Gas Busters Part 24: Hinds-Andersen Transcript Press Conference Feb. 21

MEDIA EVENT: OPA CHAIR AND CEO NEWS CONFERENCE ON NEW GAS PLANT DOCUMENTS

February 21, 2013

Time / Location:

1 p.m. / Media Studio, Queen’s Park

Speakers:

Jim Hinds, Ontario Power Authority Chair; Colin Andersen, Ontario Power Authority CEO

Media Attendance:

Print – 8

TV – 6

Radio – 3

 

Media Outlets:

Babbage – CP; Ferguson – Star; Brennan – Star; Radwanski – Globe; Morrow – Globe; Blizzard – Sun; Artuso – Sun; Reeves – QP Briefing; Crawley – CBC Radio/TV; Franzios – CFRB 1010 Radio; Noel – Radio Canada/CJBC; Lamoureux – Radio Canada TV;  Bliss – CTV Ontario; Tumelty – City TV; Mulligan – City TV; Thompson – Sun News; Unidentified – Fairchild TV.

Statement:

My name is Jim Hinds, I am the Chair of the Ontario Power Authority, I am joined by my CEO Colin Andersen. I would like to start off with a statement and then I will open it up for any questions that you have got. Today, we disclosed another 67 documents to the clerk of the house related to the Mississauga/Oakville gas plants. This additional disclosure has arisen due to inadvertence on the part of the OPA. This was the first time the OPA carried out such a large document request. We have and continue to review our processes and are establishing a protocol based on best practices for addressing future large scale document requests. The OPA has made every effort to be as transparent as possible. The OPA has determined that subsequent to the October the 12th, 2012 document disclosure that certain project code words and the surname of the CEO at the plant had not been searched. When these terms were searched many of the documents uncovered had already been disclosed. There were however, 67 new documents and those are being disclosed today. The majority of the additional pages we are providing are meeting notices and invoices. The costs associated with the invoices have already been made public. The OPA continues to review its document disclosure practices. One of the things that we have learned is that large scale documents disclosures are something which many organizations struggle with and have difficulty getting right. We are no exception. These undertakings are iterative and ongoing processes and therefore take a great deal of time and resources. We are in the business of producing electricity and not producing documents. This was the first large scale document search that the OPA had undertaken and it was completed at a time when the organization was focused on its core work, including relocating the gas plants. Throughout the disclosure project, OPA staff worked around the clock to get the work done, we purchased electronic search software and retained lawyers and consultants to assist us. We are now putting procedures in place to ensure that such searches follow best practices in the future. The OPA apologizes to the committee and to the legislature. It was always our intention to provide all responsive records and to respect the ruling of the speaker and the work of the committee. We will address the gas plant issues before the responsive legislative committee.

Media Questions:

Q: Bliss: Have you apologized to the Premier? What was said? I mean it certainly looks bad today on the Liberal party and the new Premier. What conversations have you had, if any?

Hinds: About a quarter to five this morning, I got a phone call from the minister and I offered to come here today to do what was necessary to be accountable for this. So in terms of my conversations today, I have apologized to the minister at about a quarter to five. And the rest of the time has been focused on making sure we get the documents out.

Q: Bliss: So the opposition has accused the government today of a coverup. Would you say that is an accurate assessment of what has happened here?

Hinds: I have not been of what has been going on in the legislature, we have been busy trying to solve the document issue and get the documents out. So I think I said in the statement this is something that went array in our search. And I don’t think cover up is the right way to describe it. We messed up some search terms, and we’re trying to get them cleaned up so, I’m not sure what his has to do with the government. This is all us.

Q. Noel: I have an email here dated October 3rd, 2012 which you received, that says basically an employee from the government was at the OPA offices telling the OPA staff which documents to disclose, which documents not to disclose. So my question to you is how much political interference has there been in the release of the documents, today, and previous batches as well.

Andersen: So today we’re here to talk about the documents that we’re releasing today.

Q. Noel: How much political interference has there been?

Andersen: the documents that we released today, informed the Ministry yesterday that we were going to be releasing documents today. Back in the fall we had done a couple of disclosures. We continue to look at our disclosure processes, that’s what Jim was talking about, and we uncovered after the October 12th disclosure that we had missed some search terms and when we realised that we had done that we endeavoured to search on those terms

Q. Noel:  (inaudible) not in the office in August 22, 2012 and she did not direct the OPA people

Andersen: Not really sure about the dates that are there but, just let me finish talking about, let’s finish talking about today’s documents

Q. Noel: I’d like to talk about the entire

Andersen: I think it is important that we do talk about… today’s documents we realised that we had had a problem. We generated the documents through a search. A lot of the documents had been previously released already. That takes a while to sort through that, and when we determined that we were ready to put out the documents we informed the Ministry. There was no other involvement in today’s documents with regards to … and like I said, we’re here today to talk about today’s documents. The committee that’s going to be looking into this we’ll be happy to talk to the committee about those.

