Monthly Archives: October 2014

Mayor sees herself as the victim in her infamous Guthrie attack ad blunder

Posted October 19, 2014

It is a given that Mayor Karen Farbridge is in charge of her campaign. She is responsible for what is said and what is published on her behalf. Last Thursday an ad appeared in the Guelph Tribune that linked mayoralty candidate, Cam Guthrie, with convicted robocall defendant Michael Sona, now awaiting sentencing. The copy stated that: “A person is known by the company they keep,” carried under the photo.

The ad also asked the question: “Is this the leadership and transparency YOU want at City Hall.” There was no attribution or source identification of the ad.

It was an American-style attack ad focused on character assassination. Mayor Farbridge suggested it was done to counter alleged toxic politicking. She then said this was caused by opponent, Cam Guthrie, and his supporters (unnamed). She artfully avoided specifics but one thing is certain, there have been no character assassination ads produced by any of her opponents.

Adjacent to the Tribune ad was a Farbridge campaign ad alleging that property tax rates were going down. To where? Does that infer they have been too high for the past eight years? Guelph property taxes have increased 38 per cent, compounded, in seven years and you can take that to the bank.

Then something happened. The Guelph Mercury said the Tribune used a photo taken in 2011, owned by the Mercury, and used without permission. The source of the photo has not been disclosed.

With this revelation, the Mercury was feeling heat from readers as to why they allowed the photo to be used in such a manner. They didn’t allow it. Obviously, someone in the Farbridge campaign had a copy and used it.

Finally, in the Saturday edition of the Mercury, Mayor Farbridge admitted that her campaign placed the ad. Regardless, she is still responsible for the actions of her campaign. But the mayor is expert at deflecting criticism of her record by pointing the finger at someone else. In this case, she focused on the federal and provincial conservative parties, collectively the Tories, blaming them for her charge of toxic politicking.

In the Saturday Mercury’s page one story, the Mayor went on an unbelievable rant: “I have never faced such a nasty and bitter and toxic campaign.” Excuse me mayor, does that include your anonymous character assassination ad aimed at your opponent, Cam Guthrie?

She dredged up all the catch phrases such as bullying of women candidates, hateful messages and displays. She then blames the conservatives for the so-called toxic campaign attempting to tie the current opposition to the robocall scandal. Now that’s desperation.

Mayor Farbridge has made a colossal blunder. She is now portraying herself as the victim instead of the perpetrator. Her problem, for the second time in her political career, is she faces a determined opposition that has ignited the public’s interest and concerns.

She still refuses to take full responsibility for the Urbacon $15 million and counting financial mess. Instead, she says there has been too many mis-statements made that fail to understand what happened. Really? It happened mayor, and it was on your watch.

Let’s look at the recent election numbers. By last Thursday morning some 4,000 Internet votes had been made plus 780 in the first day of the advance poll. These numbers are staggering in comparison of voter turnouts in previous Guelph municipal elections.

The Farbridge campaign team already knows what is happening to their candidate and her supporters. Their own polling is telling them.

This is why this “Hail Mary” character assassination ad was placed to knock down Guthrie. Instead, it has created an enormous backlash by citizens appalled at the tactic employed by the Farbridge campaign.

Finally, that friend of Farbridge, Andy Best, former head of the now defunct Guelph Civic League, described the ad as “unfortunate.” He said: “The fact that the ad with the image of Guthrie and Sona was unattributed leaves the impression it was not part of the official Farbridge Campaign.”

Andy, Why did she finally admit it was part of her campaign?

This election is not about crazed right-wing Tories as the Farbridge campaign would like you to believe. It is about Mayor Farbridge, her cast of hardcore council supporters’, and their record of running the city.

What this city needs is a political enema to return the public trust and power to the people.

Read the New Directions Guelph series in the Guelph Tribune every Thursday. If you missed the first three parts drop into for details The final part is scheduled for Thursday, October 23.


Filed under Between the Lines

Former Police Chief Bryan Larkin says he never approved his Farbridge endorsement wording

Posted October 18, 2014

On October 8, 2014, published that Guelph Police Chief Brian Larkin had endorsed Mayor Karen Farbridge in every copy of her brochures. There were 45,000 distributed to Guelph households and it raised a red flag.

It is clear, according to the Ontario Association of Chief’s of Police that its organization doesn’t stand behind political platforms or candidates. Further, the Ontario Police Services Act prohibits municipal police officers from engaging in political activity.

