The saga of the good, the bad and the ugly

Poated May 15, 2014

You will recall that last February 24, 2014, the then Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), Linda Jeffery, decided not to recommend an independent forensic audit of the City of Guelph finances and operations. The request came in the form of a four-page, detailed petition developed by GrassRoots Guelph (GRG).

On November 25, 2013 a delegation of three members of GRG met with Ministry officials. During that meeting, the Ministry staff admitted that they had checked the numbers and stated they were accurate.

Reasons for Jeffery’s rejection decision have never been revealed. Nor has the Ministry revealed any responses by the city, disputing the petition content. In fact, immediately following the February decision by Jeffery, the city Chief Administrative Officer crowed that the petition was “a waste of time.” This statement was made despite the Minister’s letter making no such reference.

Now the plot thickens.

Shortly after her decision to deny an independent audit for Guelph, Linda Jeffery resigned from the provincial cabinet as well as Liberal member for Brampton-Springdale. She announced she was running for Mayor of Brampton in the October 27 civic elections.

In a letter in the Toronto Star, May 14, resident (A) complained that Jeffery should be the one to withdraw her nomination. This was because another letter writer (B) previously wrote that John Sanderson, long-time councillor, former volunteer of the year and business person of the year, should step aside to avoid splitting the anti-Mayor Susan Fennell vote.

Turns out the adroit Ms. Jeffery filed her nomination papers three weeks after Sanderson. Resident (A) charged that Jeffery was “only running for mayor out of political opportunism”.

The mayoralty prize in Brampton is that incumbent Mayor Susan Fennell has been exposed as using public staff and property to promote her annual fund raising for her “Community Spirit Team”. This private organization operates a “gala” and golf tournament in which between $175,00 and $250,000 has been raised annually in the last ten years to support various community groups.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Star has revealed, through emails and other sources, that city staffers were obligated to sell tickets and attend other administrative functions for the mayor’s private fundraising that had nothing to do with the city staff’s responsibilities.

And this is not a new story but reveals a lot of new information. There has been ongoing criticism of excessive spending by Mayor Fennell in connection with promoting her non-public fundraising.

Now here’s the kicker.

Linda Jeffery, as former MMAH minister, who is now running for Mayor, rejected a GRG request for an independent audit of the City of Guelph’s finances. She now faces a third party audit of the City of Brampton’s finances initiated by city council.

Starting to get the picture?

The question is, if Linda Jeffery was opposed to an audit in Guelph, why, shortly afterwards, did she quit her cabinet job to run for mayor in Brampton knowing an independent auditor is investigating its finances and operations?

Here are some conclusions.

She jumped from the Liberal ship because she knew there was an election coming and the Wynne government would be defeated. Sometimes it’s not who you know but what you know.

Or, perhaps Wynne pushed her out for unknown reasons but her cabinet performance may have been an issue.

The strangest suggestion is why did Guelph MPP and cabinet minister Liz Sandals, receive a copy of her rejection letter of the Guelph petition.

Was it because, as a favour to a cabinet colleague, she denied the request? Could it be because Ms. Sandals would not want a government audit team, reviewing the city finances during a provincial election in the very riding she represented?

This is an example of the messy side of politics that turns off citizens and the result is we get the government we deserve.

Now we know how political opportunism works.

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