Monthly Archives: June 2014

Your grandchildren will wonder why they are paying for decisions made in the 2014 elections

Posted June 9, 2014

For eight years now there has been an axis of political power in the City of Guelph. MPP Liz Sandals is our representative in Queen’s Park.  She has been involved in a series of scandals, and crisis in management that has emerged since Dalton McGuinty left office.

Mayor Karen Farbridge has advocated policies that have caused explosive increases in taxes and user fees. Her agenda contains self-serving capital projects that have resulted in Guelph being one of the most expensive cities in Ontario in which to live and do business.

Between the two of them, there is a failure of commitment to the public trust followed by expansive growth in long-term liabilities. These are not bread and butter issues.

In Ms Sandal’s case, she has been a senior member of the Liberal Wynne/McGuinty government. She was aware of the $12.5 billion deficit the province has been carrying for the past six years. Yet she tells voters at their front door that the Liberals have balanced the books in their 11 years in office.

That is not true and she knows it. Fidelity to the electors and telling the truth is missing in action.

Mayor Farbridge has controlled a council that has made some monumental financial mistakes that have and will, cost the citizens long after she is gone. For eight years, she has operated a closed-door administration in which the vast majority of citizens is locked out and forced to pay.

Guelphspeaks offers a selection of choices. Some to consider when you vote June 12 and October 27.

*  If you are in favour of spending $1.1 billion to demolish two natural gas generating plants in Mississauga and Oakville in order to elect three Liberal MPP’s in those ridings, then vote for Liz Sandals.

*  If you are in favour of making deals with private interests to build 20-year contracted wind farms and solar facilities, and guarantee payments twice the kilowatt/hour cost compared to nuclear power, then vote for Liz Sandals.

*  If you believe that Ontario’s electricity supply is being well managed despite the fact that the province now is the highest-cost power supplier in North America, then vote for Liz Sandals.

*  If you believe that it’s okay to carry a operating budget deficit in provincial finances that has extended since 2008, thereby doubling the provincial debt to $288 billion, then vote for Liz Sandals.

*  If you believe that spending your way out of debt as proposed by the Wynne government, is a solution to paying down the debt and balancing the books with no deficit, then vote for Liz Sandals.

*  If you believe that the mismanagement of the Ornge air ambulance program and the e-health project, costing millions was a smart move by the Wynne/McGuinty government, then Liz Sandals is your candidate.

*  If you believe that public service unions who operate underfunded pension plans, is sound financial management, then vote for Liz Sandals.

Now here are come choices about the Guelph civic election.

*  If you believe that Guelph needs a $33 million organic waste processing plant that was built three times larger than the city needed for the next 18 years, then you should vote for Karen Farbridge.

*  If you believe that the administration’s determination and policies to get people out of cars and use bicycles and public transit, then vote for Karen Farbridge.

*  If you believe that property taxes should increase each year at twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index, then vote for Karen Farbridge.

*  If you believe the administration’s priority to spend millions rejuvenating the city’s downtown at the expense of other parts of the city with capital needs, then vote for Karen Farbridge.

*  If you believe that Guelph’s public servants are underpaid and overworked, then vote for Mayor Farbridge.

*  If you believe that Guelph police need a new $34 million headquarters, then vote for Karen Farbridge.

*  If you believe that council was not involved in the firing of Urbacon, the main contractor of the new city hall, thereby losing a $19 million lawsuit, then Karen Farbridge is your candidate

* If you believe that the city has been really well run for the past eight years, then re-elect Karen Farbridge.

*  If you believe that Guelph’s growth in attracting businesses, creating jobs and providing affordable housing is successful, then vote for Karen Farbridge.

Do you see the power parallels between these two political leaders?

Both are described progressives who have their own visions of a perfect community but care little of the needs of their citizens. Above all, they both have no regard to the costs of their projects or the management of finances.

In both cases these leadership candidates have shared visions of what they believe their constituents desire but little regard of the costs or the fallout when things go wrong.

In both cases we have reached a breaking point and those eligible to vote should make every effort to vote June 12 and October 27.