That being the case, why did Larkin blatantly appear on the Mayor’s website as a supporter and in her brochure?

The difference between the two are the words in the brochure “outgoing Chief of Police Guelph” and the mayor’s website that describes him as “former Police Chief.”

The new Waterloo Regional Chief now says that the online endorsement of Farbridge was made as a private resident and taxpayer of Guelph, and not as chief. And he wanted that corrected by the Farbridge election team.

Chief, you are on the job 24/7 and you don’t have the luxury of switching from Chief to Civilian when it is convenient. In your profession, you can’t take sides in an election. The Ontario Police Services Act makes it clear.

Your endorsement in the brochure was made when you were Guelph’s Chief of Police prior to leaving August 31. Otherwise, why did the Farbridge team describe you as “outgoing Chief of Police?” Guess they were not aware of the Ontario Police Act that forbids endorsement of candidates by any police officer.

Regardless of your affection for the politics of Mayor Farbridge, you acted unprofessionally and should apologize to the citizens of Guelph for your action in trying to influence the voters of this city.

You, of all people, must realize the damage you have not only done to your own reputation but that of the other Guelph mayoralty candidates. You have also damaged the integrity of the officers and staff of the Guelph Police Services by taking sides in a municipal election.

It’s sad and surprising that a man of your reputation would sully it with such a dumb mistake and then try to whitewash it.

But then power can do strange things to trusted and respected people.


Filed under Between the Lines

Did Mayor Farbridge buy the Toronto Star’s editorial integrity?

Posted October 18, 2014

On Friday, October 17, an article by futurist consultant Don Tapscott was reproduced in the electronic edition of the Toronto Star. The article, initiated by Mayor Karen Farbridge, painted a picture of her version of what Guelph should be like under her leadership.

In its glowing self-endorsement copy, the people of Guelph must think they are nothing but lab rats supporting the Mayor’s vision of a great socialist civic experiment. It is almost Stalinistic in its approach to fashioning a city in her own political idealism.

This article lacking substance and counterpoint would not have lasted five minutes on the Toronto Star copy desk. It defies any journalistic credibility or standards that are well established by the paper in its print editions.

Having been an editor at The Star, I know and understand the paper’s journalistic principles. The former great publisher of the Star, Beland Honderich, brought high standards to the editorial content of the paper. A key requirement was for reporters to obtain both sides of the story. Many a story was spiked for failing to meet that minimal standard.

This piece of pseudo journalism is known in the business as an advertorial, not editorial. As such the point of view expressed in the one-sided article was a bought piece of journalism.

The question citizens must now ask: Who paid for it? Did the Mayor’s campaign pay for the advertorial? Or were the costs paid by the City of Guelph? Was consultant Don Tapscott paid to write the piece and paid again as a freelance contributor by The Star’s electronic publishing department?

Ironically, in the electronic version there is an unrelated paid ad in the middle of the Tapscott copy. Have you ever seen that in the print additions of The Star?

Here are some samples of the Tapscott advertorial.

* “Imagine my surprise when an email from Mayor Karen Farbridge of Guelph arrived saying that her community is actually working hard to implement the transformation I outlined in (my) article.”

* “I have looked into her claims and have concluded that the elected officials, public servants and 120,000 citizens are well on their way to ‘reimagining’ the role of local government.”

Did consultant/reporter Tapscott go to Guelph and interview the citizen stakeholders? Did he question the managerial failures that the Farbridge administration has caused in its eight years of social engineering?

Was he not sensitive to the fact that there was a municipal election underway and the Farbridge administration was being heavily criticized for its managerial errors costing citizens millions of dollars? Did he question the excessive spending on projects that citizens never asked for or wanted?

Mayor Farbridge’s vision and Don Tapscott’s version of what is happening in Guelph is the product of a misguided and arrogant administration that, in desperation, is painting a woefully inaccurate picture of the real Guelph.

Citizens should be used to it by now. The Farbridge administration has operated mostly behind closed doors, shutting down debate and opposition to its policies.

The failure of Mr. Tapscott’s participation into journalism is making no attempt to get both sides of the story. The second failure lies with the Star’s electronic publishing department to adhere to the well-established editorial principles of the Toronto Star.

This apparent disregard of the editorial integrity of the Toronto Star will be brought to the attention of Kathy English, The Star’s public editor for adjudication.

Again, this smacks of a desperate move on the part of the Farbridge campaign to offset the legitimate criticism of her record as mayor. And they have good reason to be concerned.

Remember that quotation used in the 2008 U.S. presidential election?

