Ontario Electricity Regulation Crisis Report Part 87: Toronto City Council Rebukes Toronto Hydro

Toronto City Council passed a series of motions this afternoon expressing widespread displeasure across a broad cross-section of council about major issues at Toronto Hydro. The key details of the meeting revolve around a confidential motion and confidential reports and debates making them difficult to track. I do not have access to any confidential information, but from the public comments at the meeting, the general shape of events appears clear.

I also want to emphasize that I have not yet obtained the exact wording of the public parts of all the motions.

A confidential motion addressing the personnel issue at Toronto Hydro — apparently the Haines CV issue that was introduced starting at part 68 and following of this series — was introduced by Councillor Joe Mihevc. Councillor Doug Holyday made an impassioned plea against Mihevc’s motion. Holyday pleaded with council to follow the guidance of Toronto Hydro’s chairman David Williams, whose business experience Holyday noted. As Don Peat, reporter for the Toronto Sun tweeted:

“We don’t need to micromanage the hydro board” Cllr Doug Holyday before he gets cut off b/c he might be revealing in camera info #TOpoli

Acting speaker John Parker twice reminded Holyday to not discuss the contents of last night’s in-camera session. That marathon session went on until 10:30 pm, suggesting vigorous debate. We also know from many public statements from Williams that he disagrees with my analysis of Haines to the point of repeatedly threatening to sue me. Holyday’s voting record on the day shows that he is a solid supporter of the Toronto Hydro status quo. Council was not moved by Holyday’s entreaty.

Mihevc’s motion on the personnel issue passed 24 to 15.

All of this suggests a strong statement issued by council to the Toronto Hydro board about Haines and his phoney CVs. However, the motion does not appear to have been an order to the utility’s board to fire Haines.

Councillor Mihevc introduced two other motions, one seeking a report on how to add more solar generation in Toronto and another receiving the the utility’s financial statements. Both passed resoundingly.

Councillor Janet Davis introduced a two part motion, one part endorsing whistle blower protection for Toronto Hydro workers, and the other asking the Toronto Hydro board to report to council on Hydro’s international outsourcing of some work. The language of the whistle blower part might provide some indication of how council expressed its view regarding Haines and his phoney CVs.

City Council requests Toronto Hydro Corporation to consider adopting “Whistle Blower Protection Policies”.

One interesting element of all the motions is that Councillor Lindsay Luby, a known critic of executive compensation at Toronto Hydro and a member of the board of the utility, spoke in favour of the Davis motions and voted for all the motions. Lindsay Luby has a deep familiarity with corporate governance issues. She was the Director of Strategic Planning for the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and also worked as a Senior Consulting Associate with Coopers and Lybrand.

Councillor Davis’s combined motion passed with only three votes against — Councillors Doug Ford, Doug Holyday, and Josh Matlow.

As readers following this series will know, I believe that real whistle blower protection will be a very beneficial development. Many of the reliability problems I have reported on, such as the utility’s negligence in allowing the Thorncliffe Park blackout and its failure to respond adequately to Hurricane Sandy and the extreme rainfall event of July 8, 2013, would not have happened had the utility management thought that they might be held accountable for their actions.

The next steps in this drama will have to come from Toronto Hydro’s board. To start rebuilding public confidence, Toronto Hydro’s board must quickly fire Haines and implement strong whistle blower protection. A new era of honesty and transparency is past due.