Collingwood Council’s missed initiatives

IneptitudeThe word initiative derives from the Latin word initiare “to begin.” Since 1600, it has meant “introduce to some practice or system,” “begin, set going.” While any sort of action or engagement, positive or negative, can be classified as an initiative, generally one refers only to positive enterprises when describing political or social initiatives.

I know, I know: you immediately want to interrupt and say, “but Ian, The Block don’t do anything positive, and you cannot talk about a council’s initiatives when none have occurred.” I agree, but bear with me.

It’s true that, when measuring the positive actions begun for the benefit of anyone but themselves, Collingwood council comes up woefully short: mene, mene, tekel upharsin so to speak. There simply have been none and likely won’t be any this term. This council is better described with one or more of the 44 antonyms for initiative: lethargy, indifference, indolence, apathy, diffidence, staleness, dreariness, lassitude, insipidness… they have no interest in your or my good, just their own.*

A short while ago, I wrote Council’s report card: Year 2, part 1, a post humorously (but truthfully) describing council’s sorry list of “accomplishments” for the first half of its term (forbidding you from throwing birdseed on your driveway is their main intellectual effort). Aside from my sarcastic poke at their rampant ineptitude, as you, dear reader know, there were no real accomplishments.

In that previous post I promised to present you with a list of “the Blockheads’ failures and debacles, their endless efforts to destroy people, institutions, and relationships, their gobsmacking waste of tax dollars to pursue petty vendettas and personal agendas, their arrogant self-interests, their conniving, their secrecy, their blatant dishonesty and their egregious ineptness and all the rest.” And I started to. The list was long. So very long.

To be frank, after I began that post, I found myself unwilling continue. There were simply too many dreary, petty items, too many malicious actions, too much skullduggery and self-interest to expose again. I became depressed in the process of categorizing and explaining all the malevolence and evil. All that self-serving, nest-feathering, the witch hunts and vendettas … it could drive one to drink.
Dilbert, of course...
While I don’t mind writing another sententious “Malleus Politici” (and the Muse knows they deserve it) this became an extended, overly long and increasingly bitter rant even for someone given to near-hypergraphia. After some contemplation, I decided to take a different tack. I thought what I should do is to list some of the initiatives taken by other municipalities and compare those with what Collingwood has or has not done in that vein. See what positive approaches others have taken in dealing with the problems, issues and challenges in their municipality and measure ours against that.

Alas, we again fall woefully short. But if you have been reading this blog, you already know that. Still, the exercise is educational. The list as follows is neither complete nor in any order aside from what came to mind at the moment of writing.

Continue reading “Collingwood Council’s missed initiatives”

Council is privatizing our utilities

Water costs
Collingwood council and its administration are planning to privatize both our water and electricity utilities. All, of course, without consulting you, the public. Some members of council have even stated – with a straight face, mind you – they would ask for your input at a later date. A date long after it’s too late for public input to matter, of course.

They have already engaged in negotiations with outside companies to take over our utilities, all the while pretending they were just “kicking the tires.” They appointed their lawyer to oversee the sale. Consultants made reports painting the existing situation with faux negativity, from early 2015.

In 2012, the former council determined (after considerable public discussion and public consultation) to sell only 50% of its share in the electrical utility, not 100%, and not water, because that would mean a loss of control over services and rates, loss of accountability and openness, plus additional liabilities. This council is determined to give away those controls, reduce accountability and transparency. It will cost taxpayer millions. And they’re doing it all in secrecy.

“I will assure you, no decisions have been made, we are just exploring our options with any interested parties,” Councillor Madigan said last July – facetiously I assume, because by that time, more than 18 months of in camera discussions had been held. Surely he was awake through at least one of them.

Council has acted in bad faith and conned the public about this ever since it took office. No one expects them to be honest or open about it now. Their plan was made evident in 2015 when The Block fired the existing water utility board (a group of talented professionals with considerable experience in water) in violation of the town’s procedural bylaw, and replaced them with five members of their own group – none of whom have any experience in water or wastewater (and none of whom have any talent). That signalled their intentions.

