Posted October 17, 2014
The Ontario government is stuck with a new, spiffy 20-storey office building across the street from Queen’s Park. It started out with good intentions. The Medical and Related Science (MaRS} project was to be a world-class medical research hub. Today it is only 31 per cent occupied and is costing taxpayers $485,000 a month for debt service. So far the province has invested $500 million in the project.
Is this starting to feel a little closer to home? The Farbridge excursion into building a world-class Waste Resource Innovation Centre (WRIC) on Dunlop Road has been a costly and colossal flop.
It’s because if there ever was a business plan for the multi-million operation, it was so badly prepared that at this point, it’s doubtful that even the city knows what this monument to sustainability cost or is costing. The city brags about how much waste it is diverting from the landfill. But, it will not reveal the terms and conditions of its contracts with Maple Reinders, contractor of the $34 million organic waste processing facility, and its subordinate company, Aim Environmental that operates the facility.
Who knew that the administration had Guelph citizens paying millions so that the city could service the Region of Waterloo’s wet waste or contract with a company in Detroit to process recyclable material?
Who knows how much waste is really being shipped to the landfill because it cannot be collected by the city, or incoming waste that is not suitable for processing?
Who knows the operating costs of the various waste processing units within the WRIC?
What is the real cost of this monumental effort to make Guelph the centre of the universe when it comes to waste processing and sustainability?
Coupled with this drag on city finances, is the intensifying of home contraction in Guelph. It follows the work of Harvard Management Professor Michael Porter’s “cluster “theory. It would appear that this thinking has been adopted by the Farbridge administration.
For example, it appears that money is no problem. The Farbridge administration has raided its brownfield reserve of $33 million to pay incentives to condo developers and builders Tricar and Fusion Homes. The condition was the projects had to be built in the downtown area. This is more of the “cluster” theory.
Duke University technology expert, Vivek Wadhwa, who has studied hundreds of such hub projects commented, “Political leaders long ago claimed credit for advancing science and technology. Hefty fees were paid to management consultants and real-estate barons who reaped fortunes and taxpayers were left holding the bag.”
It is apparent that this already happened to the citizens of Guelph whose leadership is bent on empire building, instead of fixing the sidewalks and potholes.
Are citizens now holding the bag for a white elephant waste operation that will never break-even, let alone become a profit centre? Odds are that we are stuck with high debt and no prospect of salvaging the WRIC under present management. Keep in mind that the WRIC has a limited shelf life. Maintenance costs grow annually and exponentially over the 20 year lifespans of some of the units.
“The top-down industry cluster is modern-day snake oil, “Professor Wadhwa says. “Any politician who says otherwise is living on another planet.”
Snake oil? That’s something to think about on October 27 when you vote.