Tag Archives: Mayor Cam Guthrie

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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Part Two: How Mayor Guthrie’s Great Wall of secrecy is locking us out

By Gerry Barker

March 24, 2018

In the past three years of his mayoralty, Cam Guthrie has consistently demonstrated adherence to the councillor’s Code of Conduct. In fact, there have been more closed-session meetings of council and it’s appointed Strategies and Option Committee (SOC) when Noah organized the Ark.

“ Hold it God, I need a little more time here. Still can’t find a pair of baboons.”

This is an affront to every citizen of Guelph. It’s a manipulated system to dumb down the electorate and cover-up mistakes from public exposure. The reason? What they don’t know won’t hurt them.

There is no shortage of information underlying doubt about this Guelph Hydro/Alectra merger,

City council, again in closed-session, approved spending $2.36 million to sell this deal to its own citizens. How many bus shelters would that pay for?

The plan was to create the illusion that most people in the area were in favour of the merger, employing leading questions to force a phony outcome in which the process involved some sparsely attended town hall meetings. A telephone survey used a carefully worded script to create approval of the recipient.

Example: Do you believe the merger will bring more jobs to Guelph?

Again in a closed-session meeting of the SOC, the sale of Guelph Hydro was removed from its options, Taken off the table in early 2017. Why was this decision made without public input? Because they knew it would not be accepted. The questions remains, why?

And it all happened right under our noses.

They produced a phony 245-page “Final Agreement” document just 12 days before the meeting that was only available online. I charge that fewer than 250 hard copies were distributed to selected members of the public.

In the Public Relations business, this is known as salting the minds of participants to obtain a specific result.

It worked and the people are the losers.

Here are a couple of communities where there was merging and privatizing proposals of city-own Hydro distribution systems with larger corporations, (Alectra and Hydro One) were either halted or turned down by people power.

Here is a report by the citizens activist group “We Own It:”

“The famed Conservative politician Sir Adam Beck would be ecstatic: public power has won two significant victories in recent weeks.

In Collingwood, a judicial review has been ordered to look into the murky details behind a scheme to privatize the town’s hydro system. And in Peterborough, citizens rallied behind their city-owned hydro system, forcing Hydro One to abandon its attempt to buy it for less than it is worth.”

Here’s more from the ::We Own It” website and I thank Keith McEwen for forwarding this info:

“The judicial review in Collingwood was sparked by a growing number of questions about the sell-off of the town’s hydro system to a private company called PowerStream (a subsidiary of Alectra). The town got $8 million when it sold 50 per cent of its hydro distribution system in 2012. But then it got $13 million when it sold the remaining 50 per cent last year. According to Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson, that big price difference “makes you wonder.”

The review won’t likely take place until 2019, but Saunderson and his constituents hope the review will bring accountability and transparency to the controversial sell-off.

In Peterborough, meanwhile, fans of public services cheered when it was revealed that Hydro One abandoned its attempt to buy Peterborough Distribution Inc. (PDI) for cheap.

“Had the people of Peterborough not been so passionate in their resolve, I suspect the final offer would have been much lower and the conditions far more favourable for Hydro One,” said Save PDI volunteer and “We Own It” mobilizer Joel Usher in the Peterborough Examiner.”

When people speak up together, they can stop expensive and secretive privatizations! Invite your friends, family, and co-workers to join us!

Please Note: Guelphspeaks will be writing more about this so the people can stop this forced disposal of our Guelph Hydro for pennies on the dollar. Stay tuned.

We Own It!

In case you’ve been living in Bora Bora for the past year, council has approved giving away our Guelph Hydro with a value of $300 mllion. The price in exchange? It’s a tiny 4.36 per cent of Alectra Utilities’ profits but only 60 per cent of those unknown profits.

Is this not a great deal or what?

This contrived communications’ plan did not explain the deal through Guelph Hydro’s network of 55,000 customers except until the last days prior to the public council meeting. It was a tiny resume of the deal’s alleged advantages inserted in the Hydro/Water bills.

To top this cake with a cherry, the administration announced that it would receive a “special dividend” from Guelph Hydro of $18.5 million as part of the deal. That’s strange. In its 2016 financial statement, Guelph Hydro reported a cash surplus of $22 million. What happened to the rewmaining $3.5 million?