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.


Filed under Between the Lines

Does Guelph have a “MaRS” project on its hands?

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.


Filed under Between the Lines

The great Guelph election spinning wheel is at full throttle

October 16, 2014

The Ward Four contest epitomizes the angst of the Farbridge council candidates as they realize that this election is different from what they have experienced, because there is concentrated opposition.

It 2010, Mayor Farbridge squeaked through the election with a majority of council supporters to run the show. Among the Farbridge casualties were Vicki Beard and Mike Salisbury, both defeated, plus the retirement of Kathleen Ferrelly.

Salisbury despite being rejected in Ward Four in 2010 is running again. This time he is whining that the four candidates opposing him should not run in his ward because they don’t live there. Retiring Coun. Gloria Kovach called his complaints a red herring. She pointed out that you don’t have to live in a ward to represent the citizens. In her continuous service of 24 years she spent a lot of it not living in the ward and nobody complained. Her record speaks for itself.

Lets look at Salisbury’s one term as a councillor. He was the councillor who greeted and supported the Hanlon Business Park occupiers who were trespassing on city property. That occupation ended up costing the city more than $1 million, due in part to destruction of construction equipment, threats to the contractor. Among the occupiers were those arrested during the G20 riots in downtown Toronto. As an elected official, cavorting with anarchists is not a recipe for re-election.

His other claim to fame was joining with retiring Coun Ian Findlay, convincing council to send them to Edmonton to check out how that city coped with late night rowdyism and fouling of public streets. This was intended to find ways of stopping what was happening on downtown streets in Guelph after the bars closed. It is a problem that persists today.

The solution was to set up temporary portable toilets for men only for a six-week study in the fall when the University students were in town. The result was collecting 2,400 litres of urine that only proved there was a public-fouling problem.

Mr. Salisbury was a member of the 2008 Council when Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp., contractor of the new City Hall, was fired by the city. Collectively, that council denies it was involved in the decision.

The mystery continues

Who among the staff or council ordered the firing?

Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, who wasn’t CAO when it occurred, says former CAO, Hans Loewig, fired Urbacon. She claims that a council bylaw governing the responsibilities of a CAO gave him the authority to cancel the contract.

Hold on! There is unanimous agreement among members of the 2008 council that they were not consulted nor asked to revoke the contract. Mayor Farbridge has been stone silent on this important issue of who was responsible.

If the elected members of council, including the Mayor, were not informed or consulted about the immediate firing of Urbacon, as they claim, was council so out of control of its fiduciary responsibilities that it didn’t protect the public’s interests?

In this election, this is a key question. It is beyond belief that Hans Loewig acted on his own and terminated a $42 million contract. At the time of the firing, he was a contract employee and acting CAO.

Two months after the firing, he was awarded a four-year contract with a starting salary of $198,000, plus benefits, and the extraordinary perk of taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave during his employment. Who was running the city during those off-duty times?

Of course Urbacon sued the city for $19.2 million for wrongful dismissal and the city lost the suit and paid Urbacon $6.35 million as settlement. Trial and settlement has taken six years and there are several cost issues that the city has not reported that are yet to come. The city has admitted to over-run costs of the project of $57 million.

An Election decision

So why would voters elect the following Farbridge supporters who are directly responsible for the Urbacon multi-million dollar mistake in judgment without accepting responsibility?

In Ward three, there is ardent cyclist Coun. Maggie Laidlaw who said she was not going to run after the integrity commissioner suggested she should apologize to two city staffers who said she bullied them. She then changed her mind and is on the ballot in ward three.

Ward Three also has Coun. June Hofland who, without any financial credentials, has been chair of the council finance committee for four years. She votes in lockstep with the Farbridge agenda.

In Ward Four the aforementioned Mike Salisbury.

In Ward Five there is Coun. Leanne Piper the right hand of Mayor Farbridge. She has a couple of claims to fame both involving money. A strong advocate of professional development (at the expense of citizens), Ms. Piper travelled to Portland, Oregon, described as the greenest city in America, presumably on a fact-finding trip. She probably wasn’t aware that Portland has a serious problem with its 17,000 homeless and is the largest distribution centre of cheap Mexican heroin in the Pacific Northwest. And the purpose of this trip was? What did it cost and where is the report of her trip? If citizens paid for the trip they are entitled to a report on her findings.

This is why retiring Coun. Gloria Kovach asked council to require travelling staff and councillors to report all costs and expenses in detail. In eight years, council has not reported details of staff or council travel costs to the public.

