Why is the city wasting staff time planning the Reformatory lands?

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September 19, 2018 · 11:31 pm

Why is the city wasting staff time planning the Reformatory lands?

By Gerry Barker

September 20, 2018

Last week, Coun. Bob Bell persuaded Mayor Cam Guthrie to attend a squatter’s campsite in a forested wood located on the provincially owned Reformatory lands. It was a site of tents and litter including drug paraphernalia.

Mayor Guthrie responded saying the property management outfit, hired by the province, said it was the planning to clean up the squatter’s campsites on the property.

Let’s drill down and check out the background of these lands that the city has been lusting for.

Lusting you say? Yes, for the eight years of the Farbridge administration, city staff spent multi-hours designing a satellite city on property the city does not own. The project was named “Innovation Guelph” and the design model includes all aspects of planning such as infrastructure, street layouts, zoning of lands, residential density.

There is no doubt that this ongoing effort by city staff was costly and we will never know how much because the YTD staff costs are buried in the city’s financial statements.

Staff resources wasted on sketchy Innovation Guelph dream

Further. the Guthrie administration that has no jurisdiction of the Reformatory lands is still continuing the planning exercise according to a staff recommendation made last winter.

This is a huge investment of public funds on someone else’s property. In present circumstances, it is not possible that the Ford administration is in any way ready to give the asset away to the city or anyone else. It has been on the market with no apparent takers.

So what’s going on? Again, the citizens are left out. Best guess is the city is hoping to secure the property using a Public Participation Plan (3P) with a private partner. That partner would benefit with full access using the development plans already paid for by the citizens.

This way, the city would get its satellite city with little further funding and gain a boatload of new property tax assessment.

Hold the phone! The Guthrie administration has already announced the Baker Street redevelopment project, another 3P deal with an Ottawa-based developer that currently has an estimated $350 million price tag.

The city claims it has already invested $29 million in the Baler Street redevelopment. The proposal lumps in the $22 million Wilson Street five-story parkade adjacent to city hall and now under construction.

It appears the only way to pay for all this is to approve the sale of recreational pot that becomes legal October 17. The Ford government says it will be up to the municipalities to decide whether to allow it.

Baker Street redevelopment is 10 years from completion

Trouble is that shovels don’t go in the ground for five years (2024). The estimated construction period is four years. For those folks cheering the announcement that a new downtown library is the main tenant in the project, have at least ten years before the doors open, if ever.

On top of that, the cost to the public side of the Baker Street 3P is unknown. The staff can only guess about the cost to citizens and they’re not telling because they cannot estimate costs five years from now.

This comes at a time when the Mayor is also promising, if elected, that ground will be broken next year for the $63 million South End recreation centre. More than $3 million has already been spent by the city preparing the design and facilities site plan.

Finally, there is the problem in Guelph of a volatile soup of booze, drugs, violence, filth, and sex mixed with immaturity and irresponsibility. This has been escalating for the past 12 years with three administrations, dominated by leftist progressives who have failed to provide affordable housing for the poor, homeless and working Canadians living under the poverty line.

One of the problems is that County Wellington administers social and affordable housing. This has not worked out over the years as statistics show that Guelph has not provided the necessary affordable housing or social support for the growing numbers of members of our society. These are the forgotten people, living under often-awful conditions in our city, who have been virtually bypassed in terms of proper housing and shelter.

The effort of the NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations) has been the chief refuge for many of these folks but municipal government has to step up to stop the lawlessness, crime and social disrespect.

The Mayor wants to hire more police. It’s only a piece of the puzzle to solve a serious problem. And who would know and understand the problem better than our police who deal with this 24/7.

The new council should make solving this problem a top priority. Assemble a fact-finding task force composed of councillors, NGO representatives, emergency first responders including police, fire and EMS, University of Guelph, Service club members, Guelph General Hospital, development industry and Wellington County.

It is important from the get-go that the problems must be identified then prepared for an action plan based on real-time information and make specific recommendations.

Finally, raise the money. Guelph has always been a city of generosity toward causes for those less fortunate.

It will take time to complete the task but with patience and clarity of the issues there will come resolution.

When that happens, citizens will be proud to call Guelph, The Royal City.