Hinds: If I can interject for a second, we

Q. Noel: (inaudible) sorry please, trying to avoid answering previous searches is I think to not do your duty as the OPA head. So was there, or was there not, political interference on all the batches of documents released regarding the gas plants. Yes or no?

Hinds: Inappropriate question in the sense that, can I, I’m new to this process. Can I answer your question? We have to show a great deal of respect to the committee here. We’re answering to the Legislature, and the legislative committee, so we stand ready to disclose the documents that we should disclose and have disclosed and may in the future be asked to disclose and we look forward to the opportunity to meet with the committee, or whatever committee, this Legislature sets up to examine the issues in and around this. So, that’s I think, the answer to the question. We’re here today to talk about the additional 67 documents and I think that’s about as far as we can go. Out of respect for the Legislature and the committee.

Q. Ferguson: Why is it inappropriate to ask about political

Hinds: Like I say, I’m new at this. I’m new at this, I don’t inappropriate, it’s just not a yes or no answer is what I meant. I apologise for that.

Q. Ferguson: Then what’s the answer to Christian’s question about whether there was political interference. He’s asked three or four times about this woman, who was there, and was there direction from any political staff to the OPA on the release of these documents? It seems to me that someone should know the answer to that question.

Andersen: So I can tell you, certainly what I know with regards to the various disclosures, as Jim outlined, this was a new thing for us. We’d never been involved with anything this large before. It was obviously something where, I think it was appropriate to coordinate with what the Ministry was doing because of the large volume and everything that was there. And it was happening at a time when we were undertaking negotiations in a variety of other things we put out the first disclosure. And then we realized that there were short comings in the first disclosure. So we did what we could to repair that disclosure and part of that was recognizing we missed search terms and I outlined some of those circumstances in the letter to the clerk.

Q: Mulligan: Isn’t it possible there are still documents outstanding and missing and three weeks from now we could be sitting here again?

Andersen: What I’m confident is that through all of this we have put a lot of time and resources. We have done an extensive search. We did not get it right the first times. It is new to us. We did undertake a review and assigned additional resources and brought in outside people to help us look at what we have done and how to improve our processes on the way forward. And it gets us to this point in time. Yes, we found another 67 documents in the most recent. But I am confident that we have looked through all of the custodians, the mailboxes that we should have and we have done an extensive list of the search terms. It was a learning process for us. And we are still learning on this on the way forward. It certainly we will be much better about its subsequent searches.

Q: Brennan: I have a couple of questions for you. First of all, how long have you had this?

Andersen: So back after the October 12th disclosure we realized okay, there’s probably some search terms that we have not searched. So I don’t remember the exact date but somewhere late October, we started generating and then we went through the process of trying to determine how many of those documents had already been disclosed. It is not as easy as you might think because are you trying to compare large batches of sometimes electronic records and sometimes manual or hard copy records. So it takes a while to go through the process.

Q: Brennan: Again, I ask my question, have you been sitting on these for a month? For any particular reason? A day, three days?

Andersen: We were still working on them actually last night with regards to is this responsive to the request or not. The main thing is that we wanted to have the legislature resume. And have the committee come back and then you know, as soon as that, we are assured of that, alerted the ministry yesterday that we were going to be producing documents.

Q: Brennan: My second question is what was Jessie Kelundum from the energy ministry doing with the OPA in August of 2012?

Andersen: I never had any direct discussions with her about this. But she was appointed on the — she was working with the ministry. She is an employee of the ministry. And she was assigned to be the lead coordinator for the ministry on assembling all of these. It was part of her work in helping the ministry prepare for its appearances in front of the estimates committee. So she was also doing this work.

Q: Brennan: But would she be saying that should be released and this shouldn’t, that kind of thing? Was she directing you? I guess that is what I am asking?

