I take great pride in making the personal decision early on in this file to take ownership and immerse myself in it’s history in order to better understand and determine how we’ve arrived at today’s outcome (suspending operations at Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc indefinitely).
So to the beginning, the creation of GMHI and pursuit of District Energy for that matter go back almost 9 years in Guelph. On November 24, 2008 council at the time struck a design team shortly after approving the original Community Energy Initiative in 2007. They appointed a sub-committee to build a business case detailing objectives, mandate, guiding principles and a proposed structure for HOLDCO (later termed GMHI). On that design team were former mayor Karen Farbridge, former councillor Ian Findlay, and current councillor’s Mike Salisbury, Bob Bell and Leanne Piper.
Now, fast forward to June 28, 2010 (I’ve referenced this date many times in the past), Council endorses a design (founded on this subcommittees work) for GMHI that includes 5 of 8 voting members of the board being elected officials. I’ll acknowledge Councilor Bell was the only member of the design team to vote against the proposed structure of GMHI. Appointed to the original GMHI board were Karen Farbridge (chair), Todd Dennis, Lise Burcher, and current councillors June Hoffland and Karl Wettstein. 5-8 voting members were politicians (a controlling interest) by design. Politicians that now maintained governance and oversight of Guelph Hydro and its subsidiary companies. Companies that, as we’ve heard Mr. Sardana state in the past, were subjected to “pressure” and “moral suasion” to get on with pursuing District Energy in the Hanlon Creek and Downtown. Initiatives that ultimately lead to $14M dollars being invested in District Energy, of which, $8.7M has already been written off in losses.
This was a well crafted sell to the residents of Guelph. I know because as a resident before being elected I voiced support for the concept of GMHI and District Energy, and today my trust has been broken over what I’ve come to know. This is a personal issue for me because I know what it means to government’s social license when environmental initiatives (shrouded in a lack of transparency), fail. One only has to look provincially, at the erosion of public trust in government’s ability to implement renewable energy as proof of how important social licence is in these pursuits. GMHI and District Energy is no different.
So, now residents know, just like we (councillors) know the history and I fully support Mayors Guthrie efforts to bring transparency to this file. Those who designed, created and ultimately governed over these pursuits should no longer be allowed to distance themselves from it or shift blame. I hope that in the coming months we can continue cleaning it up, and start rebuilding the trust that has been lost in our city.
My thoughts from Monday’s meeting are attached.