Piper’s other maneuver was to arrange to terminate Coun. Gloria Kovach’s four-year appointment as council representative on the Guelph Police Services Board after serving only two years.. The mayor is automatically a member. The job carries an extra payment of $5,000 per year. Then, that same night in stage two of her maneuver, Ms. Piper was elected to succeed Ms. Kovach. It’s been referred to as “the night of the long knives.”

In Ward Six, there is Karl Wettstein seeking re-election. Another Farbridge loyalist supporter, Wettstein is a typical example of the “go along to get along” school of government. His record of representing the citizens of his ward is empty of accomplishment. He voted for eight years to raise taxes, in excess of the Consumer Price Index, while promising to build a South-end recreation centre.

The only way to bring change to our city government is to vote. The odds for change increase if more people vote because the Farbridge core of supporters is a minority compared to the total number of electors.

Read Thursday’s edition of the Guelph Tribune for Part Three of New Directions – Guelph. If you missed Parts One and Two, go to for details.


Filed under Between the Lines

This election is about accountability and the lack of it

Posted October 13, 2014

Nearing the final verdict by the people in two weeks, this election has polarized between the Farbridge coalition of labour, NDP, environmentalists, heritage advocates, and the rest of us, the great silent majority.

This is what elections are all about. To decide who is best suited to run our public affairs. At the municipal level, more so than any other contest, the electors are closer to the causes and effects of their daily lives. This is why this particular election is so vital to the future of our city. It is why voters should make every effort to cast their ballot.

After eight years of a city government totally dominated by Mayor Karen Farbridge and her close-knit council supporters, many questions exist of how our council has served the people of this city.

Of course, the most stunning misuse of power was the lawsuit filed by Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp for $19.2 million that found the city had wrongfully dismissed the new city hall contractor in 2008. To date, the Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, has stated the cost of the new city hall is $57 million. That’s $15 million more than the original contract price of $42 million.

But there are still missing pieces of this complex settlement. The city has not reported the cost of the two construction companies hired to complete the Urbacon contract. Also what is the outcome of the claims by the Lien Claimants/Bond Claimants? After six years, was there interest paid to the various parties and how much? What is the breakdown of the court and legal costs?

The muddled handling of the Urbacon file by the Farbridge administration is deliberate and measured to protect the Farbridge administration. It is a clumsy attempt to turn chicken feathers into chicken soup. Or so they would like you to believe.

The facts are that the 2007 Farbridge council decided that the original new city hall contract did not accommodate its needs including demanding certain environmental changes. In the following one and a half years, there were more than 300 change orders filed that obviously were of such a nature that the original contract and design was essentially changed. More importantly, it rolled back the completion dates.

The relationship between the city, the architects and Urbacon deteriorated rapidly during that period. It led to the construction company being ordered off the work site on September 19, 2008. It remains to be seen who actually ordered the termination. Council members at the time have claimed they were not consulted. If not them, then who did make the decision and on what authority?

Today, the city is telling the people that there are sufficient funds to cover the $6.35 million settlement with Urbacon. The sources are: The Capital Asset Renewal reserve, the Legal/OMB reserve and the Capital Tax Reserve fund.

All these reserves were originally funded by the citizens, but not for the purposes of settling a misguided adventure that has been mismanaged by the administration from the get-go in 2008.

The Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, says there will be no impact on the tax levy. It will take five years to replenish those reserves. Recently Mr. Horsman has been quoted as saying the 2015 property tax increase will be more than 6 per cent. Do you want fries with that?

This is where the city administration tries to cover-up and spin the greatest lawsuit loss in recent memory. The bottom line is that it was caused by the actions of the Farbridge administration including her council supporters. Yet they refuse to accept responsibility.

It’s about accountability, remorse and being truthful.

Yet when a citizens action group such as GrassRoots Guelph points this out, the daily Mercury states: “the advocacy of some third party politicking has been criticized as being bruising, fact challenged and attack focused. Propaganda opponents can often be found to be aggressive truth spinners in their own regard.”

Just exactly what is the Mercury’s point, using this kind of language? Where has GrassRoots Guelph failed the accountability test as the city administration has in the Urbacon case?

This editorial quotation is exactly why GrassRoots Guelph refused to participate in the Mercury story about third party advocacy groups and their impact on the election. Using such key words as “some third party” or “has been crititzed as being bruising” and “fact challenged and attack focussed.” These are unattributable statements contained in an unsigned editorial. And, this is not the first indication that the Mercury has shown its bias toward the Farbridge administration.

