For the holiday weekend following a week of scandal featuring Senators and Mayors, a reminder of the irresponsibility of the mundane in Ontario's continuing electricity sector/Queen's Park saga
"I am very sorry about the mistakes that we made ... I take responsibility for putting a process in place that ensures this won't happen again..."The Premier directed the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) "develop a new regional energy planning process based on formal input from municipalities, communities and the energy sector."
"... the people of Ontario need to hear I'm sorry because I am sorry that we didn't have a better process up front, I'm sorry that we didn't site those gas plants better, and that's why a new protocol needs to be in place"
The Oakville plant was sourced largely due to work by the IESO in establishing the need for generation in the area, with the particular siting the result of the procurement by the OPA. Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health couldn't find evidence the plant would "negatively impact the health of area residents."
I can't find any evidence the Premier's directive won't further politicize the bureaucracy - using public offices as a means of avoiding political accountability.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath has some bureaucratic solutions to strengthen fiscal accountability
...Horwath says people want to see a Budget that’s balanced and accountable to ensure that public money is invested wisely. That’s why she’s proposing a Financial Accountability Office to provide independent oversight and public information about government spending.Horwath took the Premier's apology on the gas plant as indicative that NDP braying on the gas plant issues had been effective in goading the Premier into meaningless action.
The Premier's empty action was demanded due to, in part, an openness in reporting structures instituted much earlier. The figures now generally accepted on the gas plant scandal are similar to those long estimated by the independent minds outside of the government (Bruce Sharp and Tom Adams) - the data made available by the IESO, and the OPA's provision of easy access to Ministerial directives and other documentation are bones upon which some body of accountability has been shaped.
On May 15, around the same time the provincial NDP's alleged leader was taking credit for the meaningless apology of the Premier, the IESO was posting, presumably having received the tally from the OPA, final figures for April's Global Adjustment: the figure is $50 million higher than the estimate provided from the same organizations only 2 weeks earlier.
$50 million unexplained dollars pushed the commodity rate up more than 12% over April 2012.
The Ontario Power Authority was formed in 2005 to implement long-term planning for Ontario's electricity system.
It has not - primarily through no fault of it's own, but it has not.
The prorogue of the legislature in fall 2012 - to avoid accountability for the gas plant decisions - saw the death of legislation to kill the OPA. Since that time it's become comical how often the OPA has released all requested documents only to find other documents.
The Chairman of the Board of the OPA is a problem. Appearing before the legislative committee Jim Hinds explained the inability to release documents, in his introductory comments, with the explanation that "We are in the business of producing electricity and not producing documents."
The OPA is not in the business of producing electricity - they do function to procure the supply of electricity. Presumably a competence in handling - and producing - documentation would be helpful.
Particularly, If you felt it important to get within $50 million a month on your billing estimates.
Regardless, the documents that were released convinced me that the people who work at the OPA were disregarded in negotiations, with a key document being an e-mail from Hinds laying out the path that would eventually chosen to resolve the cancellation of the plant in Oakville (page 303-304 of large .pdf). With the long-term contracting of the existing OPG Lennox plant since done, by the OPA, Hinds is exposed as working against the competency of his organization as a strictly political operative of the governing party.
The Chief Executive Officer of the OPA is Colin Andersen; as his tenure began in September 2008, it encompasses the entirety of the contracting, cancellation and planned relocation of the Oakville generating station. In Andersen's latest visit to the legislative committee, he produced a study the OPA - Ontario's experts in system planning and procurement - had commissioned in order to provide a more credible estimate than it could produce (and to pre-empt a report to be made by the Auditor General on the same topic).
What position mightd improve accountability in this environment where the public experts on planning and procurement hire external firms to produce reports to counteract the work of the public auditor:
Wynne's new process?
Horwath's new office?
On Thursday the mayor of Toronto came out speaking negatively about the Premier's negotiating stance regarding the distribution of revenues from a Ontario Lottery and Gaming's proposal for a casino in downtown Toronto.
Hours later the head of OLG would be fired, with the entire board of OLG subsequently resigning as a result.
This provides the only indication of what is required for the Premier's office to act - to agree with the stance of her political opponents.
It is notable that the Premier appointed senior public servants as a new board
This has been a situation at the shell corporation known as the Ontario Electricity Financing Authority - where the design has been useful in politicizing the operations in order to protect the incumbent governing party (see Stranded Debt - Abandoned Responsibility )