A recent request for proposals (RFPs) for the sale of the town’s share of the electrical utility was sent to utility corps – including, people in the industry lead me to believe, EPCOR, in Alberta. These RFPs belie that pretense that this is just “kicking the tires.” It’s always been a full-blown conspiracy to privatize our utilities. You don’t send out RFPs to corporations just to see if they’re interested. You do it because you intend to sell. Once started, the process is irrevocable. And inevitably expensive.*

But electricity is only part of the plan. All along it’s been a bigger picture: to sell both electricity and water/wastewater services. And let the taxpayer pay for the fallout. As Food and Water Watch documented (in the USA):

Investor owned utilities typically charge 59 percent more for water service than local government utilities. Food & Water Watch compiled the water rates of the 500 largest community water systems in the country and found that private, for-profit companies charged households an average of $501 a year for 60,000 gallons of water — $185 more than what local governments charged for the same amount of water. Investor owned utilities typically charge 63 percent more for sewer service than local government utilities. Food & Water Watch compiled sewer rates survey data from dozens of states and found that private ownership increased sewer bills by 7 percent in West Virginia to 154 percent in Texas.

Continue reading “Council is privatizing our utilities”

Council’s report card: Year 2, part 1

Blind leading the blindAs we reach the end of our Council’s second year in office, halfway through its mandate, it is time again to assess the collective performance and list the accomplishments of our elected officials.

To avoid accusations of egregious negativity, I will list council’s accomplishments first. And to avoid further accusations of meandering through overly long diatribes (mea culpa, I do ramble a bit…), I will split this post into two pieces. The good (this post) and the bad (a subsequent post).

For a historical comparison, you might wish to refer to my analysis of council’s first year prior to reading this piece. It will give you some context. And maybe a reason to drink, too. It was that kind of year.

So here it is: all of the remarkable achievements and accomplishments of Collingwood Council by the end of its second year:

  1. You can no longer toss birdseed onto your driveway or patio.
    Now don’t be misled into think this legislation isn’t a significant achievement. Consider the ramifications of having people toss their birdseed willy nilly around their property. It would be chaos. And it might attract squirrels. The very notion that squirrels might get at the birdseed makes some folks at the table apoplectic. It must have taken hours and hours of in camera discussion and secret negotiation to get this passed. Given the calibre of the minds at the table, this is The Block’s greatest intellectual accomplishment this term and could possibly be council’s most fondly recalled legacy for decades to come.
  2. Public discussion, input or consultation has been shut out.
    Democracy is far too messy already to allow the public to hear what council is saying about major policies and operations, so everything worth discussing has been moved behind closed doors where public scrutiny won’t embarrass anyone at the table. And why should the public be allowed to comment on things that affect them? Better they don’t know and so they can’t respond. That way the oily gears of governance and patronage won’t be slowed down by having to deal with messy public input or media oversight. So what if it’s your utility, your airport, your taxes? The Block will decide what’s best for us without asking our opinion. You don’t matter: only their opinion matters. And just in case you thought you could complain, The Block fired the Integrity Commissioner. Why have public scrutiny when you avoid public input? And forget those election promises of openness and transparency. You knew they were just kidding, right?
  3. Our reputation is ruined and our relationships with our municipal neighbours is in the dumpster.
    Utility boards have been alienated. The hospital and medical staff enraged. Developers infuriated. The OEB is investigating council. The Information and Privacy Commissioner is investigating council. The Ombudsman is investigating council. PowerStream hates us. Collus hates us. Clearview hates us. Wasaga Beach hates us. New Tecumseth hates us. The airport users and developers hate us. The hospital board hates us. It can only be a sign of strength to stand alone. The Block has proven Collingwood can go it alone without regionalism, support, allies, partners or friends. The town’s strategic goal has been to emulate our governing Blockheads and be friendless and mirthless. And in this endeavour they have been highly successful. You don’t think that’s impressive? The Block and our administration put unstinting effort into making Collingwood is the North Korea of Ontario municipalities. Imagine how little we’d care about Kim Jong Un if he had international friends or was a competent ruler. He’d be like us. And now we’re just like him. Well done!

There you have it. Everything this council has accomplished this term. Three major accomplishments that in olden days would merit a rousing song from a bard, and plaques or even bronze statues scattered about the community.

With the positives safely out of the way, in an upcoming post I will examine the downside: the Blockheads’ failures and debacles, their endless efforts to destroy people, institutions, and relationships, their gobsmacking waste of tax dollars to pursue petty vendettas and personal agendas, their arrogant self-interests, their conniving, their secrecy, their blatant dishonesty and their egregious ineptness and all the rest. But so as not to keep you in too much suspense, here’s a quick preview of all the things council did wrong, all of their evil, malicious and underhanded actions to date this term:

  1. Everything else.

See you next post.

