Why is this man still working for Collingwood? – part 2

Why is he still here?Almost a year ago, I posed the question: why is the interim CAO still working for Collingwood? After his behaviour and aggressive, disrespectful grilling of the hospital board chair and foundation head, March 27, 2017, that question has even more significance.

And, you might ask, why hasn’t council dealt with it? After all, his behaviour reflects on them – and poorly.

The interim CAO’s relationship with the mayor is at best strained, at worst abrasive and unproductive. In a recent email she accused him of bullying and suggested he resign. Councillor Lloyd has made similar comments and recently blocked his emails. The last time the interim CAO’s contract was extended (at $226,000 a year), it was a 5-4 vote, suggesting a loss of confidence in him even among his former supporters.

How can any CAO operate effectively if at odds with one or more of his bosses? If he or she doesn’t have the full respect and support of all of council?

I have been copied with emails sent among residents and even some sent to the local media and council chastising the interim CAO for his behaviour, calling his tactics bullying and aggressive. This is not the way the town’s top bureaucrat should be seen by our residents. It is not the way ANY top bureaucrats should behave anywhere. Or should I say misbehave?

In an email sent to the mayor and council, one writer commented: “The CAO should be instructed to be more deferential to the Chair during the meeting. We did not regard his conduct to be very professional last evening.”

One letter to the local media about the evening noted in general the tone towards the bureaucrats at the meeting: “Nobody likes to be lectured to by high-priced consultants or government officials, especially when it appears to any reasonable person that the real motive is to further slow down and obstruct the hospital decision-making process. And making matters worse, we all know that it is us, the taxpayer, who is paying for most of those speakers and their underlying work.”

There were more remarks I won’t repeat, but they continued the general sentiment.

Continue reading “Why is this man still working for Collingwood? – part 2”

The hospital, the trolley and political ethics

Trolley problemIn its decision about the redevelopment of the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital, Collingwood Council is evidently taking the track less travelled, trolleyology-wise. Seen as an ethical issue, our council has chosen to act against the greater good.

Trolleyology is the somewhat humourous name given to philosophical intellectual exercises or thought problems about our ethics and ethical choices. As Wikipedia describes it, the basic problem (and there are many, many variants) is simple:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Which is the most ethical choice?

I first wrote about the “trolley problem” back in 2014. I’ve since been reading about it and learning more about what the answers say about our morals and ethics. My current reading is Would You Kill the Fat Man? by David Edmonds (Princeton University press, 2014). Edmonds takes the reader through a wide range of trolley scenarios – the title derives from one of them – and elaborates on the ethical nature of each.

But let’s stick to the base scenario: one person versus five. A minority versus the majority. As Wikipedia also points out, “The trolley problem has been the subject of many surveys in which approximately 90% of respondents have chosen to kill the one and save the five.” And yet, contrary to that statistic, Collingwood Council – or more specifically, the Block of Seven – has chosen not to pull the lever. They chose the minority.

All political issues, all political decisions are basically trolley problems. In every one, politicians have to choose between the special interests, friends, relatives, neighbours, lobbyists and the greater good – what is best for the community. Do they put aside petty ideologies and make decisions in the best interests of the community at large, or do they pursue their own personal agendas, power grabs, and vendettas?

It has always been thus. The father of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham, wrote, “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.” And it is the greater good – the action that serves the betterment or interests of the greater number – that is always viewed as the proper choice, the moral choice. Anything else is viewed as elitism, entitlement and corruption.

Given the polarizing nature of politics, however, “do nothing” is seldom a real choice. It’s seen as weak, spineless, vague – like deferring a decision when a crowd is present simply shows you’re too cowardly to make a stand in public. There are consequences and liabilities even when you do seem to nothing.
Continue reading “The hospital, the trolley and political ethics”

Council continues to attack the hospital

BizarroIf I had the choice between spending eight hours in a dentist’s chair having oral surgery without anaesthetic and spending two hours in a council meeting listening to the bureaucratic bullshit, the administration’s unfocused mumbling and meandering, the councillors’ self-justifying, self-aggrandizing, self-righteous grandstanding, boasting, empty platitudes, and argumentative whining palaver, after last night, I’ll choose the dentist’s chair any time. It’s less painful.

