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.

Continue reading “Timeline of the original Collus share sale”

Our treasonous council

If Collingwood Council operated at a higher tier or government – say the federal level – they would be called treasonous and taken to court for their culture of deception, their attacks on our democratic and civic institutions, and for their ongoing betrayal of the public trust. But because they are only a municipal government, they can merely be called despicable while we await the next election.

The latest act of desperation in the dungheap of this term is the recent motion to demand a judicial inquiry into the sale of 50% of our electrical utility to PowerStream last term. At a cost of at least $1 million.

Just when you think they couldn’t sink any deeper into the muck, The Block lower the bar again. And of course it followed yet another closed-door meeting during which public business was discussed and decided on in secret.

This is, of course, an attempt to head off the upcoming demand for just such an inquiry into this term’s unethical and secretive processes to sell ALL of our utilities to a private, for-profit, out-of-province corporation. Without, of course, public input.

The first sale happened SIX years ago. During that process they all had the opportunity to comment, to oppose the sale, to speak up. Which, of course, none of them did.

Let’s see how the processes stack up. Last term: open process, open meetings, public engagement, full media disclosure and coverage, transparency, all documentation published and available for public scrutiny, world-renowned consultants hired to oversee the process, all money accounted for, and a single in camera meeting held at the very end of the process to open the sealed RFPs. This term: secrecy from the start, deception, illegal acts, utility boards fired and replaced by puppets, OEB investigations into town actions, immoral and unethical behaviour, lies, obfuscation, personal agendashidden documents, rumours of big commissions, no public engagement, a sole-sourced lawyer, a secret deal to hand over our water utility to the same company without public input, the broken shared services agreement that cost taxpayers millions in new expenses, a promised savings of $750,000 a year from separating the water utility from the electrical but that mysteriously vanished at budget time, at least  37 closed-door meetings about the utility,  a secret contract to keep paying the interim CAO after he retired, and secretive terms of the sale the town won’t disclose.

Which one do you think most deserves investigation? Me, too. Secrecy, lies and the betrayal of the public trust this term SHOULD be investigated. 

And, I’m told, The Block secretly informed their pet CBC reporter of the impending motion head of time, so they could get media attention and play the same sort of smear campaign they arranged for last term with their phony OPP investigation (five years later and no charges, not even one police interview of an alleged miscreant: it’s long been proven to have been a hoax).

Hey! Guess who the CBC reporter – the same one who covered the phony OPP investigation – quoted and photographed? Why, our own Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson! Are you surprised? Me either.

Continue reading “Our treasonous council”

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”

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”

Your $350,000 wasted

Your taxes at workA Freedom of Information (FOI) request I filed recently shows a disturbing abuse of your tax dollars. Money was wasted that could have been spent on doing something good, something positive, something useful for Collingwood. Download the report here.

In the two-year period between mid-2014 and mid-2016, the town’s administration spent $340,000 of your tax dollars on its efforts to destroy the relationship with our utility partner, Collus-PowerStream. And given the billing trends shown in the document, that amount now tops $350,000 and probably much higher.

What’s equally troubling is that this effort appears to have started under the radar in July, 2014. To the best of my knowledge, this was not an initiative of the last council, but appears to be the work of staff. Why? Who authorized it?

In 2014, $13,355.48 was spent, all of it on Aird & Berlis (then the town’s legal firm). In 2015, that total escalated wildly to $250,006.65 for a variety of lawyers and consultants (see below). In just five months of 2016 up to May 31, $75,929.13 had already been spent (or more: not all invoices may have been submitted by the time I filed my FOI). Expenses for June and later were not provided to me, but you can bet they will come in: the town has kept its lawyers busy pursuing its destructive goal (see below).

In totals, here’s who was paid in that period:

  • Aird & Berlis: $58,123.50 ($13,355.48 in 2014).
  • True North Consulting: $34,350.00 (all in 2015)
  • Miller Thomson LLP (the town’s current legal firm): $87,538.45 ($77,228.95 in 2015)
  • BMA Management Consultants: $24,521.00 (all in 2015)
  • Henley International: $33,730.50 ($26,781 in 2015)
  • Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan: $3,000.00 (in 2015)
  • And the biggie, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP: $98,027.81. As far as I know, this paid entirely for the services of one lawyer: Mark Rodger. That’s almost $100,000 for one man in less than 10 months.

Total: $339,291.26

Continue reading “Your $350,000 wasted”

The destruction of Collus

Council wrecking our townThere’s a story in the online Connection that highlights how much this council has spent on lawyers and consultants to further its vendetta against Collus-Powerstream: more than $400,000 so far. Half of it was spent in 2015 (I have seen a document that shows more than $249,000 spent in 2015) and the cash register is still ringing. By the end of this year it may well top $750,000-$1 million.

That’s $400,000 of your tax dollars already spent for nothing. Not in town, not on local companies or services. We got absolutely no benefit from that expense. It wasn’t spent on anything for the greater good, but to pursue a very personal vendetta.

Remember that promised savings of $500,000-$750,000 the CAO bragged about back in March? It seems it’s all going to lawyers and consultants. And they’ll be getting more, too. The bills just keep rolling in.

This week, we got the news that Collus Powerstream is one of the top-performing utilities in the province. The Ontario Energy Board released its 2015 Benchmarking Report. in it, Collus Powerstream moved from the third tier (of five) up to second. It’s quite an accomplishment – and owed entirely to the efforts of our great, hardworking utility staff (including the former CEO, Ed Houghton).

It’s ironic that Hydro One remains in tier five – the lowest-performing category. Yet this is who The Block has been secretly trying to sell our utility to: the least efficient utility in the province. Powerstream is, by the way, the second largest municipal utility in this province, with more customers than Toronto Hydro. Powerstream has even more urban customers than Hydro One.

Why do I say costs could top $1 million? Because the Block’s aggressive drive to destroy Collus-Powerstream is about to come to an explosive head. I expect that before the end of summer, Powerstream will be so fed up with the harassment from town hall they will make an offer to buy our share of the utility. And then it will be gone.

We will have lost control over our own hydro rates and services. It will relocate out of town, maybe even out of the region. We will also lose the more than $200,000 a year we get for rent from the building. And any future cash dividends. But we will have the inevitable bills from lawyers to close the deal. Ka-ching!

Now while that purchase is likely the best thing for the staff at Collus – it will get them away from the toxic relationship created by this council and administration – and it will probably benefit the consumer too* – it means we lose a valuable public asset: our electrical utility.

And you, the public haven’t been able to even hear the discussions, let alone provide your input. It’s all been done behind closed doors. Screwed again by The Most Secretive Council Ever.

Continue reading “The destruction of Collus”