Premier Wynne’s sale of 60% of the troubled provincial utility puts it behind a veil of secrecy

Hydro One goes dark 574

Premier Wynne’s sale of 60% of the troubled provincial utility puts it behind a veil of secrecy

lorrie-goldstein

By , Toronto Sun

Premier Kathleen Wynne Premier Kathleen Wynne holds a media conference prior to the return of the Ontario legislature on Feb. 17, 2015. (Antonella Artuso/Toronto Sun))

With the passage of the bizarrely named Building Ontario Up Act the day before the legislature adjourned for the summer on June 4, Premier Kathleen Wynne fixed her Hydro One problem.

Unfortunately, the public’s Hydro One problem just got a whole lot worse.

The omnibus legislation, also known as Bill 91, allows Wynne to sell 60% of Hydro One, a monopoly which controls 97% of the province’s electricity transmission system, to the private sector.

It also frees the troubled utility from scrutiny by the eight independent officers of the legislature, who represent the interests of taxpayers and hydro customers.

has six months to wind up his investigation of the last 578 complaints of the almost 11,000 he received about outrageous and incompetent billing practices by Hydro One.

These included raiding people’s bank accounts for thousands of dollars in bogus charges and refusing to give the money back.

But Marin can’t start any new investigations into the scandal he estimates affected more than 100,000 customers, who were overcharged or misled through missing or multiple bills.

Hydro One customers are now on their own, assisted at best by an internal ombudsman Marin predicts will sweep things under the rug, given Hydro One’s culture of indifference to its customers.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk reported in December that Hydro One and other utilities underestimated the $1.9 billion cost of installing 4.8 million smart meters across Ontario by $900 million, while overestimating savings by $512 million.

Now, she can’t do a follow up investigation to see if Hydro One’s performance has improved.

Lysyk can no longer investigate whether Hydro One is reining in the excessive salaries, benefits and pensions of its employees, similar to workers at Ontario Power Generation (OPG).

Hydro One and OPG have about 15,600 full-time employees.

In 2014, 12,500 of them made over $100,000 annually, up 1,000 from 2013, the year Lysyk concluded their “very generous” pay, perks and pensions were contributing to higher hydro rates.

Under Bill 91, the salaries of Hydro One workers will no longer be disclosed in the annual Sunshine List.

Nor will there be public scrutiny of the generous labour contract Wynne is reportedly giving to members of the Power Workers Union at Hydro One and OPG, to keep them onside about the Hydro One deal.

Last month, the Globe and Mail reported this three-year deal includes a 3% pay raise, a 3% lump sum payment, plus the awarding of Hydro One stock valued at 2.7% to 2.75% of the workers’ pay annually for 12 to 15 years, before a single share in Hydro One stock has been sold.

Wynne claims this deal is “net zero” — presumably meaning revenue neutral — because of changes to the workers’ pension plans.

Because Lysyk can no longer audit Hydro One, we’ll have to take her word for it.

When asked by the Toronto Star about the financially unsustainable pensions for Hydro One and OPG workers in December, 2013, to which taxpayers contribute $5 for every $1 paid by employees — as opposed to the public sector norm of $1 for $1 — Wynne said: “That’s why we need to put some more controls in place, so that government actually has more direct control over the compensation.”

Apparently Wynne’s idea of giving the government more control over Hydro One compensation, is to take away the auditor general’s ability to examine it.

Wynne said she can’t guarantee hydro rates won’t increase because of the Hydro One sale, presumably because for rates to decrease, its private sector investors will have to agree to take less than the more than $700 million annually it makes in profits.

Under previous legislation, all money raised from selling Hydro One had to go to paying down hydro’s $27 billion debt.

Through Bill 91, Wynne is diverting $4 billion of the utility’s anticipated $9 billion selling price to transportation and infrastructure projects.

Again, we’ll have to take her word for it, because the auditor general no longer has access to Hydro One’s books.

Under Bill 91, lobbyists no longer have to register to lobby Hydro One.

The Integrity Commissioner can’t review expense claims of Hydro One employees.

The Financial Accountability Officer can’t examine the impact of Hydro One operations on consumers and the economy.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner no longer oversees the right of access to Hydro One records.

Welcome to Wynne’s idea of open, honest and accountable government.

http://www.torontosun.com/2015/06/13/hydro-one-goes-dark

The Public (the ones aware) Do not buy into the Smart meter Industry Propaganda

MLGW Insists Smart Meters Are Best For Business

Mike Matthews
06/19/2015 06:36 PM

Memphis council members are so confused and so focused on trying to determine a budget without raising your taxes that everything else is on hold.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) — Memphis council members are so confused and so focused on trying to determine a budget without raising your taxes that everything else is on hold.
Including allowing Memphis Light, Gas, and Water to make the biggest change in its operations since the invention of the light bulb.

One of the most controversial issues that city council members are going to have to vote on concerns spending money by putting in smart meters for Memphis, Light, Gas, and Water.

For a couple of years now there have been people fighting hard to keep the company from putting in these smart meters.

Critics have said these meters can be used to spy on people…that meters cause fires…one man claimed that smart meters kill the unborn.

“Sometimes people exaggerate,” MLGW president Jerry Collins said.

Maybe so, but the company takes these smart meters seriously.

Example. A few weeks ago a house caught on fire in Whitehaven.

The family wanted to know whether their smart meter had anything to do with the cause of that fire.

“Smart meters, number one, do not cause fires. And number two, the house didn’t have a smart meter,” Collins said.

Memphis Light, Gas, and Water folks even issued a press release concerning the house fire and how the place did not have a smart meter.

They do not normally do that.

It shows the concerns they have over having their future plans put in jeopardy.

Because to put in the meters they want to install will cost money.

“The contract for implementation of a million meters over a period of five years is 240-million dollars,” Collins said.

There are at least two council members who have been against smart meters since day one.

Others are not sure what to do.

“It’s been a controversial issue, but there’s no reason for it to be a controversial issue. Their fears have been greatly overblown and sometimes people just like to fear things,” Collins said.

Collins says smart meters are the way to go. And the way the company is going to go. People might not like it, he said, but that is the way it is.

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