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Hydro merger will be this council's legacy

The vote to merge Guelph Hydro and Alectra is going to be a vote that people remember.
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GuelphToday received the following letter to the editor from concerned Guelph resident Laurie Garbutt.
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The vote to merge Guelph Hydro and Alectra is going to be a vote that people remember. When the gallery is full of delegations all speaking against the merger, except for a noticable number of Alectra employees and board members, you'd think council would reconsider (I say reconsider because the deal was already drafted before it came to Wednesday's public city hall forum ). You'd think that the call for greater community input would be heard (rather than being satisfied with phone polls and 54 out of 129,000 people completing an online survey). I understand there was a communication strategy with measurable outcomes, but council was clearly told that people still were not well informed. The questions were also carefully worded to deliver the desired response (i.e. if a merger resulted in lower hydro rates would you support it). Of course people would answer 'yes'! You'd think that council would tread carefully into a deal with a company less than a year old, cautioned by the urgency of Alectra's offer.

It was argued that this is not a step towards privatization. I'm not convinced. There is no guarantee that Alectra won't be swallowed up by a bigger fish a few months or years from now and Guelph will have no protection if this happens. With less than five per cent shares in the company, our voice will not be heard. We will have one board member, but not one who is a staff member or councillor.

We are told that hydro employees will be treated well. 60 jobs will be lost. Some employees can keep their jobs if they agree to commute to Vaughan. Others will be encouraged to retire or leave voluntarily. I agree with the delegate who stated 'one lost job is one too many'. The signing bonus, the carrot dangled in front of council, was not new money from Alectra. It is the assets of Guelph Hydro, given back to us so Alectra doesn't have to deal with taxable income from the merger. Basically we were bribed with our own money.

Congratulations to the many delegations who persevered through a meeting that lasted over 6 hours, and one that was loaded with suits at the beginning and end to drive home the merger/acquisition. Kudos to Councillors Bell, Gordon and Allt for having the integrity to truly represent the voices of the chamber, rather than the voices of staff and Alectra. This vote will indeed be the legacy of the present council. It will be the vote people talk about years from now. I'm hoping councillors who voted to give up our independent utility did so with a clear conscience. I know I could not have.

Laurie Garbutt
Guelph, Ontario

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