By Gerry Barker
November 27, 2017
I was lying in bed last Friday morning contemplating my day and trying to absorb more on the Trump follies south of the border.
I received a call from a counciilor and we talked about the Guelph Hydro proposed merger with Alectra Inc. I was advised to send my question to energizingtomorrow.ca where I could get all the answers I felt were needed.
On that basis, I went to work and prepared some 50 questions that I felt the Hydro customers and residents needed to know about this proposal and its consequences.
Here’s a snapshot of a portion of the website that was recommended I use:
The committee’s (SOC) education and community engagement efforts will continue through all phases of the process.
If Council decides to pursue merger negotiations, the community will be invited to comment on any proposed merger before Council makes its final decision.
Learn more. Ask us anything.
Well, city council has already signed a memorandum of agreement with Alectra, the corporation ready to merge Guelph Hydro. The merger would give away Guelph Hydro without any immediate compensation for the $228.4 million investment. Hydro’s customer’s investment in poles, wires, substations, equipment, technical staff and Hydro headquarters would be sucked into the Alectra network.
There is no consideration for goodwill, operating surpluses, investments or the wonderful culture of the organization that is described by knowledgeable experts as well run and profitable. In fact it is one of the top performing Local Community Distribution operations in the province.
So here’s what happened when I attempted to “Ask us anything.”
After talking to the councillor, he cautioned that I should not send my questions to CAO Derrick Thomson, who is also co-chair of the SOC, but to the energizingtomorro website and all my questions would be answered.
Well it didn’t work out that way.
Before I disclose my experience with this website, let me remind the administration of its determination to invest and practise transparency and open government.
Now it’s important to remember that the former administration spent some $600,000 to a Toronto consultant to develop a system of government that reflected open access and transparency to allow public participation.
In the case of this merger it isn’t true.
When I went into the energizingtomorrow website, there were six ID boxes and a box for my question(s).
I attempted to post 12 questions and was denied. Tried again with three questions and denied again. The reason was that the message box only allowed 255 characters per question. The restriction of the number of words and spaces per question and not allowing multiple questions, makes “Ask us Anything” well, untrue. It implies access to answering all and every question but restricts it.
In polite circles that is censoring public input and participation in the process.
I sent an email to CAO Derrick Thomson and received a muddled reply from energizing tomorrow based in Guelph Hydro.
So, I engaged plan B. I’ll send my questions to the members of council who will make the final decision December 13 just 16 days from now. I’m doing this because I believe councllors should demand answers to these questions on behalf of the citizens they represent.
So here is the intro addressed to council and the questions:
FROM: Gerry Barker
271 Riverview Place
Guelph, ON N1E 7G9
As a resident and taxpayer, I request answers to the following questions about the proposed merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc. As members of council, you will be asked to approve or disapprove this proposal December 13.
The reason I am asking you, the decision makers, to help answer these question is because I attempted to use the energizingtomorrow.ca “Ask us Anything” website. Well, it is setup to accept only 255 characters per question including the word spaces. It just wasn’t designed to answer multiple questions. I will refrain from explaining why.
I am presenting the questions to seek answers to better understand what’s under the hood of this project. I would appreciate a response via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org at your earliest convenience.
Thanks for your input and responses. Best, Gerry Barker
Is Guelph Hydro wholly owned by the City of Guelph?
Why was the Strategies and Options Committee (SOC) appointed by city council and what was its mandate?
Why were no elected officials appointed to the SOC?
How much were the SOC members paid in compensation for their services?
My current hydro bill contained a leaflet that stated: “Guelph Hydro begins merger talks with Alectra.” If this is true, why has city council already signed a memorandum of agreement with Alectra that is to be approved December 13?
Are Guelph stakeholders receiving any immediate reimbursement for turning over Guelph Hydro and its assets to Alectra?
What is the historical relationship between Guelph Hydro and Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI)?
What is the status of GMHI and it’s finances?
Who and how many third parties expressed an interest to the SOC to buy or merge with Guelph Hydro?
Were these inquiries reviewed by the SOC?
If so, what was the outcome of these enquiries?
Why is the public not informed why Alectra was selected by the SOC?
Was there any incentive offered to members of the SOC, city council and Guelph Hydro to promote acceptance of this merger?
What are the actual benefits for Guelph that will occur by agreeing to this Alectra merger?
Why was the membership composition of the SOC changed? Why were three members on the original committee replaced?
Did city council approve these changes in open council or closed session?
Why is the City/Guelph Hydro spending $2.36 million to expedite this merger?
Did the memorandum of agreement between Guelph Hydro and Alectra signed by city council detail the financial considerations of such a merger?
What are the terms of this agreement including finances?
Does the City/Guelph Hydro agree to turnover Guelph Hydro to Alectra in return for a share of the Alectra profits?
What is that share of profits and interest in Alectra?
Are these Alectra profits guaranteed in the memorandum of agreement?
Does the city council know exactly the impact of the agreement on the citizen owners of the utility?
Why did the SOC mandate change in February 2017 to exclude the sale of Guelph Hydro from its consideration?
Is it a coincidence that the SOC dropped the option of selling Guelph Hydro just a few days following the incorporation of Alectra Inc. January 31, 2017?
Why did the SOC not reveal that decision released by a former member of the committee recently?
Did the SOC claim that the reason for the change in its original mandate was a matter of “client-solicitor privilege?”
Who was the client and who was the solicitor?
Explain why this unknown “client” was able to change the mandate of the SOC?
When does the memorandum of agreement between Guelph Hydro and Alectra signed by city council detail the financial considerations of such a merger?
Who are the members of city council who voted to sign this memorandum of agreement with Alectra and who did not?
Is this agreement binding on the stakeholders, the people of Guelph?
What is proposed to be the share of Alectra profits and Guelph’s interests?
How many respondents to the energizingtomorrow website are in favour of the merger?
How many attendees at the Town Hall meetings responded in favour and is this on the record?
Who sponsored and owns energizingtomorrow.ca website and how much did it cost?
How many respondents said they were in favour of the merger in the telephone survey contacting 500 residents?
What was the total number of calls made by the survey company?
What were the scripted questions asked in the telephone survey?
Did the City or Guelph Hydro hire a consultant to design and execute the merger proposal? If so, what did it cost in total?
Guelph Hydro has been praised on several levels that it is extremely well run with higher than average customer service including response times. It is profitable earning $7 million in 2016 after expenses. So, what’s the sudden urgency to merge it with Alectra when Guelph Hydro customers lose control?
Why are the SOC negotiations and progress information not being shared with the public stakeholders especially when there is no competitive bid?
Why is Guelph Hydro involved in Green Energy technology when a mismanaged sustainable energy project by GMHI has cost the citizens $63 million in loss of shareholder equity?
Is Alectra agreeing to take the $93 million long-term debt of Guelph hydro?
Who is representing the citizens’ interests negotiating the merger details?
We the people have the power
These questions represent an example of crowd-sourcing where the people’s collective knowledge and experience is far greater than the wishes of the powerful minority.
Now is the time to express the power of that collective and express your opposition to this proposal by informing your councillor. With only 16 days left, we still don’t know, not only the answers to these questions but the details of any agreement. One negotiated in private in which an unknown corporation that has made sketchy promises to take over our treasured Guelph Hydro with no compensation to the stakeholders.
Now is the time to act and just say no.