For the record, Guelph Hydro is wholly owned by the City of Guelph. That being the case, we are being paid a dividend with our own money.

Is this a great deal or what?

So as city Communications General Manager, Tara Sprigs, described the process of informing all those Hydro customers who were being convinced with nothing to lose in return for a boatload of empty promises.

I would like to think that at least four councillors who voted for the merger would recant their vote for the sake of integrity and fiduciary responsibility. They voted for a deal in which the terms were still being negotiated.

This week I requested a status report of the merger negotiations from City Solicitor Christopher Cooper. I am still waiting for an answer.

How council manipulates the Municipal Act closed-session guidelines

It’s simple really; they made up their own closed-session guidelines.

Now topping Guthrie’s Great Wall of secrecy are the Municipal Act policies regarding closed-session meetings of council. The following are the legal reasons under the Municipal Act to hold a closed-session council or local boards meetings:

Section 270 of the Municipal Act provides that municipalities must develop and maintain various policies regarding the accountability and transparency of municipal government and its operations.

The key words are Accountability and Transparency

The following has been adopted by Council and has allowed it to go into closed-session:

  • Sale and Disposition of Land
  •  Number 1: Only covers the sale and disposition of land not the acquisition of the provincially-owned reformatory lands owned by the provice and designated the Guelph Innovation lands.
  • Hiring of Employees
  • Number 2 – Yes, hiring employees should be confidential but does not include             approving salary increases to staff and then not revealing it to the public.
  • Procurement of Goods and Services
  • Number 3 – This covers a lot of areas and there is evidence it has been used to             blackball certain contractors from bidding on city jobs.
  • Public Notice
  • Number 4 – This is an oxymoron; hold a meeting in closed-session to discuss a public notice? It’s a convenient method of calling a closed-session meeting to discuss almost anything in private.
  • Accountability and Transparency
  • Number 5 – Again, why is it necessary to call a closed-session meeting to discuss accountability and transparency? The previous administration has already paid an estimated $500,000 to a Toronto consultant to come up with an A&T plan. The result was a 47-page document. There was little or any public participation in the process.
  • Delegation of Authority
  • Number 6 – This dovetails with the administrations’ allowance such as giving $98,202 raises to four senior managers in 2015?
  • Delegation of Authority Bylaw (Office Consolidation)
  • Number 7 – This allows council, in closed-session, to discuss just about                                     anything because the terms are so broad that anything could be discussed                                     behind closed doors.

Oh! What a collection of excuses to escape the surly bounds of responsibility.

The Council adopted this collection of reasons to legally hold a closed-session meeting.

Seems it’s self-serving giving council and the boards absolute power and control of the public’s business. It’s like turning off a tap, shutting off any information they choose for whatever reason. These reasons would include political liability and criticism, personal benefit, alleged criminal or corruptive activity, to protect adherence to a political philosophy.

Is this not the action of an authorative government? To do as you are told or face the consequences if you don’t?

Why would any responsible persons who wanted to make a contribution to his or her city, ever consider running for city council under this system of controlling the message and the method?

The two Councillors who served for four years on the GMHI board of directors, the operators of Guelph Hydro, were paid over and above their regular salaries. Councillors June Hofland and Karl Wettstein still voted in favour of the merger. They not only benefited serving on the GMHI board but, in my opinion, were in a conflict of interest.

The Great Wall is intact and a barrier to the public interests

These “blocks” of the public’s business have been refined over the past 11 years to giving the administration unf=fettered control of the message. It denies the public’s access to its right to know and understand the corporation’s operations on their behalf.

In future posts, GS will provide specific reforms covering a widespread grouping of issues that the electorate should consider before entering the voting booth.

The most vital reform is to make the council and administration operate open and accountable.

This year, October 22 to be precise, citizens have the opportunity to return power to the people by electing councillors who understand their responsibility to the people who elected them. That means persuading civic-minded, experienced individuals possessing universal, mature backgrounds to turn this city into the jewel of Southern Ontario.

It means a sharp turn to the centre of the political spectrum, away from the left wing domination of our political management where there have been too many mistakes in judgment, losses of public money due to misguided projects that have set the city back in the past 11 years.

The time has come to elect councillors ready to reform and employ critical thinking managing the people’s business.