That’s because Monday night I spent two hours in an audience of more than 325 people listening to council trying to justify its war on our hospital, simply to support The Block’s shrunken base of supporters, all 12 of whom were also in the audience last night. It was like old home week for VOTE (Voters Opposed to Everything).

The vast majority, however, was there to support something positive: the hospital’s proposed redevelopment on the Poplar Sideroad site.

A war of words it is, and an increasingly nasty one at that. Monday night The Block and the administration marshalled their biggest artillery yet: a very expensive lawyer (the same one who recommended the interim CAO to his “temporary” position in 2013, by the way), a very slick PR consultant from out of town (sole-sourced, of course) and planners from the county and even a bureaucrat from the Ministry, all to justify their anti-hospital stand, and to make it appear that the issue isn’t about them – but about process.*

It isn’t. Let’s clear that up right away. The MCR is a canard. Don’t be distracted by it. The problem is with The Block and the town administration, not any report.

An MCR (Municipal Comprehensive Review) is a document required by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) when a municipality changes employment lands (a loosely-defined term open to interpretation) to another purpose, for example from industrial to residential. That isn’t happening here, so it shouldn’t be required. It’s also a useful tool for identifying land use designations throughout a municipality.

And that’s what the hospital’s planning report – presented to council with a covering letter, Monday afternoon – noted. It was, of course, ignored by the very few at the table who actually read it.

But even if and MCR is required, so what? It’s just paperwork.

Every municipality has to have an Official Plan, and that plan must be reviewed every five years. Ours is due for review in 2017 and has been budgeted for. So why not conduct an MCR during that process as part of the OP review? Makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, an MCR is not just for the hospital: it’s for our future land-use planning for every property, business, growth and settlement area.

So just do it and move on. Stop putting up imagined roadblocks.

It’s not a big deal to locate hospitals in so-called “employment lands.” Other municipalities (Oakville and Windsor for example) have located hospitals in them – we can too. All we need to make is happen is simply paperwork.

But the administration says it’s a problem, so the Block thinks it is, and they all run about like headless chickens screaming the sky is falling. I’ll get back to that.
Continue reading “Council continues to attack the hospital”

Dividends for dummies

DividendsA dividend, as defined by the Business Dictionary, is “A share of the after-tax profit of a company, distributed to its shareholders…” This is reiterated in the description from the Oxford Dictionary: “A sum of money paid regularly (typically annually) by a company to its shareholders out of its profits (or reserves).”

So in order to pay a dividend, you need to make a profit. Otherwise all your revenue goes to operating expenses, salaries and taxes. And a dividend isn’t paid to just one person or shareholder: if one shareholder gets one, then every shareholder gets one. Dividends are NOT automatic, are NOT paycheques.

Now say you were a shareholder, and you stripped the revenue stream away from a company you own shares in, and in doing so, you reduced its profit to zero, and say you also caused it greater expenses – say by forcing it to pay more for legal advice or transportation and accommodations for out-of-town shareholders – would you still expect a dividend?

Common sense tells us no. No profit: no dividend.* But common sense is an uncommon attribute at our council table.

On March 13’s agenda, there was a letter from Collus-PowerStream saying the board had decided not to pay a dividend for 2015, and would decide about 2016 after it examined the company’s audited financial statements. (on the Rogers TV broadcast, it starts at 0:18:13, just after the lengthy, self-serving “community” announcements… go past Councillor “Sleepy” Ecclestone’s painful “moved by myself” grammatical error to 0:22:22).

This, course, sent The Block into a tizzy. At 0:22:37 Sleepy again does another “moved by myself” gaffe to introduce a motion to request “an explanation of why the board has chose (sic) not to declare a dividend…” and to “express our concern and disappointment.”
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Volte-face on water

janus facedOn Tuesday, Simcoe County Council voted to “… begin negotiations with the 16 municipalities regarding a “future role” for the upper tier in water and wastewater operations – a municipal domain.” The county wants to bring water and wastewater under its wing to standardize services and improve operating efficiencies much the same way it has done with housing and emergency services. Our deputy mayor voted in favour.

