Why? A few questions for councillors

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asking whyWhy? Councillor Madigan said he had written that on every page of the report about Collus, presented to council last week by lawyer Mark Rodger. After reading the report, I also have many questions why. It’s a good question. I too, wrote ‘why?” on many pages, albeit likely for rather different reasons.

Why, I asked myself as I watched the meeting and listened to the comments from councillors last week, is our current council so intent on destroying its successful, accomplished utility – a superb, efficient business – while demoralizing and alienating the staff who have served this community so well for decades?

Why is this council so determined to destroy the partnership and relationship with the municipally-owned and respected utility PowerStream, easily the foremost and most forward-thinking utility company in the province?

Why does this council accept at face value flawed reports from dubious consultants with incomplete, incorrect or missing information, ignore corrections and factual errors, and overlook significant problems or issues in them? As John Dryden wrote in his satirical poem, Absalom and Achitophel:

Some truth there was, but dash’d and brew’d with lies;
To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise.
Succeeding times did equal folly call,
Believing nothing, or believing all.

Why does this council place so much more weight in the reports from one- and two-person consulting firms operating out of their out-of-town homes than what KPMG – one of the world’s four largest consulting firms, with 174,000 employees worldwide – said or advised to the former council. Are they just sticking their ideological heads in the sand to avoid reason?

Why doesn’t this council demand the administration release to the public and media the hundreds of pages of corrections and responses to all these reports? Why does council allow them to be hidden away in secrecy, far from public scrutiny?

Why wasn’t a glowing third-party review of the Collus PowerStream strategic partnership provided to council last year kept secret? Was it because it was positive, thorough and complimentary? Was it because it debunks reports by buddy consultants?

Why does this council put private agendas and personal vendettas ahead of the public good, ahead of the well-being of our institutions, and ahead of the morale of town staff?

Why did council accept a report that contained content from anonymous sources? On page 4 of Rodger’s report, the footnote says some of the sources “…spoke to us on the condition that they not be identified.” Anonymous sources? What sort of credibility does that have?

You can say anything you want and attribute it to an anonymous source because no one can then be called in the account for the comments or prove them. That’s why reputable media and their websites do not allow anonymous letters or comments.

Based on discussions at a meeting held last month, it appears the lawyer did not speak to at least seven of the nine former council members – the very people who made the decisions about the sale of Collus. Yet this council accepted a report that overlooked this crucial source of information. Why?

Rodger himself wrote (p. 17), “…we are unable to draw any definitive conclusion about the underlying central drivers for the Collus sale.” Yet all he had to do was pick up the phone and call us to get it.

My sources say no Collus executives were interviewed for the report. Why not? Surely the people who run the utility every day have valuable insight into how they operate and could have answered many of the report’s unknowns. Is it possible the town didn’t want facts to interfere with preconceived conspiracy theories?

Why were the mayor’s requests for an interview and meeting with Mark Rodger before his presentation refused?

Why does this council treat the financial status of its utility the opposite of the town? The utility had low debt, and its whole philosophy since its creation was to keep utility rates low for the consumer. Income was put back into the company instead of borrowing; instead of paying dividends to the town, the utility put its money into its own capital purchases and operations. That’s one of the reasons Collus charges among the lowest electricity rates in the province. but comments made by this council and in the report are critical of this approach.

Paying a dividend to the town every year would have meant raising hydro rates to pay for it. Increasing the utility’s debt would have meant raising hydro rates to pay for debt servicing. Higher electricity rates will seriously impact local industries and might even drive them to move to more affordable locations, outside town. Why doesn’t anyone on council understand this?

Why didn’t council allow the hundreds of pages of comments, corrections and documentation – a three-inch binder full, put together by Collus Powerstream in response to the report – to be made public, or to be included in the report? What happened to the promises of openness and transparency?

Why did council have (and continue to hold) so many secretive in camera meetings about the publicly-owned utility?

Why did council allow a report with pages of redacted material to be presented? Isn’t this OUR utility, OUR information? What happened to the promises of openness and transparency?

Why does this council demand to see personal and private information about the salaries of every Collus Powerstream employee while keeping allegedly vital information secret from the public? The entire report from the June, 2015, Henley International  (a two-person company run out of a townhouse in a Burlington suburb) report was redacted.  What happened to the promises of openness and transparency?

