The Ford government has little incentive to bail out Guelph because we elected the wrong MPP

By Gerry Barker

November 15, 2018

Guelph is a no man’s land when it comes to accountability and transparency.

Yet a Guelph Today writer seem to believe that holding closed=session meetings is okay. In the first two years of the Guthrie administration, there were 84 closed-session meetings held by council. It is impossible to obtain the minutes of those meetings.

I know from personal experience when I requested a copy of the minutes of a closed-session held, December 10, 2015. It concerned the pay increases for four top city managers. The request was referred to an outfit in London, known as the “Closed Session Investigators” who took four months to deny my request.

The organization has been on retainer with the city since 2008. Since then there were three requests for minutes of closed-session council meetings all of which were denied.

That’s transparency Guelph council style

It’s a political island in a provincial sea of blue. It has elected a member of the Legislature who is a party of one, the Ontario Green Party. He is a member who is politically left of the late NDP leader, Jack Layton. A man who is bent on creating a David Suzuki brand of an environmental green nirvana that most Ontario electors voted against last June.

The election was a total repudiation of the Liberal government’s policies of structuring a disastrous energy file, the cost of which has yet to be determined. The Kathleen Wynne government imposed a long-term residential development plan on every municipality in the province. The focus of the plan was building residential housing incorporating “Intensification” by eliminating single-family development. By condensing more housing units on smaller acreages, the result was low-rise condos accompanied by strip attached townhouses with little open space.

The evidence of these ghettos of intensification is concentrated along Victoria and Clair Roads. Tiny garages, open space parking for condo owners, and jammed together like sardines.

The bonus to the city was increased assessment that created increased revenue. The downside is these developments do not produce any affordable housing.

All this happened in eight years under former Mayor Farbridge’s two-term councils. And it still continues to this day. City planners have allowed development that has inadequate driveways and narrow streets with little visitor parking.

The Wynne plan called for Guelph to have a population of 175,000 by 2031. However it is predicted that the city is rapidly becoming a bedroom city, occupied by commuters heading for jobs in the GTA.

Successive progressive dominating councils, have ignored eight years of failure of the economic development department to seek and encourage industrial and communications companies to come to Guelph to create jobs.

Economic development, what’s that?

Since 2006, the city’s ratio of residential assessment compared to commercial/industrial has not changed. Some 84 per cent of all city assessment is residential. This places an enormous burden on property owners whose taxes and special levies average more than 3.5 per cent annually.

Just remember that the man just re-elected Mayor, promised in his first campaign to maintain property tax increases at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index. That was 1.99 per cent when he was elected in 2014. His first budget approved in March 2015 by council, was 3.96 per cent following changes in property assessment. Rookie mistake?

The new council, as described by the Guelph Today writer, is not new at all. All of the incumbents were re-elected. Only two new councillors were added. That looks like the same council as before continuing the domination of the progressives who retain a 7-6 majority.

Time to get serious. The city is facing a growing drug problem, a fiscal problem that will never go away until the brakes are pumped to control the grandiose plans to redevelop Baker Street. There is need to freeze further city funds for the Guelph Innovation District on the provincially-owned reformatory lands. What influence does Mr. Schreiner, our MPP, have to persuade the province to part with the more than 1,077 acres of the reformatory property?

Why are we financing these two projects?

There is no capital funding for these two projects that are proposed for long-term construction and purchase of the reformatory property.

Instead, concentrate building a new downtown library with adequate parking and make it convenient to all citizens.

In the near term, there will be the task of funding additions to the Guelph General Hospital as the population increases each year.

Let’s get started building the South-end Recreation Centre in three stages: First, infrastructure for entire project, parking and rinks, community rooms and staff offices; Second, children’s area, library branch and computer facilities, auditorium for stage events and film; Third, swimming pool, change rooms, exercise area and more parking.

Architects and planners can rearrange elements. Once the plan is ready the public should have input. This is a major and necessary project and could be spaced out over the new term of council.

The chief decisions that need immediate attention is to review all audited statements, eliminate unnecessary spending on staff and social programs. The staff reviews are painstakingly slow and the internal auditor should be given assets to speed up the review process.

It’s not all dark and gloom. It is important that financial information be presented to the public in print as well as online. The Financial Department has made great progress in improving the clarity of information but if you don’t have a computer, you won’t see the information. Sending a note requesting preference of citizens to receive important details of city operations will be beneficial to all citizens.