Coming up on Guelph Speaks

There are a number of issues that are to be digested and reported in the next few weeks..Here are some of them:

* The 2017 provincial Sunshine list of those City of Guelph employees earning more tha $100K per year.

*   A review of the number of employees and increases awarded.

* A review and comment of the capital budgets for the next eight years.

*   The waste management review and the contracts that were entered into to spend money that created substantial losses over the past 7 years.

* The gushy announcement by the Mayor of the city receiving $100 million for Transit.

*   The internal battle over reviving the city’s debacle managing recuclables.

*   The growing exhoritant cost of overhead required to fulfill the promises of the former administration.

*   A review of the Mayor’s performace once iminations are received in May.

Guelpspeaks.ca – the voice of the people for the people

 

 

 

 

 

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Mayor Guthrie will campaign for re-election on giving away our $300 million Guelph Hydro for peanuts

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.

 

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Time to stop spending on the Innovation Guelph’s lust for the Reformatory Lands

By Gerry Barker

February 26, 20118

Oh, while we absorb the Mayor’s statement that our property taxes are the lowest since he became mayor, lets review the outstanding major capital projects the city council must consider.

First, after 19 years the central library project currently estimated to cost $53 million is still a figment of council’s imagination.

Next comes the South End Recreation Centre, estimated cost $63 million in which some $3.5 million has already been spent to prepare the architectural design and site preparation.

Then along came the Guelph Innovation district.

This was a dream of the former Farbridge administration that the current Guthrie administration keeps on the front burner.

This, despite the fortune of public money that has been spent already on planning, consultants, land use, function and probability.

If you wonder why the city’s operating overhead is 50 per cent higher than either Cambridge or Kitchener, this is a perfect example of irrational spending.

Tonight, council will again review the project. Once that is over it has has no title or control of the lands, no planning control or any decision regarding land usage.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Why is the city staff spending time to plan a satellite community on lands in which it has no title, no authority but a degree of chutzpah that stretches the imagination?

Why?

Because it doesn’t own the land but in the past seven years has spent public fund designing and laying out a town plan that includes zoning and types of buildings.. The Province of Ontario does own the property that includes the former reformatory complex that was closed years ago and now wants to liquidate it to recover its investment.

For some reason, that defies explanation, the city mandarins believe they will get the extensive property for nothing.

The best estimate is that the property contains more than 250 acres and is probably worth, to the province, some S25 million.

So let’s get down and dirty about this.

June 7, the provincial election will be held. Recent polls show the Liberals under Kathleen Wynne are 19 points behind the Progressive Conservatives. The NDP and Liberals are tied at 23 per cent.

The most interesting statistic is that more than 50 per cent of eligible Ontario voters would not support Ms. Wynne.

The Tories are in disarray over the former leader Patrick Brown’s alleged sexual misconduct. They are also split due to the foolish “Take back our Party” campaign that has divided core conservatives.

The Tories Hari Kari act may provide them with a margin of victory. We’ll know later in March who is elected PC leader, and the policies of the party.

Is it possible that NDP leader Andrea Howarth could pull off a “Bob Rae” and win the most support leading to a minority government?

The Ontario electorate faces a disturbing choice June 7.

Right now we don’t know whom the PC leader will be following the snap leadership convention to replace Mr. Brown who is running for his old job. In fact, at this point, I don’t know whether we have PC, NDP and Liberal candidates in Guelph. Been away for a while.

The one factor that most Ontarians know is that Kathleen Wynne is viral in terms of performance governing the province.

In this scenario, do you really believe that the Ontario government is about to give a $25 million property to the City of Guelph for nothing?

Our Mayor seems to believe this according to recent statements. He believes that giving away the infrastructure of Guelph Hydro to a corporation that offered a small minority of its shares (60 per cent), might be a case of dreaming or hallucinating.

Until the June election is decided, the government may not be ready to give away the reformatory lands, AKA the Innovation Guelph District.

Has the city made any proposals to take over the lands? Perhaps an offer? Or a share of the development profits? Or set up a 3P arrangement? That’s a Public Private Participation Project.

Don’t hold your breath on that one.

The city for eight years has tried to set up a 3P deal for the Baker Street parking lot. It’s still a parking lot.

So then council approves spending $20 million on the Wilson Street five-story Parkade. It’s not hard to figure out where that $18.5 million special dividend from Guelph Hydro is going.