Andersen; She was responsible as far as we understand for overseeing the production of the ministry documents; where likewise looking at what we were producing. Comparing notes of course because it is a large thing and it’s new for us. It is quite a significant undertaking to do this involving lots of people, lots of different people under pretty trying circumstances in some cases because people are working around the clock, not only on this, but we working around the clock on doing some of the negotiations with respect to the actual relocations themselves. So you know, there is a lot of stuff flying around. And you know we are trying to coordinate. What I can say is certainly everybody at the OPA, I’m confident that they were trying really hard to do this, to respond to the requests of the committee, to get it right. You know, we are also dealing with information that is commercially sensitive, is subject to privilege. We are in the middle of very complicated negotiations. And you know these are – we have a job to do. We respect that the committee has a job to do as well. But it’s very important that we protect information appropriately. And that we provide it appropriately. While we are trying to produce all of this we are also trying to make sure that nothing inadvertently gets out that shouldn’t. And a lot of this material is blended with a lot of other materials. So you have to go through it and you do have to be very careful. And these are all legal responsibilities that we have. And we are, we are involved in current contract negotiations. We have current counter-parties. And we have to be mindful of future negotiations that we’re going to be dealing with. All of these are factoring into let’s make sure that we are being careful here. And, of course, you know, the ministry is doing the same thing at the same time. And they are dealing with huge volumes of material as well. It’s getting a lot of profile here at Queen’s Park. And so, I think it’s natural that we compare notes on what we are doing. That’s where we are at.

Q: Babbage: Have ever you had anyone from the ministry come into the OPA to help with the search for documents either before this search or after?

Andersen: Well, this is the first time we have had one of this magnitude. So up until this point we have been largely dealing with FOI requests of a smaller nature. And FOI, the freedom of information process has well-established parameters. Everybody is pretty familiar with how that works. The request from a committee, though, is actually a different kind of request altogether. And so you know, while we had familiarity and experience with the FOI process well established, we did not were not with the committee process. We have not had one of these experiences before. This is a first for us. And it is a big first for us.

Q: Artuso: Anyone at the OPA advise anybody in the government at any point that there were more documents coming? Because the Minister of Energy told us yesterday there were no more documents, they debated this in the house yesterday. Did anyone at the OPA consider that maybe it might be time to provide the legislature with this information?

Andersen: As I mentioned, back in the fall, after the second disclosure or the October 12th disclosure, we had realized that there were search terms that we had not undertaken. At that point, I told –.

Q: Artuso: I understand that. Did you or anyone in the OPA tell anyone in the Ontario government, did anyone tell the Ontario government before last night there might be more documents?

Andersen: That is what I’m saying. Back in the October-November period we said more search terms likely to be more documents. We have to do our thing. And let’s see if those documents have already been disclosed. And that is the process that we undertook.

Q: Artuso: You told them there would likely be more documents.

Andersen: Yeah, I coordinate with the bureaucrats at the ministry.

Q: Morrow: When is the first time that you realized there would be documents, I appreciate that last night you were sure that this is what is going on but when is did you first become aware of it?

Andersen: Sometime in late October, I don’t know the exact date. We realized that there were more search terms that we actually thought we had done them and it turned out that we had not followed through on them. So then we went through them and you’ll see the material that ended up being produced today, is largely invoices. So I we missed surnames, one-word surname of the C.E.O. Some of the search terms that we had not used were the project names that the government had assigned to the project, you know, OPG and the government. They were not ones that we had used ourselves. We would get invited to meetings. You will see when you look at the documents there is a lot of meeting invites that use some of those words. And you know, we searched Project Banana at one point and we never searched the word Banana and we should have searched the one word by itself. Those are the kind of things that we missed.

Q: Howlett: The memo that the Tories released a couple of week ago, a memo written by Kristen Jenkins to you, made reference that somebody in the energy ministry instructed the OPA not to release it. Why do you think she felt the need to write that memo to you?

Andersen; So like I said we are continuing to review all of the documents that we had put out. And we wanted to make sure that we were responding to the committee’s requests. And we wanted to make sure that we had done the whole search that we had. And you know, in the letter that I wrote to the clerk when we did the second disclosure, I indicated that we had identified a variance in the approach between what the ministry had used and what we used. And this was coming through our own review and our due diligence; we were looking at things and figuring out what more needs to be done. And that was one of the things that we had realized there was a difference, a variance in the approach that had been used. And we, when we realized that that was the case we immediately followed up on it. And so, I alerted people that you know, there was more that we were going to have to do. And that was going to be another search to come.

Q: Crawley: One of the reasons that everybody wants the documents is to figure out what the true cost of the cancellations were. Can you reassure us that the true cost that we’ve been told is the true cost?