Bon chance, mes Amis

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Will the new council come clean about the GMHI $66 million asset sitting on the 2017 city financial statement?

By Gerry Barker

November 12, 2018

Opinion

In a little more than two weeks, the newly elected city council will take command.

The October civic election sent 11 incumbent members back to council plus two newcomers. Rodrigo Goller and Dominique O’Rourke.

So, nothing has changed when change remains more needed now than in the previous four years.

The seven progressive members of council still hold the majority and will for the next four years. While the Mayor worked to establish a slate to create a personal majority to offset the power of the Leftists, it failed. What occurred was Ms. O’Rourke replaced Mr. Wettstein and Mr. Goller replaced Mr. Van Hellemond.

The voter turnout was one of the lowest in many years with some 57,054 out of 90,786 eligible voters who did not bother.

The only explanation is that those voting absentees must be satisfied the city was in good hands. Or, many were not informed of the issues, present company excepted. Between the communications staff at City Hall and various online bloggers, the organic action of city council was rarely, if ever, reported.

So let’s review: Unfortunately, right now there is faint hope that the new city council will address the mistakes of the past and reform needed governance and financial issues. There is no evidence that those elected incumbents will stop clinging to their failed concepts that have already wasted millions.

For starters, and this is information that you will not find anywhere in the softball media serving Guelph, is the financial asset listed in the official City of Guelph audited Consolidated Position as of December 31, 2017. The listing was the asset of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) of $66,341,000.

Did you ever read or hear about that?

So the next question is: What happened to that $66,341,000 in 2018? Guess we’ll have to wait for the 2018 official financial statement that will be published sometime next year.

But here is what I believe occurred.

In February 2017, the little known Strategies and Options Committee, (SOC) was appointed by city council to study the disposal of Guelph Hydro that operated under the GMHI board of directors. Initially, the SOC was composed of joint chairmen Chief Administrative Officer (CA) Derrick Thomson and CEO Pankaj Sardana, Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Hydro. There were three other non-elected public members.

Their mandate was to sell Guelph Hydro, or amalgamate with another municipally owned electric power distribution system or merge with a large power distribution corporation.

That February meeting of SOC removed the sale of Guelph Hydro as a consideration. What followed was a purge in which Mr. Sardana was removed and replaced by Ms. Jane Armstrong, chair of Guelph Hydro. One of three committee members resigned later stating he was opposed to taking the sale of Guelph Hydro off the table.

The GMHI Board of Directors consisted of Mayor Karen Farbridge as Chair, Councillors Lise Burcher, June Hofland, Karl Wettstein and Todd Dennis plus two non-elected civilian members. The CEO was CAO Ann Pappert. Ms.Papert left her job as CAO May 26, 2016.

Keep in mind that the SOC meetings were held in closed-sessions. GMHI did not produce regular summary of operations, financial statements, objectives or recommendations to council.

Not until October 2017, when Mayor Guthrie announced an agreement in principal to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc., a large power distribution corporation for several Greater Toronto Municipalities.

All it took was $2.36 million of your money to convince council

Yes, that was what the city spent promoting the deal with town halls, telephone surveys and an online document, the size of the Toronto telephone book, with little substance or financial details. Hard copies of the multi-page book was only available to a few key people. Certainly few of the 55,000 Guelph Hydro customers read the this online-based document, presented just 12 days before the council meeting that approved the deal.

More of your tax dollars at work

Slam Dunk! No details except a glowing endorsement from the Mayor about what a great deal the city had made. In December, city council approved the deal, still under negotiation, by a 10 to 3 margin and the rest is history.

The only evidence that exists today, following the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) approval, four days before the civic election, is the statement by the OEB that Alectra Utilies was purchasing all the outstanding, shares and issues of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc, aka Guelph Hydro.

Key word here is “purchasing.” Could it be that the price happened to be $66 million of GMHI as shown on the city’s 2017 financial statement?

Is this what council traded to get out from under the GMHI financial disaster?

All along Mayor Guthrie has stipulated that Guelph Hydro is not being given away.

So why did he not tell the truth and refuse to reveal the financial details?

We may never know except that the $66 million asset of GMHI had better be part of the city’s assets in the 2018 financial statements. I’m betting it may still be there because the merger with Alectra closes January 31 2019. It will take another 18 months before the money disappears from the city books.

