More front lawn politics: Guelph’s socialist advocates advance on Queen’s Park to protest policies of the Ford government

Bt Gerry Barker

April 22, 20

Opinion

Last week, in St. George’s Square downtown, the newly formed protest coalition to stick it to Premier Doug Ford held a “die in.” It was planned to embellish their objections on the front lawn at Queen’s Park. They will join fellow protesters that they are mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.

Okay, what’s their beef now?

Well, the point of this planned rally on the front lawn of the Ontario Legislature is to protest the Ford government’s alleged plans to reduce Healthcare services and Education costs. Editor’s note: The recent Ontario PC budget increased the Heal care spending.

Does one have to “die” before boarding the chartered bus to Toronto at the end of this month?

This is mindful of what occurred last Thursday in Washington. The Attorney General of the United States, Bill Barr, held a press conference in the morning to discuss the Mueller Investigation report. It focused on Russian interference in the 2016 election and obstruction of justice by the President, Donald Trump. The problem was the press or anyone else weren’t told what was in the 438-page report until 11 a.m. after A-G Barr’s non press conference was over.

Cart? Horse? Or is it the other way around?

Now, the socialist progressives are on the warpath to protest about important issues concerning all Ontarians of which they have no knowledge or expertise as to how government processes legislation. It’s the checks and balances of most democratic parliamentary legislative organizations.

If nothing else, it’s pure poetical theatre to embarrass the PC government. You will recall a while back that the NDP organized a similar rally to protest cuts to parents with autistic children.

It’s a growing trend in the Ontario Legislature. If you can’t beat ‘em in the house chambers, you can’t do it on the front lawn.

This coalition is composed of the Guelph chapter of the Council of Canadians, Ontario Federation of Labour and the Guelph Movement of the People.

Well, let’s bell this cat.

The parallel objectives between the New Democratic Party and the Council of Canadians is striking, so striking that the organization’s social goals are almost identical to that of the NDP.

Here’s their “About us” statement: “Through our campaigns we advocate for clean water, fair trade, green energy, public health care, and a vibrant democracy. We educate and empower people to hold our governments and corporations accountable.” Ah, they forgot advocating proportional voting and alternative transportation (bicycles).

Does that have a familiar ring with a local flavour?

The C of C says they have 60 chapters of activists across the country. That presents a formidable political support group for the NDP, you think?

Along come organized labour unions and their role in advancing the NDP agenda. They are a major political force in the management of Guelph.

Now that last one is a new one for me. Who are they, what do they do and what are they moving? Wonder who is paying for this magical bus trip to Toronto? The likely source of funding the trip is the labour unions that have deep pockets and have always supported the NDP.

Doug Ford has become a lightning rod for Andrea Horwath’s NDP opposition leadership. She has 40 seats; Liberals have 7 reducing them to a position where they are no longer recognized as an official party in the Legislature. Now, take the Green Party of one, our man in the house, MPP Mike Schreiner. He spent a record $119,000 to get elected in Guelph, now, what’s he done for our community in 11 months?

Reason, the Tories hold 72 seats and are the government

They were elected to clean up 15 years of Liberal governments whose legacy of wasted resources and favouritism will not soon be forgotten. For example, the five-year reduction of Hydro rates across the province, called the Fair Hydro Plan. It was financed with borrowed billions to pay for it over five years.

The Ontario Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, revealed this whacko re-election plan to reduce electricity costs in October 2017.

It marked the beginning of the end for Premier Kathleen Wynne. Ontarians are stuck with repaying those limited cost reduction loans when the five years is up in 2022. Predictably power rates will soar to cover the costs of that temporary Hydro Holiday.

The new government was handed a giant financial rock when it took over and quickly learned where the money was leaking. The government had no choice but to reduce overhead and they have set out to do it.

With the constant baying by the opposition NDP and its allies, the organized labour movement in Ontario helped trigger dissent and angst among the citizens, is an abuse of the public interest.

Why does the Guelph administration only pay lip service to public interests?

Full transparency and accountability is a lesson the Guelph administration needs to emulate. Spending more than $9.2 million, hiring some 19 additional full-time employees as recommended by staff without accountability furthers public distrust of the process. Who makes those decisions, council or the staff or visa-versa?

We can be sure of one thing, this council knows how to work behind closed doors.

For example, what did council do with that $18.5 million it received from the former Guelph Hydro when it merged with Alectra Utilities last January?

So the energy of this planned protest posse of Guelph citizens is focused, not on Guelph, but on Premier Ford’s provincial government.

This is what happened when a national political party seizes control over our municipal council. They have held that majority for more than 12 years.

As citizens, we failed last June and October to correct the imbalance of power that has dominated our direction and changed our city.

Instead, we have become over-taxed, isolated, and lacking diversified housing including affordable dwellings and detached residences.

As an observer and commentator of city operations, I have paid both a financial and physical price to inform the public and challenge the costs of the social engineering projects that all of us have been forced to pay for and endure.

