Hydro One’s part-time board members, all of whom were appointed by the Liberal government in 2015, approved a $25,000 raise for their own jobs, including a $70,000 pay hike for the chair of the board.
The compensation policy, illustrated in a Management Information Circular ahead of the utility’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday, showed board members had their executive salaries increased to $185,000 and the board chair, David Denison, boosted to $330,000.
The raise increases, effective since Jan. 1, 2018, occurred as Hydro One’s share price was falling, according to the document.
“The increase in directors’ compensation will bring the Hydro One board closer to, but still below median of, this broader peer group,” the circular stated.
The peer group includes large Canadian utility, pipeline and storage companies, such as Pembina Pipline Corp., AltaGas Ltd., Fortis Inc., Keyera Corp. and TransAlta Corp.
Hydro One said last month it was reviewing its executive compensation arrangements at the urging of the Ontario Liberal government following the release of the utility’s management information circular in March.
Energy Minister Glen Thibeault said in a statement released on Tuesday that the government was “dissatisfied with the specific proposals for executive compensation” and that “a review of the compensation model would be conducted relying on additional third party experts.”
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The Liberal candidate for Sudbury also said the government will abstain from Tuesday’s AGM vote, which means a review of compensation will occur and that avoiding a no vote would eliminate “the risks that would flow from such a showdown and the consequent negative impact on Hydro One’s shares.”
Speaking at a campaign stop in Waterloo on Tuesday, Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne said the review is beginning.
“The minister of energy called the CEO of Hydro One, made it clear we were not happy with it, and we immediately looked for options,” Wynne said.
“It’s happening because we made it clear that we were not supportive, did not think that the compensation package that was brought forward was reasonable.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford vowed he would fire the CEO and board of directors at the partially privatized utility if his party is elected on June 7.
“Remember folks, if you can relate to this, a part-time job, they were making $160,000 and they gave themselves a pay increase of up to $185,000. Who does that?” Ford told reporters at a rally outside Hydro One headquarters in Toronto on Tuesday.
“This is a waste of taxpayers’ money. This is the reason the board is going, the CEO is going. That’s unacceptable.”
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Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt, who earned a $6.2-million salary last year, 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.
Schmidt said Tuesday that he recognizes the electricity company has become a “lightning rod” for criticism.
“Politics around hydro as a commodity has been very high but really, unfortunately, the focus has come on Hydro One a good bit,” Schmidt told analysts on a conference call ahead of the shareholders meeting.
“We’re quite frankly looking forward to getting through the election. We don’t have a view or a bias in that election … but we’re not losing our focus as an organization in the meantime.”
Hydro One was partially privatized in November 2015, with the province saying it planned to use the sale of shares to fund transit and infrastructure projects. By December 2017, the province had sold off 53 per cent of its stake in the company.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party would buy back Hydro One if elected into power and bring down the price of electricity.
“We cannot get the bills down if we don’t have control of the utility. If the utility operates in the best interest of the shareholders and private interests, like that of the CEO, then we will not be able to have any impact on people’s bills,” Horwath said at a campaign stop in London.
“If we bring it back into public hands, we can make sure every single decision being made by the Hydro One utility is made in the best interest of Ontario families, businesses and industry.”
The utility announced Tuesday its first-quarter profit rose to $222 million, which was up 33 per cent from the same period last year.
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— With files from The Canadian Press