Posted May 6, 2015
If only Dennis Galon would tell the truth about Susan Watson’s complaint about the right of citizens to participate in elections.
In a letter in the Mercury, Galon cites elements of the Ontario Corporations Act, dictionary definitions, the letters patent of GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). And he argues that because third party action is not permitted in provincial or federal elections, it should not be allowed in municipal elections.
But in Ontario it is.
The complaint about the legitimacy of GrassRoots Guelph to support specific candidates is rooted in anger by the upper echelons of Farbridge supporters who are still enraged that their leader was defeated. The role of GRG, a voluntary citizen’s activist group, was the result of collective action by citizens who were outraged by the handling of the Urbacon lawsuit.
Galon neglects to mention that to this day, the full costs of the Urbacon affair revelation of multi-million dollar mistakes and mismanagement are still not known.
Ergo, GRG is the target in this compliance committee hearing, but not invited to participate. It is a barefaced attempt to destroy GRG by convincing a body of an un-elected panel to carry out their wishes.
The outcome will be interesting because this panel has no authority or mandate to change the rules embodied in the Ontario Municipal Elections Act.
More important is the threat to individual’s rights to assemble, participate and support municipal candidates under the Charter of Rights.
Galon keeps harping about GRG was partisan and therefore maintained a point view that reflected the standards of Conservative party adherents. Nothing could be further from the truth. The GRG membership was open to anyone and included supporters of all four major political parties in its ranks. It points to the basic difference between provincial and federal elections and muncipal election.
Traditionally, there are no political parties in municipal elections. In recent years, that has changed in Guelph. Supporters of the New Democratic Party have emerged and control the city government through union support and a majority of council members. It evolved in the past eight years under the leadership of Karen Farbridge and members of the NDP dominated Guelph Civic League.
We can see the trend of NDP organizing on the municipal level across Canada. Two examples are the NDP wins was in Quebeec in the last federal election and last night’s sweep by the party in Alberta ending 43 years of Conservative domination.
If you’ll pardon the expression, the underlying reason is organizing the grassroots on the muncipal level to attain victory. The forerunner of this strategy was the Farbridge sweep to power in 2006 attained with the help of professional NDP organizers.
Isn’t that pure partisan participation in a municipal election?
This attack by the Farbridge forces on GRG started last year before the election when someone in the inner circle concocted this lame attempt to discredit GRG by identifying them with the conservative right wing of the political spectrum.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why citizen’s revolted at the polls and defeated the mayor and other supporters who either quit or were defeated.
While the Urbacon lawsuit tops the list, there were other issues that motivated rejection of the mayor and her cohorts:
* Waste management comes close to being a disaster with the costs of operation never revealed; the director resigning; failing to service an estimated 6,400 homes; depending on other jurisdictions to supply feedstock to the waste centre; installing a cart system costing $15 million that breaks down and fails to service condo development and businesses.
* The $34 million renovation of police headquarters without public input.
* Hiring of additional staff has only exacerbated their high costs. Staff costs are not just salary or wages but include pensions, health and life insurance, accumulated unused sick and vacation days. These future obligations total more than $11 million, increasing each year, and are guaranteed by the citizens of Guelph.
* The exponential increases in basic operations such as water and sewer charges, user fees and property tax rates topping off at 3.96 per cent this year, highest in five years.
* Using $30 million from the Brownfield remedial reserve to hi-rise condo developers in the form of grants and tax deferment. No mention of repayment to the depleted reserve.
* The city owned Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc has received so-called “dividends” exceeding $4 million from Guelph Hydro. This comes from power rates charged to the same citizens who must pay property taxes and user fees. And Hydro rates are going up again this year and next. This just causes anxiety among most Guelph citizens.
* Finally, engineering a Wyndham Street rail underpass with a low clearance preventing large commercial vehicles using it.
Mr. Galon, you and your friends should look inwardly before complaining about the legitimacy of GRG and its role the October 2014 election.
And why now? It’s six months after the fact.
Why not inform the citizens of the costs of this exercise? To satisfy your hurt feelings about the outcome, are you expecting the costs to come from the public trough? Further, who is paying for Ms. Watson’s Toronto lawyer?
It’s all about using someone else’s money to retain power.