Monthly Archives: April 2018

Part One: This time let’s make change happen to reflect our values

By Gerry Barker

April 30, 2018

The following is a recipe for real change affecting all citizens and not just the ruling class that has dominated civic politics for the past 11 years.

Change One

One serious problem citizen’s face is the lack of in depth coverage of city business and public participation. We are a city of 131,000 that is served by a twice-weekly newspaper with a corporate owner that is a mouthpiece for the administration who are served by a radio station with no reporting staff dependent on police and city press releases. There is an online newspaper that occasionally reports the real news and not just the city handouts and police blotter.

The Kitchener TV station occasionally reports on Guelph news.

The most telling news source is the Rogers Community TV group that covers city council meetings. It does not report or interview citizens or staff as its mandate is controlled by the administration.

Then there are the bloggers (guilty) who chiefly support the administration but rarely are critical or opinionated about administration operations.

Because of this mixture of traditional news sources, in my opinion, Guelph is horribly under-served when it comes to covering the news that matters most to citizens. That’s why more people are dependent on TV news and the Internet.

Fixing the situation will only occur if people stop using those local outlets as a source of news and the managements upgrade their news coverage.

Change Two

Because of our method of electing members of council, in the past 11 years an idealistic group of councillors has controlled council. They are a mixed bag of folks, some good some well meaning and some married to principles that have cost millions without measurable accomplishments.

Now I’m not mentioning names right now because that’s another story for the upcoming campaign that begins tomorrow with the opening of nominations.

The political philosophy is that governments that have controlled our destiny for more than 11 years are ripe for defeat. Every four years, the people can throw long-term governments out and elect a new set of players to create a fresh government.

On the surface it would appear that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are the old tired administration that has galvanized the Ontario Progressive Conservatives to become the government.

We’ll know how that turns out the night of June 7.

The voters in Guelph face the same situation. Do we elect a new responsible group of councillors? In order to accomplish this we need to reform the membership of city council.

Change Three

The Town of Milton reformed its 13-member council reducing the membership to nine including the mayor.

In Guelph we have two part-time councillors in each of the six wards. This system has strengths and weaknesses. It is politically weak because council can be dominated if seven members band together to form a voting bloc. That’s what has occurred in the past three councils.

To describe the ward councillors as part-time is ludicrous. They earn some $35,000 that is out-of-date in terms of workload including paper work, service to constituents and life style. While the responsibilities grow, in my opinion, they are grossly underpaid.

The net result is that the city cannot attract elected representatives with a very limited scale of remuneration, compared to many on staff making four and five times that of the “part-time” councillors.

The next step would be to elect two councillors at large plus the Mayor. This system will prevent the bloc voting that has dominated Guelph politics for 11 years. By now, we know the price of failed projects that have turned the city into one of the highest taxed municipalities in Ontario if not Canada. Millions has been wasted and is one of the chief reasons that Guelph’s operating budget is 50 per cent higher than that of Kitchener and Cambridge.

Bottom line: Reduce the ward councillor to one; pay them at least $90,000 with an independent professional performance review following each election.

Unfortunately, the election process cannot be changed for this year. The new council can vote to reduce its size when it enacts reforms.

Summing up: Years ago decisions were made without considering the growth of the city, its needs and effective planning. That was then and this is today.

Bad decisions made long ago and even in the past 11 years, has increased infrastructure costs to close to one half a billion dollars. Throw in the impact of inflation and the dropping value of the Canadian dollar annually and a tipping point has been reached.

You cannot keep raising property taxes and user fees; you cannot spend millions on failed environmental projects such as the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc, financial and structural disaster. These are just some of the serious operational problems facing the electorate next October.

At a point in time Guelph was a small, agriculture-oriented economy town, with an Agriculture College as its main industry.

The city remains an economic island with few exits to the outside world. When the opportunity came to form a Regional government with Kitchener and Cambridge, Guelph council said no.

Since then the city has been isolated from industrial and commercial development that would bring assessment dollars to build the city. In the past 11 years the ratio of Residential assessment to Industrial-Commercial assessment is 74 per cent compared to 16 per cent and has not changed.

Only increasing that Industrial-Commercial assessment will make a dent in the annual property tax rate averaging 3.5 per cent. That does not include the property tax surcharge to repair and maintain the infrastructure.

Change Four

Study and learn about your city. Knowledge leads to action to create change.

Part Two will be published May 2 and outlines specifics to reduce bloated operational costs.