Andersen: That is a good question. It is actually one that we have been working on for a long period of time. The auditor general and his staff have been in our offices for a few months now. So he is going to be releasing a report on that question shortly. That is on the Greenfield or the Mississauga plant. And so you know we are working with them on that right now. So I think it’s probably best to say let’s see what that report has to say. The Premier did ask that the Oakville plant be asked, added to the work of the auditor general’s office. So we are going to continue to work cooperatively with the auditor’s office as we always have on these and answer whatever questions they have. So you know, I think the fact that those are going through that process, that is the appropriate place for those questions to be answered.

Q: Bliss: Is the cost different than what the government is telling us?

Andersen: We are working our way through that. So I think let’s see what that audit report, what conclusions the auditor comes to. We have provided information in the backup and all the rest of it. Let’s see what conclusions they come to.

Q: Bliss: It might be more.

Andersen: Well we have provided information and the backup so let’s what conclusions they come up with.

Q: Brennan: And during the search is there anyone from the Premier’s office, Minister’s office, or the ministry itself who directed or were involved in the search? At the OPA?

Andersen: At the OPA? Nobody was coming to the OPA with regards to the documents that we are talking about today. We had …

Q: Brennan: I’m sorry the entire search. Not just the documents today.

Andersen: Yes, well, as part of that coordination, I interact with the Deputy and then there’s discussions about what is going on generally. And there were a couple of visits at one point in time from a member of the Minister’s office to look at some of the documents. But there wasn’t- they were just looking at documents. So you know and we continued to maintain the accountability for our disclosure of our documents, our review of our documents. And so you know that is something that we took seriously and put a lot of time and resources to it.

Q: Mulligan: Can you help me understand why it’s taking so long to figure out the final costs? This from a business standpoint, you have a contract, you know you’ve put so much money into the plant and then cancelled. We are months into this and I do not understand why you would not have a firmer sense of what it costs?

Andersen; They are complicated contracts. They got a lot involved and they are very complicated projects. And some of the bills were still coming in from you know, the early projects that were underway. When you relocate a plant it’s not as simple as taking this and put to go here. You have to do some reconfiguration and renegotiate connection cost and gas management costs. Some of those as we knew all along were going to take a while to sort their way through. And you like to get all of that process finalized and it takes a while. The negotiations themselves happened over a tight, tight time-frame. The first one was concluded in July. And then the second was concluded in September. So it’s a very intense period of negotiation with a lot of activity happening. So you cannot always wrap everything up immediately just on the day that you sign the MOU.

 

Q: Blizzard: As a result of these faulty searches that you have undertaking, we have a minister of the crown facing contempt charges. The government prorogued the legislature. The Premier resigned. Is anyone at the OPA going to take some kind of blame and step down because of the upheaval that you have caused in all of this?

 

Andersen: So we have taken the search process seriously. And as I said earlier, we also take our responsibilities as the main contracting party for electricity in this province. We have about two-thirds of Ontario’s electricity system under contract with the OPA right now. And part and parcel of that contracting process, is that we negotiate, that we often end up in negotiations where material is subject to privilege. And may be commercially sensitive and we may have agreed not to put out some of that information. All of those are important responsibilities that we have. And we have written to the various committees that had asked us for information to talk about that and maybe get, make some alternative arrangements how to provide the information. And that being said when it came time to actually find these documents or, they are not just sitting in piles ready to go. There is a reason why you have to search for them. And it’s very complicated. And you end up with tens of thousands of pages of information that often ends up intermingled with other information that is not actually responsive to the request. And so we have legal obligations to protect that. We absolutely respect the work of the legislature with regards, and our intent all along has been so that they are able to do the work that they need to do.  It is a bit of a tough spot for us because we have legal responsibilities on the other side. And we’re caught in a little bit in the middle. So, yes, you know we could have done a lot better on the searches. It was a brand new experience to us and we made improvements along the way and we started and then we realized okay this is much, much bigger. We have to go out and get the right kind of software partway through to help with this. So you know, and then we were getting external resources to help and reassigning people. We have a day job but people are working evenings and weekends to try to do this. You know, yes, we made mistakes. Yes, we absolutely, we could have done better and we will do better the next time. But people were really pouring their hearts and souls into getting this right. So I’m confident in the work of the people at the OPA.