The only story so far on this appears in the New Tecumseth Free Press.*

Not a bad idea to explore, for public discussion and input, weigh the pros and cons. But the problem is that the issue of giving up control of the municipal service to an upper tier has not been given any attention in the local media. Nor have our county representatives – the mayor and deputy mayor – brought it to public attention, nor have they asked for public input or consultation on the issue.

And who gives the county report at the council table? That’s right: Deputy Mayor Saunderson.

Well, that doesn’t surprise you, of course. The Most Secretive Council Ever is always reluctant to tell the public anything. And public input? So far there has been absolutely NONE allowed this term on major issues such as selling our airport, privatizing our water and wastewater, selling our share of the electrical utility, Block 9, taking over water and IT services, the hospital redevelopment – so why would The Block want it now? Your opinion has never mattered to them.

But while the town is getting under the covers with the for-profit corporation EPCOR in a snug deal to privatize our water and wastewater services (in a 99-year lease?), our deputy mayor seems to have made an about-face. He voted in favour of the motion for the county to start the process to take over those services.

Without public input, of course. The best interests of this community? Not even a hint that that might be under consideration.

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The Blame Game

Blockheads playing the blame game
Remember The Name Game – that song from the Sixties that had those crazy lyrics: Shirley! Shirley, Shirley/ Bo-ber-ley, bo-na-na fanna/ Fo-fer-ley. fee fi mo-mer-ley, Shirley! Not the most intellectual lyrics of the era, I admit, but not forgotten and clearly suitable for local tastes. In Collingwood town hall, for example, they even sing their own version, The Blame Game:

Bloggers! Bloggers! Bloggers!
Bo-ba-loggers, bo-na-na fanna
Fo-fer-loggers fee fi mo-mer-loggers, Bloggers!

And so on. It’s part of the “not my fault” mindset that infuses The Block and the administration this term: blame everyone else for the mess you made yourself. Sort of like being in a five-year old’s heaven: it was broken when I found it. Not my fault! I wasn’t even in the room. She started it. I don’t know how it got in my pocket. Someone musta put it there. I didn’t do it! Wah, wah, wah!

It has been sadly amusing watching The Block and the administration fumble and bumble and stumble along their rocky ideological road, while eagerly pointing their fingers at everyone else as the source of their misfortunes. They never once take responsibility for their own decisions and actions. But instead of extricating them from the quagmire, all this flailing about and blaming others has only stuck them deeper in it.

Here are some of the people, groups and services The Block blames for the misfortunes they have done to themselves, the town, its staff and our reputation this term. You can see how many opportunities have created for themselves in this song:

Continue reading “The Blame Game”

Which do we need more?

Dialysis machineThink about all the many and varied kinds of equipment a hospital relies on to provide modern, efficient patient care today. It’s the sort of equipment we want – we NEED – our own hospital to have to provide us and our visitors with the best treatment possible, so none of us have to leave the region to get that care.

Try to imagine all the types of lifesaving and diagnosis equipment that we should have – not only new items, but replacement devices for when machines need service or repair. You can search online for information about hospital inventories and make your own list. But here are some ideas…

You would likely include devices like a dialysis machine, or modern diagnosis equipment like a CAT scanner. Or an ECG machine. A spirometer. A nebuliser. Vacuum autoclaves. Surgery couches. Examination lights. Ophthalmoscopes. Otoscopes. Oximeters, cauterizers, dopplers., ultrasound scanners. Ambulatory blood pressure monitors. EKG machines. Anesthesia machines, sterilizers, defibrillators, patient monitors, surgical lights, beds, X-Ray processors and viewers, gastroscopes, colonscopes, ventilators, pulsoximeter, oxygen concentrator, gynecology couch, delivery beds, fetal monitors, uterine aspiration kit, microscopes, blood analyzers, centrifuges…

And this is just a cursory sample. A modern hospital needs a huge array of equipment today. Every item is something someone will need, sometimes simply to survive.