If the Mercury had been on top of covering the management of our city for the past eight years, there would have been no need for a GrassRoots Guelph. Instead, the staff produced fluffy features and copy frequently sourced from the city communications department communiqués. It was a rare occasion when the Mercury editorial department questioned Mayor Farbridge or her policies. Critical writing and investigative reporting about the city’s business was mostly absent on the news pages.

The real spirit of a newspaper in a democratic society is to represent the interests of all the people and not just the comfortable. Going along to get along in the media destroys its credibility.

Reporting the truth and accountability is part of that responsibility.

Look for New Directions – Guelph, Part Three, in the October 16 edition of the Guelph Tribune.


Filed under Between the Lines

Grading Mayor Farbridge’s 2006 election promises, eight years later

Posted October 10, 2014

A copy of mayoralty candidate Karen Farbridge’s 2006 campaign brochure has been brought to our attention. Looking svelte and confidant, Ms. Farbridge promised “I will put Guelph back on track.”

Here is the guelphspeaks analysis grading candidate Karen Farbridge’s 2006 election promises, compared to her eight-year record as mayor in 2014. Enjoy!

* Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “Growth is proceeding at a pace faster than we can afford. It is costing you in taxes and quality of life. I will make growth pay for itself so we can build a prosperous well maintained and vibrant community.”

Guelphspeaks 2014: Let’s take her taxes comment. Since her election the Mayor has presided over a 38 per cent increase in property taxes, she has doubled development fees, increased water rates by 77 per cent and takes a $2.9 million “dividend” from Guelph Hydro. That’s your money. The sidewalks and potholes still aren’t fixed and more than 6,000 households still are not serviced by the city waste management department.

* Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “In Kate Quarrie’s city hall, decisions are driven by petty politics and personal agendas. I will restore trust and open communication. I will put our financial affairs back in order. I will close the back door to city hall and make it a fair process for everyone.”

Guelphspeaks 2014: Hardly know where to begin. The decision making process has not changed one iota. Her majority bloc of supporters has produced scores of self-serving projects. Council was rendered a dictatorship. Despite the Mayor’s promise to make it a fair process for everyone, the exact opposite occurred. Her government did exactly as they pleased and did it in secret beyond the public’s gaze. Today, the Farbridge message is manicured and massaged by a team of 13 full-time employees in her communications department. There was no such department in 2006.

But the biggest promise was her claim in 2006 to “put our financial affairs back in order”. Ask yourself, are you better off today than you were in 2006? The Consumer Price Index has averaged 1.9 per cent per year since 2007. The municipally-controlled cost of living in Guelph averaged 5.2 per cent. That does not include revenue received from senior governments.

Then there was that nasty business regarding the Nustadia deal in which a Calgary company was granted operational control of the new Woolwich Street arena now known as the Sleeman Centre. The operators failed to pay the mortgage as part of the agreement, and by the time the dust settled, the city was out $4 million. It all happened on Mayor Farbridge’s first term watch. That financial rock was handed to the Quarrie council in 2004 to be resolved.

Mayor Farbridge has not succeeded in putting Guelph back on track. She has derailed it instead.

* Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “Guelph is a difficult place to do business. While our neighbours attract new industry, our industrial base has dropped to its lowest point ever. I will streamline business approvals to attract jobs and offset high taxes.”

Guelphspeaks 2014: Hmmm, during your eight years as Mayor, two independent consultants, hired by your administration, told the city it was a difficult place to do business. Seems your 2006 pledge did not materialize. Today most people in town mock it as “The Guelph Factor,” or where did all those promised jobs go?

Karen, did you shift principles from your first tour as Mayor from 2000 to 2003? You remember, you and your council at the time, blocked the Wal-Mart application for a store on Woodlawn. The Quarrie council approved the store and the estimated delaying tactics cost the city more than $1 million, not to mention lost taxes for almost 11 years.

Your record of increasing the industrial assessment in Guelph is appalling. Worse it hasn’t changed in eight years. It has been stuck at 16 per cent since your were elected. So, how has that offset property taxes as you promised in 2006?

Your social engineering exercise restricting residential development to multiple-family condos built in greenfield enclaves has seriously skewed the city housing market. Last year your administration only issued 133 building permits for single-family homes. Well, you certainly succeeded in killing the so-called urban sprawl by removing choice for first time buyers.

* Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “Guelph is more than a collection of traffic lights, and sewers. As important as they are, my priority is to protect your city’s essential character and quality of life.”