I have written more than 1,000 columns on guelphspeaks.ca, Twitter and Facebook.

I remain baffled by the continued citizen support of the controlling progressives on council.

Only we can change course and by organizing preparing for the October 2022 civic election.

I will report more information on this later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The real emergency: Turning Canada into a global economic power without dependence on the U.S.

By Gerry Barker

April 15, 2019

Opinion

Two city councilors, Phil Allt and James Gordon, both former defeated NDP candidates for the Ontario Legislature, and former defeated mayor, Karen Farbridge, are raising the alarm for the city to declare a “Climate Change Emergency.”

It made the bells ring about all the efforts, and tons of misspent public money, of which the three of them planned and were aided by some fellow travelers. They took action to develop what they perceived was power self-sufficiency. Add in the millions spent on squeezing vehicle lanes to provide bike lanes for a tiny but noisy user group operating two-wheeled self-propelled bicycles on major roads, facing 3,000-pound motor vehicles.

I have experienced a few close encounters with those active transportation riders, particularly when the sun goes down. It has scared the living daylights out of me.

These riders are unlicenced and uninsured operating on busy streets without rules or regulations governing their movement on public streets.

I know, I know you’ve heard all this before, but fasten your seat belts because we are going national,

Are the Trudeau Liberals about to do a Wynne swoon?

Let us count the ways.

The SNC Lavelin affair is sticking to the Liberals like stepping on a wad of bubble gum. Complicit is the tag team of the former Attorney General, Jody Wilson Raybould, and Health Minister Philpot, who ended up booted out of the Liberal caucus.

It was the price of defying the boss who caused the problem in the first place. How many times has that happened to you?

The Tories are pounding the table daily, demanding the Prime Minister resign for interfering with a decision by the A-G to pursue SNC Lavelin. As Guelph is Liberal/NDP/Green country, for – fill in your own reasons. Mine is the Guelph Tories have not elected a member to the Legislature or House of Commons in 16 years.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg of the Liberal’s re-election blues. It helps explains why Canadians are angry and feel cheated by the Liberals and the Prime Minister.

Let’s start with the immigration file

Refugees entering from the U.S. are not being controlled. The casual walk-in asylum seekers at border points are allowed into the country. Even those arriving by plane from other parts of the world land without any authority to enter the country but a demanding asylum for fear of their lives.

The Trudeau government has allowed thousands to walk in, an estimated 60,000 in two years to enter our country without prior vetting by Canadian Immigration staff. This practice is the policy of the Liberals who say they are obligated by International Law to admit them. The result is that those folks wanting to come to Canada and who are checked out by immigration before they arrive are sidetracked by the walk-ins.

Some 250,000 immigrants arrive annually and are approved by Canada Immigration. This is designed to replace those Canadians who no longer live in the country. That includes those who apply to Canada before coming to the country. Also, a number of Caribbean citizens arrive to help the agriculture community to grow their harvest. They wisely leave before the snow flies.

Solution? Any refugee who claims asylum arriving from the U.S. is immediately denied entry. If U.S. Immigration let them into their country, they can look after them.

There is evidence that some of these refugees have identification from several countries that would make them ineligible to enter Canada.

Also there is an active industry of immigration groups being paid to get refugees into Canada. A Haitian group based in Florida encourages Haitian refugees to take the bus to the border point just south of Montreal and walk-in claiming asylum. The fact the Haitians speak French is a plus. Many have been temporarily housed in the former baseball stadium known as the Big O.

Southern nights at the border

You don’t have to look too far to see what’s happening along the Rio Grande as the U.S. government has separated families and has custody of 2,700 children and has no record of the parents or their location. Now they are planning to set up tented facilities to hold what they call illegal’s. The Trump government has turned this debacle into a deliberate political issue without compassion or any legal basis.

It is important to remember that following the election victory of the Democrats winning the House of Representatives last November, the president shut down the government for 35 days. His decision caused thousands of federal workers to go without being paid. He finally attempted to obtain $5.7 billion to build a 3,200-mile concrete wall to stop the people attempting to seek a better life in the U.S. It never passed Congress.

Solution? Stop watching the cable news channels. Sorry, I can’t help myself.

The General Motors shut down of the Oshawa Assembly plant

Several months ago, General Motors announced it was closing its Oshawa assembly plant by the end of 2019 resulting in a loss of more than 3,000 jobs. The company chose not to close as yet; its engine plant in St. Catharines or the SUV jointly operated assembly plant in Ingersoll.

Lest we forget, when the Federal and Provincial governments spent billions to finance GM in 2008 that has already declared bankruptcy. The province, to protect workers, turned over $10 billion while the Feds matched it or more to Chrysler and GM.

The Province was eventually recovered some $7 billion that shored up the two auto corporations. Ford remained solvent. It now turns out that some $3.5 billion was not returned to the Federal government. That was ten years ago.

While Unifor, the Oshawa workers union struggles to save the jobs, GM did not changing its mind. This all occurred while the US and Mexico and Canada were renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Parliament or Congress or Mexico has never approved the new deal. The three leaders portrayed a settlement in a photo-op ceremony in Argentina that was part of the G20 meeting.