When Derrick Thomson said a year ago there was a $170 million shortfall in the newly minted ten-year capital spending program, you have to ask: Where is the money for all these projects?

For the last ten years there has been a parade of financial mangers whom have been unable to stop the spending on unproductive and special interest projects that constantly drain the city’s ability to conduct its business in an orderly and common sense manner.

Mr. Guthrie is no different than the former mayor in this sense.

Two issues stick out:

His support in a closed-session meeting to approve high percentage increases to three senior managers. The other is his support of the giveaway of Guelph Hydro to Alectra. It remains the worst deal ever made by a council in the history of this city.

And that friends, is what he is going to run on.

 

 

 

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Guthrie’s running again when the ink isn’t dry on his beloved Guelph Hydro sell-out

By Gerry Barker

January 15, 2018

Three years ago my wife and I voted for Cam Guthrie. We were not alone as he trounced the mayor without breaking a sweat. He did it by promising property tax increases linked to the Consumer’s Price Index (CPI).

He was engaging and rarely spoke of his predecessor’s record and the Urbacon debacle. His handler’s presented him as a man with a mission to reform the city by creating a “Better Guelph”, what ever that meant.

So, here we are three years later and the promises made by our Mayor were rarely kept. As a matter of fact, the opposite occurred. He ran the table handling the senior staff power grabs and failures. Of the four top managers who received those huge salary increases in December 2015, only one remains. Those increases were concocted in a closed-session meeting convened by our Mayor.

There was no indication, by the administration, of what happened that December night. Four months later, it was exposed when the provincial Sunshine List published the details of the increases.

Here’s the back-story

The first senior staffer to leave, even before the December 10 secret meeting, was former CFO Al Horsman who left in August to take a new job in Sault Ste. Marie. His final pay for seven months work was an estimated $183,000, adjusted of course, for the new level of senior management increase awarded four months later.

The second manager to defect was Derrick Thomson, Deputy Chief Administrative officer, (DCAO) of Operations for some two months. He resigned shortly after receiving a 19 per cent salary increase to take a job in the Town of Caledon, where he lives.

The third departing senior staffer was the Chief Administrative Officer, (CAO) Ann Pappert, who resigned just after the Sunshine List was published March 31, 2016. She left May 26 and received her salary of $263,000 for the full year, despite only working for five months.

The fourth beneficiary of that Dec. 10 closed-session council meeting, was DCAO Mark Amorosi who left the city February 10, 2017.

Little of this information was released by the Guthrie administration. The stonewalling has reached epic proportions as the administration, to this day, has never publicly acknowledged the meeting ever happened.

It begs the question, why did these three senior staffers resign? In the case of two of them, Pappert and Thomson, who quit after receiving huge increases commencing in 2015?

In Mr. Horsman’s case, it is safe to assume he saw the writing on the wall dealing with the new city council and chose to leave, even, perhaps, not knowing about the senior staff increases that were being planned.

The shifting sands of power

Ms. Pappert’s departure left a huge gap at the top of the staff where the CAO was in charge of more than 2.100 employees.

In June 2016, the city announced that Derrick Thomson was re-hired as CAO. Talk about the Phoenix rising from the ashes! Mr. Thomson promised to reveal his salary and eventually we were informed it was $230,000 a year for three years. It turned out that he was also paid a $9,000 taxable benefit as a personal car allowance.

Mr. Thomson has overseen two city budgets, 2017 and 2018. The property taxes in those two budgets, including the special infrastructure levy, exceeds 6 per cent.

The council appointed Mr. Thomson as co-chair of the Strategies and Options Committee (SOC), charged with disposing Guelph Hydro. No elected councillor was appointed to this committee in the 18 months of its operations..

The effect of this is that the merger proposed by the SOC between Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities was not only conducted solely in closed-session, but the people’s representatives, city councillors, were not participants.

As a result, the ultimate checks and balances of decisions made by an outside committee were not involved during the 18-month negotiation period by the SOC.

Horse pucky is more effective than the facts

Instead, councillors were fed a line of unadulterated horse pucky from its own staff that led to a 10-3 council approval of the proposal. In my opinion, Council abandoned its responsibilities believing their own senior city  and Hydro staff and the mayor who led the cheerleading of the proposal starting October 5.

