Collingwood Judicial Inquiry

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Collingwood Judicial Inquiry

The Judicial Inquiry into the 50% share sale of Collingwood Utility Services Corporation to PowerStream Inc. was requested by the Town of Collingwood by Resolution 042-2018.

The Inquiry’s mandate is to inquire into the sequence of events leading to the sale transaction, the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, fees and benefits paid to anyone in relation to the sale transaction and contracts entered into among the parties. The Inquiry will also look into the allocation of proceeds of the transaction for recreational facilities at Central Park and Heritage Park and any fees or benefits paid to any person or the entity involved in the creation of the recreational facilities. The Inquiry will examine the impact of these events on the ratepayers of the Town of Collingwood as they relate to the good governance of the municipality and make any recommendations the Associate Chief Justice may deem appropriate and in the public interest.

Judicial Inquiries are a way for governments to examine issues and problems outside the regular legislative process. Inquiries can help communities to benefit from independent, neutral consideration of matters in the public domain. Public inquiries can help develop public policy and make recommendations that will serve the public in the future.

The report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry is available at http://www.collingwoodinquiry.ca. In the first volume, pages 3 to 14 provide an Executive Summary of the Justice's review and findings.

How can you participate?

  • Participate during the virtual town hall discussion via ZOOM on April 7 (see details and link below)
  • Send in questions in advance (see below to submit a question or to read the Frequently Asked Questions prepared to-date)

Public Meeting Agenda: https://collingwood.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Id=836
To attend the Virtual Public Meeting, on April 7, please join us via ZOOM call.

When: Apr 7, 2021 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Collingwood Judicial Inquiry - Virtual Town Hall

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87496756059?pwd=c0UvNm51anN4Q1lyZ2cvdzJiNStYQT09

Telephone: +1 647 374 4685 or +1 647 558 0588 or +1 778 907 2071
Webinar ID: 874 9675 6059
Passcode: 103578


Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the Judicial Inquiry cost so much more than originally indicated?  

A judicial inquiry, once launched, must act independently and cannot be diverted from its mission of investigating for factual evidence. Although the final cost was an unexpected outcome, the Inquiry was launched to obtain answers to public concerns in a thorough, public, and transparent way. 

How much did the Judicial Inquiry cost, and what were the costs for? 

The original estimated budget for the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry was $1.6 million. To date, the Town has processed and paid over $8.2 million. The costs will continue to be tallied through the completion of all associated bills and will be posted to the Town’s website. 

The initial costing assumptions were based on a nine-month inquiry and approximately eight weeks of investigative work and eight weeks of actual hearings. Council and the public were made aware at the outset that billing rates, and length of the inquiry, would determine the actual expenditures. 

How are the costs of the Inquiry incurred? 

The costs of a judicial inquiry are comprised primarily of legal fees for both inquiry counsel and witnesses, researchers and data handlers, administrative staff, office space and equipment, travel expenses, and subject matter experts. 

The Town provided the initial scope of the work to be done and then the costs were incurred by the Commission as it carried out is work. By doing things such as providing the location for the sessions and some technical support, the Town managed fiscal exposure to the best of its ability and within the limits allowable to still enable an independent process for the Inquiry. 

Where did the funds came from and how will they be replenished? 

In June of 2020, Council made the decision to not use proceeds from the sale of the Collingwood Airport, and the remaining shares of the Town’s hydro utility, to fund the Inquiry without public consultation. The ensuing public engagement did not yield a strong desire by the public to have the asset sale proceeds be used for this purpose. 

Council have directed staff to utilize reserve and available in-year funds to pay for the Inquiry, and all costs to-date have been paid. Through future budgets, these reserves will be replenished. 

How does a judicial inquiry provide value for money? 

A judicial inquiry is a process that occurs in front of the public to ensure transparency and openness regarding the findings of an inquiry, and has the ability to compel the release of information. This ability is beyond the scope and powers of a municipality. 

Beyond this, it is incumbent upon all municipalities, and the Province, to use the findings and recommendations to improve the conditions of the community. Although it is a subjective judgment, value for money will be determined by the success of the judicial inquiry in providing recommendations and the municipality in implementing these recommendations. 

Can the report lead to criminal charges? 

The purpose of a judicial inquiry is not to determine criminality. 

The Town and public are aware that the OPP have described an investigation into possible wrongdoing related to the subject matter of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry as open and ongoing. 

Does Council have a role in encouraging the OPP to act on findings resulting from the Judicial Inquiry? 

Council has no prescribed role in encouraging the OPP to act as a result of the Inquiry findings but may ensure that the OPP is aware of the Inquiry report. 

