Former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord has been tapped by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals to helm Ontario’s largest power utility.
Industry and Liberal sources told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Lord, a prominent Progressive Conservative once touted as a potential prime minister, will replace Jake Epp as chair of the troubled Ontario Power Generation. With a provincial election possibly looming this spring, the leadership change appears aimed at helping the government signal the culture shift at OPG that Ms. Wynne promised amid controversy last December.
OPG’s board of directors was widely criticized for lax oversight following the release of a damning Auditor-General’s report, which included revelations of exceedingly generous pensions, salaries and performance bonuses, and of swelling management ranks. Mr. Epp – a former federal minister from Manitoba, and like Mr. Lord a prominent Tory – is said by those familiar with OPG’s inner workings to have taken a relatively hands-off role in recent years. Mr. Lord, who was named a member of OPG’s board just weeks before the auditor’s report, will likely be expected to take a more activist approach.
Currently the president of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, the former premier – who could not be reached for comment on Thursday – has experience with problem-plagued energy utilities. During his time in office, he restructured the debt-ridden NB Power into four subsidiaries in hopes of making it more financially sustainable.
One of several provincial utilities in place since a similar breakup of Ontario Hydro, OPG – which is responsible for generating the bulk of Ontario’s energy – faces increasingly urgent questions about its own bottom line. On Thursday, it announced that its profits slid from $367-million in 2012 to just $135-million in 2013. Its application to the Ontario Energy Board for a 30-per-cent rate increase could suffer for the auditor’s revelations, and it is believed to have one of the country’s largest pension-fund liabilities.