By then Guelph Hydro will no longer exist.

I still maintain that Alectra got the bargain of the century. Guelph city council looked like hicks at the circus approving this flawed merger concocted by highly skilled lawyers with little oversight of our representatives..

Of course, the new council should tell us what really happened to that $66 million asset on the city nooks in terms that citizens understand.

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Trumpspin and Canada slaps a tariff on horse manure

By Gerry Barker

November 8, 2018

I’m a guy who is not tolerant of tyrants or ranting tolerants. Case in point was yesterday’s fake press conference conducted by the President of the United States in which he argues that the result if the mid-term election was a great victory for the Republicans.

Was he juiced up with cheeseburgers and diet Cokes again?

Honestly, this guy should have been a car salesman. Whoa pardner! That not fair to most car salesman. For more than an hour Donald Trump ignored the huge victory by the Democrats who now take control of the House of Representatives on January 1, 2019. By any spin Trump tries to downplay it, his life as a politician will be carefully checked as he attempts to deal with the new sheriff in town – 230 Democrates who have the power to say no.

Even perhaps when it comes to expanding health care or legalisig the estimate 800,000 young people, born in the U.S. by illegal immigrant parents. At one point, the Trump administration threatened to deport them even though the U.S. Constitution specially states that if you are born in the U.S. you are an American citizen.

This is the same guy who said that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. therefore was not a citizen and should be removed from office. Wrong but Trump’s racist’s attitude surfaced after he was elected President in 2016.

Sorry Mr. Trump, your spin, laced with lies and vindictive personal attacks on anyone opposed or critical of your performance. Tour press conference performance accurately describes yout \ attitude toward the people who have spoken.

There was a blue wave Tuesday and your passionate posse could not stop it.

*            *            *            *

Back in Canada

Soon the election financial statement that must be submitted by all candidates will be available for public viewing. The candidate who had the highest number of votes was Mayor Cam Guthrie. In fact he received more than two-thirds lf all votes cast in the October 22 election. His opponent, Aggie Mlyarz, also polled surprisingly well received a third of all votes cast.

Again her source of support will be identified either in cash or (in kind, payment by a third party for services rendered).

Only 28 years old, Ms Mlyarz wants to be the political prom queen before learning how to dance. Regardless, her polling in the provincial election in June and in the Guelph civic election was impressive.

What it tells me is the progressive left followers in Guelph are well organized, loyal to the cause and formidable. The re-election of all seven incumbent progressive candidates who retain the majority on council is yet another example of after 12 years, they still control the council agenda. And, voter apathy works well for them because they know their supporters and ensure they get out and vote.

Two ways to break the system is allow online voting in 2022 and reduce the size of council, all councillors who are elected at large, are paid the equivalent of full time work.

*            *            *            *

Financing Jujitsu of the Baker Street redevelopment project

When Mayor Guthrie announced that the city was entering a 3P (Private, Public, Partnership) with an Ottawa company ivlding a huge redevelopment complex on the Baker Street parking lot with he key occupant the new Downtown Library.

The estimated $350 million project announcement failed to provide the public share of the project. But did include the statement that the city had already invested $29 million in the project.

So far, that $29 million is composed of $5 million to purchase two properties facing on Wyndham Street several years go to enlarge the parking lot and provide access onto Wyndham Street.

Then there was an item that the city’s contribution included $22 million, the cost of the

5-storey Wilson Street Parkade next door to City Hall, now under construction.

While the taxpayers are paying this cost, why is it included as a contribution in the 3P proposal? Trying to make us look good?

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The Fascist President who believes he is the American Fuhrer

By Gerry Barker

November 5, 2018

Opinion

Tomorrow is Election Day in America.

President Donald Trump is not on the ballot but in reality, he is.

Last Friday night in Toronto, thousands turned out at Roy Thomson Hall to protest the two guest speakers’ presentation of the new America. The occasion was the Munk lectures inviting the public to hear the voices of politics, arts and culture.

Steve Banion, former senior advisor to President Trump and a far right American nationalist, and David Frum, son of the late Canadian broadcaster Barbara Frum were the two speakers. Mr. Frum was a senior advisor to former president George W. Bush and frequent guest on cable TV in the U.S. He is currently a senior editor of the Atlantic magazine and an author.

