Moral Power

The National Post’s Kelly McParland does a admirable job surveying some of the major boondoggles bearing down on Ontario power consumers now and for the foreseeable future. The Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, might complain about McParland’s gloss on Miller’s proposed rate increase, claiming that increases in on-peak power rates might be offset by decreases in off-peak rates. However, the credibility of the Libs in executing revenue neutral taxes makes McParland’s version of the story more credible than Miller’s.

One issue McParland doesn’t get into that belongs in the discussion is the dishonesty and concealment creeping into the power file.

EcoCommish Gord Miller, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli and all the king’s horse and all the king’s men claim that conservation is saving you money. That notion is junk. Ontario has a giant surplus of power that we sell for pennies on the dollar when you look at what it costs us to generate those exports. On top of export losses, the cost of paying generators to not generate is another of the government’s electricity secrets. Ignoring the punishing losses associated with surpluses and despite all the fond words about conservation saving you money, the government is out there today procuring more junk generation from wind and solar. Your conservation efforts are saving money, just not for you. Neighbouring utilities and consumers, mostly in Michigan and New York, are cashing in on your conservation.

The government’s conservation talking points are phoney and so are its wind power talking points. Former Energy Minister Donna Cansfield once declared that wind power was “peaking power”. Here is a video of the IESO in 2013 declaring that wind power is replacing coal power. This is all hopelessly dishonest propaganda. Gas replaces coal, not wind. Wind power routinely fails to produce during times of peak demand — like yesterday. The combined capacity factor of wind and solar during yesterday’s peak demand time was about 3%. Pathetic.

McParland might have added that the government’s “Smart Grid” promises are so far producing conspicuously little by way of benefits despite massive spending.

McParland reminds readers that the cancellation and relocation of the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants may ultimately cost $1.2 billion and that the purpose of the cancellation was venal political self-interest. Had space permitted, he might have added that the Liberal government swore up and down that the cost was only $230 million. Days after the National Post published this tag team assessment from Terence Corcoran and myself debunking the government’s $230 million claim, McGuinty dismissed our analysis sarcastically saying “If Elvis says it, I’ve got to print it.” It took six months of very tough slugging before the provincial Auditor General finally shredded McGuinty’s claims and substantially vindicated his critics.

McParland’s focus on the cost of the gas scandal and the political corruption that motivated it are fine as far as he goes but he misses a key point. The gas plant scandal isn’t just about wasted and concealed public money and electoral manipulation. There are other notable moral elements to the story.

As we now know, the gas plant scandal is also about an organized, coordinated, sustained, and widespread conspiracy within McGuinty’s own office to destroy government documents.

The gas plant scandal is also about the perjuring testimony of top Liberals appearing before the Justice Policy Committee. To pick one of many examples, back on September 10, 2013, McGuinty’s Chief of Staff, David Livingston testified under oath to the Committee that, “With respect to electronic file management, as chief of staff in the Premier’s office, there was no need for me to create electronic records.” Thanks to the most recent OPP search warrant on the gas scandal (much appreciation to the Toronto Star for making it available), we now have, in Appendix G, an email delivered to Livingston on January 31, 2013 from the provincial civil service’s Chief Information Officer setting out in detail the laws and policies on document retention Livingston was required to follow. Ignoring those requirements, the search warrant documents in detail how Livingston’s private computer consultant, Peter Faist, mere days later, used fraudulently obtained access codes to destroy the Premier’s Office’s records.

The gas plant scandal is also noteworthy for the lies told by McGuinty’s top advisers to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. In her June 5, 2013 report “Deleting Accountability“ the Information and Privacy Commissioner Dr. Cavoukian reports that Livingston told her he was “‘informed’ but was not involved’ in the gas plant closure issues.” The search warrant documents many instances of Livingston being deeply involved in the gas plant issues. For example, the warrant quotes abundant documentary evidence showing that Livingston initiated a plan to co-opt TransCanada Energy, the contractor for the Oakville plant then renegotiating their 20 year power deal, to lobby politicians against the contempt motion against brought down on energy minister Bentley over his refusal to disclose documents in response to a Speaker’s ruling.

An upcoming post will delve in greater detail into the new search warrant. For now, I’ll note that during the last election campaign and while the OPP was investigating the gas scandal, the OPP union campaigned vigorously against the Ontario PCs. For all those concerned about conflicted interests and the slow pace of the OPP investigation, it might be worth noting the basic time line of the new search warrant. The new search warrant makes it clear that the OPP received a tip from the Ontario Public Service about newly discovered documents on November 21, 2014. Three days later, a very impressive, complex and detailed search warrant was filed. Three days after that filing, the actual document seizure set out in the warrant was executed. That pace appears to me extremely impressive.

