Doug Ford's government strikes deal with Hydro One to force out CEO, board

Hydro One's CEO is retiring as part of an agreement between the Ontario government and the utility company that will also see the replacement of all board members. 

Premier Doug Ford vowed to fire CEO Mayo Schmidt during the campaign, repeatedly calling him ex-premier Kathleen Wynne's "$6-million man" for his annual salary and bonuses.

Hydro One, which was partly privatized by the former Liberal government in 2015, was a hot topic during the recent Ontario election campaign with millions of residents outraged by rising hydro bills. Ford's campaign took aim at executive pay, which was going up even when the company's share price was falling in May.

Hydro One announced Schmidt's departure, effective immediately, in a Wednesday news release. Moments later, Ford said the news marked a great day for the province.

"I said that we were going to do this, and we did it," Ford told reporters at Queen's Park.

Ford said Schmidt is getting "zero severance" as part of the deal. However, Schmidt will receive a $400,000 payout in lieu of post-retirement benefits and allowances, Hydro One said.

It was reported that Schmidt would be entitled to a $10.7-million severance. When reporters asked Ford why Schmidt wouldn't pursue that, Ford replied they would have to ask the ex-CEO himself.

PCs say move pays way for lower hydro bills

The premier also said the move paves the way for a 12 per cent reduction in hydro rates, although Ford declined to explain how that would happen when pressed by reporters. 

"As sure as I'm standing here, those bills are going to come down 12 per cent," Ford said.

"We're going to give relief to the people of Ontario."

Previously, Hydro officials said only a few cents of each household's hydro bills go toward executive pay.

Hydro One said a new board of directors — four members of which will be nominated by the province — will select the company's next CEO, and the province will be consulted on the next leader's compensation.

Paul Dobson, Hydro One's chief financial officer, will serve as acting CEO.

Greg Rickford, the new energy minister, said the government will play a major role in reshaping Hydro One's board and "will expect it to act in the public's interest."

Rickford said the government will also present legislation to improve transparency at Hydro One.

"After years of rising electricity bills, this is a step towards our main goal — bringing down electricity rates for all Ontarians," he said.

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