Monthly Archives: September 2012

Has Ontario turned its doctors into bounty hunters?

Posted September 27, 2012

It was reported in the Toronto Star that Ontario doctors are paid $36.25 by the Ministry of Transportation for each driver they report as being unfit to drive.

These are the same doctors who are currently locked into a dispute with the province regarding their pay packages.

A study conducted by Dr. Donald Redelmeier, of the Institute for Clinical Evaluation Sciences, proclaimed, “the reduction in risk was immediate, substantial and sustained.”

There is no question about getting unfit drivers off the roads. There is a question of how it is done. Paying doctors to blow the whistle is not one of them.

Let’s look at a typical scenario. An elderly lady comes into the doctor’s office for treatment of an unrelated matter. The doctor is faced with a dilemma because he feels she should not be driving. So he reports her and receives a cheque for $36.25. The trouble is, he has no knowledge of her driving ability including reaction time, safety habits or record.

Under this system she loses her licence.

The Ministry of Transportation (MOT) is responsible for the licensing of Ontario’s drivers. Its own counselors inform those taking the elderly driver (EDL) classes and tests, that the program has markedly reduced accidents involving seniors. So much so that the age group causing the greatest number of accidents involving death and injury, are the under-25 licence holders.

Where the MOT falls down is failing to test the individual driver’s ability to drive a vehicle. This means that reaction time should be measured along with the physical abilities. The MOT already has a system for testing the eyesight of EDL drivers backed up by optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Any driver involved in an accident or charged with a serious offense under the Highway Traffic Act should be tested by the MOT.

Using driver training devices that test an operator’s ability to function using actual road travel on a screen, allows the MOT counselor to get a complete analysis of the candidate’s ability to drive.

Despite The Star’s editorial stating, “You don’t have to be old or ailing to be a bad driver.” It continues to go on to give several examples of horrific accidents involving old people, only one of which occurred in Ontario.

There’s something sleazy and Orwellian about this process of elimination. It rocks the doctor/patient relationship and excuses the MOT from its primary licensing responsibility.

Of course bad drivers should be taken off the road, regardless of their age.

But place that decision where it belongs: The Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

 

 

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Potpourri – a collection of events and comments

Posted September 27, 2012

The chickens are coming home to roost

When the University of Guelph announces it faces a budget shortfall over four years of $34 million, you know that the city is not far behind the economic squeeze of rising costs and lower revenues.

Some of this is due to unbridled ideological spending. The jig is up when the city staff recommends a 8.5 per cent property tax increase for 2013. When Coun. Guthrie challenges the staff for complaining about invoking a 3 per cent plan, he gets lambasted by Coun. Ian Findlay who suggests it’s a transgression that calls for the Integrity Commissioner to adjudicate.

He’s kidding, right?

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Police crack down on U of G homecoming illegal drinking

It’s comforting to realize that Guelph Police are doing a great job in civilizing the rowdiness of homecoming weekend.  Similarly, the current efforts to curb excessive behaviour downtown, appears to be resolving some of the issues that made the area a hellhole on weekends.

The irony is the University still closes its pubs on weekends. That forces students to express their party animal instincts on the public streets of Guelph.

The effort of the police department is stretching resources to the limit. Busting up the neighbourhood “Keggers” those who sell beer from garages, often in single-family areas, is great police work.

Kudos to Chief Larkin, his officers and by-law enforcement officers.

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City public relations machine working overtime

The bins are coming! The bins are coming! The bins are coming!  This is Guelph 2012 not Lexington 1775. For $15 million the public deserves better. Instead of committing to this costly system, there were other options. Also would it not have made sense to test this system to determine if it warranted the huge expenditure?

Personally, I cannot understand why the city sent us a “bin how to” brochure package when it refuses to pick up our waste. There are areas in the city that pay for waste pick-up through their taxes but don’t get the service.

But we still get the propaganda.

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Things are not going well on the legal front

Case One: The effort by the city legal staff to mediate the $19 million dispute between the city and Urbacon Buildings Group has foundered. After two days of testimony before a retired judge acting as private mediator, the exercise failed. In January 2013, the case will go to civil court for judgment. There is a slim chance a settlement can still be reached, but after two days of testimony it is unlikely.

Case Two: The Ontario Municipal Board hearing, heard from the University of Guelph’s chief financial officer, that the proposed Abode Varsity Living proposal was competition to the University’s housing plan. Further he testified that the university cannot fill its some 5,300 on-campus residences.