Collingwood’s own Gong Show, part 2

Keystone councilAs promised, here is the second part of the Gong Show analysis from December 12th’s council meeting. Like I said earlier, it’s perhaps more like a Keystone Cops or Abbott and Costello skit than the TV show.

As always, you can follow along on the Rogers Community TV broadcast, starting at 2:16:30. Laugh aloud at the zany, misinformed antics of your elected representatives as they fumble and stumble their way through an agenda of items they clearly have no clue about. You should start with part 1 of my review, if you haven’t already read it.

And by the end of this post you can decide which of these titles best suits our Blockheads:

  1. The Most Secretive Council Ever
  2. The Most Inept and Ineffective Council Ever
  3. The Most Devious Council Ever
  4. The Most Disrespectful Council Ever
  5. The Most Corrupt Council Ever
  6. The Most Underhanded Council Ever
  7. The Most Petty and Vindictive Council Ever
  8. All of the above.*

So first take a look at a letter that appeared on the consent agenda of the Strategic Initiatives Committee from Dec. 7 (SIC is one of those dysfunctional and inefficient council committees created by the interim CAO, yet embraced by Blockheads at the table with no experience in process or politics who prefer to flail and fumble rather that govern efficiently). See page 96 for the letter, which says in part:

Please accept this letter as confirmation that Collus PowerStream will not be renewing its existing computer rental agreement with the Collingwood Public Utilities that expires December 31st, 2016.
With regard to the existing equipment, the Board of Directors at our November 25th meeting authorized me to offer a one-time payment of $23,920.00 plus any applicable taxes for the attached listing of user workstation equipment and associated accessories (keyboards, mice, cables etc.) we are currently using and are interested in acquiring.
We ask that you please confirm acceptance of this offer by end of day December 15th, 2016. This will allow us sufficient time to make alternate arrangements prior to year-end for replacement hardware should the Town choose to not accept this offer.

Some key concepts here to keep in mind:

  • The board authorized the request and amount offered;
  • The agreement to rent equipment ends Dec. 31 at the same time the shared services agreement ends;
  • CPS needs to know by Dec. 15 and it’s already Dec. 12;
  • The offer is more than three times what the equipment is worth.

Simple, right? Apparently not for everyone.

Some history: Collus always provided the software and the technical support for the town’s computers as part of the shared services agreement. The agreement ended in 2014 but was extended until the end of 2016 so the interim CAO could present an update agreement. It still hasn’t been done.

The town (in this case the water department) purchased the hardware and rented/leased it back to Collus (later Collus-PowerStream, CPS) for just under $22,000 a year to provide a revenue stream to the town. With the unrelenting harassment of the utility and its staff by The Blockheads and the administration, CPS wants to get as far away from this viper’s nest as possible. CPS offered to buy the remaining hardware – mostly used notebooks, monitors, mice, cables and keyboards – from the town. And end another revenue stream to the town from the utility.**

used computersNow, keep in mind that this is all equipment CPS is using, not another town department or service. Whenever a department needs computer equipment, that department head purchases it. No department head has asked for any of this equipment, not least of all because it’s old and used and they can get new with a signature on a slip of paper.

And it’s all at least 3-4 years old (which means the laptops may not even be up to running Win 10) and may not be in the best shape after daily use for that time. Much of it would normally be replaced with new equipment in the next 12-28 months as per the town’s hardware replacement cycle.

But our Blockheads are apparently experts on IT, even though some of them can’t even configure their own home wireless without IT intervention.

And don’t forget: the shared services agreement to provide IT services to the town ends in January, 2017, before that vaunted mid-month report from the consultant. Second, the recent PowerStream offer to buy the Collus share has a deadline of Jan. 6. If accepted, there will be no relationship of any sort between the utility and the town. And if not accepted, PowerStream will invoke the shotgun clause and the whole shebang will unravel 30 days later.

This where the fun starts – be prepared to laugh and roll your eyes. And to shake your head in wonder at the pettiness of our Blockheads.

