Airports and opportunities vs. The Block

Strategic Vision:
To become a premier regional commercial airport that stimulates the socioeconomic development of Simcoe County and the City of Barrie by improving connectivity, enhancing the competitiveness of the region and improving the quality of life for its residents.
Mission Statement:
To drive the region’s economic prosperity, enhance business opportunities, increase the region’s competitive position and support the travel needs of the community through increased connectivity.

So opens a report on the opportunities and challenges facing the Simcoe Regional Airport, presented to the county’s Committee of the Whole session, May 22. You can see it here, starting at page 23. The other quotes on this page are all from that report, unless otherwise identified.

Ship of fools
Ship of fools: our council

Quite a different approach from the one that most of Collingwood Council took towards our airport, isn’t it?

For a start this was done in public, not in secret as the Block – our very own Ship of Fools, rudderless on the ocean of governance – loves to conduct its business (especially when public assets are concerned). Second, it was positive, forward-thinking, and backed by facts, not the sort of negative, paranoid conspiracy theory The Block wallows in.

Airports in a modern global economy provide the critical connectivity to markets and knowledge-based resources that in turn represent key drivers of the economy. Airports themselves are not the destination but a conduit that provides critical connectivity.
“Airports play a considerable role in economic development and the most important cargo they move is people” – Richard Florida, Professor, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

I imagine this presentation made our Deputy Mayor, Brian Saunderson, squirm in great discomfort during the meeting. After all, here’s a consultant not only saying airports are good, but should be kept AND invested in! And that they bring economic growth and opportunities! Backed by actual facts, too! Quite a slap in the face to Brian’s Block, whose wacky conspiracy theory states airports are bad, costly, and should be disposed of without considering their value or economic potential.

By 2043 air travel demand in Southern Ontario will increase to 110 million passengers and a million tonnes of cargo – compared to the 47 million passengers and 400,000 tonnes of cargo in 2017.

So there’s growth predicted and a future in airports and an opportunity for a forward-thinking government to capture some of that business. But instead of wanting to embrace that growth and prepare for a better, more economically vibrant future, the ostrich-like Block are running away from it as fast as they can. They decided (in secret, behind closed doors, and without any public consultation or engagement, as they always do) to sell our publicly-owned airport instead of even investigating the opportunities.

But you already know they’re virulently anti-business, so that’s no surprise.
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Jeffrey’s snout back in the trough

PiggiesLast Monday The Block snuck a motion into the meeting without putting it on the agenda: to allow Councillor Jeffrey to pursue her personal political goals at taxpayer expense, and chase another seat on the FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) board – even though she failed to win re-election to the board in May, 2017. At the upcoming FCM meeting in Halifax she can wine and dine on your dollar.

Of course The Block didn’t want it publicized beforehand because they knew it would arouse community ire. After all, The Block have raised your taxes THREE times in three years, given themselves a pay hike every time, while handing Jeffrey a free ticket to fly all over the country without even requiring her to report back to the public.

And what did we get after paying all this money? A comedy-duo skit presentation.

Taxpayers are once again paying for her to stick her nose in the trough but when she was on the board, we didn’t received as much as a nod and a wink from FCM. You have to wonder what our councillor was doing on our behalf… aside from wining and dining that is.

At 2:52:12 in the council video, Deputy Mayor Saunderson made a big deal about the town getting grant money from FCM as if she had anything to do with it. That grant came in Dec. 2017 – seven months after she was lost her election bid to stay on the board. And the money wasn’t from FCM – it came from the feds but was distributed by FCM. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, eh, Brian?

But Jeffrey claimed she advocated for it. When and where and why didn’t she speak about it in all that time after she got turfed from the FCM board? Maybe we got the money because she WASN’T on the board! Jeffrey didn’t even know how much the town got! Some advocate.

I’ve written about the Stench of Entitlement around Jeffrey in the past. She’s our own Senator Ruth: deeply concerned about her own entitlements, and whinging about cold camembert. She doesn’t give a damn about the taxpayers who have to pay for her jaunts.

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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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John Brown’s letter got the attention it deserved

WhingingIt went almost unnoticed, but on the agenda for the April 30 Collingwood Council agenda was a letter from the former interim CAO, John Brown, with eight questions (and some comments) about the CAO’s report on the costs of the upcoming judicial inquiry (item eight in the Consent Agenda portion). The letter itself is unsigned (see it here) but the agenda notes the author’s name. Not even the local media picked up on it.