So let’s get this straight: the University cannot find enough students to fill its accommodation but wants to buy the Abode site to create more housing for female students. What in heck has this to do with alleged improper planning? The city staff convinced council to oppose the proposed twin-tower development, as it was not a fit for the neighbourhood. Having a motel there is okay, it appears.

Do you get the feeling this has nothing to do with planning but a lot to do with what the university wants?

As manager of U of G residences, is Coun. Leanne Piper in the thick of all this?

Case Three: The Ontario Ministry of Labour is suing the city as a result of the washroom wall that collapsed killing a 14-year-old student. This is a messy business. The city has settled with the family. The architect and engineer have both been acquitted of liability. The Ministry is appealing the judge’s decision in that case.

The basis of the Ministry’s suit is that the city was negligent in maintaining the washroom where the death occurred. Judgment is this case is expected in December.

These are just three legal cases that the taxpayers must cover.  The result can be devastating to the city-operating budget.

It’s your money.

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What are the costs that are buried in the multi-page city annual budget that the average taxpayer does not receive or is unable to digest?

What are the operating costs of the Sleeman Centre and River Run theatre?

What is the total of outside consulting fees paid by the city in 2011?

How much does it cost to operate the civic museum and McRae House?

How much has the city spent developing the Hanlon Business Park?

What is the cost of operating the $34 million compost plant?

These are just some of the many questions that taxpayers have the right to know.

Unfortunately, this administration is expert at lying by omission, failing to communicate facts to the public, producing a financial statement that the public cannot understand, holding secret meetings with the Farbridge supporters without public exposure.

This last critique is that the five members of council who are not part of the Mayor’s majority are not included in these meetings. It is also unlawful under the Ontario Municipal Act.

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Why is the Farbridge administration afraid of Cam Guthrie?

The arguments range far and wide. He’s too young. He’s inexperienced. He speaks before his brain starts working.

All ill-informed and cruel descriptions of a councillor who understands how this city has been mismanaged for six years. He knows now what has happened and how it must be fixed. But the Farbridge majority collective discredit him every chance they get.

Why? Because they see him as the catalyst that will awake the citizens to take another course for reform, responsibility and resolve for change.

Whether it’s Cam Guthrie or a tidal wave of rejection of this majority dictatorship, remains to be seen in 2014.

But the tsunami of rejection is gathering.

And the Farbridge controlled administration understands this already.

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This time you’ve gone too far, department

Posted September 24, 2012

Coun. Ian Findlay represents Ward Two and has gotten on his high horse over fellow Coun. Cam Guthrie’s comments on his blog about the relationship with the civic staff and council. Guthrie made his comments during an open council meeting, so the blog content was in the public domain.

It appears that Findlay is the designated hitter for the Farbridge dominated council who apparently see Guthrie as a threat to their tightly-wound world of controlling the message.

Indeed, Findlay writes a blog himself for Ward Two in which he pompously declares: “It does not matter whether you are in education, healthcare, media, business or government, you do not publicly criticize subordinates.”

Mr. Findlay, did you doze off at the public meeting where Guthrie made his legitimate points about the 8.5 per cent tax increase that staff wanted to inflict, not only on Guthrie’s constituents , but yours as well?

The very point he was trying to make is that the Chief Administrative Office Ann Pappert’s comments about council’s directive to bring in a three percent proposal was inappropriate when she refers to it as a” regressive decision” and not “palatable”.

Mr. Findlay, you’ve been a councillor for almost six years. Your job is to serve your constituents. It is not to threaten a fellow councillor with some form of sedition or breaking council’s code of conduct.

To suggest that this is a matter for the Integrity Commissioner borders on the highest form of pettiness that is unbecoming of a member of council.

Do you really want to bring Mr. Swayze back to judge whether you and your fellow Farbridge cohorts are right in condemning a fellow councillor who is doing his job questioning the staff?

The last session with the part-time Integrity Commissioner cost the taxpayers some $10,000 and turned out to be a wasted exercise.

Under our system of government, city staff is not immune to criticism, especially when they step over the line.

With respect, I suggest that you start representing the interests of the people who elected you and protect their interests and not the staff who they employ.

Have a nice day.

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How the staff views environmental sustainability

A Four Part Series

Note to readers: This is the fourth part of a special guelphspeaks exclusive series of the state of the city and the many unanswered questions that taxpayers should be asking.  As usual, guelphspeaks urges all viewers to tell their friends and family to follow the blog that works to keep citizens aware of how their city works. No smoke and mirrors, just the unvarnished commentary and facts.

