Water: Our most precious resource

Standard of careDid you know there were water restrictions in Collingwood this summer? No? Well, there were. And that underscores the vulnerability of our community to climate change when a community situated on the Great Lakes has water restrictions.

The notice on the town’s web page said we were “experiencing drier than usual conditions” this summer – without explaining what “usual” conditions means, and whether the condition still applies. Well, the failure of communications this term and the need to communicate better and more effectively next term is the stuff for another post. This one is about water. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources wrote:

In Ontario, climate change is anticipated to result in milder, shorter winters with earlier snowmelt, less ice cover on lakes, changing rainfall patterns and increased evapotranspiration. All of these factors have an impact on the normal variation we experience in water supplies and will affect water infrastructure capacity and design… Changes to water supply will be difficult to predict and could mean that there may be less water available for residential use, agriculture, industry, waterpower generation, transportation, or recreation. Ecologically, changes to water supply will impact Ontario’s biodiversity, our wetlands, our shorelines and our forests.

Our municipal water system is good, but like most in the province, it was not designed to handle the increasing challenges of climate-related stresses we now face. 2018 is shaping up to be the fourth hottest year on record – the three hotter ones were the previous three years! Extreme heat encourages people to use water more – for lawns, golf courses, gardens, drinking, filling pools. Increased demand for water can empty water towers and reservoirs faster and the system can’t fill them as quickly as the demand drains them.

But water use is just one issue.

Toxic algae is in the news every week. In many parts of the Great Lakes – and in Ontario’s inland lakes, too – there have been warnings about swimming and drinking because of blue-green algal blooms (cyanobacteria). Only last week, a family’s dog died after swimming in Lake Ontario and ingesting algae. Lakes Erie, Ontario and now Superior all have serious problems with algae this year (Erie has had them for many years). A media story this weekend had the headline, “Hot summer resulted in blue-green algal blooms on Ontario lakes.”

We’re extremely fortunate that it hasn’t happened here.

Yet.

It’s likely we will see algal blooms in Georgian Bay. Even when you can’t see them, the algae are already in the water, just not in significant amounts. But algae thrive on the nutrients used to fertilize crops, lawns and gold courses. And we have a lot of farms, homes and golf courses in our region to contribute to the runoff. It’s only a matter of time.
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A few answers

AnswersI was surprised that only ten people stood at the lectern to speak in the Judicial Inquiry’s first public meeting, last Monday.  I had expected that at least Brian Saunderson or one of his minions would have the courage to stand up in public to explain why they wanted to spend so many millions of your tax dollars pursuing their private vendettas. Explain why they launched an inquiry a few weeks before the municipal elections opened, instead of three and a half years ago, when they took office. Explain why they haven’t been able to stop looking at the past since they were elected, and start looking to Collingwood’s present – and plan for our future.

But of course that would take a spine.

However, some good, salient comments were made, in particular by John Worts, Kevin Lloyd, David O’Connor, Peter Dunbar and Irene Matwijec. And, I hope, maybe a few were made by me, too.

However, some of the other speakers asked surprising questions. Surprising because most have been answered many times in the past in local media and on my blog. In particular in my admittedly lengthy timeline of events.

I suspect many of these questioning speakers are rather new to the community, and not fully aware of the lengthy history of these events – many of which are already more than seven years old. I thought I might try to answer at least some of their questions here, so in future they have the background. I am paraphrasing their questions below.

1. How was the price of the share in Collus established?

A. World-renowned consulting firm KPMG was retained by the Collus board in Feb. 2011 to establish the value of our electrical utility as a sellable commodity, examine the options for its future, explore opportunities in the then-current political climate, and return to the board with a report that spring.

Their draft report was titled Calculation of Value, and presented to the Collus board on May 20, 2011. It determined the fair market value of all the common shares of Collus Power (on page 2 of the report) as at December 31, 2010 as:

…we have calculated the fair market value of all the issued and outstanding Shares of Collus Power Corp., as at December 31, 2010, to be in the range of $14.1 million to $16.3 million (i.e. with a midpoint value of $15.2 million).

Half of that (the RFP was for “up to” 50%) would be somewhat less than $8 million, which is what the town received from PowerStream. The balance of the funds paid to the town came from the utility’s recapitalization and from the $1.7 million promissory note held by the town, for a total of approx. $14 million.

The valuation report was marked as a draft because, as John Rockx of KPMG noted in a 2015 email,

The valuation report was left in draft format since the former controller, Tim Fryer, did not provide us with responses to a few questions in respect of the report content (see blanks on page 5 of the report) or provide us with the final December 31, 2010 financial statements of Collus Power…

Fryer, as you know, is now a councillor and running for re-election.
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Statement for the Judicial Inquiry

NB: This is the statement I read aloud at the public meeting for the Judicial Inquiry, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. It is a much-abbreviated version of a statement I have made in my written submission to the inquiry.

Thank you, your honour, for letting me speak tonight. My name is Ian Chadwick. I was a member of the previous council.

This inquiry is about two of the many challenges council faced and overcame last term.

First was the changing nature of Ontario’s energy sector. Prior to the provincial election, all three political parties vowed to reduce the number of Local Distribution Companies across the province. The town expected legislation to force amalgamations after the election.

Council chose to be proactive.

Council listened to our utility board, to our utility and town staff, and to a consultant from the world-renowned firm KPMG. We created a Strategic Planning Team tasked with the responsibility of finding the best option and then guiding us along that path through an open public process.