And then gasp in disgust at the backstabbing and deviousness that happened a mere two days later. Of course, you won’t read any of this in the local media. You’re welcome.
Continue reading “Collingwood’s own Gong Show, part 2”

Stumbling towards the utility’s demise

The Return of ChanduThis week, Collingwood Council met in a special meeting to discuss an request from its utility partner, PowerStream, to waive some conditions of the shareholder agreement. This meeting appears to have been called by the interim CAO, which seems to me to usurp the mayor’s authority, but we know the administration – in partnership with The Block – has long been pulling the strings in this town to serve its own ends. Plus the meeting was held mid-day at the fire hall; a time and location that appears intended to deter both public and media presence.

Well while the public was deterred, the media were present, but nothing appeared in either paper. That doesn’t surprise me in the increasingly lax EB, but I expected better from the Connection. Finally, a story appeared in the online Connection, Friday. And it – as is too often the case with local media – doesn’t tell the whole story.

First read the waiver requested by Powerstream here. It asks the town to waive, “…Article 7, Article 8 and Article 9 thereof, for purposes of the Offer up until December 14, 2016.”

Got that? No, probably not. What it means is that PowerStream intends to present its offer early next week, but doesn’t want the offer to invoke terms in the agreement that would trigger the shotgun clause. And what, you ask, is the shotgun clause? Well, let’s do a quick review of the history first.

In 2011, the former council initiated a public process to explore opportunities to sell all or a portion (up to 50%) of our electrical utility. After several public information sessions in which public input and comment was sought, and after the issue was discussed in public at the council table, requests for proposals (RFPs) were sent out to prospective LDCs across the province. A strategic committee consisting of the utility board, staff, the mayor and KPMG Consultants was created to oversee the process and report to council and the public. All of the RFPs came in for purchase at EXACTLY 50%. No one wanted to buy less and the direction from council was to sell no more than half.

After a lengthy review and analysis of the offers, PowerStream was chosen as the winner. The offer was reviewed by their lawyers and accountants, our lawyers and accountants, the lawyers and accountants and council members of their three member municipalities. The process then moved to the Ontario Energy Board whose lawyers and accountants reviewed it. And then Energy Probe’s lawyers and accountants reviewed it. Everyone approved it, the finances were clean. The deal was sealed.

In the agreement were two important clauses. First, each side had the first right of refusal to buy the other half, should the partner ever want to sell its share. Second is the shotgun clause: should either party want to sell or buy, it can make an offer to the other party. If that offer is not accepted, then the rejecting party is bound to purchase the remaining half at the amount stated in the offer. And do it within 30 days.

So why did Powerstream want to waive these clauses? Well, first of all, the town sent out RFPs to several other LDCs in the province, totally ignoring PowerStream’s first right of refusal. Yes, it’s highly unethical and sure looks illegal to me, but that’s the way things are done here this term.

I suspect PowerStream – being an honourable company highly regarded by everyone outside our town hall – decided not to drag the bad faith shown again by our town into a legal battle which would further tarnish our badly tattered reputation. And one we would lose. Badly.

Second, PowerStream clearly wants to put its offer in along with those expected (or possibly already received) from the RFP, and not force the shotgun clause. In other words, to have its offer considered in context with the rest, not start the irrevocable process the shotgun clause will effect.

And guess what The Block did? Yep: they voted NOT to waive the clauses. The Block demanded 45 days to consider the request. Which is risible since the letter clearly states an offer is coming December 14, not sometime in February. 

Continue reading “Stumbling towards the utility’s demise”

Corruption, Collingwood & the Collus Board

See no evil...The Most Secretive Council Ever has comfortably assumed the mantle of The Most Secretive and Corrupt Council Ever. As I warned in a previous post, The Block was going to appoint someone’s friends to the Collus-PowerStream board – and do it both illegally and unethically. And last Monday, they told us they had done it. Fait accompli.

But as you have learned this term, laws, procedures, ethics and morals are for others to obey, not for The Block.

According to a story in The Connection (apparently the EB couldn’t be bothered to report on it online and I don’t get their print version…):

Michael Pace and David Goldsmith were named to the board, replacing Collingwood CAO John Brown and treasurer Marjory Leonard. Clerk Sara Almas remains on the board, serving as co-chairperson.

