Hydro One Changes

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CBJ — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is defending his government’s moves to make changes to the senior ranks of Hydro One after U.S. regulators rejected the utility’s proposed takeover of an American company over concerns of political interference.

Ford says his Progressive Conservatives are working to bring hydro rates down for Ontario residents, something he says the now-scuttled $6.7 billion deal would not have achieved.

“Our government ran on a clear promise to clean up the mess at Hydro One,” he said in a statement. “This included a firm commitment to renew the Hydro One senior leadership that had lost the confidence of Ontario ratepayers.”

Washington State regulators rejected Hydro One’s proposed takeover of Avista, citing political interference in the utility by the provincial government, which is company’s largest shareholder.

The regulators pointed to Ford’s move to force Hydro One chief executive Mayo Schmidt to retire as proof that the province was willing to intervene in business operations.

Schmidt’s early retirement was quickly followed by the resignation of the utility’s entire board, as well as downgrades and lower values of Hydro One and Avista shares.

Ford noted that Schmidt and the former board were the architects of the Avista deal.

Hydro One, which is 47% owned by the Ontario government, had assured U.S. regulators that the province would be a passive investor and would not exert political pressure on the company.

The Ontario utility was partially privatized in November 2015, and by December 2017 the province had sold off 53% of its stake.