among sycophantic local media and the echo chamber of Collingwood’s version of Faux News lite (run by his BFF).

And guess who he brought to town to publicize the inquiry even before anyone in the public or local media heard about it? Right: his CBC buddy from the ski club.

His local pet barnacle – so divorced from facts and truth in his online spume that he makes alt-right harridan Alex Jones seem credible – filed a complaint with the integrity commissioner against Mayor Cooper for trying to do her elected job honourably and honestly. And to twist the knife in her back, Brian and his Block minions gleefully made sure that the Integrity Commissioner came to council to publicly humiliate her. Nothing like a public flogging of a popular woman to garner votes, eh, Brian?

Like last election, Brian still has no cohesive platform for managing the intricacies of bureaucracy, holding the line on spending, keeping taxes low, maintaining infrastructure, engaging the citizens, collaborating with others for the greater good, helping the economy, or ensuring safe streets, clean water and clean air. So instead, he desperately needs to distract voters from his egregious lack of substance and commitment with an unrivalled show of nastiness and pettiness well beyond even that he has exhibited these past four years. It’s already well underway.

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Airports and opportunities vs. The Block

Strategic Vision:
To become a premier regional commercial airport that stimulates the socioeconomic development of Simcoe County and the City of Barrie by improving connectivity, enhancing the competitiveness of the region and improving the quality of life for its residents.
Mission Statement:
To drive the region’s economic prosperity, enhance business opportunities, increase the region’s competitive position and support the travel needs of the community through increased connectivity.

So opens a report on the opportunities and challenges facing the Simcoe Regional Airport, presented to the county’s Committee of the Whole session, May 22. You can see it here, starting at page 23. The other quotes on this page are all from that report, unless otherwise identified.

Ship of fools
Ship of fools: our council

Quite a different approach from the one that most of Collingwood Council took towards our airport, isn’t it?

For a start this was done in public, not in secret as the Block – our very own Ship of Fools, rudderless on the ocean of governance – loves to conduct its business (especially when public assets are concerned). Second, it was positive, forward-thinking, and backed by facts, not the sort of negative, paranoid conspiracy theory The Block wallows in.

Airports in a modern global economy provide the critical connectivity to markets and knowledge-based resources that in turn represent key drivers of the economy. Airports themselves are not the destination but a conduit that provides critical connectivity.
“Airports play a considerable role in economic development and the most important cargo they move is people” – Richard Florida, Professor, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

I imagine this presentation made our Deputy Mayor, Brian Saunderson, squirm in great discomfort during the meeting. After all, here’s a consultant not only saying airports are good, but should be kept AND invested in! And that they bring economic growth and opportunities! Backed by actual facts, too! Quite a slap in the face to Brian’s Block, whose wacky conspiracy theory states airports are bad, costly, and should be disposed of without considering their value or economic potential.

By 2043 air travel demand in Southern Ontario will increase to 110 million passengers and a million tonnes of cargo – compared to the 47 million passengers and 400,000 tonnes of cargo in 2017.

So there’s growth predicted and a future in airports and an opportunity for a forward-thinking government to capture some of that business. But instead of wanting to embrace that growth and prepare for a better, more economically vibrant future, the ostrich-like Block are running away from it as fast as they can. They decided (in secret, behind closed doors, and without any public consultation or engagement, as they always do) to sell our publicly-owned airport instead of even investigating the opportunities.

But you already know they’re virulently anti-business, so that’s no surprise.
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Deception, The Block, and EPCOR

Spy stuffThe Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is currently conducting hearings about the proposed sale of our publicly-owned electrical utility, Collus, to the for-profit, out-of-province corporation, EPCOR. Several documents have already been entered into the record and you can read them here.

Most of them are fairly technical and steeped in opaque legalese, but download and read this one: EPCOR_IRR_SEC_EPCOR Collingwood MAADs_20180503.pdf. There’s some interesting content here and I think it’s stuff that The Block, the town and maybe even EPCOR don’t want you – the public – to know about. After all, The Block and town administration conducted this whole process in secret for three years – why would they want to be open about it now?

To start, turn to page 3. You’ll find a report on the profitability of Collus-PowerStream and its return on equity (ROE). Remember when we were assured by the Blockheads that it was a bad deal, it wasn’t successful, that the “status quo couldn’t continue”? Well look at the REAL numbers:

Please provide the achieved ROE (Return on Equity), calculated on a regulatory basis, for each year from 2013-2017, and file any forecasts of the Applicants that include ROE forecasts for 2018 and beyond.