 

 

 

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Part One: A candid look at Cam Guthrie’s re-election platform

By Gerry Barker

September 17, 2018

Well, four years of the Guthrie Administration have gone by and are you better off today than October 2014?

The good news is that if you operate a business, are a public employee and have a good job, things are a little better, particularly if you own a home.

But we live in uncertain times. The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is on the edge of foundering. This has a direct effect on Guelph where there are more than 6,000 employees at Linamar plants alone, not including the small feeders plants to Linamar. They may see their jobs evaporate if the U.S. imposes tariffs on cars and auto parts built in Ontario and shipped south daily.

Let’s be fair. This potential economic threat is not in Cam Guthrie’s wheelhouse. It does become a problem when Guelph citizens employed in the private sector including the auto industry, retail and service operations lose their jobs and cannot pay their bills if NAFTA falls apart.

If this does occur, it will be a national disaster, the likes of which we have never seen since the Great Depression.

Guelph Citizens who escape this potential economic fallout are public employees including those working for the city, estimated to be 2,800, plus the University of Guelph and Conestoga College, staffs of the provincial and federal government living in Guelph.

I remain hopeful that NAFTA will survive although there will be changes that will affect some Canadians especially in the agriculture sector of our economy.

The Guthrie Plan for a Better Guelph

There is the obvious stuff to placate the progressive members of the new council. Stuff like affordable housing and communities, promoting the urban forest and canopy of trees, dumping single use plastics in city buildings, supporting the thousands of labour union members, and increasing and maintaining social services. Keep in mind that 80 per cent of the city staff are active members of unions and associations.

The mayor comes off as a law and order guy who wants to spend $750,000 every year hiring new officers. His mantra is safety, safety for everyone. As a member of the Guelph Police Services board, Mr. Guthrie is up close and personal with the growth of crime in the city. His solution is to spend more money adding more cops.

But there are serious drug problems on the downtown streets that have not been corrected in the past 15 years. Panhandlers, drunks, drug dealers and homeless people plague the streets downtown, particularly at night and weekends. For eight months of the year it is exacerbated by the weekend influx of University students and out-of-town rowdies.

It’s a volatile soup of booze, drugs, violence, and sex mixed with immaturity and irresponsibility.

Hiring more police is not the only answer, Mr. Mayor. As the next mayor, you need to set up a task force to investigate how other university cities handle the problem such as Kingston, Toronto, Waterloo, London, Windsor and Ottawa. Also the investigation should include Winnipeg, Calgary and Victoria.

The task force should be talking to Mayors and Police chiefs. It should also plan and complete its investigation material and report back to council within four months. This only addresses the control and enforcement issues. The social issues are ongoing endemic problems that need support from the provincial and federal governments.

Those folks employed on the front lines of this situation should not only be part of the Mayor’s Task Force to make the city safe for everyone, but supported by city council.

In my opinion, this remains a lingering boil on the underbelly of our city. It is time to lance it.

In his platform, he mayor does not address the high cost of living in Guelph. In four years, property taxes in the city have increased by an estimated 15 per cent, including increases in assessment and inflation.

It remains a conundrum when during his election campaign he promised to keep the property tax rate at the same level as the Consumer Price Index and get rid of the Guelph Factor. Not sure what that meant but believe he was referring to the cost and difficulty of doing business with and in Guelph.

Noting that has occurred, when I hear a story about a certain city employee who is responsible for protecting wild species, who I’m told, has veto power to deny development proposals. In this case, it was bullfrogs residing in a small wetland on a property applying for and receiving a variance to proceed.

So, the Guelph Factor remains alive. The Mayor’s proposal is to continue with the staff review processes that have been ongoing in the city.

For what it’s worth Mr. Mayor, you will become the mayor of the Century if you can lead your new council to reduce the operational overhead of our city.

Your support of the South End $63 million Recreation Centre and the main library project, also known as the $350 million Baker Street redevelopment plan, remain pixie dust in the business of the city.

The rhetoric is great, political but financially fanciful.

But then, when you are on the cusp of retuning as Mayor, you are entitled, and known, to change your mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gelph’s Green MPP ignites the fears of Climate Change at Carden Street rally

By Gerry Barker

September 10, 2018

Will that be regular or high test?

