Following the money, how the Farbridge candidates kept control of council

Posted April 20, 2015

The interesting part is who gave money to whom? Delving into the names and numbers, it is apparent the great political divide in Guelph is not necessarily driven by ideology but by influence and money.

The record shows that a number of corporations and individuals donated not only to the former mayor’s campaign, but also to individual councillor’s campaigns who were Farbridge supporters.

In this election, those who supported the mayor lost big-time. That was then and this is now.

For some time, guelphspeaks.ca has been investigating how the Guelph and District Labour Council spent a lot of time, organizational and financial support to ensure the former mayor and friendly councillors were re-elected.

The official financial reports of former Mayor Farbridg’s campaign spending. states she spent some $80,217.63 to be un-elected.

Her opponent. Mayor Cam Guthrie spent close to $90,000 to win the election. Some of his donors hedged their bets and also donated to the Farbridge campaign.

The most interesting campaign was in ward three, where incumbent June Hofland won by just five votes. The interesting part is the source of the money she received funding her campaign and when it was received.

Let’s take a look.

Of the nine donors to June Hofland’s campaign who spent more than $100, five also donated to the mayor’s campaign. Not chump change but big bucks. Four people donated $2,000, plus another $250 from Fusion Homes through an individual named Pamela Kraft. That was a total of $2,700 out of $3,580 or 75.41 per cent of her total campaign spending. There was $550 in donations from those who donated under the limit of $100.

How can the financial support of just nine donors re-elect a member of council? Even more concerning is that five donated $2,250 of the $2,700 total to keep June Hofland on council. And Ms. Hofland found $250 to donate to the Farbridge campaign.

Here is something to think about. Why would Susan Watson donate $500 to Hofland’s campaign and $750 to the Farbridge campaign? Her husband, Ian Digby, matched her donation of $1,250.

And Susan Watson is the same person who is challenging the right of GrassRoots Guelph to donate to a GRG candidate who was defeated in the 2014 civic election. He acknowledged receiving $400 from GRG in his campaign financial report. Ms. Watson has filed a complaint to the election compliance committee about the right of GRG to donate, participate or recommend municipal candidates.

What a pathetic attempt to discredit a legitimate organization composed of ordinary citizens. The Ontario Municipal Elections Act does not prohibit participation of third party organizations in municipal elections.

This Watson attempt to convince the compliance committee to rule on the legitimacy of GRG. is misguided. Depending on the ruling of the committee on May 6, it could result in a barrage of objection including the Canada Charter of Rights, the Ontario Civil Rights commission and the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office.

Wait! It gets better.

Let’s look at ward three Councillor Phil Allt’s campaign financial support. Allt, a former New Democratic candidate for the Ontario Legislature, spent $6,319,97 to win the election.

His donation pattern shows that he collected $1,230 in under $100 donations but collected $4.583.16 in donations exceeding $100. Of that, one sticks out: Alan Filwod of Kitchener, who donated $750.

Professor Filwod is a teacher at the University of Guelph. He does not live in Guelph but is a resident of Kitchener. Now why would Mr. Filwod spend $750 to elect a city councillor in Guelph when he isn’t a taxpayer here? Or, why would Geoff Ondercin-Bourne who lives in Ancaster, Ontario, and teaches at Mohawk College, donate $400 to Mr. Allt’s ward three campaign in Guelph?

The most charitable explanation is that they are either New Democratic Party members, political allies and/or supporters of labour. They certainly were not on GRG’s membership list.

Assuming that is true, what’s the difference between the energy and efforts of residents of Guelph advocating a change of government, than the support by the Guelph and District Labour Council given to mayor Farbridge and her supporting cast of candidates?

The alleged use of surrogates to distribute funds anonymously is worse than any U.S. Style “super PACs” as has been described by Ms Watson’s lawyer, Ian Flett. He compared GRG with U.S. Super PACS and a threat to democracy. Such political action vehicles are not permitted in Canada.

What is needed is proof of the source of funds donated by individuals and corporations.

The underlying threat to citizens is the enormous grip and control of our city government by the civic unions. Some 80 per cent of all employees are unionized and they have a lot at stake to maintain their lifestyle and working conditions.

The bottom line is they want to work in the shadows supporting favoured candidates. That is to ensure election of those favouring control the council.

Because the campaign financial reports do not list affiliation and sources of the donors’ donations, whether or not they are city employees, union members or surrogates to distribute funds.

Electors in ward three should challenge Hofland and Allt to reveal the sources of money given to them. This includes Susan Watson and Ian Digby’s $1,000 gift to June Hofland’s campaign.

If interested in examining the candidates’ financial reports, here’s how: Go to Guelph.ca; in the search box located on the upper right of the screen, type in “municipal elections” and press enter. When the screen comes up click on the line under the heading that says “More on municipal elections”. This will take you to the list of candidates, the number of votes each received and their financial statements.

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12 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

12 responses to “Following the money, how the Farbridge candidates kept control of council

  1. geo

    Six figure socialists, phonier then Mike Duffy’s expense account.