Pile of reportsNow ask yourself, which does the hospital need more? Any of these devices, tools or machines – or a pile of paper? Which will best serve the needs of providing patient care? Which will save lives?

You see, the Block on Collingwood Council, and the town’s administration, don’t want the hospital to redevelop on the preferred site, a mere two-minute drive from the current site. And to make that location more difficult, this group have thrown up bureaucratic roadblocks and procedural hurdles. Delaying tactics. One of those is to demand more reports. More paperwork. Mostly unnecessary work for outside consultants, but costly stuff. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. And they want the hospital to pay for them.

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The OPP investigation after 48 months

Inpeach council!
Forty-eight months ago a very small group of disgruntled, angry residents – some with burning ambition to take a seat on council themselves – complained to the OPP, allegedly about decisions made by the previous council. Decisions and people this group didn’t like. Decisions they thought – without any proof – were shady. People they thought – again without any proof – were corrupt.

Both conspiracy theories have long since been proved wrong. But they damaged reputations and lives, while others used the fallout to further their own dark goals. All done without the slightest twinge of guilt. 

From summer 2013 through the election, we witnessed a vicious, coordinated campaign to discredit and defame members of the former council: sycophant bloggers, biased media pushing their friends’ agendas, staged protests (who can forget the “inpeach council” sign?), ambitious candidates mouthing righteous platitudes and empty blandishments, virulent social media campaigning rife with gossip, rumour, whispers, allegations, and outright lies.

It worked. People were fooled. But not now. After four years, and no OPP report, people realize they were hoaxed, and many think they know by whom. 

The OPP must have been mortified at having to investigate a clearly politically-motivated, baseless complaint. So much so that shortly after the flurry of bad publicity, the “investigation” vanished, as if the police were too embarrassed to mention it again.  It hasn’t resurfaced.

The law says the OPP is required to investigate any complaint. The police talked to people. They examined bank accounts, businesses, connections. They interviewed town staff and collected records.

In the past four years, nothing has been uncovered to incriminate anyone.

Nothing.

Continue reading “The OPP investigation after 48 months”

GIS for CGMH

I wanted to give you a graphic comparison for your consideration. It’s one you can do for yourself with very little effort – so little in fact, that even The Block could do it. If, that is, they had any interest in doing something that might challenge their rigid ideology. Or take their attention away from their witch hunts for even a nanosecond.

But you, dear reader, are smarter than they are, and I can sense you are already intrigued. So let’s get started. Open your web browser and go over to Simcoe County’s map site at maps.simcoe.ca/public and zoom in on the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. Get close enough so you can see the property outline.

General and Marine HospitalNow use the site’s measurement tool (click the ‘advanced’ tab on the left or the word ‘advanced’ on the upper right of the status bar). When the advanced toolkit flies out, click tools at the top, then measure. The third item on the toolbar allows you to draw a polygon on the map. Use your mouse to trace around the G&M property. It should look like the image on the right of this column. More or less – it really shouldn’t include the road allowance at the top of the property as I did, but you can leave it out.

Double click to complete your drawing and the property will be shown as a blue overlay. By the way, you can click on my small maps to see a full-size version.

The area of the property is shown on the toolbar to the left. It should read about 12.8 acres or 5.2 hectares, give or take, depending on the accuracy of your lines (you can improve the accuracy by zooming in closer).

Now clear the overlay (the red “x” on the toolbar). This time, try to figure out where the property lines would be if the hospital/town expropriated enough land to equal the 12 hectare (ha) site that is the hospital’s preferred location for its redevelopment, on Poplar Sideroad.
Continue reading “GIS for CGMH”

Council in panic mode

The Block in panic modeCollingwood Council has graduated from inept bumbling and stumbling to fully-fledged, sky-is-falling, Henny Penny panic mode, it seems. A special meeting has been called to try and do damage control over the Monday night fiasco about the hospital.

The Block divided the community, alienated their supporters, and fostered division and acrimony. No bandage will heal those self-inflicted wounds. So they panic.

