Introducing a No Frills blueprint to change and control the people’s business

By Gerry Barker

July 16, 2018

The following is a detailed Action Plan to return power to the people that has been denied, covered up and mismanaged by successive councils and administrative staff.

Guelph Tomorrow is an organization created by concerned citizens to return democracy and accountability to the civic administration of the City of Guelph.

The people’s hope and expectation, following the election of Mayor Guthrie in October 2014, have been drowned in hypocrisy, blatant cover-ups, secrecy and disdain for the public trust.

The Guthrie record is clear. He capitulated authority of the public trust to the professional senior staff that perpetuated the failed policies of the two previous administrations.

Are you better off today after four years of this Guthrie administration? His record in just two instances, escalated property taxes by more than 3 per cent annually plus 2 per cent special levies. He gave Guelph Hydro, worth $228 million, away for peanuts. The value contained in the 2016 Guelph Hydro financial statement, is just the tangible assets, not including cash on hand or goodwill.

Now we learn of his “action plan” to elect friendly supporters to councillors positions to gain control of council and continue more of the same.

In my opinion, Cam Guthrie was like the month of March; “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” Don’t be deceived any longer. The city council needs an election enema to stop the political wrangling, control by individuals whose performance has been dismal.

Now it’s our chance to change the administration to serve the needs of ALL the people not the few who have controlled our city for 12 years. It’s a situation that mirrors the recent demise of the Ontario Liberal Party in the provincial election.

In Guelph, the disenchanted Liberals, disdained their own candidate and turned to electing a candidate with no election experience representing a Green party with no power. Mike Schreiner espoused the same policies that drove up the debt in Guelph under the previous administrations. Mike Shriener ran as the Green Party’s Ontario Leader. He is now the boss of a party of one, Mike Schreiner, MPP.

Small guess: Mike will be wooed by the Liberal seven-member cause that needs an eighth member to be recognized as an official party in the Ontario Legislature. That will make all those Guelph Liberals happier than Doug Ford cutting the gas tax.

Here’s’ the people’s No Frills Action Plan developed by a team of fellow citizens familiar with the tawdry history of 12 years of administrations.

Guelph Tomorrow

Presents

The No Frills Action Plan

No Frills means leadership, transparency, accountability and responsibility to all the people p

No Frills Priorities

No Frills means that the city auditor will complete a full audit of city finances before submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs

No Frills means halting capital spending until an audit of the city’s finances is completed

No Frills proposes a new senior management structure change to have a City Manager heading the staff, with directors leading the major departments

No Frills recommends that the he city administrative structure will include an Executive Management team composed of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, City Manager, City Clerk and Department Directors. The City Manager will act as chair

No Frills means making every effort to kill the Guelph Hydro-Alectra merger

No Frills means using common sense, arresting spending and encouraging public participation

No Frills means reviewing the status of all reserves and clarify each for its purpose

No Frills means evaluating policies involving all subsidies, donations, and employment contracts

No Frills means eliminating the Committee of the Whole system of conducting public meetings

No Frills on the advice of the city manager, restores the committees of council with appropriate honourariums for councillors serving on committees based on attendance.

No Frills means no closed-sessions council meetings unless there are legitimate legal reasons to do so

No Frills means a complete review by the Director of Finance and the internal auditor of purchasing and procurement systems

No Frills means freezing all salary and benefit increases pending review of pay systems

No Frills means ordering a staff rationalization review by an independent authority

No Frills means reviewing all bylaws to update and remove those not applicable

No Frills means Investigating areas of increasing revenue including the University of Guelph’s ‘bed tax’ deal in lieu of property taxes.

 

No Frills Proposed Communications Plan

No Frills means reporting a summary of the financial state of the city every three months

No Frills means freezing and reviewing all communications contracts and systems

No Frills means the general manager of communications will conduct a regular media briefing weekly

No Frills pledges publishing a monthly report of the administration’s hits and misses and introducing personality profiles of council members and staff using the Guelph Hydro mailing list to distribute

No Frills means that the mayor or designate following a closed-session must release a summary following the meeting within 24 hours

 

No Frills proposed fixes of Property Taxes & User fees

No Frills means limiting property taxes to a 3 per cent increase for 2019

No Frills means an immediate elimination of the 2 per cent infrastructure levy on property owners

No Frills means eliminating the storm water levy on hydro bills

No Frills means freezing all user fees until the financial review is completed

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.

