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Hydro One board resigns, CEO retires as Ont. premier makes good on campaign promise

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  • TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford says he has made good on a key campaign promise, announcing the immediate retirement of the CEO of Hydro One and the resignation of the utility’s entire board of directors.

    Ford, who promised that if he was elected he would fire Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt, dubbing him the “Six Million Dollar Man” during the spring election campaign, hailed it as a “great day” for the province.

    Under an agreement between the new Tory government and the partially-privatized utility, Schmidt will retire and its board of directors will resign and be replaced.

    “I said over and over and over again on the campaign trail the CEO of Hydro One and the board will be gone,” Ford told a hastily called press conference. “I’m happy to say today the CEO and the board of Hydro One, they’re gone. They’re done. They’re done. We’re going to turn a new corner.”

    In a statement, Hydro One said a new board of directors will be selected and will initially consist of 10 members.

    Under the agreement, the province will nominate four replacement directors and the remaining six nominees will be identified through a committee comprised of representatives of Hydro One’s largest shareholders other than the province.

    Schmidt, who earned a $6.2-million salary last year, became a lightening rod for resentment over rising electricity rates during the election. He would be entitled to at least $10.7 million in severance if he were to be removed from his job by the board of directors, according to the company’s annual shareholders report released on March 29.

    According to Hydro One, Schmidt will not be entitled to severance, instead he will receive a $400,000 lump sum payment in lieu of all post-retirement benefits.

    As part of the deal, Hydro One has said it has agreed to consult with the province on “future matters of executive compensation.”

    Paul Dobson, Hydro One’s chief financial officer, has been appointed as the acting CEO until the new board can hire a permanent replacement for Schmidt.

    While Ford stressed that the departure of the leadership at Hydro One would bring down electricity rates, he struggled to explain how when asked repeatedly by reporters.

    “Having a new board, a new CEO, blazing a new trail in Hydro One, setting a new mentality right across the board to the frontline workers of Hydro One,” he said. “As sure as I’m standing here. Those bills are going to come down 12 per cent. We’re going to give relief to the people of Ontario.”

    Minister of Energy Greg Rickford said in a statement Wednesday that in addition to the change of leadership, the government will introduce legislation to ensure the company acts in the public interest.

    “Our government has prepared legislation that, if passed, will improve transparency and accountability at Hydro One,” he said, providing no further details about the proposed bill. “We will introduce this legislation during the upcoming sitting.”

     

    Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press


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    Freeland says Khashoggi case not closed; but Trump says facts may never be known

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  • OTTAWA — Canada will use the upcoming G20 summit to push for answers in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says.

    Freeland said Tuesday Canada considers his murder to be very much an open case, a contrast to a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump that the facts surrounding Khashoggi’s death might just never be known.

    “Canada very much does not consider the Khashoggi affair to be closed,” Freeland said, hours after Trump released a statement that attempted to bring the controversy to a close for the U.S.

    Freeland said she expects the Khashoggi case to be an issue during the talks among leaders of the world’s 20 top economies in early December in Argentina, and says Canada will persist with its push for a transparent international investigation.

    “It is very clearly Canada’s position that those responsible for this horrendous murder must face full responsibility for it,” she said.

    “We certainly imagine that the Khashoggi murder will be an issue, which we discuss with many of the partners who we will be meeting with.”

    The kingdom is a member of the G20, and the Saudi-owned television station Al-Arabiya says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto leader, will attend the summit.

    U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that bin Salman ordered the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

    “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a written statement.

    “That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”

    Regardless, Saudi Arabia remains a “steadfast” partner of the U.S. and has helped keep oil prices stable, Trump said. He also said he doesn’t want to jeopardize US$450 billion in Saudi investment in the U.S., including $110 billion to buy American-made military hardware.

    Trump said the U.S. has already sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals under its Magnitsky Act, and isn’t planning any further action.

    Freeland, meanwhile, has said Canada is contemplating similar sanctions, but she gave no indication why that has yet to happen or what is taking so long.

    A senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deliberations, said any decision on sanctions will be made by federal cabinet, and will be part of a larger process that will see Canada working in co-ordination with its allies.

    The process includes a consideration of sanctions, a co-ordinated push for an international investigation and an assessment of the Turkish recording of Khashoggi’s death, the official said.

    Freeland has not heard the recording, but has been briefed on its contents by the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who travelled to Turkey to hear it, said the official.

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press



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    Ride-hailing group says B.C. model looks a lot like expanded taxi industry

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  • VANCOUVER — A coalition of businesses and interest groups advocating for ride-hailing in British Columbia says legislation introduced yesterday will just create an expanded taxi industry, not the ride-hailing services that customers expect.

    Ian Tostenson of Ridesharing Now for BC says members are “bewildered” that the future of ride-hailing in the province remains uncertain and the government hasn’t committed to a start date for the service.

    Tostenson, who also represents the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, says the coalition is especially concerned that the Passenger Transportation Board would have power to limit the number of drivers on the road, where they can drive, and also set rates.

    He says the organization was expecting to see legislation that more closely matched the customer-driven supply and demand model that exists in other jurisdictions.

    Tim Burr of ride-hailing company Lyft says the company sees legislation introduced Monday as a “procedural step forward” but the regulation and rule-making process will come next.

    He says the company is used to rolling up its sleeves to work with legislators and regulators in many jurisdictions and remains committed to working with the B.C. government to bring the service to the province.

    The Canadian Press


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