LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for December 13, 2017

Tonight City Council will decide whether or not to repaint these trucks to the Alectra colours, or leave them just as they are under the Guelph Hydro banner. You can click here for the agenda from City Hall, and you can click here for the Politico preview. For the complete blow-by-blow of tonight’s council meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

 

Guelph City Council Meeting – December 13, 2017

Live blog from the meeting starting at 6:30 pm

  1. Because Rogers doesn’t seem to know its head from its @$$ these days, the @cityofguelph will be live-streaming the meeting on their YouTube page, and Rogers will be live-streaming on their website. No TV broadcast.
  2. Mayor Guthrie has called the meeting to order. Closed session? Council just received info
  3. No Disclosure of Pecuniary Interest and General Nature Thereof. Guthrie acknowledges staff, delegates in the room, and those that send correspondences.
  4. CAO Derrick Thomson kicks off the presentation. A recap of the process thus far.
  5. Reminder: Council took sale off the table, and GHESI buying another LDC was also out. The choice was between status quo and merging with another entity, and here we are…
  6. The Strategies and Options Committee, along with the GHESI Board are recommending that the shareholder (council) approve the merger as outlined.
  7. Next up is Jane Armstrong, chair of the GHESI Board. tl;dr – Guelph Hydro is a good looking utility and a lot of people were interested in a merger. This option with Alectra is best.
  8. Now Tara Sprigg, General manager of Communications and Customer Service will present the community engagement portion.
  9. Councillor Bob Bell looks to have sent regrets for tonight’s meeting.
  10. Residents value lower rates, high-quality service, local jobs, environmental sustainability and info/transparency, according to City engagement.
  11. So one of the key results of the engagement is that people that actively sought out the opportunities for feedback were majority against merge. People sought out for comments were more likely to be pro.
  12. Bob Bell Update courtesy of a text to @SaxonOnTheStorm, he’s at the airport waiting for the Red Car. So he’s on his way (ish)…
  13. Just a note that Guelph Politico was *not* one of the media outlets that the City scanned in its engagement analysis. I’m not bitter.
  14. Final takeaways are that Guelph customers support the benefits of merger, but are eager to learn the details. pic.twitter.com/x9UfqBB4Lp
  15. Troy MacDonald, a Financial Advisor at Grant Thornton, and Ron Clarkof Aird & Berlis, Legal Advisor to GMHI, now going over the details (which can also be found here in Politico in less legalese:  https://guelphpolitico.blogspot.ca/2017/12/city-council-preview-whats-on-agenda_6.html )
  16. MacDonald: Reasonable people can disagree on when change is coming, but it’s coming.
  17. According to MacDonald and Clark, synergies will pay off to higher dividends to the City of Guelph to the tune of $10 million.
  18. The merger is promising improved reliability, infrastructure upgrades, that the southwest hub with remain in Guelph with a “minimum” number of jobs, and future proofing the system.
  19. Benefits for the city include a 24/7 control centre, and access to nighttime service and social media info sharing.
  20. In this deal #Guelph will own the same percentage of Alectra as St Catherines. Guelph will also have the right to appoint one director to the Alectra board who will be independent of council and the company.
  21. Privatization? No worries, says Clark. There are safeguards in place to precent that, and can only sell up to 10% of Alectra to private shareholders, and besides, they don’t want to!
  22. The “like-mindedness of the shareholders is not to be under-estimated”, says Clark. Everyone believes in “the importance of municipal participation.”
  23. Finally, Pankaj Sardana CEO of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc., speaking to the deal. notes that Alectra is committed to preserving the Southwest Operations Centre for 10 years and “hopes” it’s longer.
  24. The delegation is not going over the deets for the Green Energy and Technology Centre because of time. Moving on to human resources.
  25. Sardana notes that this is going to be “an emotional time” for everyone. 70 positions being kept, 30 being moved out of the area, and the 29 will be cut due to retirement and other attrition.
  26. Guthrie notes that typically council would be asking Qs at this point, but instead, w’re heading into public delegations. The rules: 5 hard minutes, questions only from council.