 

 

 

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Only four days left to intervene in the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities by the Ontario Energy Board

Breaking News: As the April 30 deadline approaches regarding the Guelph Hydro merger, we have been accepted as an intervener in the OEB process. We are publishing our letter and arguments against the merger for citizens to view. Please use whatever parts and send a reques to the OEB to be named as an intervener. It is our last chance to stop this application or at the least, delay it until a new provincial government reviews the application. GB

John T.F. (Gerry) & Barbara M. Barker

271 Riverview Place

Guelph, ON N1E 7G9

Ontario Energy Board

300 Yonge St.

27th floor
P.O. Box 2319
Toronto, ON M4P 1E4

April 16, 2018

Re File: EB-2018—0014

Request for intervener status re the file EB-2018—0014

We are 15-year residents of the City of Guelph and customers of Guelph Hydro and are property taxpayers.

We urge the Ontario Energy Board to order an oral hearing of this application based on the “No Harm” test. Evidence of this came last Friday when ther OEB released a summary of the proposed merger of Alectra Utilities and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.

  • The purchase by Alectra Inc. of all the issued and outstanding shares of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc., held by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.

By way of explanation, Guelph Hydo is a financially sound profitable division of Guelph Muncipal Holdings Inc. The Corporation has a sterling record of service and performance. GMHI is a wholly owned subsidiary of the City of Guelph Corporation.

In order to make our arguments clear, we have attached a recent report on why and how this happened.

Our principal objection lies in the conduct of a city appointed committee known as The Strategies and Options Committee, that conducted almost all of its business in closed-sessions. The public finally was informed 12 days before the council meeting to approve or disapprove the Alectra proposal to merger. This document was 245 pages long and only available online with the exception of a few hard copies that were downloaded. We were fortunate to receive a hard copy.

To us this represents the height of suppression of the public’s interest. On December 13 there were 22 delegates speaking just five minutes each, expressing their reasons for opposing the merger. In addition the City Clerk reported a protest petition of 76 residents.

There were seven representatives of Alectra that addressed the meeting. Council approved the merger in principal six hours later by a 10 to three vote.

Thank you,

John and Barbara Barker

*            *            *            *

Attachment – Edited from the post on guelphspeaks.ca, April 14, 2018

Updated HED -We have just five days left to intervene in the Guelph Hydro-Alectra merger deal now at the Ontario Energy Board

By Gerry Barker

April 16, 2018

Since last November, guelphspeaks.ca has questioned the merger between Alectra Inc. and Guelph Hydro. The proposal by the Strategies and Options Committee (SOC) was railroaded through council despite opposition from 22 delegates to council opposed to the proposal plus 76-email protests sent to the city clerk.

None of it mattered, as council approved in principal the merger agreement by a 10 to 3 vote in the early hours of the morning. That was December 13, 2017.

I have been informed that Alectra and Guelph Hydro submitted a written agreement to the Ontario Energy Board, (OEB) for final approval. A statement followed this that the details would be produced in the local Tribune twice-weekly paper. This week there was no such statement in the paper.

Also, the publicly paid “City News” carried in the Tribune had zero information, not even a news story explaining the merger application details.

Do you really believe the people affected have “Your Say” in this?

After all these months the truth is out. Before going into the details, it is important to remember, this merger was concluded in many secret, closed-session meetings that ignored the real feelings of the 55,000 Guelph Hydro customers. The December Hydro bills contained a small biased insert just days before the council vote.

They were never told the truth about how it would affect them.

The OEB has received a request from Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities to submit a written application to approve the merger. The OEB has acknowledged receipt of the request.

So, here’s the current situation. We have just 14 days remaining to intervene and request an oral hearing with the OEB in which citizens, registered as interveners, can state their views,

If not, the OEB will accept the written submission of Alectra and Guelph Hydro and make a decision between the next six and 12 months.

After April 30, if we do not intervene, as is our right, the merger could be approved by the OEB.

This Mergers and Acquisitions program (MAADS) was initiated by the Kathleen Wynne government’s ‘recommending’ absorption of small to medium sized community owned hydro distribution systems to create efficiencies.

This opened the floodgate for large power distribution corporations to fatten their portfolios at little capital cost or debt.

By June 7, that policy may be history with a change in government.

The rush here by Alectra-Guelph Hydro is to ensure its proposal is “grandfathered” regardless of the outcome of the election.

The OEB has invited interested parties to “Have Their Say” stating that is their right. The Board has stated that there are two types of applications:

A written application has already been submitted and an oral application in which members of the public can present their objections to the application by Alectra Utilities and Guelph Hydro.

But here’s the catch: “You can become an active participant (called an intervener). Apply by April, 30, 2018 or the submitted written hearing will go ahead.”

That seems clear enough but why did it take more than a month to reveal the written merger agreement that was received by the OEB on March 7, 2018?

Why did the City Solicitor, Christopher Cooper, side step my request in early March when requested, for a status report on the final agreement?