No Frills means freezing all residential planning until a full review is completed

 

No Frills action to fix procedures, bylaws and protocols

No Frills abolishes the Integrity Commissioner, cancels the Closed Session investigators, Amberlea Gravel of London

No Frills means freezing all consultant contracts until proven justified

No Frills means a complete review of the Council Code of Conduct

No Frills means banning any closed sessions involving political strategy issues

No Frills means staff accountability

No Frills means rewarding and encouraging staff performance and efficiency

No Frills means reporting regular financial performance with a clearly defined base line

No Frills means public accessibility to the people’s house and its services

Join the crusade for change at Guelph Tomorrow.ca.

 

 

 

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Sis, Boom Bah! Mayor enlists the Cam-ettes to help take control of council

By Gerry Barker

July 11, 2018

Recently, I have been pressed to run for Mayor of the City of Guelph

Supporters want to prevent another four-year term of Mayor Guthrie who, they feel, has failed to meet his promises made when elected in 2014.

I am still considering making a decision to tackle the job of changing and reforming the administration’s spending on failed projects. This has painted a political picture of the Mayor whose trust of the city staff is suffocating the public trust.

My wife and I voted for him in 2014, as did most people who voted in record numbers.

We all had such high hopes for the energetic new mayor to clean up the fiscal debris of the previous administration.

But that did not happen. Instead, in the first four months in office, his election promise of keeping property taxes pegged to the Consumer Price Index (1.99 per cent in 2014) failed. The 2015 property tax approved by the Guthrie Council in March 2015, peaked at 3.96 per cent.

I’m not going to pursue the mismanagement, pandering to the staff, giving away Guelph Hydro, and holding all those closed-session meetings to prevent the public knowing the conduct of its business.

No, I’ve exposed much of it and picked up a lawsuit, still not concluded, for my trouble.

Instead, it’s time to end Guelph’s reality show. The attempt by the Mayor and his supporters to stage a well-planned coup to take control of council has now been exposed.

Introducing the Cam-ettes

It started early this week with a meeting between two councillors and me.

The only thing I can reveal, as the meeting was off the record, was the enthusiasm expressed in describing the new candidates for council. One of the councillors said he had been working hard to recruit and consult with a group that he predicted would change the composition of council and get rid of the controlling socialist majority.

I was excited at the prospect of new, bright candidates to finally start the process of reform and the reduction of overhead of city operations.

What I did not tell them at the time, concerned a meeting the next night of folks wanting me to take on Mr. Guthrie. At that meeting, we discussed the pros and cons of my candidacy.

Then I told them of my meeting, the night before, and the proposal to introduce qualified candidates to eliminate the socialist majority on council. As much as I have been critical of this “Gang of Seven,” politically, all that was needed was to defeat just two, Coun. Wettstein and Coun. Hofland.

But then things don’t always work as planned.

Both these councillors were on the Board of Directors of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. for four years. In my opinion, both failed to carry out their sworn fiduciary responsibilities by not revealing the failed operations of GMHI that cost the citizens millions.

Now here is the Guthrie team plan

So far there are four Cam-ettes running: In Ward 6, Stacy Cooper and Dominique O’Rourke; in Ward 4 Indu Arora, friend of the Mayor’s wife; in Ward 1 Charlene Downey. All of these women were nominated May1st along with the Mayor. Fact checking indicates none have been elected to a municipal council.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but remains a strong indicates collusion. There’s nothing wrong with that except that these four have been groomed to support Cam Guthrie as dedicated councillors voting for the Guthrie agenda.

Here’s the rub. Any attempt to elect a majority to gain control results, in this case, of Cam Guthrie gaining a majority of councillors for the next four years.

I find that undemocratic and manipulative. No surprise there, considering Mayor Guthrie’s penchant to use people then discarding them when they are no longer useful.

The political world of Cam Guthrie

Here’s a sample of how the Mayor says one thing and conceals his real intent. In the recent provincial election, the Mayor denied he was a candidate representing the P.C.’s. Guelphspeaks announced in August 2017, he was the chosen candidate to represent Guelph throwing the P.C riding association into administrative chaos.

Candidates who indicated they would run had to be put aside while P.C. headquarters told the riding association that they had a candidate and not to pursue a nomination meeting. This all occurred following the Patrick Brown dismissal.

