Corporate excess tops radioactive waste at OPG – by Martin Regg Cohn (Toronto Star – December 12, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Why did OPG bosses overpay themselves while overcharging electricity ratepayers and impoverishing OPG’s sole shareholder — us?

Sweetheart hirings, obscene pensions, bloated bonuses, skyrocketing salaries: You don’t need to be a rocket scientist — or an auditor — to know the numbers don’t add up at OPG.

Surely a nuclear engineer could do the math? Like Tom Mitchell, the handsomely paid CEO of Ontario Power Generation?
Mitchell’s a smart guy who doesn’t count with his fingers, but it’s hard to wag your finger at overpaid staff when you’re pocketing $1.7 million in a good year.

But where was OPG’s board of directors, who are supposed to oversee work flow, supervise cash flow and superimpose core values? You don’t have to be a right-thinking, God-fearing apostle to know something smelled rotten in the boardroom.

Surely an old Tory, proud of his Mennonite heritage, could see through the lack of thrift? Like Jake Epp, the chairman of the board at OPG?

Proudly pious, Epp was a canny cabinet minister in the Brian Mulroney era, but perhaps his $150,000 annual payment for the part-time OPG gig distracted him from the greed that took root around him?

OPG runs our nuclear reactors, so we hold its top brass to a higher standard of precision and prudence. Nuclear waste is dangerous, but corporate excess also rings alarm bells.

Why did all those smart OPG bosses overpay themselves while overcharging electricity ratepayers and impoverishing OPG’s sole shareholder — the government and people of Ontario? It looks like a failure of corporate governance, but no less a lapse by provincial governments.

OPG’s excesses are not unique in Ontario’s recent history or distant past: Remember ORNGE, eHealth, OLG? Remember the old Ontario Hydro, progenitor of OPG, which wracked up billions in debt?

At OPG, Epp and his fellow board members took their seats at the table in the mirrored headquarters building on University Ave. and went along for the ride. While the corporation took the rest of us for a ride.

The pension plan isn’t just gold plated, it’s plutonium-enriched: OPG contributes $4 to $5 for every $1 in pension contributions by employees — a bizarre imbalance compared to the 1:1 contribution ratio typical in the public and private sectors. The utility’s top five executives will get annual pensions ranging from $180,000 to $760,000 a year.

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