So the people directly affected by this merger agreement have just 14 days to apply for an intervener status at an OEB oral hearing.

Finally, here is the evidence that our Guelph Hydro Electric System is being given away with no cash consideration in exchange for a tiny 4.63 per cent of only 60 per cent of Alectra Utilities’ profit. This corporation is a division of Alectra Inc.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that our citizen-owned power distribution system, serving 55,000 customers, worth an estimated $300 million, is being exchanged for a tiny slice of Alectra Utilities’ profits. Is this what the Wynne Liberals were counting on?

As activist, taxpayers and communicators, we want an open administration, accountability, and transparency in our city government. It was promised in 2014 but never delivered. We can charge city council for allowing this deal to reach this absolute level, the last line of defence, public participation.

Here is a capsule of the terms of the agreement as published by the OEB:

“Alectra Utilities Corporation and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. have asked the Ontario Energy Board to approve:

  • The purchase by Alectra Inc. of all the issued and outstanding shares of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc., held by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.
  • Transfer of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.’s distribution system to Alectra Utilities Corporation • Transfer of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.’s generation licence and rate orders to Alectra Utilities Corporation
  • Amendments to Alectra Utilities Corporation’s electricity distribution licence to include Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.’s service area

The applicants say that the proposed amalgamation is expected to deliver savings to the customers of both utilities and that the rates of Alectra Utilities Corporation and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. will remain separate until 2029. The applicants also say that the costs of the proposed amalgamation will not be funded by ratepayers.”

Let’s dissect the terms as acknowledged by the OEB.

Whopper #1

Comment: First, it states this is a ‘purchase’ of all the issues and outstanding shares of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc., held by Guelph Municipal Holding Inc. (GMHI).

It does not reveal the truth of the value of GMHI including shares that blew through more than $60 million of shareholder funds (the people of Guelph) and its shares are essentially worthless without Guelph Hydro.

So, what is Alectra paying for these worthless GMHI shares? More importantly, who winds up owning the title of the Guelph Hydro Electric Corporation? It appears so far, it won’t be the owners.

This GMHI information is confirmed by the independent audit by the accounting firm KPMG in which the GMHI audited consolidated statement showed the shareholder equity was worthless. But GMHI did control the financially healthy Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.

This take-over of Guelph Hydro made by the former GMHI board of directors, chaired by the former mayor, posed a serious financial problem for council.

There are two assets helpd by GMHI: The Guelph Junction Railroad and Guelph Hydro.

Guelph Hydro represented a solution and became the bargaining chip to get out of that GMHI multi-million dollar debt.

This is how the merger cover-up began. The deal was not about Guelph Hydro, it was about the city administration divesting itself of an asset to get that $60 million GMHI deficit off the city books.

That’s why in February 2017, the Strategies and Options Committee removed the option of selling Guelph Hydro. This opened the door for this terrible deal to give Guelph Hydro away for a pittance and in one stroke clean up of the GMHI balance sheet for which the city was responsible.

The key word in this description of the take-over is Alectra assuming all the “issues” surrounding not only Guelph Hydro but also its ‘controller’ GMHI.

Here’s Whopper #2

The submitted agreement states that Guelph Hydro’s distribution system is “transferred” to Alectra Utilities with no apparent cash consideration. Guelph Mayor Guthrie keeps saying that nothing is being given away. Well sir, you’d better check the agreement you and Alectra have already submitted to the OEB for approval. This isn’t about semantics it’s about real money

Nowhere in this agreement summary released by the OEB does it mention the $18.5 million special dividend that upon approval will be paid to the city. This dividend is already the property of the citizens of Guelph. It is part of the $22 million cash reserves stated in the 2016 Guelph Hydro audited financial statements.

There is nothing more insulting than to be told the city is receiving the dividend that is nothing more than a subterfuge to disguise what is really happening. Our greatest asset, Guelph Hydro, is being sacrificed to cover-up the mistakes of the previous administration and current Guthrie administration

Now we know why this terrible deal, masquerading as something best for the 55,000 Guelph Hydro customers was conducted behind-closed doors to suppress public participation. The use of phony surveys, misinformation and town halls attended only by a handful of supporters to bolster the case, witnessed spending $2.36 million to sell the proposal to the public.

Oh, the agreement states that the ratepayers will not fund the costs of the proposed amalgamation.

Was the OEB board informed before publishing this agreement summary that the citizens of Guelph have already spent $2.36 million to fund this deal and sell it to the ratepayers?

Here is more about the agreement now registered with the OEB.

“The applicants say that the proposed amalgamation is expected to deliver savings to the customers of both utilities and that the rates of Alectra Utilities Corporation and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. will remain separate until 2029. The applicants also say that the costs of the proposed amalgamation will not be funded by ratepayers.

