By Gerry Barker
September 6, 2016
Editor’s note: Today, guelphspeaks.ca is posting its first Two-For, two, back to back, separate postings of public interest are contained in a single edition of guelphspeaks.ca. Post A is the first and Post B is the second. Each is different in terms of subject matter. Meanwhile, tell your friends and colleagues to drop into guelphspeaks.ca and discover the truth about those issues that affect all of us.
In September 2012, a Guelph civic action group, Grassroots Guelph (GRG), made an official complaint to Linda Jeffrey, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), requesting a provincial audit of the City of Guelph’s finances.
The request was backed up by financial data obtained from the city’s Financial Information Reports over the previous four years. These are the audited statements that the city must file annually with the provincial government.
Financial and legal professionals prepared the supporting GRG documents.
A week prior to the presentation to Minister Jeffrey, I and another member of GRG met with Liz Sandals MPP Guelph, to present a copy of the complaint as a courtesy to be embargoed until the Minister received the complaint. She agreed.
We requested the use of the Legislature press gallery to reveal the complaint data. We were informed five days prior to the Minister receiving the documents, that we had to have permission from the Speaker to use the Legislature media room. Three calls were made to Liz Sandals office prior to release date asking her to request using the media room on the day of the announcement.
GRG received no assistance from Sandals after three requests to fulfill this need. Instead, as our delegation was standing in the press gallery office, three security agents ordered us off the premises and said we had to hold our press conference on the front lawn of the Legislature. Good thing it was a warm fall day.
Then we learned that an hour after that, Mayor Farbridge was reporting we were ordered out of the Legislature. It was apparent we had a member of our delegation who informed the Mayor of what happened. We know who the betrayer was.
The CAO claims the GRG complaint was “a waste of time”
Ann Pappert, the Mayor’s Chief Administrative Officer, said the GRG report was “a waste of time.” It was obvious that our embargoed report was sent to Mayor Farbridge before the GRG delegation went to Queen’s Park.
Four months later, Minister Jeffrey sent a delegation of three Ministerial employees from London to my home to discuss the complaint. Included in the delegation was a financial analyst. He was asked if our numbers in the complaint were inaccurate or incorrect and he replied they were correct.
In a couple of months, Minister Jeffrey sent a letter thanking GRG for its efforts and said the “two parties should sort it out.”
Within a month, Jeffrey resigned as Minister of MMAH and member of the Provincial Parliament representing Brampton. This occurred about a year before Ms. Wynne won the 2014 provincial election.
Now comes the delicious irony. In effect, what is bad for the goose is great for the gander.
First, some background of the linkage between Guelph and Brampton and how Linda Jeffrey is now involved as Brampton’s mayor.
Ms. Jeffrey defeated Susan Fennell, the former Mayor of Brampton in the October 2014 civic election. In Guelph, after eight years, Karen Mayor Farbridge lost to Cam Guthrie.
Both the new mayors inherited financial and legal messes.
In Mayor Jeffrey’s case, there was evidence that former mayor Fennell had consulted with two major Ontario developers to build a $500 million downtown centre including a refurbished city hall. Brampton has a specific bylaw that prohibits elected officials to discuss developments prior to the final outcome of the application. It is an important check and balance of the public’s money to avoid unwarranted favouritism.
Oh! Do we ever need one of those in Guelph?
According to a report in the Toronto Star: “The allegations of bias on the part of senior staff and the former mayor have left city hall, in the words of current Mayor Jeffrey, “paralyzed.”
Is this starting to have a familiar ring about it? The Brampton Mayor’s word aptly applies to the problems Guelph is facing with its council dominated by supporters of the defeated former mayor, “paralyzed.”
But here comes the kicker. Last year, Mayor Jeffrey called for a provincial inquiry into the project to find out if procurement rules, designed to protect taxpayers, were violated in one of the largest deals in Brampton’s history. It’s not clear whether Jeffrey’s Liberal colleague, the Minister of MMA, concurred with her request or is letting the courts decide the outcome of the resulting lawsuits.
Instead, in Guelph, council is imprisoned with procedural bylaws that protect the staff and elected officials from public scrutiny through the use of closed-session meetings of the public’s business.
One of these bylaws gives the power of hiring all staff to the Chief Administrative Officer without council’s approval. Councillors are forbidden to discuss the details of a closed-session or they face an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner.