The meeting was called today for tomorrow, Saturday, March 4. It is another in-camera meeting – this council LOVES to go behind closed doors to discuss everything and avoid public scrutiny. The agenda says:

4. IN-CAMERA
THAT this Council proceeds in camera in order to address a matter pertaining to:
* a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board; (a)
* advice that is subject to solicitor/client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose; (a)
Items for discussion: a) Hospital Redevelopment

Deputy Mayor Saunderson spoke about expropriation in his argumentative cross-examination of David Finbow, Monday. I inferred from his comments that the town was eager to start legal proceedings that will oust residents from their property in the vicinity of the hospital. My guess for this meeting: The Block will scream “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and demand staff start panic-expropriating homes around the hospital. They will then try use that to bribe the hospital board into choosing the current site for its redevelopment.

But why would they propose expropriating ANYTHING until the hospital had made a planning application? Like the two reports that set up the initial roadblocks to the hospital redevelopment, this is another pointless, premature action sure to further annoy the hospital board. It sure won’t make the Ministry of Health look more favourably on Collingwood’s intransigence towards the redevelopment.

And it will mean more legal fees YOU have to pay because apparently a lawyer will be in attendance: “…subject to solicitor/client privilege.” Wasting taxpayers’ money on Machiavellian schemes cooked up in secret has never given The Block cause for thought in the past, so why should it bother them now? After all, tax money grows on trees, right?

Given the notice of motion filed this week by Councillor Lloyd for inclusion in the March 13 council meeting, this will likely be a waste of time, too. He is requesting staff include the hospital in the “employment lands” category, and to support the G&M’s proposed Poplar Sideroad location.

They can’t do both – expropriate and support the greenfield site – no matter how hard The Block try to suck and blow at the same time. They have to decide. It’s a shit-or-get-off-the-pot motion.

The onerous burden of responsibility

Drinking waterImagine you’re in high school one day around the end of the year. It’s warm outside, sunny, and you want out of the stuffy classroom. You’re not paying attention. You’re looking out the window, fidgeting. Daydreaming, miles away. The teacher drones on and on but you don’t hear a single word.

Then, the bell rings. Just before the class leaves, you hear the teacher remind everyone that you are responsible for their safety, you are responsible for their wellbeing, for their health. For all the kids in the school. And their parents, too. And if you don’t do everything right, if they get hurt or sick, they can sue you and your parents and take everything you own and even send you to jail. You, the daydreamer, the class clown, the gossipy one who never paid attention.

What? How the hell did that happen? When was this ever raised? You have no idea how you found yourself in this position. Responsible for everyone? You’re never been responsible for anyone or anything in your entire life. How could you suddenly become responsible for everyone, for people you don’t even know? Is someone making this all up?

And what is it you’re supposed to do? Did the teacher say something? You don’t know. You weren’t paying attention. You never pay attention. Whatever it is you’re supposed to do, if you screw it up, you get sued. or worse: sent to jail. But how can you be expected to do something you don’t know anything about?

One big, burning question occupies your thoughts: How do I get out of this? Somehow you got yourself into it, got boxed in. Now all you can think about is how to get out from under the heavy weight of responsibility.

And that’s exactly the position The Block found itself in this term. In the first year, The Block fired (unethically and illegally, by the way) all the members of the town’s water utility service board. An in their places they put five of their own members. Five Blockheads without the slightest interest in, understanding of, or experience in water or utilities.

But they hadn’t been paying any attention. They never paid any attention. They were always too busy gossiping, making wisecracks, clowning around, daydreaming. And then they got scared. Trembling, hide-under-your blankets-and-pee-your-Spiderman-PJs kind of scared.
Continue reading “The onerous burden of responsibility”

Budget Bullshit

Greedy pigThe first question you have to ask after following Collingwood Council’s sloppy and inept budget process is “Where did the money go?”

Then the second question you have to ask, “Are they really that dense?” Yes, but let’s start with the first question.

Back when he promoted dismantling the water utility from its partnership with Collus-PowerStream (CPS) and taking the utility under town control – a process that has proven a disaster for the town – the interim CAO promised we’d see a savings of $750,000 a year. But now the town is trying to privatize those water services by selling them to a for-profit corporation from Alberta, that “savings” vanished from the recent budget. Where did it go?

