Questions you should be asking your Guelph councillor

Posted September 5, 2012

In the past few years there is increasing evidence that too much of the public’s business is conducted in private, behind closed doors often out of city hall.

There are provincially mandated rules that elected officials must abide when conducting the public’s business. This council ignores the fact that they are stewards of the public corporation and its assets. As such, they are a corporate board of directors with the fiduciary responsibility of governance.

There have been several instances where members of council gather to discuss business in private – out of the glare of the press and public. As a result, we the owners of the Guelph Corporation, really never know what is going on.

The message from the council chambers is carefully managed by a squad of communications employees so as not to reveal policies or background created in private.

This another example of mushroom politics — keeping the taxpayers in the dark.

The classic case of this secrecy and manipulation of the facts is the decision to build a $34 million compost plant. Little is known how the decision was reached, or the terms of the contracts with key contractor Maple Reinders and its subsidiary Aim Environmental Services.

Question: Who decided to build a plant with a 60,000 tonne annual capacity when the city only required processing10,000 tonnes of wet waste per year?

Question: Why hasn’t the city revealed the total operating costs of the plant? Will it ever become a profit centre?

Question: Besides the Region of Waterloo, who else is involved in supplying wet waste to reach the plant’s capacity? And what are the terms?

Question: Why is it taking more than a year to get the plant operating?

Question: What other methods of handling waste materials were considered?

Question: How is Guelph’s waste being processed today and at what cost per tonne?

Question: Why did the city opt for spending another $15 million on a waste collection system using large bins, when it could have converted to a biodegradable plastic bag system costing millions less?

Question: If and when this compost plant becomes operational, what are the plans to dispose of the compost?

Question: What does the city intend doing about the odours the plant is generating after the Mayor promised smell-control would be a priority?

With an estimated $50 million of taxpayer money already committed, these are questions that need answers. And citizens are entitled to them.

Far too many meetings among staff and councillors are held in private.

There is only one answer. They don’t want you to know!

The only way to change this abuse of the public trust is to demand that the public’s business be conducted in the open in adherence with provincial law.

Aux barricades, mes Amis!





Filed under Between the Lines

20 responses to “Questions you should be asking your Guelph councillor

  1. Jeff Burke

    Public/private partnerships, by definition, screw the taxpayer. If this idea was a winner, why would Maple Reinders need the city? If this plant is such a winner, let’s sell it to Mayor Farbridge for $1— as soon as she is out of office, of course.

    • Jeff Burke: Let’s hope she is out of office sooner than later. This project is the epitome of what happens when we let amateurs play in the financial sandbox with our money.

  2. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Gerry: You raise many valid questions. Is a request under the provincial “Freedom of Information Act” a viable option to get the information? Any legal types who can provide enlightenment on that type of approach?
    Glen Tolhurst

    • Glen: FIA is a sometimes a tedious and lengthy process. While we may obtain the details of the contract(s), The thinking, perhaps too generous an assumption, behind it is difficult to pin down using FIA. This compost plant is Mayor Farbridge’s Stonehenge — a monument to our past but useless.

    • Glen Tolhurst: FIA sometimes is a tedious and lengthy process. While details of the contract may be revealed, the thinking (wild assumption) behind it is silent. This plant will be Mayor Farbridge’s Stonehenge, a memorial to our past mistakes and totally useless.

  3. jerry

    Hello Gerry
    I agree with your statement about the compost plant being a deep,deep
    money pit.The problem i am finding is that when i ask my councillor about
    a problem(compost plant,bus terminal and the such)all he does is email the
    person in charge of the department.Now they do email me back and either
    give me a bull___.response.Or ask me were i get my information and then
    never come back with a reply.
    Example: Your column below this one.I emailed my councillor to ask questions about what is going to be done and at what costs.
    He emails me back and says he directed it to a Mr Wynman.
    Mr Wynman response and says that the plant did pass the moe inspection
    and would like to know my source.
    So i direct him to your Guelph speaks column so he can know the truth
    too and i asked for a response after he read your column.
    Lets me put it clearly “the silence is deafening”.
    Another one of Farbridge’s puppets get their strings clipped.
    I am so glad that their is some one like you who is not scared of the
    censor police and speaks the truth.Just like a breath of fresh air.