Solution 1? The Trudeau government should serve notice on GM to either pay up or transfer the title to the federal government. This would include the plant property, inventory, production equipment and all non-proprietary documents; pertain to the production of vehicles.

This could take time, as a court challenge will emerge. The statement of the Government’s claim should include the entire additional government funding request ted and received by GM since it has operated the plant. That goes back to the time when GM bought the plant from the McLaughlin family who built the McLaughlin Buick in Oshawa.

We’re in deep in this one, folks.

Solution 2? Actively research and attract foreign auto producers to take over the plant for $1 plus other tax incentives and agree to build vehicles to service North America and the world markets.

What Canadians needs now

It’s the right to look back at what we have achieved in 74 years. By declaring an emergency to mobilize our governments, to work together toward exporting our resources, skills and lifestyles across two oceans, selling free trade that works both ways without tariffs, threats and trade impediments.

We can become a world trading power to creating financial stability, justice and health for all in our new partner states, employing ingenuity and instilling pride.

We have the stuff and political democratic systems but are unable to move it and share with other nations who are seeking a better life, jobs, education and freedom.

The beginning would be a series of workshops led by the Federal government to develop an action plan to clear the obstacles facing the oil and natural gas pipeline expansion. In concert, open access for shipping our commodities and products from both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean ports.

A series of programs will be developed to export our agriculture products and expertise, our forestry and home building products to new customers at fair prices and delivery; exporting our communications expertise including 5G high speed Internet development; building systems to produce ships, aircraft, vehicles, agriculture equipment. The world-class Canadian financial institution’s expertise will play a major role in developing opportunities and systems for our trading partners.

Most of all create more good jobs and opportunities for all Canadians.

Our most important export is our knowledge base professionals that have already made Canada a world leader in all aspects of the human existence.

In short, we can do all of that and bring endless prosperity to our country as well as that of our trading partners.

Is this the end of our trading relationship with the United States? Absolutely not. Canada will be open for business to any society that shares our established Free Trade and democratic principles. This is a long-term project that will survive the changing political leadership facing our trading partners.

Looking back, this is not the first time we’ve mobilized to win

In September 1939, Canada joined Britain declaring was on Nazi Germany. The country with a population of about 11 million became a major power in the European Theater, North Atlantic, Asia and North Africa.

By the end of war in Europe, Canada had the largest Allied land army in Normandy, France, Belgium and Holland. In addition, we had the fourth largest navy in the world and Canadian aircrew made up 1/3 of the RAF. The RCAF operated squadrons in Bomber Command attacking Germany; South East Asia Canadian and Commonwealth pilots supplied Allied troops by parachuting supplies against the Japanese; by air patrolling the east coast and escorting convoys heading access the Atlantic searching and sinking enemy submarines.

On the home front our country manufactured tanks, combat aircraft, trucks, weapons including field pieces, ammunition, food and fuel to be shipped to Britain and Italy where our army units were battling their way through the country fighting the Germans.

We became the breadbasket and quartermaster of the collection of Commonwealth Allies fighting on three fronts.

Canada was turned into a mighty war machine that trained through the Commonwealth Air Training Plan more than 500,000 aircrew on many bases across the country. Almost every citizen who was able rolled up their sleeves and changed Canada in almost six years.

But we paid a huge price. In World War 1 more than 52,000 Canadians were killed and thousands more maimed for life. In World War 2, 44,000 Canadian lives were lost and many others severely wounded.

In August1945, the war ended when the Japanese surrendered. Our returning service men and women were given opportunities to go to university, own property and get jobs. Most important, it created the biggest baby boom in our nation’s history.

The end of the war was the beginning of Canada’s Golden Age of growing up. Our country was led by the wartime Liberal government of Prime Minister MacKenzie King. He was critized through his long tenure as PM. Both Churchill and Roosevelt tolerated him regardless he got job got done.

Our country opened it doors to refugees from all parts of the world that made great and noble contributions to our country. Even in the Seventies, following the defeat of the U.S forces in Viet Nam, Canada accepted 65,000 Viet Nam refugees escaping Communism and called the “Boat People.”

As Canadians, that is what we do.

Today we are at a crossroad in which our largest trading partner, the United States is trying to force us to knuckle under to destroy a Free Trade Agreement that has benefited both our countries.

In my opinion, this is ultimately not going to work out well for Canada at all. We are facing a despotic president who doesn’t care, has no compassion for his two major trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

He is in the process of destroying the greatest free trade agreement the world has ever seen.

This is not the time to make hollow declarations of emergencies of climate change. It is time to collect ourselves and protect and enhance what we have.

It’s time for us to mobilize as a nation and take care of number one.

Our imperative should be to open our resources and establish free trade with China, India and all members of the Trans Pacific free trade organization of which the U.S. refuses to belong. We should also reopen the free trade agreement with the European Union without Great Britain that is bifurcated by Brexit.