  27. First up is Norm Loberg, the chair of Alectra Inc.
  28. Loberg says they are “honoured” to have Guelph join them. They value all their member communities and respect their culture and heritage.
  29. Loberg: Why Guelph? Shared vision of the future in rapidly transforming energy sector.
  30. Loberg says that all communities that are part of Alectra have a say, even ones that don’t have a seat on the board, but hey, Guelph will have a seat so no problem. #basically
  31. Loberg says the rate of change is much faster today. Focus is now on non-regulated service activity, which his the service of providing power to customers in unique ways with 3rd parties and governments.
  32. Cllr Allt asks if there’s a northern hub similar to that of Guelph? Loberg refers that to a later delegate, the Mayor of Barrie.
  33. Loberg is complete. Next up is Richard Puccini who wants to encourage council to put the sale option back on the table. He’s asking one of the questions I’ve been asking: how is this merger better than sale?
  34. Puccini prepared a report card for council on this topic. https://t.co/ye022MFLdo

    Puccini prepared a report card for council on this topic. pic.twitter.com/ye022MFLdo
  35. Puccini says there’s risk to dividends if Alectra chooses to chase more acquisitions.
  36. Dr Ron East is the next speaker, delegating on behalf of Council of Canadians. Also notes that this is in breach of the intention based at council in February to not pursue the sale option.
  37. East says that the board of Alectra can be controlled by two players: Mississauga and Vaughan, and there’s nothing really that Guelph can do about those board decisions.
  38. East raises the possibility that Alectra could be sold to foreign buyer. Clearly Alectra’s promise to not privatize is not entirely persuasive.
  39. On Green Energy Tech Centre, East says this sounds like a “big box store” that might push out smaller, private players and the ability to innovate.
  40. The gallery claps and Guthrie has to remind that procedural rules request that there’s no reaction from the floor for respect.
  41. Next is Steve Dyck. Thanks staff for engagement and research, but wants to point to a “better way forward.” Notes that Guelph Hydro has the capital improvements right now to handle loads from new energy sources.
  42. Dyck notes that Collingwood negotiated a one per cent reduction in rates before merger with merger, and we all know how that turned out:  https://guelphpolitico.blogspot.ca/2017/12/the-alectra-merger-hows-it-going.html 
  43. The tally so far:
    For merger: 1
    Against merger: 2
    Sell: 1
  44. Cllr Gordon asks Dyck about his professional view. The potential for central generators (GH) to be in a bad positions. Cost of local power, and self-generation going up, but GH situation is different. Our lines carrying more electricity.
  45. Paul Costello is next. Asks why if Alectra intends to continue to grow, then why would Guelph want to be part of a shrinking enterprise? I think he’s a nay.
  46. No questions for Costello, but Guthrie cautions that everyone’s opinion tonight should be respected
  47. Diane Hurst is now up saying its been very hard to find balanced information about the merger, and it’s all seemed like a sales pitch. Meanwhile, Alectra is a new company with no long-term record.
  48. Hurst is second delegate to ask why merging with Waterloo, Kitchener or Cambridge hydro assets was not on the table.
  49. Donna Jennison is up next, she says she’s here because she’s inherently suspicious of big conglomerates. Says Alectra can get bigger via debt financing through private investors.
  50. Jennison asks for an “escape clause” if the decision goes through. Mostly concerned that private corps are making gains with the help of the public purse.
  51. Colleen Pearse is now up. Notes the established customer service at Guelph Hydro and the helpfulness there in. People are very concerned about losing this personal service.
  52. Pearse notes that the Clean Energy Centre could “disappear without much fanfare”. There are no guarantees that this will be around for the long haul.
  53. Next up is Dan Bertens, a Guelph Hydro employee. This puts us one-third of the way through the delegates list.
  54. Bertens notes that Guelph has been an industry leader, paying dividends every year. Says that staff has not listened and has not delivered on the promise of finding an appropriate partner. Guelph is trying to sell residents on merger.
  55. Delegate Scoreboard:
    For Merger: 1
    Against Merger: 7
    For Sale: 1
  56. More applause for Goldberg, Guthrie reminds audience that it’s not cool protocol wise.
  57. Mark Goldberg, who was on the SOC, is up next. Says that the problem is not Guelph Hydro, but the business model.
  58. Goldberg says that the industry is in a “death spiral” and that’s not being dramatic. Prices go up = people leave the grid to self-generate = prices go up again.
