Unions challenge legality of Epcor spinoff

EDMONTON - The controversial Epcor deal was brought back to court Friday with a coalition of union groups arguing for a judge in the Court of Queen's Bench to review how the deal came together.

"The issue today is not about job and union contracts, the issue is about democracy," Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said before heading into the courthouse.

McGowan, Terry Jardine from the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 30, and Leo Derkach from the Civic Service Union 52, are bringing the matter to court.

City council in April approved a deal that saw Epcor's power-generating plants carved off into a new company, separate from the city-owned utility. The public officials voted on the deal in a closed meeting on April 17.

Ben Henderson and Amarjeet Sohi were the only city councillors to vote against the deal.

Some councillors have said they were acting as Epcor shareholder representatives, not city councillors, when they made the decision. The city owns Epcor and city council's role is that of sole shareholder, acting on behalf of citizens, they argue.

McGowan said his group is arguing that the way the deal happened contravenes the Municipal Government Act.

"The notion that they can switch their hats and act behind closed doors ... we're challenging their right to do that," McGowan said.

This is at least the second time the Epcor deal has been taken to court. In July, a judge rejected a request for an injunction on the deal by Bill Pidruchney, a former head of the Alberta Securities Commission.

In court, Pidruchney argued taxpayers should be given the opportunity to vote on the sale because they built Epcor over 118 years and benefited from $138 million in dividends last year.

The new company, Capital Power, completed a $500-million IPO (initial public offering) in July and is now the largest publicly traded company based in Edmonton.

Edmonton Journal, Fri Sept 11 2009
Byline: Alexandra Zabjek

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