How Mayor Farbridge snatched victory from the jaws of defeat using her power and your money

Posted February 26, 2014

Our environmentally obsessive Mayor, architect of a multimillion dollar failed waste management system, is now scheming to supply energy through a citywide district energy network. Translation: Burrowing under the city to supply heat and cooling to buildings in the downtown area. The source of energy requires deep drilling to extract the natural thermal energy in the earth. It’s known as geo-thermal engineering.

The city propaganda machine hailed the project as North America’s first “District Energy Network.” Not so fast, Kemosabe. Winnipeg has had underground district energy since the 1920’s. The University of Manitoba has had central steam heating since 1911. If you lived in Winnipeg, you’d understand the imperative.

What has triggered this latest massive plan to provide energy to parts of the city of Guelph?

Well, it goes back to when the Mayor tried to ram through a motion to sell Guelph Hydro to a consortium of electricity distributors, including Hamilton and St. Catharines. Even some of her most ardent supporters on council voted against the deal. People were outraged that the Mayor had manipulated this deal using Guelph Hydro executives and board members.

Soon after, the undaunted Mayor, with support of her council majority, called a $30 million loan owed by Guelph Hydro. So, indirectly she finally got her hands on some real money. It quickly disappeared into the city’s share of the $66 million provincial-federal infrastructure stimulus program. The city went ahead and spent another $7 million of the Hydro loan repayment on a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre, $2 million on bicycle lanes and a number of other non-infrastructure projects.

That was the end of the $30 million.

But it’s not the end of the story.

The Mayor then persuaded her majority in council to set up Guelph Municipal Holding, Inc (GMHI) to manage the assets owned by the city. The major asset was, you guessed it, Guelph Hydro. As chair of the new holding company board, she filled it up with four of her most loyal city councillors plus two independent members and the head of Guelph Hydro.

She achieved full control over the city’s greatest asset and supplier of power…without a shot being fired. It happened without public input despite the negative response of the failed earlier attempt to sell Guelph Hydro.

So now the Mayor needs money to launch her new downtown central heating plan.

Recently, accompanied by Lloyd Longfield, CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, Rob Kerr, General Manager of GMHI and an unidentified staff member, she travelled to Germany. The official explanation was to encourage German companies to establish in Guelph. That being the case, why wasn’t Peter Cartwright, general manager of economic development, not included in the war party?

It was revealed that the trip was sponsored by an organization called Transatlantic Urban Climate Dialogue (TUCD).  All expenses were covered by TUCD except the airfares of the mission and “incidentals.” The question is why? Why did the mayor and her delegation really go to Germany to meet and greet members of TUCD? The question begs asking: Is Guelph a member of this organization whose purpose is exactly, what?

Why was this trip necessary?

Stay with us, it gets better.

It seems that in 2012 the Provincial Minster of Energy issued a report that essentially said that small electricity distribution corporations should consolidate into larger, more efficient entities. The report claimed that distribution costs for small Hydro units increase costs to the consumer by 15 per cent. Despite serving 50,000 customers, Guelph Hydro is deemed small by the province.  

In July 2013, a city press release said that Guelph Hydro staff was examining “sharing services and resources or more formal mergers and acquisitions.” The Mayor stated “Consolidation was a distinct possibility,” followed this announcement.

Let’s follow the money.

Mayor strikes out when the people decline a consolidation of their Hydro utility with two other cities.

Mayor wins a victory by calling a $30 loan owed by Guelph Hydro.

Council spends all the money on the infrastructure stimulus plan and an assortment of pet councillor projects.

Mayor forms a holding company to control Guelph Hydro with an estimated book value of $130 million.

Mayor promotes the district underground heating and cooling plan for the downtown area.

Guess where the money for this undertaking is coming from?

And you know, the people were never consulted or voted for this project.

Thanks to GrassRoots Guelph research team for details of this report.  Join the crusade to bring common sense and informed management to the City of Guelph Contact for details.




1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

One response to “How Mayor Farbridge snatched victory from the jaws of defeat using her power and your money

  1. rm

    You are correct about the University of Manitoba and the steam heating. I am an alumnus of the U of M (1983) and walked by those large, noisy steam pipes in the underground tunnels linking the campus buildings for years.

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