  59. Goldberg says that Alectra has the same core values as Guelph Hydro, it’s a great for Guelph financially, and Alectra equipped to escape the “death spiral”.
  60. Not for nothing, but there’s a lot of moaning and groaning from the gallery at Goldberg’s presentation.
  61. Cllr Gordon says he knows that Goldberg’s been an advocate for the Community Energy Initiative, but how can the GrE&T Centre help CEI? Alectra considers Guelph “fertile ground” ready to embrace green solutions.
  62. Francis Papillon is up next. Not against merger in principle, but feels like we have not been given any options or other analysis.
  63. Pavilion says that we were told that Waterloo North was poorly run, and in debt, but they paid a $5 Mn dividend. What gives? But that’s a local merger as visioned in February, not one being offered with 2nd largest public utility in North America.
  64. Guthrie notes a comment from Papillion that said he talked to someone in GMHI. He meant that he saw a study from KPMG. Only one person in the room is involved with GMHI, so it could have been a faux pas for CAO Thomson.
  65. Mike Nagy wants to talk about a positive spiral, but notes his father’s saying “a quick deal is not always a good deal.”
  66. Nagy asks, “What’s the rush?” Is this a one time offer? He’s also concerned about why Alectra CEO Bentz is on the delegates list tonight? This is an evening for citizens.
  67. Nagy says this reminds him of the municipal amalgamation argument in the 90s. Also reminds him of the Highway 407 sale. “Bigger is better” is a myth. Many small LDCs are thriving.
  68. Cllr Salisbury asks how long this process should take? Nagy says as long as it takes, feels like we don’t have the tools to make this decision right now.
  69. Barker says that of all the efforts to communicate, all he got in the mail was a post card that referred him to the Energizing Tomorrow website. He says defer this. Step back, examine everything, and get the truth.
  70. Barker says communications too narrow and focused with the intention to sell Guelph on the merger.
  71. Cynthia Bragg is up next. Calls Guelph Hydro a well-run and profitable company, could merge in the future with a more local utility. There’s another question here about the long-term of Alectra.
  72. Bragg worried that GrE&T Centre will be little more than a demonstration and marketing centre. What guarantee is there that they can and will deliver on possibility of innovation?
  73. Halfway through the delegations, the score is…
    In favour: 2
    Against: 10
    Revisit Sale: 1
    Defer Motion: 1
  74. There seems to be a lot of suspicion about the public surveys on the merger. That the intention was to get positive feedback from participants in order to sell the merger.
  75. Next up, Bill McLellan. He’s against with the night’s first #Titanic reference.
  76. McLellan also mentions the short life of Alectra. This seems to be a common concern for people in the face of 100+ years of service of Guelph Hydro.
  77. McLellan says that engaging with the City on this issue has been “an exercise in being talked down to”.
  78. Salisbury asks for clarity on that comment. McLellan says it was online, Facebook. It was always very dismissive, and very “We know better than you.” No desire to do anything but give out some pamphlets.
  79. So we’re heading into a 10 minute break. The score at halftime…
    For merger: 2
    Against merger: 10
    For sale: 1
    Defer motion: 2
  80. It’s 9:16, and the mayor has re-entered the chamber. We should be re-starting shortly.
  81. Guthrie is calling the meeting back to order, saying like long-running delegations, he decided to let the break run long. Jonathan Webb is the next speaker.
  82. Webb says we’re losing local control, hoping that Alectra partners share value, but that’s not clear. Plus 60 jobs out of the community. We’re losing local control and jobs, but keeping the status quo.
  83. Next up, Brian Manniger of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is now speaking. Much of what he wanted to say has already been said. Also calling for deferment.
  84. Salisbury asks if he’s here as a rep for IBEW. Manninger says he’s hear for himself. Asks if he has a statement from the union, they think it might be a good think, but need more time.
  85. Next, Jon and RoseMary Peddle. They are against saying that this is another case of shortterm gain for longterm pain.