An estimated 250 people turned up at a Climate Change rally on Carden Street last Saturday. They heard the one and only MPP Mike Schreiner, proclaimed Ontario leader of the one-man Green Party in the Ontario Legislature, press the “right” environmentalist buttons to the assembled crowd.

Or was that the “left button?”

Here’s a trip down memory lane.

I remember the comment by former councillor Maggie Laidlaw 10 years ago and I’m paraphrasing: “In 20 years there won’t be any cars on Guelph streets.”

Well, Maggie, ten years later there are more cars, trucks and buses on our streets than ever, creating traffic congestion and lack of downtown core parking. Even the number of gas stations has been reduced.

Since the Maggie opinion, some 12,000 new residents have chosen Guelph as their home. In 10 years the city staff has increased by 650. Go figure.

At the time, Maggie was an ardent proponent of commuting to work, rain or shine, on her bicycle. She advocated that the bicycle was the precursor of active transportation in Guelph making some of us with well-muscled calves and thighs.

City council went along with this theory and in 2007 started spending millions on bike lanes, particularly on major streets. In 2009 alone more than $2 million was spent putting bike lanes on Stone Road. Each year since, the city has spent $300,000 developing bike lanes.

That project, along with a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre, was financed by a special infrastructure grant divided between the federal and provincial governments and the city. The city’s share was $26 million but it did not have the money. So, it called a note for $30 million owed by Guelph Hydro. Details of spending the money were never really disclosed. It is known that there was little left of the cash infusion.

To bolster their decision to reduce vehicle emissions, council agreed to repave a number of major roads with four lanes for vehicles, and remarking the finished product with two lanes disappearing, wider bike lanes and a left turn centre lane.

Are you starting to see the source of traffic congestion and inadequate parking? Truth to tell is that money went into environmental projects that were poorly planned and executed. The city now called it the District Energy plan that included supplying hot and cold water to five buildings adjacent to the Sleeman Centre using experimental thermal underground technology.

Guelph’s expensive war on vehicles

Bike lanes, solar panels on public buildings, street lane squeezing and plans to build large scale natural gas generating plants to make the city self sufficient in terms of electricity, contributed to millions being misspent. Inspired by former mayor, Karen Farbridge, the spending under under the Community Energy Innovation cost the city millions.

The trouble with these “climate change” developments was a lack of statistical information about the use of the bike lanes. Even more important was that many of these arbitrary changes resulted in a marked bike lane starting at one point and ending before the end of the street. Examples are Stevenson, Silver Creek, Downey and Woolwich.

Today, the city still has a $400 million under-funded infrastructure deficit that is being handled through a property tax levy of one per cent or $4.4 million each year. In the 2018 budget, half of that is coming from reserve funds and the remainder from property taxpayers.

At that rate, it will take 99.9 years to clear the deficit. But that’s not inflation adjusted or available reserves for catastrophic weather events.

If the University of Guelph just paid its share of property taxes based on that paid by property owners in the city, that is adjusted annually, that money would help restore fairness and make our city stronger financially and more livable.

Linamar, employing some 6,000 workers, pays its share of property taxes. Why is making auto parts any different than graduating students? Guelph residents subsidize the University but not Linamar.

The active transportation crowd or cyclists use city streets at no cost. Many do not pay taxes, and their numbers are unknown by city staff. There was one staff report of a count of traffic on Downey Road of cyclists and vehicles. It was an independent study that revealed in an eight-hour period there were some 900 cyclists using Downey Road and 4,700 vehicles.

The tail is wagging the dog

If this is any indication that the tail is wagging the dog, I don’t know what is.

Climate Change is caused by many factors as fossil fuel use is slowly diminishing. The carbon dioxide emissions of the 400 active volcanoes in the world plus excessive destruction of forested lands, heavy use of coal in many countries including India and China are major contributors of climate change.

Of course the growing world population and growth of the middle class in under-developed countries, places enormous pressure to generate power now leading into a new era of more responsible use of power generation sources.

Finally, the earth is going through a natural change over which we have no control.

Instead we should be concerned about how our city, our province and our country are being managed.

