Wynne insists there will be oversight in Hydro One sell off

A Hydro One sign in Oshawa, Ont., April 12, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Stephen C. Host

WASHINGTON – Ontario’s premier has defended the partial sale of Hydro One, insisting there will be oversight of the electricity utility after the government sells off up to 60 per cent of the operation.

Kathleen Wynne was responding to criticism from several provincial oversight agencies that the public would continue to own much of the utility, but not get to exercise much scrutiny over it.

Eight officers of the provincial legislature, in a public letter last week, bemoaned that the utility would become exempt from things like government audits, disclosure-of-lobbying rules and Access to Information law.

Wynne was asked about that letter in an interview during a trip to Washington, where she will speak at a public forum today after meeting with members of Congress and the Obama administration.

READ MORE: Ontario’s auditor, ombudsman and commissioners condemn Hydro One sale

Wynne said companies have their own oversight models.

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She suggested that will be the case when the province proceeds with the sale of 60 per cent of Hydro One, starting with an initial public offering of 15 per cent.

“The fact is that private companies have their own oversight mechanisms,” Wynne told The Canadian Press.

“There are rules around oversight for publicly traded or private companies. And on top of that we’re going to put a Hydro ombudsman in place. We’re building in some oversight. So I actually think the oversight will be there.”

She said the government wants to create “a great Canadian company” that will provide quality service, with price controls still in place on electricity rates, but sell part of the utility to raise revenue for new infrastructure.

Her talk in Washington on Tuesday will focus on the need to improve infrastructure and fight climate change – two priorities during the Washington leg of her U.S. visit.

READ MORE: Opposition warns power rates to soar if 60 per cent of Hydro One sold

She’s already met with the head of the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, and applauded the administration for what she described as a collaborative approach on climate issue.

Wynne saluted the Obama administration for the effort it’s put into reducing greenhouse gases, and for its willingness to work with states and utilities on the issue.

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“I think that it would be helpful if (Canada’s) federal government were more engaged both with provinces and territories, and with the American government on this file,” Wynne said in the interview.

“That’s the kind of work we need at the federal level in Canada.”

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