Bob Coole, the Guelph P.C. Association president, received a call from Cam Guthrie inviting him to lunch at a pizzeria on Stone Road. At that meeting, Guthrie said he was the P.C. headquarter’s choice as the candidate. Coole was told not to agree holding a nomination convention, as Guthrie wanted an acclamation. There were more delays and finally Doug Ford named Ray Ferraro the Guelph candidate.

The mayor’s back door interference created an organization nightmare of which the Association did not recover.

The irony is the Guthrie interference in the process was accompanied by the Mayor’s crocodile tears that he loved Guelph and would be a candidate for re-election in October.

There is no nice way to put this but Cam Guthrie’s behind the scenes duplicity in sabotaging the Guelph P.C. campaign reflects the blind ambition and self-absorbed character of our mayor.

Let’s move on

Don’t you think that 12 years of the domination of council, by the extremist left that controlled our city administration could deter re-election of some of the incumbents? Social engineering projects wasted millions on waste management, staff salaries and benefits, the new city hall complex, GMHI failure to impose energy policies that didn’t work and now the giveaway of Guelph Hydro.

If all four of the Cam-ette newbie’s are elected, they will join incumbent Guthrie councillors, Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond, Christine Billings and the Mayor. That would give the Mayor complete control of council.

Then there are the wild cards

In Ward 6, Mark MacKinnon has the advantage of being an incumbent. I would be the last to support him as he stated that paying taxes is the price of living in Guelph. He further opined that because your house increased in value, you should borrow money to pay your property taxes.

Bob Bell, the veteran councillor in Ward 1 has yet to declare. I’m told that his business of building bicycle accessories has created opportunities in China and The Czech Republic.

Incumbent members of the “Gang of Seven” who are running again include James Gordon, Phil Allt, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Cathy Downer, and Leanne Piper. Karl Wettstein, the seventh member, has not filed his papers. In Ward 6, former Farbridge councillor, Lise Burcher ,is attempting a comeback.

Who is vulnerable in this group? In my opinion, I’d pick June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, James Gordon. Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein if he runs.

On paper it looks that Mayor Guthrie, so far unopposed, will have a comfortable majority in the next council.

As for me, I have the support of a seasoned campaign team, plus a platform that is extensive and is described in detail in the No Frills Action Plan to be published next week.

My inclination is to run but the task is great and there are serious mitigating facts to be considered.

Predicted surprises will occur before the close of nominations July 27 at 2 p.m.

In the meantime, pencil me in.

 

 

 

 

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Its time to clean up the Guthrie administration’s inherited train wreck

By Gerry Barker

July 9, 2018

In 2006, some 12 years ago, the Mayor elect, Karen Farbridge, campaigned on the slogan “She will put Guelph back on track.”

Well, eight years with Karen Farbridge and four years of Cam Guthrie, has created the train wreck that is the legacy of three election cycles being dominated by the successive council’s being stymied by the leftist majority In the case of the Guthrie administration the leftist majority driving up debt and escalating property taxes and user fees.

After monitoring and writing this for those 12 years it is not rocket science to know what has happened to successive administrations. Three councils all made promises they never kept. But the two Farbridge administrations set the the downward glide of excessive spending and mismanagement.

Remember the new downtown main library? A promise made by then Mayor Farbridger and not kept. Cam Guthrie made that same promise. We still have no new downtown library.

Remember the Urbacon disaster in which the Farbridge administration wasted more than $23 million to complete the new city hall complex that was originally contracted to cost $42 million?

It cost Farbridge and four of her councillors their jobs in 2014.

The doozy of bad deals occurred December 13, 2017 when by a 10-3 cote, council approved the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra utilities in which there was no payment by Alectra for the estimated $300 million Guelph Hydro distribution system.

That agreement is now before the Ontario Energy Board and some citizens have been approved to intervene when the hearing is held.

Turning to Mayor Cam Guthrie’s performance, his penchant to hold closed-session meetings of council led to the infamous secret increases to four senior managers in December 2010. The cost came to $98,202 with Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, receiving more than $37,000 most of it was a $27,000 retroactive performance bonus.

Pappert resigned four months later but stuck around until May 26, 2016 then left. The provincial 2016 Sunshine List revealed she was paid $263,000 for five months work.

Couple that with the seven months performed in 2016 by her successor, Derrick Thomson, and the cost of paying the two CAO’s in 2016 was $397,166 not including taxable benefits. In Mr. Thomson’s case, his taxable benefit was an additional $11,000.

