The ghost of Farbridge hovers over city hall as little has changed

February 17, 2015

Why did we bother to have an election if little has changed and the same people are running the store?

A year ago, the city announced it was seeking a chief executive officer to run the shadow holding company know as Guelph Municipal Holding Inc (GMHI) with its chief asset being Guelph Hydro, and its subsidiary, Envida Community Energy Inc. Also planned was a real estate company to sell off surplus city property.

The administration hired Odgers Berndtson, a headhunting firm with global contacts, to find the candidate. The successful candidate will replace the current CEO Guelph chief administration officer, Ann Pappert. The GMHI board of directors is composed of the mayor as chairman, councillors and two independents appointed by the former mayor.

Question? Did they ever hire a GMHI chief executive officer? If so, how much did it cost?

Why does Guelph need another layer of expensive talent to run a holding company with three assets? Guelph Hydro has a management structure that has functioned well for many years. Will someone explain to the citizens why more management is needed?

The holding company will manage former mayor Farbridge’s vision of supplying underground thermal heating and cooling to the downtown area. The Guelph Hydro subsidiary, Envida Community Energy, has announced it will build a $20 milion gas-fired electricity generating plant, combined with a thermal-based heating and cooling system, to service the Hanlon Business Park occupants.

Even more interesting is how GMHI paid a dividend from Guelph Hydro. In 2012, the dividend was $2,900,000, forwarded to the city and swallowed up in general revenues. It was paid despite a decline in Guelph Hydro’s revenues in 2012.

The bottom line is that it is another way to tax citizens. It occurs every time you turn on the lights, heat the house, heat the water, refrigerate the food and watch television. The same thing is happening when providing water and water treatment services. The alarming trend of increasing water costs to consumers reached 77 per cent from 2007 to 2012.

The former Mayor’s agenda takes money. Lots of it and that’s why there is the constant scramble to find ways to tax people, jack-up user fees and now use two vital services, power and water to pay for it.

The Ontario Municipal Act frowns on municipalities taxing those two vital services, directly or indirectly. The subterfuge of using the municipal holding company to launder the Hydro “dividend” so it does not appear as another tax is egregious and probably unlawful.

Another four years of a continuation of the former mayor’s agenda, as it appears is the case today, and our city will continue to have the highest property taxes, hydro and water rates in Ontario.

Here’s why: People will not want to live here because of the high property tax rates. In fact, some people may not be able to afford to live here. Industrial and commercial development will not grow because of high taxes, operating fees and a complicated system of obtaining approvals from a politicized city administration.

There is growing evidence that Mayor Cam Guthrie is a “go along to get along” kind of chief Magistrate. That’s not what the people voted for last October.

Karen Farbridge must be chuckling with her supporters viewing how her opponent is running the show.




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