Both speakers were met with a coalition of some 40 organizations, protesting the guest speakers’ political points of view and recent performance proponents of the conservative far right agenda. It would be unfair to label Mr. Frum as a Trump supporter, far frum (sic) it. He has spoken and written often about how Trump is degrading the Republican Party in the U.S.

The presentation started 45 minutes late due to the crush of protesters and people trying to get in the hall. It ended with a glitches outcome that stated Bannion won. It was reversed. Perhaps the Munk organizers should recalibrate their lectures and debates.

Dumping the Trump effect

So the protestors leaving 12 persons hurt, a few charged and a long period of shouted chaos surrounding the hall dismissed the Trump fake doctrine.

This election on Tuesday is the first time that Trump can be judged, following his first two years in office, by the voters. It has been two years of chaos in the White House where the president munches on cheeseburgers and diet cokes, eyes glued on Fox News, while tweeting streams of invective lies and self-serving messages to his core supporters.

Trump is never wrong, never apologetic, and is frequently dishonest or displays the intellect of a five year-old.

And yet, according to the media, the real media not the fake media that he excoriates, some 40 million supporters believe him for a variety of reasons.

Any negative story or statement concerning him or his performance is attacked using pejorative descriptions of legitimate reporters and editors. No one is safe who dares to criticize him. The Washington Post team of 11 fact-checkers has determined that in two years, Trump has told 6,700 lies.

His targets were identified a couple of weeks ago by a Trump supporter who mailed explosive pipe bombs to 15 persons. All recipients were Democrat leaders and supporters including two former, two-term Presidents, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama.

Don’t bother me with the details

Trump never contacted either former presidents offering support.

Quick work by the coalition of law enforcement agencies arrested the guy who was living in a van, plastered with photos of Trump and a picture of Hillary Clinton with a gun sight circle super imposed on her face. Evidence revealed the bomb maker was a Trump supporter who attended a number of his rallies.

It represented a metaphor of the Trump Presidency, making and mailing pipe bombs is one thing, getting them to explode is another matter. Trump tweeted only referring to the threat as “the bomb thing.”

Fortunately, not one of the devices exploded but the nation was appalled and frightened over these attacks on the Democratic leadership and billionaire Democrat investor, supporter George Soros, who was sent one bomb to his home that was intercepted by security and another in his New York office.

Just eight days following the arrest of the bomber in Florida, a lone gunman, armed with a modified AR15 assault rifle and three Glock handguns, entered a Synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 worshippers on the Jewish Sabbath.

Although wounded, the man told police that he wanted to kill all the Jews.

The Following Tuesday, against the advice of Synagogue officials, Trump, his wife, daughter and husband attended the murder scene. Some 25,000 protestors assembled nearby, shouted their objections to Trumps uninvited appearance. Trump later tweeted that there were only a few protestors who were far away.

Your Commander in Chief needs his army

Trump sloughed off the “bomb thing” and turned up the volume about the thousands of Central American asylum seekers heading toward the U.S border in a caravan, on foot and many without shoes. These people included women and children who are escaping from Honduras because it is nation in total economic chaos, with daily murders, high unemployment and incompetent government.

Trump called it an invasion of America and ordered 5,000 regular army troops to the border to join the 22,000 border patrol officers and some 2,900 National Guardsmen reservists, already backing up the border guards.

Trump justified his decision claiming the caravan-contained murderers, people from Middle East countries, thieves and rapists, determined to take over America.

The fact the unarmed caravan of some 4,000 were some 700 miles away from the U.S. border, moving at 20 miles a day, did not deter Trump from attacking them daily. In one of his tweets he claimed that persons in the caravan threw rocks at Mexican army troops and police.

One wag quipped that the NRA gun organization should now be called the National Rock Association.

OOPS! Judgment alert

Of course, none of this should ever happen because the US constitution prevents U.S. armed forces from firing weapons at anyone on U.S. soil. The last time that happened was when Ohio National Guard soldiers fired on unarmed students protesting the Viet Nam war at Kent State University. Eight students were killed in the fusillade.

That slaughter of the Kent State student’s shocked America and the world. It marked the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam.

The president, stoking the fires of fear shortly after, claimed the Honduras caravan contained bad people that were “invading” the U.S. He then ordered the U.S. Army to send up to 15,000 regular soldiers to defend the border against the Honduras horde. He went on to say at his rallies to make America Great again, that if the “invaders” threw rocks hitting the troops they would fire on the group wanting to enter the U.S.