It’s curious that not one of The Block bothered to have it pulled for discussion or request that staff answer the questions from their former mentor and – some say Machiavellian – advisor. One would have expected the slavish Blockheads to fight one another to rush to the defence of their éminence grise, and have his letter front and centre on the administration’s to-do list. Instead it was merely accepted “for information” and thus consigned to the dustbin. *

Consent agenda discussion starts at 3:10:47 in the meeting (video here). Only letters from Blue Mountain Watershed Trust got pulled for discussion. I suspect Brown must have been steaming when he watched that. Were these former sycophants throwing him under the bus? Why weren’t they tugging their forelocks and bowing as they had in the past? Could they be – gasp! – rejecting his influence at long last?

Let’s look at that letter and see what we can comment on. All quotations are taken directly from the agenda item with no attempt to change the nonstandard punctuation, spelling, capitalization, wording or spacing (despite my urge to correct same… I have written about his language skills in the past)

1 Why is this report submitted for council approval when not all members of council are able to attend?
-During my tenure as CAO the Clerk kept a record of all upcoming council member vacation plans and items of political sensitivity, such as the report this report , were always arranged for meeting when all members of council would be in attendance. Why not this one ?

Curiouser and curiouser. Only Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson was absent from that meeting. My sources tell me he didn’t bother to inform the clerk, the CAO or the mayor of his absence; no one in town hall knew beforehand he wouldn’t attend. The agenda was released several days before the meeting and Brown’s letter was in it. How is it that Brown knew Saunderson wouldn’t be there so far in advance?

And why didn’t he similarly complain when the original motion was cunningly timed for Feb. 26, when the movers knew both Councillors Lloyd and Edwards would be absent for it? Surely that was even more important a vote, more politically sensitive an issue than this one? But he doesn’t seem to have noticed. Or cared.

(And you’ll note in the minutes that Councillor Fryer is marked absent for the controversial Feb. 26 vote – he was at the table, but conveniently got up and left the room when the vote was called, thus avoiding having to make a public commitment or a decision – a spineless action by someone who wants to be our next deputy mayor!).

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Doherty’s Magic Money Fairy

the money fairyAt 3:55:20 in the video of Monday’s Collingwood Council meeting, Councillor Deb Doherty utters the self-congratulatory claim that she is “glad” the costs of the upcoming judicial inquiry to pursue the Block’s maniacal conspiracy theories are not coming out of “taxpayer funds on an annual basis.”

I can hear your head shaking. Where does she think money comes from? And since taxes are calculated yearly, is there any other sort of taxation aside from an “annual basis”? Well, read on…

This bit of financial wisdom comes from the same councillor who last year expressed bafflement over what dividends are and complained that the town wasn’t getting one from the utility to which it had caused excessive operating costs. This from a person charged with helping manage the town’s financial well-being.  Maybe she has other talents.

The costs of this inquiry were estimated at $1.4-$1.6 million in a staff report presented to council April 30. That estimate was vague because it didn’t include the costs of staff time to prepare reports, gather documents and appear at hearings, and possibly other expenses. A similar inquiry held in Mississauga was also estimated around $1.2 million ended up costing the municipality $6.2 million instead!

Doherty made her comment during a discussion on how to pay for the judicial inquiry that Deputy Mayor Saunderson demanded – without anyone (including him) bothering to figure out how to pay for it or even include it in the current year’s budget (Saunderson himself wasn’t at the meeting to answer questions, and my sources tell me he didn’t bother to inform anyone he wouldn’t be there!). So the costs get passed on to the next council (one that will, mercifully, be shorn of Blockheads).

Well, we all know finance has never been The Block’s strong suit. Or ethics, responsibility, openness, public consultation, fairness – but they are huge in conspiracy theories. Yuge, as Trump would say.

So how will the town pay for the inquiry? By taking the money from reserves. And how does money get into reserves in the first place? Yes, you’re going to tell me it gets funded from taxes which we, the taxpayer shell out every year. But clearly Councillor Doherty doesn’t understand that rather basic concept. I suggest she likely believes a Magic Money Fairy flies by at night and with a touch of her wand refills the coffers The Block have depleted.

As soon as she had uttered these words, Councillor Edwards corrected her, noting that “any money we spend comes from the taxpayers’ pocket.” *

True, but that apparently escaped Deb, who retorted that it wasn’t coming from taxpayers’ funds “this year.” So it seems no tax revenue went into reserves in 2018, at least in her mind. Need I tell you how utterly incorrect she is? Or that The Block initiated a fixed, extra 0.75% added to annual taxes to fund reserves? For which she voted? Which has been in the annual budget three times? For which she voted each time ? Okay, stop laughing.

It seems her Magic Money Fairy will simply fill up those reserves regularly so The Block can continue their spending-like-a-drunken-sailor-on-shore-leave-in-a-brothel tactic of financial management. While giving themselves a pay hike every year.

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