  86. Rosemary Peddie asks why the process has been so secretive, why did it all happen behind closed doors?
  87. Jon Peddie says he thinks this is a one-sided deal; good for Alectra, bad for citizens.
  88. Next up is Isseiah Berhane. He is also an employee of Guelph Hydro, which I believe is the 3rd staff member to appear. He also accuses the City of being pointedly pro-merger in its materials. Materials fail to mention that control room already staffed 24/7.
  89. Berhane also notes that during a large storm, its likely many in Alectra’s service area will be hit at same time. Who would get priority: Mississauga, Brampton or Guelph?
  90. In the 2013 ice storm, Guelph Hydro got city back to full power in 24 hours, and then sent crews to neighbouring municipalities.
  91. Berhane says Alectra is not a poorly run company, but there’s no evidence to say that they’ll provide better customer service.
  92. Next up, Todd Ernst, the director of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (?) Yes, he’s here to speak as a customer of Alectra.
  93. Ernst says that Alectra is providing the GTAA with more than “wires and electrons”, but has helped with conservation and to reduce the electrical bills.
  94. Quick editorial note: Considering the tenor of the evening from delegates has been concern about loss of local centrality, exactly how persuasive is someone from outside the municipality going to be?
  95. Salisbury calls the presentation persuasive, asks if Salisbury if he’s a Guelph resident. He’s not. So Salisbury asks why he’s delegating. Alexia asked him.
  96. Next up is Rossana Broderick, she’s a former employee of Brampton Hydro One, and now works for Alectra. Notes prior to merger there was nervousness, worried that they would be second class after sale, but surprise, they were treated fairly!
  97. So far there have been four delegates in favour of merger: the chair of Alectra, an Alectra employee, a rep for Alectra customers, and a member of Guelph’s SOC. #justsaying.
  98. Broderick says the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and she’s seen nothing but positives from Alectra.
  99. Salisbury strikes again. Says Broderick’s perspective is important, but asks who invited her to delegate here tonight. Broderick wanted to provide reassurance though her own experience, pledges to help employees thru the process, but doesn’t answer the question.
  100. Rossana Broderick, Director Change Management & Communication @alectranews delegates @cityofguelph council meeting on @GuelphHydro merger https://t.co/ITU2pAxd9U

    Rossana Broderick, Director Change Management & Communication @alectranews delegates @cityofguelph council meeting on @GuelphHydro merger pic.twitter.com/ITU2pAxd9U
  101. Salisbury asks straight up: is she being paid to be here? Broderick says no.
  102. Janice Folk-Dawson now up. Evokes First Nations principles and asks council too keep in mind the longterm consequences. Worries we’re being sold a deal we don’t have all the info about.
  103. Folk-Dawson says that the deal is effectively firing workers, and they should be pretty straight with that.
  104. Folk-Dawson also asks to who is the Guelph director on Alectra’s board responsible to: is it Alectra or Guelph council?
  105. Guthrie tries to cut in as Folk-Dawson is overtime. But she’s persevering. One more sentence she says.
  106. Next up is Erik Veneman, another Guelph Hydro employee representing himself. He’s VP of growth and innovation. An exciting time, but offer advice for council.
  107. Veneman says they do need to grow, merger is the best way to do it. Doesn’t envy council, it’s a tough decision, asks council to get all the answers they need before voting on the deal.
  108. We’re into the final 5. Krista Perry is the next speaker. She’s the current (and hopefully future) billing supervisor at Guelph Hydro the last 20 years.
  109. Perry speaking as Guelph resident though, not speaking for Hydro. She’s not against merger, business is moving toward 10 total utilities, but thinks Alectra is getting too big. Remember Hydro One billing nightmare?
  110. Will Guelph have an executive in place at Alectra, asks Perry. “I hope you do,” she adds.
  111. Perry notes that Alectra’s service charges are triple what they are in Guelph. Alectra, apparently, nickel and dimes on every service including credit check, meter adjustments, et al.
  112. Tom Chessell, VP of Power Workers Union says his org has had positive relationship so far. Mutual respect and trust whether they’re dealing with big or small issues.
  113. Chessell says he knows the anxiety that the Guelph Hydro workers are going through, but Alectra is a progressive company.