In the 2017 budget, that promised “savings” wasn’t even raised by The Block, in part because they were all so bemused and befuddled by the parade of numbers they couldn’t keep up with any of the current stuff, let alone savings promised more than a year ago – promises they swallowed hook, line, and sinker.*

Where did it go? But that’s not all you should worry about in the budget.

There is a $280,000 “contingency” for running the IT services that used to be provided by CPS via the shared services agreement. That’s just the start of the IT expenses, by the way; it’s only the amount required to cover the remaining six months of 2017 after CPS stops providing the services (end of June). And it doesn’t count the costs of the administration hiring its sole-sourced consultant out of Barrie to manage the transition (and who may be given the management contract without an RFP). Nor does it include the cost of hiring the third person that will be required for the full transition, or the cost of all the necessary hardware and software.

Here’s what CPS charged the town for those IT services the past five years:
Year Supervision Technical    Annual Total
     /Oversight  Support
2016 $34,718.52  $114,090.02  $148,808.54
2015 $27,774.84  $101,435.87  $129,210.71
2014 $27,097.44  $108,129.66  $135,227.10
2013 $26,436.43  $110,554.53  $136,990.96
2012 $25,666.44  $119,700.42  $145,366.86

So a little basic math tells me that the town plans to spend almost double for half a year what CPS charged for a FULL year. And a full year of great service that went above and beyond any contractual agreement. How is that good fiscal management?

This is but a snapshot of how inefficient and expensive this mess has been so far. It’s going to get a lot messier and more expensive next year. But these extra costs weren’t raised during the discussions because of The Block’s slavish kowtowing to the administration.

Add that $280K to the mysteriously missing $750K and you have MORE THAN $1 MILLION of your taxes wasted or missing in this year alone. Imagine how much MORE it will cost us when the town takes over the billing and the mailing services at the end of 2017 (currently provided by CPS). We’ll need MORE staff, more hardware, more software… more unnecessary expenses sloughed onto the taxpayers.

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Empathy and The Dog Allusion

Coming to empathyEmpathy, writes Martin Rowson, is one of the things that make us human, make us civilized, allows us to interact without tearing one another’s throats out. Without it, we’d have no civilization; we’d be like the beasts of the fields. And we’d have no dogs or gods, either. Empathy is what makes us own pets and be religious.

That’s one of the thought-provoking ideas Rowson tosses around in his book, The Dog Allusion (Vintage Books, London, 2008). The title, as I’m sure you are aware, is a pun on Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion.

Rowson has a lot to say about religion – and not much of it flattering, but generally he’s not as acerbic as Dawkins or Hitchens. Religion, however central to his arguments, is not the book’s sole focus. It isn’t a comprehensive screed against religion or even a paen to atheism; rather it’s a series of essays on various topics into which religion often is cast. The book hasn’t received a lot of attention or garnered many reviews from what I can find, but that may be because most of his readers are likely already on his side of the philosophical fence. It may also be that he meanders. A lot. Still, he offers up a good set of arguments worth pondering, even for the converted.

I am not here to wade into his comments on religion quite yet, however, but rather to comment on his notions about empathy – about which I agree, at least somewhat. I have often felt that the single most important attribute in a politician is empathy. Without it, the political road leads to all sorts of tyrannies and egocentric self-entitlement. Without empathy, politicians raise taxes, utility rates, user fees without consideration of their actual impact. Just like they do here in Collingwood.

Having dealt with numerous politicians in my day (and been among their ranks, municipally, for more than a decade), I sometimes think having intelligence would be a better place to start listing desirable attributes. After all, the first thing every politician should have is the wit to understand the consequences of their actions. Yet so many don’t have it. SO many act as if they were the centre of the universe and their actions have no impact on others. But let’s not talk about The Block right now. That’s just depressing. Let’s talk in general terms, first.

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The EPCOR sales pitches

Big Brother
I’m told the interim CAO is distressed – apoplectic, really – that I am aware of his sales pitch information sessions in which he touts the wonders of EPCOR to town staff. Two sessions that I know of. At the most recent one he brought along EPCOR representatives to schmooze the staff.

Apparently he is not winning them over.