Can the Town sue any parties who pled or were found to have played a significant role in allowing the events to happen? 

Depending upon the facts and findings, the Town could seek to recover financial damages to the Town through legal means.  A thorough review, legal advice, and an understanding of balance between the costs to pursue recovery and the likely amount of a recovery would be required prior to a Council decision to proceed. 

Is it possible for participants within the Inquiry to sue each other? 

Yes, they could.  The Town may not be aware of this happening.  It is possible to submit periodic Freedom of Information requests to the Attorney General if there is a desire to know, however at this point it is unclear what value this information would have to the Town.  

Was any new information uncovered because of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry? 

A large amount of information was made public during the Inquiry process, and the public was made aware of information that was unavailable previously. The full set of information from the Judicial Inquiry and the final report can be found via the Judicial Inquiry’s website at http://www.collingwoodinquiry.ca/



Collingwood Judicial Inquiry

The Judicial Inquiry into the 50% share sale of Collingwood Utility Services Corporation to PowerStream Inc. was requested by the Town of Collingwood by Resolution 042-2018.

The Inquiry’s mandate is to inquire into the sequence of events leading to the sale transaction, the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, fees and benefits paid to anyone in relation to the sale transaction and contracts entered into among the parties. The Inquiry will also look into the allocation of proceeds of the transaction for recreational facilities at Central Park and Heritage Park and any fees or benefits paid to any person or the entity involved in the creation of the recreational facilities. The Inquiry will examine the impact of these events on the ratepayers of the Town of Collingwood as they relate to the good governance of the municipality and make any recommendations the Associate Chief Justice may deem appropriate and in the public interest.

Judicial Inquiries are a way for governments to examine issues and problems outside the regular legislative process. Inquiries can help communities to benefit from independent, neutral consideration of matters in the public domain. Public inquiries can help develop public policy and make recommendations that will serve the public in the future.

The report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry is available at http://www.collingwoodinquiry.ca. In the first volume, pages 3 to 14 provide an Executive Summary of the Justice's review and findings.

How can you participate?

  • Participate during the virtual town hall discussion via ZOOM on April 7 (see details and link below)
  • Send in questions in advance (see below to submit a question or to read the Frequently Asked Questions prepared to-date)

Public Meeting Agenda: https://collingwood.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Id=836
To attend the Virtual Public Meeting, on April 7, please join us via ZOOM call.

When: Apr 7, 2021 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Collingwood Judicial Inquiry - Virtual Town Hall

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87496756059?pwd=c0UvNm51anN4Q1lyZ2cvdzJiNStYQT09

Telephone: +1 647 374 4685 or +1 647 558 0588 or +1 778 907 2071
Webinar ID: 874 9675 6059
Passcode: 103578


Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the Judicial Inquiry cost so much more than originally indicated?  

A judicial inquiry, once launched, must act independently and cannot be diverted from its mission of investigating for factual evidence. Although the final cost was an unexpected outcome, the Inquiry was launched to obtain answers to public concerns in a thorough, public, and transparent way. 

How much did the Judicial Inquiry cost, and what were the costs for? 

The original estimated budget for the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry was $1.6 million. To date, the Town has processed and paid over $8.2 million. The costs will continue to be tallied through the completion of all associated bills and will be posted to the Town’s website. 

The initial costing assumptions were based on a nine-month inquiry and approximately eight weeks of investigative work and eight weeks of actual hearings. Council and the public were made aware at the outset that billing rates, and length of the inquiry, would determine the actual expenditures. 

How are the costs of the Inquiry incurred? 

The costs of a judicial inquiry are comprised primarily of legal fees for both inquiry counsel and witnesses, researchers and data handlers, administrative staff, office space and equipment, travel expenses, and subject matter experts. 

The Town provided the initial scope of the work to be done and then the costs were incurred by the Commission as it carried out is work. By doing things such as providing the location for the sessions and some technical support, the Town managed fiscal exposure to the best of its ability and within the limits allowable to still enable an independent process for the Inquiry. 

Where did the funds came from and how will they be replenished? 

In June of 2020, Council made the decision to not use proceeds from the sale of the Collingwood Airport, and the remaining shares of the Town’s hydro utility, to fund the Inquiry without public consultation. The ensuing public engagement did not yield a strong desire by the public to have the asset sale proceeds be used for this purpose. 

Council have directed staff to utilize reserve and available in-year funds to pay for the Inquiry, and all costs to-date have been paid. Through future budgets, these reserves will be replenished. 

How does a judicial inquiry provide value for money? 

