What follows is a guest post presented by two former Toronto Hydro employees, Paul Kahnert and David Grant. They document their unsuccessful efforts on behalf of a larger group of retirees with intimate knowledge of the utility to engage the City’s Ombudsman, the City’s Auditor General, and the Ontario Energy Board in investigating malpractice at Toronto Hydro. The post and its attachments document how these concerned experts were lead on, then stonewalled or simply shut down from the start by three separate agencies mandated to protect the public interest.
The documentation Kahnert and Grant provide does not fit easily into a sound byte. Their evidence is extensive. To pick one example, Ontario Energy Board representatives told Grant and Kahnert to their faces that a simple word of denial from Toronto Hydro’s CEO is better “evidence” than a full folder of official regulatory records proving that the CEO lied about his credentials in sworn testimony over the course of two decades.
Kahnert and Grant document the extent to which Toronto Hydro has become an unsupervised, unregulated, unaccountable monopoly now dedicated primarily to enriching its senior management. It is a rogue utility shielded by public agencies from scrutiny.
On a personal note, some readers might recall that I had a long history as an advocate for the break-up and privatization of Ontario Hydro. The most articulate and energetic advocate for public power on the other side of that debate was Paul Kahnert, then a union activist with CUPE Local 1 and a Toronto Hydro employee. My adversarial engagement against Mr. Kahnert arose from his role as the spokesperson for the Ontario Electricity Coalition whose provincial campaign and court case stopped the sale of Hydro One in April of 2002.
Jump forward to 2015.
As I came to realize that Fiona Crean, then the City Ombudsman (now the Hydro One Ombudsman), was stonewalling my request for an investigation of the Union Street blackout and other major events of operational failure due to Toronto Hydro’s negligence after Crean lead me on, I also learned that Mr. Kahnert was spearheading a similar initiative. If you compare the timing of the Kahnert/Grant initiatives with my posts 122, 123 and 124 of this series, you will see that I was, in fact, following in their footsteps. Although we were familiar to each other previously, it wasn’t until this event that Mr. Kahnert and I realized that we were in many ways kindred spirits, sharing many objectives for an electricity future Toronto can be proud of. As we have become friends, Mr. Kahnert never tires of reminding me that consumers were far better off before the break-up of Ontario Hydro than they are now. He’s right.
Kahnert and Grant have stepped forward out of retirement to make a remarkable contribution, not just to the electricity consumers of Toronto, but to all of Ontario. They petitioned three different institutions mandated to protect the public interest and in so doing revealed the underlying character of power system governance Ontario has today.
A series of attachments are introduced and linked a the end of the report by Kahnert and Grant.
Public Oversight of Toronto Hydro Has Been Abandoned
By Paul Kahnert and David Grant
We are a group of retired trades, technical, engineering and management staff each of whom, who worked for decades at Toronto Hydro. We are very concerned about deteriorating safety, security of supply and affordability for all customers under the present management and governance of Toronto Hydro.
Since 2006 Toronto Hydro has been given, by the Ontario Energy Board, a combination of over $3.5 billion and recently, another $2.5 billion for a staggering total of $6 billion in rate increases for the businesses and citizens of the City of Toronto. It’s important to note that before the arrival of the current CEO, there was a solid ten year, plan to refurbish Toronto Hydro that would have cost $1.5 Billion.
Take a look at your Hydro Bill over the last 10 years, especially if you’re in business. Ratepayers, especially business ratepayers, are getting ripped off by provincial electricity policy and the Ontario Energy Board, which is supposed to provide oversight and regulate in the public interest.
There needs to be, an independent investigation into Toronto Hydro operations and its finances. For almost 11 years there has been virtually no maintenance on key parts of the power distribution system. Management bonuses are based upon capital spending, not on maintenance, so maintenance has been cut. There are vast amounts of capital being spent on construction being done via contractors with no independent oversight or review. There is very questionable spending by Toronto Hydro Executives on a number of fronts.
A public asset, 15 acres and large buildings at 28 Underwriters Road which is needed to serve Toronto residents in the future, was sold to Toronto Hydro’s favourite contractor, Power Line Plus. The property and buildings at 715 Milner Avenue were bought by Toronto Hydro in 2011 for $16.8 million. Just one year earlier it sold for $8 million, and there were no renovations or upgrades in that year to justify the doubled price paid by Toronto Hydro. Even worse, 715 Milner remains empty and unused to this day. These deals and many others do not pass the smell test.
We took these concerns, along with definitive proof of Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines’ false resumes and perjury during testimony at regulatory hearings and many other examples of very questionable practices and sometimes provable negligence to the Ontario Energy Board, to the City of Toronto Ombudsman and to the City of Toronto Auditor General.
