Ontario’s Toothless Legislation: Conflicts of Interest & Lobbying go Unpunished
A few weeks ago an article I penned noted a former employee of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) was quoted in a Toronto Star article that, in my opinion, appeared to indicate that the former employee, Jason Chee-Aloy, was lobbying on behalf of his company’s clients who included; Samsung, NextEra, Pattern and IPR-GDF North America. It also appeared on the surface, at least, to put him in a conflict of interest position. Following up on that worrisome thought took me to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner website and that was followed by an enquiry suggesting they investigate the matter under the Public Service of Ontario Act 2006, Regulation 381/07. What I got back in response was the following: “The Commissioner’s jurisdiction is limited to public servants in Ontario government ministries and agencies, known as public bodies. The list of public bodies that are governed by the PSOA and its regulations are set out in Ontario Regulation 146/10”.
A search of that list (194 names) confirmed that the OPA was not on it, and neither was Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, IESO, MaRS Discovery District or Friends of the Greenbelt. I did note that the Premier’s Climate Change Advisory Panel was on the list along with the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation (OEFC). Others that I didn’t know existed like the “Ontario Geographic Names Board”, the “Owen Sound Transportation Committee” and even a “Rabies Advisory Board” were on the list. As it turns out the “Crown Corporations” under the “Electricity Act 1998” are charged with developing their own Governance and Structure By-Laws via their Board of Directors. Searching the records was an exercise in futility as the search only turned up the “conflict of interest” guidelines for directors and in the search of the OPA site the Board Resolution only focused on the “directors” as being caught up in the By-Law whereas the IESO Board Resolution also referred to “employees”. The next port of call was the Office of the Integrity Commissioner and a check in at the Lobbyist Registry. Needless to say Mr. Chee-Aloy was not registered nor was his employer, Power Advisory LLC so I duly sent my opinion to the Lobbyist Registry by e-mail. The response back was atypical in that it stated “the Act does not contain a complaint and investigation procedure.” The best they could do was to advise me they would contact Mr. Chee-Aloy so they could “raise awareness and encourage compliance,” Despite the tepid response from the Integrity Commissioner they claim “ULTIMATELY the Commissioner can lead a new investigation if not satisfied with the response to a referral .” In the past I had occasion to refer the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) and their Executive Director, Kristopher Stevens to the Commissioner which simply resulted in both Stevens and OSEA suddenly appearing on the Lobbyist Registry.
So one must ask what exactly do these two entities really do to protect the public from abuses that reflect themselves in either potential conflicts of interest or ignorance of the “Acts” meant to protect the taxpayers from abuse by favoured parties? The answer is apparently not much!
Interestingly enough travels though the internet disclosed a “Conflict of Interest and Post-Service Directive” dated September 9, 2000 which on Page 9 under “H 21.” had the following to say;
“The government of Ontario maintains a legal interest in the post-service activities of former public servants. As such, public servants shall not, after leaving employment with the Crown, take improper advantage of their past office. For example, a public servant shall not do the following, including:
(a) allow prospects of outside employment to create a real or potential conflict of interest while in public service with the Crown
(b) seek preferential treatment or privileged access to government after leaving public service with the Crown
(c) take personal advantage of information obtained through official duties and responsibilities that is not available to the public”.
Its not clear if this directive remains in force but in the opinion of the writer it appears that Mr. Chee-Aloy is in a clear conflict with the text outlined therein. If this directive has been abandoned by the McGuinty Liberals to ensure their push for industrial wind turbines permeate the Ontario landscape it is the ruling party that should be found in conflict—but who exactly will exert their authority and punish the guilty party? This is something that escapes the writer as it is obviously neither of the two Commissioners mentioned above.
If someone does undertake the task they should also look at some other related past actions that smack of conflict such as the appearance of Ben Chin as the VP, Communications at the OPA. His sudden appearance at the OPA came following his defeat by Peter Tabuns in the Toronto-Danforth riding by-election in 2006 after a stint as a “senior adviser” to Premier McGuinty. The Sunshine List reported that Chin earned $186,000 in 2009 and $246,000 in 2010 while acting in the capacity as head of the communications team at the OPA which was much better pay then he would have received as an MPP. Chin has since left the OPA and moved to BC.
Another individual that seems (in the writer’s opinion) to be up to his UWO neck in either blatant nepotism or outright conflict is Mike Crawley, the newly elected President of the Liberal Party of Canada. Crawley’s daytime job is as the CEO and President of International Power Canada Inc. (IPC), a wholly owned subsidiary of International Power plc UK; a company with annual revenue in excess of 3 billion Euros. Crawley was one of the founders of the predecessor company, AIM PowerGen. International Power plc acquired that company from Renewable Energy Generation Limited who originally purchased AIM for $29.1 million, Mr. Crawley would appear to have benefited from the acquisition if he was a significant shareholder. As a former banker I would assume the company would have been valued not so much on it’s income statement, but on the above market contracts they obtained from the OPA for their many industrial wind developments around rural Ontario.
The recent creation of the “Clean Energy Task Force” by the Minister of Energy included two (2) IPC employees, a foreign company; perhaps because of the position of Mr Crawley as CEO of IPC and his prior position as Chair of the Management Committee of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) for seven (7) years. Was Crawley owed a favour by Minister Chris Bentley or was Bentley seeking one when Dalton McGuinty resigns? Bentley has signalled his interest in the past in leading the party and presumably Crawley could deliver some delegate votes but that is pure speculation on the writer’s part..
Crawley also sits on the IESO’s Market Development Committee and was the Chair of the RPS Implementation Working Group within the Renewable Energy Task Team (RETT). RETT was the catalyst in the push for renewable energy in the Province when “global warming” was still the buzz word before the IPCC was discredited. The link to their report of November 14, 2003 reflect many of the recommendations implemented by Dwight Duncan in 2004 via (Bill 100) changes to the Electricity Act 1998 and those were further exacerbated by the Green Energy and Economy Act in 2009. One section of the November 14, 2003 report had the following to say:
“The RETT believes that the private sector is willing to assume the financial risk and burden of new power supply development, in addition to permitting, construction and operation risk. The only risk that the private sector is currently unable to accept is the electricity market risk. The financial community’s profound unease about the Ontario electricity market due to the inconsistency of the previous Government’s electricity policy means that power purchase agreements from a credit-worthy entity (i.e. A body of the Government) is the only way to facilitate private sector financing of new power plants.”
We now know that the “Working Group” proposal resulted in the creation of the OPA through Bill 100 and in 2009 the Green Energy and Economy Act bumped up the rates paid to wind and solar developers via the FIT and MicroFIT programs on the backs of Ontario’s ratepayers.
That IPC (or its predecessor) and presumably Mike Crawley, personally, benefited from the actions of the Liberal Government is a conclusion that one must assume and it is no small coincidence that the underwriting of their concepts through legislative changes created wealth for the original AIM PowerGen founders.
The eventual outcome of the path that the Liberals have taken Ontario’s electricity sector down, will prove to be a cost to Ontario’s ratepayers, taxpayers, employers and workers that will make the e-Health scandal look like chump change with costs in the tens of billions and will stretch out for two decades or more.
Its time to amend the PSOA Legislation to protect Ontarians from this type of abuse and time for a task force to investigate and assign blame to this complicit wealth transfer from the pockets of the 4.5 million ordinary ratepayers.
July 3, 2012