That’s Whopper #3

Your application to intervene should include the following as it applies to your feelings about the merger agreement:

“In assessing the application, the OEB will apply what is called a “No Harm Test”. This means that the OEB will be considering whether customers would be harmed from the perspective of rates, reliability and quality of service in a merger. To pass the No Harm Test, evidence must be provided that rates and service levels would be equal to or better than what they would have been without a merger.”

Well, we now know as revealed by the OEB release, that great harm has been done to the owners of the Guelph Hydro power distribution system such as losing ownership and control.

* The assets are being turned over to another operator with no encumbrances, who have made promises to provide equal or better rates and services, jobs and a green technology centre to be set up in the Guelph Hydro headquarters facility.

* We will lose 30 to 50 jobs if the agreement is approved and the green tech operation will have a staff of ten.

How can the OEB approve an agreement in which a financially sound and dividend paying corporation is being given away? It’s a win-win for Alectra Utilities because the former Guelph Hydro will still supply those dividends that Alectra will be required to pay GMHI. It’s just under another name.

We respectfully urge the OEB to order an oral hearing to give the stakeholder’s an opportunity for the board members to understand how our excellent Guelph Hydro that has served us so well over the years is being given away.

Perhaps, the truth of how and why this merger agreement was created and executed can be questioned and find it is not in the best interests of the owners of the utility.

Please, Do No Harm.

 

 

 

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Guelph Hydro/Alectra Utilities’ merger is legalized theft by shutting down public participation

By Gerry Barker

April 23, 2018

Breaking News: I have just spoken with an official at the Ontario Energy Board acknowledging receipt of  our intervener letter. He explained that if the board decides not to hold an oral hearing, then only those citizens, who have written to intervene by the end of the month, would still be permitted to question a written application before the OEB. The board has announced that any hearing on this merger application may be held within 6 to 12 months. Please send your intervention letter today (either snail or email) to be part of our last opportunity to be participants in the process.

Breaking News: Congratulations to Ray Ferraro, acclaimed as candidate to represent Guelph for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in the June 7 provincial election.

Most of my viewers know by now why I am opposed to the Guelph Hydro merger with Alectra Utilities.

I also believe that there was a well-planned assault on the citizens to dump our Hydro to pay off Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.’s (GMHI) millions of debt.

Think I’m kidding?

This deceptive legacy started in the fall of 2016 with the appointment of the Strategies and Options Committee (SOC) by city council. It was a propitious time as the accounting firm KPMG had completed the audit of GMHI’s finances. The results were not revealed until early January last year.

And it wasn’t a pretty picture as some $60 million in shareholders GMHI equity was worthless. There were other liabilities that created a huge hole in the city’s books. Who were these shareholders? The city council represented the citizen’s of Guelph, owners of Guelph Hydro.

Starting to get the picture?

The SOC had five members none of who were elected to council. The committee performed its duties in closed-sessions with the odd neutral public report to council.

The SOC mandate was to explore and investigate two basic options: The sale of Guelph Hydro and/or merging with a larger power distribution organization.

Now this is important to remember. It is the policy of the Ontario Liberal Government to “recommend” the merger and amalgamation of small to medium sized Local Community Distribution systems to larger privately owned municipal distribution systems. The reason? It was to encourage “efficiencies.”

The reality is the larger power corporations had a field day gobbling up the small community power distributions system often ten cent on the dollar.

Who were these acquirers? This includes Hydro One the semi-privatized Ontario power distribution corporation with only 47 per cent still owned by Ontarians.

Also Alectra Inc. that now controls power distribution systems in Brampton, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Aurora, Markham, Hamilton, Barrie, St. Catharines, Collingwood, Simcoe county and Mississauga. Add TransCanada Pipelines to the list as the big boys take over the small and medium sized power distribution systems.

In each take over, the OEB had to approve the merger, sale or amalgamation. The deals were all over the map in terms of benefits to the little guys that varied with each proposal and the OEB approved most of the applications.

In fact, a whole new industry developed benefiting the printing industry, legal firms, financial advisors, engineering companies specializing in power generation and distribution, financial institutions, publishers and graphic designers.

The turning point

In February 2017 the SOC, in closed-session, removed the option of selling Guelph Hydro and not to be considered.

It was a sudden decision. Why would the SOC dump the sale option without explanation? In fact it was only revealed after a leak of the SOC decision made behind closed doors.

Ask yourself, why would an acclaimed community power distribution system, with an exemplary record of service, management and profitability fail to be worth at least the $228 million in book value of its assets? Such assets include wires, poles, substations, equipment, real estate, a fully equipped headquarters building plus some $22 million in cash reserves.