We have just experienced a major change in the provincial government. Next month we have the opportunity to elect a responsible civic government in Guelph. Next year we will elect a new government in Ottawa.

These are opportunities to express your desire by more democratic representation.

It’s now our turn to change.

 

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Just say NO and let them GO as the Ontario NDP muscles into the Guelph municipal election

By Gerry Barker

September 4, 2018

I was sent a flyer from the Ontario NDP asking for support.

“There are a number of great progressive candidates running in this election who share NDP values,” the handout states.

In my opinion, this is nothing but blatant influence pedaling. A major political party with deep pockets and endless professional resource to force the outcome of our municipal election is conducting it.

After 12 years of holding the majority of city council, the time has come to end the NDP domination of our council.

It does not name these self-described “great candidates” but the flyer is asking to support them by volunteering, donating and meeting sign requests.

Presenting for your consumption, names of the Bloc of Seven that has dominated Guelph council for the past four years: James Gordon, Ward 2; June Hofland and Phil Allt, Ward 3; Mike Salisbury, Ward 4; Cathy Downer and Leanne Piper, Ward 5; and Mark MacKinnon Ward 6.

There are others running who are suspected NDP supporters to insure another NDP control of council. One additional NDP candidate is Aggie Mlynarz, running for Mayor and with no municipal governance experience. If she is elected, the NDP will lock up control of council for the next four years.

If you believe that these seven “great candidates” have worked diligently as city councillors on your behalf and warrant re-election, support them.

If, on the other hand, you agree that the NDP dominance of city council for the past 12 years has been littered with financial mismanagement, self-serving policies and projects including the Urbacon wrongful dismissal lawsuit, the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) multi-million dollar fiasco and the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc.

Then: “Just say NO and let them GO.”

If you believe this, consider the following:

Revive the Community Energy Initiative that has already cost citizens millions chiefly through the GMHI that in 2016 loss $17 million. The 2017 report is not available but is estimated by experts to increase the loss to an estimated $24 million.

Increasing spending on bicycle lanes of major streets and trails resulting in squeezing many major roads causing increasing traffic congestion caused by a growing population. The active bicycle lobby does not contribute to these annual lane expansions but remain entitled to the free rude.

A promise made and a promise not kept

Going downtown? Where can you park? City council deferred a $700,000 budget item to buy new parking meters for downtown. Instead, it channeled the funds to a preliminary spending on the proposed $63 million South end Recreation Centre. This was promoted and approved by council on a motion by Ward 6 councillors Karl Wettstein and Mark MacKinnon, both part of the NDP Bloc of Seven controlling council.

Are you still driving around the block to find a parking space?

Closing down public participation

Suppressing public participation by conducting the people’s business in closed-sessions. In the first two years of the Guthrie administration there were 82 closed-sessions conducted by the administration. What were they talking about? We’ll never know because the minutes of those meeting are sealed.

Is the Guelph Hydro deal in the best interests of the people?

Here are the ten councillors who voted December 13, 2017 to approve the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Inc: Mayor Cam Guthrie, Councillors Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond (not running), June Hofland, Christine Billings, Mike Salisbury, Cathy Downer, Leanne Piper, Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein (not running).

It is painful that the Ten ignored the public response to reconsider the Alectra deal. Fortunately, it has yet to be confirmed by the Ontario Energy Board. Given Guelph’s dismal record of managing the energy file, the outcome of saving this jewel of city assets is uncertain.

Playing the Reserve Funds Rumba

How council balanced the books by misusing reserve funds. Official documents show that under her management for five years, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, failed each year to balance the city books as required by law. This was because the budgets were overspent, it’s called a negative variance.

An example was the $8 million settlement with Urbacon of which more than $5 million was taken from three non-related reserve funds to complete the payment to Urbacon. To the best of knowledge those funds were never returned to the three reserve funds. What do you think?

Spending money on social engineering projects such as waste management, transit, injection clinics, Wellbeing programs, intensification of new housing, but nothing on affordable housing in Guelph that County Wellington managed. And let’s not forget the Wyndham street underpass botched reconstruction that denied large trucks that had crashed into the underside of the overpass.

