Monthly Archives: December 2011

The weekly media watch

A new feature of guelphspeaks.ca  Viewer submissions are invited.

                                    For the birds

It’s not often an editorial is for the birds, but the Mercury did it recently with its tome about moving the geese from Riverside Park when the New Year fireworks display takes place. The task has fallen on members of the sponsoring Rotary Club, that happy band of pyromaniacs, who are charged with shooing the birds away from the action. Just when you’re having so much fun entertaining the crowds, you have to play game warden and double as poo patroller. It’s a thankless task but someone has to do it. There will be a goose sale the following day

                                    How to lose an election

Letter writer David Starr in the Mercury admonishes council for ignoring the recorded vote in January 2011 in which Coun. Gloria Kovach was appointed for four years on the Guelph Police Services Board. Instead. the Gang of Eight Farbridge supporters on council ignored their own decision. They allowed Coun. Leanne Piper to run it up the flagpole and get herself appointed to the Police Board. Both votes, to dump Ms. Kovach and appoint Coun. Piper, were by an eight to five margin. Media Watch agrees with Mr. Starr that voters should remember this engineered event in 2013.

                                    A tirade against developers

You have to admire the guts of John McMurtry. His letter in the Mercury proclaims the city to be the best place in which to live in Canada. He dumps on developers as grasping to line their own pockets and don’t care about the impact on the city. John is one of some diehard citizens who don’t want the city to grow and change. They forget it was developers who built the city; it was elected officials who worked with developers over the years to make our city a great place to live. John, hang onto your principles because Guelph will enter the true golden age once the current administration is defeated in 2013. Count on it.

                                    Is Mayor Farbridge smart by half?

The Guelph Tribune editorializes that the Mayor is meeting head on the leaked report that the city is seen as anti-development and anti-business.  The Mayor has decided to have the council’s governance committee that she chairs, study the accusations. Brilliant! Get the people responsible to study why the accusations were made in the first place. Look inwardly, my dears. The truth lies at your feet. Talk about setting the fox among the chickens! The Trib sorta walked a fine line in the editorial. They are right stating the fallout might just be starting.

               Will that be Costco or hand wringing from the Left?

The Mercury wrote an editorial that was pure motherhood crafted not to offend anyone.  Using the term “locals” to describe the more than 120,000 permanent residents is presumptuous. It was a minority of avowed heritage zealots that were determined to save the convent (we know what happened there) and the Mitchell farmhouse. Well, one out of two isn’t bad. The heritage game was always a game of inches – or is that millemetres? The Mitchell house was taken down and is currently stored in a city yard on Victoria Street. If the heritage folks would like to take on the task of rebuilding it, now is the time with their leader, Leanne Piper, on council to take on that project. Where do I sign up for a Costco card?

                           It isn’t what you know but whom you know

In a letter in the Mercury, letter writer J. David McAuley, states he has never had a problem dealing with the Guelph city officials in more than 37 years. He further states he has served in some 200 Ontario municipalities and says working with Guelph officials is a pleasure. Is that why the two senior managers in the planning department have left? He adds that in Guelph, unlike in other communities, he deals with real people. Good heavens, I hope so! J. David is obviously experienced, but it’s a stretch to claim his relationship with city staff is comparable to kumbyah. When are the Farbridge’s coming over for dinner?

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Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner steps into the compost plant saga

Gord Miller is Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner (ECO) and he has lots of opinions. Appointed by the Legislature, Miller oversees a wide range of environmental concerns.

The one most important to Guelph is its handling of solid waste. Miller claims to be familiar with the city’s new $33 million composting facility and its start-up problems. He adds that new approaches to dealing with waste must be tested. And then he adds: That includes moving to a cart collection system instead of using plastic bags.

That move alone has been estimated to cost Guelph another $15 million. So, according to the ECO, the city is committed to spend $48 million for a system that still requires testing.

That’s really expensive testing.

