Monthly Archives: June 2012

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Posted June 26, 2012

Outline for a screen play titled: “As the Guelph turns.”

HE: Wow! Is the Mayor ever mad.

SHE: (Sigh), what is it about now?

HE: Seems she heard there was some laughter by staffers over the Mayor’s plan to build a municipal fish hatchery behind the Sleeman Centre as part of the new downtown strategic plan.

SHE: That’s a funny place to have a fish hatchery. There’s no water there. And it’s pretty noisy in the winter.

HE: the story is that staff wanted to put it behind Angel’s deli on Wellington Street. You have to agree it is a little closer to water.

SHE: Yeah, then she could walk upon the water while she eats a smoked meat sandwich. Yum!

HE: You got it! That’s what the staff is laughing about behind her back.

SHE: About what? The walking on the water bit or the pastrami sandwich? This is a joke, right?

HE: Well, the story goes that the Mayor put her ace investigator on the case, the chief administrative officer,, to ferret out the jolly staffers who are spreading the story.

SHE: At least we now know that the Mayor can walk upon the water and chew on a sandwich at the same time…kind of like multi-tasking in a weird way, don’t you think?

HE: It’s probably part of her new 10-year strategic plan. It is described as a world class fish hatchery that will attract “tousands and tousands, maybe even a hundred,”remember it’s an old Newfie expression. You know it’ll get about as much attendance as the Civic Museum.

SHE: I think it’s kind of cute. I can see the headline tomorrow: “ Mayor walks upon water, staff doubles over in laughter.”

HE: Nah, don’t think the Mercury will run it. It’s too, too unbelievable.

SHE: Oh! Ye of little faith. What will we do for entertainment around here? Dodge the bicyclists careering down Norfolk Street? Or check out the salamanders at the Hanlon Business Park? We can always watch them dig up Speedvale for the third time.

HE: Sarcasm will get you everywhere. I’m going to jump in the car with my favourite book and read it in the Baker Street parking lot where the new downtown library is supposed to be built. The excitement of it all sends shivers down my spine.

SHE: Speaking of shivers, did you know it costs more than a million bucks a year to maintain the ice rink in front of city hall?

HE: Really! I heard the new compost plant still isn’t working. Guess our wet garbage is still going into landfill.

SHE:  My aunt Millie called to complain about these big new bins they want us to use instead of plastic bags. She said she can’t manage getting her bit of garbage to the curb, especially in winter.

HE: Well, they are providing three sizes of bins.

SHE: Honey, aunt Millie is in a wheelchair. What’s she supposed to do, put a motor on the bin and drive it to the curb?

HE: Maybe she can get a handy man.

SHE: She wishes!

HE: Is this a great city or what?

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Is this a contract with the devil?

Posted June 23, 2012

Janet Laird, Executive director of Planning, and Building, Engineering and Environment informed Ward 1 Coun. Jim Furfaro of the cost of the 900 tonnes of wet waste from Hamilton.

You remember the stuff had to come from Hamilton, why?

Doesn’t Guelph have enough of the wet waste to feed the operational test to begin in July? Guelph’s wet waste collected in plastic bags is a no-no.

Consider that the amount of wet waste coming from Waterloo also does not meet the feedstock requirement for the crucial test. The test will determine if the plant meets the capacity level contained in the contract.

So, here’s how it works. AIM Environmental, general contractor Maple Reinders’ division, in charge of negotiating supply contracts, is paid $79 a tonne to deliver the Hamilton waste to the compost plant. However, the real cost is a $60 per tonne tipping fee paid to the city.

So the cost of this test, experiment, or whatever, to the city is $17,100.

Why is the city paying anything to confirm the plant is meeting its operating projections according to the contract? It is up to the contractor to deliver a plant that meets the terms of the contract.

Apparently not, as this break-in period has lasted 10 months.

To put it in plain terms, the cost of carrying a $33 million project is $1,650,000 per year at five per cent.  During the time this plant has not performed since last September it has cost an estimated $1,370,500 in interest.

Are we getting nickel and dimed because the contract to build the plant was mishandled and oversight ignored?

The reasons for bringing waste from Hamilton for this test is unclear.

It fits into the murky world of the real operating costs of this $33 million project. The city has steadfastly refused to disclose the operating costs of the plant once it is fully operational.

It has been estimated the real cost of operating the plant is $340 a tonne. That’s a long way from $79 a tonne for tipping fees.

Then Ms. Laird revealed the terms of the contract to receive wet waste from the City of Waterloo.

The contract called for Waterloo to deliver 20,000 tonnes of material to the plant.

AIM, the general contractors sales arm, negotiated the deal and it contains a “put or pay” clause. This requires Waterloo to pay for 20,000 tonnes whether they use it or not.

Here’s the stickler. Waterloo is only able to contribute 10,000 tonnes currently. The “put or pay” clause doesn’t kick in until next year.  It seems the supply of feedstock is uncertain and the City of Guelph must guarantee the required flow of wet waste to the plant.

