Posted October 20, 2014
When nominations closed September 12, some 19 Farbridge Coalition candidates were running for 12 council seats. It’s presumed the strategy was to swarm the Guelph electorate with as many candidates as possible. The list includes a mixed bag of incumbent councillors, a defeated Farbridge councillor, newcomers plus perennial office seekers.
The Labour Council developed a platform that was endorsed my Mayor Karen Farbridge. Twelve Farbridge supporters running for council also endorsed the Labour platform. There was no explanation about the additional seven candidates also running for a potential Farbridge council.
The Labour Council manifesto includes categories all lifted from the Farbridge playbook of the past eight years. Let’s take a look.
1. Resilient and healthy communities;
If you are between 18 and 34, being resilient is easy but what has the Farbridge administration done, in concrete terms, about creating a healthy community? Well they did spend a lot of money trying to get out of the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health unit. The city lost the lawsuit and had to pay $10 million as its contribution toward the new Public Health headquarters on Stone Road. The city also spent $440,000 to become the charter member of the National Wellbeing initiative.
2. Services that meet the needs of Guelph public education and participation;
Aside from collecting taxes for educational authorities, this is not a municipal responsibility other than to supply infrastructure connections to new primary and secondary developments. The largest public institution in the city, the University of Guelph, pays a comparative pittance ($1.600,000 a year) in lieu of property taxes. More on this.
3. Strong local economy and fair working conditions;
Well this is where the Farbridge administration has failed in eight years. The industrial/commercial assessment in Guelph remains frozen at 16 per cent of all city assessment. This has happened because the Farbridge administration has increased property taxes by 38 per cent, water bills by 77 per cent, bumped up user fees including doubling development fees, Guelph has priced itself out of industrial/commercial development. Here’s why. The cost of land in the city owned Hanlon Business Park is priced between $250,000 and $325,000 an acre. In Milton, the cost is $66,000 an acre. These prices were recommended to council by the Industrial development chief, Peter Cartwright.
4. Municipal revenue and responsible taxation. It calls for candidates to:
* Ensure that people receive value and quality for the taxes they pay.
Did the people receive value and quality when the city lost a $19.2 million lawsuit brought by Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp? Citizens endured $15 million in cost overruns and legal bills on the new city hall. Did the people receive value and quality for the $330,000 cost overruns on the renovation of the Farmer’s Market building? Have the people receive value and quality from the $16 million spent to convert the Loretto convent into a civic museum?
* Recognize the challengers municipal governments faces as a result of the downloading of responsibilities for service provision by the province and federal governments.
The Labour Council neglects to show the subsidies and contributions made to the city by the province and federal government. You can start with the $2.6 million gas tax rebate the city receives. It is a hallmark of the Farbridge administration to point the finger at senior governments when they are unable to manage its own responsibilities. This is just another reason to change the way our city is being managed.
* Support lobbying efforts to increase federal and provincial support to municipalities, rather than increasing property taxes and fees to account for shortfalls.
Gee, see above. Shift the blame to senior governments to cover up your own shortcomings and failures. If you want to lobby, why in eight years, hasn’t the Mayor and her cohorts on council employed by the university lobby to change the 27- year-old formula of paying $75 per enrolled student to the city in lieu of property taxes? In Guelph it’s a scandal that the organization with the largest land holdings in the city and actively deriving income from leased properties is permitted to hide behind this archaic and unfair provincial law.
Even members of the labour force who live in Guelph should understand the impact of that on their property tax bills. To put it in perspective, 554 homes paying $3,000 in property taxes is the equivalent of what the University, the largest landowner in the city, pays annually. There are some 45,000 residential properties in Guelph, not including businesses.
This represents an enormous subsidization of the university by Guelph taxpayers.
And while taxpayers see their property taxes increase annually, the university payment formula has not changed in 27 years. Yet the Farbridge administration has done little to lobby the province to change the formula.
Here are the names of the Guelph and District Labour Council’s candidates who endorsed the Labour Council platform If elected, they will continue the policies of the Farbridge administration, whether the mayor is re-elected or not.
Terry O’Connor, former head of the Guelph Wellington Labour Council.
Maria Pezzano, labour
Sian Matwey, labour
James Gordon, NDP, former provincial candidate, founder of the Guelph Civic League
Phil Allt, NDP, former provincial candidate
Maggie Laidlaw, labour incumbent, opposed to cars downtown
June Hofland, labour incumbent
(Note, only two to be elected)
Mike Salisbury, NDP/labour, defeated in 2010 by Cam Guthrie
Laurie Garbutt, labour
Cathy Downer, labour, former campaign manager for Karen Farbridge
Leanne Piper, NDP incumbent
Keith Poore, labour
Do citizens want another four years of labour influence on how the city controls and manages its money?
We’ll get the answer to that question Monday, October 27.