Posted September 1, 2014
It’s apropos this Labour Day weekend to look back at Mayor Karen Farbridge’s control of our city government in the past eight years.
In 2006, with the help of the Guelph Civic League founder, James Gordon, and out-of-town NDP organizers, Ms. Farbridge swept back into the Mayor’s office. Her campaign attracted a majority supporting cast of Labour/NDP councilors.
In 2010, She was re-elected along with a reduced majority of loyal councilors. She succeeded in persuading newcomer, Todd Dennis, a conservative who campaigned on lowering taxes and building the south end recreation centre, to join her controlling caucus. In four years in office, Mr. Dennis failed completely to fulfill his 2010 promises made to his ward six electors.
A growing number of citizens are frustrated by the way the Mayor and her coalition of NDP/Labour dominated council has managed their city. There are abundant reasons for citizen concern as guelphspeals.ca has been reporting and commenting on for more than four years.
Karen Farbridge is a skilled politician who holds her cadre of supporters under tight control. There is little dissension among the ranks. Her weakness is her personal agenda to be remembered as the Mayor who changed Guelph to fit her vision of the “New Guelph.”
Remember, the New Democratic Party has a national policy to elect its members in municipalities. You may ask, why? Because the party realizes that the muncipalities are a reservoir of members who adhere to the party’s narrow leftist agenda. The bonus is a strategy providing power bases that can strengthen the National Party’s agenda in both the provinces and the federal level.
The most recent example was how the late Jack Layton elected so many members in Quebec that the NDP become the official opposition in Parliament for the first time in modern Canadian history.
Perhaps voters aren’t so dumb after all. But then they elected Liberal Liz Sandals, who is part of the discredited Dalton McGuinty government that, in eight years, threw Ontario into its current massive $12 billion defict and the greatest debt in the province’s history.
Go figure. Let’s not make the same mistake October 27, 2014 when we get the one chance to make our voices heard.
The real strength of power lies in the wards of Canadian muncipalities, large and small. Layton understoof this and his successors across the country are working hard to take over municipal governments.
Guelph has become one of their successes. The irony is that Farbridge’s friend and advisor, James Gordon, ran twice for the NDP provincially and ran third each time. Now he is nominated to run in Guelph’s ward two.
Let’s look at how Karen Farbridge has led Guelph in the past eight years.
She is handicapped in her lust to change Guelph in her image of authority, because the province does not permit its municipalities deficit financing. But that doesn’t stop her. To finance her radical agenda she has gone through five financial officers. She barged ahead with onerous property tax increases plus user fees such as water, electricity and development fees. She has overseen increasing property taxes by 38 per cent in eight years, water bills by 77 per cent and, and is regularly raiding unrelated reserves to accomplish her goals. She has increased the city debt substantially boosting servicing costs. Recently, her administration lost a multi-million dollar lawsuit that will affect Guelph’s finances for the next four to five years just paying for the uninsured liability.
Her greatest threat to future city prosperity is the exponential growth of city staff, accompanied by lush pay packages that now cost taxpayers 80 per cent of property tax revenue. In 2012 the total fulltime equivalent staff count was 2,067, an increase of more than 500 since 2007. The increase in the city population during that period was 5.8 per cent or 7,072.
In 2013 the number of city employees earning $100,000 or more was 200 of the fulltime equivalent of city staff. It was less than 100 in 2007.
The Farbridge administration doesn’t like to talk about these facts and figures.
Yet, these employment costs are exacerbated by employee overtime and absenteeism that cost a stunning $5.2 million in 2013 alone. Of that figure, reported by the city’s own internal auditor, some $1 million was spent by the 220 members of the Guelph Transit unionized workers. This was one of the triggers that led to the recent three-week transit lockout.
As Chairman of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI), the mayor has created a committee to investigate consolidating Guelph Hydro with other electrical distributors.
If this came to pass, Guelph would lose control of its prime asset estimated to have a market value of $170 million.
Five years ago, the Mayor supported selling Guelph Hydro for some $125 milllion to a group owning Hamilton and St. Catherines Hydro plants. When the mayor refused to reveal the business plan for the sale, the public protested and even some of her loyalist councilors voted against the proposal. This time it may not be that easy as Guelph Hydro could be sold through the city’s holding company with little or no public input.
This is yet another example of a lack of open and transparent government.
If she is re-elected next October, you can bet the farm that selling Guelph Hydro is part of the Mayor’s agenda in the next term. She is desperate to get her hands on that cash to pay for past transgressions of management and further her agenda.
The October election is critical to the future of Guelph.
Guelphspeaks and GrassRoots Guelph urges all eligible voters to vote. The sordid trail of mistakes, mismanagement, and secrecy is available in the guelphspeaks.ca archive of some 520 commentaries.
The outcome of electing another Farbridge administration can best be summed up by Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.
If you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, that’s not progress, that’s insanity.
Join family and friends by attending the GRG All-Candidates Barbeque at the Guelph Golf and Curling Club on September 18 to meet council and school board candidates. Advance tickets are $20 and may be obtained by calling Rena at 519 837 4010. The price includes the usual barbeque fixings plus fresh Ontario corn and a chance to mingle and become involved.