Know who these men are? Of course not. Only The Block knows. These men don’t live here. They didn’t even have to fill in an application to sit on a local board like the rest of us do. They were handed the appointments. Isn’t that usually called “patronage”? *

Who recommended them? The public has the right to know who is pulling the strings in those back rooms. It is an offense to public trust not to tell us.**

So now all three members of the utility board supposed to represent our local interests live out of town. According to the Connection story, one is a lawyer with “experience in mergers and acquisitions” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink…) but no experience in the electricity sector. The other is a consultant from Ottawa (we have already employed so many consultants this term, I’m surprised we just didn’t use one of them) and engineer, whose background (based on his website) seems mostly in steelmaking, with some experience in industrial-electrical relations.

How either can represent the interests of some 17,000 local residential customers, plus all the small businesses and commercial operations in our area was not explained. Nor will it be.

Nor were we told why the municipalities Collus PowerStream serves outside Collingwood have never yet been informed, much less consulted, about these changes in board membership that affects their residents and businesses, too.

But guess what else? You will have to pay to bring these two to any board meeting – paying the costs of their transportation, time and accommodations. One lives in Ottawa, one in Toronto. Imagine paying those expenses, those per diem costs for their trips here. Right: you got screwed by The Block. Again.

Councillor Lloyd questioned the process:

Coun. Kevin Lloyd questioned the process used to find the board members. Lloyd felt they should live in Collingwood, but Almas said Collus PowerStream is governed by the Ontario Business Corporations Act.

This Administration cried crocodile tears over not getting access to personal and confidential information so they could share it among themselves and watch it inevitably get leaked – information that is protected under the Ontario Business Corporations Act. Now it is riding on that high horse to justify breaking town procedure and our bylaws, but it won’t tell us who’s behind these choices. Ain’t hypocrisy grand?

You can watch the whole discussion on Rogers TV here starting at 1:36:43.

Continue reading “Corruption, Collingwood & the Collus Board”

No, Brian: Elvis isn’t in the CBSP

SaundersonAt the Nov. 28 Council meeting (seen here on Rogers TV), Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson blathered on in cliché-rich, lawerly manner (starting 1:14:05) about how much the Elvis Festival means to his “Community-Based Strategic Plan” (1:16:18) – that committee-based wishlist which was neither strategic nor a plan.

What does he mean when he claims that a report has “galvanized the question quite nicely”? Galvanized? Does he know what that word means? It’s not what he appears to think it does… it means to “shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action.” A staff report is seldom shocking or exciting, and even if it were, a question doesn’t get galvanized, nor the report, but rather the reader does.

When he claims he wants the festival to be a “self-sustaining entity unto itself…” I simply cannot grasp what that tautology means. Can you? It sounds like something from the Department of Redundancy Department.

And no, Brian, it doesn’t “beg a larger question” – begging the question doesn’t mean to raise one. It means to make “…a conclusion based on a premise that lacks support.” To beg the question would be to assume, for example, that because Elvis drank water, the festival should be hosted on the waterfront. The word you want to use here is “raise.”

Is he “hardened by the fact” or heartened? Sure sounds like he says the former… maybe some folks at the table find staff reports of a more prurient nature than I ever did.

But where does this fit in with his vaunted yet curiously flaccid CBSP? In fact it fits nowhere.

Number of times Elvis is mentioned in the CBSP: NONE.

Continue reading “No, Brian: Elvis isn’t in the CBSP”

Muzzling the airport board

spinelessThe Collingwood Airport Board wants to get its own legal opinion about the Clearview Aviation Business Park request for a non-binding letter of intent to negotiate access to the airport. Seems reasonable for the board charged with oversight of the airport to want to make sure that any decisions made best represent their mandate and the viability of the airport itself.

The Block and Collingwood’s administration are opposed to them getting one. Are they afraid of what that opinion would say? That it wouldn’t come from a lawyer already instructed as to what to say? That they couldn’t control the message as they have with Collus-PowerStream?

Or do they simply want – as all dictators do – to want to muzzle the opposition? As they did with Collus-PowerStream?

Probably both.

This cabal certainly appears eager to kill the economic growth at the airport – or at least threaten to do so in order to blackmail Clearview into buying the airport in order to save the jobs and tax revenue. Bully tactics.

For two years, against all common sense or concern for the greater good, Collingwood Council has obstinately done everything in its power to prevent a $300 million development – the largest rural Ontario has seen in many decades – from going forward.

All of their discussions about the airport and selling it have been done behind closed doors (despite the campaign promises made by Brian Saunderson and others to get public input on every major decision). It’s your airport, a public asset, and you have been shut out of not only hearing the discussions, but from having any say in its disposal.