If there was ever a reason to vote tomorrow, it is to elect candidates to stop these incessant Trump attacks on a group of unarmed people just wanting a better opportunity to live and work in America.

The Trump fear-mongering assault on the helpless and the innocent replicates the fantasy remarkably similar to those narcissistic personalities, Napoleon and Genghis Khan, two ambitious strongmen who he emulates.

He keeps saying: I am the President.””

His thesis of protecting the southern U.S border from immigrants seeking asylum is a Fascist ploy to stoke fear among U.S. citizens. The President is a fake, a Fascist and pathological liar. Why should any thinking person believe him now?

Get the hell away from my country

It remains just one of many reasons to stop the accusatory rhetoric by a President. He is a man who has made America worse again. He cozies up to dictators, the neo-Nazis and U.S white supremacists. He denigrates people of colour. He has alienated powerful allies and he is incapable of telling the American public the truth.

He frequently blames Canada as unfair traders who have ripped off America. Actually, the U.S. has had a trade surplus with Canada for the NFTA lifetime.

He and his sycophantic sidekick, Mike Pence, have taken America down a perilous path leading to isolation and economic disaster.

Tomorrow, hopefully will be the beginning of the end of Trump power and that of his followers.

The early indicator of a record-breaking advance voter turnout is the surging numbers of people who have already voted. Power change is coming to Washington.

Mr. President, your bunker is ready, sir. While Mr. Pence joining you?

 

 

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Mr. Ford: It’s time to rewrite the University property tax deal

By Gerry Barker

November 1, 2018

Exclusive – Opinion

Before I am accused of insufferable whining, here are some examples of jug-headed decisions made by the current council in the past four years.

My favourite is about the tax on cats. Council taxes dogs, chicken coops, property,  waste removal, water, storm water, developers, businesses and cats.

If it moves, tax it

Council does not tax nuisances such as the growing urban flock of Canada Geese, Bicycle riders and their gear. Throw in the user fees that in 2017 the city received $105,872,000 in user fees alone. That was an increase of $9,744 million over 2016.

The biggest under taxed institution in the city is the University of Guelph. The city’s largest landowner and concentrated education complex is complete with buildings to house first year and graduate students, ultra new classroom facilities, football stadium and hockey arena.

It has a student population of 22,000 from September to April.

Now here’s the sweetheart property deal enjoyed by the University.

City residents and taxpayers subsidize the University population through paying for emergency services –police, fire and EMS as requested by University officials. No charge.

Citizens also subsidize Guelph Transit, spending $65,259 million that includes supplying extra services to accommodate students during the roughly eight months stay in Guelph. Citizens have subsidized an estimated $15 million annually to support Guelph Transit.

What happened to equal partnership?

More recently was the University’s Homecoming weekend that city taxpayers paid to control the excessive drinking, abuse of property and treatment at medical clinics. The Guelph Police Services had to pay for extra officers to keep the peace and the cost to city taxpayers’’ was a reported $63,000.

Remember, your taxes are paying for police and other public services for homecoming and St.Patrick’s Day celebrations by thousands of students, alumni and non-students looking for a party.

It is obvious that the University Police cannot control what is happening in their precinct and requested assistance from Guelph Police Services. Why not? Doesn’t cost the University anything and it takes their cops off the hook.

Now you might say this is a penny-ante complaint but when coupled with St. Patrick’s Day revelry, Guelph police are again beefed up to maintain order. It seems a high price to pay by Guelph citizens who are not involved.

Here’s some background

Celebrating the annual homecoming weekend is a string of five universities ranging from Hamilton to London, all celebrating on different weekends. The top brass at each institution agreed to hold their homecoming on different weekends starting usually at McMaster in Hamilton, Guelph, Laurier in Kitchener, University of Waterloo and University of Western Ontario in London.

The result is a moving weekend party as students bounce from one homecoming to the next. An example was this year when Guelph had its homecoming party and football game, two weeks later Western held its homecoming and the police could barely handle the celebrants in which the affair degenerated in a near riot. There is ample evidence that same drinking and flouting the law occurred at each institution.

It would appear that students and non-students move each weekend to another University homecoming. Why is this occurring? It’s because it means money to the Institutions.