Until we take action we will remain at the whims of a megalomaniac president with power to destroy what we have achieved in good faith

By any stretch, that’s a dangerous position in which to be.

How bad can it get?

Think what will empower Trump if he is re-elected in 2020 for another four years.

Prime Minister Trudeau, your time is now to unite our country and take it forward without the baggage of division, denial and negativity that is flooding the airways, Internet and social media.

October will come soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What are they thinking? Council agrees to bid on Provincial Guelph Innovation District property

By Gerry Barker

April 8, 2019

Opinion

A staff report recommended council should bid on the sale of the Guelph Innovation District (GID) lands, owned by the Provincial government. Council unanimously approved bidding on 245 acres to create its green satellite community.

The desired lands are part of the former Reformatory and Turf Institute properties, totaling 1,074 acres. The decision was made despite the absence of important details that are in the public interest.

Details such as how is the bidding to be conducted; who can bid; financial details of the transaction; the public’s risk in such a transaction; is the process going to be transparent and made public and who pays the land transfer tax and development fees if the bid is won?

Apparently, a new plan concerning the Provincial properties, will be sold through Infrastructure Ontario, an arms length provincial agency, and CBRE Canada, the agency’s real estate broker.

The city wants to bid on 245 acres to develop its planned green satellite community that has been on city staff planners drafting boards for six years, at public expense.

CBRE, a Los Angeles-based real estate firm, oparates more than 450 offices worldwide, including Waterloo Region.

According to reports, Infrastructure Ontario employs CBRE as its real-estate broker. It would appear that CBRE directs the disposal the firm does not report to any Legislature committee to ensure that oversight and accountability is part of the process. Remember, Infrastructure Ontario is an arms-length provincial agency.

The province has announced it will start the process of disposing the surplus lands starting in 60 days. And should be completed when the new owner is successful by March 2020.

According to CBRE spokesman, Michael Cztsochowski, Executive Vice President of CBRE, the land services group, revealed the land would not have a set price. He describes a “modified auction.” He estimated that the market, once the disposal marketing materials are offered the pro[erty wuld be on the market for about two months. The bids would be treviewed and select the approved bidders, including the City of Guelph.

He outlined that because CBRE is a global company, purchasers will include developers, investors, and potential bidders thoughout the CBRE global network.

Sounds exciting, right?

But here’s the problem. The Ontario Municipal Act allows real estate transactions by municipalities to be conducted in closed-session. However, the public interest is deflected as the sale of this publicly owned property is being conducted by a third partyin closed-session.

In my opinion that’s only the start of these proposal’s problems.

We just went through a similar situation with the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities. The public was denied access to the details of the merger that, to me, was a giveaway of a city-owned successful power distribution system with a book value of $168 million, plus cash of $18.5 million cash reserves.

What did Guelph get in exchange besides a $18.5 million return of Guelph Hydro’s customer’s money? What did the city do with that gift from Hydro?

Alectra got former Guelph Hydro chair, Jane Armstrong, as the city representative of the Alectra Utilities board. Her salary is $25,000 per year plus travel expenses per diem for each meeting. All this resulted in a minuscule share of 4.86 per cent but only 60 per cent of Alectra Utilities profit. This whole takeover was conducted in closed-sessions. This occurred except for one council meeting in which council ignored the protests of 22 citizens who respectfully asked council to study and review the Alectra proposdal. Instead, council voted 10 to 3 to approve the merger.

That was the night that transparency and accountibility took a beating.

Some Guelph residents, who opposed this terrible deal, were later denied making their case before the Ontario Energy Board that approved the deal.

Strike three against public participation and the right to express public concern and interests.

Is GID about to cost the city millions more to fulfill the ambition of a small group of supporters of the environmental disasters of the past 14 years?

Is this about to happen to us again?

Who pays for the provincial mandated environmental study on the lands if the city plan contains wetlands?

Will CBRE explain in detail what CBRE means by a “modified auction?”

How is CBRE being compensated orchestrating the sale of the property?

Who pays for the extended city services links such as power and gas mains, water, sewer, police, fire, EMS, medical and hospital services, cable and telephone hook-up and Guelph Transit?

If the city wins the bid, does it absorb the development fees for the project?

As GS pointed out in a recent column, the administration was hoping for a sweetheart deal from the province that would allow the city to flipping the property to a developer. Thereby, avoiding costs of obtaining the property.

This could be shaping up to a simultaneous closing between the province, city and an unknown third party developer. Having been through one of those in my life, anything can go wrong if one of the parties questions or reneges.

When can residents learn how much the property is worth?

Can anyone tell us how the city plans to pay for this in the next 12 months, if it is the winner of the “modified auction?

Now the staging of this party is just beginning

Outsiders with major league credentials that impress our administration despite once again, influence council with pitches that leaves us in the minor leagues.

We are being told that this proposal is in our best interest.

In my opinion, no, not true. It’s in the council’s best interest to avoid becoming a third rate community while the rest of southern Ontario prospers.