A story in the Connection online this week tells reader just how intolerant this cabal is towards openness, and the lengths they will go to muzzle anyone who challenges their personal agendas. The town is stepping well outside its authority in its efforts to block the board.

Continue reading “Muzzling the airport board”

Obstructionism killing 1,600+ jobs & growth

The Block's vision for our airportJust when you thought Collingwood Council couldn’t set the bar any lower, they go and move it down another notch. On Monday, Oct. 31, The Block had a chance to save face, rectify their blatant mismanagement of the Collingwood Regional Airport development and save the proposed, $300 million, 260-acre, industrial park that could bring 400 full-time and 1,300 part-time or temporary jobs to the area.

They didn’t. No surprises, of course.

Barry Burton, the deputy mayor of Clearview Township, made a presentation to our council, Monday*, reiterating his community’s commitment to the development and growth at the airport and asking Collingwood Council to please sign a non-binding letter of agreement for the development to access the airport. After all, what’s an airport industrial park without access to the runways?

After his presentation, council quickly sloughed off its responsibilities by requesting another staff report. This after numerous closed-door reports by lawyers and consultants and staff these past two years. Despite public presentations by the proponents again and again reiterating that all they want is a letter of intent to enter negotiations over access.

In Block terminology, a staff report, like “due diligence,” simply means procrastinate. Who ever thought councillors were elected to make an actual decision in public, when they can do it away from public scrutiny in camera? Better to request a staff report instead of actually deciding something.

You can watch the whole shebang on Rogers, with the deputation starting at 16:50. Prepare to be angry, insulted and fed up, if you aren’t already.

I wrote about the Block’s secret machinations to sell our airport without any public discussion let alone input back in November, 2015, December, 2015, and three times in January, 2016: January 2, January 3 and January 16. I recommend you read them for the background.

The Block seem eager to sabotage the biggest commercial development this region – or all of rural Ontario! – has seen since the 1960s, and in doing so kill the much-needed jobs it will bring. And it looks like they will succeed. There’s a very real chance the developers are about to give up and find another place to grow.

Continue reading “Obstructionism killing 1,600+ jobs & growth”

Fulfilling a role? Who are you kidding?

Soviet propagandaThe bite of irony is in the air when a flimsy piece of blatant Block propaganda masquerading as an official media release is published by the town. It has the misleading headline, “Town fulfilling role in hospital redevelopment process,” but only delusional sycophants won’t read it as a Block screed.

When did town media releases shill for a group at the table, not represent the will of council as a whole? Did the mayor approve this dreck before it went out? I suspect not. *

It’s ironic that last term’s council was criticized by some of the very people who now sit on council now for releasing factual newsletters they decried as “propaganda” because these contained information that didn’t conform to a certain Block ideology. But this – this piece is so smarmy and disingenuous it’s embarrassing.

The town isn’t fulfilling any role – it’s simply an ideological tactic. The Block actively and aggressively tried (and is still trying) to prevent the hospital’s redevelopment on a new site. I’ve written about their efforts to derail the hospital several times in the past.

The piece quotes deputy mayor Brian Saunderson. Since when was he the spokesperson for the town? Why is he quoted at all except for self-aggrandizement? Oh I know, The Block doesn’t give a fig for policy, protocol or process, but this is arrogant beyond even that.

Here’s what he says:

Council has been given a mandate by the public through the Community Based Strategic Plan to support improved access to health care within Collingwood and we intend to continue to advocate on behalf of our residents to fulfill this goal.

Let’s start with the mandate. NO: paperwork doesn’t give council a mandate. A mandate is given by the voters but not some flaccid “Community Based Strategic Plan” that was neither strategic nor a plan. And it was a committee of The Block’s friends who cobbled this dog’s breakfast together under the guidance of an outsider consultant – not the public at large. That report was not a mandate – it was a wishlist and a poorly contrived one at that.

Continue reading “Fulfilling a role? Who are you kidding?”

Collus report debunks Block conspiracies

SAIDI and SAIFIEvery year, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) publishes the scorecard of local distribution companies (LDCs). Across the province, more than 70 LDCs are ranked and rated according to performance, customer service, efficiency, progress and other measurable data for residents to see how their utility is doing. It’s a thing called openness and transparency.

