By Antonella Artuso, Toronto Sun, (March 16, 2016) – Legal fees for the unpopular Hydro One sell-off have already hit $6.2 million.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) obtained the information through a Freedom of Information request.
“The firms doing the legal work are top-tier firms in Toronto, and are getting a big payday on this work,” CTF Ontario director Christine Van Geyn said in a blog post. “So far, only one of the four rounds of share sales has been completed. While much of the legal work is done, the costs will continue to climb in the subsequent rounds of sales.”
The Ontario government’s own polling has shown 75% of the public opposes Premier Kathleen Wynne’s plan to sell up to 60% of Hydro One to the private sector.
Wynne has said the money will pay for new transportation infrastructure, such as transit and bridges, but opposition parties at Queen’s Park argue she’s using the cash to balance the books in the run-up to the 2018 general election.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s office says the legal fees, which cover expenses up to Nov. 30, are commensurate with the size and scope of the initial public offering (IPO).
“The province completed the Hydro One Ltd. IPO on Nov. 5, 2015 and raised approximately $1.83 billion in gross proceeds,” the office’s statement says. “It is part of a government’s due diligence that expert legal advice is provided on such matters. This legal expertise ensured that the decisions made were in the best interest of all Ontarians and consistent with market practice for major initial public offerings.”
The legal fees were recovered from the IPO proceeds and won’t impact electricity costs for customers, the statement says.
The Liberals have already spent about $6 million on consultants’ fees related to the Ed Clark panel, which recommended the Hydro One IPO.
“Frankly, a lot of consultants and a lot of lawyers are getting their summer vacations paid for,” NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said. “None of this going down to the Toronto Islands for an afternoon.”