    • Jerry:You just revealed how public information is communicated in our city. The councillor passes the buck to the staffer. The staffer decides if you are a “friendly” or not. If not, the staffer demands to know your source.Councillors are elected to represent you and me. Palming off legitimate questions on the staff is a cop-out and dare I say it? Being lazy or ignorant? I hear a number of complaints by city staff of the awkward positions in which they find themselves handling councillors’ hand-offs. Producing some 201 commentaries in in 15 months, I’ve yet to receive a rebuttal from anyone at City Hall. Believe me, if I’m wrong, I am willing to accept proof and correct the error in the blog. And that’s something that won’t happen with this administration.

    • Jerry: is your councillor Cam Guthrie, by any chance? I ask because your describe all of the communication I have ever had with him … once he copies me on an email he sends to someone else, he goes on his website and marks my concern as solved.

    • Jay Morrison: No, I am not in Ward Two. I cannot explain Cam’s method of dealing with constituents requests. I will say that he has the guts to stand up to the Farbridge gang of eight despite the Mayor’s attempts to shut him up.

  4. Is there any chance in hell that these questions could be posted in the Guelph Tribune or The Guelph Mercury? Too many citizens are so unaware of exactly the damage that Mayour Farbridge and her stoolies are doing to a beautiful city.

    • Paul Phelan: While my content in guelphspeaks is copyright, I invite staffers on both newspapers to use the material whenever the occasion arises. I know the blog is required reading in the newsrooms. The most exciting event that has occurred is the growing number of folks who comment and contribute to the blog. This is a blog for the people by the people. Write on!

    • It is encouraging to see the number of people who read this blog is increasing…..knowing now that this blog is required reading for both of the local papers then i say to you newspaper guys…..are you afraid to ruffle feathers????? or perhaps you just don’t have the balls to be true reporters….or maybe yer just afraid of losing your job….likely your hands are tied by the editor….all of the above perhaps?????

  5. R&J

    Just reading the Tribune Sept.6th. The headline reads, EWet plant odour test gets green thumbs up????. With what we are reading, this makes no sense.

    • R&J: You got that right. Read the current post that describes how the city sees success in launching this plant. More boola-boola from the solid waste department charged with shepherding this stinker … as it turns out.

  6. myzzie

    “Aux armes, citoyens,” in keeping with your editorial and further to that…the election results in Quebec this week…giggle relief…

    • myzzle: Shouldn’t your handle be muzzle? That’s what our city administration is sticking us with. (oops ending a sentence in a preposition).To add to your giggle list: Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in Dalton McGuinty’s office this morning? Carumba, Amigo! Say goodbye to Dalton McGuinty, Tom Hudak and a cast of thousands in the Ontario Legislature. Trouble is the process of picking new leaders is time consuming. So we are left slowly drifting in Ontario waiting for new blood to get us moving again. Does this sound like Guelph?

  7. Fred

    I read the Tribune article too. The City may not have a great track record for telling the whole truth but they don’t lie. I suspect the facility passed the test and there were no odour related issues. Do you have any facts to the contrary?

    • Fred: Read the latest post about the city’s version of the plant receiving”a green thumbs up” No one at One Carden street has explained why they built a plant with a capacity to process six times the wet waste that Guelph collects annually. I cannot agree that city officials don’t lie. They lie by omission. That’s what is upsetting folks. More mushroom politics — keeping everyone in the dark.

  8. The Tribune is useless, unless you want to know where to get chicken breast on sale. The Mercury is equally useless as is that new free paper that has been in my mailbox for the last few months. The Stalinesque control of information in Guelph really is quite alarming. I’m so thankful for this site as a place to get the true facts.

    • Jay Morrison: Dunno whether I would describe the two TorStar controlled print media as Stalinistic. But this is 2012 and we are fortunate in creating an Internet-based forum where the real news is covered and ideas are freely exchanged.

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