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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

transparency and epcor privatization.

Edmonton City Council's vote to privatize the power production portions of EPCOR was held as a private shareholders meeting (the City of Edmonton owns 100% of the shares), but no rules were broken. What's the real issue? The privatization or how the decision was made?

- While I thought the Edmonton Journal's 'MAJOR ABUSE OF POWER' headline was a tad bit sensationalist considering that Council conducted itself within the rules laid out before them, I do think the transparency issue needs to be addressed for future decisions. Councillor Don Iveson has already said that he plans on introducing a motion that would require councillors to make decisions about significant Epcor asset sales or restructuring at council rather than shareholder meetings.
"There are a number of fair reasons why the recent Capital Power decision was made that way, but I don't want to be asked to make any further decisions that way."

"Our accountability is clearer when we are meeting as councillors than if we're meeting as shareholders."
- Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft has written an op-ed on the EPCOR issue, arguing that Council should put entire process on hold to allow public scrutiny.

- The Our Power Citizens Group is trying to start a larger debate on the EPCOR issue, but who is behind this group? The address listed on their website is the same as Public Interest Alberta. The group will be hosting a meeting on Wednesday, July 8th at 7:30 PM at the Central Lions Seniors Centre 11113 — 113 Street.


Re-Pete said...

In my mind the issue is that there are "unofficially" two tiers of invstors. When an IPO get offored it seems that there are only select people that get in at the ground floor and can profit quickly when retail invstors are allowed to play usually at a higher "market driven" share rate.

From what I have read that is what is pissing people off. The IPO was done and shares sold to the special folks, while the aveage Edmontonian was left out in the cold. - Powerless so to speak.

The elite get richer on the backs of average Joe.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet you all the money in your pocket that Bill Moore Killgannon is the chair of the meeting tomorrow.

Tiny Perfect Blog said...
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Re-Pete said...

Privatization of utilities is one of the biggest sins of our times. The utilities were built by the pioneers for the good of the people. Yet our governments have allowed them to be picked off one by one and control and pricing moves to the investors at the expense of the public .

Tiny you are right. This should not be happening and makes you wonder what the incentives might be.

Anonymous said...

Who cares if PIA is leading the charge against this process? Someone has to, and once again PIA is living up to their name and protecting the PUBLIC INTEREST. It isn't like they have the resources to do it alone or are manufacturing dissent, regular citizens are in support of the initiative as well.

Have to agree with TPB as well. I don't know why you keep touting Iveson, his support of the sale is yet another mark against his "progressive" image. Saw through that facade from day one in his campaign for council.

Karl said...

Good for Edmonton Councillors for having the bravery to make this progressive vote. Iveson and his fellow Councillors should be commended for not joining the world of ideologues and wing nut lefties.

The City of Edmonton is running huge deficits and unmoveable ideology isn't going to help get the economic and fiscal house in order. Pragmatism is how we're going to fix things.

Leave the ideologues to fester in the Liberal NDP and PC parties. Municipalities are where the real progress is happening.

Anonymous said...

I agree Cournoyer and Iveson.

No matter how you feel about the decision - it has already been made - let's talk about making the process more open for the future. It's one issue out of many that our elected Councillors deal with on a daily basis.

A Plan said...

"Who cares if PIA is leading the charge against this process?"

Why does PIA not have anything on its own website about this group? Calling for more openness while being secretive.

Reminds me of the 'No Plan' ads......

Anonymous said...

Which utilities assets are there left to sell? Water?

Ken Chapman said...

The angst around the "secrecy" of the EPCOR decision is unfounded.

City Council is the citizen's proxy for Edmontonian's ownership of EPCOR and the city is the shareholder. It is a municipal crown corporation - but a corporation none the less and must behave within the laws that govern it as such.

The magic of EPCOR, and there are many, is that it has an effective working agreement between the Board of Directors and the City of Edmonton for City Council to act as a shareholder in the corporate context, not in a political context as city councillors.

I applaud all city councillors for their wisdom and how they performed this shareholder task as required by law. If we want EPCOR to be city owned and run like a for profit corporation, which it is, then city politician have to act as shareholders in the best interests of the company and not on personal political terms.

When EPCOR flourishes I benefit as an owner because I am a citizen of Edmonton. If the Council as shareholder did not like the proposal to divide EPCOR they could have voted it down.

To have such a discussion in an open meeting at this stage of Initial Public Offering proceedings could possibly undermine the business prospects of EPCOR and perhaps breach securities law so I don't have any problem with the process and practices.

So long as it is made public asap and the reasons and rationale for the decision are public my transparency and accountability tests are satisfied.

If I don't like the decision I still have my political avenues open to make that known and challenge the decision if need be.

Neal said...

Ken, your argument is flawed. Shareholders are supposed to vote on corporate decisions that will maximize their OWN benefit, not on what will benefit the company. This happens all the time in the private world, a board will recommend a given course of action and shareholders will vote it down as it does not benefit the shareholders directly. If City Council had been acting as a proxy for us, the citizen shareholders, they should have told Epcor that the sale of power generation might be good for the company, but it is bad for us shareholders... and it should have been voted down accordingly.

I wonder how TPB knows how Councillors voted? After all, half of what people are up in arms about was the secrecy of the thing.

