- For viewers who don’t read Macleans, there is not enough space to describe how, across the country, our fog-bound, greedy officials make dumb decisions spending your money willfully supporting the most specious of proposals.
One of my favourites was spending by Ottawa to build seven chalets along the Rideau Canal, at a cost of $750,000 each to accommodate skaters in winter. Average house costs in the city are just $360,000.
I can report reading the report is a revealing and tiring exercise.
So then look at the situation in Guelph, where we have a substantial portfolio of home-grown stupidity by our council and staff.
Let me count the ways.
* My favourite was the nameless city staffer who promoted the idea of selling Guelph’s streetlights to Guelph Hydro. That’s like borrowing from yourself. The taxpayers own Guelph Hydro. It was a stupid proposal designed to create fresh capital to a council starved for money. That was shifting the debt to another city agency. Try doing that at home.
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* Picking a fight with partners in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit. The health board approved a $17 million headquarters on Stone Road and a satellite office in Orangeville. Guelph’s share was mandated to be $10 million.
Mayor Farbridge and her supporters on council decided to challenge the proposal by first withdrawing its representatives from the public health board and then challenging the decision in the courts. The city lost. The cost to taxpayers for this is an unbudgeted $10 million. Why can’t our council get along with their partners?
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* Using $2 million of stimulus money to install bicycle lanes on Stone Road. The other stupid use of stimulus cash was paying $750,000 for a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre.
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* Then along came the stupid downtown pissoir experiment. Councillor Ian Findlay and Mike Salisbury travelled to Edmonton to check out how that city handles the public calls of nature. The result of Guelph’s six week temporary pissoir experiment was collecting more than 2,000 litres of male urine. It didn’t fix the problem.
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* Spending $300,000 to a consultant to rearrange the Guelph Transit routes to be more efficient and of service to the public. When started January 1st, the system was a disaster. Passengers complained of route changes, wait times and missed transfers. But hey! The buses were given new logos and the drivers took the heat from passengers. Is that any way to run a railroad, er transit service?
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* The granddaddy of stupidity was spending $33 million on a wet waste composting plant and then being told by the Ministry of Environment that they would not allow plastic bags to be used at the facility. Instead, council agreed, based on a staff recommendation, that another $15 million be spent on a green bin system plus automated trucks to pick the bins up.
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* For the past five years, the Farbridge Council has used reserve funds to prop up ambitious projects and keep the annual tax rate increases in the 3.5 per cent area. The chickens came home to roost recently when city staff told council there was not an evident pool of money to support the city’s share of a proposed affordable housing project. If the staff doesn’t know where the funding comes from how can such a program even be considered?
Coun. Bob Bell who attended the county meeting to discuss the project, wished there was $2.5 million in the city’s affordable housing reserve fund but said, “ we haven’t put any money in there for about three years.”
So, when Coun. Leanne Piper brags that the city has $84 million in reserves, maybe she should drill down and find out where and how much there is in the reserves.
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Finally, the stupidity prize goes to Mayor Farbridge who bypassed her own council bylaws and allowed Coun. Leanne Piper to engineer a coup that saw Coun. Gloria Kovach stripped of her police services post. Then she took the job for herself. Her seven fellow travelers on council supported both moves, 8 to 5.