Year/ Deemed Profitability/ROE:
2012: 8.01% /0.10%
2013: 8.98% /8.40%
2014: 8.98% /11.21%
2015: 8.98% /10.86%
2016: 8.98% /10.03%

Every year they operated as Collus-PowerStream, the utility had an ROE GREATER than 8% and almost 9% for most of those years. The ROE (which was understandably low the first year because it was partial) grew to more than 11% per year! That’s almost as high as the OEB will legally allow a utility’s profits to grow.

Here is what the actual OEB Scorecard for Collus PowerStream says:

Profitability: Regulatory Return on Equity – Deemed (included in rates)
Return on equity (ROE) measures the rate of return on shareholder equity. ROE demonstrates an organization’s profitability or how well a company uses its investments to generate earnings growth. Collus PowerStream’s current distribution rates were approved by the OEB and include an expected (deemed) regulatory return on equity of 8.98%. The OEB allows a distributor to earn within +/- 3% of the expected return on equity. If a distributor performs outside of this range, it may trigger a regulatory review of the distributor’s financial structure by the OEB.
Profitability: Regulatory Return on Equity – Achieved
Collus PowerStream achieved a ROE of 10.03% in 2016, which is within the 8.98% +/-3% range allowed by the OEB (see above paragraph). This is indicative of a healthy financial organization. This trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. The 0.10% result for 2012 was an anomaly year with a low net income, which was the result of the additional expenses incurred during the sale of 50% of the company’s shares to PowerStream.

Not profitable? Not successful? Even the sale application document says otherwise:

The 2017 deemed ROE is 8.98% and the 2017 achieved ROE, as filed with the Board in Collus PowerStream Corp.’s April 30, 2018 RRR filing, is 11.65% and remains subject to the Board’s review. The ROE forecast for 2018 and beyond approximates the OEB’s most recently approved ROE.

Would that my sad little RRSP returned half that percentage annually! The financial performance was raised again and again by The Block as a reason for the sale yet here it shows the utility was flourishing. Someone lied to the public about the financial situation. The judicial inquiry has to look into who it was.
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John Brown’s letter got the attention it deserved

WhingingIt went almost unnoticed, but on the agenda for the April 30 Collingwood Council agenda was a letter from the former interim CAO, John Brown, with eight questions (and some comments) about the CAO’s report on the costs of the upcoming judicial inquiry (item eight in the Consent Agenda portion). The letter itself is unsigned (see it here) but the agenda notes the author’s name. Not even the local media picked up on it.

It’s curious that not one of The Block bothered to have it pulled for discussion or request that staff answer the questions from their former mentor and – some say Machiavellian – advisor. One would have expected the slavish Blockheads to fight one another to rush to the defence of their éminence grise, and have his letter front and centre on the administration’s to-do list. Instead it was merely accepted “for information” and thus consigned to the dustbin. *

Consent agenda discussion starts at 3:10:47 in the meeting (video here). Only letters from Blue Mountain Watershed Trust got pulled for discussion. I suspect Brown must have been steaming when he watched that. Were these former sycophants throwing him under the bus? Why weren’t they tugging their forelocks and bowing as they had in the past? Could they be – gasp! – rejecting his influence at long last?

Let’s look at that letter and see what we can comment on. All quotations are taken directly from the agenda item with no attempt to change the nonstandard punctuation, spelling, capitalization, wording or spacing (despite my urge to correct same… I have written about his language skills in the past)

1 Why is this report submitted for council approval when not all members of council are able to attend?
-During my tenure as CAO the Clerk kept a record of all upcoming council member vacation plans and items of political sensitivity, such as the report this report , were always arranged for meeting when all members of council would be in attendance. Why not this one ?

Curiouser and curiouser. Only Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson was absent from that meeting. My sources tell me he didn’t bother to inform the clerk, the CAO or the mayor of his absence; no one in town hall knew beforehand he wouldn’t attend. The agenda was released several days before the meeting and Brown’s letter was in it. How is it that Brown knew Saunderson wouldn’t be there so far in advance?

And why didn’t he similarly complain when the original motion was cunningly timed for Feb. 26, when the movers knew both Councillors Lloyd and Edwards would be absent for it? Surely that was even more important a vote, more politically sensitive an issue than this one? But he doesn’t seem to have noticed. Or cared.

(And you’ll note in the minutes that Councillor Fryer is marked absent for the controversial Feb. 26 vote – he was at the table, but conveniently got up and left the room when the vote was called, thus avoiding having to make a public commitment or a decision – a spineless action by someone who wants to be our next deputy mayor!).

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