This all happened under the leadership of Mayor Guthrie. Aside from the Finance department and members of council, 99 per cent of citizens would never know how much that December 10, 2015 closed-session would impact the citizens. That is until guelphspeaks.ca revealed it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Council by an 8-5 vote approved increasing the Mayor’s salary from $122,000 to 152,000. The 12 city councillors were also given an addition $5,000 increase.

These increases were made to maintain the take-home pay of all councillors because the Federal government has cancelled the one-third portion of their income that used to be tax-free.

Now here’s what happened.

The Remuneration Advisory Committee, appointed by council, recommended that 12 councillors should receive the increases but not the Mayor. Four days after that decision was published, council awarded the Mayor the increase in order to retain his take-home pay.

Then the Mayor voted to increase his new salary and that of the councillors.

The question, was this a conflict of interest? Five councillors who voted against the motion seemed to think it was. These council salary approvals are always a difficult decision. I happen to advocate that all elected position salary should be greater in order to attract qualified candidates but reflect the increasing workload as the city grows rapidly..

In the case of the Mayor he should have recused himself.

It reflects the deep-seated disregard of that business that is troubling and must change.

I don’t disagree with the increases to elected officials, just the way it was handled that leads to public mistrust. Something that’s not a good idea in an election year.

I do not agree with the method of choosing salary and benefit increases by senior management. Those salary and benefits of senior managers should be determined by an outside body to avoid further conflicts of interest.

Final example. When Mr. Thomson was appointed CAO in June 2016, he said his contract was for three years at a salary of $230,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,000.

The 2017 Sunshine list revealed his salary was more than $260,000.

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How living in Guelph has become a stagnant pool of political mediocrity

By Gerry Barker

July 3, 2018

There was a report published recently that the mayor was not receiving a raise next year. In fact, his take-home pay, thanks to a change in the Federal income tax regulations starting in 2019, that denied the one-third tax-free portion of his gross civic salary of $122,724.

The irony is that the 12 members of council will receive $40,000 next year, an increase of $4,497. Councillors were paid $35,503 these past four years.

Now the initial report in the local bi-weekly was based on the recommendation of the Remuneration Advisory Committee. Names of those on the committee were not revealed.

By an 8-5 vote last Monday, council bumped the mayor’s pay from $122,724 to $152,oo, a 23.4 per cent increase. This decision was based on maintaining his current salary, about to be fully taxed take home pay. The same went for the 12 councillors who will receive $40,000 to maintain their take home pay.

Voting for the motion were Councillors Billings, Gibson, Downer, Hofland, MacKinnon, Piper and Mayor Guthrie. Voting against the motion were Councillors Allt, Bell, Gordon, Salisbury, Wettstein. Coun. Van Hellemond was absent.

It only took four days from the published report for council to perform an Olympic style back flip to ignore the Remuneration Advisory Board’s recommendation to stay any increase for he mayor’s pay for 2019.

This reversal by council is not only stunning in sheer alacrity to perform but presents an interesting split of the councillors rarely seen. Further, why is the mayor voting on an increase that involves histhe next mayor’s salary in 2019?

Here’s what one commentator posted on the Guelph Today website:

Gruntfutak – 18 hours ago – if you owned a business would you increase salaries for every increase in taxes? I doubt it. The Mayor and Councillors have had many years of reduced taxes (33% tax free salary). Let them join the rest of us. This is a tax and will be paid by all income brackets – some of the new minimum wage now goes to the city Mayor and Councillors.

Gruntfutak – 2 days later – If the federal government changes tax rules for the majority of workers those workers have to suffer the reduced income. Just because councilors and mayors have had their tax-free amount changed city tax payers have to pay the increase!!! City taxation has been increased with little or no discussion with the voters.

Without knowing who sits on the advisory committee, common sense was never a virtue of this council.

You have to wonder how city council can act so quickly to over-rule its own advisory committee regarding the salary for 2019 of the office of mayor.

A study in dealing with city hall.

The width of driveways in the east end of the city is being challenged by a bylaw that has ignited the anger of most residents. The fine for an infraction of widening your driveway is up to $600.

Coun. Dam Gibson has been meeting constituents and has filed a notice of motion to review the driveway bylaw. Council will discuss it July 23. If council agrees to debate that motion, it will occur sometime in September.

Council can move like lightning to secure its salaries but a pressing problem by citizens is swallowed by arcane procedure controls.

This is one of the reasons that the structure of council must clearly reflect the interests of all the people.