Here is what happened.
We had originally written to City of Toronto Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, and first met with her team on September 16, 2014. There were many follow-up meetings and phone calls with her office.
One of the main subjects of our complaint was the Ice Storm of 2013 ““ 2014. The report from “The Independent Review Panel” was neither independent nor accurate. The consultant to conduct the Technical Review, Davies Consulting was selected and paid for by Toronto Hydro. A key failing of Toronto Hydro that was revealed by the storm was inadequate forestry management. It’s important to note that Davies had previously guided a downsizing of forestry work at Toronto Hydro. Notice that Davies Consulting completely ignored the huge number of pole fires that occurred much more frequently compared to other utilities because of Toronto Hydro’s decision to cut back on the cleaning of insulators. The Chair of that Committee, David McFadden is now a Toronto Hydro Board member.
In January of 2015, Ms. Crean told us there was another complainant. We now know was the other complainant was Tom Adams This part of our complaint was the exact same outage on Union St. as outlined by Tom Adams’ complaint. This accident was caused by Toronto Hydro’s jaw-dropping incompetence and negligence.
The negligence by Toronto Hydro, directly threatened, public, contractor and employee lives while blacking out more than a quarter of the city. The Union St. accident alone demanded an investigation. Ms. Crean assured us that she took both our complaints very seriously. Why did Ms. Crean refuse to investigate both our complaints on this issue especially when she told us that this issue was the reason why she was conducting the investigation under her own name?
Over the spring and summer we saw the Ombudsman reduce the scope and time frame of the investigation and accept more and more of Toronto Hydro’s assurances to improve until they decided there was nothing left to investigate. Fiona Crean stopped the investigation on September 11, 2015 and shortly after went to Hydro One as the new Ombudsman there.
(We want to state that Kwame Addo, now acting Ombudsman, is an honorable man with great integrity. We believe he was also taken for a ride by Ms. Crean and while his loyalty to her is commendable, it’s misplaced.)
On January 14, 2015 we met with Maureen Helt, legal counsel and Karim Karsan, Vice President of Consumer Services at the Ontario Energy Board. At that 2 hour meeting we went through our documentation including evidence about Mr. Haines lying on his resume and lying under oath at multiple regulatory hearings in Ontario and BC. Ms. Helt said that they accepted his statement at the time that it “was a formatting error”. When we produced documentation proving that it was not a formatting error, she said we’re still “going with the evidence we had at the time”. When we asked if they would now act based on the unmistakable evidence, she only repeated her statement. Subsequently, the OEB did absolutely nothing.
We then contacted the Auditor General for the City of Toronto and very quickly got a meeting with Beverly Romeo-Beehler. We met with her and her team on February 18, 2015.
They were initially very interested in the evidence and explanation we presented, so much so that they requested us to come back for another meeting on March 12, 2015. Again, they were all very enthusiastic about our story and the AG asked us how we got some of our documentation.
Then, everything at the Toronto AG’s office went silent. Phone calls and messages went unanswered. We were finally able to contact Ms. Romeo-Beehler by phone at 5 pm on May 19, 2015 and she told us that she would be “conducting her investigation after Fiona Crean had finished hers.”
After Fiona Crean stopped her investigation on September 11, 2015, we were finally able to get the Toronto AG by phone on November 10, 2015 at 5 pm. She was clearly very uncomfortable with the call. She promised to “send a letter because she didn’t want any confusion”. We said “there’s no confusion, are you going to investigate Toronto Hydro, yes or no?” She kept on repeating her statement that she would be sending our group a letter. No letter has ever been received. Phone calls and messages left for Ms. Romeo-Beehler continue to be unanswered. We find it very bizarre that she won’t even tell the complainants whether their complaint will be investigated or not. Both of the attached letters were sent by registered mail and remain unanswered.
The Ontario Liberal Government has a very clear pattern. The Power Workers Union was given $75 million and The Society of Energy Professionals was given $12 million to buy shares in Hydro One. They no longer oppose the sale of Hydro One as they once did. The Liberals gave Fiona Crean a job as Ombudsman for Hydro One. If the Liberal Government really wanted public oversight, then they would not have removed the Provincial Ombudsman, the Auditor General and all public oversight of Hydro One, as they did in Bill 91. How legitimate is Ms. Crean’s current job? What’s going on at the OEB?
What’s going on at the Auditor General’s office in Toronto? Is there political interference?
Has the AG been told not to investigate because now certain factions at City Hall want to sell Toronto Hydro?
Toronto Hydro is still publicly owned. Who is looking after the public interest? No-one it seems. It’s time to demand an independent, investigation of Toronto Hydro by City Hall.
