Ford says nixed deal not his fault

Can­celled Hy­dro One takeover will re­sult in tens of mil­lions in fees passed on to the tax­payer

StarMetro Toronto - - TORONTO - Robert Benzie

Premier Doug Ford in­sists he’s not to blame for U.S. reg­u­la­tors zap­ping Hy­dro One’s $6.7 bil­lion takeover of Avista Corp., which will cost On­tario tax­pay­ers tens of mil­lions in can­cel­la­tion fees.

In his first pub­lic state­ment since Wash­ing­ton state re­jected the On­tario util­ity’s pro­posed takeover of Avista cit­ing po­lit­i­cal med­dling by Ford’s gov­ern­ment, the premier was un­re­pen­tant.

“Upon as­sum­ing of­fice we acted de­ci­sively to keep our prom­ise to On­tario vot­ers,” Ford said Thurs­day, re­fer­ring to his de­ci­sion to get rid of Mayo Schmidt, the Hy­dro One CEO he de­rided as the “$ 6- mil­lion man” for his hefty salary.

“I will never apol­o­gize for keep­ing my prom­ises to the vot­ers. We are re­duc­ing hy­dro rates and, af­ter years of ne­glect, fi­nally putting the ratepayer first,” the premier said.

En­ergy Minister Greg Rick­ford, mean­while, ap­peared to be hold­ing out hope that the deal could some­how be sal­vaged. “That was one of three reg­u­la­tory bod­ies’ de­ci­sions and that is not an ex­pected out­come. Hy­dro One and Avista are re­view­ing that de­ci­sion and con­sid­er­ing their op­tions,” Rick­ford told the leg­is­la­ture. Out­side the house, the minister re­jected the sug­ges­tion that po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence scut­tled the bid.

“I’m not sure that’s what the de­ci­sion said,” he said.

Ford em­pha­sized that the set­back “doesn’t change our fo­cus on bring­ing down hy­dro rates and pro­tect­ing the peo­ple of On­tario.”

“This is a deal that was put to­gether by the for­mer board and for­mer CEO of Hy­dro One — a deal that did noth­ing to lower hy­dro rates for On­tario res­i­dents,” the premier said, adding ratepay­ers should not “take a back seat to for­eign reg­u­la­tors.”

“Our gov­ern­ment ran on a clear prom­ise to clean up the mess at Hy­dro One. This in­cluded a firm com­mit­ment to re­new the Hy­dro One se­nior lead­er­ship that had lost the con­fi­dence of On­tario ratepay­ers. The peo­ple of On­tario elected us to fol­low through on this prom­ise,” he said.

The Wash­ing­ton Util­i­ties and Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion (UTC) said the $6.7-bil­lion deal was not in the pub­lic in­ter­est be­cause it was “ev­i­dent” de­ci­sions im­pact­ing Hy­dro One were in­flu­enced by “po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions” in On­tario.

STEVE RUS­SELL/TORONTO STAR

On­tario Premier Doug Ford in­sists he was not the cause of the re­jected Avista takeover deal fol­low­ing his fir­ing of Hy­dro One CEO Mayo Schmidt.

FACE­BOOK/COURT EX­HIBIT

Zack Noured­dine, left, in an un­dated Face­book photo, and a screen­grab from se­cu­rity video show­ing Wil­liam Cum­mins, Matthew Mor­eira and Pa­trick Smith.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.