A judicial inquiry is a process that occurs in front of the public to ensure transparency and openness regarding the findings of an inquiry, and has the ability to compel the release of information. This ability is beyond the scope and powers of a municipality. 

Beyond this, it is incumbent upon all municipalities, and the Province, to use the findings and recommendations to improve the conditions of the community. Although it is a subjective judgment, value for money will be determined by the success of the judicial inquiry in providing recommendations and the municipality in implementing these recommendations. 

Can the report lead to criminal charges? 

The purpose of a judicial inquiry is not to determine criminality. 

The Town and public are aware that the OPP have described an investigation into possible wrongdoing related to the subject matter of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry as open and ongoing. 

Does Council have a role in encouraging the OPP to act on findings resulting from the Judicial Inquiry? 

Council has no prescribed role in encouraging the OPP to act as a result of the Inquiry findings but may ensure that the OPP is aware of the Inquiry report. 

Can the Town sue any parties who pled or were found to have played a significant role in allowing the events to happen? 

Depending upon the facts and findings, the Town could seek to recover financial damages to the Town through legal means.  A thorough review, legal advice, and an understanding of balance between the costs to pursue recovery and the likely amount of a recovery would be required prior to a Council decision to proceed. 

Is it possible for participants within the Inquiry to sue each other? 

Yes, they could.  The Town may not be aware of this happening.  It is possible to submit periodic Freedom of Information requests to the Attorney General if there is a desire to know, however at this point it is unclear what value this information would have to the Town.  

Was any new information uncovered because of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry? 

A large amount of information was made public during the Inquiry process, and the public was made aware of information that was unavailable previously. The full set of information from the Judicial Inquiry and the final report can be found via the Judicial Inquiry’s website at http://www.collingwoodinquiry.ca/



CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.
  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Re: Further Legal Action. Is the Town aware of individuals or lawyers interested to sponsor or support a Collingwood resident class action suit against those accused of malfeasance?

    William asked 14 days ago

    The Town is not aware of any individuals or lawyers interested in sponsoring or supporting a Collingwood resident class action suit against those accused of malfeasance.  

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    Do we know if commissions we’re paid to any of the officers or directors? If so, is not illegal and why have charges not been made?

    Edward Rex Waylen asked 15 days ago

    We are not aware of any commissions paid to any officers or directors of the Town of Collingwood.  

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    With the release of the judicial inquiry report, have any further transactions or expenditures of the town between 1996 and 2016 been called into question?

    jeffreybrydges asked 15 days ago

    The Town is aware that the OPP may be investigating other matters. However, Council has not pursued any further investigation into other transactions or expenditures at this time, with the exception of asking what may be contained within the previous public utility records currently held by EPCOR.  

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    Was any fraud identified by the treasurer or director of finance?

    jeffreybrydges asked 15 days ago

    To-date the Treasurer/Director of Finance has not identified fraud.

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    With the release of the judicial inquiry report, are you able to acknowledge that through staff report EMC-2012-01, dated Aug. 27, 2012, and Council Resolutions No 374 and 375, dated Aug. 27, 2012, certain members of staff and council contravened the Municipal Act, 2001, including Section 290 of that Act and related Ontario Regulations?

    jeffreybrydges asked 15 days ago

    Section 290 of the Act is in reference, to an annual budget that must be submitted by a local municipality.  It requires that a budget must be adopted including “estimates of all sums require during the year for the purposes of the municipality”, and it sets broad parameters for the budget which were maintained in Collingwood.  It does not however mean that a municipality cannot change course (i.e., adopt a new project) throughout the year, where a vote of Council may deem it necessary.  We are not aware of a contravention of the Municipal Act by staff or Members of Council.

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    By replenishing reserves that were depleted by funding the judicial inquiry costs, such as the working capital reserve, indirectly using the proceeds of the assets sales to fund the judicial inquiry costs contrary to council's previous public direction to staff?

    jeffreybrydges asked 20 days ago

    You may be referring to the decision in June 2019 under staff Report T2019-12 where staff had recommended use of the Asset Sale Funds to pay for increased Judicial Inquiry costs.  However, through an amendment, Council Resolved not to utilize these funds “until consultation has closed and until after staff investigate opportunities to use reserves to fund the shortfall.”  Staff were able to find funding for the Judicial Inquiry from taxes and reserves or reserve funds.  