Our decision to engage in a strategic partnership was lauded around the province as a model of cooperation and collaboration.
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Update: closed door meetings in Collingwood

SecrecyLast November, I documented the unacceptably high number of closed-door (aka secretive) meetings held by this council since it took office. More than all of the past three councils combined. Back then I documented that by Oct. 2,  2017, council had held:

  • 14 closed-door meetings about our airport
  • 4 closed-door meetings about our hospital redevelopment
  • 37 closed-door meetings about Collus-PowerStream (plus three potential that were vaguely identified in the agendas).

And in all that time, the number of comments or editorials in the local media about this abuse of power and egregious secrecy by our council: zero.

I thought I’d update readers on how many more of these secretive meetings have been held since Oct. 5, 2017. I have only included the airport and Collus (formerly Collus-PowerStream) sales because Saunderson and his Block accomplished their task by putting up enough roadblocks to the hospital’s redevelopment that it has been delayed by anywhere from three to ten more years (and under the current provincial government, it might be sunk entirely).

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Timeline of the original Collus share sale

VindictiveWith the pending yet pointlessly vindictive Saunderson judicial inquiry – a punitive, self-serving exercise expected to cost local taxpayers of between $2 and $6 million (and potentially much more!) – I thought it might be useful to reprint in one post the timeline of the sale of half the share of Collus to PowerStream in 2011-12. I’ve posted much of this previously, in separate posts, but I also spent several days combing through online sources and archived documents to ensure I had a comprehensive timeline.

There are a few related notes included that underscore the electricity market in flux in 2011, the reasons for the sale (and for a strategic partnership versus a full sale) and the criteria used to determine the best partner. Some of the links in the timeline may no longer be valid (the Enterprise Bulletin, for example, folded, although some pages are archived on the Internet Wayback Archive), but the majority remain active.

This is a long read, because it is very detaiiled. Keep in mind a few things as you read this:

  • The process last term was fully open, and included public consultation and considerable media coverage and our neighbours in Clearview kept informed – the very opposite of this term’s secretive and deceptive privatization of our once-publicly-owned electricity utility;
  • During the process last term, the public was made aware that the town intended to sell up to but no more than 50% of the utility in order not to lose local control over rates and service. There was no public outcry or comments in the media opposed to this, no demands to sell 100%. None of the bids came in at lower than 50%. There was no opposition to the sale filed through the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) over the sale or the process, even after the winning bid of 50% was announced. This term there have been numerous complaints filed to the OEB over the sale and the secretive process;
  • No sole-sourced consultants or lawyers were hired by council last term; quite the opposite of this term where sole-source contracts have been handed out like party favours to buddies without even the pretense of an RFP;
  • Our two utilities (electricity and water) were both active and respected partners in the process; consulted, but never once harassed, confronted or bullied by the council or the administration; quite the opposite of the way they have been treated this term;
  • The goal of the sale last term was to engage a PARTNER who would work cooperatively and collaboratively with the town and the utility for the benefit of our residents, not just to grab the cash; quite the opposite of the backroom cash deal arranged this term with a for-profit, out-of-province corporation that benefits only the sole-sourced lawyer who arranged it (the same sole-sourced lawyer who was hired to provide the ‘market analysis’ and then recommended the sale of the utility);
  • The entire process, including all financials and agreements, was overseen and approved by dozens of people, including the lawyers, accountants, auditors, CAOs, clerks, treasurers, mayors, councillors, board members, CEOs, CFOs and managers of four municipalities, two utilities, KPMG, PLUS those at the Ontario Energy Board and Energy Probe. The process to privatize the utility this term was all done behind closed-door using one sole-sourced lawyer, without anything close to that level of scrutiny;
  • The administration and some council members have said publicly that they don’t have all the documents about the sale. Yet I was able to find all of this documentation with no problem. Did any of them even look? As for SPTT meetings – those were the TOWN’s responsibility, not the utility’s. If those minutes are missing, ask the clerk where they got to: it was her job to record the minutes and store them.

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Show me the documents!

Troll sprayThe trolls and troglodytes on social media are whinging again about allegedly missing documents that relate to the 2012 sale of 50% of Collus. They want you to think there was a conspiracy by the utility staff not to release crucial documents.

There wasn’t. Period.

No matter how many times this gets debunked, no matter how often it gets corrected, it rises again and again amongst the ignorati. This time it was the Block’s bullshit judicial inquiry (aka their campaign platform) that revived this particular zombie – in part because The Block’s few remaining followers (the trolls) want to keep alive their hoax about corruption in town hall last term.

The trolls are passing around emails from town staff demanding the documents, without sharing the responses that indicate when the documents were provided and by whom. Very sneaky, but we’ve come to expect underhanded tactics by The Block’s minions.

Let’s try one more time for the hard-of-thinking who keep this balderdash afloat: everything (I repeat: EVERYTHING) the town asked for from Collus-PowerStream was provided, sometimes two or three times because the town kept demanding the same documents they already had more than once.

EXCEPT: personal/personnel information deemed confidential by the Ontario Corporations Act. Nor should they be revealed because they are CONFIDENTIAL and protected from outside scrutiny. That’s the friggin’ provincial law, and Collus-PowerStream had to pay lawyers to tell this to the town several times. That extra expense was one of the reasons the utility could not pay a dividend to the town last year (which befuddled Councillor Doherty).

However, salary and benefits aggregates were provided that covered the entire staff. PLUS anyone who can read (I know, I know: that lets out The Block and most of their followers) can thumb through the audited financial statements to get this information.

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