 

Q: Blizzard: But with the greatest respect, I heard we are paying you a good buck to do this and we have not seen the results. Is anyone at the OPA going to step down? We have lost a cabinet minister has resigned largely because of the contempt motion. It seems that no one at the OPA is taking this seriously.

 

Hinds: Our job is to get this fixed. Our primary job is to get the stuff out. That is why what we did today and we are here today and have done in the past. We don’t have a lot of experience, this is not our day job. The document request was unprecedented in terms of the scope and we are trying to do the best job that we can. We will make changes in the way our protocols work. We are going to have to staff up to do this. We have to buy software and learn how to operate it. I’ve learned more personally about document discovery in the last while than I ever really knew before that. And you know, it’s a work in progress for us to try to arm ourselves and get ready for us to do it right. That’s our first duty.

 

Q: Babbage: What was project banana? And can you tell us about the other code names and what they represented?

 

Andersen: They are not code names that originated with us. So part of the relocation process is actually having to look at other sites, and as you know from the final results, the OPG was involved in discussions with regards to where these plants could possibly be relocated, and so, part of their own, infrastructure Ontario and the government, they were using those kind of terms, and so, we get invited to the meetings and they would use those.  To be honest, I do not always remember which one was which in particular, which particular project. It just meant that they basically it was their way of keeping track of maybe it might be this site for this particular plant, and it might be a different one for…

 

Hinds: Can I follow up that question? As far as I understood, project banana was an OPG code word for one of the two gas plants. But, the reason these code words arose because we are under confidentiality agreements with respect to the plant opponents or, if they are suing us as [inaudible] or, we are arbitrating them as part of the arbitration. So, we are actually in a legally binding confidentiality agreement with these counter parties. And part of the fact of us doing that is to assign code words so people are not flinging around the actual files names, leaving. So, it is a kind of custom of duty in factors in terms of dealing with security internally. And so we were in a way that the code names come out as – it turns out that everybody kind of makes their own, and so  that sort of makes confusion throughout this world.

 

Andersen: So, I think you have seen them [inaudible] disclosure, and I think there was apple, banana, fruits, salads, something like that.

 

Q. Bliss: I have a question for you.  Are you two comfortable with the level of independence and separation between your organization and government over the last year?

 

Andersen: Yes, it is a good question. It is when we get all the time, and I mean there are areas where you want to make sure that you have a very strict alienation as responsibilities. I mean there are other areas where you know you want to make sure there is a fair amount of coordination. Ministries and their government have their roles to set in policies. We implement programs. But, there is an overlap between those. So, there has to be healthy amount of, you know, our ability to be able to offer objective advice and to implement the programs.

 

Q. Bliss: My question is does that exist? Are you comfortable? Define what should be? I want to know for the record are you two comfortable with the level of independence in the last year.

 

Hinds: I think in respect to the documents disclosure and the issues that are raised for the document disclosure. I think it is clear that we have to review our practices in protocol. That is absolutely clear because, from [inaudible] point of view, things got messed up; things got miscommunicated and we have to review our interactions on the document stuff for sure.

 

Q. Bliss:  Interaction with whom?

 

Hinds: With government or, anyone from the committees or, with the legislature. Like I said, this is our first time through this, and our performance is not satisfactory.

 

Q. Bliss: Mr. Andersen, the relationship of that [inaudible] is it independent or not?

 

Andersen: It not a central answer; we cannot answer that. You know, in some areas, of course I would like to have more independence. Every agency of government probably would, and in other areas, I would probably like to have a closer working relationship with them.

 

Q. Brennan: [inaudible] question on [inaudible] At any point during this [inaudible] policy which [inaudible] do you feel that that you were under a great deal of pressure either to use or not to [inaudible]

 

Andersen: No. I mean there was a lot of public pressure to do this and to get it right. You know, and there is, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get this right because we take it very seriously. And, it was tough. We were doing a lot of other stuff at the same time. We were learning as you go on, and we understood the consequences of getting this wrong, and making mistakes about it. You know, it’s not easy for us to be up here, you know, saying well it was just another time where some more documents. But, like I said, if we have had years under our belt doing this, if we were sloppy, that would have been a different story. But, you know, we are learning as you go, and we are dealing with ten thousand documents. You know we now know better software, better role delineation document which you are doing as you are going along. All of those kinds of things. By its nature, documents disclosure of this type is very expensive. You know, you are assigning a lot of people to it, and it costs a lot of money and you know, we are also dealing with the resources we have at the OPA while we are trying to do all of the day job and we cannot let our day job fall through the cracks either. So, we are trying to balance out, you know, all of our responsibilities.