Here’s why ‘structure’ is not just a nine-letter word

People elect the mayor across the city. Each councillor represents a small minority of citizens in each ward. A mayoralty campaign can cost more than $80,000. Two councillors are elected in each of the six wards and the average election cost for each candidate is usually under $4,000. All cost estimates are based on the 2014 financial statements filed by each candidate.

Now here’s how that works. The progressives run and help finance more than 12 candidates. Dredging from memory, in 2014, the progressives (under Mayor Farbridge) ran some 20 loyal supporters in the wards. Costing that at an average of $3,000 per candidate the progressive regime spent an estimated $60,000 to elect seven progressive loyalists. That equals $8,571, the cost to the progressive organization for each successful candidate and control of council for four years.

And that friends, is the main reason for our city becoming one of the highest taxed municipalities out of the 445 in Ontario. Think about controlling everything before council. All it cost was $15,000 per year.

That’s a cheap way to gain and own power on Guelph city council.

So the power on council lies in the hands of 12 councillors elected in the wards. The current council has seven members in control. The mayor only has one vote and must rely on support of at least six members. The present Mayor can only count on four centrist councillors. One councillor is a ‘floater’ who frequently supports the majority bloc of seven.

Until this system changes the city is being used as a piggy bank to fund a number of failed experiments, indulging the interests of the few at the expense of the many.

Too harsh?

Lets cite a few examples. Start with waste management that has cost Guelph millions. The citizens paid the $34 million cost of the compost plant. The benefit is almost zero as truckloads of other municipalities’ wet garbage are delivered regularly. And it does not yet make a profit nor can the citizens obtain any of the finished compost.

Simply, the facility’s capacity was too great to handle just Guelph’s wet compostable material. It was a pet project of the former mayor who envirmental ambition exceeded the pocket books of citizen who financed it.

Then we go to the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc., a flawed operation and still costing millions. The shareholder’s equity in this failed corporation is $60 million. Yet the former mayor was chair of GMHI and at least four of her councillors sat on the board. But the citizens were never told about the operations, the contribution of Guelph Hydro and the bills still to be paid for the Direct Energy operations.

And the biggie that has occurred under Mayor Guthrie’s watch is the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities. Council voted to give Guelph Hydro away for a pack of promises and a tiny 4.36 per cent share of just 60 per cent of Alectra Utilities profit. If the Ontario Energy Board approves this merger 55,000 Guelph Hydro ratepayers will have been ripped off by some $300 million.

Here comes the punch line

The year 2016 was the nadir of council’s responsibility.

There were four top executives that, in a secret closed-session meeting of council December 10, 2015, were awarded $98,202 in salary increases. They ranged from 14 per cent to 19 per cent. The citizens discovered none of this until March 31, 2016 when the numbers were published in the provincial Sunshine list.

Of the four, only Derrick Thomson remains as Chief Administrative Officer of Guelph. He was rehired after resigning in January, and returned in June 2016.

He declared that he would reveal his salary and the term of his employment that turned out to be three years. Mr. Thomson said he agreed to a salary of $230,000 in each of the three-year term.

Well the 2017 Sunshine list showed that Mr. Thomson was paid $267,378.That’s a 15.25 per cent increase. In addition he has a taxable benefit of $11,236, the highest in the entire city staff.

What’s wrong with this picture? The Mayor, elected by the people, will receive a $30,000 increase next year to maintain his current take home pay.

Mr. Thomson has an ironclad contract. Mr. Guthrie, if elected, has a riskier position having to run to obtain approval of the electorate.

Okay, here’s another example of the dogs running the pound. In 2014, Mr. Thomson was making $177,000. That represents a 48.5 per cent salary boost from October 2014 to December 2017.

Here’s another one.

When Mr. Thomson was named CAO he immediately appointed Colleen Clack as head of the newly named Public Services. She was earning $142,000 in 2014 as head of Tourism and Culture.

Her salary in 2017 as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer was $208,109. That was an increase of $66,109 or 96.5 per cent from 2014 to December 2017.

In both these cases there was an increase in job responsibility. Nevertheless, they are only two examples of non-disclosure of staff salaries except for the Sunshine list. It all happens because council approves it in closed sessions.

This has to change and is deeply embedded in the administration’s operational and political culture of the city.

Only the voters can change it next October by electing candidates who are political centrists and not obligated to any political party and understand their fiduciary responsibility to the people who elected them.

The final award

It’s doubly ironic that when it comes to granting increases to councillors and the Mayor, an outside “Remuneration Advisory Board” performs it.

