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Newmarket Hydro, Newmarket-Tay Power, Paul Ferguson, Tony Van Bynen and the Remuneration of Board Members

Paul Ferguson, Director of Newmarket Hydro and President of Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution Ltd, will be presenting the 2014 financial statements of Newmarket Hydro Holdings inc and Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution Ltd on Monday morning (15 June) to Newmarket’s Committee of the Whole.

The hydro company, Newmarket-Tay, is jointly owned by the Municipalities of Newmarket (93%) and Tay (7%). There are around 70 mostly municipally owned distribution companies in Ontario.

Unfortunately there is nothing in the reports to show how much Board Members receive by way of remuneration.

In an exchange of emails in May I learned from Mr Ferguson that the Directors of Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution receive an annual retainer of $8,000 plus a per diem of $200 for attending Board of Director or Board Committee meetings. He says that there are six Board and four Committee meetings per year so the average annual remuneration is $10,000.

I was left wondering whether this information was publicly available and, if so, where it would be found. So I politely asked him.

Mr Ferguson helpfully pointed me to a Newmarket by-law passed in 2000 which set the remuneration which, he says, has not been adjusted since.

Pear Shaped

It was at this point that things went a bit pear-shaped.

Noting that Mr Ferguson would be presenting the financial reports to councillors on 15 June, I courteously asked him if there was any reason why the details of Board remuneration could not be included. I suggested it would be helpful if the sums actually disbursed (and not simply the annual retainer) could be shown. Entitlement to an annual retainer does not indicate whether it is, in fact, taken up.

Mr Ferguson’s testy and intemperate response invited me to contact those Board members directly “who capture your interest”.

Why shouldn’t this information be routinely disclosed? Why should Newmarket taxpayers who pretty much own the hydro company be expected to act as sleuths digging out ancient by-laws that are not on-line and writing directly to Board members?

Sunshine List controversy

After the brouhaha over Tony Van Bynen’s salary as reported in the Sunshine List I was left wondering if his declared remuneration included moneys paid by Newmarket-Tay Hydro. The Mayor is appointed by the Town to serve on its Board but any remuneration is neither paid by, nor reported by, the Town of Newmarket. It is left to the hydro people to disclose or not, as the case may be.

But that is not the end of it.

Annually, in March, every municipality in Ontario has to produce a Statement of Remuneration and Expenses for Members of the Council and Council Appointments to Boards and Other Bodies. You can see the one for Newmarket (March 2015) here.

Section 284 (1) (a) of the Municipal Act 2001 obliges

The treasurer of a municipality shall in each year on or before March 31 provide to the council of the municipality an itemized statement on remuneration and expenses paid in the previous year to each member of council in respect of his or her services as a member of the council or any other body, including a local board, to which the member has been appointed by council or on which the member holds office by virtue of being a member of council;

What the law says

284(3) of the same Act says a statement shall be provided to a municipality in the following circumstances:

If, in any year, any body, including a local board, pays remuneration or expenses to one of its members who was appointed by a municipality, the body shall on or before January 31 in the following year provide to the municipality an itemized statement of the remuneration and expenses paid for the year. 

It seems to me that Newmarket-Tay Hydro should provide details of the Mayor’s remuneration to the Town of Newmarket and that information should be made publicly available without people like me having to make a big song and dance about it.

And who precisely does the Hydro Company report to at the Town?

Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and his hydro remuneration

For purposes of comparison, I’ve had a look at the City of Vaughan’s Statement of Remuneration and Expenses for members of the Council and Council Appointments to Boards and Other Bodies. You can read the latest statement here.

I went to Vaughan (not just because it is in York Region) but because it had its own Hydro Company. Details of the remuneration paid to the Mayor, Maurizio Bevilacqua, for serving on Vaughan Holdings Inc (previously named Hydro Vaughan Holdings Inc) and Hydro Vaughan Energy Corp are set out in the statement above. In the case of the former, Mayor Bevilacqua received $8,125 remuneration and $158 benefits and in the case of the latter, $1,750 and $34 respectively.

The City of Vaughan’s 100% owned hydro companies were restructured in 2013. The new Vaughan Holdings Inc. holds 45.3% of PowerStream Holdings Inc. Six Members of Vaughan Council sit on the PowerStream Board of Directors and are paid. You can see the details here. Maurizio Bevilacqua is now Chair of Powerstream.

It seems to me that if the City of Vaughan can report these matters so too can the Town of Newmarket.

I shall be asking for details of the remuneration and expenses paid by Newmarket-Tay to the Mayor of Newmarket for the last five years for which figures are available.

I am taking this up with Bob Shelton, Newmarket’s Chief Administrative Officer who, wearing another hat, is also a director of Newmarket Hydro Holdings.

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