And that supply contract is held by AIM Environmental, not the city.

Here’s the kicker:  The city is contractually obligated to supply adequate tonnage so the plant can operate at full capacity. And to whom are they obligated? Aim Environmental, the subsidiary of Maple Reinders and operators of the compost plant..

It appears that Maple Reinders has a grip on the compost plant that taxpayers own but cannot control.

It’s time for the city to reveal all the terms and conditions of this multi-corporation waste management contract. Burying the details among a select group of elected and non-elected officials is close to demanding an independent inquiry.

What are the plans to dispose of the tonnes of composted material the plant is supposed to manufacture?

Here’s a suggestion. When the automated waste pick-up truck comes down the street emptying the curbside bins, another truck follows and fills the bins up with fresh compost.

Soon Guelph would be the most composted city in the world. Another first!

Miz Laird, you have some ‘splainin’ to do.

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Should city staff’s free parking perk end?

Posted June 21, 2012

It was reported in the KW Record this week that the Region of Waterloo is cancelling free parking for its 1,050 employees..

This is a gnarly issue that has plagued Guelph for more than a year. City staffers, some 1,300 of them receive free parking as a perk, one of 24 freebies enjoyed by city employees..

Last year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) declared the parking perk was a taxable benefit. Not admitting any liability, the city sent more than $450,000 to the CRA, but challenged the ruling.

It appears that appeal has not been settled but the amount owing is increasing daily.

Currently, the city does not deduct the free parking benefit when income taxes are withheld from the employee’s pay cheque.

Instead, the city is gambling the CRA will agree that the benefit is not taxable.

The chance of this happening is akin to the sun entering total permanent eclipse.

Regardless, the taxpayers who have already ponyed up the $450,000, could be stuck with an even greater amount if the city loses the appeal.

Other municipalities have agreed that employee free parking is a taxable benefit that the employee must pay.

This is yet another example of mushroom politics practiced by the Mayor and her dominant majority of seven supporters on council who vote in a bloc.

The people who pay the bills are left in the dark, again.

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There they go again, putting the cart before the horse

Posted June 20, 2012

First. they built a $33 million wet waste composting plant that has yet to reach operation.

Then they announced the residents would start using carts, bins, whatever current bureaucratic nomenclature calls them, to collect their waste instead of the three-bag plastic bag system.

Now the planning and building, engineering and environment committee of Council has amended the bylaw stating the bins may be stored in any exterior location except in the front yard where they must be located adjacent to a building or fence.

Maybe you could put your bins on the front lawn and plant a flower garden around them.

Coun. Bob Bell stated the obvious that row-housing residents should not be forced to store their bins in front of the home. Logic would dictate there is a front and a back of a connected row house and no easy access to the rear to bring the bins around to the front curb.

So there you have it.

The city builds a compost plant that isn’t working after eight months of testing. The province informs the city that wet waste in plastic bags cannot be delivered to the plant. Solution, upgrade the entire waste collection system costing more than $15 million buying bins/carts for every home and business and special trucks to pick the containers up.

Now they figure out that many homes in the city cannot store the big bins due to a lack of garage or front yard space.

Was this huge project really thought out before it was executed?

Citizens are waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Did they consider moving the heavy bins to the curb in winter when snowfall hits the city or temperatures drop?

What about seniors? Can they cope with manhandling large bins to the roadside?

What about vermin getting into the bins and spreading the contents?

How are odours controlled if bins are stored inside?

What happens to those folks who are physically unable to get the bins to the curb?

How is vandalism going to be controlled?

Did anyone on Janet Laird’s staff bring these matters up before the contract was executed?

You can take great comfort in the fatuous statement by committee chairperson Coun. Leanne Piper: “I have great confidence the citizens of Guelph will be great neighbours.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

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The myths surrounding Ronald Reagan

Preamble

A friend of mine publishes the Longboat Key News in Sarasota, Florida. He sent me a column written by Tom Burgum stating the President of the United States was “superfluous”  leading the country. Obviously the column is laced with Republican talking points. The piece included the usual reverent references to former President Ronald Reagan who is lionized today by elements in the Republican Party. Gerry Barker

Posted June 19, 2012

Columnist Tom Burgum reached back to Ronald Reagan to compare the great communicator to President Barak Obama, who he states is “superfluous.”

Republicans keep talking about Reagan as the icon of the party. He was instrumental in stoking the U.S. industrial military complex with billions and left office with the biggest deficit in the nation’s peacetime history. He also raised taxes on the rich to 39 percent, a figure that present day GOP adherents refuse to accept.

That deficit was a fiscal chain around the neck of his successor George H.W. Bush who was defeated after one term by Democrat Bill Clinton. Bush 41 is a decent man, veteran and accomplished businessman. Yet his own party failed to support him for re-election.

