‘We should all be wor­ried’

Wynne says Ford’s pledge to fire Hy­dro One CEO shows he has no plan

The Beacon Herald - - NEWS - SHAWN JEFFORDS THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

OAKVILLE, Ont. — Doug Ford’s prom­ise to fire the CEO of Hy­dro One if elected this spring shows he has no plan to lead On­tario, Premier Kath­leen Wynne said Fri­day, call­ing the Tory leader’s pledge lit­tle more than “blus­ter.”

Wynne, whose Lib­er­als face an up­hill bat­tle to stay in power, made her com­ments a day af­ter Ford said his first act as premier would be to fire CEO Mayo Sch­midt and the board of di­rec­tors at On­tario’s largest elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion provider.

“If this is his pol­icy ap­proach then I think we should all be wor­ried,” Wynne said. “I think that ev­ery­one in On­tario should be wor­ried if this kind of slo­ga­neer­ing and blus­ter, quite frankly, is what is be­ing put for­ward as pol­icy and as co­her­ent de­ci­sion­mak­ing.”

The newly minted Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader said he would dump Sch­midt be­cause the CEO of the par­tially pri­va­tized util­ity presided over the dra­matic in­crease of hy­dro rates in the prov­ince and earned a $6.2 mil­lion salary last year.

“You can take this to the bank, the CEO’s gone and this board is gone,” Ford told a news con­fer­ence in Toronto on Thurs­day. “When we’re in gov­ern­ment, we’re go­ing to put an end to the hy­dro ex­ec­u­tives get­ting rich off the tax­pay­ers of this great prov­ince.”

On Fri­day, Wynne noted that Sch­midt’s salary was in range with com­pa­ra­ble po­si­tions, and said Ford’s prom­ise won’t save a sin­gle ratepayer in the prov­ince “one cent.”

“We have a com­plex elec­tric­ity sys­tem and say­ing that you’re just go­ing to re­move peo­ple from of­fice when there is re­ally no co­her­ent plan for how the elec­tric­ity sys­tem should work, I think is ir­re­spon­si­ble,” she said.

Wynne, whose Lib­er­als have promised bil­lions in new spend­ing to en­hance health care and child care in re­cent weeks, said vot­ers don’t know any of Ford’s pri­or­i­ties yet be­cause he has not re­leased a plat­form.

“We have no idea about any of his pri­or­i­ties apart from maybe fir­ing one CEO,” she said. “That’s not pol­icy, that’s not a plan. That’s a slo­gan mas­querad­ing as pol­icy.”

Ford’s spokes­woman crit­i­cized Wynne’s com­ments on Sch­midt’s com­pen­sa­tion.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate that the premier is de­fend­ing the salaries of Hy­dro One mil­lion­aires while the peo­ple in On­tario suf­fer at the hands of their mis­man­age­ment on this file,” Melissa Lants­man said in a state­ment Fri­day.

While Ford would in­di­rectly have the power to turf the Hy­dro One CEO, he’d have to do it by re­mov­ing the en­tire com­pany’s board and hav­ing the new di­rec­tors fire Sch­midt. That move wouldn’t come cheap, trig­ger­ing at least $10.7 mil­lion in sev­er­ance for the ex­ec­u­tive, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s an­nual share­hold­ers re­port re­leased on March 29.

The sev­er­ance amount is an es­ti­mate based on the as­sump­tion Sch­midt’s de­par­ture oc­curred on Dec. 31, 2017, which means if the CEO left af­ter that date, the fig­ure would likely be higher.

Hy­dro One was par­tially pri­va­tized in Novem­ber 2015, with the prov­ince say­ing it planned to use the sale of shares to fund tran­sit and in­fra­struc­ture projects. By De­cem­ber 2017, the prov­ince had sold off 53 per cent of its stake in the com­pany.

The prov­ince’s fis­cal watch­dog has said that tax­pay­ers would have saved $1.8 bil­lion if the gov­ern­ment had taken on tra­di­tional debt to fund in­fra­struc­ture projects in­stead of par­tially pri­va­tiz­ing Hy­dro One, which has over $25 bil­lion in as­sets and an­nual rev­enues of nearly $6 bil­lion.

The com­pany has noted that Hy­dro One cus­tomers pay only two cents on their monthly bill for the CEO’s com­pen­sa­tion while nearly 80 per cent of the to­tal ex­ec­u­tive com­pen­sa­tion pack­age is paid for by share­hold­ers.

On­tario’s elec­tion is set for June 7.

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne, left, said newly minted Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader Doug Ford’s prom­ise to fire the CEO of Hy­dro One won’t save a sin­gle ratepayer in the prov­ince “one cent.”

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