This decision followed a shake-up of the personnel of the SOC with Guelph Hydro CEO Pankaj Sardana being replaced by Hydro chair Jane Armstrong, as co-chair of the SOC with Guelph CAO Derrick Thomson.

What we don’t know is why the decision not to sell Guelph Hydro? That information is sealed in the closed session meeting that decided not to consider the sale of Guelph Hydro.

Alectra is no stranger acquiring municipal power systems and paying for ownership. Brampton Hydro One is an example. So, why not Guelph? You want it? Then paying for it seems logical.

The reason is simple. City council wanted the GMHI debt off its books. The only tangible asset of GMHI is Guelph Hydro.

Now you know the rest of the story

Here is a revealing fact as contained in a two-page spread in the Globe and Mail last Saturday. The lengthy investigative piece describes how the Wynne Liberals kept billions of borrowed money off its balance sheet. It is another example of the Liberal’s energy file being bungled in 2017 due to the Fair Hydro Plan to lower power rates.

You probably recall that the Liberals said they would lower Hydro rates by 25 per cent, and hold increases to the rate of inflation for four years. The Ontario Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, pointed out that the province had to borrow billions to pay for most of it.

Ms. Lysyk charged that the government used ‘bogus’ accounting to keep the debt off its books.

The similarities are startling comparing the Ontario Liberals juggling the numbers and the merger agreement between Guelph Hydro and Alectra giving Alectra control and title to Guelph Hydro for no cash consideration.

That agreement is now before the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) for approval.

Our last chance to express opposition to this estimated $300 million give away to Alectra, is to write a letter to intervene at an oral hearing of the application before the OEB, later this year.

After today, there are six working days remaining to have your say. The deadline for public participation notification must be postmarked no later than next Monday, April 30. If we don’t respond, the OEB states the hearing will proceed without public participation.

The opportunity to resist, for many legitimate reasons, will be gone without any recourse

There are a number of reasons why we must object to the written application by Guelph Hydro and Alectra.

Let there be no harm done

First, there is the OEB ‘s ruling that there must be “No Harm Done” in the application. Second the degree of secrecy that was used to shut down public participation by city council and the SOC. Third, the timing of the council meeting held December 13. Fourth, the written application to the OEB delivered two months later with no public announcement not made until the first week in April.

If we citizens can force an open hearing of the application, there will be legal support available to advise our opposition.

Finally, this is our last chance to stop the giveaway. For your convenience here is the OEB address and file number.

Ontario Energy Board

300 Yonge St.

27th floor
P.O. Box 2319
Toronto, ON M4P 1E4

April 23, 2018

Re File: EB-2018 –0014

 

 

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Only 5 working days left to file your letter to the OEB to stop the merger between Guelph Hydro and Alectra

By Gerry Barker

April 17, 2018

Last chance to have your say opposing the merger between Guelph Hydro and Alectra. So that citizens understand the real issue here is our city council is giving away our Hydro distribution system for shares of Guelph Municipal Holdings. Those share are worthless because the money was spent by the previous administration on failed district energy systems, solar arrays on public buildings and an expensive geothermal underground water heating and cooling system that did not have a customer base to support its operations. I estimate that the GMHI share represented public funds wasted on these projects and the loss of $60 million according to the audit performed on GMHI by KPMG. That’s your money and mine. If we do not respond and request an oral hearing when the OEB schedules the event, we have no recourse. We will be bound by the OEB decision.

Other News: A tiny story in Tuesday’s Guelph Tribune reported the Guelph Hydro  merger with Alectra is before the OEB in written form. The OEB has invited public participation in deciding the fate of Guelph Hydro simply by inviting citizens to present their objections to the OEB by sending a letter to hold an oral hearing instead of the proposed written version. What’s at stake? Your interest in Guelph Hydro will be gone in about 12 months.After April 30, 2018 there is no recourse to influence the outcome.

By sending a letter of protest today, it’s an important step in letting the OEB know that this application, born and conceived in secrecy, is not in our best interests. There is tremendous Harm being done by this proposal. It’s time for us to stop it. Read details below on how to take action.  This is the ninth inning and there are two out. GB

The long journey to give away our $300 million Guelph Hydro

Since last November, guelphspeaks.ca has questioned the merger between Alectra Inc. and Guelph Hydro. The proposal by the Strategies and Options Committee (SOC) was railroaded through council despite opposition from 22 delegates to council opposed to the proposal plus 76-email protests sent to the city clerk.

None of it mattered as council approved in principle the merger agreement by a 10 to 3 vote in the early hours of the morning. That was December 13, 2017.

I have been informed that Alectra and Guelph Hydro submitted a written agreement to the Ontario Energy Board, (OEB) for final approval. A statement followed this that the details would be produced in the local Tribune twice-weekly paper. This week there was no such statement. I don’t keep Trib papers beyond that point.