That’s how, on December 9, 2015, in closed session, council approved the salary increases of four top city managers ranging between 14 and 19 per cent. The people did not discover this until the provincial Sunshine List came out in March 2016. It revealed that the CAO was given a $37,500 increase for all of 2015. Large increases were awarded for the three DCAOs including Derrick Thomson, Al Horsman and Mark Amorosi, boosting all their salaries to a level of $207,000.
Guelph doesn’t follow the Brampton experience but hides public business behind closed doors so the people don’t know what’s going on.
Do we really want this movie to continue?
* * * *
B –Why our electricity costs are soaring due to failed Liberal energy policies
By Gerry Barker
September 6, 2016
So you wonder why your Hydro bills are soaring. What follows is based on a commentary in the National Post written by Jon Kieran, a Toronto-based renewable energy consultant.
Ten years ago, Ontario’s demand for power peaked at 27,000 megawatts (MW) during the summer months. This past summer, one that had continuing days of temperatures exceeding 30C degree, the peak demand exceeded 23,000 MW for just one day.
Today, Ontario has an installed capacity of 40,000 MW despite a steady reduction in demand of power consumption in the past 10 years that has dropped by 13 per cent. With an annual reduction in power consumption this year, the province will consume less power than it did in 1997.
This reflects the losses endured in the manufacturing base in Ontario since the Liberals introduced their new green energy policy to close down the coal-fired electricity generating plants. It was replaced by the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) plan.
The Liberal government used the LRP to procure large wind and solar installations. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, in ten years mismanagement of the program including intrusive policy and implementation are mostly responsible for the energy market debacle Hydro consumers face today.
Ontario has a huge glut of power generation regardless; the Liberal government is adding another 1,300 MW in large wind and solar generation under the LRP plan.
The Independent Electrical System Operators (IESO) reinforces the unnecessary need for this addition to the provincial energy plan stating: “Ontario will have sufficient supply for the next several years.”
While, the government offers sweet contracts to renewable energy developers during a period of demand stagnation, it has contributed to pushing consumer Hydro bills higher. In the past four years Guelph Hydro charges to consumers have risen by 42.5 per cent.
Ontario’s electricity rates have increased faster than any other jurisdiction in North America.
We are generating too much electricity
Part of the problem is that electricity, once generated, it cannot be stored. Ontario’s surplus power is given to U.S. border states and Hydro pays to take the excess power. It’s called “negative pricing”. Combine this with “curtailment,” paying the wind developers for energy production even though the grid cannot use the power, and it exacerbates the waste of public money.
Worse, these two problems have cost Ontario’s electricity consumers billion-dollar burdens.
Add to this the cost of continuing to build out wind and solar generating systems, and you can now understand why your hydro bills are climbing every year.
This is a critical situation for the province that already is preparing to introduce a carbon tax to be added to your hydro bill, starting in January.
Using the LRP to continue building out more renewable generating capacity must be stopped. The Wynne government’s handling of the energy file has been a disaster, starting with the destruction of the two gas-fired generating plants in Mississauga and Oakville. The price tag on that one was $1 billion, according to the Auditor General.
The former mayor to partner with her plan called the Municipal Energy Initiative (MEI) used the city-owned Guelph Hydro. Part of the plan was to create, through Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI), a $37.1 million District Energy system that combined electricity and co-generation to supply hot and cold water to nearby buildings.
The cost of this failed, massive project was not made public until May 16 this year, following four years of operation and development, and conducted in closed session meetings of GMHI and city council.
The complicity of Guelph Hydro in this convoluted secret project is apparent and contributed to the soaring costs of electricity to its more than 55,000 customers.
Because the city owns Guelph Hydro, it had no choice in the former mayor’s decision to amalgamate it with GMHI, of which she was chairperson until just before her defeat in 2014.
What this council must do is dissolve GMHI, suspend the MEI and District Energy system and have an independent committee composed of citizens, examine the operations and make recommendations.
With the failure of city councillors who were appointed to the GMHI board to inform the people as GMHI planned and executed MEI, councillors, with the exception of Mayor Guthrie, should not participate in the committee deliberations. The committee would be given power to subpoena witnesses and consultants.
We are now 20 months away from a provincial election and 26 months from a civic election. It’s time to organize and stop the waste and spending.