It’s time to retire these enfeebled governments, Ontario and Guelph.

 

 

 

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When Urbacon was fired, the mayor and council did know about it and ducked the blame

Posted June 8, 2014 

This week, the city expects to receive a copy of Superior Court Judge Donald McKenzie’s judgment that blamed the city for firing the chief contractor of the city hall in September 2008.

The lengthy trial last year, held in Brampton, was actually a combination of five lawsuits that were related to the now infamous firing.

This week, our mayor, writing from her bunker, in a blog that she expects the “reasons for the ruling will be lengthy” and suggests that it will take “many days for the CAO and city solicitor to review it and offer advice to council.”

So CAO Ann Pappert, and city lawyer Donna Jacques, are in charge of the review. Ms. Jacques was not involved in the case following release of the judgment last March as another city lawyer handled the media enquiries.

Why didn’t the mayor bring up the name of Derek Schmuck, the Hamilton lawyer who argued the city’s defence during the trial?

You will recall that Pappert was quick off the mark, following the Judge’s decision, to blame the previous CAO, Hans Loewig. She stated it was his decision to fire Urbacon under the authority of the “CAO’s bylaw” that allows him to cancel contracts. Under that reasoning, Pappert said, he was not obligated to inform council.

So, a staff member without council’s consideration dumped a $42 million contract. That has the unmistaken odour of shifting the blame on someone who is no longer a city employee. How convenient.

During the fallout, the mayor dove for cover and CAO Pappert was handed the responsibility of speaking for the city.

It boggles the mind how the council was not informed of the decision. So much so that such a suggestion was a bald-faced lie. Testimony at the trial revealed the bad blood that existed between the city officials and Urbacon even at the start of the project. It also revealed that the avalanche of change orders from the city delayed completion of the project.

Apparently, Judge McKenzie saw through the city’s argument that Urbacon was not costing out the change orders fast enough for the city’s agenda. Details of this will be revealed next week.

It is apparent that members of the Farbridge council knew all along what was happening. In fact they received regular briefings from Loewig.

The question citizens have to consider is: When did council drop responsibility and turn it exclusively over to Loewig?

It just isn’t believeable. Members of council are directly responsible for the city, its finances and operations. They are elected to to carry out that responsibility. It now appears that the Farbridge council has seconded this responsibility to the staff, the non-elected civic servants who are reponsible for carrying out the policies of council.

This is the core problem with the Urbacon affair.

The mayor had a choice and if she did not advise her council, and allowed Loewig to fire Urbacon, just who does she represent?

This is a shameful dereliction of responsibility by Mayor Farbridge and the senior management of our city. Her council majority of ten cohorts has also attempted to avoid any blame, hiding behind the CAO and her egregious explanation of what happened.

Madam Mayor, you just can’t duck the tough issues and then announce you are running for another four years.

The only councillor quoted in the news story was ward two councillor Ian Findlay, who claimed he had a contracting background and took “great interest in following construction of the building.”

He goes on to say: “The administration of the day decided to pull the plug. I supported it at the time.”

So council did know that Urbacon was going to be fired. And they went along with it.

Why then was there this silly subterfuge by CAO Ann Pappert to foist the responsibility of the firing on Hans Loewig? Further, that council was not informed or consulted?

To protect themselves, the decision to fire Urbacon was made behind closed doors.

It has taken six years to get at the truth. Even now there is city administration denial of who was responsible.

The mayor is complicit, and her council cohorts are complicit in making a terrible, costly management mistake. The result was the resignation of former city solicitor Lois Payne and city clerk Lois Giles.

This is a sad day for Guelph because its elected officials failed to act on behalf of citizens and destroyed the public trust. Even worse, they lied about it.

They damn well knew the truth about it all along.

 

 

 

 

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Guelph CAO extols the virtues of open government, but is it merely a warm-up for the October election?

Posted June 6, 2014

Ann Pappert, Chief Administration Officer of the City of Guelph appears to be assuming the mantle of head of the community after reading her quarterly report to council.