 

Q. Brennan: [inaudible]

 

Andersen: I am confident that we have done an extensive search.

 

Q. Artuso: Legislature spent all of Wednesday debating they should deal with a contempt motion that relates directly missing documents. You provide the information to the government at the end of the day. That seems very

convenient. Are you were not under pressure from the government to delay telling when you had those documents. Why that time?

 

Andersen: Government had no involvement in regards to the timing of our disclosure. It was totally our decision. We had decided that we needed to do the work that we need to do on this disclosure, and then we needed to, you know, that we felt it was appropriate that once the legislature resumes, and that the committee that was going to be deal with this stuff was constituted that we would be providing the documents. Now, one of the lessons that we have certainly learned through all of this is it is very important to, you know, understand the nature of the work that you are doing; the request that are forthcoming so you get it right, and that you are dealing with the parties that are looking for the information, and so that is what we did.

 

Q. Brennan: [inaudible] how often were you go talk [inaudible] political staff and Minister’s staff and the Ministry know you are coming in and you are giving direction [inaudible] Does it happen daily? Every week?

 

Andersen: No. In our discussions, we are with the Deputy’s side of things and the bureaucrats that were dealing with it. So, there was may be a few where they were incoming in. They came in a couple of times to have some look at some of the materials way back when. But, ultimately, we were still responsible for what we put out, and —

 

Q. Mulligan: Are you still searching or are you done?

 

Andersen: We’re done for the 2011 search. The one that matches the request of the committee. It had a specific time frame around them.  So we’ve completed that search, so if there are subsequent searches that we are asked to do then we’ll do them.

 

Q. Bliss: Did you have communication with the Liberal election team?

 

Andersen: No.

 

Q. Artuso: Sorry just to clarify, did you say you informed the deputy minister back in November that you had these additional documents?

 

Andersen: What I informed him was that we had realized that we had missed some search terms that we were going to add some names to the search we had done. And I said at the time so this could potentially result in more documents. But then we would have to go through them and see whether they had been disclosed the first time. So that was the nature of the communication at that point in time. So potentially there were more to come. I don’t remember to be honest if I said there were likely more to come. But I said we have to see what the searches generated and then we would address what had to be disclosed.

 

Q. Howlett: When did you inform him that you had found additional documents?

 

Andersen; Well, so yesterday, we said okay our search is there we’re going to put this stuff out. So, I don’t remember when, cause even as I said we’re still doing some double checking on things with regards to is there anything in here that shouldn’t go out. You know, personal information, those kinds of things and we were still working on those kinds of things last night. So yesterday is when the deputy minister definitively heard from me that we have documents that we are going to disclose.

 

Q. Brennan: (Inaudible) informed the minister?

 

Andersen: Sure I mean that would a natural thing to…

 

Q. Howlett: Is that when you informed the deputy yesterday?

 

Andersen: Ah, Hmmmm… We had a board meeting yesterday, so stepping out of the board meeting and talking and I don’t know probably in the afternoon. I can’t remember exactly when we were talking about it. You know at one point we thought we might be able to get the documents out yesterday frankly. But we just were not able to physically produce them.

 

Q. Bliss: From the OPA’s perspective was Mississauga strategically a good location for that power plant given the supply and demand at the time?

 

Andersen: So at the time the plant was originally conceived it was the right decision to get a plant in that area. That was actually a decision that was made quite a while back. It was a procurement that was undertaken by the ministry and then we took over the contract. The project ended up being  delayed numerous times for a variety of different reasons and as time moves along circumstances change both  on the supply front and on the demand front. And there’s always more than one way to address the needs of a community. So comparing a decision at one point in time with something you know many years earlier is not always what I would say is a fair comparison. You know I think it’s important first and foremost what’s important is that we meet the reliability needs of the people of this province. And when that plan was originally conceived we were in a much more dire situation. And we were running around trying to get every electron that we could as cost effectively as possible. And so that plant at that location at point in time was you know the right advice for the OPA to give. There are other ways. It’s not easy to locate any kind of infrastructure and there’s only so many ways to meet the needs, of the electricity needs of people. You either give them the generation alternative or the transmission alternative. And as we have seen in recent experience in this province. Sometimes communities prefer one to another or object to one over the other. So it’s never a choice of just this is the right decision, it was the best decision and you have to be able to respond to evolving circumstances the economy supply and demand and obviously the desires of  communities itself.