As the OEB notes:

The scorecard includes traditional metrics for assessing a distributor’s services, such as frequency of power outages, financial performance and costs per customer. In addition, performance results for 2014 and onward will include a number of new metrics that directly reflect the customer experience, such as how well the distributor resolves a customer’s concern on the first contact, the accuracy of customers’ bills, public safety and more.

Our own LDC, Collus PowerStream, is one of those LDCs listed. You can see its excellent scorecard here. And we do damn well. You wonder why local media aren’t trumpeting our success story. Our utility staff deserve to be publicly praised for what they have accomplished. Kudos, too, to the former board for their guidance (fired by The Block for being competent and successful).

The Block don’t want you to see the scorecard, won’t raise it at council. That would be open and transparent; words that are anathema to The Block.

As I’ve written in the past, they and the town’s administration have worked aggressively to destroy the relationship with our utility and our municipal partner, PowerStream. This has been done solely to fulfill private agendas and satisfy personal vendettas. It has never been about the greater good of the community. And it will cost you a lot: your taxes are going up to cover the added expenses, and your hydro rates will go up if our utility gets sold to Hydro One. All thanks to a small group of ideologues (whom the OEB is investigating).

Little one-and-two-person consulting firms you never heard of before they showed up here, and outside lawyers who may have significant conflicts of interest, were hired to discredit our electrical utility and everyone involved in the share sale last term. Some of our best staff have been driven out by the relentless witch hunt.

Incomplete or incorrect information has been presented to the public suggesting the utility has not performed properly or that the shared services agreement was somehow incomplete or ineffective, or that the share sale was somehow corrupt. That information wasn’t forthcoming or was missing. All rubbish.

Any counterpoint or data provided to contradict this has been suppressed by town staff. Despite two years of expensive (approx. $350,000 of your tax dollars wasted, with more to be spent) investigations to find some wrongdoing, nothing has been found to justify these wild conspiracy theories. That hasn’t dampened The Block’s passion for witch hunts and hurting people.

But they couldn’t stop the truth from being presented by the OEB. Now you can read it, too, and realize just how much you have been conned.
Continue reading “Collus report debunks Block conspiracies”

You’re not invited. Again.

Another closed door meetingYou, the public, get shut out again. Less openness, less accountability, more secrecy, more Block. The annual general meeting (AGM) of Collus-PowerStream on October 6 – the local electrical utility that you ostensibly own 50% of – is not open to the public. It’s another closed door, secret meeting.

Why?

Council will send its representative and its (illegally-appointed) pet staff (as board members, one of whom doesn’t even live in town, let alone within the Collus service area). But the public isn’t allowed to attend to hear what the utility plans, what is said by its representatives and what the future holds for our utility. The public won’t get to hear about the finances, the rates, the changes that affect us.

You’re the owners but you’re not invited. How’s that for openness and transparency? Shut out again.

Everything about the relationship between the utility and the town has been done in secret by this council and the administration. Their closed-door conniving and manipulation has already cost taxpayers more than $350,000, wasted in legal and consulting fees. But we can’t learn what our tax dollars have been spent on because we’re not allowed to attend.

We have already had far too many secret meetings already this term. Why another? Because that’s the way The Block operates.

Collingwood deserves better.

Sabotaging the hospital (again)

Derailing the processLast night at council, The Borg Block again took another step towards sabotaging the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital’s redevelopment plans. Not unexpected: destroying the community is a key plank in their platform, as we’ve seen by their actions against the airport, water utility and Collus PowerStream.

Plus, they need to pander to their ever-dwindling group of supporters who want to stop the redevelopment on a site they don’t like (but which 84% of medical staff do). That handful of venomous folk – which includes some former politicians and former VOTE members – hold sway over The Block and thus town practices and policies.

Cast your thoughts back to the election campaign of 2014. Remember these words:

Change the purchasing policy to ensure there can be no sole sourcing of any contract for goods or services over $25,000, no exceptions.

No exceptions, eh? That’s a promise to voters Brian Saunderson made in an interview in the Collingwood Connection in October, 2014. No exceptions. He really said that.

He’s now the Deputy Mayor. This week he broke that promise for the second time: he voted to sole-source a $30,000 contract to an out-of-town consultant.

This first time he broke his word was in February, 2015: council provided a five-year contract for taxi service to Councillor Fryer’s brother-in-law without following any RFP process.