The ECO is urging the McGuinty government to make waste management one of its top priorities in 2012. While a noble sentiment, Miller should be reminded of the Provincial government’s $17 billion deficit.

In praising Guelph for taking on the tough waste management problems, he adds: “Within their ability to do so.”

This is where the narrative goes off the rails. It’s alright for a provincial bureaucrat to praise a project costing $48 million un which he has no responsibility paying for it.

Aside from winning the lottery, this city is in no financial condition to be used as a garbage guinea pig for Queen’s Park’s appointed social engineer. We have enough of those around here.

After spending time on the ECO website, Miller’s workload and areas of responsibility takes him far from the Watson Road compost plant that he endorses.

Further, he should speak with officials of the Ministry of Environment charged with ensuring the plant meets specifications. These include stopping the offensive odours spreading across the nearby neighbourhoods. They may have differing views.

Let’s let the Public Advisory Committee do its work evaluating the problems with the plant. Meanwhile, Big Brother should keep his nose out of it.

Isn’t ego a wonderful thing?

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Another creative move brought to you by your city

It looks like the children in the Glenholm, Stone and Watson residential area will no longer have to put up with odours from the organics facility while waiting for the city bus as the city’s solution was to remove the bus stop. Another shot by the city to make things better for the community struggling with odour and land designation issues. What’s next … no snow removal, garbage pickup, shut off our hydro and gas services?

From the Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc

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Dan Mozier on the Farbridge Follies

 

Editor’s note: The following contains excerpts from a recent letter published in the Guelph media pointing out the shortcomings of the Farbridge administration. Mr. Mozier, a former city councillor, is part of a growing number of citizens alarmed and dissatisfied with the way the city is being managed.

 

One must believe that 2011 was not a great year for the Farbridge Follies. The former Farbridge campaign slogan on “putting Guelph back on track” became the year of memorable derailments.

Upon opening the “new and improved” $33 million compost plant and anxious to bask in its success, the Mayor quickly proclaimed that Guelph was back in its role as an “environmental leader”. Is that what this was about? Bragging rights?

Then the stink from the plant occurred and the Ministry of Environment (MOE) verified complaints of odours. The plant was ordered to stop receiving wet waste November 25 and the material was sent to a St. Thomas landfill.

Now there is nothing wrong with composting as a partial solution to processing wet waste. But the city communications staff stated the plant was in a “commissioning stage” and problems should be expected.

The MOE director for this area has denied that there was any provision for a “commissioning stage” prior to providing the Certificate of Approval for the plant.

Looks like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

City staff issues also escalated in 2011. The revolving door at city hall just kept turning. Gags were placed on several departures of key mid-level managers with financial details unobtainable.

While the city stated that it was protecting the privacy of Chief Financial Officer Margaret Neubaur, the facts are she was fired on the spot.  Her replacement lasted five days on the job before decamping.

Next was the case of Robert Walters a planning manager who threw in the towel after only five months on the job. In leaving, he released an independent consultant’s report identifying serious management issues with senior management and council. His boss Planning Chief James Riddell, who left to join the city staff in St Catharines followed him.

A case of bullying was forcing Coun. Bob Bell off the Non-Profit Housing Board because he asked staff for information. The Gang of Eight on Council interpreted the request as a conflict of interest.

Mr. Bell requested that staff compare the development of affordable housing by the public and private sector.  Seems like a reasonable request to me. Where exactly is the conflict of interest?

Bullying incident number two was the removal of Coun. Gloria Kovach from the Police Services Board. CTV reported: “Leanne Piper was behind the motion to remove Kovach from the position and then nominated herself for the job”.

Piper replied that it was unfortunate that the move is being characterized as personal but it’s not unusual for council to reconsider decisions including committee appointments. Unfortunately, Ms. Piper did not follow the procedural bylaw regarding a motion to reconsider a previous decision of council.

Regardless, not one member of the Gang of Eight even bothered to read the minutes that appointed Coun. Kovach for a four-year term on the Police Services Board. Those minutes showed that council voted unanimously for her appointment.