 

Q. Blizzard: Why didn’t you site that plan on the (inaudible) burning. That seemed to be the natural place

 

Andersen: There had been commitments made by the government at the time, not to go with the Lakeview plant, so when the announcement was made to make the closure that site was taken out of the equation with regards to where to put the plant the next time.

 

Q. Brennan: Am to understand that you agree with the scrapping of that plant, the Mississauga plant?

 

Andersen: So, circumstances change, it was a plant that was under construction and so I think you have to listen to the interests of the communities that are involved. We have to be responsible for ensuring that their needs are met.

 

Q. Bliss: If the government (inaudible) told you to cancel that plant, would you have stopped construction?

 

Andersen: Well we have responsibilities to our counterparties so we would have seen the plant through.

 

Q. Babbage: You’ve apologised, you’ve issued your mea culpa in terms of what’s been going on with the searches but do you feel that if the government had been more forthcoming in the Legislature even, that these searches weren’t away, that there’s a possibility of more documents. Do you think you wouldn’t be in this situation today, it wouldn’t have been as explosive an issue because the information was out there. Nobody was talking about further searches. Everyone was saying those are all the documents. Do you feel you were put in this position by the government?

 

Hinds: That’s a good question. And I can’t speak to the government because we’re just an agency. I can just speak to the agency’s side of things. But one of the things in our post-mortem in our, try to do it better part, that surprised us, from a timing point of view, was that we had believed that these documents, many of them covered by solicitor-client-privilege ‘cause we were being litigated by these people, many of them were covered by commercial confidentiality agreements that we had entered into with these people, and in fact if we breached them they could actually sue us. And we were also in arbitration which was covered as well. And I guess when the committee met, what shocked us was the committee the disclosure order notwithstanding those three forms of privilege and confidentiality and that just totally expanded the universe of things we had to look through. And so I guess, in answer to your question, in our point of view only as an agency, when we go back in front of the committee with further document requests, we would like to sit down with them and understand the ground rules because, I think, often times when the call was made for documents by the committee we had to respond in days. And our staff were busy actually trying to relocate the plants, so many of the people involved in searching for the documents were actually having day jobs trying to renegotiate these files. So we got ourselves in a really tight bind.

 

Q. Mulligan: So this turned into a political nightmare for the government. Huge hot potato for yourself as well. There have been many allegations that you’ve been part of a cover-up. How do you respond to that?

 

Andersen: So, I can only speak to the work that we do, which is that we take our responsibilities very seriously. We assign our people. We put the time and put the resources to all of that and we do the work that that we need to do  –

 

Q. Mulligan: (inaudible) cover-up?

 

Andersen: We were, as I said, we’re always ultimately responsible for putting out the documents. So we were putting out our material as we saw fit and I’m very confident that we’re doing the best job that we could, the best efforts were being made. Sure we didn’t, do a perfect job of it, but we were always operating in good faith to respond to the request of the committee to give them what they had asked for.

 

Q, Howlett: You say that, you know, that this whole experience is prompting you review your practices and protocols. But on a larger level, don’t you think it calls into question the very existence of your agency? I mean, you said that you, on your own, would not have not pulled the plug on the gas plant. You know, how do you carry out the mandate when the government or the Premier of the day can very arbitrarily just come along and cancel something and leave you to try to clean up the mess?

 

Andersen: So to be clear, what I said was that we would follow through with the legal obligations that we had to our counterparts. I don’t think it’s a surprise that you have a contract to build a very large project and that as an agency that we would be expected to follow that through so I want to be clear about what we felt were our obligations. This was a plant that did have all of its, you know, its permitting and its approval and it worked its way through a lot of processes and so, you know, I think it’s – that’s what our job is. To get jobs up and running and to make sure that they’re completed and we live up to our legal obligations. So, sorry, I think I lost the thread –

 

Hinds: (inaudible) we also – we do three things. We do long-term system planning. So in other words, to the extent of anyone’s that’s looking at long term planning in the province, it’s us. We support the efforts that are needed for that. The second thing we do is we (inaudible) generation. Not only gas plants but we produce renewables. We produce – contracts with renewables, contract with nuclear operators, we contract with other forms of gas distribution, things like that. And the third thing we do is we coordinate a lot of the conservation programs in the province. So, we’ve got three different remits that aren’t – are quite different. So, in terms of our activities, we have a lot on the go on the other files as well. I think you were asking about why we exist so I thought –

 

Q. Brennan: To be clear though, if the government hadn’t interfered with this matter that (inaudible)

 