As for Anon @ 12:21, if you think the sell off of public assets that took almost a hundred years to build up is something City Council does "on a daily basis" you need to get down to City Hall more. This was an unprecedentedly large decision and it was asinine for Council to make it behind the shroud of secrecy afforded them by Epcor's rules. They all knew that sufficient public debate had not yet occured on this proposal and even those who voted against it (if any) were far too silent in alerting their constituents as to what was happening.

Odds are they keep the City Centre airport open too. After all, the handful of rich folks that just became the owners of Capital Power need somewhere to store their private jets. Big changes needed in 2010's elections.

Tiny Perfect Blog said...
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daveberta said...
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daveberta said...

When the time comes (sometime every third October for municipal politicians) citizens will have a chance to hold their City Councillors accountable for their actions.

I think it's pretty simplistic to judge any elected officials term in office on the basis of an individual issue. Rather than being focused on one pet issue like the crazy abortion and anit-gay marriage people, the wider scope of what’s been accomplished in a short three year term is what I feel is important. While I have issues with this particular decision and believe that the rules need to change, I take my vote seriously enough not for it to be determined by one issue.

I respect that while other Councillors refused to comment, Don Iveson was up front with his decision on the EPCOR issue when asked, even though he knew it would be unpopular with some people who supported him in 2007. He is willing to acknowledge where change is needed, rather than focusing on a decision that has already been made.

Considering the infrastructure and tax mess that was left to them to deal with by previous Councils, I'd say that Edmonton's City Council has done a pretty decent since their election in October 2007.

daveberta said...
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daveberta said...

Also, I'm pretty sure that calling Don Iveson a right-winger would make Kerry Diotte's head explode. ;)

Ken Chapman said...

I appreciate your comment Neil and agree shareholders get to vote in their own self interest. But you also seem to assume the splitting off EPCOR power generation is bad for Edmonton and me as a citizen. I don't think it is. Why do you thknk it is a bad thing?

I do know that my City Council has the responsibility to vote as THE only EPCOR shareholder. The majority of them obviously thought splitting off power generation was the best thing to do for the City (them as proxy for us).

Isn't the process case closed now? Now the merits can be debated and, as Daveberta says, you can get your political revenge a year October in the next election - as you wish.

Strike! said...

Really? Long time NDP member and Union Activist Councillor Dave Theile voted for the split off? For privatization? Outrage! Outrage!

Citizen Kyle said...

I'm tired of negative politics and drive by personal smear attacks.

Who is the Alberta NDP Tiny Perfect Blog?

Sponge Bob Stelmach said...

Calling a politician on their voting record is hardly a 'drive by personal smear attack.'

daveberta said...

Calling an elected official on their voting record isn't a smear, but the anonimity of a caller out is suspect.

If a blogger writes under total anonymity, that's his or her prerogative. It's kind of cowardly, in my humble and open opinion, to criticize others while hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. I can understand why some people would feel uncomfortable doing so, but that's the price of entering a public debate.

Writers and bloggers who are open about their identities will face concequences for exercising and engaging their rights to their freedom of opinions, but at the same time are justifying and defending those rights.

We live in Canada, not Iran, China, or Cuba.

Accountability Avenger said...

"We live in Canada, not Iran, China, or Cuba."

Or Stalinist Russia...

Anonymous said...

The sale was a good business decision for EPCOR and public decision for Edmonton.

I'm happy to see that City Council is looking out for the best interests of our future.

Masterpiece Theatre Fan said...

Dave's rant about anonymity is amusing, but also a little pathetic.

Dave's allowed anonymous comments on his blog from the beginning. He's even been supportive of other anonymous blogs (like Calgary Grit in the early days) when they supported his views.

His real problem with TPB is, I suspect, two fold. TPB takes on Liberals and politicians Dave likes (like Iveson) when they screw up or act in hypocritical ways. And, (more importantly) TPB's existence means Dave isn't the main political blogger in Alberta anymore.

TPB is like trashy TV shows. Everyone claims to hate them, but they get high ratings because they give us what we want, even if we're not honest about it.

Dave's blog is still pretty good, but it looks a little dusty next to TPB. And like anyone usurped by someone younger and brasher, Dave's a little grumpy.

Don't worry Dave, there is always a place for PBS, even if we're all watching FOX.

daveberta said...

Thanks for the quick psychoanalysis, Masterpeice Theatre Fan.

I obviously have no problem with bloggers taking elected officials to task for their decisions, I'd just rather they do it honestly without hiding behind an anonymous monkier.

Sponge Bob Stelmach said...

Did you have a problem with Calgary Grit when he was anonymous?

Anonymous said...

What is the big deal about the sale? EPCOR operates as a private business and this was a good decision.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to answer Sponge Bob's question?

Anonymous said...

I guess that's a no to answering the question.

So anonymous blogs are OK if Dave likes the content, otherwise, they are cowardly.

Dave, you've been high and mighty lately about your 'non-partisanship,' but when it comes to Iveson, you are displaying some of the worst traits of hyper-partisanship with your blindly loyal support. Face it, he messed up and disappointed many.

If you are really 'post-partisan' you should be able to admit that.