Guelphspeaks 2014: That’s fatuous bullwinkle right out of urban planning 101. In eight years Mayor Farbridge has spent more time and money on policies and projects that most people didn’t vote for. These include the new civic museum costing, at last press release, some $16 million. The excessive spending in the downtown core include the Market Square/City Hall, the cost of which has an estimated overrun of some $20 million and counting.

But we failed to see a new downtown Library or the South End recreation centre, both promised by the Mayor in her first term of office

Calling a $30 million debt owed by Guelph Hydro funded much of this. Now through the Guelph Municipal Holdings Corporation, controlled by the mayor as chairperson, the corporation staff is studying the sale of the utility with a book value of $170 million.

People get upset when your administration proposed to paint coloured warning nstrips on broken or uneven sidewalks. They are also disturbed that your engineering staff failed to establish the height of the rail underpass to permit all trafic to pass under safely.

These are the bread and butter issues that form a city’s real character. Sorry, your administration is not very good at looking after the core issues.

Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “Clean water, clean air and clean parks – these are my environmental goals. I will seek tested and cost effective practices to achieve them.”

Guelphspeaks 2014 : Well, you were handed clean water, clean air and clean parks in 2007. But we now know what your real environmental focus was. Your administration embarked on a multi-million dollar waste management plan to divert waste from the landfill.

The Waste Resources Innovation Centre on Dunlop Drive is a colossal failure when it addresses waste diversion. It was grossly overbuilt, is dependent on waste materials from outside Guelph and its organic processing facility has yet to reach planned capacity. It has become the most secretive project of the city because the citizens have no idea of the costs of operation. The mayor claims that more than 50 per cent of waste is now diverted from the landfill because of this operation.

Well, here are some flaws in the argument. More than 6,000 homes in the city send their unsorted waste to the landfill because the city cannot pick it up due to location and equipment challenges. The amount of compost processed by the organic facility is unknown or the price paid by third parties. Waste coming from other jurisdictions, Detroit, Regional of Waterloo, if not suitable for processing, is shipped to the landfill.

This whole operation was developed in secret, the public was never informed of the costs or operational details, such as contracts with Maple Reinders and its subsidiary, Aim Environmental that operates the organic plant.

Yes, we still have clean, albeit more expensive water. Little has changed when it comes to air quality over which the city has little control. The parks are pretty good except the intersection weeds don’t get trimmed. The floral clock’s days may be numbered, according to reports.

Now we are facing the fallout of miscalculation, mistakes, misinformation and unbridled spending that has occurred in the past eight years.

Are you sure you want more of this?

Drop into or for the latest election information. Also check out the Guelph Tribune each Thursday for the four-part GRG ad describing the New Directions – Guelph program.


Filed under Between the Lines

Did Police Chief Bryan Larkin overstep the line by publicly endorsing Mayor Farbridge?

Posted October 8, 2014

This past should not be regarded as a criticism of the police. They have one of the toughest jobs in our society that is fraught with personal danger. It illustrates that senior police officers should keep their personal feelings to themselves.

The following is an example.

In her recently published election brochure, Mayor Farbridge received a glowing endorsement from Guelph’s outgoing Police Chief, Bryan Larkin.

The chief is quoted: “Karen Farbridge has proven she has the bold leadership, experience and vision to make Guelph a great place to work and live. I’m proud of our work together, resulting in Guelph having one of the lowest crime rates in all of Canada.”

It is signed Chief Bryan Larkin, Outgoing Chief of Police, Guelph.

My, my. So many questions about this uncensored love-in.

Guess the chief failed to absorb the Urbacon lawsuit fallout of some $15 million that occurred under Mayor Farbridge’s watch. That episode with more liability to come, seriously reflects on the management ability and leadership provided by the current mayor. Larkin must have missed the memo and/or the meeting.

First, what happened to the rule that public servants are forbidden to participate in Canadian elections, federal, provincial and municipal? There is a reason for it as it creates a bias that is unfair and can skew an election result. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

In this case it is so obvious as to be embarrassing, for both parties but especially the departed chief.

Who initiated this endorsement? It was carried on the back page of the 45,000 Farbridge brochures distributed to every household in Guelph. When did the chief make the statement, before or after August 31 when he left the city?

Did the Mayor solicit the endorsement? Or, as an outgoing gesture, did the chief want to express his thanks for the mayor ram-rodding the $34 million police HQ renovation through council? That’s the one that started out as a $13 million renovation and morphed into a $34 million project with Chief Larkin as the point man.

