By Joelle Kovach, Peterborough Examiner (Friday, May 13) – Four out of 10 councillors say they’ve already decided how they’ll vote, if Hydro One offers to buy the city’s utility: No, thanks.
Councillors Diane Therrien, Dean Pappas, Keith Riel and Don Vassiliadis told The Examiner this week they are all against the prospective sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc. (PDI).
A fifth councilor, Gary Baldwin, said he’s undecided but “leaning” toward no.
Not that he’d commit to that – not right away. Although Hydro One is interested in buying PDI, no formal offer has been made.
“So we don’t have all the facts and figures, do we?” Baldwin said.
Still, he said it’s going to take a lot to convince him that it’s a good idea for PDI to be sold.
“My heart says we should hang onto our utility,” he said.
PDI is the local electricity distribution company, and the city owns it. Recently, there have been negotiations between the city and Hydro One to potentially sell PDI.
The sale could net the city somewhere between $40 million and $50 million; city council could decide to invest that money, and it could yield an annual return of about $2 million (double the revenues of PDI).
But the public is concerned about losing control of its utility. A new Environics poll released this week, which asked if residents were in favour of the sale, found that 93% of respondents don’t want the utility sold.
“I’m surprised that figure isn’t higher,” said Pappas in an interview on Wednesday.
Pappas said he’s heard from plenty of his constituents about this.
“I haven’t heard from anyone who supports a sale,” Pappas said. He doesn’t support it, either.
Neither does Therrien, who said she’s concerned hydro rates will end up soaring in the long run.
“And once it’s done, it’s done,” she said of a sale. “You don’t go and buy it back.”
Riel said he’s been stopped in public by “hundreds” of people who all want to tell him they don’t want PDI sold. He opposes a sale, too.
Vassiliadis said he hasn’t heard from anyone who supports a sale – and he doesn’t support it, either.
He said he wants there to be more large public meetings on the matter. There was only one, in March, at Market Hall.
“I think we should have more meetings – and take our time with this decision,” he said.
Mayor Daryl Bennett did not wish to be interviewed about it this week, but he released a written statement calling it “premature” to decide about the matter before there’s even been an offer to purchase.
Coun. Henry Clarke is taking the same approach, and said other councillors should hold off on making a decision until there’s an offer.
“There shouldn’t be a single councillor who’s decided,” he said. “There’s nothing to make your mind up on.”
Coun. Lesley Parnell is not making up her mind yet, either: “We all need information for now – and for the long term,” she said.
Coun. Andrew Beamer is also waiting for there to be an offer to consider.
“I’ll wait for the facts and figures and information,” he said.
Coun. Dan McWilliams couldn’t be reached for comment.