  2. Art

    You seem to want me to be outraged, but I can’t figure out why. Private citizens donated money to candidates they favoured … you do understand that’s kind of how all of this works, right? (and where’s the Guthrie breakdown … where’s your “journalistic balance”)? And people did not “purchase” June Holland’s victory. You make it sound as though an extra donation somehow caused more voters to show up for Hofland. She seemed to actually spend very little, although you seem to be outraged that a large percentage of her small amount of spending came from one place … is that somehow against the rules? I’d suggest that fact has zero to do with her getting elected. She got elected because people voted for her. I doubt that many of the folks who voted for her had any idea how much she spent, or cared. In fact, I suspect that even the amount she spent was unnecessary and she would have been re-elected if she’d never put up a sign. (I’m from that Ward, and she really didn’t campaign much … people knew the name already, Maggie shot herself in the foot, and people made their usual semi-informed decisions).

    This post is pretty hilarious. It’s framed as an expose of some type of scandal, but I waited until the end for the scandalous part, and it never appeared. I felt like it was written by an ambitious high-school student who put on a trench coat and a fedora and felt all grown-up writing about something he doesn’t really understand. Although clearly you can preach to the choir who will chime in with tired old mumbling about “socialists”, you have no argument here. In reality, it would seem that you have nothing to say, but you like to to talk a lot to people who agree with you. That’s pretty lame, don’t ya think?

    • Art: You are missing the point, no surprise there. This situation was opened by Susan Watson to challenge the right of a legitimate citizen’s activist group to participate in the civic election. She hire a Toronto lawyer to present her complaint to the election compliance committee, appointed by the previous council.
      Having launched her complaint about GrassRoots Guelph daring to donate to a candidate it favored, it would seem proper to question the funding of those candidates who received support, particularly those openly supported by the Guelph and District Labour Council. I don’t have any quarrel with the activism of the trade union movement, so long as the admit they are participating in financially assisting favored candidates.

      This whole affair was fostered by Susan Watson. If she had kept her mouth shut and just licked her election wounds, this situation would never have surfaced.

      But the door has been opened and citizens have every right to question funding of the candidates. Your sarcasm only points to the weakness of your argument.

  3. Essie

    You might not like her choices (understatement), but Susan Watson and Ian Digby followed the rules – they are quite free as individuals to donate to whomever they wish, as long as their donations don’t exceed the maximum limit (which they didn’t). GRG members, as individuals, are also free to donate up to the allowable maximum to whomever they wish.

    However, if GRG is a non-partisan organization, should it, as an organization, make a partisan donation to a candidate? I think that’s a question worth answering, and if an investigation by the municipal compliance audit committee leads to more clarity regarding donation rules, then all to the good for everyone.

    Also, Watson and Digby’s donations are in the public record. Two of the candidates GRG supported/promoted during the election did not meet the deadline for filing their official financial reports, so there really isn’t a full public record of ALL the donations received by ALL the candidates.

    • Essie: I agree that Ms. Watson and Ian Digby can donate to anyone they so choose as long as it does not exceed the stated limit. I question your assumption that GRG is a partisan organization. It never was nor is now. The organization is open to any citizen, free, and regardless of political affiliation. I do not believe the compliance committee is empowered to change the donation rules nor determine if legal citizen’s activists group is allowed to donate funding to those candidates it feels deserves public support. That’s the same thing in which Ms. Watson and Ian Digby engaged themselves. As to two of GRG recommended candidates who failed to file campaign financial statements, the onus for doing so falls on them.

  4. Essie

    I actually said that the donation was partisan, not the organization. GRG may be open to anyone to join (you’re saying that’s your criteria for non-partisan?), but it definitely and publicly promotes a particular point of view (which is how I’d define partisan), and made a donation to a candidate who, as a member of GRG, presumably shared that point of view.

    Again, the difference between GRG and Watson and Digby is that they donated as individuals, while GRG donated as a self-declared “non-partisan legal citizens’ activist group”. Not the same thing.

    • Essie: Interesting interpretation. GRG is still a legal, non-profit, non-partisan, incorporated organization. The question is: Why did Ms. Watson bring it up? Even her own lawyer stated that GRG was not prohibited to act in the manner in which it did under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act. Her complaint should be directed at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for adjudication.

  5. bostoncollie

    Excellent post. Keep shining light on this nonsense Mr. Barker.

  6. Louis

    Sad thing is those criticizing you are most likely liberals and are the biggest hypocrites they campaign against free speech.

    Send these stories to CTV and to other more conservative news outlets, as the Mercury and Tribune will twist peoples words around and lie

    • Louis: Not necessarily Liberals but folks with a point of view with which I don’t agree. They had their chance at bat and we now know how that went for the taxpayers. The tawdry exercise of passing that awful 2015 budget was the signal that the Farbridge councillors are not ready to give up. The 3.96 per cent property tax increase tells it all about this bunch.

  7. Louis

    I am unsure where this city is going to be honest , I am interested how much and how quickly they will do development of industrial and commercial if it can offset the taxbase in any way shape or form.

    But they would have to probably expand the cities borders to do that

    • Louis: The city owns a chunk of mostly vacant industrial land in the Hanlon Business Park. That coupled with infilling in the established industrial area is available for development. In the past the city lands have been overvalued in comparison with other municipalities in the area. The operational policies of the Economic Development department needs an overhaul to focus on building industrial assessment. The past eight years in this vital area has bordered on disaster when its performance is measured.

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