July 22nd, 2018

Hydro One board resigns, CEO retires as Ont. premier makes good on campaign promise

By Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press on July 11, 2018.

TORONTO – Premier Doug Ford says he has made good on a key campaign promise, announcing the immediate retirement of the CEO of Hydro One and the resignation of the utility’s entire board of directors.

Ford, who promised that if he was elected he would fire Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt, dubbing him the “Six Million Dollar Man” during the spring election campaign, hailed it as a “great day” for the province.

Under an agreement between the new Tory government and the partially-privatized utility, Schmidt will retire and its board of directors will resign and be replaced.

“I said over and over and over again on the campaign trail the CEO of Hydro One and the board will be gone,” Ford told a hastily called press conference. “I’m happy to say today the CEO and the board of Hydro One, they’re gone. They’re done. They’re done. We’re going to turn a new corner.”

In a statement, Hydro One said a new board of directors will be selected and will initially consist of 10 members.

Under the agreement, the province will nominate four replacement directors and the remaining six nominees will be identified through a committee comprised of representatives of Hydro One’s largest shareholders other than the province.

Schmidt, who earned a $6.2-million salary last year, became a lightening rod for resentment over rising electricity rates during the election. He 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, according to the company’s annual shareholders report released on March 29.

According to Hydro One, Schmidt will not be entitled to severance, instead he will receive a $400,000 lump sum payment in lieu of all post-retirement benefits.

As part of the deal, Hydro One has said it has agreed to consult with the province on “future matters of executive compensation.”

Paul Dobson, Hydro One’s chief financial officer, has been appointed as the acting CEO until the new board can hire a permanent replacement for Schmidt.

While Ford stressed that the departure of the leadership at Hydro One would bring down electricity rates, he struggled to explain how when asked repeatedly by reporters.

“Having a new board, a new CEO, blazing a new trail in Hydro One, setting a new mentality right across the board to the frontline workers of Hydro One,” he said. “As sure as I’m standing here. Those bills are going to come down 12 per cent. We’re going to give relief to the people of Ontario.”

Minister of Energy Greg Rickford said in a statement Wednesday that in addition to the change of leadership, the government will introduce legislation to ensure the company acts in the public interest.

“Our government has prepared legislation that, if passed, will improve transparency and accountability at Hydro One,” he said, providing no further details about the proposed bill. “We will introduce this legislation during the upcoming sitting.”

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