In camera, closed door meetings in Collingwood, 2015-17


SecrecyUsing the agendas posted on the town’s website, I tallied up the number of Council’s in-camera meetings for three specific topics this term: Collus-PowerStream (including the share sale, shared services agreement, advice from Mark Rodger and board appointments); the hospital redevelopment, and the airport (including the request for a letter of intent and possible sale of the airport).

There are several other items listed for in camera discussion that may be related to one or more of these, but since I could not pair them with motions or later news items, and the listed descriptions were inadequate, I did not include them. I did include three closed-door meetings that I have good reason to believe were related to Collus-PowerStream (CPS) issues. These are council meetings only, and does not include any the standing committee meetings.

Of course, I cannot list any of the numerous one-on-one or small group meetings about these issues held in the interim CAO’s office, nor meetings between the town administration and CPS staff. Note that some of these were special council meetings called specifically to discuss the subject behind closed doors:

Airport: 14 meetings:
2015: Jan 5, Feb 2, Feb 17, Apr 7, May 4, Oct 19, Nov 16;
2016: Jan 4, Mar 21, July 11;
2017: July 17, Aug 21, Sep 11, Sep 25.

Hospital redevelopment: 4 meetings
2016: Apr. 11, Aug 8;
2017: Mar 4, Mar 27.

Collus-PowerStream: 37 meetings, plus three potential
2015: 9 definite, 2 possible (of a total 28 council meetings)
Mar 16? property disposition (agenda description is inadequate);
Mar 28? legal advice (agenda description is inadequate);
Apr 7 shared services;
May 19 shared services;
May 27 shared services;
June 15 shared services;
June 22 shared services;
Aug 4 shareholder’s interest, Collus PowerStream board applications;
Aug 24, board applications;
Sep 8, board applications;
Oct 5 Hydro shareholder update review and services.

2016: 12 (of a total 29 council meetings)
Feb 3 update, shared services;
Mar 21 CPS review;
Mar 31 advice from Mark Rodger;
May 9 shared services;
May 30 shared services, shareholders directive, CPS governance, solicitor update;
July 11 agreement review;
Aug 8 share sale RFP;
Sep 26 lease agreement;
Oct 24 shared service agreement;
Oct 31 shared services agreement, shareholders declaration;
Nov 14 Collus PowerStream;
Dec 13 review of bids.

2017: 16 definite, 1 possible (of 27 total meetings to Oct 30)
Jan 6 review of bids;
Jan 16? property disposition (agenda description is inadequate);
Jan 20: CPS, share sale;
Mar 13: committee/board applications;
Apr 10 Collus directors, EPCOR update;
Apr 24 EPCOR offer, CPS director appointments;
May 8 hydro share sale negotiations;
May 29 Hydro share sale update, CPS director applications;
June 26 Hydro share sale update;
July 17 Hydro share sale update;
Aug 21 Hydro share sale update, CPS board applications;
Sep 11 Share sale purchase update;
Sep 19 Hydro share sale update;
Sep 25 Hydro share sale update;
Oct 16 Share sale review;
Oct 23 Hydro share sale.

Keep in mind a couple of things about these issues:

  • Last term, council held just ONE in-camera meeting about the sale of 50% of the share of Collus-PowerStream and that was at the end of the process to examine sealed bids. Everything else last term was done and discussed in public. This term, council has held 37 (and possibly 40 or more) out of 84 meetings in that period. Almost half of their regular council meetings have included an in-camera discussion about CPS and yet in almost three years, not once have The Block or the administration explained to the public WHY it wants to privatize our public utility, why they replaced board members so often, why they have deliberately alienated our utility partner and refused to allow them to present in public, nor why they have not allowed any public comment or consultation on the sale.
  • There have been FOUR closed-door discussions about our hospital’s proposed redevelopment, yet this issue does not involve public/municipal property, and healthcare is not in the municipal jurisdiction. When public discussions were held, the administration hired high-priced, sole-sourced lawyers and consultants at taxpayer expense to argue against the proposal. Of the four municipalities served by the General & Marine Hospital, only Collingwood has not thrown its support behind the proposed redevelopment.
  • After 14 closed-door meetings about the airport – during which The Block and the town administration stalled and delayed the massive commercial/industrial development proposed for the airport with hundreds of jobs at stake – Council unexpectedly declared the airport surplus. The town is trying to sell it. Yet NOT ONCE have The Block said publicly WHY they want to sell it, nor allowed any public comment or consultation on the sale.
  • This list does not include all the in camera meetings: the Municipal Act provides legitimate reasons for discussing issues behind closed doors, and there have been such meetings this term, as there are every term. Some of these meetings listed here may have been legitimately held behind closed doors, but I suspect many discussions were in the grey area at best and some were not appropriate at all.
  • Never forget the promise Brian Saunderson made when running for deputy mayor; he would: “Ensure all major decisions seek out community input, and ensure there is rigorous staff research and due diligence before any decision is made.” Yet no input has been sought about the sale of our public utility, or about our public airport. Were we lied to?
  • Collingwood was already investigated once (early 2016) about its policy and practices for on closed door meetings – on how they were held, reported and listed on the agenda. The investigator made several recommendations about the process. Yet it seems little has changed since then: most descriptions of the topics under discussion behind closed doors are woefully inadequate and do more to entrench the cult of secrecy this term than inform the public. Maybe it’s time to investigate them again.
  • Local media are silent about all of this secrecy and scheming.
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  1. This list also does not include the number of times council went in camera to discuss keeping the interim CAO on the payroll as a “consultant” to make sure his pet Blockheads followed through and sold the town’s share of Collus-PowerStream to the for-profit corporation EPCOR. While the agendas do not identify these discussions, the fact he is still being paid by taxpayers shows those discussions took place.

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