January 13, 2015

IESO’s workforce unions own 7% of Bruce B
Provincial agency’s apparent conflict of interest means $60 billion contract needs independent review

A $60 billion electricity procurement contract being negotiated between Bruce B and the Ontario government must be independently reviewed before it is signed, because the agency charged with protecting the public’s interest is in an apparent conflict of interest situation, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) said today.

“How can electricity ratepayers be sure their interests are being exclusively served by the Bruce B deal when the province’s negotiating agency is operated by people who own an interest in Bruce B?” asked Jack Gibbons, Chair of the OCAA.

“This $60 billion contract desperately needs to be dragged from the back room into the sunshine of public hearings at the Ontario Energy Board before we’re all put on the hook to pay billions for decades,” said Gibbons.

Here is the situation:

  • The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is the provincial agency negotiating a 30-year contract with the privately owned Bruce B nuclear power station.
  • Many IESO employees of are owners of Bruce B through their two labour organizations.
  • They belong to the Power Workers Union (PWU) which own 5.26% of Bruce B, and the Society of Energy Professionals (SEP) which owns 1.75%. These holdings are not in an employee pension plan, but are investments.

“The IESO’s Bruce B negotiators are dependent on the agency’s staff for information, analysis and advice,” said Gibbons.

“A conflict of interest is any situation where a public servant’s private interests may be in conflict with his/her public service responsibilities,” according to a provincial government summary of the Public Service of Ontario Act. (Italics added)

“An apparent conflict of interest does not necessarily mean that hanky-panky is going on. It means that the facts, on their face, suggest there are double loyalties that could affect decision-making,” Gibbons said.

The IESO itself recognizes this principal. Its Employee Code of Conduct says: “A conflict of interest, actual or perceived, calls into question our integrity, and our ability to act in an independent, impartial manner.”

The IESO’s code speaks to individual employee’s conduct, but does not address its employees getting into an apparent conflict situation by collectively buying an electricity producer such as the PWU and SEP have done at Bruce B.

“The IESO’s rules state that one employee in an apparent conflict calls into question its ability to act impartially for the public — so with much of its workforce in an apparent conflict of interest in a multi-billion deal, we have a big problem,” said Gibbons.

“It is time for Premier Wynne to announce that the contract will be reviewed by the Ontario Energy Board, to clear the air and to ensure that the public is truly getting the best possible deal on electricity costs,” Gibbons said.

For further information:
Jack Gibbons (416) 260 2080 x2