Can anyone explain why or how this proposal is in the public’s best interest? Especially when there remain hundreds of acres of vacant land in the city that can developed.

Why have two successive city administrations speny our money attempting to build Green-oriented showcases for the world to decide we are a world-class city?

Adding it up for 12 years, estimates come to more than $250 million in capital wasted building monuments, driven by social engineering.

This project is just another exercise to spend money to prove we are something we aren’t.

Two councillors pushing the city to declare a climate change emergency

Coun. Phil Allt and James Gordon seem to forget why they were elected. It may come as a surprise to them that most people in the city understand the risk of climate change to their planet.

They also understand that the climate change problem is global and Guelph’s footprint in solving the problem is miniscule considering the magnitude of the problem.

I see their job as serving their constituents to fix the pot holes, plan a city that moves efficiently and safely without catering to the chattering, demanding alternative transport advocates, aka the bicyclists.

The best thing that can occur is that the city is outbid for the GID lands and our attention returns to common sense and fixing what’s broken.

There is no shortage of projects to be managed by our elected representatives.

One potential problem facing Guelph General Hospital and the entire medical community is the growing inability to handle the surging population of the city. We have lived in Guelph for 16 years and the current StatsCanada population’s figure shows an increase of some 35,000 new permanent residents in that time frame.

Today, there are 131,000 folks living in Guelph and the nimbers are projected to grow at each StatCan survey conducted every five years.

Further, this does not include the 22,000 University students that arrive in September and leave, for the most part, in April.

It’s something to think about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Was it coincidence that CAO Thomson is gone or just business as usual?

By Gerry Barker

April 1, 2019

This is the day of pranks, tomfoolery and the joke’s on us.

For once in his life, your faithful correspondent is speechless, witnessing the destruction of the city staff superstructure.

Thinking of the old Yogi Berra line: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” It appears this is not Derrick Thomson’s only departure described as a “parting of the ways” just before the provincial Sunshine List is published. It pops up near the end of March each year.

That List is really the only creditable source of all those Ontario public servants earning more than $100,000 a year plus taxable benefits. Dare I say it, but the former Mike Harris government created the List?

In December 2015, there was a closed-door meeting of council allegedly to discuss some substantial salary and benefit increases for the top three senior city staff managers. Not in dispute when council acted, the increases totaled $98,202.

There was no information published until the 2015 Sunshine List reported three months later.

How do we know the scope of those retroactive payments to the senior managers?? Guelphspeaks.ca compared what the three managers were paid in 2014 and 2015. That’s how the increases were discovered.

Turmoil at the top

In January 2016, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson, was the first to resign following the December 2015 meeting that allegedly approved the increases. He was gone two months before the 2015 Sunshine List was published.

Mr. Thomson accepted a position with the Town of Caledon where he lived. He left a job that was paying $207,000 (all figures rounded) plus $10,000 in taxable benefits.

In April 2016, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert announced her resignation but agreed to stay on to assist the new CAO. She left the city May 26, 2016. Her share of the $98,202 was $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000 plus $6,000 in taxable benefits.

In June 2016, Mr. Thomson was hired to replace Ms. Pappert. He announced that he would reveal details of his contract. In the fall he said he signed a three-year contract with a salary of $230,000 plus an increase of more than an $11,000 taxable benefit.

When the 2017 Sunshine List was published his salary had risen to $245,000.

Then, the city announced in early March 2019, prior to the 2018 Sunshine List publication, that by mutual agreement, CAO Derrick Thomson and the city were “parting ways.”

There was no further explanation other than he left immediately prior to the 2018 Sunshine List hit the Internet.

Déjà vu, again?

There will be no tag days for Mr. Thomson as his 2018 salary was $335,081 plus the $11,000 taxable bonus.

That is more money than the Premier of Ontario is paid.

It indicates that Mr. Thomson received more than a $90,000 increase between 2017 and 2018. The questions remain why was he suddenly gone on a cool Friday afternoon? The absence of explanation is part of the administration’s tight control of public information. You know: “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them.”

These are matters of the public interest yet there is no information surrounding these developments and why the turmoil exists in the senior echelon of the city government.

Almost forgot. Ms. Pappert worked five months in 2016 but was paid $263,0000, according to the 2016 Sunshine List.

The only way the pubic can receive this information is through the provincial Sunshine List. Without it, none of us have a clue and that’s the way the Guthrie administration wants it. The fact that council convened 84 closed-session meetings in 2015 and 2016 is evidence of denying the public access to information.

The rising trajectory shutting down public participation

For the past 39 months, annual property taxes increases in Guelph exceeded that of Brampton, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Toronto, Windsor and many more. Why? Why are other comparable cities able to manage their finances without hitting the property taxpayers’ ATM every year? Guelph’s tax rate is consistently more than 3 per cent.

For example, this year Brampton’s property tax rate is 1.1 per cent. With all the turmoil that city management has been through, it’s an astonishing achievement.