Part Four

                  The staff wags its finger

Posted September 22, 1012

Why does Ann Pappert, city CAO, complain about a council directive to keep the 2013 property tax increase to three per cent calling it a “regressive decision”?

Why does the staff warn that services will be reduced if they are required to maintain the council proposed 3 per cent tax increase?

Why does staff believe it is sustainable to insist on an 8.5 per cent property tax increase in 2013?

Why is it going to cost an additional $15 million next year just to maintain the level of services available today?

Why is it that maintaining staff including salaries, wages and benefits, cost 89 per cent of the city’s $174 million operating budget?

When the population of Guelph, during the past six years, has grown by some 3,500 according to Statistics Canada, why was it necessary to increase staff by 358 fulltime equivalent employees in that same time frame?

What is the cost of the long-term taxpayer-funded pension and benefits commitments to these employees in the next 10 years?

What is the problem with staff operations that an outside consultant describes as dysfunctional?

Why is staff morale low?

When Mayor Farbridge and her cohorts were elected in 2006, did the voters understand what she meant by putting Guelph back of track?

Why are downtown condo developers getting multi-year tax breaks and subsidies?

So many questions and so few answers.

This is your city and you are entitled to know how it is being managed. Unfortunately, many of the questions posed in the four part series will never be answered by this administration. The true answers can be embarrassing but citizens are entitled to the answers as it is in the public interest.

Stay turned to guelphspeaks as we endevour to seek and report the truth. Your comments and submissions are always welcome. After all this is the people’s blog. There are no commercial sponsors, no ties to any political party, no outside interests to influence or change the content.

Ask your friends and family to check out guelphspeaks. People working for the future of Guelph.

Contact the editor,  gerrybarker76@gmail.com

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How the city staff views environmental sustainability

A Four Part Series

Note to readers: This is the fourth part of a special guelphspeaks exclusive series of the state of the city and the many unanswered questions that taxpayers should be asking.  As usual, guelphspeaks urges all viewers to tell their friends and family to follow the blog that works to keep citizens aware of how their city works. No smoke and mirrors, just the unvarnished commentary and facts.

Part Four

The staff wags its finger

Posted September 22, 1012

Why does Ann Pappert, city CAO, complain about a council directive to keep the 2013 property tax increase to three per cent calling it a “regressive decision”?

Why does the staff threaten to cut services if they are required to maintain the council proposed 3 per cent tax increase?

Why does staff believe it is sustainable to insist on an 8.5 per cent property tax increase in 2013?

Why is it going to cost an additional $15 million next year just to maintain the level of services available today?

Why is it that maintaining staff including salaries, wages and benefits, cost 89 per cent of the city’s $174 million operating budget?

When the population of Guelph, during the past six years, has grown by some 3,500 according to Statistics Canada, why was it necessary to increase staff by 358 fulltime equivalent employees in that same time frame?

What is the cost of the long-term taxpayer-funded pension and benefits commitments to these employees in the next 25 years?

What is the problem with staff operations that an outside consultant describes as dysfunctional?

Why is staff morale low?

When Mayor Farbridge and her cohorts were elected in 2006, did the voters understand what she meant by putting Guelph back of track?

Why are downtown condo developers getting multi-year tax breaks and subsidies?

So many questions and so few answers.

This is your city and you are entitled to know how it is being managed. Unfortunately, many of the questions posed in the four part series will never be answered by this administration. The true answers can be embarrassing but citizens are entitled to the answers as it is in the public interest.

Stay tuned to guelphspeaks as we endevour to seek and report the truth. Your comments and submissions are always welcome. After all this is the people’s blog. There are no commercial sponsors, no ties to any political party, no outside interests to influence or change the content.

Invite your friends and family to check out guelphspeaks.ca — people working for the future of Guelph.

Contact the editor,  gerrybarker76@gmail.com

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The murky management of Guelph’s sewage sludge

A Four Part Series

Note to readers: This is the third part of a special guelphspeaks exclusive series of the state of the city and the many unanswered questions that taxpayers should be asking.  As usual, guelphspeaks urges all viewers to tell their friends and family to follow the blog that works to keep citizens aware of how their city works. No smoke and mirrors, just the unvarnished commentary and facts.

