“To own or not to own?” The question was the topic of conversation at last week’s conference on the governance of municipally-owned electricity distribution utilities hosted by the Council for Clean and Reliable Electricity in Markham.
The question was timely, as days earlier Toronto mayoral hopeful Karen Stintz revealed her pitch to sell or lease 10% of Canada’s largest municipal electric distribution utility, Toronto Hydro, and devote the proceeds to transit expansion. Stintz’s proposition sparked a controversial debate in a city full of divided perspectives on the importance of public ownership of utilities and municipal services.
Toronto is not alone in this debate. Whether to merge or sell municipally-owned utilities is an issue that local governments across Ontario are increasingly facing. The province-wide push toward sector consolidation has left utilities dancing around like university students at a local bar, propositioning each other to merge their ‘assets,’ with some pairing up and others holding out for better prospects.