This year brought a welcome break when the city announced a property tax rate of 2.63 per cent less than the annual  3 per cent for only the second time since 2007. There are adjustments coming that will likely increase that tax rate.

In my opinion, there are two crucial aspects of this failure to govern responsibly:

The left majority of city council has politicized the staff. We blew the opportunity last October by not turning out to vote or participate. Municipal voting only occurs every four-years and we’re stuck with an administration that is frequently incompetent, secretive, authoritarian and irresponsible.

Don’t get me wrong. There are talented and dedicated employees on staff. Unfortunately, in Guelph, the leadership is the weak link.

The other vital action that needs to engage is public participation. This means attending council meetings and presenting contrarian points of view. Further, protest decisions that are not in the public interest. Sad to say, some councillors cherishs ambition and not pragmatism.

The woods are filled with competent and talented individuals experienced in public service. They aren’t hard to find. It’s too easy to blame the staff but after witnessing the merger of Guelph Hydro, council failed to look after its own destroying one of the best group of staffers in the province.

If we don’t react to stupidity and careless statements that city council has already demonstrated, we can only blame ourselves.

The real power governing the city lies with the people.

Let’s restore it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another hometown dopey declaration to solve the global climate change crisis

By Gerry Barker

March 25 2019

Opinion

I don’t know about you, well, some of you, but the majority group of councillors that has controlled the civic agenda for more than 12 years. It has becom tiresome and costly. They echoing the New Democratic party’s national policies dominating Guelph’s governance of its responsibilities.

There have been a number of attempts to make our city as a “World Class city” and damn the expense. That’s one aspect that is clear and historical or often hysterical.

Except that it’s our money they are playing with. I estimate that more than $150 million has been spent and wasted on projects that are beyond the support and power of our municipality.

How about this? In 13 budgets crafted and approved by the dominant left, there have been only two where the annual property tax rate has slightly been set under three per cent. When compounded exponentially, it’s more than 50 per cent. I won’t even go into the increases in user fees during those 13 years of budgets from 2007 to 2019.

When the new dominated council came into power in 2007, there were some 1,508 full-time (FTE’S) and part time employees. Today, with the approved addition of some 23 employees, the staff has grown to more than 2,350. It was reported that these additions would cost $9.2 million.

Now here is where it gets tricky, and in my opinion, deceptive

First, the police employee costs are filed separately to the province. From the city employee’s submission both payrolls are required under the Salary Disclosure Act. This Act requires every public servant in Ontario earning more than $100,000 must be included in the Sunshine List. The 2018 report is about to be published this month.

The city published a report wjich stated that 339 city employees were on the 2018 city list earning more than $100K

The question arises, were the police employees’ earning more than $100K included in the city list? Answer, no.

Second, why aren’t they? They are public employees whose remuneration is paid by the residents.

Third, we have the statement that the increase in property taxes for 2019 is 2.63 per cent. Apparently it is to be adjusted next month to reflect additional costs including property assessments and a catchall of undisclosed charges.

We interrupt this column to ask: Ever receive a city financial report?

The word ‘deception’ comes to mind that the budget announcement has become a political action document to assuage any negative public reaction. It also explains the reason why we cannot pay our property taxes in four equal installments.

Budgeting begins with examining performance of the 2018 budget. Knowing that, the staff prepares recommendations to complete the 2019 budget. You will recall this year the staff recommended a 3.99 per cent increase in property taxes, by far the greatest source of operating income of the city.

Miraculously, city council approved an increase of 2.63 per cent. I’d like to congratulate council for holding the line. But they still approved funding the Well-being grant program to non-profit groups totaling more than $300,000. Two years ago, that budget item was some $150,000. Has this been turned into a political support program?

Fourth, the craziness continues.

So far, there are four long-term plans announced in the past two years:

Starting with the Downtown Library that has had the longed gestation period of any project in 20 years. Next comes the South End Recreation development in which the city has already invested more than $3 million with a predicted price tag of $63 million.

Now for the two biggies contracts that will not be completed in ten years:

First, the Guelph Innovation District lands (GID). The city has already invested untold funding by city staff who are busy planning a satellite city on 250 acres on land they don’t own. While the PC government has announced it will dispose of surplus properties, they will not be pushovers. Predictably it will cost millions to secure the property. Why is the administration even considering this? It’s nothing but speculation and land flipping to potential developers.

Second, the Baker Street Parking lot project.

This proposed development has been pegged costing more than $350 million with a private partner described as Windmill Properties located in Ottawa, and specialist in Public Private Participation projects experts or Three P’s.

Shovels will apparently not go into the ground until 2023. Can you hear the sound of the price estimates going up? You have to ask, is what is the cost to the city and terms of the contract, particularly the liability to citizens if it is not completed

Another blunders by council to resolve downtown parking

In the first 2015 Guthrie budget, council agreed to set aside $700,000 to restore updated parking meters on downtown streets. In the 2016 budget those funds were relocated to commence paying for preplanning of the South End Recreation Centre.