Also, the public paid “City News” carried in the Tribune had zero information, not even a news story.

Do you really believe the people have Your Say in this?

After all these months the truth is out. Before going into the details, it is important to remember, this merger that was concluded in many secret, closed-session meetings that ignored the real feelings of the 55,000 Guelph Hydro customers.

Because they were never told the truth about how it would affect them.

The OEB has received a request from Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities to submit a written application to approve the merger.

So here’s the current situation. We have just 15 days remaining to intervene and request an oral hearing with the OEB in which citizens, registered as interveners, can state their views,

If we do not, the OEB will accept the written submission of Alectra and Guelph Hydro and make a decision between the next six and 12 months.

After April 30, if we do not intervene, as is our right, the merger will likely be approved by the OEB.

How the stench of corruption hangs heavy in the air

Let’s drill down to look at the seamy corruptive practices of the public’s business.

One of the factors was the Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne to consolidate the small and medium sized local community owned power distribution systems with larger distribution corporations.

This opened the floodgate for large power distribution corporations to fatten their portfolios at little capital cost or debt.

By June 7, that policy may be history with a change in government.

The rush here by Alectra-Guelph Hydro is to ensure its proposal is “grandfathered” regardless of the outcome of the election.

The OEB has invited interested parties to “Have Their Say” stating that is their right. The Board has stated that there are two types of applications:

A written application has already been submitted and an oral application in which members of the public can present their objections to the application by Alectra Utilities and Guelph Hydro.

But here’s the catch: “You can become an active participant (called an intervener). Apply by April, 30, 2018 or the submitted written hearing will go ahead.”

Editor’s Note: I have posted a sample letter to intervene on guelphspeaks. ca (located at end of post). Viewers are free to use the content of this information plus their own views, to reinforce their opinions. The details of contacting the OEB are printed below. When sending your intervening letter by snail or email be sure to use the file number EB-2018–0014.  

That seems clear enough but why did it take more than a month to reveal the written merger agreement that was received by the OEB on March 7, 2018?

Why did the City Solicitor, Christopher Cooper, side-step my request in early March for a status report on the final agreement? He seems to be a decent guy entrapped in a tangled web of power politics.

So the people directly affected by this merger agreement have just 15 days to apply for an intervener status at an OEB oral hearing.

Finally, here is the evidence that our Guelph Hydro System is being given away with no cash consideration in exchange for a tiny 4.63 per cent of only 60 per cent of Alectra Utilities’ profit. This corporation is a division of Alectra Inc.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that our citizen-owned power distribution system, serving 55,000 customers, worth an estimated $300 million, is being exchanged for a tiny slice of Alectra Utilities’ profits. Is this what the Wynne Liberals were counting on?

As an activist, taxpayer and communicator, I want open administration, accountability, and transparency in my city government. It was promised in 2014 but never delivered. We can charge city council for allowing this deal to reach this absolute level, the last line of defence.

Here is a capsule of the terms of the agreement as published by the OEB:

“Alectra Utilities Corporation and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. have asked the Ontario Energy Board to approve:

  • The purchase by Alectra Inc. of all the issued and outstanding shares of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc., held by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.
  • Transfer of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.’s distribution system to Alectra Utilities Corporation • Transfer of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.’s generation licence and rate orders to Alectra Utilities Corporation
  • Amendments to Alectra Utilities Corporation’s electricity distribution licence to include Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.’s service area

The applicants say that the proposed amalgamation is expected to deliver savings to the customers of both utilities and that the rates of Alectra Utilities Corporation and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. will remain separate until 2029. The applicants also say that the costs of the proposed amalgamation will not be funded by ratepayers.”

Let’s dissect the terms as acknowledged by the OEB.

Whopper #1

Comment: First, it states this is a ‘purchase’ of all the issues and outstanding shares of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc., held by Guelph Municipal Holding Inc. (GMHI).

It does not reveal the truth of the value of GMHI including shares that blew through more than $60 million of shareholder funds (the people of Guelph) and its shares are essentially worthless.

So, what is Alectra paying for these worthless GMHI shares? More importantly, who winds up owning the title of the Guelph Hydro Corporation?

The $60 million shareholder equity loss is confirmed by the independent audit by KPMG in which the GMHI consolidated statement showed the shareholder equity was worthless. But GMHI did control the financially healthy Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc.

This take-over of Guelph Hydro made by the former GMHI board of directors chaired by the former mayor, posed a dilemma for the present mayor and council.

How to dance through the Last Tango of  merger mania

This is how the merger cover-up began. The deal was not about Guelph Hydro, it was about the city administration divesting itself of an asset to get that $60 million GMHI deficit off the city books.