Perhaps it was produced by an enthusiastic Farbridge campaign worker who thought it was a good idea to link the mayor with crime busting. Thereby achieving the alleged claim of having “one of the lowest crime rates in Canada”. That’s it, Karen Farbridge, crime fighter.

Or, is it possible this expert self-promoter, Bryan Larkin, believed it was his last chance to ingratiate himself with the head of the city, just in case the new gig in the Region of Waterloo didn’t work out?

Regardless, it was a stupid thing to do.

Bryan Larkin’s Guelph tenure was riddled with major police problems including the handling of the Jennifer Kovach fatality while on duty. Then there was the case of the officer who was convicted of stealing drugs from the evidence for personal use.

Larkin’s gone and the citizens are left with a $34 million bill.

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Farbridge’s re-election brochures: Same music, same lyrics but fails to make the hit parade

Posted October 7, 2014

Comparing Mayor Farbridge’s 2010 and 2014 re-election brochures there are the same four main themes:

Bringing jobs to Guelph

Let’s parse the first re-worked theme. In her 2010 the mayor promised to bring more jobs to Guelph. In 2014 she says 1,000 new jobs were created by three organizations. She does not explain job attrition, companies and businesses having left the city since 2008. She does not explain the more than 200 full-time equivalent city staff added to the payroll since 2010.

In fact, her administration, in eight years, has not increased the industrial/commercial assessment of 16 per cent of total assessment of all properties in the city. The remainder, residential assessment contributes 84 per cent of the property tax revenues. The ideal ratio is 60 per cent residential and 40 per cent industrial/commercial.

The facts are that her alleged job increases are way below the provincial average for similar-sized communities. Guelph’s unique location with ample access to major markets and an available, qualified workforce should see much greater growth with better management of the file. It remains a major economic blunder, publicized as “The Guelph Fatcor,” that affects every citizen in Guelph.

Putting People First

The Mayor pledged in 2010 to “making it easier for everyone to access the information, services and resources they need.” In 2014, under the same heading, the Mayor states that: “We completed Value for Dollar audits, identifying $3.5 million in potential savings of taxpayer’s money.”

Using the word “potential” makes one wonder how she skipped some of the following:

The internal audit that revealed in 2013, of $5.2 million costs of staff overtime and absenteeism, twice what was paid the previous year. That loss was not “potential”, but real.

Or how about the costs of the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health lawsuit initiated by the Farbridge Administration and lost? The city never informed the citizens of the legal costs and was forced to pay $10 million as its share of the new Public Health headquarters on Stone Road. Wonder which reserve account was used for that one?

Then there is Urbacon. That lawsuit has increased the cost of the new City Hall from $42 million to $57 million, (all city announced figures) with additional details to follow. That chewed up $15 million so far.

It’s hard to reconcile the mayor’s statement indicating potential savings of $3.5 million of the taxpayer’s money with reality.

Then there was the three week strike of transit workers. The administration could not even get the cost of the settlement right. It was really 8.8 per cent not 6.48 per cent as announced by the city. This was putting people first?

Investing and protecting our Environment

In her 2014 brochure, Mayor Farbridge claims that the “composting facility is back in business, helping to divert more than 2/3 of our residential waste from the landfill.”

The $34 million composting plant, financed by the citizens of Guelph, is still not operating at its processing capacity of 30,000 tonnes per year. In fact, when a load of compostable material is dumped in the plant, if there is any material that will not compost, the entire load is delivered to the landfill.

Even materials such a glass in the recycling plant are broken up and transferred to the landfill.

Linamar must remove all its wastewater at its expense and ship it to the landfill. Yet still pay for the waste water service through their property tax bill.

Then there are more than 6,000 residences and businesses that must pay private contractors to pick up their unsorted waste and then it’s shipped to the landfill.

And who would have dreamed that Guelph would be processing recyclable materials from Detroit. So much so that the city had to hire a second shift at the Recycle plant to handle the volume. But at what cost?

The millions that the Farbridge administration has spent of the Waste Resources Innovation Centre is a case of a council gone wild spending the citizen’s treasure. Most of the development planning decisions and operating costs have been kept from the citizens.

Investing in Our Neighbourhoods

Her 2014 brochure applauds “doubling the bike lanes, built new parks (?), added new trails and started community gardens”.

If the mayor is privy to any polling re bike lanes, she will be surprised to learn that the greater majority of residents are not supportive. In fact, her administration has done more in eight years to restrict vehicular traffic by removing lanes that have been repaved, and failing to build downtown parking garages.