Can Mr. Burgum possibly equate the behaviour of the present Congress with Congressional cooperation enjoyed by Ronald Reagan 22 years ago?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in 2009 that his goal was to defeat President Obama regardless of the effect on the American people. The House of Representatives Republican majority elected in 2010, has steadfastly refused to pass the Obama jobs bill and almost took the nation to default by refusing to extend the debt limit last summer.

Then they again threatened in December to shut the government down by denying passing critical spending bills, but blinked in the end.

Is this the spirit purveyed in the Reagan years? I think not.

Like his opponent, the President is entitled to attend fund-raisers to support his bid for a second term. Unlike his opponent, he has a country to run. Among a number of accomplishments, he has reversed the American reputation of being seen as a militaristic bully to one that is starting to be admired.

He has been direct and forceful in seeking out and killing Al Qaeda leaders including Osama Bin Laden.  He has removed U.S. forces from Iraq and is determined to reduce the military budget that has ballooned, due to foreign combat.

Obama is a man of substance and dedicated to bringing America out of the global economic collapse, created by his predecessor’s administration.

Now we have Mitt Romney advocating a fuzzy economic program that is mainly a repeat of the policies of former President George W. Bush. Do you really believe that is the solution to America’s economic condition?

Really Mr. Borgum. “Superfluous?” Mr. Obama is a patriot and he is dedicated to reviving a politically punch drunk America.

“Superfluous” more appropriately describes the GOP dominated House of Representatives whose obstructionist tactics have contributed little to pulling the U.S. out of the recession.

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Liz Sandals, tell us it’s not true

Posted June 19, 2012

I was sent an email the other day about a Toronto doctor saying the McGuinty budget includes a dangerous provision. It is one that forces anyone 75 and older to submit to Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan (OHIP) “public ethics committees” before being treated.

If true, “da preem” can start planning his retirement.

appears ludicrous that our aging population would be forced to submit to some nameless committee that meets twice a week in order to receive OHIP benefits. Imagine a senior whose physician has ordered a series of tests, presenting his or her medical treatment requirement to a group of stony-faced bureaucrats.

The stress alone would shorten their life span.

But wait? Supposing this report is untrue. Supposing the doctor, who claims it to be true, is an agent provocateur of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).  You will recall there is a pitched battle going on between the Provincial Health Ministry and the doctors.

A lot of propaganda has been exchanged between the parties. Separating the truth from the hyperbole remains a daunting task for the taxpayers who pay the bills.

The language of the bureaucracy defeats understanding the aspects of the squabble. The result is it spreads confusion and misunderstanding together creating distrust on the part of Ontario’s health services consumers.

This is unlike any trade union dispute.

The protagonists are highly trained professionals who are also highly paid for their services.

That’s as it should be because everyone in the country is entitled to healthcare. So states the Canada Health Act that has been around for almost 50 years. The result is that Canadians are collectively among the healthiest in the world.

So why are consumers entitled to health treatments being threatened with drastic measures that go beyond reasonable rationing of those services?

Most consumer/patients are tolerant of wait times and minor inconveniences.

Some abuse the system through over-use of emergency services for treatment of minor ailments.

But subjecting seniors, almost 30 per cent of the population of Ontario, to have treatment approved by so-called ethics committees, is not only an affront to seniors but also a breach of the Canada Health Act.

Ontario’s doctors are quasi civil servants. They are paid from the public pot and the McGuinty government in the past nine years has been generous in dealing with the doctors.

But like many Ontarians who are feeling the effects of reduced pay and benefits due to the economic conditions, the provincial government has to tighten its belt. The budget document reflects that necessary reduction in spending.

The argument may be made that the McGuinty government has mismanaged the province’s economy in such a way that revenues are not meeting expenditures.

Nine years in power can create a malaise, a softening of resolve. This minority government is tired and overdue for a change.

Meanwhile the doctors should get back to the table and bargain in good faith. The government should look for other avenues to reduce or cut costs in order to maintain our cherished public health system.

 

 

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Turkeys coming home to roost?

Why was I not surprised to hear a news item on the local radio station that Guelph was paying Hamilton to  ship their green bag compostables to Guelph? Apparently, Guelph doesn’t have sufficient green bag volume to commission the new wet-dry facility.

The reason being given for this waste of money is that the projected compost material contracted from Waterloo, which was touted as a cornerstone to  ensure the plant viability, is less than planned. Guelph had the opportunity to contract with Hamilton for green bag composting but in a misguided ego trip decided to  build its own facility.

It would appear that the numerically and financially illiterate mayor and her merry band of tax and spend councilors are seeing the turkeys come home to roost.

Wait until the less than hoped for efficiencies come to roost when the 3 bin waste collection comes on stream.

Another turkey circling city hall.

The whole $50 million waste management (that’s an oxymoron if there ever was one) plan will be recognized as a white elephant with the Guelph taxpayers being on the hook for it. What a legacy!

Glen N. Tolhurst

Editor’s note: guelphspeaks welcomes contributions from viewers. Make your voice seen   and heard. Be a Guelph speaker. Send your commentary for publication to: gerrybarker76@gmail.com

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