That’s why in February 2017, the Strategies and Options Committee removed the option of selling Guelph Hydro. This opened the door for this terrible deal to give Guelph Hydro away for a pittance and in one stroke clean up the GMHI balance sheet for which the city was responsible.

The key word in this description of the take-over is Alectra assuming all the “issues” surrounding not only Guelph Hydro but also its “controller” GMHI.

Whopper #2

The submitted agreement states that Guelph Hydro’s distribution system is “transferred” to Alectra Utilities with no apparent serious cash consideration. Mayor Guthrie keeps saying that nothing is being given away. Well Cam, you’d better check the agreement you and Alectra have already submitted to the OEB for approval.

Nowhere in this agreement summary released by the OEB does it mention the $18.5 million special dividend that upon approval will be paid to the city. This dividend is already the property of the citizens of Guelph.

There is nothing more insulting than to be told the city is receiving the dividend that is nothing more than a subterfuge to disguise what is really happening. Our greatest asset, Guelph Hydro is being sacrificed to cover-up the mistakes of the previous administration and the current Guthrie administration

Now we know why this terrible deal, masquerading as something best for the 55,000 Guelph Hydro customers was conducted behind-closed doors to suppress public participation. The use of phony surveys, misinformation and town halls attended only by a handful of supporters to bolster the case, was spending $2.36 million to sell the proposal to the public.

Oh, the agreement states that the ratepayers will not fund the costs of the proposed amalgamation.

Was the OEB board informed before publishing this agreement summary that the citizens of Guelph have already spent $2.36 million to fund this deal?

Here is more about the agreement now registered with the OEB.

“The applicants say that the proposed amalgamation is expected to deliver savings to the customers of both utilities and that the rates of Alectra Utilities Corporation and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. will remain separate until 2029. The applicants also say that the costs of the proposed amalgamation will not be funded by ratepayers.

That’s Whopper #3

So, here’s how to intervene before the April 30 deadline

  1. Our file number for this case is EB-2018-0014. To learn more about this hearing, find instructions on how to file letters or become an intervener, or to access any document related to this case. Please select the file number EB-2018-0014 from the list on the OEB website: oeb.ca/notice. You can also phone our Consumer Relations Centre at 1-877-632-2727 with any questions. If you are ready to send a snail mail request in your intervener application, here is the address:

Ontario Energy Board                                                                                                           300 Yonge St.  27th floor
P.O. Box 2319
Toronto, ON M4P 1E4

Your application to intervener should include the following as it applies to your feelings about the merger agreement:

“In assessing the application, the OEB will apply what is called a “No Harm Test”. This means that the OEB will be considering whether customers would be harmed from the perspective of rates, reliability and quality of service in a merger. To pass the No Harm Test, evidence must be provided that rates and service levels would be equal to or better than what they would have been without a merger.”

Well, we now know that great harm has been done to the owners of the Guelph Hydro power distribution system such as losing ownership and control.

* The assets are being turned over to another operator with no encumbrances, who have made promises to provide equal or better rates and services, jobs and a green technology centre to be set up in the Guelph Hydro headquarters facility.

* We will lose 30 to 50 jobs if the agreement is approved and the green tech operation will have a staff of ten.

How can the OEB approve an agreement in which a financially sound and dividend paying corporation is being given away. It’s a win-win for Alectra Utilities because the former Guelph Hydro will still supply those dividends that Alectra will be required to pay GMHI. It’s just under another name.

In order to assist citizens wishing to intervene and hold an oral application here is a draft form to assist you to beat the April 30 deadline. Use any part of this post in your letter but your personal opinion is what really counts.

Together we can stop this and get a fair hearing.

If we don’t respond, we only have ourselves to blame. We turned over our trust to elect a council that has proven in the past three years, in the majority, to be dumb and dumber.

            Draft letter to the OEB to intervene in the merger of Guelph Hydro

Your name(s) and address

Ontario Energy Boar

300 Yonge St. 27th floor
P.O. Box 2319
Toronto, ON M4P 1E4

Re File: EB -2018—0014

April   ? 2018

To who it may concern:

I (we) reside in Guelph and am customers of Guelph Hydro.

I(we) request being accepted as an intervener and the OEB order an oral application instead of the written one that has already been received.

I(we) understand that time is of the essence but have only just received the basic terms of the agreement.

I(we) believe there is great harm being done to the 55,000 customer of Guelph Hydro. The fact that the summary agreement as received by the OEB fails to guarantee any rate protection, or creates job losses of Guelph Hydro following approval of the merger.

We believe the process leading up to the city council, which represents us, voted 10 to 3 to accept the agreement in principle despite overwhelming objections from 22 citizen delegates and a petition of 76 residents protesting the proposal.