This episode amounts to the first act of the theatre of the absurd

2011 is Mayor Farbridge’s year of “annus horribilis.”

Dan Mozier

Guelph

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How the Agricultural Marketing Boards fix prices

Shopping recently we bought a 2-litre carton of lactose-free skim milk. It cost $5.89. I paid more than $5 for a pound of butter.

Comparing the price of four litres of milk to gasoline, milk costs $11.78 while the same amount of gasoline costs $5.16. Let’s try four litres of beer. Assuming a case of 24 costs $36, four litres costs about $11.50, slightly less than milk.

But then the breweries control the price of beer because they own the Beer Stores. In fairness, beer is heavily taxed. But then so is gasoline. But not dairy products.

Then, I checked the prices of cheese, and other milk derivitative products.  In the free-market economies, prices are lower as much as 50 to 75 per cent.

One comparison was milk–based products sold in the U.S. A similar sized carton of skim milk costs about $2.80. A pound of butter (unsalted) packaged in quarters, cost $2.58. Granted the market is 10 times that of Canadian markets and enjoys great economies of scale, but here we allow marketing boards to determine the price of product.

Basically, in Ontario and Quebec , the marketing boards own a supply management monopoly granted by Provincial governments. There is no consumer choice. It is the antithesis of our free market economy. It’s a system designed to protect the producer at the expense of the consumer.

This marketing system was established to prevent the importation of raw milk products into Ontario, even from other provinces. The free trade agreement, signed 23 years ago with the U.S., opened the door for the low-cost importation of milk products, but also chicken, beef and pork.

Imported U.S. frozen pizza’s have an advantage over Canadian fresh pizza producers who pay higher prices for their cheese made in Canada. That loses the intent of free markets and eschews free trade.

The powerful agricultural lobbies convinced the provincial government to set up specific marketing boards. This was to protect the producers of these products from the importation of lower priced foods.

Oh, they’ll claim that the system stabilizes prices and gives the producers a level of predictable income. It also insists on a measure of quality control, to protect consumers. But at what price?

No provincial political party will risk taking on the marketing boards because they fear losing the rural ridings in the province that, in 35 years, has consistently delivered rural ridings to the winning party.

Ironically, the Ontario growers of fruits and vegetables operate without a supply management system. Seems to work for them without a “big brother” marketing board controlling their marketing.

Consumers are paying a huge price to uphold the incomes of these vital food producers. It’s time for them to compete in the modern world of free markets.

All monopolies have the same weakness. They are basic food marketing dictators that prevent the consumer from making choices to lower their food costs.

These protections must stop. The cost to Ontario consumers of most of these products is obscene and unwarranted.

Wake up Ontario. It’s time to eliminate agricultural marketing boards and let competition dictate the prices of these basic food commodities.

Shopping recently we bought a 2-litre carton of lactose-free skim milk. It cost $5.89. I paid more than $5 for a pound of butter.

Comparing the price of four litres of milk to gasoline, milk costs $11.78 while the same amount of gasoline costs $5.16. Let’s try four litres of beer. Assuming a case of 24 costs $36, four litres costs about $11.50, slightly less than milk.

But then the breweries control the price of beer because they own the Beer Stores. In fairness, beer is heavily taxed. But then so is gasoline. But not dairy products.

Then, I checked the prices of cheese, and other milk derivitative products.  In the free-market economies, prices are lower as much as 50 to 75 per cent.

One comparison was milk–based products sold in the U.S. A similar sized carton of skim milk costs about $2.80. A pound of butter (unsalted) packaged in quarters, cost $2.58. Granted the market is 10 times that of Canadian markets and enjoys great economies of scale, but here we allow marketing boards to determine the price of product.

Basically, in Ontario and Quebec , the marketing boards own a supply management monopoly granted by Provincial governments. There is no consumer choice. It is the antithesis of our free market economy. It’s a system designed to protect the producer at the expense of the consumer.