Are you surprised that he broke his election promises? Neither am I. Stop snickering.

$30,000 of YOUR money will be wasted on consultants performing a “peer review” of the hospital’s redevelopment plans. Ironic, since The Block has a well-deserved reputation of not reading anything, and instead just voting however the administration tells them to vote. Reading is too hard. It means thinking and thinking is work. Better to have someone else do it for you.

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The unstrategic anti-plan returns

ZombieWednesday’s standing committee heard that the so-called “community-based strategic plan” has risen from the dead – a document that was committee-driven (not community; and a committee of carefully selected buddies, at that…), and was neither strategic nor a plan. See it in the agenda package.

A real strategic plan would have been council-driven, based on the vision of our elected representatives. But having none, The Block turned it over to an outsider and their friends to come up with something.*

Once The Block approved its creation in 2015, the resulting document, the ‘CBSP,’** became a bureaucratic zombie that never seems to die, like an extra in some cheesy Bruce Campbell B-flick. And like that undead extra, it continues to ring the cash register.

This zombie is supposed to be a “report card,” but instead it lists all sorts of minutiae that council patted its collective backs over, even though most things listed were simply part of some larger process, or just staff’s regular jobs. For The Block to even comment on them would be to micro-manage. Or even nano-manage them. It’s called the “2016 Report Card” even though 2016 is only two-thirds through. Maybe the other third of the year doesn’t matter, as long as the consultant gets paid.

And of course, The Block wants to take credit for this and for what staff do. Like they actually rolled up their sleeves and dug in to do some real work instead of meeting in secret to plot and scheme and raise your taxes.

So in a term highlighted by having no accomplishments for the greater good, the “CBSP” has become The Block’s poster child for their idea of success.

They hope that by waving it around periodically you’ll be so dazzled by its brilliance that you’ll forget that they raised your taxes. Twice. Or that they destroyed our 150-year-old working partnership between water and energy utilities and are running our electricity corporation into the ground. Or that they are trying (in secret meetings, of course) to kill the airport industrial park and its 400-plus jobs. Or that they almost scuttled the hospital redevelopment (and are still trying to do so…). Or they gave Councillor ‘Senator’ Jeffrey an unlimited expense account to wine and dine across the country (but apparently not Oakville where the latest FCM meeting was held – probably the in-drive food service and movie are terrible… and she can’t get her warm Camembert in the car…). Or the staff morale they’ve shattered.

But I know that you, dear reader, aren’t fooled. If this dreck is all they have to show for two years at the table, then it’s a sorry statement. But let’s take a closer look at it…

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Collingwood is being investigated by OEB

Rasputin?Collingwood Council and town administration are in trouble. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is investigating them and their recent activities with regards to Collus-PowerStream and its board of directors. This is not good news for those at the table or those behind the scenes who guided their hands.

A letter was unexpectedly added to the agenda for the Wednesday, Sept. 21 Strategic Initiatives standing committee from the OEB. It reads in part:

…the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is commencing an inspection under the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998 (Act) to review Collus (PowerStream Corp.’s (Collus) compliance with the Affiliate Relationships Code for Electricity Distributors and Transmitters (ARC).
The OEB was recently made aware of changes made in the composition of the Board of Directors of Callus, and through this inspection will review whether Collus is in compliance with section 2.1.2 of the ARC. That section requires that at least one-third of the Board of Directors of a licensed electricity distributor be independent of any affiliate.
We plan to commence this inspection with a meeting at your offices in Collingwood.
During that meeting, you should be prepared to provide information about the current members of the Collus Board of Directors. This includes, for each member, the date of their appointment, the term of their appointment, their relationship to any entity that is an affiliate of Collus and their qualifications, as well as any other details that may be relevant to our inspection.

But that letter wasn’t sent to the town. It was sent to Collus-PowerStream. The meeting will be at the Collus offices, not town hall, with Collus staff, not the interim CAO. So the utility has the opportunity to finally tell its side of the story without interference from town administration or their pet consultants and lawyers. The prevarications and disinformation about Collus presented to council and the public in the past will be exposed.

This is serious. The OEB is heavy artillery in the energy sector. They aren’t those little one-and two-person consultants or chequebook lawyers the administration has hired to fudge the facts and justify The Block’s destruction of our utility. The truth will come out at last.

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