Why did council not question who was behind items in the report that say “the Town advises…” or “different parties who provided us with information…” or “Others advised…” These unidentified, secretive and anonymous “sources” put the credibility of the report at risk, yet no one at the table asked who these mysterious sources were.

Why didn’t anyone on council mention in public their secret talks about selling the utility to Hydro One? Rodger says in passing on page 9: “…if the Town elects to dispose of its interest in Collus Powerstream through a sale or enter into a merger…”

The process to sell 50% last term was all open and transparent, with public meetings, and presentations done in public session. Why is this council doing it all behind closed doors?

Why has town administration blamed Collus for lack of records that were the town’s responsibility to keep and maintain? Why did no one on this council challenge this?

Why have so few on council made the effort to actually go to Collus PowerStream – a two-minute drive for most – and talk to the staff, ask questions and get the utility’s point of view so they can make an informed decision?

Why hasn’t council allowed the Collus Powerstream board to come before council and publicly tell their side of the story, and to answer questions for the public to hear? Does it present a threat to their ideology to hear the other side?

Why would council give credence to a report that frequently uses vague terms like “We assume…”, “which purport to show…”, “We have no information…”, “it is not clear to us…”, “…we are unable to draw any conclusion regarding the facts…”, “we have been provided with conflicting information…”, “…we cannot claim to have a thorough understanding of the full context…”, ‘…it is unclear…” Shouldn’t council ask for more definite, factual information for its decision making?

I will look more deeply at the report in a future post. To be fair, it’s not all bad, nor was Rodger’s presentation to council the outright condemnation some expected. But errors and omissions need to be addressed, and facts inserted. I’ll do that soon.

However, let me finish this post with a comment on a popular conspiracy among the hard-of-thinking, apparently shared among some members of our council. It is even suggested in the Rodger’s report. That is: the reason for the Collus sale was to pay for the new recreational facilities. Such hogwash! Unmitigated codswallop.

If you follow the timeline of the sale, you’ll realize that the sale was contemplated more than a year before council even considered building any new rec facilities. The RFPs went out before the town was even informed (through the media) about the shocking proposal for a $34 million “Taj Mahal” for the YMCA conjured up by the Central Park Steering committee. That committee’s final report was not even presented to council until March, 2012 – three months after council approved the sale.

In fact, council never received any of the steering committee’s minutes, and councillors appointed as reps to the committee decided not to sit in on meetings, so council was not officially informed about the full status of the proposals until the final report. By then, the Collus sale had been approved by the Ontario Energy Board.

The request for staff to explore Sprung buildings as a possible alternative to the $34 million shocker was not made until July. The decision to go ahead with them was made in public, in August, 2012 after six weeks of extensive research and investigation by staff. By then, the Collus sale was almost nine months past.

A public meeting was held in fall 2012 asking for public suggestions on how and where to spend the sale money. The decision of where to spend any of it was not made or confirmed by council until the open meeting of December, 2012, a full year after the sale.

Any suggestion that the sale was made to finance buildings not even contemplated a year prior is a logical fallacy. A post hoc error in thinking: an error in assigning a causal relationship between two or more coincidental events.

Trying to find a correlation between the Collus sale and the rec facilities is like trying to find a link between imagined illness and planes passing miles overhead. As much as the chemtrail wingnuts want us to believe, only the gullible fall for it. Same with this conspiracy. It’s just ludicrous.

This council has a lot of ‘whys’ to answer, not least of all why they are keeping the public in the dark, not releasing all of the information about a public utility, while they continue with more secret meetings. Why, why, why?

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One Reply to “Why? A few questions for councillors”

  1. Last night, while reading through the Norton Anthology of Poetry, 3rd end, I found a piece by Samuel Johnson (1709-84) that has lines I felt also fit into this piece. They’re from his 1749 poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes:

    How rarely Reason guides the stubborn Choice,
    Rules the bold Hand, or prompts the suppliant Voice,
    How Nations sink, by darling Schemes oppres’d,
    When Vengeance listens to the Fool’s Request.

    The stubborn choice: council and the administration’s continued, unrelenting destruction of its own, successful business. Fits, doesn’t it? It’s not a goal driven by reason, but a fool’s chase.

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