Monthly Archives: November 2014

It’s time to collect the $5.25 million in fines from the deadbeats

Posted November 6, 2014

Mayor-elect Cam Guthrie is on the money with his declaration to collect more than $5.25 million of unpaid fines still owed the city since the end of 2013. The original amount owed was $12.9 million involving 33,000 cases. Some $7.7 million was written off by the Farbridge administration as being older that six years and judged uncollectable.

Coun. Leanne Piper supports the Guthrie proposal to hire a collection agency.

“We absolutely should pursue this,” she said. Then added that it will be challenging until Ontario municipalities get more legislative clout.

It begs the question: Why in the past eight years did the Farbridge administration, of which Ms. Piper was a member, not aggressively go after these scofflaws and deadbeats?

It seems an egregious excuse by Ms. Piper to shift the blame for not doing council’s work onto the provincial government. There was nothing to prevent the Farbridge administration from hiring a collection agency to collect some $12.9 million in unpaid fines. Yet Farbridge regime survivor Piper glosses over that, shifting the blame for lack of collection onto the province.

It has become a familiar tactic of the now defunct Farbridge administration to shove the blame for its own shortcomings onto someone else. The Urbacon case was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The administration blamed long-departed CAO Hans Loewig for firing Urbacon, the former new city hall contractor. The final count of the cost of that disastrous decision remains to be uncovered.

It will take an independent audit of the city’s finances to uncover the real costs of that misadventure plus a host of other secret and dubious projects of which the public has little or no knowledge. The annual audit by Deloitte and Touche is not a deep dive audit. That means there is a contract that outlines parameters of the annual audit that is required by provincial legislation. It does not examine expenditures below a certain figure. It is believed that figure is $300,000.

In a post election statement, Ms. Piper declared that the ‘progressives’ still had control of the council because they elected seven councillors. She fails to understand that the people voted against bloc control of council. After eight years, voters rejected council domination by the Farbridge adherents when Cam Guthrie defeated the three-term mayor.

This premature remark bespoke of the Farbridge cohort’s attempt to keep control of the council and the city, to extend the legacy of a defeated mayor and some of her colleagues.

It could turn out that the Piper coalition of ‘progressives’ may not be as solid as she would like to think.

This is a new and quite different council. It must be given the opportunity to function without partisan sniping or obstruction. The new mayor will bring several important measures to the table, reflecting the majority views of the 19,672 citizens who voted for him.

This election was about change and that’s what the people voted for.

The vast majority of electors did not vote for another four years of bloc-voting on council. The sooner Ms. Piper and her fellow travellers realize that, this city will be well served by a council composed of responsible and dedicated members, of all political stripes, answerable to the people.

Letting the sunshine into 1 Carden Street will be liberating for all.

 

 

 

 

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The strange case of Frank Valeriote, MP – Guelph

Posted November 6, 2014

On a personal note at the outset, I want to declare that my wife and I voted for Frank Valeriote, twice.

We did so, despite the chaos that existed within the leadership of the Liberal Party. Among thousands of Canadians, we took a financial bath when the late Jim Flaherty put an end to the income trusts on Halloween, October 31, 2006. The result was a loss of millions by Canadian investors as income trust values plummeted.

That was the point that we lost faith in Mr. Harper and his policies.

But our faith in Mr. Valeriote faded when before the recent civic election he made robocalls citywide in support of Mayor Karen Farbridge. Cam Guthrie subsequently defeated her.

It was a political blunder that has his supporters in the city wondering why would he insert his influence in an election that was way out of his jurisdictional responsibility? Maybe he reverted to exiting Police Chief Bryan Larkin’s defense of endorsing Mayor Farbridge. Was it the “ I am a citizen and taxpayer in Guelph”, argument?

It’s only a matter of time before Mr. Larkin is called on that one.

Don’t worry sirs; you are not alone among the high profile endorsers of the Mayor who now have egg dripping off their noses.

The robocall defence of the mayor didn’t work.