There is no measurement of performance, no revelation of expenses, payments by outside boards and no financial data provided to the public.

Now take the senior managers’ method of selecting salary increases.

They prepare a recommendation that is presented to council in closed-session. There is no evidence of who voted for the increases, no explanation substantiating the increases, no breakdown of travel and other expenses or changes in the contracts including details of severance settlements.

In my opinion, in Guelph there are two major pillars that control the flow of public information:

* Successive councils have ruthlessly abused the publics’ Right to Know;

* Those same councils have colluded with staff, secretly suppressing important details of the public’s business. Thereby having the exclusive franchise to choose the Need to Know option to suit their agenda.

“What we don’t tell them, they won’t know or care.”

 

 

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It’s time to suspend allowing undocumented asylum seekers flowing into our Country

By Gerry Barker

June 29, 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to welcome the hundreds of people seeking life in Canada. They are entering our country at legal checkpoints in the Montreal area, Manitoba and Ontario. They walk across the border claiming refugee status because of alleged persecution in their homeland.

Most enter the U.S. then proceed to Canada where 28,000 undocumented walk-ons flooding across the border last year and the numbers are increasing this year.

A former head of the Canadian Immigration Service, James Bissett, warns that if we take them, they will come and keep coming. The Prime Minister has declared our borders are open to these walk-in refugees who have not been vetted by authorities to determine their claim of asylum.

These people are aided and abetted by a refugee industry in Canada that lobbies, promotes, offers legal advice and thwarts any attempt to staunch the flow of persons wanting to live in a safe country like Canada. They want and receive government support until they attend an immigration hearing before a judge to determine if they are legitimate refugees.

The trouble is once in country they can disappear and the wait time for court appearances can be up to four years. Meanwhile at our expense they enjoy the high standards of life style that Canada offers its citizens.

The costs of housing and assimilating these people, most of who cannot speak English except the Haitians who are fluent in French entering in Quebec, is estimated to be more than $300 million this year.

It is troubling that Canada is threatened with a trade war with the U.S. that will increase the number of workers possibly laid off and seeking unemployment benefits. This could lead to a serious recession in this country and other nations in the world that can make the financial collapse in 2008 look like a walk in the park.

Here in Guelph, an unofficial sanctuary city for refugees, the threat by the U.S. to install a 25 percent tariff on vehicles and parts manufactured in Canada and imported to the U.S. This could impact some 150,000-auto workers, chiefly in Ontario.

The threat on our doorstep

Will that trigger layoffs at the 19 Linamar automotive parts plants in Guelph and elsewhere? Just in Guelph that could affect some 6,000 Linamar employees, plus the companies in the city that feed parts and materials to Linamar and other major parts and components to assembly plants in the U.S. and Mexico.

Linda Hasenfratz, Chief Executive Officer of Linamar, is blunt: “Clearly this will lead to wide scale layoffs further decreasing demand for absolutely everything spinning the U.S. into a deep, deep recession and dragging the rest of us down with them.”

Linamar stock has declined 22 per cent since mid-May based on investor’s fears of the uncertainty and actions of President Trump who has threatened placing the auto tariffs on Canada.

The trade war created by the U.S. administration escalates Mondays July 1 when Canada imposes retaliatory tariffs on a number of U.S. imports. The impending tragedy shows the U.S. President does not understand the free trade agreement between our two countries. Canada is the biggest trading partner of the U.S. and the U.S., despite the ramblings of the President, enjoys a $3.8 billion trade surplus with Canada.

Let’s put the brakes on accepting asylum seekers in Canada

With respect, now is not the time to allow undocumented refugees to enter Canada, due to the potential threat to our economy also the irresponsible ‘America First’ policies of the President and his cabinet.

The uncertainty of what our major trading partner creates places enormous pressure on the Federal government, the provinces and all Canadian citizens if there is a major global economic collapse.

The U.S administration has the ability to make it happen and Canadians have no control, little recourse and the disappearance of a relationship with a long-term friend and ally.

Allowing thousands of undocumented asylum seekers to walk into our country should be stopped until the economic picture stabilizes and we have the ability to accept, support and welcome genuine refugees.

If we do not take steps now they will come and keep coming.

 

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Dancing with the devil: A tale of two municipalities dealing with Alectra power distribution

By Gerry Barker

June 25, 2018

Remember last December 13 when Guelph city council approved merging Guelph Hydro with Alectra utilities, a subsidiary of Alectra Inc?

