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.
Supposedly EPCOR hasn’t given the town any details in public – those are expected to come in when they make their full offer – but that doesn’t stop Mr. Brown from trying to assure staff that everyone will still have a job after the town sells our water service to EPCOR. How would he know that unless they had already laid out the details? Or, as I suspect, the deal has already been made sub rosa – in back rooms with handshakes and back pats and the rest is just for the formality of process. Reduce the stink, as it were. Won’t work.
And why are EPCOR reps present at staff meetings in the first place? What entitles them to listen, to watch, to make notes, to take names? Staff can’t express their private questions and personal concerns without someone looking suspiciously like an agent of Big Brother in the room. When EPCOR rules the roost, you think it will go well for someone who expresses opposition to their takeover?
If EPCOR can make a supposedly unsolicited bid and then listen to staff’s confidential and private comments, why can’t other companies and agencies like Clearford or OCWA do the same? Doesn’t the town have a responsibility to entertain their bids, offer them the same intrusive meetings with staff? If I were a water agency, I’d be pounding on town hall’s doors demanding the same privileges given to EPCOR.
Unless, of course, The Block intends this to be another one of their sole-source contracts they love to hand out like party favours. That would be my guess, based on their track record this term.
The only light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t an oncoming train is that yesterday council voted to replace the interim CAO with a permanent one, and the process to recruit a new person begins this month. The second time The Block voted to renew his contract – at a salary greater than the premier of the province makes – they squeaked by with a one-vote margin – hardly a show of confidence in Mr. Brown. I suspect they’d lose a third attempt.
But that still leaves him six months or so to oversee what I firmly believe will be a disaster for this town. So it’s up to you, dear reader, if you agree with my assessment, to speak out and help derail it before it’s too late. Complain to the Ombudsman, the IPC, the OEB, demand a judicial inquiry of the process. Once The Block sells our water and wastewater services, your rates will be at the mercy of an out-of-province, for-profit private corporation. That doesn’t bode well
As I always say, Collingwood deserves better.
* Haud ignota loquor – “I speak of things that are not unknown.” From Virgil’s Aeneid, 2.91. Can’t resist sticking a Latin quote in here. And if you don’t know sub rosa, it means in secret, although the actual translation means “under the rose.” The culture of secrecy is deeply entrenched in our local government and administration this term.