Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pulling the Plug on Hydro Brass

My Minden Times column:

So there you have it.

Hydro One sent out bad bills to 100,000 customers, lied about it and then spent $88.3 million of your money to cover up the sordid scandal.

Ontario’s ombudsman, the guy who tries to help protect us from all the incompetents and thieves in our government, revealed all that this week.

One senior citizen in Timmins was overbilled, and when he didn’t pay, Hydro One pulled $10,000 from his bank account, the ombudsman, AndrĂ© Marin, reported to Queen’s Park. A ski resort received a bill for $37 million.

“Trying to deal with Hydro One math is like trying to pin down a kangaroo on a trampoline,” said Mr. Marin.

Marin won’t be doing any more investigations of Hydro One, however. The Ontario government has decided to stop the ombudsman and six other independent watchdogs from investigating and reporting on Hydro One affairs.

Premier Kathy says she wants to privatize Hydro One and investors won’t be interested if the company comes with watchdogs. So if Hydro One had been privatized for the last couple of years, who would have told us about the billing scandal and the cover-up? You guessed it . . . Noooobody.

The government says there will be other controls on a privatized Hydro One, like a corporate ombudsman. That would be an ombudspal hired by Hydro One, paid by Hydro One and reporting to Hydro One.

Really Premier Kathy, I know I’m not very bright but do you believe the rest of Ontario citizens are that stupid?

The government wants to privatize Hydro One for two reasons, both aimed at improving its own situation, and not for the benefit of its citizens. It wants free of Hydro One’s mess so it can deal with its other messes. And, of course it wants the money from investors so it can delay the inevitable bankruptcy of the province.

Marin’s report, called In the Dark, is a shocking story that Hydro One customers and others should read. It can be found online at
The most sickening part of this scandal is the attitude of Hydro One’s bosses and its board of directors. These people, hugely paid and much pampered, blamed the entire mess on lower level workers. They said they were caught off guard by a developing crisis in which lower-level managers fed them over-optimistic reports.

The executives and directors are there to ensure they are never caught off guard. It is their job to know what’s going on. These are the people in place to create and protect the company culture. They also are there to fall on their swords when the company they oversee goes bad.

The top levels of Hydro One should be ashamed for shifting the blame.

Here’s what Marin said:

“The source of Hydro One’s mind-boggling maladministration does not lie in defective data and software programming. Rather, its fatal fault is a technocratic and inward-facing organizational culture that is completely out of step with public sector values. Even after Hydro One pledged to become more customer-centric, to do better, and to learn from its mistakes, it continued to display insensitivity and disregard for its customers. As late as February 2015, during the coldest month in Ontario’s recorded history, the company lied to and bullied customers with the threat of disconnection.”

Lower level workers do not carry out that type of dishonesty on their own. They are encouraged, or forced, to act that way by a corporate culture created by the bosses and appointed directors.

All plans to privatize Hydro One need to stop now. Nothing should be done with Hydro One until it is cleaned up, restored and properly serving its 1.3 million customers.

First in the clean-up should be the firing of Hydro One’s entire executive floor and its board of directors.

That is a minimum and a must. The people of Ontario have suffered much from the scandals of recent years. They are owed some hard-hitting action that shows that the politicians they elected in good faith are working for them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Melting Mummies

Climate change, it seems, is everywhere, changing everything. Even the North Pole is melting as the planet heats up.

Now comes the bizarre news that Chile’s famous Chinchorro mummies are melting. The mummies, around since 5000 BC, are turning to black ooze, and scientists blame climate change.

The mummies were discovered 100 years ago buried under the desert sands in northern Chile. They are considered significant because they are believed to be the world’s oldest mummies. Also, they are mysterious because they represent all classes of the Chinchorron society, including babies and fetuses. Other cultures mummified only the elite, such as pharaohs in Egypt.

The mummies have been kept in a museum and now the skins are decomposing and turning into black ooze.

How is it that a mummified body thousands of years old now starts to turn to black ooze? Experts says that humidity levels in northern Chile have been increasing, allowing common bacteria to turn into eaters of collagen, which is a main component of mummified skin.

The experts say that the melting mummies are a warning to museums of the deterioration damage that can be expected from the world’s changing climate.

Meanwhile, some positive news coming out of climate change. Some Newfoundlanders are making good money lassoing ice chunks breaking off the northern ice cap and selling them to bottled water companies and vodka producers.