Posted August 27, 2014
Now two members of the Farbridge team will not run this fall. Coun. Ian Findlay in ward 2 and Lise Burcher in ward 5 have announced they are packing it in.
It’s interesting to see how quickly the Farbridge group reacts. Not longer after ward 5 candidate, Mark Routledge, withdrew his nomination, then Burcher called it quits. This leaves candidates Coun. Leanne Piper and Cathy Downer, former Farbridge campaign manager, in the catbird seat, potentially being elected by acclamation.
Then along comes ward 2 Coun. Ian Findlay, who chooses not to run. Within hours he’s replaced by twice defeated NDP member to the Ontario Legislature, James Gordon. You remember Mr. Gordon, the founding member of the Guelph Civic League and personal friend of the mayor. Must hand it to you, James, you don’t give up easily.
He joins fellow failed NDP provincial candidate Phil Allt, running in Ward 3. And who says that party politics doesn’t belong in municipal elections?
The problem in Guelph is the eight-year domination of Mayor Farbridge’s coalition of NDP adherents, wide-eyed environmentalists, self-serving progressives and a partridge in a pear tree.
In their sleazy way to retain power, the Farbridge team is frantically shoring up its ranks with reinforcements from the political left..
But there is a monumental problem that cannot be ignored. While residents have been bombarded with many vision policies, the ability to pay for these revolutionary programs has escaped the Farbridge administration.
They are great at policy but lack the basics of financial management.
That’s why your property taxes, in eight years, have increased annually by an average of 3.7 per cent. That’s an aggregated total of 38 per cent. When questioned about the tax increases, council claimed the 1.9 per cent average increase, in the Consumer Price Index in the same period, didn’t apply in Guelph.
The Financial Information Report (FIR) submitted to the province each year is full of contradictions, inaccuracies; in short, anything to ensure there is no deficit. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing demands these reports from all 444 Ontario municipalities.
Oh, the Karenistas will respond by saying the books are audited every year by Deloitte and Touche, a respected accounting firm. That audit contract is set up by the city finance department, the one responsible for reporting the state of the city’s finances to the province.
We now know that in eight years we have had five individuals acting as chief financial officers. Does this suggest a lack of continuity in that key department? And what changes were made in the Deloitte contract during that period?
Four years ago, a group of Guelph citizens started analyzing the city’s official FIR statements. There was mounting evidence that the financial statements were being manipulated to create the illusion of financial stability.
The rising cost of the city debt is one of the causes of the annual increases in property taxes, user fees, to cover the mismanagement of the various projects costing an estimated $200 million plus.
That’s when GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) took the analysis of the city’s finances and assembled a petition. It requested an independent audit of the city finances and operations. In October 2013, it was presented to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. In a meeting with Ministry officials, it was confirmed that the numbers and data were accurate.
The Minister denied the request stating it as “a local matter to be resolved by the two parties.” Weeks later the Minister resigned from the Liberal government and announced she was running for Mayor of Brampton.
GRG stands by its allegations and despite the claims by the city that the request was “a waste of time” the facts don’t go away. The petition was the harbinger of the failure of the Farbridge administration who spent $100,000 to a Toronto consultant to develop an “open government plan”. Regardless, the administration still conducts most of the city’s business behind closed doors.
Then along came Urbacon. On September 19, 2008, Urbacon Buildings Group Corp, general contractor of the new city hall, was thrown off the job by the city. The decision was made by … oh, oh, no one owns up to it. Not the Mayor, the council, the staff with one exception. CAO Ann Pappert identified former Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig was identified as the one pulling the plug on the contract.
Loewig was awarded for his alleged action with a four-year contract starting at $198,000 a year. However, he retired a month before the Urbacon lawsuit trial commenced and never testified as to his alleged action.
In March this year, the presiding Judge announced that the city wrongfully dismissed Urbacon that had sued for $19.2 million. Starting October 14, the damages portion of the trial will commence.
That’s when voters will discover how great the cost will be to the City of Guelph.
For those councilours who served in the first term of the Farbridge Administration, they must assume responsibility for this multi-million dollar error in judgment. Two of them, Burcher and Findlay, are stepping aside. Mike Salisbury, defeated in 2010, is running again in ward 4. The remaining councilours from that group and running again include: Mayor Farbridge, Maggie Laidlaw, June Hofland, Leanne Piper, and Karl Wettstein.
Despite all the denials of responsibility for this multi-million fiasco the spectre of Urbacon will play a role on October 27.
By supporting this group and other Farbridge labour and NDP candidates running to fill the holes in the lineup, it will only continue the record of mismanagement that we have endured in the past eight years.