It appears, that politics entered the arena (bad pun), with a solution to help solve the downtown-parking problem. Next came awarding a $22 Million contract to build a five-storey Parkade next to city hall on Wilson Street.

Theses two decisions did nothing to alleviate downtown parking.

All this inaction has caused many businesses to close because customers cannot park. Check the empty stores. Perception is more dangerous politically than the threat of defeat to those making decisions.

It has been inferred that the growth in city staff is dominating the parking problems as most employees receive a benefit of free parking. Today try and find a place to park near city hall or the provincial court in old city hall.

During the workday you have to depend on good luck to find a parking space on the city hall area on Carden Street.

Aren’t Parking, potholes, infrastructure and taxes more important than dealing with Global Climate Change?

There are two councillors anxious to convince council to declare a Climate Change Emergency by the City of Guelph.

Coun. Leanne Piper, believes that controlling rising costs is by plucking the low hanging fruit for cost reductions. This means saving money by defunding budget items she believes could be chopped without political consequence.

Her co-sponsor of having city council declare a climate change emergency is Coun. James Gordon, a troubadour and former NDP candidate to the Ontario Legislature.

Now, we all know that the majority of councillors are part of the left side of the political sphere

There seems to be opposition of the proposal that fails to explain exactly what does a Climate Change Emergency do? How much is it going to cost citizens. Which projects get shelved to pay for whatever the emergency is and how can a city of 131,000 residents impact a global climate crisis?

Ms. Piper says that while the city has done much in installing environmental advances it is not enough without explaining any of the above and where the money is coming from.

James Gordon takes a slightly different tack, stating that money spent on projects to reduce the city’s climate footprint is an investment. James, first tell us about what a climate change emergency is and details of the costs.

Does it mean setting up a new bureaucracy to run the Climate Change emergency? Or does it mean banning fossil fueled vehicles, plastic straws, bottles and other plastic products?

For every action, there is a reaction. This is it.

**** a

Note, Guelph Speaks Editor, Gerry Barker: Today, March 25, was to be an important step to end the defamation lawsuit.

A Superior Court Judge, January 21, 2019, was to hear my motion to dismiss the claim, to be conducted March 25 and it has been deferred. The claim by a former employees’ laws auit claiming that I defamed him in 2016 is now in its third year.

However, justice moves in mysterious ways. My counsel was notified that our Superior Court Justice could not hear the motion March 25 due to a conflict of assignments.

Less than 24 hours later, my counsel was notified that a new date has been set, U.S. July 4, Independence Day. Is this an omen?

 

 

 

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Let the finger pointing begin

By Gerry Barker

March 18, 3019

Opinion

We elected two men to represent our interests. Sitting in the Ontario Legislature is Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party. With only himself in the Legislature, his party is not an official party under the rule of the Legislature.

The other is Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield, a backbencher in the Trudeau government who is facing re-election this October.

Now, as I understand it, last time the election of the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario June 7, split the cozy relationship between the Ottawa Liberals, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Queen’s Park Liberal government of former Premier Kathleen Wynne.

With recent events involving the SNC Lavalin affair, is this a good time to be a Liberal?

MPP Mike Schreiner, after spending $119,000 to get elected, has metaphorically become the Maytag, repairman in the Legislature after accepting his huge victory in Guelph. Now that he’s there he has no power, no support in the Legislature and no influence.

In the lyrics of the Irish Rovers: “Wasn’t that a party?”

But Schreiner is there for four years and Guelph voters, by a wide margin, put him there.

Along comes Mr. Longfield who blames the provincial government for “not being open for business.”

That’s rich coming from a federal MP who sat in the House of Commons for almost four years saying nary a word condemning the Liberal government of Premier Wynne for not keeping Ontario open for business.

What’s that expression? If you want to win an election start a fight.

That nervous rattle you hear among the Trudeau Liberals is the dessention of voters over many areas of Liberal power. Starting with The SNC Lavalin fiasco that has cost the party it’s Attorney General and Justice Minister and the Minister of Health.

As this is being written before the third cabinet shuffle in two months, what does it tell you about the internal management and stability of theTrudeau government?

The genesis of political finger pointing

Last year, the federal government signed a bilateral agreement with the province to distribute $10.4 billion of federal funds to Ontario municipalities.

To try and understand this, our city has one of the municipalities selelcted to receive funding for a number, including the new $63 million South End recreation Centre.

Mr. Longfield is said to be asking Mayor Cam Guthrie to pressure the provincial government to release the funds.

It is obvious that the city has been working diligently to move its projects forward.

Enter stage left: Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner who would be the logical contact to get things moving on the provincial level. Instead, Longfield wants the Mayor to act without mentioning the Green Party leader who represents Guelph.

What does Longfield know that we don’t?

The bilateral agreement included splitting the Federal money into four areas: Northern and rural; public transit; green initiatives and community; culture and recreational projects.

It comes to mind the Federal money that was spent by the Harper government in Cabinet member Tony Clements’s Muscoka riding to spruce  up the community for a visit by members of the G-20 meeting in Toronto. We all remember how that turned out.