To applaud such downtown developments as Market Square, the Guelph Central Station and the Civic Museum is disingenuous at best. What she doesn’t talk about is her failed promise to build a new downtown library (the library chief recently gave up and has moved to Windsor).

The Central Station is a planned disaster with no parking and limited shelter. The $16 million civic museum was nothing but a political move to save a derelict building in the name of heritage and promoted by Coun. Leanne Piper. The building had horrific cost overruns and bears little resemblance to the original with a giant glass façade. The city has yet to release attendance figures and operating costs.

Another four years of this political magical mystery tour orchestrated by Mayor Farbridge, will result in soaring taxes, and user fees. There will be more of the same manipulated dreck the citizens have had to endure in the past eight years.

Ask yourself: Is the Farbridge goal of being the greenest city in Canada fit into your civic priorities?

No? First, fix what’s broken and give the Farbridge Field of Dreams a rest.

We can start by fixing the sidewalks, potholes and do something about that damned Wyndham Street underpass that that the Farbridge administration screwed up.

Discover New Directions- Guelph and a plan to bring the city back to the people. Details are in the Thursday Tribune for the next three weeks.


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What this election is really about: Taxes, Spending and Secrecy

Posted October 5, 2014

When you strip away the spin broadcast by the mayor’s campaign team, you discover there is a groundswell of voters doubt about whether to support the Farbridge team of 19 candidates running for council seats.

While the contest for mayor receives the greatest exposure in the media, the real battle remains in the wards where 12 councillors are to be elected.

In the past eight years, Mayor Karen Farbridge has forged an iron-fisted coalition that has controlled the city. It has experienced several stumbles trying to prevent the public from objecting to policies deemed unsustainable.

The granddaddy of stumbles came with the Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp lawsuit. By now, most people know that the city terminated the new city hall general contractor, Urbacon, before the job was completed. Urbacon sued and the city lost. So far, the cost of the lawsuit has zoomed by $15 million. And, there is still more liability to come.

Through this, the mayor has neither accepted responsibility nor has her elected council supporters past and present. In fact, the administration claims that the costs will not cause an increase in taxes. The announcement came that the costs will be paid through undisclosed reserve funds.

Voila! Problem solved. Except, the citizens paid for those reserve accounts through their taxes and user fees. But those reserves have to be replenished in the next five years. The money will come from revenues. Again it’s your money.

Al Horsman, Chief Financial Officer, has already said that the property tax rate in 2015 will be 6 per cent and will continue its upward spiral in the next two years.

If Mr. Horsman has miscalculated, who in the Farbridge administration is aware? They don’t want to talk about it.

There is only one way to solve this situation and it’s tougher than you think.

Citizens should understand that the city can no longer experience another four years of the Farbridge administration, its policies and cost.

The way to change it is to elect a majority of councillors who will take charge of the city regardless of who is elected mayor. In doing so, it will return power to the council and not just the mayor’s office. Most of all, ward by ward, the people will have representation that will listen, be open and transparent and bring fiscal order to the community.

The greatest fear of the Farbridge group is to lose the support of the unions. More than 80 per cent of 2,100 city employees are members of various unions. The unions have unequivocally supported the Farbridge administration.

This is why the Letters to the Editor page and certain members of the Mercury’s community editorial board have been broadcasting that increasing taxes is a good thing. Kind of like a ten-year old saying that more allowance means more stuff.

It’s a good thing if you’re a union bargaining with the city and knowing that the citizens will pick-up their increases in wages and salaries, plus benefits.

The question is: Do you want the unions, read that almost all civic employees, to have such a large influence in the operations of Guelph? Shouldn’t council have the full decision-making authority? They are the people’s representatives.

If you don’t agree with the policies and practices of the Farbridge administration, then vote for two councillors in your ward who are dedicated to change. GrassRoots Guelph has published the names of those running for council in each ward. For more information look for details in the next three Thursday editions of the Guelph Tribune. There is an alternative to returning responsibility to the council.

The Farbridge supporters are making another overt attempt to retain control of the city by electing members of the labour movement to city council. If this occurs, the citizens will lose what little control they have now to stop the spending on a wide variety of projects. But the Farbridge administration can’t fix the potholes or sidewalks, can’t build a main street underpass to accept all vehicles. It can waste money on poor judgment, continue to raise taxes and do it all in secret.

For the GRG recommended list of councillors go to






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