Organized alumni tours encourage donation to the University’s endowment fund or they finance support of new building or courses.

. Since 1987, the $75 payment, in lieu of property taxes, has not changed or indexed to the Cost of Living Index (CPI).

How about your property taxes?

Are you paying property taxes during that time that never increased annually? Of course not. In our case; the annual increase for 15 years has averaged 3.18 per cent. Two things affect your property taxes, inflation and compounding. All I can say is that our property taxes have more than doubled in 15 years. That’s compounding for you.

Property taxes contribute, on average, 80 per cent of city revenues. The rest comes from grants, the gas tax rebate, investment interest and user fees including development charges and impost fees.

It’s easy to see that the University is paying an estimated $1.8 million annually in lieu of property taxes and the city taxpayers must cover 80 per cent of the annual city budget. The total revenue from property taxes for 2017 (the latest financial report) was $233,024 million. That figure includes the $1.8 million received from the University of Guelph’s holdings.

The UofG property tax bill represents 0.00772 per cent of the total paid by citizens. The largest landowner and major post secondary organization’s property tax bill is just not paying its fair share operating in Guelph. Not only that, each year the University’s tax portion of Guelph’s cost of operating actually shrinks.

Translation: They are paying proportionately less than all the city property owners conytribute 3.18 per cent annual increase in property taxes.

A law that’s unfair and stupid

The 2017 operational taxed increase of $8,936 million over 2016. That increase did not include any contribution from the University. So each year the City of Guelph property taxes increase, on average 3.18 per cent, but the University has not increased its property tax payment for 41 years.

That’s thanks to a dated and stupid provincial law that never considered the effect of inflation, passed by the provincial Liberal government in 1987. The deal chiefly protected the province’s growing post secondary schools from paying appropriate property taxes.

By sheer accident, the University of Guelph, over the years, became a huge beneficiary because it owns thousands of acres inherited from the former Agriculture College, before it was granted University status.

Over the years as the city grew, certain parts of those lands, particularly along Stone Road, became cash cows as the University property was leased back to commercial retailers and housing developers. At the same time, the city had to install infrastructure including roads, water and sewer lines plus a fire station. Oh! I forgot the $2 million spent on bike lanes.

This land lease income became a great opportunity to expand the University with new buildings, facilities courses and faculties. However, it brought unintended costs to the city to service the needs of the expanding university. The property tax deal denied the city’s right to collect higher property taxes. Because there was no assessment established of the University properties by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. There was no need the city was prevented due to the fixed rate payment in lieu of property taxes established by the provincial government.

The effect of this property tax loophole was that municipalities were forced to increase its costs to improve infrastructure, emergency services, transit, plus many other services over the years as the city and student population grew.

The University or Conestoga Community College cannot be blamed for this situation. The blame falls directly on successive provincial governments that ignored the consequences for more than 41 years, of this off-loading of the costs that many growing cities are facing in relation to blooming post secondary institutions.

The exponential financial property tax load has fallen on taxpayers and citizens.

Well, the UofG recently released a report showing the economic benefits the institution brings to Guelph and Wellington County. Most of that benefit is focused on businesses through increased sales and services but does not trickle down to the taxpayer who is paying most of the bills. It’s another version of trickle down economics that doesn’t work.

It has been suggested that any increase in the so-called student “bed tax” will only be passed through to the students and families.

Here’s the Bottom Line:

The estimate value of the Univisity of Guelph today, in terms of assessment including buildings and land, internal infrastructure, residential structures, laboratories, sports facilities and a number of other important assets of the corporate complex are estimated to be more that $5 billion.

The University’sconomic statement said itemploys 12,000, not all located in Guelph. This, it claimed, is major contributor to job creation. Again they don’t all live in the city.

The City of Guelph with a population of 131,000, in the 2017 consolidated financial statement shows the city having total assets of $1,186,081,000.

This is a challenge that needs the municipalities affected by this unfair arrangement to call on the government to change it.

 

 

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The takeover of Guelph Hydro is only the beginning of the elitist domination of city government

 

By Gerry Barker

October 29, 2018

Thursday, October 18, three members of the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) handed down a decision that approved the merger between Alectra Utilities and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. (Guelph Hydro).

The former Liberal provincial government appointed the three OEB members’ decision that states the deal closes January 31, 2019.

The decision fails to disclose the amount Alectra paid for all issues and shares of Guelph Hydro held by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.