Another way to drive up the cost of living in Guelph, raise taxes

Adding property tax surcharges – it’s a tax by any other name to fund failing and neglected infrastructure. The city staff has declared that the cost of updating the infrastructure in the city is more than $400 million.

Increasing staff does not justify the modest annual increase in population. Of course, certain staff increases are needed particularly in the three public safety divisions, police, fire and EMS. But needs under the past three NDP dominated councils do not necessary match those public safety needs but diverted staffers to support NDP self-serving projects of which the general public is not informed.

Why is the Ontario NDP interfering with our municipal election?

They are protecting their agenda that is part of the National NDP platform such as minimum wage increases, guaranteed annual income, pharmacare for all citizens, higher taxes, energy and environmental projects. In Guelph annual property taxes have risen, on average, by more than three per cent in the past 12 years. That does not include the two per cent property tax surcharge that started in 2017.

We believe it is the citizens’ time to express their views at the ballot box and “Just say NO and let them GO.”

These are just some of the priorities of the council majority if it is composed of NDP dedicated members. They drive the policies that were forged by the former mayor of Guelph that had resulted in the city having higher taxes than most of its peer group in Ontario.

The other day, I was told that inflation has hit the Guelph municipal candidates in which four years ago a ward candidate would usually spend on average up to $5,500. Today that has almost doubled.

Is it logical that to run for a job that pays $40,000, you have to spend $10,000? Yes there are other perks, most taxable such as honourariums for serving on some boards and committees.

The Mayoralty race in previous years has cost more than $80,000. Mayor Guthrie has the advantage of being an incumbent but also has a large following of friends and supporters. But even he cannot depend on those juicy cheques from various businesses and organizations that are incorporated.

Where does mayoralty candidate, Aggie Mlynarz, 28 year-old Fine Arts graduate with no municipal experience find that kind of money?

In my opinion, the Ontario NDP should butt out and stop using the City of Guelph as an incubator for grooming candidates for future higher office.

The definition of insanity: Re-electing these seven NDP councillors and electing an inexperienced mayor, is again like electing the same NDP council majority and expecting a different outcome

Just say NO and let the NDP GO!

 

 

 

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Property taxes too high now, here’s why City council will drive them even higher

By Gerry Barker

August 30. 2018

It has always been a mystery to me why the City of Guelph has stifled real economic growth across all assessment levels as compared to similar and neighbouring municipalities.

A friend sent me a detailed study of the average cost of homes in 25 Canadian cities and a deeper illustration of the average home values and property tax rates in the Greater Toronto Area.

In the Canadian study by Zoocasa, a reputable company that analyzed real estate values and property tax rates across the country, I should emphasize that the following data is sourced directly from each municipality’s official websites.

Let’s compare Guelph’s tax data with a number of municipalities in Ontario and Canada.

As of June 2018, the average home price of Guelph is $436,600. The property tax rate is 1,17125. Of the 25 Canadian municipalities in the study, Guelph was rated as number 20

Here are comparisons contained in the Canadian study:

Municipality       Cdn     home value       tax rate      (less than Guelph)

Kitchener               19               $489,607-            1.12975            (.0415%)

Waterloo               16               $489,607             1,10785            (.0634%)

Guelph, Kitchener and Waterloo all have major universities and community colleges

In the GTA study here are other comparative property tax rates and home values:

Municipality            GTA       home value    tax rate          (less than Guelph)

Barrie                           20              $479,579            1.0000             (.1725%)

Caledon                       16              $874,690            .84010               (.330115)

Milton                        5                 $701,595            .69790                 (.47335%)

Oakville                       9                $1,074230           .75280              (.41845%)

The growing hidden costs boosting property taxes in Guelph

Before discussing in detail, there are four major elements determining how much you pay to own property in Guelph:

* The tax rate

* Assessment

* User fees

* Manipulation of expenses by city council

Prior to each budget, council sets the property tax rate based on the anticipated revenues and expenses produced by the professional staff. Funny thing is that the rate never goes down.

Each property is assessed by the independent Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. Any increase, coupled with the tax rate determines the basic tax bill.

