By Joelle Kovach, Peterborough Examiner (June 1, 2016) – Another rally to protest the prospective sale of the city’s utility to private investors is scheduled for Saturday morning.
Council is considering selling Peterborough Distribution Inc. (PDI) to Hydro One. There have been negotiations, but the city hasn’t received a formal offer.
In the meantime, a local coalition is objecting to any prospective sale.
Save PDI will meet for a rally on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Sadleir House on George St. It’s the second time they’ve held a rally there, recently.
About 100 people were at the first rally in March. They gathered at Sadleir House and then canvassed the city with leaflets.
This time, there will also be lawn signs handed out.
Adam Coones, an organizer, said the idea is to go door-to-door and “start conversations” about the prospective sale.
The city could make about $45 million if it sells its utility to Hydro One, states a report released in March.
If re-invested, that could earn up to $2.5 million in revenues every year – about double the sum PDI makes for the city annually.
But critics have said the city would be handing over control of its public utility to a private company.
And although hydro rates would be frozen for five years following a sale, some citizens are concerned the rates could skyrocket after that.
“Selling our public utility to a private company is not in anyone’s best interest,” Coones said on Tuesday.
Yet the mayor and councillors have received information to the contrary.
John Stephenson, President and CEO of the utility, sent a package of information to the mayor and council recently that outlines reasons to sell PDI.
Stephenson refutes the idea that hydro rates will soar, once the five-year freeze has elapsed.
He writes that in Brampton – where the utility was bought by Hydro One 15 years ago – “hydro rates have not escalated above the norm.”
He also writes that it’s inevitable that smaller utilities such as PDI will eventually be bought by larger companies.
If you don’t sell it, PDI will soon be one of the smallest – and least efficient – utilities in the province.
The consolidation of small utilities will happen no matter who’s in charge at Queen’s Park, Stephenson adds.
“It cannot be avoided by waiting for an election,” he writes.
Yet the public isn’t buying it.
At a packed public meeting at Market Hall in March, nobody from the public spoke in favour of a prospective sale.
In May, an Environics poll said 93 per cent of Peterborough residents don’t want their locally owned utility sold to private investors.
The poll was commissioned by CUPE Ontario.
Another statistic: 80 per cent of respondents said they’d be less likely to vote in the next election for a councillor who voted to sell off PDI.
That week, The Examiner asked councillors where they stood on a possible sale of PDI.
Four councillors said they do not want PDI sold: Coun. Don Vassiliadis, Diane Therrien, Dean Pappas and Keith Riel.
Everyone else on council said they remained undecided.