Ontario’s electricity situation is such that its future now depends greatly on the wisdom, energy and effectiveness of external guardians like the Auditor General, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, ombudsmen, the OPP, and the courts.

Inside Ontario’s power system, a whole lot of rot is going on. The leading characters inside the system include the likes Toronto Hydro’s CEO Anthony Haines. Haines has parlayed a phoney CV and a litany of negligent actions like the Hurricane Sandy go-slow recovery into a $959K salary + mega pension and a mountain of glittering energy industry awards.

The complexity of Ontario’s power system has always made it tough for the public to get a straight story. The old Ontario Hydro issued phoney financial statements, signed off every year by Ernst & Young. Ontario Hydro reported every year that it had made yet another profit. However, when Ontario Hydro was wound up, it left a net value of negative $21 billion.

Dishonesty and concealment are not newcomers in Ontario power history, but the scale and the scope of official dishonesty and concealment now is unprecedented and worsening.


  1. It seems Ontario’s power network has evolved over the years into the worst organizational tangle imaginable . . an equal measure of aggressive lawyers and old-school engineers, polarized in their viewpoints and not a creative forward-thinking spark coming out of either group. This also creates a rich environment for the moral vacuum you describe, given very weak leadership within Ontario’s power sector. Go, Bonnie Lysyk, go! Perhaps it is wishful thinking to imagine a more entrepreneurial and law-respecting utility space in Ontario, but we do see this in other jurisdictions, so why not here? The media doesn’t help because their grasp of concepts like power capacity vs energy production, levelized cost of energy and the breakdown of our monthly power bills is as weak as our politicians and bureaucrats. Thank you Tom for at least not calling our electricity by the generic and brutally incorrect term “hydro”.

    A strategy Ontario’s grid achingly needs to adopt is energy storage. Many of the province’s wasted $ and kWh comes from timing mismatches in generation versus consumption . . . our grid has had a very poor performance rating, which was not mentioned in the article. New grid storage technology is very reliable, less costly than green power, no moving parts and generally weather-proof. As a priority, Ontario needs to increase its storage capacity far more than its green generating capacity.

  2. Lewis Reford refers to “New Storage technology” being very reliable. This is the first reference to storage capability I’ve seen in the 14 years of discussion/debate on the energy file. I’d be fascinated to know how this works and why it hasn’t been employed to avoid having to give excess power to Michigan or New York or, worse still, PAY them to take it?

    From the outset many of us have deployed the government having proceeded with wind and solar installations in the absence of a capability to store electricity from these sources when it is not needed. If such a capacity does exist it would make the power dispatchable in which case we would all look at the matter in a different and more positive light.

  3. “A strategy Ontario’s grid achingly needs to adopt is energy storage” so far, is the dumbest thing anyone has said about the sector this year. It is early, though. What Ontario needs is for politicians to stay out of the sector – period. They are like preschoolers with power tools and no good will ever come of it. If you want a dumb program to line your pockets go to the Minister of Energy and tell him how good it will be for the Ottawa area and bingo you’ll get your program. Politicians, especially Liberals, cannot say “no”. The sad truth is that everyone who traipses into the Minister’s office is in an actual conflict of interest and pitches the idea that will line their pockets with your money. The professionals in the Ministry, and the OPA and IESO are ignored unless they are cheerleaders. They are told that their comments aren’t “helpful”. To whom I wonder?

    We do not need storage. We need an end to these wasteful renewable energy programs that are very expensive and do very little good for anyone except the project developers and politicians they’ve greased. It makes absolutely no sense to launch expensive storage projects to store the expensive renewable energy that cannot be used or is exported at a fraction of the cost to produce.

  4. I wonder if our storage proponent, Lewis Redford, is the same Lewis Redford who is formerly of Schneider Power and currently with Reservoir Capital Inc. Both of the these outfits have their heads firmly into the green energy trough. Perhaps this is why a “strategy Ontario’s grid achingly needs to adopt is energy storage”?


    Capital Power Corp., Edmonton

    Annual Information Form Dec.31, 2013 & Filed Mar.17, 2014

    P.50: Directors shares owned
    Margaret (Peggy) Mulligan,
    Shares Held: Common held, 10,000 shrs.

    OPG Board of Directors website does not mention that Peggy Mulligan is on the Board of Capital Power Corp. Appointed Dec. 2005 to OPG Board.

  6. Pingback: OPP search warrant | Tom Adams Energy - ideas for a smarter grid

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