The public promised a dose of more good-paying jobs, a green power technology centre in the Guelph Hydro Headquarters. Guelph would become the hub for Alectra’s expansion plans for Southwestern Ontario expansion, and the Guelph Hydro staff would be retained with reductions coming from attrition and relocation.

This is what Mayor Guthrie was selling along with CAO Thomson and Hydro Chair Jane Armstrong.

To add insult to injury, the public was informed that council spent $2.36 million of public money on the SOC plan to dump Guelph Hydro. Then came the announcement that Guelph Hydro, following closure of the deal would send a “special dividend” of $18.5 million to the city.

Didn’t we just lose $63 million for the Green Powered GMHI experiment?

Gee! That friends, is $20.86 million of our money spent to give away our hydro distribution system worth $300 million.

Why is it so difficult to understand? Ten councillors including the mayor voted for the unfinished merger negotiations, but voted for it anyway. Why?

To this day, I challenge any member of council to explain the final two agreements, terms and conditions of the merger. Because the night they approved it, the negotiations had not been completed. Did they not know that? Or, maybe they did.

Would someone explain to me how a council can approve a merger of a $300 million publicly-owned utility serving 55,000 customers, without knowing or understanding the final terms and conditions of this proposal?

There are words that describe what has happened. I’ll leave it to your imagination.

Our only hope is that we are told, in plain language, the details of this merger when negotiations are completed and council holds another vote to approve or walk away.

If they don’t follow this necessary step then two things will happen.

Those councillors who still support the merger will have to answer for their decision next October’s civic election. That is, those who choose re-election.

The second issue is that the Ontario Energy Board must approve the merger based on the details and evidence provided, so that the majority of Guelph citizens are either in favour, or not.

It’s an old axiom, for every action there is a reaction.

It’s our property, let’s protect it

 

 

 

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Guelph Speaks takes some time off during the holidays

By Gerry Barker

December 22, 2017

In the waning days of 2017 we are all busy preparing and sharing the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season.

Guelph Speaks (GS) is no different and will take time for needed computer maintenance and reflective down time.

It has been quite a year being capped December 10 with the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities. We still maintain that is the greatest giveaway of our most valued public and profitable asset ever experienced in the long 200-year history of our city.

As far as GS is concerned, the New Year will bring some interesting insights and news about the council approved deal that could change this path of consolidated absurdity.

This will be our last post until Tuesday, January 2 when we prepare posts commenting on events during the final year of the council’s mandate. The GS archives contain 922 posts that are available at guelphspeaks.ca since 2011 for information, a history of municipal affairs and perhaps some entertainment.

That totals 1,475, 200 words. It is the equivalent of 20 75,000-word novels.

I am thinking of using the posts to write a book about the management of Guelph including the people responsible from 2006 to present day. The time to organize the material is daunting but not impossible. I intend to turn over my archives to the Guelph public library’s reference department as a source of a very exciting time in our city’s history.

It is a running account of lies, secrecy, cover-ups, accomplishment and the personalities involved.

The New Year will bring a change in our city council. With the merger possibly closing next fall, the impact on the citizens, we predict, will galvanize the voters to express their objection of council’s past actions.

My wife, Barbara and I wish everyone a happy holiday and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

A special thanks to all those GS viewers who follow the blog, the only one in Guelph that challenges the administration and digs under the veneer of city-managed information to reveal the truth and the facts.

As usual, the blog remains open for comment regardless of the content taking a small vacation.

We’re back on the job Tuesday, January 2, 2018.

Best to all,

Gerry and Barbara Barker

 

 

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Grand Theft Hydro: How ten councillors gave away your $300 million Guelph Hydro

By Gerry Barker

December 18, 2917

Here is the anatomy of a $300 million Guelph Hydro giveaway when a lobotomy was needed.

Make no mistake, from the day the Strategies and Options Committee (SOC) was formed by council in 2016, the plan was to merge Guelph Hydro not sell it. When I asked the Mayor why there were no elected councillors on the committee. He replied: “Using a skills-based team is the most appropriate way to conduct this type of asset review.” Appropriate for whom?

Wednesday night was crucial for council to approve the merger. The majority voted to approve the merger knowing there was no looking back, no second chance to reconsider. Guelph now faces losing control, sold out its Hydro employees, all for receiving 4.63 per cent of 60 per cent of Alectra’s profits.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) must approve the final agreement. Closing the merger is expected to follow the OEB approval and the brand, Guelph Hydro, will disappear before the end of 2018.