Andersen: Well, we would’ve been doing everything that we could with regards to living up to our obligations to ensure that the plant was going ahead and, you know, we work with a developer and you have to see, be attuned to what’s going on in the community as well. So, you know, that is another circumstance that was evolving and changing as time went on. So, you know –

 

Q. Brennan: Was that a yes or no, I’m not sure.

 

Andersen: Well, I think that we would’ve continued on. We were making very good progress on that project after a long period of delays and changes so, you know, it’s a good – it was a good project that was providing cost  – or would provide cost-effective electricity to a part of the city where, you know, there are needs and I think it’s good, as I said before, that I would like to see more generation in the downtown part of Toronto because I think it’s an important part of the diversified way that we meet the needs of the citizens of this province. Electricity is so fundamentally important to what we do. Home and our businesses. We’ve gotta make sure we meet those needs. And gas plants are a good part of the mix, which Jim talked about some of the others. (inaudible)

 

Q. Howlett: How could you, as an agency, enter into any other agreement like Mississauga or Oakville after this experience, knowing that it could just – at a political whim – be torn up? How do you –

 

Hinds: Let me address that. It was very important to us throughout this process to represent the interests that we represent (inaudible) counterpart is. To be very clear, the agreements weren’t torn up, they were re-negotiated. The plants  have been relocated. We – part of our job here was to renegotiate and relocate those plants so they’re still available to service the system. So that the counter parties who are faced with the relocation decisions, voluntarily agreed to the relocation. We were successful in both of those objectives.

 

Q. Morrow: (inaudible) you guys did all this work. You get the approvals. You start building the plants and then the government comes in and says ‘sorry, you’re not going to do that anymore.’ Is that a pain in the neck for you guys?

 

Andersen: So, two gas plants that we had to renegotiate but then look at all the other stuff. I mentioned that we have two-thirds of the supply in this province that’s under contract so, you know, we’ve been very successful from the time that we were created in turning this supply situation around in this province, doing what we were created to do which was get a lot of supply in place – a lot of it is gas – successfully up and running. And, you know, we’ve worked on renewables. We’ve done good things on the nuclear front as well so, you know, of course every once in a while there are going to be ones that don’t go as smoothly but on balance, you have to look at what we have managed to accomplish and the fact that we made it through major storms, we made it through, you know, situations that could have resulted in black-outs and the situation was very different seven years ago than it is now. We are much better positioned in this province to deal with reliable – reliably meeting our needs.

 

Q. Reeves: Success in this case, relocating those plants, cost $230 million dollars minimum. Some people are claiming it’s even more than that. How – you didn’t have a plan to relocate it and that power will still be on the grid. How can this be classified as success?

 

Andersen: So I’m talking about the success that we had with all the other plants that are there. Nobody would – want to relocate a plant unless they had to, felt like they had to.

 

Q. Brennan: Let me cut to the chase and ask you this question, do you resent this kind of political interference that turned everything upside-down, plants scrapped, your agency turned upside-down. Do you resent it?

 

Andersen: So we have our responsibilities and the perspective that we bring to the work that we do and the government has, you know, in many cases a broader perspective that it brings and it’s appropriate for – to do that. And we need to – all of that needs to come together. As I said before, does it always go smoothly? No. Are we always happy about how every – the relationship? No. But on balance, I think it works and I think the proof is in the fact that we have successfully managed to address the needs of the people of this province and turned the situation around in a very short period of time. Overall, things are working.

3 Comments

  1. My God! Unbelieveable. This guy (Andersen)is paid almost $600,000 to do what? They can’t do a proper search of documents. Not once but twice they screw up. Having been involved with my dear wife in reviewing hundreds of thousands of documents to put fraudsters (successfully) behind bars (with absolutely no pay) I can’t believe these high paid civil servants are so dumb (there is no better word that comes to mind after reading this) that they don’t know how to conduct a search of documents. They pay Navigant hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up with the Global Adjustment Mechanism (FORMERLY THE PROVINCIAL BENEFIT) and don’t even consult with them on this!

    And to think that have the nerve to stand in front of the media (presumably that was the Wynne instruction that Hinds got at 5.15 AM) and talk about how busy they were signing those idiotic contracts they they designed and we are being sued over, or that are driving up the costs of electricity throughout this once great province.

    Save me from this madness!

  2. Pingback: Ont. Liberals Ducking Claim of $230 million Gas Plant Cost | Tom Adams Energy - ideas for a smarter grid

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