Perhaps the Mayor should contact Mike Schreiner to help jump-start this funding.

The only problem, will the Tories listen to Schreiner?

 

 

 

 

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Council speculates spending $10 million to buy 243 acres from Ontario using reserve funds

By Gerry Barker

March 11, 2019

Opinion

First, some history: Shortly following her re-election in 2010, Mayor Farbridge launched her plan to convince the province to give the city almost 25 per cent of the 1,070 acres of the Guelph reformatory lands plus the former Turf Institute land.

The former mayor and her council majority, along with city staff were involved in planning the project. It would reflect the land use values advocated by such urban planners as Richard Florida. It was proposed to be an environmental project that excluded most vehicles, was self-contained with shopping, parks, businesses, where there would be jobs for the inhabitants in short, a development for tomorrow.

It was given the misleading title of the Guelph Innovation District (GID) lands. One to be developed over eight years at public expense before the city owned the peoperty and it still doesn’t.

Did they consider how winter weather would affect the planned mobility of resident’s facing a foot of snow?

Think about it. A fossil fuel free environment modeled on residents being able to work within the community, shop on a bicycle and walk to where ever they choose.

Was it the crown jewel of the Farbridge administration in 2010?

It was another social engineering vision thing, that the design would create a new modern city where people could walk to shop and work. It would be spacious and contain a portion of affordable housing. There would be business sited in the design along with police and fire stations and possibly elementary schools.

The cost of services such as water, sewers, electricity, telephone, and cable to the city systems will be very expensive due to the upgrades needed by the city to provide those necessary services to the site.

It could be Guelph’s Tomorrow Land. Insread it was just another village as part of the city.

But the Wynne government didn’t bite at giving away provincial property. The planning process went on with the blind assumption that the Ontario government would change its mind.

Last December 17, the majority of council voted to negotiate with the new Ford government with a cockamamie proposal to buy the lands using two unrelated reserve funds totaling $10 million as deposits.

Council approved the motion, initiated by Councillors James Gordon and Leanne Piper.

“To me the risk is to the city in this process,” Coun. Christine Billings stated. “We’re playing middle man, and so I see that we have some risk as the stages are set.”

In my opinion, the citizens have all the risk. By Guelph standards, this is a huge undertaking to develop raw land and to flip it to private developers to complete the city’s planned development. In eight years, this proposal has already cost citizens millions, with city staff doing the design, planning and engineering studies.

Considering the elements of risk in this staff proposal, who should have known better, includes the following:

Doesn’t the Province, the seller, employing third party real estate professionals, want to determine the value of the lands in question?

If agreement is reached with potential developers, will the price of purchasing the lands, using public funds, be too high for developers?

Already the city administration has set the ground rules notifying any potential developers that the design must adhere to the city plan.

How long will it take the city investment to be recovered and reserves replenished?

What is the financial status of any developer to guarantee completion of the project?

How long will it take before the city receives income from property taxes, user fees and services income?

Really, the city staff recommended this?

This city has no business engaging in this property flopping scheme. It is another hangover from the former administration to force-feed their proposals, and projects without public input or consideration.

Here are some remembrances of your taxes being squandered:

* The Civic museum – $10 million;

* Bike lanes – $5 million to date and an ongoing expense of $300,000 annually;

* The organic waste processing facility – $34 million and the compost is not available to residents who financed it;

* Capital cost of the bin collection system – $1.55 million;

* Cost over-run of the Urbacon Buildings Group city hall – $23 million;

the GMHI fiasco -$63 million and counting;

* Trafic congestions caused by lane removal to allow bike lanes – cost is unknown and an unintended consequence;

* Downtown parking revenue lost – $77 million over 12 years;

* Affordable housing – nothing;

* Over 12 years annual increase in property taxes and user fees– for now, incalculable.

* The Baker Street renovation by a Public Private Partnership (3P) estimated to cost $350 million and shovels don’t go in before 2022.

* A staff estimate of repairing and replacing infrastructure throughout the city – $450 million over the next 30 years.

These are real numbers not percentages in pie charts

Are you concerned that our city is going into the real-estate investor business, using public funds, is wise and will benefit all citizens?

In my opinion, I do not believe the city has the money, or the expertise to engage in this scheme that is highly speculative. Coun. Billings is right as we are the man in the middle, being financially responsible for completion of this proposed flip from start to finish.

The province will love selling it to a municipal corporation that cannot go bankrupt under provincial law.

The province gets paid in full before the city can resell the property to a third party developer who is now in control of the project. The developer client can demand that his company decides if the plan, demanded by the city, is acceptable.

That presents a large problem that could take years to materialize.

Remember, it took six years to settle the Urbacon lawsuit that the city administration was fully responsible for, spending an additional $23 million to complete the project originally budgeted for $42 million.

To me, the present council is dominated by so-called progressives determined to continue the Farbridge vision of making Guelph a paragon of political correctness and environmentally superior.

How’s that working for you?

 

 

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