Well it turns out that the Town of Collingwood had a six-year partnership with an outfit called PowerStream. This corporate entity of that operate, PowerStream, is also the power distribution system in Mississauga wholly owned by Alectra Inc.

In 2012, PowerStream purchased a 50 per cent interest in Collingwood utilities operating the power distribution and water system for Collingwood known as Collus (Collingwood Utility Services Corp.) At the time Mayor Sandra Cooper along with the head of the Utilities Corporation told council that PowerStream was paying $15 million for 50 per cent of the utility.

In a separate issue revealed later, the mayor’s brother, former Liberal MP Paul Bonwick, was working with PowerStream plus other companies doing business with the town.

Citizens complained about Paul Bonwick’s involvement with PowerStream, who was hired on a monthly basis by the acquiring corporation. In January 2012, PowerStream successfully bought a 50 per cent share of Collingwood’s public utility company, Collus, for $15 million allegedly.

Acting town CAO, Ed Houghton, told CBC News that PowerStream’s projected growth and “recapitalization and debt to equity ratio” promised a better long-term return for taxpayers, and noted the sale was approved by an 8-0 vote by council.

Does this sound familiar?

Didn’t Alectra make a similar pitch to Guelph city council last December with adjustments for technical blue-sky changes in power distribution?

Our guys fell for the pitch by Alectra voting 10-3 to accept the draft agreement.

The big difference between Collinwood’s experiences dealing with PowerStream aka Alectra is that they were allegedly paid for half of the Collus operations.

What did Guelph get for giving Guelph Hydro away?

Following the February 27, 2018 town council meeting, the CBC reported that lawyer William McDowell, hired by the town, outlined how a judicial inquiry could help answer who benefited from the sale, potential conflicts and where the money from the sale went.

At the sane meeting, Collingwood town council voted to invoke a rarely used section of Ontario’s Municipal Act to set up a formal judicial inquiry into the 2012 sale to PowerStream of a 50 per cent stake in the Collingwood Utilities Corp.

Complaints of citizens prompted an investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police. To date no charges have been laid.

That $15 million price, as it turned out, was never paid and the town received only $8 million.

Then, PowerStream offered to purchase the 50 percent of Collus stock it did not own for an alleged $13 million.

The February 27 meeting of town council voted 5-1 to launch a judicial inquiry with Mayor Cooper the only dissenter.

In November 2017, PowerStream, now known as Alectra Inc. the corporate owner of 50 per cent of Collus, said it would sell its shares back to the town in a buy-sell agreement.

Norm Loberg, chairman of Alectra Inc. said: “Working closely with the excellent staff at the utility, we were able to improve reliability, enhance service and offer a broader selection of conservation programs.”

It was a similar comment he made to Guelph city council last December only the promise to establish a Green Technology Centre in the former Guelph Hydro headquarters differed from the Collingwood statement.

So if what Loberg tells Collingwood council is true, why do they want to sell their interest back to the town?

Further, why three months later is the town prepared to launch a judicial inquiry into the original purchase of the utility and the six years of partnership with Alectra?

Deputy Mayor, Brian Sauderson, who voted for the inquiry said: “”Who benefited? If things were done in such a way that people benefited, then people in this community need to know.”

Is there a message here for Guelph city council?

The merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities poses a similar series of questions in its impending deal now before the Ontario Energy Board (OEB).

In 2012, Collingwood at least sold a 50 per cent share in its Collus for $8 million.

Heck, that’s chump change comparing the giveaway of Guelph Hydro worth an estimated $300 million.

Who benefits from this merger? Is it the 55,000 owners of Guelph Hydro who have been paying their bills and supporting the growth of the City and Rockwood?

Read the words of the Alectra Chairman above. Should we feel comforted that city council is giving away our reliable, efficient, profitable and highly rated utility for the promise of a 4.36 per cent annual dividend of Alectra Utilities’ profit … but only 60 per cent of its profit?

Does that make sense to you?

There are 19 documents in the written Alectra proposal to the OEB. Some of the material is redacted on the alleged ground it contains proprietary information about Alectra.

The final insult to our collective intelligence perpetrated by city council was the last minute revelation that the city was going to receive a “special dividend” of $18.5 million.

Really!

To juice the merger deal just before the vote, city council agreed to pay us back with our own money! Those funds are coming from Guelph Hydro’s cash reserves. That’s public property.