The citizens have the right to object to the merger before the OEB.

The approved draft agreement, supported by ten councillors out of 13, allowed the city, through its defunct Guelph Municipal Holding Inc. (GMHI), one member on the 14-member Alectra Board of Directors, but not the Mayor or acouncillor.

Not only were there no elected officials on the SOC, but also council agreed to merge with Alectra without knowing the details of the final agreement, according to the Toronto-based Aird and Berlis lawyer, representing the City of Guelph. The lawyer warned council that if they approved the merger there was no reversing the approval.

The majority of council ignored his caution.

Names of the ten councillors who voted to give Guelph Hydro away

June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Christine Billings, Cathy Downer, Karl Wettstein, Leanne Piper, Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond, Mark MacKinnon and Mayor Guthrie.

They ignored the clear evidence that this merger was being rushed. They ignored that there was no rational benefit to the 55,000 Guelph Hydro customers. They ignored the methodology of secretly conducting the investigation over almost a year, beyond any real public participation.

Those ten councillors also ignored several appeals by concerned citizens to defer the decision until the final version of the agreement was revealed and debated. They denied the demand for a referendum to be held as part of the civic election in October next year.

Just for those reasons alone, they will be remembered as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight when logic escaped their judgment.

Here are the three councillors who voted against the merger: James Gordon, Phil Allt and Bob Bell. Apparently, these three representatives of the people had the courage to see through this hazy proposal that was nothing but a sales pitch to get control of Guelph Hydro without paying for it.

That is the essence of this merger that was planned and executed only in the interests of Alectra.

Council was used and subsequently believed that the future of Guelph Hydro was more important than the reality that the utility was a jewel that had great value to make a fair agreement on its terms, not that of Alectra.

The beginning of the march toward Guelph Hydro’s Waterloo

The SOC was formed by city council October 24, 2016 composed of Derrick Thomson, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of the City of Guelph, Pankaj Sardana, Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Hydro, who both acted as co-chairs of the committee. Also Robert Bell, Mark Goldberg and Richard Puccini were appointed to the SOC.

According to the news release, the SOC was charged to investigate and recommend opportunities related to maintaining the status quo as a standalone municipally-owned electricity distribution system (acronym LDC), or making a change, which could include buying, selling or merging.

The SOC provided council with a timetable of four phases of their preliminary investigations that would be completed in “early 2017.”

As it turned out, February 2017 was pivotal when the SOC mandate of selling Guelph Hydro, was removed as an option.

The plot thickens

Here is a coincidental series of events that occurred. Alectra Inc. was incorporated January 31, 2017.

The SOC committee personnel changed with Mr. Puccini stepping down. Hydro Chair Jane Armstrong replaced Co-Chair Pankaj Sardana and a Mr. Ault replaced Mr. Puccini.

A council meeting was held February 15, 2017 in which a motion was passed to drop the sale of Guelph Hydro as an option to consider. The vote was 7 to 5. This cleared the deck to only consider a merger with another utility.

On what advice or basis did council at this point make the decision?

Did the SOC recommend to city council to drop this option? Someone did, and the timing, two weeks after the Alectra incorporation opened the door for Alectra to craft a merger proposal that was not made public until October 18, 2017.

That was eight months after the decision not to sell Guelph Hydro.

Here is part of a report published October 25, 2016 in the Guelph Mercury that outlined the SOC’s committed task:

  • Consulting with stakeholders;
  • Investigating transaction options and approach; and
  • Reporting to Council on recommended options and seeking Council’s direction on next steps.

Let’s talk about the claim of “consulting with the stakeholders.” The SOC, to the best of my memory, held all it’s meetings in closed-session including those with city council. With Mr. Thomson as Co-Chair of the SOC and the CAO, it’s difficult to know what information he passed to his staff and council.

After the Alectra merger announcement by the Mayor October 18, the city staff recommended approving the merger. Why would they do anything different? Their boss was the SOC Co-Chair and CAO of the city?

In that position, Mr. Thomson was effectively in control of the process along with his new Co-Chair, Jane Armstrong. Did either of them convince council to remove the Hydro sale option from consideration? As CAO, Mr. Thomson, wearing two hats, was positioned to be a major influence in recommending the dropping of the sale option.