This former Liberal government encouraged the sale, merger or amalgamation of medium to small municipally owned power distribution systems. The purpose was to allegedly create larger, more efficient systems.

At the time, Guelph Hydro had more than 55,000 customers and 120 employees.

In a large ad published in the Guelph Tribune April 19, 2018, The OEB outlined some details of the proposed merger. One section was headlined: “Be informed and have your say.”

It went on to state that: “You have the right to information regarding the application and to be involved in the process.”

Involvement disappeared

A number of Guelph citizens responded requesting an oral hearing in order to have “Their Say” in the matter before the board. Some us received a confirmation by the OEB acknowledging our request to intervene in the hearing.

On July 12, 2018 the OEB detailed the hearing process. Now the applicants had filed a written submission to the board and requested a written response.

There were a number of Guelph residents, including my wife and me, who requested an oral hearing giving reasons for doing so. The main issue was the complexity of the deal of which the public received an outline available only Online, 12 days before city council approved the agreement in principal.

It was not a transparent detailed version of the agreement but a carefully crafted PR document that had little relevance to the real agreement that was still being negotiated.

Council approved the agreement in principal by a 10 to 3 majority despite the presentation of 22 citizens who asked council to delay the vote until the public, some 55,000 of them, had the opportunity to study and digest the details. That never happened.

Further the deliberations by the Strategic Options Committee, appointed by council, was in charge of negotiating the merger that was held in closed session without public participation.

So, did we, a group of interveners, ever given the chance to present our case? Regardless of being acknowledged by the OEB, we were denied intervening.

Here’s more from the July 12 OEB action statement: “Decision of Confidentiality and Procedural Order No. 2:

The bogus invitation

“The OEB invited interested parties to advise if they thought that an oral hearing was needed.”

When we submitted our reasons for an oral hearing in April that was acknowledged in writing, it was the last we heard from the OEB.

We can only assume this deal was already baked. There is no mechanism for appealing this arbitrary decision that was announced in a city press release of one page, Friday morning, April 18, barely 12 hours after the decision was made.

This kind of governance demonstrated by the OEB regarding other provincial and municipal governments is one of the main reasons that the turn out in the recent civic election saw only some 33,000 votes cast out of more than 90,000 eligible citizens.

The voter bunch missing in action

Some 57,000 eligible voters did not bother to vote. That means that almost 60 per cent of all eligible voters in Guelph did not show up to be counted.

We are a city of 131,000 citizens. We are owners of a corporation that is valued at $600 million and we don’t bother to exercise our right to vote?

The so-called merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Inc. can only be blamed, ten years from now on a electorate that didn’t care in 2018. The result as time goes by, and most of this council today, and for the next four years, will be gone and no longer responsible.

Can’t blame them now. Only blame ourselves for failing to pay attention and stop giving away a treasured asset worth some $160 million for peanuts.

Voter apathy is a recipe for corruption

Citizen’s apathy is a disease and most people of Guelph are currently incurable.

We have to realize that in four years, our city will endure the progressive demands of the majority of council. It will be a repeat performance of the past four years with a majority of council accountable to their masters at Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

We are under the control of a National leftist party. The New Democratic Party, that the Ontario branch supplied expertise and support to the six re-elected progressive members of council.

Nothing is going to change. It will be more of the same even increasing property taxes, dodgy environmental projects, failure to remove all the city’s waste from every household and increasing the debt.

All those headlong efforts including operational costs need revenue. Some 80 per cent of it comes from property taxes.

The ugly by-product of non-participation

In the last four years, the exponential increase in property taxes was more than 18 per cent.

If we ever experience a recession, and our private sector job force is affected, then what happens?

Lloyd Longfield, Guelph’s member of the House of Commons, boasted the other day that Guelph had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, only 3.6 per cent.

What he forgot to add was that a huge portion of the city workforce is either unionized or has secure government positions. For example there are more employees working for the University of Guelph than our major private employer, Linamar.

On a comparison basis, Guelph has more public servants per capita than its peer group of similar-sized cities in the province.

Secure, well paying jobs that are recession proof, and the numbers, are increasing every year.

The issue is clear. Why would all those protected civil servants care whether or not there was an economic down turn? Their paychecks and pension payments will keep coming.

Why would they bother to vote in a municipal election?

Because they don’t have to.

