By Jessica Nyznik, The Peterborough Examiner ( March 19, 2016) – Peterborough wasn’t supposed to have a provincial Keep Hydro Public campaign at all, until the prospective sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc. (PDI) to Hydro One was put on the table.
Provincial campaigns to keep Hydro One public are launching across cities in Ontario, but Peterborough wasn’t on the list.
When it became public knowledge that PDI could soon be sold to Hydro One, Peterborough came to the activist’s attention.
Peterborough resident Candace Rennick is the secretary treasurer of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, which is a member of the Keep Hydro Public Coalition.
As soon as the coalition found out Mayor Daryl Bennett and city council were considering the sale of city-owned distributor, Rennick said they reprioritized all of their priorities across Ontario.
“We reprioritized and put on a full-blown campaign in the community to help the community become engaged and stop the sale of the PDI here in Peterborough,” said Rennick.
Rennick was one of 100 people at the launch of the local campaign at Sadleir House on Saturday morning.
Supporters split into small groups to hand out leaflets around the city, some knocking on doors.
The city can expect to make about $45 million if it sells to Hydro One, according to report by PDI’s management.
If the money is reinvested, report states, the city could get an annual return between $1 million and $2.5 million.
Meanwhile, the Ontario government is selling 60% of Hydro One to raise money for construction projects.
That would leave Peterborough with a hydro system run by Hydro One, with the majority of the company privatized.
“History has shown that when electricity systems do become privatized, rates sky rocket,” she said.
A poll conducted by the coalition in Peterborough in June, revealed 88% of those that took the poll were against the privatization of Hydro One.
Adam Coones, president of Peterborough District CUPE Council, said residents’ stance on the sale of PDI matched the poll when the city held a public consultation March 3.
During that meeting, Coones said the city was told “overwhelmingly, almost unanimously,” that the community wasn’t in favour of PDI’s sale.
“Yet they continue to think it’s a good idea to go forward with it,” he said.
His primary concern is that there’s been no transparency about PDI’s prospective sale.
Negotiations began with Hydro One in July, though it wasn’t made public until earlier this year.
Coones said PDI is a profitable utility and didn’t see the gain in selling.
The city receives about $1 million a year in profits from PDI, John Stephenson, president and CEO of Peterborough Utilities Group, recently told council.
That sum is expected to dwindle though as the utility’s earnings drop over the next few years because it’s pricey to maintain the infrastructure, Stephenson said.
Saturday’s event drew a fair number of union members among its mix, with Jill McEraney and Greta Granville from Service Employees International Union (SIEU).
Granville said her fellow union members who work full time are already struggling to pay their bills.
“I have no idea how the government thinks privatizing hydro is going to enable people to put food on the table,” said Granville.
McEraney said she turned up on behalf of her co-workers, her union, and herself.
Though she could have been at home on a Saturday morning, McEraney said it was important to show her support.
“I feel I am a number and numbers count,” said McEraney.
NOTE: Did the potential sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc. to Hydro One catch you by surprise? Well check out what The Examiner was reporting back in December 2012.