Orwell’s Animal Farm: Collingwood Edition!

Tomorrow at 10 am, the hearing phase of a judicial inquiry convenes in Collingwood, Ontario. Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco has been called in by the local town council to try to find the missing money in an electricity transaction that took place in 2012. What he is uncovering is that in Collingwood, the pigs had taken over the farm. (ref: http://www.collingwoodinquiry.ca/)

The evidence adduced through the Foundation Document provides a startling picture of the operation of the power system in Collingwood in those days. The Foundation Document is based on references to primary sources but the statements in the report have not been proven judicially.

Back in the early days of this decade, with Queen’s Park and the OEB focused on sugar plum fairies like the “Smart Meters” and the “Smart Grid” and spewing vast sums at low-value wind mills and solar panels, some power industry insiders in Collingwood realized that they were effectively completely unsupervised. They created an orgy of self-dealing, double-sided transactions, and secret pay-offs.

A central figure in the Collingwood story Marrocco is uncovering is Ed Houghton. A secondary, but still significant figure is Peter Budd, a friend and business associate for Houghton’s.

I served on the board of the predecessor to the IESO (then called the Independent Market Operator, or IMO) alongside Ed Houghton and Peter Budd (1998-2000). Back in those days, I fought both of them over affiliate transactions, conflicts of interest and politicized decisionmaking by the regulator of the power market. I tried hard to get Mr. Budd booted from that board but failed to get adequate support. Instead, the buddy of Houghton and Budd, then Energy Minister (now independent MPP) Jim Wilson, booted me first.

As a result, I believe I have the record as the shortest serving member ever of the IMO board and probably also the IESO board.
The events leading to my ouster occurred before Budd’s conviction and later disbarment by the Law Society of Upper Canada of for lawyer-conflicts-mixed-with-sex-crimes. (links: https://www.lawtimesnews.com/author/michael-mckiernan/peter-budd-loses-appeal-of-disbarment-8298/https://www.lawtimesnews.com/article/budd-guilty-of-sexual-exploitation-8581/)

In the run-up to the 2012 sale of a partial interest of Collingwood’s utility to another municipally-owned utility — Powerstream — Houghton had established himself as THE big power broker in Collingwood. He controlled the electric and water utilities. He had taken over as CAO of the town council. He had a deep personal and commercial relationship with the mayor’s influential brother, Paul Bonwick. The image the emerges from the Inquiry documents is that if you wanted to move an agenda in Collingwood, you had to go through Houghton.

Houghton and Budd were partners in a venture of siphon funds out of Collingwood’s regulated conservation programs into their business selling what they claimed were attic ventilation gizmos. Collingwood and Powerstream together bought $178K of the ventilation gizmos. (Foundation Document Chapter 7)

The sale to Powerstream was used to fund secret bonus payments to insiders and a commission for the then mayor’s brother that has been reported at $756K. (https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/8683644-former-mp-received-756k-fee-as-part-of-collingwood-pool-deal-documents-show/)

Big shout out to Dave Seglins of CBC for reporting on the Collingwood power rot for years.