This marketing system was established to prevent the importation of raw milk products into Ontario, even from other provinces. The free trade agreement, signed 23 years ago with the U.S., opened the door for the low-cost importation of milk products, but also chicken, beef and pork.

Imported U.S. frozen pizza’s have an advantage over Canadian fresh pizza producers who pay higher prices for their cheese made in Canada. That loses the intent of free markets and eschews free trade.

The powerful agricultural lobbies convinced the provincial government to set up specific marketing boards. This was to protect the producers of these products from the importation of lower priced foods.

Oh, they’ll claim that the system stabilizes prices and gives the producers a level of predictable income. It also insists on a measure of quality control, to protect consumers. But at what price?

No provincial political party will risk taking on the marketing boards because they fear losing the rural ridings in the province that, in 35 years, has consistently delivered rural ridings to the winning party.

Ironically, the Ontario growers of fruits and vegetables operate without a supply management system. Seems to work for them without a “big brother” marketing board controlling their marketing.

Consumers are paying a huge price to uphold the incomes of these vital food producers. It’s time for them to compete in the modern world of free markets.

All monopolies have the same weakness. They are basic food marketing dictators that prevent the consumer from making choices to lower their food costs.

These protections must stop. The cost to Ontario consumers of most of these products is obscene and unwarranted.

Wake up Ontario. It’s time to eliminate agricultural marketing boards and let competition dictate the prices of these basic food commodities.

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The death of trust in Guelph politics

Looking back at the 2006 election campaign in which Karen Farbridge’s favourite talking point was “putting Guelph back on track”. She also emphasized that transparency and public input would be hallmarks of her administration.

Most voters liked what they heard.

The truth evolved that the Farbridge administration does not operate in a transparent fashion. Too much of the city’s business is conducted behind closed doors before regular council meetings. The secret “pink sheets” directing the council meeting agenda are distributed to councillors before each meeting. Sandwiches are consumed during closed-door deliberations to sharpen the party line.

Truth left this administration some time ago. Hired gun communicators spin the message from City Hall to sooth the madding crowd from getting antsy. Statements are often flabby, filled with omissions, sometimes incoherent and always spouting the Farbridge party line.

It is mindful of Alfred P. Neumann of Mad magazine fame: “What me worry?”

If one pays attention to the City Hall handouts, you would believe that Guelph is the paradise capital of Canada.

Flash! It isn’t and the tactics of this administration contribute to a false portrait that has closed off growth of business, stifled opposing comment, mismanaged finances and created an atmosphere of dysfunction among city staff.

It took only five years for transparency and trust to die in City Hall.

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Guelphspeaks reaches record number of daily viewers

It seems more and more people are consistently logging into guelphspeaks.ca for the latest news and commentary about what’s happening in their city.

This is indeed gratifying. The intent was always give all citizens the opportunity to contribute to the website either through a commentary or specific point of view. There has been a growing response to making guelphspeaks.ca the modern Internet access to express your views and enjoy the content.

Guelphspeaks.ca is the people’s website. While editor Gerry Barker reserves the right to edit submissions, the point of the exercise is to deliver varied commentary on current information based on facts.

Shy about writing a submission? Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a writer or journalist to contribute to guelphspeaks.ca. The editor will work with you so that your views represent your true feelings.

Many readers, I like to call them guelphspeaks.ca spotters, have provided key information that has made guelphspeaks.ca the most read and followed of any blog in the city, every day, seven days a week.

So Guelph, it’s your website. Join in and make your voice heard. Welcome to the fastest growing electronic voice in the area.

You won’t pay a subscription, read news that is a day late or advertisements. What you will read is fair commentary, with posts published almost daily that are not beholden to any corporate or municipal entity.

Submissions should be sent to gerrybarker76@gmail.com. Comments can be submitted directly to the website.

Guelphspeaks is yours, help yourself.

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