This exercise has already cost the city $2.4 million just to perform its lame dog and pony show to convince we peasants that this is a great deal.

We can learn from the Collingwood experience dealing with Alectra.

Perhaps council should rethink its position in approving this merger. It’s still not too late as the OEB hearing may not even be held this year. There are citizens who have been approved as interveners.

Despite the closed-session meetings of the Strategies and Option committee, appointed by council, it may turn out to be a monumental political blunder come next October.

We all know what happened in 2014 when the people voted.

As an aside, there were more than 6,000 votes cast online in the advance poll four years ago. But the present council voted not to allow online voting this year.

Wonder why?

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Does corruption exist in our municipal government?

By Gerry Barker

June 21, 2018

In a closed corporation, that masquerades as being open, transparent and accountable as the City of Guelph, is there the potential of corruption?

Municipal corruptions is usually the result of closed meetings, manipulation of the system for personal gain or just stealing public funds.

In the last 11 years the creep of covering up the public’s business through a system of closed-session meetings that are justified by certain bylaws of which 99 per cent of the citizens have no clue.

Well, why not?

It’s because the system allows bureaucratic jargon, simplistic explanations of complex problems, lying, lying by omission, holding closed-session meeting and manipulation of the message.

Successive Guelph’s governments have gradually choked off any sensitive or political public discussion by debating behind closed doors.

The professional staff is complicit in dumbing down the message.

Four senior staff members grabbed huge increases in 2015 with the approval of the mayor and city council. They approved this $98,202 bundle in closed session. And never told anyone.

The cover-up was blown when almost four months later the 2015 Provincial Sunshine List revealed the truth.

But you didn’t hear or read about it in the media.

Is it possible these increases passed without public knowledge should be investigate by police or a judicial inquiry?

Only guelphspeaks.ca took the trouble to compare the 2014 Sunshine figures with the 2015 report for these four senior staff recipients of public funds.

But it gets better.

Five months following the December 10 meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, gave her notice after some five years as Guelph’s CAO.

She stayed on the job until Derrick Thomson one of the four staff who received the secret increases, was repatriated following his earlier resignation and named CAO. Ms. Pappert left May 26, 2016

According to the 2016 Sunshine List, she received $263,000 for five months work. By comparison in 2014, she earned $219,000. These figures do not include taxable benefits

As editor and author of some of the blog posts critical of this cover-up I was sued by a DCAO. Expect more on this later.

Again, This information was only obtained from the 2016 Sunshine List. It has never been acknowledged by the city.

The Great Hydro giveaway

This is probably the greatest heist in the history of Guelph. Here’s where it we t wrong.

It was a dark and stormy night when the Strategies and Options committee appointed by council, in closed -session pulled the sale of Guelph Hydro off the table and commenced negotiations with Alectra Utilities to merge operations.

Early in October 2016, Mayor Guthrie announced an agreement in principle to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra. The Mayor said the merger would make Guelph more adaptable to the many technical changes in delivering power to the 55,000 Hydro customers served by Guelph Hydro.

Here we go again. 90 per cent of all negotiations leading up to the agreement were held in closed-sessions. In fact we civilians didn’t even know when the meetings were held or where.

When was the last time you received a financial statement from the city?

December 13 2016, the city council approved the merger by a 10 to 3 vote.

The classic railroad job

What did citizens get out of this deal? First, they are to receive $18.5 million composed of Guelph Hydro’s cash stash. It’s our own money. Second, the city will receive an unknown annual dividend of 4.36 per cent of only 60 per cent of Alectra Utilities profits.

The brand Guelph Hydro will be gone once approved by the Ontario Energy Board and the title will be transferred to Alectra Utilities.

What’s the Guelph Hydro Corporate title worth in today’s market? First, there is $228 million in poles, wires, substations, equipment and Hydro headquarters. Throw in the goodwill, no debt, established profitability and the real value is estimated to be $300 million.

Our Mayor denies that this deal — if it can be described as that – is not a giveaway.

Is this another case of corruption when 10 councillors fail to understand their fiduciary responsibility and what they voted for?

The good news is that the OEB will probably not hear the merger details for between six and 12 months. My wife and I have been granted intervener status when the hearing will be held along other citizens.

Guess this means that the issue will be a topic of discussion during the upcoming civic election. Ya think!

Or the Ford government will throw out the Wynne plan to amalgamate the small to medium sized municipally owned electricity distribution systems.

Is there any doubt about who really could benefit from this merger?

 

 

 

 

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