The province and the city guarantee their jobs and income benefits.

As long as the minority of voters, those who care, put up with this elitist-dominated city, chiefly populated by civil servants with guaranteed salaries and pensions, our taxes and user fees will increase exponentially and the city will gradually become too expensive a place in which to live and do business.

 

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The inside view of how some 10,352 votes were killed by the council’s progressive majority

By Gerry Barker

October 23, 2018

Analysis and Opinion

First, congratulations to the seven incumbent councillors who were re-elected to represent the citizens for the next four years. Also, congratulations, to Mayor Guthrie who doubled the result over his opponent, Aggie Mlyarz 22K to 11K.

Impressive wins that left this observer, well, flummoxed.

But let’s examine how it occurred.

Here are important numbers and factors leading to the election result.

The first is the refusal by these same progressive councillors to allow online voting in 2018.

In 2018, there are 90,786 eligible voters in The City of Guelph. This would be greater than 2014 as the population grew, according to Stats Canada, by some 10,000 newcomers to the city in four years.

Election 2014

43 percent of eligible electors voted

Advance poll walk-ins – 2,985

Online voters – 12,767

Total – 15,752

Election 2018

37.16 per cent of eligible electors voted

Advance poll walk-ins – 5,400

Online voters – 0

Total 5,400

Comparing the numbers, apples to apples, there is a huge number of eligible voters, some 10,352 who voted using Online voting in 2014 did not vote in 2018.

Council’s decision to disallow Online voting has deliberately skewed the outcome.

Consider, more residents were eligible to vote in 2018 but the percentage dropped dramatically. Where did those 10,352 eligible voters go?

In my opinion this was a deliberate action by the progressive majority on council all of who, except one, were re-elected by substantial margins. It is beyond belief that the performance record over the past four years of these incumbents warranted re-election.

The intrusion of the Ontario New Democratic Party to support the majority of progressive councillors contributed to the election win. Candidate’s financial statements must include the cost of support by the Ontario NDP, either in cash or in kind.

They voted to suppress the number of voters by denying Online voting. And it worked.

For the next four years nothing will change to permit Online voting in Guelph. The new council, I predict, will vote to ban it.

One of the factors involved see a return of the progressive majority of seven councillors, this is what I call the ‘Schreiner effect.” The MPP built a strong core of supporters to sweep the June 7 provincial election, gaining 29,000 votes.

If just half of those votes consorted to support the progressive civic incumbents, it gives them another advantage over challengers.

I don’t know about you but I cannot tell the difference between the Green Party, the NDP or Liberals. To me, their agenda’s are similar. In Guelph, a progressive majority on council has dominated and from 2007 to 2022.

The effect of this is negative. It discourages good candidates to run for office. The pay for ward councillors is another reason to discourage good candidates who want to contribute to their community. The progressive majority of the new council reveals only one of the seven progressives has a full-time job. Yet they are considered to be part-timers being paid $40,000 a year.

The system is dated and flawed and reform is needed.

The progressives are able to keep control of city council due to the ward system. It is relatively inexpensive for a ward candidate to seek election. Yet the majority of the 12 part-time councillors control the council agenda, particularly when they share the beliefs of the progressive movement. Velia! Because some 57,054 eligible Guelph voters failed to participate by voting in this election, it sets the stage for manipulation of the system including preventing people from voting Online.

On Ontario, some 191 municipalities allowed Online voting this year, but not in Guelph.

Now you know why.

The last check on the outcome lies when all candidates submit their election financial statements that must concur with the new regulation of the Municipal Elections Act. These are public statement; available from the City Clerk’s office sometime next month.

Unfortunately, there is faint hope that there will be reform enacted by a majority of city council who cling to their failed concepts that have already wasted millions on projects such as the new city hall, the Organic Waste Processing Facility, Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc., Downtown parking, bicycle lanes and shrinking pf vehicle lanes, downtown Fire Department Headquarters, Clair Road police /fire station.

The list goes on and we still don’t have a modern main branch library; a South End Recreation Centre because of money being spent on environmental and fails energy efficiency projects and multi-million dollars plus the renovation of the Baker Street parking lot and preparing a plan for the 10070-acre Reformatory lands, owned by the province.

But some 57,054 eligible voters did not turn up Monday, would it be true that Online voting may have changed the outcome?

It was not a great day for Guelph.

 

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