Purgatory is how a staff person described to me the current situation of our local electrical utility, Collus-PowerStream (CPS). It’s the result of The Block’s and the administration’s incessant interference, manipulations, contrivances and scheming over the past three years. And it was evident, Wednesday, at the meeting where CPS presented its draft Distribution System Plan, a strategic plan for future maintenance and growth.
They’re in purgatory because The Block have made the utility’s future uncertain. They cannot accurately craft business plans, strategic plans, cannot make any long-range plans for growth or sustainable development because they never know what new hurdle or attack The Block will throw at them. For three years CPS staff have weathered assaults on their revenue stream, their employees, their services, their morale, their partnership with both PowerStream and the town, their board, their integrity and their ownership. The Block have done everything in their power to make the lives and work of the employees hell. And they’ve been very effective at it. Some employees have had to take stress leave as a result of the bullying.
And now with The Block about to privatize our utility – without, of course any public discussion let along consultation – CPS is in a real quandary. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) requires utilities to create and share with the public these system plans that reach five years into the future. But if you don’t know day-to-day what will happen with your ownership, your rates, your board, or your revenue, how can you create a realistic plan for tomorrow, let alone the future?
But CPS has to do it, and Wednesday’s presentation was part of that requirement. Which meant it, by necessity, was long on generalities but short on specifics (I believe they will be provided in subsequent public presentations). The invitation (sent to all members of council) read:
Collus PowerStream Corporation is pleased to present an overview of its draft Distribution System Plan (DSP) of planned investments in its electrical distribution infrastructure to service present and future customers from 2018 to the end of 2022. The investments are designed to provide timely value to customers by aligning reliability and service quality with customer expectations.
Customer and other stakeholder input over the years has influenced these planned investments. The draft DSP gives all stakeholders the opportunity to review and comment on it. Collus PowerStream welcomes feedback on the proposed investment plan to help Collus PowerStream maintain acceptable levels of service and ensure plan alignment with customer needs and expectations.
Collus PowerStream believes that feedback received on this consultation through two-way communication will further enhance existing relationships with our customers and other stakeholders, and help achieve positive value-added outcomes that support the Ontario Energy Board’s regulatory objectives for the electricity distribution sector.
Of nine members of council, only two had the courtesy to attend this important presentation: Councillors Edwards and Doherty.* The latter was there because she is the Blockhead on the CPS board, appointed in lieu of an actually qualified person (numerous applicants evidently proved too intimidating by their qualifications to appoint). Doherty is she of the “what’s a dividend?” comments.
The mayor and Councillor Lloyd were both out of town on previously arranged vacations. As for the rest – all of them members of The Block – what was their excuse for not attending? Disdain? Arrogance? Disrespect? Willful ignorance? Perhaps all of these. These attributes define The Block and have been expressed towards our utility and its staff (and our hospital) in the past.
It might have been their nap time, too (although at least one prefers to snooze during council meetings…). Or perhaps there were scared off by the very idea of public engagement and feedback – the bete noir that threatens their beloved culture of secrecy.
Am I being too harsh expecting our elected representatives to actually do the job we pay them for (and for which they’ve given themselves a pay raise THREE times already and are planning fourth)?
Perhaps so few Blockheads attended because they knew some reading might be involved – and you already know how much The Block hate to read or learn. They’d rather gnaw their own limbs off than read anything longer than a stop sign.
At the presentation, attendees watched a PowerPoint presentation in which each line was read aloud – probably just in case any Blockheads were in attendance (knowing their attention span when required to actually read the slides would be gnat-short).
A USB stick was given to all participants and it had four items on it, including the full 183-page report of the DSP. That would certainly terrify them, but the chances of having any Block member actually read it is somewhat less than your chances of winning two lotteries in a row while being hit by meteorites each time.
Neither councillor in attendance spoke up or asked questions at the event, even when given the opportunity. You would think that Doherty, as the town’s representative, would say something; thank the staff for their hard work in preparing and presenting the plan, express optimism for the future, bring greetings from the town, thank participants for coming out, acknowledge the presenters. Say anything: speak that sort of bromide councillors are prone to mouth. But she said nothing.
When a participant stood up and asked why the town was selling such a valuable, efficient asset as our utility, Doherty could have answered that was a shareholder issue, not a service issue, and directed the participant to raise it with her later. Or she could have explained why the Block are doing it without any public consultation to accomplish some personal vendettas. Instead, she let the non-political consultant answer it for her and her fellow Blockheads. **
Doherty still stayed silent. Perhaps she was still chewing on her free lunch. Or perhaps Brian hadn’t told her what to say, and so she had nothing to offer. Either way, it was a loud silence that did not go unnoticed by those in attendance. That’s The Block’s way too: never acknowledge anyone but yourselves.
So from that meeting we learned that CPS is trying its best to live up to its responsibilities and requirements, to be a good corporate citizen and to serve the public in the best way possible while planning for the future – as it has always done. None of which will matter when The Block starts the privatization process, Monday night – behind closed doors, of course, as they always do…
Collingwood deserves better.
* To his credit, John Edwards of the Connection was present, although as of this writing no story has yet appeared about the meeting. No one from the Enterprise-Bulletin came, perhaps because that paper has lost all sense of what a local newspaper is all about. The EB has so little credibility these days it probably doesn’t matter what they attend.
** Councillor Edwards could have also responded to the question, but he remained silent as well – although unlike Doherty he did make the effort to actually greet CPS staff when he entered the room.