User fees are optional charges for using public assets and properties. Examples include Guelph Transit, rinks, recreation centres, libraries, civic museum, swimming pools, various park events, city waste facility etc. But not use of bicycle lanes and paths

In Guelph, city council offsets essential water treatment and storm sewer costs to be collected separately in your hydro bill. In our case, that’s another $600 a year not included in our tax bill. Also include the 2 per cent property tax levy that is buried in your tax bill.

*            *            *            *

The exodus from Toronto’s high cost home prices of young families to seek lower cost homes has caused higher home prices in some, but not all, surrounding cities and towns. Those seeking lower housing costs should understand that not all municipalities are equal when it comes to paying property taxes and user fees. Also to be considered is the track record of potential municipalities in terms of the growth of property tax rates and appreciation of home values over time.

Out of the 25 major Canadian cities studied by Zoocasa, Vancouver ranks the best for property taxes with the lowest rate of 0.24683 per cent; that’s less than half the rate of the next highest city, Abbotsford, BC that has a rate 0.51300 per cent. In fact, the best cities with the lowest property tax rates were generally found in BC, with Victoria at 0.52035 per cent and Kelowna at 0.52605 per cent.

However, living in a region with a low tax rate doesn’t necessarily translate to less tax paid if average home prices are higher. For example, the Toronto tax rate is 0.63551 per cent, which translates into $5,532 of property taxes based on the average June 2018 home value of $870,559. In comparison, the Edmonton tax rate is 0.86869 per cent or about 1.4 times that of Toronto’s, but the average home value in Edmonton is substantially lower at $381,520, which would result in a lower amount of property taxes overall of $3,314.

This is not the case in Guelph where an increase in new property development will drive city property taxes much higher.

This illustrates the property tax and user problems facing Guelph. Already we have a high tax rate of 1.17125 per cent and an average home price of $436,600, any increase in home prices in Guelph will result in higher taxes for all existing property owners. It’s because of the existing high property tax rate accompanied by surging home values.

There is also a large range in property rates for Ontario cities: London’s rate of 1.35082 per cent is more than double Toronto’s rate while Ottawa’s rate of 1.06841 per cent is 1.6 times that of Toronto.

All property tax rates were sourced from municipal websites.

The last three Guelph administrations have propelled a property tax rate crisis. Guelph resident Pat Fung, a chartered accountant, two years ago, sounded the alarm by analyzing the financial data as published by neighbouring municipalities.

The result revealed that Guelph’s operating overhead far exceeded that of Cambridge and Kitchener. His detailed report was presented to city council that ignored the details. The weekly newspaper turned down publishing the report and also a paid ad to explain the details.

The current Mayor campaigned in 2014 how he was gong to reduce property taxes to the level of the Consumer Price Index that was 1.55 per cent. In his first budget the city council voted to increase property taxes that eventually were 3.96 per cent.

Since 2007, city council has increased property taxes annually by, on average, more than 3 per cent.

While other municipalities were more prudent in delivering economic development, such as industrial and commercial assessed clients, Guelph’s leadership proceeded to focus on ill-planned and executed environmental and energy projects. This was accomplished at the expense of major capital expenditures such as the downtown library and much needed infrastructure repairs and maintenance. It has resulted in few benefits to all citizens and at a terrible waste of public funds.

The majority members of council have perpetuated these annual property tax increases. Now we discover the proof of the disastrous decisions that have been made and the lack of major financial planning and execution.

This is the most important election the city faces next October. In my opinion, there are seven members of council who should be replaced, chiefly based on the dereliction of duty to fairly represent the people who elected them.

What further information is necessary to come to this conclusion? Guelph is a high-taxed city that is ripe for a high level of residential development

But the Toronto Star ignored Guelph in its analysis of the growth of communities outside the GTA as buyers look for more affordable homes.

The real concern is the property tax rate that will impact the residents who already live here. They are already paying a two per cent levy on top of their regular tax bill to finance those neglected capital projects mentioned above.

Choose carefully citizens. Change must come to the management of our city. This is the only chance we have to elect a new council to make it happen.

 

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The passing of logic and understanding

By Gerry Barker

August 27, 2018

On Saturday a great American statesman, Navy pilot and patriot, died.