But now there is growing concern among citizens that Mr. Valeriote will not be a candidate for re-election next year.

Several theories and questions abound. Not the least is the rumoured separation between Mr. Valeriote and his wife. Also there is the question of his involvement in Skyline properties in which he is alleged to be a member of the board. There is the question of whether his alleged investment, in this highly successful Guelph company, is contained in his blind trust. As a Member of Parliament, he is required, by party rules, to place his investments into a blind trust.

Was Mr. Valeriote involved in the rebuilt Gummer Building owned by Skyline? Or was he involved with the Farbridge administration giving to Skyline municipally–owned downtown parking spaces for more than 100 Co-Op employees scheduled to move into the rebuilt building?

The biggest question of all is why did a federal MP step into a civic election to take a side with the incumbent mayor?

Politics is a game of give and take. It’s about alliances formed to benefit the parties in power. Frank Valeriote is a member of the third party in Ottawa. In Guelph, there was more action, more opportunity and best of all, solid popularity with his support of the Liberals, the largest group of electors in the city.

His robocall support of the mayor did not go without notice of the Tories. They clucked that he was the pot calling the kettle black due to his 2011 campaign robocall experience resulting in having to pay a hefty fine. The fine was levied by Elections Canada after an investigation.

Sigh! Why has Guelph become the robocall capital of Canada?

The rumour mill is now saying that Frank Valeriote will not be a candidate in 2015. If that’s the case, he will be able to take his earned Parliamentary pension and get on with his life in Guelph.

The other rumour is that Lloyd Longfield, former President and CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, is waiting in the wings to contest the Liberal nomination if Mr. Valeriote decides not to run.

You need a program to tell the players in this game.

 

 

 

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Well, let’s look at the bright side

Posted November 4, 2914

It’s not often that GS praises the Mercury but in the Monday editorial page, the paper printed a balanced and carefully dissected review of the past civic election.

The premise was based on labelling that played a prominent role in the campaign. Specifically it spoke to the labelling of the community members as either taxpayers or citizens.

Here is a key quote in the editorial: “Seemingly there is less space in municipal affairs discourse for people to try and see things without hard ideological focus and labelling.”

Already there have been voices in triumph coming from the remnants of the Farbridge regime including Coun. Leanne Piper. She crowed that seven elected councillors from the ‘progressive’ party would control council with a majority.

Hold on, Coun. elect Karl Wettstein denied the ‘progressive’ label and said he was a Progressive Conservative when it came to labelling. It is refreshing to see that bloc voting may not be what Coun. Piper intends.

The Piper claim is not what the people of Guelph voted for when they supported change. The city just went through eight years of bloc voting by two successive Farbridge dominated councils.

The election result was clear. People voted for change and the ‘progressive’ leader, Mayor Karen Farbridge, was defeated along with councillors Maggie Laidlaw and Todd Dennis. Two other members supporting the Farbridge bloc, councillors Ian Findlay and Lise Burcher chose not to run.

By any stretch of the imagination, that represents a repudiation of the policies of the past eight years.

The best thing to happen now is to cool down and support the new council. There is a multitude of problems facing council, chief among them is a reconciliation of the city’s finances. This will require an independent accounting from trained experts. The result will provide the financial benchmark for the next four years.

Also this will guide all members of council to make decisions together that will benefit all citizens of Guelph.

It will require some councillors to bend their ideology and contribute to the city’s common good.

Surprisingly, there is much common ground among members of the new council. During the last term of the Farbridge administration, there was an effort to an open and transparent government. Also there was more emphasis on creating jobs, good jobs, established by new commercial and industrial development. The new council must review and approve policies that will encourage this kind of development.

The payoff is self-evident that will result in easing the burden of taxation on business and residential taxpayers.

There are differences in thinking about the direction the city should take in the future. That too is not a bad thing. It will take creative and cooperative action to modify the previous administration’s long range planning in a number of areas.

It goes back to the city’s ability to pay for the future while financing the past that remains a priority.

