Collingwood Turns a Blind Eye to Hydro One Sale

ostrich likeIt would seem that much of Ontario, and many of its stronger municipal councils, are voicing opposition to the province’s ill-advised plan to sell Hydro One to a private, for-profit group, and are writing to the premier to protest.*

The popular sentiment is that selling an essential utility like hydro – that brings the province almost $340 million annually – makes about as much sense as throwing your paycheque out the car window while giving the car keys to a total stranger. It will only make us less competitive and less attractive to business and industry. It will hurt small business and our competitiveness.

Once Hydro One is in private hands, we lose all control over this essential service. We will never be able to recapture it. But the Wynne government is determined to give us long-term pain for a short-term gain, and in the process push us closer to an American-style corporate control of our resources. This is from a government that recently decide what the province needs most right now is more MPPs – more snouts at the trough to waste our tax dollars – instead of more teachers or nurses or someone actually productive.

It’s another example of the (G)Liberals blundering into policy swamps for which they have no maps or guides. While I have never agreed with the inconsistently-cobbled-together Tory energy policy, at least they never threatened to sell a public utility. Clearly the (G)Liberals have ceased pretending they are working for the greater good and are cruising on an agenda we voters and taxpayers were unaware of at the time of the last election.

And where, you ask, is Collingwood Council in this debate – a debate that is crucial to our future? With its head in the sand.

Is council waiting for someone to make a plan? Waiting for a staff report? Waiting to be told what to do? Indecisive? Or just plain unconcerned?

When the issue was raised, our sheepish Council accepted a recommendation from the CAO to wait to see what the AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) was. In other words, he told them: sit on your hands. And they did.

Avoiding commitment is easy for these folks.

The issue came up June 15 on the consent agenda in the form of a letter from a provincial ratepayers’ group asking for council to help protest the sale. To her credit, Councillor Doherty asked for the letter to be pulled for discussion and for council to support the request. But at the feel of the CAO’s lash, the rest of council meekly relegated it to the bureaucratic darkness to wait for someone else to decide how to lead. ** 

None of this is surprising. Taking a stand on an issue like this requires leadership and a spine, both of which are sorely lacking at the council table. Better to procrastinate than advocate – council’s new motto.

Collingwood council has already demonstrated a strong anti-business attitude this term. When raising taxes and water bills, they shrugged off the negative impact these would have on small business (and seniors) and approved their let-them-eat-cake budget (while voting themselves a raise). It’s hardly a wonder they are silent on the sale of Hydro One. That would require taking a stance, making a moral commitment.

Where is the leadership we were promised?


* In 2002, when the province tried to sell Hydro One, the courts ruled it didn’t have the authority to do so. Council was officially informed by the Minister of Energy about the sale in April, 2015 but was silent about it until mid-June, when it avoided making a committment on the issue.

** My apologies in advance for the link to the EB report, but the Connection doesn’t seem to have covered this discussion. The article is painful to read. “It was decided on John Brown’s advisement…” The paper’s continued use of the passive voice is embarrassing.

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