John McCain was 81 years old and loved to be called the “Maverick.” His historic “no” vote to stop the total dismantling of Obama Care in the U.S. senate, ended the attempt by his fellow senators to finish the job.

Maverick indeed.

This week in Guelph Today, there was an opinion piece written by local blogger Adam Donaldson in which he described the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) annual meeting as “ much AMO about nothing” – cute. So its no wonder that one cannot take Mr. Donaldson seriously.

He said he interviewed Mayor Guthrie who was enthusiastic about the AMO meeting stating: “They (the provincial government), have been very welcoming, very open to hearing what’s going on in Guelph.”

The piece later on quoted Premier Doug Ford telling the AMO delegates that the government had no plans to further emulate the Toronto Council reduction (Bill 5). It would reduce it from 47 members to 25 matching the provincial and federal riding boundaries in the city.

Is Donaldson still smarting over the total defeat of the Wynne government and its policies by the Ford Tories? Guess he’s not been around to recognize the political reality of removal as the party that was in power for several years. .

Good grief! The Liberals were in charge of this province for 15 years. The Ford Tories have held the reins of power for less than three months.

But the Liberal media including my former paper, The Toronto Star, are doing a character assassination number on Mr. Ford while his cabinet members are still trying to find their offices.

The Guelph Today Ford wrecking ball commentary asks the question: How long will the Ford government treat the AMO with ‘gusto’ and how long will it last?

That will be four years.

The Wynne government used the AMO to reinforce its wacko energy plans that have driven the cost of electricity in Ontario to one of the highest in North America. That’s because the AMO is funded and supported by the party in power. A creature of the province, one may surmise, like the 444 municipalities in Ontario.

It’s one way for the party in power to control and manipulate the operations of its 444 supplicants. It’s also a convenient instrument to keep all those municipal councils in line with the implied threat of denying grants, favours and support.

There is nothing equal about all this. It’s done our way or our cooperation will disappear.

The election of Green Party candidate Mike Schreiner as our representative to the Ontario Legislature has isolated the city from provincial support initially. Schreiner is a party of one with no recognition as an official party in the Legislature.

His effectiveness under this situation handicaps his obligation to ensure the city is able to access the support of the various provincial departments now dominated by the PC’s.

Recently, there was a story published in the Toronto Star describing the movement of young families from Toronto due to the high cost of housing. The story mentioned destinations including Barrie, Kitchener, Cambridge, London and Kingston. There was no mention of Guelph.

Why was that? With respect, there are several factors. The first is that Guelph’s residential property taxes are among the highest in the province. The city is home to the University of Guelph that currently has a reported 22,000 students.

While there is great pride in the University, there exist huge costs to most citizens to subsidize the university such as infrastructure of utilities roads, transit, medical facilities, street maintenance including snow and leaf removal,

The burden of these and many other services falls on the property taxpayer of the city of Guelph. The University is the largest landowner in the city. Provincial legislation in 1987 decreed that in lieu of property taxes, the universities and colleges in Ontario would pay $75 for every full-time student attending for two semesters.

This arrangement has not changed in 31 years. Compared to citywide assessment of properties in that same period, using a base of the Consumer Price Index for inflation, the increases to city property owners is almost incalculable.

In 15 years, did the provincial Liberals ever consider fixing this unfair and costly archaic system?

By banging the drum to complain about the Ford leadership, look inwardly Guelph because the governance of our city in the past 12 years has neglected the basic fiduciary responsibility of the elected and senior management.

There are three major events that have cost residents dearly. First the $23 million additional cost of building the new city hall; then came the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. cover-up that so far, has resulted in a major write down of Guelph Hydro’s tangible assets plus a loss of $17 million in 2016. The third project, linked to the GMHI debacle, is the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc.

You cannot walk away from these mismanaged projects and then announce a potential $350 million renovation of the Baker Street parking lot involving a partnership with an Ottawa company to commence construction in 2024.

Guthrie gushed that the prime tenant would be the new downtown library.

I am not against this proposal but question what is the taxpayer’s commitment to this project?

Oh! I forgot this is election time.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the Wynne government’s social engineering policies will continue because most voters rejected them by electing Doug Ford and 75 members to the Ontario Legislature.

 

 

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