By Gerry Barker
March 5, 2018
Mayor Cam Guthrie has announced he is running for mayor next October. This one time, true-blue conservative, has taken a leaf out of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s power playbook and thinks he has dumped Guelph Hydro for a few pieces of eight.
More on the “peanuts” later.
The owners of Guelph Hydro, some 55,000 customers are told the brand name “Guelph Hydro” will vanish by the end of the year.
The takeover by Alectra Utilities will present the so-called merger agreement to the Ontario Energy Board for approval later this year.
But wait! The ink isn’t dry on the two documents that ten councillors approved last December 13. True to form we still don’t know the details of the completed agreements because The Guthrie administration doesn’t like to do our business in public.
The joke is on us people. That proposal to have Guelph Hydro pay a special dividend to the city of $18.5 million is public money. It’s not Cam Guthrie’s money or his partners CAO Derrick Thomson and Hydro chair Jane Armstrong. It’s our money.
The story is that the Guthrie administration offered Alectra the money but it declined. Why endanger the deal of the century with a mere sweetener of $18.5 million when you have the whole enchilada?
Why did the Strategic Options Committee remove selling Guelph Hydro six months before the Mayor gushed that a deal was made to link up with Alectra.
At Alectra’s head office, they must have broken out the Champagne the day after the ten members of city council approved the incomplete deal. Only three members of city council were brave enough to vote against the motion. Who among this group of 13 elected comuncillors, actually listened to the 22 citizens. Most of who articulated several reasons that the deal as manufactured by city staff communications General Manager, Tara Spriggs, was not in the best interests of the citizens.
Some pleaded to delay the vote so that the public who were directly affected by the decision could more carefully consider the details.
It was clear that meeting was a set-up to guarantee council would approve it despite what the people said or expressed their opinions.
It was a well-planned ram job that I charge decided the outcome before the public meeting ever began.
The strange part is that two of the naysayer councillors, James Gordon and Phil Allt, were not favourites of mine but when the chips were on the line they and Coun. Bob Bell had the guts to say no.
The corporation taking over Guelph Hydro has a track record of buying the municipally owned hydro distribution systems including the Brampton Hydro One system, Orillia, Aurora to name a few.
So, why didn’t Alectra buy Guelph Hydro?
Because they didn’t have to. We gave it to them in return for those peanuts mentioned earlier.
Alectra promised to pay a dividend representing 60 per cent of it corporate profits with Guelph receiving a 4.36 share.
Well, it is reported that the city of Hamilton, an18 per cent shareholder in Alectra, received a dividend last year of $1.5 million. Logic will tell you that Guelph’s 4.36 per cent share of Alectra won’t pay for the postage to deliver the cheque.
Yet our city council went ahead despite the dividends of some $3.5 million sent to the city by Guelph Hydro.
Mayor Guthrie worked hard to sell this deal that was essentially smoke and mirrors. Alectra has made premises including curbing power rate increases over which it has no control. It has admitted that some 30 to 50 Hydro Staff will be severed or reassigned to another city in the Alectra system. Oh, and they promise to set up a Green Power Technology unit in Guelph that would employ 10 people.
The sad and unforgiving effect of this has yet to occur as the lawyers prepare their arguments before the Ontario Energy Board to approve the deal.
This consolidation of small to medium sized municipally-owned power distribution systems is another blunder by the Wynne Government’s attempts to increase power costs at the expense of the people who pay the bills.
Experts who agree to this terrible deal that is lop-sided, inconsiderate and just plain stupid have suckered Guelph’s council.
The worst part is that in five years, the councillorts making this decision won’t be around to witness the total loss of control of our hydro distribution system and the resulting higher operational costs.
The only creative part of this deal was the way they did it and conned a compliant council to agree to it.
The 55,000 power customers deserved better but the majority of their council didn’t care.
The fallout of this decision will instill voters with determination to vote those supporting the Alectra deal out of office, if they decide to run on this issue and their misguided support.