It might be because, as I have been led to believe, Mr. Brown has few fans. I’m told he is generally disliked by many staff. As he is, I’ve also been told, by our municipal partners, our neighbouring municipalities, the hospital board, some local developers and a few others. Thus he may be unable to sway anyone with his blandishments.

Bringing along EPCOR doesn’t help. That’s like bringing foxes to a meeting about managing the hen house after it gets sold to the foxes. It’s made doubly worse because it’s all happening without any public input or consultation.

At these meetings Mr. Brown warns staff not to get their information from unnamed “bloggers” – me, of course – and warns that such information is false. Ooh, scary. Like I’m some local Kellyanne Conjob. Well, I’m flattered he bothers to read my posts because he has said in the past that he doesn’t. Always nice to recognize another reader.

But I’m just doing what you could – and the media should – do: go online and research the company, read the news, drill down through the archives. Read what others say about privatization, about the selling of public assets, about the loss of control, about the gobsmacking rate hikes and customer dissatisfaction that follow. I don’t need to make this stuff up, like Kellyanne does.*

True, I add a bit of editorial comment, some of my own opinion and analysis here and there, but the source material is linked for you to read for yourself and make up your own minds. I hope my own years as a reporter and editor give my posts at least a patina of credibility. If our local media did any real reporting, any investigative journalism, I wouldn’t have to do it for them.

Be that as it may, nothing Mr. Brown says can disguise the fact that this process stinks, and has done so since day one. To my eye – my vision coloured by a dozen years in local media and three terms on council – it has been unethical, immoral and illegal.

The secrecy, the back room conniving, the lack of public consultation, the lack of openness and transparency – these are the hallmarks of The Block’s abysmal behaviour since they took office. But the buck stops at the interim CAO’s office because he is in charge; he oversees the process. And since he has told staff and council that all inquiries have to go through him – he controls the process and the dissemination of information, too.

Continue reading “The EPCOR sales pitches”

EPCOR’s rate hikes create unrest

Corporate takeoverIt seems EPCOR isn’t the most beloved utility service out there, despite the glowing comments the interim CAO made to staff recently. I was given a recording of his hour-long talk (aka sales pitch) for EPCOR and I can only say I hope no one listening fell for it (I’ll review his talk in another post).

Despite his stumbling blandishments, EPCOR’s management style isn’t all that popular. And if you do some searching for unflattering news stories about the corporation, you can find the following online:

Global News had this one on Feb. 2, 2017: Tabor took back their water from EPCOR after a 68% increase in water rates:

Taber Town Council has decided to end its 20-year utilities contract with EPCOR just nine years into the agreement.
EPCOR was under contract to provide Taber with its water and sewage services.
The move to end the working relationship comes after the company proposed to increase utility rates by 68 per cent. All 10 EPCOR employees will now work for the Town of Taber to ease the transition.

Sixty eight per cent increase in water rates in one year! There’s a customer-friendly business model for you. I have no doubt we can expect that sort of increase here once The Block privatizes our water to EPCOR. And yes, it will be privatization, not simply management and a disaster for the town.

Closer to home, Adjala-Tosorontio is also considering outside management for its water and wastewater services. According to a story on Simcoe.Com, dated Feb. 3, 2017,

Two companies, EPCOR and Clearford Water Systems, have submitted bids through a request for proposals (RFP) process to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the system.
In one scenario, where no developer’s contributions are assumed, the wastewater user rate would cost about $2,800 a year if the project was financed by Clearford, or $3,350 a year if it were financed by EPCOR. The figures in the financial analysis were presented in 2019 dollars, which is assumed to be Year 1 of operation for the system. Council said the current rate is a flat charge of $1,313.

A little calculation reveals that under EPCOR’s management, residents’ water rates would go up annually by $2,037! That’s a 155% increase in a single year!

These are just two recent Canadian scenarios, but imagine how YOU, dear reader, will react when The Block sells our water services to EPCOR and YOUR bill jumps by 68% Or worse, 155%! Or more!

And you don’t think it will happen here? Well, read on…

Continue reading “EPCOR’s rate hikes create unrest”