The mystery exists. Who motivated council to eliminate the sale option February 15, 2017?

Given council’s majority of ten approving the merger, it is apparent many were out of the loop in understanding the effect of that decision although five councillors voted against removing the sale option last February.

We later learned that Mr. Puccini was not happy about the move and indicated that he was in favour of a sale of Guelph Hydro. His address to council the night of the approval meeting to decide the future of Guelph Hydro, was that he offered details of the benefits of selling the utility based on empirical evidenced of similar transactions in the LDC field.

Timing the rollout to curtail opposition

In my opinion, this was a carefully planned decision to merge with Alectra and targeted only at the 13 elected members of council. They had control and any opposition was blunted by deliberate release of some of the proposed merger agreement details just 12 days before the crucial council meeting last Wednesday.

Let’s talk about the possible incentives offered to certain members of council and possibly the SOC.

Why did this campaign to influence 13 members of council to approve an agreement that contained no substance, no tangible benefits to the Guelph Hydro customers and, most of all, the exercise was mostly conducted in secret. The council held a one hour closed-session right before the public meeting. Why was that necessary?

Some 29 delegates spoke at that meeting with 22 opposed and seven recommending the merger.

Of the seven, two were Alectra senior executives; a Brampton Alectra employee extolling how fair Alectra was to its employees; a VP representing Pearson International Airport saying how well Alectra performed its maintenance of the 40 megawatts facility; a steward of the Power Worker’s of Ontario that is attempting to take over as bargaining union of Guelph Hydro, and two representatives from Barrie, the mayor and a councillor saying how well the take over by Alectra has worked well with that city.

Their job was to reinforce the message to take over Guelph Hydro and, unfortunately it worked.

Councillors were briefed November 30, the day before the public release of the 245-page agreement report. The next day it was released and was only available Online.

It was a part of a strategy to deny the 55,000 customers of Guelph Hydro their right to see the completed signed document before the December 13 approval meeting. Councillors were also briefed the two days before D-Day in closed-sessions with Hydro CEO Pankaj Sardana.

It is mindful of a George Orwell novel in which the people were tightly controlled by the authoritarian authority and only received information that favoured the controlling class.

In my opinion, this turkey was hatched long before the Hydro customers had any say.

That friends, is dictatorship not a democracy. And there is no comfort to be gained when we are told that Guelph citizens paid $2.36 million to sell this deal with the bulk of it going the lawyer and accounting firms. Those public funds financed the Alectra deal.

So why? Why would ten members of council vote for this merger that has not only cost us $2.36 million but agreeing to give a $300 million asset in return for 4.63 per cent of only 60 per cent of Alectra’s profits with no firm numbers attached?

Why not top it off with a gift of $18.5 million from Guelph Hydro?

The final insult to the citizens who own Guelph Hydro was the $18.5 million “special dividend” that Guelph Hydro will pay the city when the deal closes in a year. That’s our money taken from a $22 million surplus of Guelph Hydro.

The council members who voted to give Guelph Hydro away, Mayor Guthrie denies it, saying: “We are not giving anything away.” Perhaps the Mayor did not understand the drastic step of giving away its publicly owned utility to a private corporation for a tiny interest in that corporation in the name of progress.

We should be interested learning about the two Tesla electricity storage sytems installed in Guelph as the Mauor has stated. Who owns these two sytems and where are they located?

Even though they cannot change their decision, next October those ten councillors will be asked to explain their decision during the civic election campaign.

That is if they choose re-election.

They are the gatekeepers of the city business, providing the checks and balances to maintain the trust that the citizens have placed in them. Instead they fell for a sales pitch to dump our treasured asset for a bunch of promises that have yet to be proven.

The damage is done now.

They don’t realize that from now on, the citizens will never trust them. They were professionally sucker-punched by experts and failed in their job to protect the stakeholder’s interests.

Were they naive?

Did powerful interests seduce them into believing the proposal was the best solution for the future of Guelph Hydro?

Or are they just bad listeners?

It doesn’t matter now; they fixed it so there’s no looking back.

Our only hope is to mobilize and make a case to lobby the OEB to reject this merger.

In my opinion, those ten councillors will eventually have to apologize for the their actions.

History can be so unforgiving.

 

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