If you are concerned about Toronto Hydro rates, please call the Auditor General for the city of Toronto, Beverly Romeo-Beehler at 416-392-8030 or 416-392-8461 and ask why she won’t investigate Toronto Hydro. Also call your city councillor and Mayor John Tory to ask just what is going on at Toronto Hydro. See link: http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=c3a83293dc3ef310VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD
Spokespersons for Retired Toronto Hydro Employees Group
Paul Kahnert worked at Toronto Hydro for 33 years as an overhead tradesperson, crew leader and relief supervisor. Very active in the union, He sat on four negotiating committees, many arbitrations, was spokesperson for the Ontario Electricity Coalition and led the provincial campaign which resulted in the court case, stopping the sale of Hydro One in the spring of 2002.
David Grant ““ Professional Engineer, worked at Toronto Hydro for over 31 years, with over 20 years as a department manager. Was responsible for the ongoing operation of four different production departments, typically consisting of over 100 supervisory, professional, staff, and trades employees. He represented Toronto Hydro, at the Metro Toronto Emergency Planning Advisory Committee and the IESO Crisis Management Support Team. He led the installation of various Toronto Hydro computer systems, including the SCADA System and Outage Management System.
The first attachments are letters to Kahnert from Crean initiating and then concluding without any public notice her so-called “investigation” of Toronto Hydro. Notice that by scoping her investigation around “emergencies declared by Toronto Hydro”, Crean avoided any examination of the Union Street blackout of April 2014. Toronto Ombudsman
The next two attachments are Kahnert pleading with the Auditor General for the City of Toronto to investigate Toronto Hydro. May 27 2015 Letter to Auditor General, Auditor General Nov 30
The final attachment is a memo Kahnert wrote analyzing claims that Toronto Hydro executives made to City Council at a meeting July 2015. Notice Toronto Hydro executives defending the performance of the utility’s Outage Management System as only suffering a few “Hiccups”. Notice that David Grant was responsible for installing that system. Rebuttal, City Hall Meeting with Toronto Hydro, July7th, 2015
A situation where a citizen’s grand jury might be useful except Ontario no longer has the citizen’s grand jury system?
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My response to this posting was alarm so I sent a letter to the Mayor of the City of Toronto. Here is what I said!
On Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 10:08 AM, Parker Gallant wrote an e-mail letter:
To: The Honourable Mayor John Tory and many others:
Re: What is up with Toronto Hydro
If you are a Toronto resident or anyone in the Province of Ontario with a vested interest in the truth and how the electricity system operates; Â the posting on Tom Adam’s website today will shock you.Â In particular the hidden innuendo present in the article and various attachments is particularly disconcerting in this reputedly “transparent” province.
RetiredÂ experts from Toronto Hydro were upset with the way in which it was/is being run and how safety and reliability issues are simply ignored. They articulated their observations and sentÂ it to the parties we should trust to conduct a proper investigation. As it turned out they have been shoved aside despite their expertise on these matters.
They wereÂ particularly upset about the way the Toronto Ombudsman’s office dealt with the issues they reportedÂ and additionally how the Ontario Energy Board made it obvious they didn’t want to disturb the status quo.Â
It is interesting that the former Toronto Ombudsman is now the new Hydro One Ombudsman or is that simply a coincidence?
The other party they approached, the Toronto Auditor General’s office; seem to have simply been scared away but it’s unclear who did the scaring.Â Â
If you follow the Ontario energy sector you will quickly discern the CEO of Toronto Hydro is the cheerleader that Minister Chiarelli hauls out to back up his rebuttals to the Ontario Auditor General’s scathing reports and to explain the wonders of other things such as “smart meters”.Â Just anotherÂ coincidence?
In my humble opinion the self-serving nature of a number of key people in the controlling seatsÂ makes me personally uneasy and all ratepayers in theÂ City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario should also be concerned.Â This needs to be brought out by the media and authorities should be instructed to properly investigate.Â
Find theÂ posting on Tom’s siteÂ here:
Â Â Â https://www.tomadamsenergy.com/2016/02/01/ontario-electricity-regulation-crisis-report-part-125-guest-post-stonewalled-by-guardians/
After you have read the article and attachments residents of Toronto should make sure their elected councillor does something about it!
A shocked and former Toronto resident
Off topic re: “Tar Sands/pipelines
State of New Hampshire
Office of the Governor, July 10, 2014
A letter from Gov. Hassan regarding Canadian “Tars Sands” and pipelines in New Hampshire.
Note the Canadian groups that copies of this letter were sent to.
Google as the above URL is not responding at present.
NEG-ECP Tar Sands Letter, June 13, 2014
To: The Hon. Maggie Hassan, Gov. of New Hampshire
Has list of the letter signers.
The two letters together provide matching information.
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