  114. Cllr Gibson asks Chessell to confirm that PW workers have been treated fairly. Chessell says “absolutely” as they merge five collective agreements into one. “No member’s been left behind,” he said.
  115. Actually that wasn’t Tom Chessell, it was John Cammaleri. With the same union though.
  116. Next up is Barry Ward, a city councillor from Barrie. He says he’s heard a lot of the same arguments, he was against the merger of Barrie Hydro merger with PowerStream, most residents were against, but says it’s worked out fine for Barrie.
  117. Service seems to be the same, dividends better than expected, help to the community through charity, Ward says: pic.twitter.com/I6iPCmwKa9
  118. Next up is Jeff Lehman, the mayor of @cityofbarrie. He also says that merger has brought nothing but benefits, and “bigger is better.”
  119. Lehman: 8 years later, the ops centre is still open. Compliments the PowerStream workers from Markham who restored power in Barrie during 2016 ice storm. Power back in a day, a week in neighbouring municipality.
  120. Since I think we can assume that the CEO of Alectra will be in favour of merger, let’s consider the final delegate tally.

    For merger: 9
    Against merger: 15
    For Sale: 1
    Defer Vote: 4

  121. Worth remembering: In less than 30 minutes, council will have to take a vote to go beyond 11 pm.
  122. Cllr Wettstein asks about privatization talk. Lehman says that getting bigger felt like getting private, but it’s been all positive. “We’re hugely proud of Alectra as a public company, you’ll be proud of it too.”
  123. Cllr Piper notes that Barrie and Guelph have some growth rate. Have local utility jobs stayed in Barrie? Have hires increased? Lehman says there was a decline after the merger, but it has increased since.
  124. Last but not least is Brian Bentz, CEO of Alectra. Senses the pride and passion of the Guelph community, especially the employees that spoke tonight.
  125. Bentz tl;dr – Alectra is dope, and you’ll be tripping out.
  126. Piper welcomes Bentz to Guelph, notes that many or her questions have been cultural. How close are they to being “Utility 2.0”?
    Bentz: Not that close, very community/customer focused. About reliability and safety, and now about innovation and technology.
  127. Guthrie asks Allt and Hofland to move past 11 pm. It looks unanimous.
  128. Allt asks about Mississauga and Vaughan end up with the percentage ownership they get, and how Guelph and St Catherines get their percentages? Vaughan has seen massive growth and made several initial mergers in their area, hence their piece of the pie.
  129. Allt asks for clarity, that the increasing dividends are not on the back of rate increases. Bentz says the two are handled separately.
  130. Gordon asks Bentz what the growth goals of Alectra are?
    Bentz says this is determined on a case-by-case basis. Will it enhance their strategic benefit? Will it add to economic outlook? But they’re approaching a size that feels right.
  131. Cllr Hofland asks if there will be re-training for workers that may end up at risk of losing their jobs. Bentz says that when they bought Hydro One Brampton, they had to go out of their way to make those workers comfortable with transition. Guelph would be treated same w/fairness
  132. Cllr Billing says this is tough, head says to merge, heart says not to merge. Asks Sardana for clarity on $18.5 Mn one-time dividend payout, cannot increase ownership by paying more?
    Sardana: Correct.
  133. Sardana: Alectra has made commitment to shareholders as they formed in terms of dividend patterns, changing that creates problems for them. Came up for ownership percentage that’s reasonable for all partners.
  134. MacDonald: Sardana correct. The $18.5 million pays for future infrastructure commitments that Alectra will now be taking over.
  135. Billings says she’s skeptical of projections, how can they guaranteed this isn’t going to go sideways?
    Sardana: These are regulated companies, so there are certain rules and preventions built in.
  136. Guthrie nods to the time. Wants everyone to be aware, not that he wants to be accused of rushing this.
  137. Gordon following up on some of the delegations. Asks staff about the risks involved in deferring?
  138. MacDonald: It’s been a long, difficult journey to tonight. Guelph’s expended a lot of time, and resources. So has Alectra, 4 shareholder have already approved transaction. Delay means uncertain, additional expense for Guelph and Alectra.