We respectfully urge the OEB to order an oral hearing to give the stakeholder’s an opportunity for the board members to understand how our excellent Guelph Hydro that has served us so well over the years is being given away.

Perhaps, the truth of how this merger agreement was created and executed can be questioned and is not in the best interests of the owners of the utility.

Sincerely,

Your name(s)

 

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The changing world of provincial politics in April, National Humour Month

By Gerry Barker

April 9, 2018

It has been brought to my attention that the month of April is National Humour month.

Well, the mockery meter level of puffed up politicians has been increasing with Donald Trump the leading source of disdain, ridicule and ignorance.

Here in Guelph, we have a Mayor who will go down in history as the man who gave Guelph Hydro away. Of course His Worship denies that Guelph Hydro is being given away. It’s also a subject he doesn’t want to talk about as he segues into the $100 million infrastructure deal between the city, federal government and the province.

He has every right to be proud of that proposal. But hold on: There is a provincial election June 7 in which Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have a 70/30 chance of being soundly defeated by the Doug Ford Progressive Conservatives.

That is if Mr. Ford controls his personal feelings, unbridled arrogance and delivers a believable policy statement and attracts some good candidates to the caucus, he will make Ontario great again.

I can’t believe I said that.

Mr. Guthrie, on the other hand, will run on his record. And it’s a beauty.

Property taxes under his watch have soared by an estimated 15 per cent compounded in four years. On his 2014 election campaign, he promised to hold property taxes to the Consumer price Index (CPI) level. That index has been hovering since the Mayor’s pledge by slightly less than two per cent.

That’s not a good record for a self-described numbers guy who was elected to head the City of Guelph Corporation.

In fairness, the Mayor ran into a couple of major roadblocks. Number one is the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. disastrous attempt to create power self-sufficiency in Guelph. With the former mayor in charge and the involvement of Guelph Hydro, almost five years when millions were spent and are not recoverable.

It occurred without public participation as GMHI meetings were conducted in closed-sessions. Today, we are still waiting for the truth.

The whole plan was ill conceived without the benefit of a practical business plan. While he essentially inherited the mess, he had to involve a certain select group of councillors to help get the city out of the GMHI problems. Unfortunately, the real truth of what happened and how much did it cost the city have been buried.

Like it or not, that issue alone is something he will have to defend on the campaign trail.

The second major consequence he will face is defending the agreement to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities.

While these issues are on the table it may be all moot if the P.C.’s win in June. The opposition parties, the Tories and the NDP, have opposed the Wynne government’s plan to collectivize the small and medium sized Local Community Distribution power systems by merging those operations into larger Utilities such as Alectra.

Here’s a back-story on how Alectra operates. Alectra bought Brampton’s LCD known as Hydro One for millions. So why does Guelph take the sell option off the table? The merger is a sham and our hydro distribution system will be lost forever including the brand name Guelph Hydro by the end of this year.

Here’s another Alectra back-story. In Collinwood, Alectra and the city shared ownership of the community power distribution system. Alectra purchased the 50 per cent share from the city for $3 million. Later Alectra informed the city it wanted to buy the city’s share for $8 million.

The city suddenly realized, in the first share purchase, the price was way below market value. In order to own the whole system, Alectra was low-balling its second offer in which the city share had appreciated significantly.

The result was there will a judicial review over these two transactions sometime next year.

Did the Mayor and council know about these Alectra deals in which real money was exchanged for control of established and mostly debt-free community property?

So keep in mind this is National Humour month, keep the tongue in the cheek and laugh out loud when the candidates take themselves too seriously.

 

 

 

 

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Guelphspeaks notifies viewers of the site beng hacked by persons unknown

By Gerry Barker

Editor of guelphspeaks.ca

I learned this morning that the blog had been hacked and used to discredit me personally. This invoked a response from the City Solicitor, Christopher Cooper, requesting  removal of my most recent post and a comment. I complied and took the post down mystified why it took nine days for the city to react in the manner it did.

I want to assure our viewers that in no way was guelphspeaks involved in the comment by ‘City Employee’ alleged to have been made on guelphspeaks.ca. There is no record on the site of the comments by ‘City Employee’ as alleged by the city.

Welcome to the wild west of the Internet.

Guelphspeaks will continue to report and comment on the administration of the City of Guelph. The blog is open to anyone to comment who identifies themselves and is not a troll, spam or a ‘bot. The blog is redoubling it efforts to maintain security of content and comments.

If there is sufficient evidence to ask for a police investigation, it will be done. Discovering the identity of the perpetrator(s) is daunting but not impossible.

Again we apologize to our readers and will work to protect our content and followers.

Public participation is a right and the keystone of our democracy.

Gerry Barker

 

 

 

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