Saturday, June 12, 2010


Those who know me well, and even those who just read this blog with any sort of regularity, know that one of the things that I despise most is the stuffed shirt or fat cat; people with far more money than any one person needs or has a right to; especially people who came by that money through dumb luck or through family or social connections, as opposed to having earned it.

Understand that I have no quarrel with someone who happens to win a lottery, as long as they don't start acting as though they somehow deserve their good fortune. What really raises the temperature, not to mention the pressure, of my blood the most, is people with a false sense of entitlement; those for whom no extravagance ever seems sufficient; those who seem to perpetually want more, no matter how much they have already. Eleanor Clitheroe appears to be that kind of person.

Eleanor Clitheroe was vice president of Ontario Hydro from 1993 until 1999, when the Ontario government restructured the bloated, inefficient utility, already mired in debt, splitting it into five companies, one of which became known as Hydro One. Eleanor Clitheroe became Hydro One's president. She was paid a salary of over $2.2 million in 2001, which included $174,000 for a car and $172,000 in vacation pay.

In 2002, Hydro One's Board of Directors moved to fire Clitheroe, citing misuse of company funds, including personal club memberships which she charged to her corporate credit card and $40,000 worth of renovations which she had Hydro One's service providers make to her home. She eventually repaid the renovation money, but not until after she was caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar. She wound up quitting to escape the humiliation of being fired.

Since her deservedly disgraceful departure from Hydro One, Clitheroe has been collecting a monthly pension of $25,000. My keen sense of math tells me that's about $300,000 per year; a comfortable pension even by Canadian politicians' standards. But not enough for Eleanor Clitheroe, apparently. Last year, she petitioned the Ontario Superior Court to raise her monthly pension to $33,000 - that's almost $400,000 per year - claiming that her constitutional rights had been infringed when the Ontario government passed legislation that significantly reduced the $6 million severance which she had negotiated into her employment contract to a "paltry" $3 million. To its credit, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that having a grotesque severance cut in half after being fired for incompetence and embezzlement is not an infringement of a person's constitutional rights. This month, Clitheroe is back in court appealing the decision.

Eleanor Clitheroe is the reason why every Ontario family is now required to help pay down the enormous debt that Ontario Hydro and its offshoot, Hydro One, ran up under her watch. If you're a resident of Ontario, check your next Hydro bill. It's right there in black and white; "Debt Retirement Charge". In 2006, Ontario's Auditor General, Jim McCarter, confirmed that $127 million of that deficit came from "questionable" charges to corporate expense accounts, with few receipts to justify them. What's worse, we're given no idea how much of the debt has been paid down, and how much remains; in other words, how long we're expected to continue paying for the incompetence and excesses of Clitheroe and her executive cronies.

I'm not suggesting that Clitheroe is solely responsible for the Hydro debt, but I'm singling her out for her greed and her lack of empathy with the common ratepayer. In an economy in which many are unemployed and struggling to make ends meet, and many have lost jobs without receiving a cent of their modest severance entitlements, as often happens when companies go into receivership, Eleanor Clitheroe feels no shame in suggesting that a monthly pension that's more than three times the average working Ontarian's salary, to say nothing of the average retired Ontarian's pension, is insufficient.

If I were given any say in the matter, I would not only deny Clitheroe's bid to increase her pension, I would garnishee the pension that she is receiving so that she can personally help pay down the hydro debt.

Oh, and here's the icing on the proverbial cake. These days, "Reverend" Eleanor Clitheroe has become an Anglican priest. It would seem that the Anglican clergy aren't required to take a vow of poverty.

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