With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Posted September 13, 2012

What is it that Coun. Leanne Piper doesn’t understand about conflict of interest as it applies to her employment with the University of Guelph and her position as a councillor of the City of Guelph?

During the July 23rd council meeting, Ms. Piper as chairperson of the committee responsible for water, waste and environment, moved to have council approve a contribution toward a watershed project covering the Grand River area.

This project, in conjunction with scientists from the University of Guelph, is an in- depth analysis of the watershed and its ability to sustain demand for water use and the ability to control waste water flowing into streams and rivers.

Her making the motion to have council approve spending some $240,000 for the project is a direct conflict of interest.

This is another example of Coun. Piper’s disdain for the rules covering conflicts of interest. All she is required to do is recuse herself if a motion or a vote or discussion is introduced involving her employer (the university) doing business with the city.

Recently, council agreed unanimously to reject a proposal to build two student residence towers on the site of the Best Western Motel at Gordon Street and Stone Road. Coun. Piper was one of those councillors who voted to reject the proposal by Abode Varsity Living.

The company appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board that is currently hearing evidence on the project.

On the first day of the hearing, it was revealed that the University of Guelph objected to the proposal on the grounds it would be unfair competition to the development of university residences.  The owner of the property said he was approached by the University to purchase the land, after he made a deal with Abode.

The Mayor had no trouble lining up her troops to reject the proposal on the grounds it was too big for the neighbourhood. Of course, the decision was made on a staff recommendation.

It’s apparent the university has allies on council to support their objection. Three of whom were employed by the university.

One may ask why this sudden desire to build university-owned student housing off campus? Student housing on campus totals some 5,000 units serving an undergraduate population of 20,000. Guess where the rest are going, into neighbourhoods where they are seldom welcome?

So Councillors Leanne Piper, Maggie Laidlaw and Lise Burcher, are you representing the people who elected you or your bosses at the university?

Where was Mayor Farbridge, the one concerned about integrity and code of conduct of councillors, when these obvious violations of the the Ontario Conflict of Interest Act occurred under her watch?

Her silence is deafening.

It’s not that complicated.

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