  139. Alectra would also have to restart the process again for some reason, and there’s no guarantee that the del might still go forward on their end. Deferral would not guarantee that the deal would still go forward.
  140. Gordon asks about First Nations consultations. Sardana: The short answer is they didn’t. There was no requirement, it didn’t come up.
  141. Gordon on CEI, wants to make it a robust part moving forward. Keep $150 Mn in the local economy. Important for community to know a little bit more. Is there a business plan, or steps going forward?
  142. MacDonald: There is a business plan and binding commitments. Bent described vision, and MacDonald’s job as a lawyer is to take statements and turn them into legally binding commitments.
  143. Piper’s questions answered, but Hofland has another. Asks staff about the job loss and HR plan in terms of transition timetable, if there will be retraining opportunities too.
  144. Sardana: It’s hard, and Alectra’s been gracious through process. Can’t imagine Alectra doing a “left turn” on Guelph. They’re a caring company, and will offer opportunities. Long runway with time to prepare.
  145. Reminder: Council will have to take a vote before midnight (if we go that long).
  146. Responding to Hofland’s question, the unanimous shareholders agreement will not be made public.
  147. Good news story is that big users in Guelph will have rate certainty for the next several years with modest increases. Rate harmonization deferral is good news for rate payers.
  148. Guelph will not be required to harmonize rates at the end of the stout period. This is in response to a question from Salisbury.
  149. Salisbury asks for the consultants to set the record straight on their relationship with Alectra. MacDonald says Grant Thornton has no ties, lawyers with Aird & Berlis have worked for Alectra in the past.
  150. Gibson notes that this was not a sole-source deal with Alectra. 14 groups in the hunt for merger with Guelph, thanks Cllr Downer for raising that.
  151. Wettstein wants to restate for the benefit of the public, 4.63% = $130 million. This is an asset we still own with market value, yes?
    Clark: That’s fair market value, yes.
  152. Sardana calls Alectra, “fabulous.” It’s a people company and heard from Hydro One Brampton and it’s been a good journey for them. All red and yellow flags removed.
  153. Guthrie asks for motion to continue meeting past midnight. Council unanimously supports.
  154. Comments now beginning with Piper. She’s still not sure. Heard compelling arguments from the public. Sympathizes with community b/c council has had access to more info. Needed to make decisions though.
  155. Piper says it’s been about three priorities: privatization, people, and progressivism. Doesn’t fear privatization anymore, hears people is are priority, likes what she heard about progressivism.
  156. Piper adds that she’s also hear the emotion of the community. In other words, ???
  157. Cllr Bell says he made his decision several months ago, pleased with their presentations and reduced his fear of privatization, but forgetting that concerns months ago were local control. Alectra merger loses that, plus 30-60 jobs.
  158. Bell says GHESI is “on the small side of optimal”, but it’s his belief that bigger is not always better. Notes that Bentz said that Alectra is big enough. Not sure Guelph is going to help them.
  159. Wettstein says his decision is the easiest one he made in 40 years of management. This was a better process then Horizon in 2008, notes council wasn’t as professional as they could have been. Doing nothing is a risk we just can’t take.
  160. So far: Bell – Nay, Wettstein – Yay, Piper – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  161. Hofland: No doubt that GHESI is source of pride. It’s well-run and reliable, but it doesn’t have the resources or flexibility to weather the coming changes. Hofland seems that she’s really struggled to get here. A lot of emotion in her voice.
  162. Hofland says she can’t stress enough how difficult and challenging this issue has been. It’s been a steep learning curve, but thanks everyone for their comments and questions.
  163. Hofland will be supporting staff recommendation to proceed with the merger.
  164. Gordon says this is the hardest decision in his first term. Notes that Alectra started and finished strong, but it matter what happened in the middle. Strong community voice was heard, everyone spoke with passion.
  165. Gordon is stuck. Every phone call, email, social media post, and local delegates seem to indicate that they don’t want the merger. Gordon says many of his concerns addressed, but this is do it yourself town. It makes us more afraid.
  166. Gordon has a sense that this is not going to go the way that people in the gallery want it to go. Worried that he can’t proceed with a buy-in without people supporting it. Note resiliency and creativity of Guelph to address challenges ahead.