While the lady talks about “really wanting to embrace transparency and accountability,” the city was slammed with a loss in a $19 million lawsuit when a judge ruled in favour of Urbacon, the contractor fired from building the new city hall.

The CAO outlined how there have been public meetings to discuss “open government” including two sessions with students at the university. The facts are that this administration has been super secret in its management of the city. It only exposes itself under strict conditions to friendly audiences.

To strengthen the argument, the CAO admits these “public” events fall under the Wellbeing initiative that the administration is using to donate funds to friendly community organizations.

Here are some of her reports to be made in the next quarter. The guelphspeaks comments appear in italics.

* 2013 investment report in April

GS – We presume this will include the ownership of the Guelph Junction railway and Guelph Hydro that the Mayor controls through the Guelph Municipal Investment Corporation.

* A tax-increment grant for 150 Wellington Street. East, the second Tricar development of the former Marsh Tire property in April.

GS – Again, why is the city spending public funds to redevelop a downtown site that will impact on future councils and the tax base?

* Housing strategy: Wellington County oversees affordable house but most of the housing is located in Guelph. The city is looking at affordable rental housing and a “backgrounder” report will come to council in April’

GS – Has the administration made up with the county after lawsuits were bandied about?

* Guelph Police Service Headquarters. Draft business case will go to Police Services Board in April and to council in May.

GS – There is nothing transparent or open about this procedure. Regardless, the decision has already been made by council to go ahead. This project should be shelved to allow the next council to decide about spending $34 million.

* Guelph innovation district in May

GS – Every time the word “Innovation” is used by this administration, most folks tighten the elastic band on their wallets.

* Wilson farmhouse report and staff recommendation comes to council in May.

GS – The staff has recommended demolishing it. Council agreed by a 9-2 vote.

* The South End Community Centre business case: In June. The city is currently doing a needs assessment and has posted a survey online for public comment.

GS – If one lived in the South End of the city, they would quickly see through this charade to placate the people. It has been more than ten years since Mayor Farbridge promised to build it in her first term, Today, the project isn’t even on the long-term capital plan. Sigh, there’s an election coming.

* 2013 audited consolidated financial statement. June.

GS – Another in a series of impenetrable four-pound documents that the average citizen cannot even lift let alone understand. The administration loves to tell the madding crowd that the finances are in great shape and they are audited, Yep, by a reputable accounting firm, Deloitte and Touche. What they don’t explain are the terms of the audit contract and how deep the auditors drill down for the details. Open government, eh?

* Integrated operations review annual report. June or July.

GS – Wonder if this report will do a follow-up on the $5 million costs revealed in the internal auditor’s damning report on excessive overtime spending by staff and management. Reports are that the staff is dysfunctional with a wide gap existing between the lower ranks and middle management and executive management.

* Solid Waste Master Management Plan. June.

GS – This is a revised 20-year plan that locks in the waste management and spending costs of a vital service to residents and businesses. Trouble is the administration has not revealed the actual costs of its foray into waste diversion. So much for open and transparent government. This garbage empire that fails to service 6,400 households, has cost $55 million, not counting the deals and construct of the dump on Dunlop drive. Only an independent audit could uncover the real costs of this monument to environmentalism cherished by the mayor and her cohorts.

* Water Supply Master Plan. June

GS – The question is why having water rates increased while usage has declined? Those charges for water are among the highest cash flow contributors to city revenues. It’s another sneaky way to use those funds for purposes other than running the waterworks.

Folks, the race is on to cram as much positive news into the agenda leading up to the October 27 election. By law, the administration has to stop, September 1st to spend money for anything except essentials such as salaries, wages and benefits, maintaining public safety services etc.

But now there are some damaging issues hanging over the Farbridge Administration.

These include the Urbacon lawsuit costs, the $34 million police headquarters, and most of all, stopping the rapid growth of staff and salaries, wages and benefits.

But it did manage to build an underpass on Wyndham Street beneath the CNR main line that large trucks couldn’t clear resulting in the bridge being smacked.

 

 

 

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