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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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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The hypocrisy, it burns, it burns…

HypocrisyThe Block on Collingwood Council can’t seem to go a week without diving into their deep, private lake of hypocrisy. Remember how they whined and snarled about the partnership last council formed with PowerStream to own and operate our electrical utility? How the Jeremiahs at the table lamented that a partnership deal was bad for the town.

Now they want one for our airport. Ah, the hypocrisy.

Yep. A story in the Connection last week noted, “…the two best options for the municipality would be a full sale of the property or a sale that includes a private and public partnership.”

Partnerships were evil when the last council created them. Now The Block thinks they’re good. Hypocrisy is in their bones. They can’t help themselves. I suppose their remaining handful of supporters will say at least they’re consistent.

This is the same cabal that has been secretly scheming to sell the airport behind closed doors, without any public consultation, or engagement. Without even informing our municipal neighbours who are partners on the airport board (a Municipal Service Board created under special provisions in the Municipal Act). They never even discussed it with the people who work there or who have their planes at the airport.

But of course, the Block have never consulted, engaged or informed ANYONE outside their tiny circle about ANYTHING. That would be open and honest and run counter to their secretive, closed-door ideology.

And you, the taxpayer here, have never once been told why The Block are so intent on selling the airport. Or been asked if you agree with selling a publicly-owned asset. It’s all been decided behind closed doors. Secrecy and deception: the watchwords for Collingwood Council this term (14 closed-door meetings about the airport as of last November and one on Mar. 26 this year: 15 meetings behind closed doors and not a single public statement made to the public about WHY).
Continue reading “The hypocrisy, it burns, it burns…”

The costs of the Block’s conspiracy theory

Wasting our money$6.2 million. That’s how much it cost Mississauga to have a judicial inquiry into its utility Enersource, back in 2011. That inquiry was initially estimated to cost $2 million but the costs more than tripled, according to a story in The Connection.

Imagine what The Block’s judicial inquiry is going to cost us in Collingwood. Millions and millions more.

They’ve already admitted it will cost taxpayers around $2 million. But none of them have even the slightest idea of what’s involved, who has to be called, who pays what, or what the process is. They just swallowed the bait on the hook of the lawyer hired by the former interim CAO without hesitation. But then, none of them care about the costs because it will have to be paid next term, by a whole new council since no one in their right minds would re-elect a single one of this corrupt lot.

After all, it feeds their conspiracy theory – and like all such conspiracies is based on wild, alt-fact imagination rather than anything resembling truth. But it also helps them pursue their vendettas against former council and staff for not building the $35 million Taj Mahal for the Y at public expense. (Remember: some of these are the same people who cooked up the phony OPP investigation that found nothing wrong in five years – but still cost Ontario taxpayers millions to run).

The Mississauga inquiry interviewed nearly 100 people and collected about 35,000 documents and held hearings where 35 people testified over a period of 38 days. And cost the city $6.2 million.

Collingwood’s inquiry is going to be remarkably similar. At least 100 people were involved in the original share sale, including former councillors and many staff from Collingwood, former board members and staff of Collus and PowerStream, lawyers from municipalities and utilities, current Alectra staff and board, the KPMG’s consultant, auditors, the councils and staff of the three Ontario municipalities that were shareholders in PowerStream who approved the sale, our former CAO, our former interim CAO, reporters who covered the public events in local media, PLUS officials and staff at the Ontario Energy Board and Energy Probe who investigated and approved the deal. And some of the current council will be interviewed, too.

PLUS the town will have to pay the costs of lawyers, auditors and accountants who get called (and likely those of people who come from outside the community or interrupt their jobs to testify). There will be town staff who can’t do their work because they will be in interviews. There will be the costs to retrieve and print thousands of pages of documentation.

Thirty eight days of testimony? I doubt it will be any fewer for us here given the number of people involved in the decision last term. I have already spoken to a half-dozen people who are preparing thick dossiers and their paperwork, each of whom will have 100 or more pages of factual documentation and reports to present (my blog posts about Collus are at least that long!). I suspect our own inquiry will require 40 or more days.

Continue reading “The costs of the Block’s conspiracy theory”