  167. Gordon says it may be largely symbolic, but does’t want the people to feel unheard and we will show that through that vote. So, nay (?)
  168. Salisbury notes his insight into GHESI while serving on the board, one of the best experiences he had while on council.
  169. Salisbury notes he was also “inherently suspicious”, entered process questioning the assumptions. Says he hand delivered 4,500 notices in an effort to get more feedback.
  170. Salisbury notes that even people up to speed had a feeling that they weren’t getting the whole picture. It doesn’t appear there’s any rationale to pursue this, but the feedback he got has been mixed. Some people came out in favour.
  171. Salisbury says this is an important decision beyond getting re-election. That shouldn’t be the basis of the decision. His deal-breaker questions have been answered to his satisfaction.
  172. Salisbury says “we have a 50 per cent chance of getting this right” and “a future we cannot predict.” Doesn’t feel it was a rushed process, but comprehensive. Sounds like he’s a yes.
  173. Likely Yays: Hofland, Wettstein, Salisbury
    Likely Nays: Bell, Gordon
    Unsure: Piper.
  174. Downer says she kept needing information on why GHESI couldn’t go it alone, and got a real sense for what is changing. Agrees GHESI doesn’t have the ability to do it came to that acceptance.
  175. Downer disagrees with Gordon, heard people not refuting merger, but needing more info, and that research was done but could not share publicly.
  176. Downer says she’s supporting the motion, so we’re halfway to merger with 4 ‘yes’ votes.
  177. Downer says she’s happy the Guelph is going boldly, and that municipalities are heading into the future in charge of their own utilities.
  178. Gibson is the final speaker. Says he started in the same place as people in the audience, a skeptic, believes there’s a bright future, reluctantly supported merger option, and come to conclusion that do nothing puts our local presence at more risk to go it alone.
  179. Gibson says this is the exact opposite of privatization. This is municipalities banding together to face the future.
  180. Cllr MacKinnon comments: Guelph Hydro is very well run, but need to look 20 years into the future, and not 2. This is a great deal for Guelph. So it sounds like that’s the sixth vote in favour.
  181. MacKinnon: Maybe better to get in on the ground floor, but this is a fine time to get in too.
  182. Allt says he feels like he’s been crunching for an exam that’ll change his life. But is what is best for Guelph Hydro best for Guelph? He’s a ‘No’ vote.
  183. Allt worries about the southwest hub angle. It implies that Alectra will continue to expand, but what if that never happens? What if the point of a SW hub becomes moot?
  184. Guthrie, Van Hellemond and Billings have yet to say how they’ll vote. Piper is still a question. The split with the rest are 6 yeses and 3 nos.
  185. Allt thanks Guelph Today, Tribune and yes, Politico, for the coverage, but laments that media doesn’t have a lot of resources to dig into this properly. Ouch.
  186. Billings says she’s struggled with this, been her hardest decision on council. Constituent wrote “Once Hydro is gone it’s gone forever,” and she’s felt that’s emotional. But… It’s a good deal for ratepayers hence merge.
  187. Billings says she was attached to the idea of keeping Guelph Hydro or joining with Kitchener or Cambridge.
  188. Billings says that she’s wanted to find fault in the report, but she has not. Mentally she has to support the merger.
  189. Guthrie gets the real last comments. Thanks people for all their input, and that it wasn’t dismissed. He did follow-up on points made.
  190. Process: this has been an issue for 14 months. Benefits? Been over that. Fearful though that if there is no merger, Guelph might miss the boat and lose an opportunity.
  191. Guthrie points out that the Guelph Hydro board voted unanimously to do this. SOC too. “That has a lot of weight on me,” he said.
  192. Billings and Guthrie clinch it. Merge will go ahead.
  193. Motion passes 10-3. Allt, Bell, and Gordon are the only no votes.
  194. And now for some final thoughts from CAO Thomson. Thanks SOC, GHESI Board, for all their hard work.
  195. Guthrie says this process has been excellent. Thanks everyone as well, including the reps from Alectra. “We look forward to working with you.”
  196. So that’s the end of this meeting. One more before the Christmas break on Monday. Have a good night.

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