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Peterborough chapter opposes sale of city-owned electricity distribution utility

The Peterborough chapter expressed their opposition to the PDI sale at a public meeting earlier this month.

The Council of Canadians Peterborough chapter is against the proposed sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc. (PDI), the city-owned utility that distributes electricity in Peterborough, Lakefield and Norwood, to the provincial electricity transmission and distribution utility Hydro One. The provincial government is now in the process of selling 60 per cent of the provincial utility to private interests.

This morning, the Peterborough Examiner reports, “The city can expect to make between $40 million and $50 million if it sells Peterborough Distribution Inc. to Hydro One, states a new report. The report was released by PDI’s management on Thursday. It says that while the utility is worth $100 million, there are debts and transaction costs to cover – so the city could make up to $50 million on a deal. If that money’s reinvested, the report states, the city could get an annual return between $1 million and $2.5 million. Meanwhile the city’s receiving about $1 million a year in profits from PDI – a sum that’s expected to dwindle, the utility’s CEO has said.”

That news report highlights, “Meanwhile, many people have grave concerns about the prospective sale. There were more than 200 citizens at a public meeting at Market Hall, earlier this month – and no one spoke in favour of the potential deal. On Saturday, a campaign to keep PDI will launch at Sadleir House. People are invited to a rally where they can pick up leaflets to distribute around the city. …Roy Brady of the Council of Canadians wants further assurances that the city’s about to re-invest the proceeds and make as much as $2.5 million a year. ‘It has to be guaranteed’, he said.”

Peterborough mayor Daryl Bennett has previously stated that “there’s no downside” to the potential sale. On Feb. 19, the Peterborough Examiner reported, “That makes Roy Brady of the Council of Canadians bristle: He sees a downside, all right. ‘You’d be selling to a slowly privatizing company – and losing quite a bit of control’, he said. …Brady [also] says there have been consultation processes in the past over controversial decisions such as whether to extend The Parkway. There was much public dissent at those meeting, he said – and it was ignored by council. ‘Consultation means, Alright you can talk – but we’re not listening.'”

On Feb. 23, the newspaper reported, “On Monday [Feb. 22], the public gallery at council chambers was full of people who’d come to hear about the prospective sale. [Although the opportunity wasn’t provided to them to make comments to council], Roy Brady of the Council of Canadians said in an interview that he’s unhappy the province is promoting the idea of local utilities being swallowed up by larger ones as a means of cutting distribution costs. Meanwhile Queen’s Park sets the hydro rates, Brady points out – and sets those rates high. ‘They don’t save money, yet they expect the city to save’, he said.”

And on March 4, the Peterborough Examiner reported, “There were more than 260 people at the meeting at Market Hall. About 30 spoke, and all of them questioned the wisdom of a sale.” Brady tells us, “At least 10 chapter members were there; Kathy Langley and myself twice were at the mic.”

The city’s website is accepting comments on the proposed sale until March 31.