    Now that the Judicial Inquiry is complete, Strategic Initiatives Committee through a separate overarching review incorporating public consultation results, recently recommended the use of the Asset Sale Proceeds to Council.  The decision criteria included:

    1) Legacy that is meaningful to the community; 

    2) Provides the greatest benefit to the greatest number of residents; 

    3) Does the cost of the project(s) fit within the funding; 

    4) Assign projects where other funding may not be readily available;

     5) Timing – ensure appropriate funds are available to take advantage of opportunities that may present themselves (e.g. appropriate property becomes available); and 

    6) Aligns with Councils Community Based Strategic Plan (CBSP).


    Part of the Committee’s resolution includes returning several Reserves/Reserve Funds in a higher range of adequacy as recommended in the Reserve/Reserve Fund Policy, and to support upcoming community needs.

    Note that as part of the 2021 budget Council has also allotted just over an additional $2.5 Million to tax supported reserves and reserve funds as well, further increasing Collingwood’s financial health and stabilizing against future tax needs.


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    if a community foundation is not under the Municipal Act or the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and doesn't require a lobbyist registry or public evaluation of decisions, then doesn't it circumvent the internal controls, checks and balances, transparency and accountability, and policies and procedures that are recommended by the judicial inquiry report?

    jeffreybrydges asked 20 days ago

    The intention of a community foundation is to provide social services through a commitment of specialized resources that may or may not be within a “normal” municipal administration.  Although a Community Foundation may not fall under the Municipal Act it would however fall under the CRA (Canada Customs and Revenue Agency) which has oversight and rules governing the fiscal operation of a charity and assigns disbursement quotas.  Additionally, Town Council could provide within the mandate of the Foundation and board rules including operating within national standards for non-profit organizations, which could include that donations and/or allotment of expenses etc. would be published publicly and/or affirmed by the Board. 

    Should Council recommend the creation of an arms-length and board-directed Community Foundation, this question would certainly be reviewed in detail and the Town would seek legal advice to ensure it is set up to follow the positive principles expressed in the question.

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    Would an independent forensic audit only be pursued by the town if there was fraud or breach of public trust?

    jeffreybrydges asked 20 days ago

    Pending the outcome of the OPP Investigation and the direction provided to the CAO to review the historical books and records that EPCOR retained as set out in the sale share agreement, if potential next steps are warranted and the resources that would be required to proceed are available; Council would then be in a better position to decide.

     Generally, a forensic audit is completed where it is suspected that fraud and embezzlement have occurred, and usually the findings or evidence are uncovered with the intention of proceeding to court to pursue legal action. 

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    Can a town council still approve a project or spending if it is not approved through the public budget process without publically amending the budget in accordance with the Municipal Act and without going through the prioritization process of the budget? Would any of the policies and procedures being implemented in accordance with the judicial inquiry recommendations prevent this from occurring?

    jeffreybrydges asked 20 days ago

    In general, if a project comes forward that members of Council deem to be essential, they may approve it without going through a repeat of the budget process, however as part of the approval they would also determine funding.  This funding could be through reserves/grants and/or delaying other project(s), among other funding source options.  These types of situations are generally brought forward through or accompanied by a public staff report outlining the reasons for the change and a recommendation as to the funding. 

     At this point, it is not recommended limiting a Council’s ability to make in-year adjustments to priorities and projects where they do not require further taxpayer money and the overall budget remains in line with the overarching requirements in the Municipal Act.   Staff have contemplated that the Ontario government could consider adding a request for a Judicial Inquiry to the types of decisions that require more than a simple majority of Council’s votes, however this option has not been reviewed by Collingwood’s Council or other stakeholders including the Province.

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    Some of the underlying issues and conflicts appear to be, in part, due to the lack of control by town council over municipally owned corporation; if council abdicates its responsibilities and gives public taxpayers money to a community foundation, then is there the potential for similar issues and conflicts to arise, that is, will a community foundation be outside the scope of the spirit and intent of recommendations 265 through 293?

    jeffreybrydges asked 20 days ago

    The intention of a community foundation is to provide social services through a commitment of specialized resources that may or may not be within a “normal” municipal administration.  As part of the recommendations you refer too, it is clear that the selection process of the board is of the utmost importance and that when selection occurs it should be clear and understandable to the public.  Additionally, the skills and qualifications of the applicants should be objective and based on skills, that they come from varying backgrounds and that they must be committed to principles of integrity and ethical conduct.  A report produced by staff on October 7th, 2020 lays out what is recommended in terms of what the board should be comprised of (link to report https://collingwood.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=658). 

    Should Council recommend the creation of an arms-length and board-directed Community Foundation, this question would certainly be reviewed in detail and the Town would seek legal advice to ensure it is set up to consider the Judicial Inquiry recommendations referenced in this question.