Airport sold after secret deal, no public input

According to the Connection, Collingwood’s airport – owned by the taxpayers – was just sold to a private corporation after almost 20 closed-door council sessions. Not once was the public consulted. Not once was the public told WHY or even if selling the airport was good for the community. Not once did Brian Saunderson or his Block puppets warn the public last election campaign that they planned to sell our public asset. 

Not once did Saunderson or the Block or the town administration present a business case in the past four years to show that selling it was good, that it benefitted the town, or compare options for keeping it. It was all done in secret, behind closed doors. Just like everything Saunderson and his cabal do.

There it goes. Sold for $4.1 million – which, if I recall the last appraisal correctly, is $2 million LESS than it was valued at last term. And imagine how much more it would have been worth if Saunderson and his Block had not blocked the commercial development there, with it’s 1,000-plus local jobs!

And that won’t begin to pay the costs of the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry. But that’s really why he’s selling our assets: to pay for his vendettas.

Saunderson wants to be your mayor and his minions want to be on council again. Yet they’ve sold another public asset without once informing or consulting the public, even after their numerous closed-door meetings. Is that REALLY the sort of government you want at the table for the next four years? Haven’t you had enough of their secrecy and deception?

Collingwood deserves better.

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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Saunderson trolling for votes

Two-facedAfter four years of deception, secrecy, more closed-door meetings than the previous four councils combined, and avoiding public scrutiny at all costs, Brian Saunderson and his Block minions have suddenly decided that they want to be “accessible”. I know, I know: stop smirking.

On the threshold of a municipal election, desperate to sanitize their grubby reputation, they’ve called for live streaming of all meetings – years after moving many committee meetings out of town hall to deter that very public accessibility, and refusing to live stream as early as 2015.

Amazing how some politicians can do an about-face when an election looms and they realize they are despised by a large number of voters. Consistency was never their strong suit, of course. If it’s self-serving, they’ll do whatever it takes.

As a story in the Connection notes:

“This makes our meetings more accessible to the public,” said Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson. “It makes our governance more accessible. It’s a good time to be pushing forward with this.”

I know, I know: I too laughed aloud when trying to imagine Brian doing anything about governance instead of his own agenda. And as for pushing forward – after four years of secrecy and closed-door meetings, you haven’t exactly been pushing all that hard on anything to do with openness and accessibility. Yes, I know: the hypocrisy, it burns…

But let’s be clear: for all his huff-n-puff, this isn’t a town issue. The coverage is provided by Rogers TV, not by any town department or service. Even the newly created and very, very expensive IT department (operating at FOUR times the expense it cost the town last term with plans to hire more staff and spend several millions more…) doesn’t do it: Rogers does. Brian and his buddies just want to take credit for what Rogers has offered all these years.

Rogers complained when The Block first voted to move meetings away from town hall, in 2015, because Rogers doesn’t  have any recording equipment in that building. Which, of course, all of The Block knew when they moved meetings there to get away from the public eye. Meh, the Block waved them off.

And now they pretend they want to be open and accessible? Simply to fool the public. Brian and his puppets ask Rogers pretty please to provide more coverage but not, of course, take responsibility and apologize for the secrecy in the first place. 

Ain’t hypocrisy grand? (Yeah, I know: where was the local media when this hypocrisy was spouted? Not wanting to embarrass their friends at the table, of course…)

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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).
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Wasaga pulls airport support

facepalmAnother post where I get to say “I told you so.” Wasaga Beach pulled its support for the Collingwood Airport just like Clearview did a little earlier. Told you they would.

Why? Simple: because of The Block. Seven of our councillors resolutely stand in the way of growth, business, development, jobs, a better community, our healthcare – everything except their own wellbeing and personal advantage. I warned you that the combination of the roadblocks and the wall of secrecy erected by The Block would drive our regional partners away. And it did.

Even before this, I warned you the shoddy, hostile way our town and our council treated the hospital would infuriate and alienate our neighbours who are also regional partners in the hospital. And it did.

Wasaga Beach’s mayor, Brian Smith is quoted in the Connection blaming it on “Collingwood council’s apparent lack of support for the proposed aviation business park beside the airport.”

Apparent” lack of support? What a weasel word. I suppose I can’t expect better from local media.

The lack of support from Collingwood was EVIDENT to everyone on the airport board, in the public, on the councils of Wasaga Beach and Clearview. It was even pointed out to me by several people in the county council from other communities not connected to Collingwood. EVERYONE knew who on Collingwood Council didn’t support the airport, or the development, or the jobs it would bring in.

The writer lamely notes, “Collingwood’s position is council and staff are acting on legal advice to not sign an agreement,” without actually citing the source for that claim (and, curiously, not slavishly quoting his buddy, our deputy mayor, as he is wont to do). I would question whether any reputable lawyer would advise elected representatives NOT to explain their position to the voters who put them there. The reporter, doesn’t question the party line, though.

Collingwood got a staff report about the future of the airport, Feb. 12. The ever-unctuous Collingwoodliving.com notes the Deputy Mayor called it an “apparent” breakdown without taking responsibility for the EVIDENT breakdown The Block has caused:

Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson expressed his concern with the situation surrounding the possible sale of the airport and the apparent breakdown of the regional cooperation with the Town of Wasaga Beach in addition to the withdrawl (sic) of support by the Township of Clearview…. he has been frustrated with the actions of neighbouring municipalities, namely the town of Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township.

He was so frustrated that none of The Block ever bothered to speak with our neighbours, with our airport board and explain themselves. So frustrated they never even informed them officially about the sale of the airport. And now he’s blaming someone else. What a hypocrite.*

Why aren’t local reporters pointing the finger at what everyone else sees, and asking the hard questions about Collingwood’s secret motives? About why so many closed door meetings on the airport? About why The Block are opposed to creating jobs and economic growth here? Why are local reporters letting The Block weasel their way out of responsibility? Oh right: they don’t want to embarrass their friends.
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