By Gerry Barker
January 7, 2019
Well, that’s been a weird winter so far. One day the kids are sliding down the first fairway of the Guelph Country Club and a day later there is no snow.
Even stranger is the appointment of Hydro Chair Jane Armstrong as Guelph’s representative on the Board of Directors of Alectra Utilities.
If you missed the news Guelph Hydro is now dead and no longer our property. As of the beginning of the year, Alectra Utilities took over the city’s electricity distribution system.
So, who benefits from this disposal of a $228 million successful city-owned distribution system serving some 55,000 customers?
Well we now know of one person, Jane Armstrong, a 12-year Guelph Hydro Board member and more recently the chairperson. No doubt she is a seasoned, well-qualified individual to represent our interest of things, such as electricity and who is running the system?
Patience friends, remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will this takeover of our power distribution system and delivers promised services in a day.
This appointment is shrouded in secrecy. Who made the appointment of Ms. Armstrong? Was it council in secret session? Was it the board of directors of Guelph Hydro? In the release of the news in Guelph Today, there was no mention of just how she got the job.
It’s a juicy assignment reported to have a base salary of $25,000 plus travel expenses and payment for attending the Alectra board meetings.
Oh yes, it includes a four-year engagement.
But here is what bothers me. Ms. Armstrong was the co-chair of the Strategic Options Committee, (SOC) appointed by council, to investigate the sale. Merger or partnership of Guelph Hydro with another municipally-owned power distribution system.
In February 2017, Ms. Armstrong replaced Hydro CEO Panaj Sardana as co-chair of SOC along with Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson.
A closed-session of SOC detailing with SOC’s board personnel changes, also decided to take the option of selling Guelph Hydro off the table. This set the stage for a merger.
This information made public by Richard Puccini who was a member of the SOC board until replaced.
The rest of the story is that Alectra Utilities, in partnership with the Guthrie administration, convinced10 members of council to support the Alectra merger December 13, 2017. Three councillors voted against the merger, Phil Allt, James Gordon and Bob Bell.
Getting back to the Armstrong appointment. As the co-chair of the SOC that recommended the merger with Alectra Utilities, the perception exists that she was in a conflict of interest.
It should be noted that no elected official or city staff were eligible to take the job under the terms of the merger agreement.
Was there any attempt to advertise the position? Were other persons interviewed for the position?
Although public money is not involved in this appointment, she is representing the interests of the citizens.
Now about that $18.5 million “special dividend” the city will receive, it’s a sick joke. It is a return of cash from Guelph Hydro that is the property of the citizens.
There is nothing like closing a deal by paying us with our own money.
Here’s another observation. The low turnout last October in the civic election may be traced back to not only indifference but also failures of people to understand the Merger deal.
I believe that was by design by the Guthrie administration that was determined to merge Guelph Hydro. The only issue left out was what did the city receive for eclipsing Guelph Hydro?
Only in Guelph, you say?