A most interesting situation occurred during the election. Despite the magnified differences fed by a barrage of claims, mis-statements and barefaced hostility, there is a shared view of ensuring that our city grows and prospers.

Let’s hope that our new council and city staff, step back, take a deep breath and decide to work together for the good of the city.

Keep in mind that four years is a long time to spend in a toxic and unbending atmosphere filled with recriminations.

The potential exists to become one of the most effective and admired councils that citizens can embrace.

We wish them Godspeed in their new mission.

 

 

 

 

 

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Post election anatomy of the civic election

Posted November 3, 2013

If we learned nothing from the past eight years of the Farbridge administration at least it was educational, expensive but not very informative.

We learned that it’s really tough to fight City Hall.

City regulations place an enormous burden on the citizen seeking information of the administration’s finances and operations. Such an example in Guelph occurred in October 2013, when GrassRoots Guelph filed a petition requesting an independent audit of the city’s finances and operations.

It was denied by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing despite the acknowledgement of her own staff that the data was accurate. The city’s Chief Administrative Officer boasted the request was a “waste of time.” The facts are as true today as they were in October 2013.

The Urbacon affair demonstrated the need for a GRG independent audit that could have mitigated the damages.

If a politician appears to have violated the conflict-of-interest law, nothing can be done unless the citizen files a lawsuit. If a politician breaks a bylaw there is no recourse for the citizen because of the close ties with the professional staff and the council. It shouldn’t be this way.

A key element in the defeat of Mayor Karen Farbridge was the secrecy and denial of any protest of her administration. This was self-evident when she attempted to switch the blame for the unsigned ad in the Tribune that attempted to link Mayoralty candidate Cam Guthrie with convicted robocall perpetrator Michael Sona. Her subsequent FrontPage rant in the Guelph Mercury of how extreme and toxic the campaign was, resulted in the failure of the public trust that led to her defeat.

People generally believe what they read in the newspapers. Independent municipal coverage of the two Guelph newspapers in the last eight years was conspicuously absent. News and opinion coverage favoured the Farbridge administration. There was little investigative reporting or fact checking of city news releases that both papers relied on.

In the past four years, more and more people turned to the Internet for their news. The blogosphere became a source for independent news and commentary. This included publishing breaking news that the two newspapers did not or chose not to cover.

If the established media cannot be trusted, what can you believe?

The irony is, after all the thousands of words printed in the two newspapers during the two Farbridge terms in office, neither paper endorsed her. For that matter, the Mercury wrote a lengthy editorial that both damned and praised the two chief mayoralty candidates. Were they hedging their bet?

The Tribune, in a post election editorial, started off by aligning Mayor-Elect Cam Guthrie with Conservative and Progressive Conservative ties. This was the ongoing attack theme of the defeated Farbridge team and her supporters. The same political pejorative was laid on the GrassRoots Guelph citizens group. It was a bum rap.

Why, in this important civic election, did the Farbridge supporters keep bringing up conservative party affiliations aimed to influence voters? Why did they keep using terms such as “slash and burn” in references to what Cam Guthrie would do if elected mayor?

It was a massive tactic to divert the voter’s attention from the Farbridge secretive and sleazy campaign that attempted to cover up its record of mismanaging the city.

Then the Urbacon affair surfaced.

The voters weren’t fooled and she was trounced in her fourth bid for re-election.

Karen Farbridge even persuaded Liberal MP Frank Valeriote to make robocalls to every household in Guelph, supporting her candidacy two days before the election. There are more Liberal voters in the City of Guelph than any other federal or provincial party. It’s safe to assume now that many of them didn’t listen to Frank’s plea for support of Mayor Farbridge.

In its editorial, The Tribune hoped that the new council members would “pursue initiatives that have broad support.” You know the Goldilocks porridge parable – not too hot and not too cold, just right.

The sentiment is right. But after eight years of the mis-handling of our city’s treasure and the public trust by the Farbridge administration, we’ll have to wait and see how well the members of council work together for the common good.

A good start is to open the work of council to the public view and adopt a transparent approach to all city business.

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