Part Three

                Sewage treatment saga

Posted September 21, 2012

Why spend an estimated $20 million to build two stainless steel glass-lined storage silos for collecting processed sewage sludge, most of which is currently going into landfill sites?

Has the 2011 request for proposal (RFP) to build the storage tanks been completed and a contract awarded?

Has the storage tank construction begun at the wastewater treatment plant?

How is this project being financed?

What are the terms of the contract with Lystek, the human waste fertilizer company based in Cambridge, to take Guelph’s sewage sludge and convert it to liquid to be spread on agricultural lands?

Does Lystek’ system infuse dewatered sewage sludge with raw sewage from porta-pottys, septic systems and aircraft toilets to liquify for distribution?

What are the dangers to residents of consuming food products grown on lands fertilized with human waste?

Are consumers warned of potential dangers of foods grown on lands fertilized with human waste?

Why spend more money to turn human waste into fertilizer when experiments with the Lystek system in the past five years has resulted in utilizing only 15 per cent of the sewage plant output?

Are the storage silos going to store sewer sludge from other municipalities?

Why is 85 per cent of Guelph’s sewage sludge being transported to three different landfill sites in Ontario and the U.S.?

Is the plan to stop transferring the material to landfills?

Why hasn’t the city informed the public in clear terms what the plan is to dispose of sewage sludge?

When staff is questioned, why is there an embargo on revealing sewage waste plans?

What is the position of the federal and provincial health and environmental authorities in respect to using human waste as agriculture fertilizer?

              Stimulus projects

Why spend federal/provincial infrastructure stimulus funding on bicycle lanes, Sleeman centre time clock?

Why was it necessary to call the $30 million note with Guelph Hydro to finance stimulus projects?

Did the city meet the federal/provincial stimulus completion deadlines in order to obtain the qualifying grants?

If not, were taxpayers forced to pay additional funds to complete the stimulus projects?

Are all the approved stimulus projects completed?

If not, what projects remain to be completed?

Would it be a good idea to inform taxpayers of the status of these projects that have disrupted the city for some three years?

Tomorrow, September 22, the fourth part of this series discusses the staff’s response to a council directive to maintain a three per cent 2013 property tax increase.

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How Council turned Guelph into the lab-rat of sustainability

 A Four Part Series

Note to readers: This is the second part of a special guelphspeaks exclusive series of the state of the city and the many unanswered questions that taxpayers should be asking.  As usual, guelphspeaks urges all viewers to tell their friends and family to follow the blog that works to keep citizens aware of how their city works. No smoke and mirrors, just the unvarnished commentary and facts.

 

Part Two

Posted September 20, 2012

In six years, city council, dominated by Mayor Karen Farbridge and her majority cadre of environmentalists and heritage supporters , has increased city debt, property tax revenues, user fees and annual budgets. They’ve done it to accommodate its unsustainable drive to turn the city into the waste reduction, recycling and reusable capital of Canada.

And they’ve done it on the backs of we taxpayers.

Some $100 million has been spent or will be spent on projects all of which have failed to meet expectations or predictable results.

Here are Some questions that need answers:

            The Watson Road organic compost plant

Why build a $34 million compost plant that is six times the size needed to process Guelph’s wet waste of 10,000 tonnes per year?

What are the terms of the contract(s) with Maple Reinders, designer and builder of the compost plant?

How was this compost project financed?

What are the carrying costs of operating the plant?

What are the operational costs of the plant?

Were there change orders approved during construction and during the testing period of the plant?

What was the taxpayer’s cost of these orders?

Was there a business plan developed before the project contract was awarded?

How is the compost plant going to be self-sustainable with only half its 60,000 tonne capacity being utilized?

When will this plant become approved by the Ministry of Environment and start producing useable compost?

Why was it necessary to purchase 900 tonnes of wet waste from Hamilton to conduct a second trial run of the plant?

With tonnes of compost being created at full production, how is it going to be disposed?

What is the city going to do about the odours still emanating from the plant during the recent test?

Why ignore a Ministry of Environment (MOE) 2009 directive of allowing biodegradable plastic bags to be delivered to the new compost plant?

Why, instead of using the established system of collecting pre-sorted waste, contract to spend another $15 million on an untried collection system involving custom made trucks and bins?

Was this contract tendered?

Finally, why are Guelph’s waste management salary and benefits cost of $65.05 per capita so much higher compared to Waterloo Region’s per capita cost of $12.47 for performing the same work?

Tomorrow, Part Three with more questions about sewage treatment needing answers concerning your city.

 

 

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