Monthly Archives: June 2015

When the Mercury gets it wrong, it’s a whopper

Posted June 29, 2015

Headline in the Saturday Mercury: “Firing City Hall Builder will cost $8.1 million”.

The impression the paper headline leaves is that the entire cost of the Urbacon firing was $8.1 million.

Actually, near the end of the story another $6,635,000 paid to Urbacon by the city to settle the lawsuit making the current grand total $14,736,321 and still counting.

The downside of all this is that the public will never know thr true cost of the Urbacon firing because of sloppy and careless bookkeeping over the past nine years. The degree of political interference during this period grossly attempted to cover up to convince the people it was not a serious error in judgment.

First, the administration blamed former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Hans Loewig for unilaterally firing Urbacon. Then, just before the trial, he disappeared, never testified and has never been heard from since.

His succesor, Ann Pappert, said that under the city’s CAO bylaw, Loewig had the power to act on his own and terminate the Urbacon contract. Mayor Karen Farbridge and her majority of council supporters never admitted responsibility for the firing.

How it all started

Stepping back a bit, Urbacon Buildings Group was hired in 2006 to build a new city hall on the site of the former memorial arena and convert the old city hall into a provincial offences courthouse. The contract was for $42 million. In 2008, the city ordered Urbacon, the general contractor, off the job chiefly because it failed to meet completion deadlines.

Urbacon sued the city for $19 million for wrongful dismissal. The city countersued for $5 million. The city sued Aviva Insurance Company of Canada to pay the bond that covered non-completion of the work. That was settled recently with the city paying $100,000 to Aviva. A five-week trial in 2013 conducted by Justice Donald MacKenzie found the city guilty of wrongfully dismissing Urbacon in March 2014.

At the time, then Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, joined the apologetic discourse saying the settlement can be accommodated within the city’s current financial means. His definition of “settlement” was not defined. Remember, 2014 was an election year and the affair was in high gear as the Farbridge administration scrambled to cover up the Urbacon details and fallout.

It turned out to be a colossal misrepresentation of the facts done deliberately to protect the election campaign of the Mayor and her council supporters. It was classic manipulation of the true picture of the cost of this multi-million dollar mistake.

The full cost of this bumbling exercise having all the earmarks of a very public bad dream, is that the citizens still don’t know the full cost of the Urbacon debacle 14 months after Justice MacKenzie delivered his verdict. It should be noted that Justice MacKenzie, in his judgment, ordered that all settlements and costs were to be completed by October 2014.

Legal costs smack-down

In a recent city press release, CAO, Ann Pappert, mentioned the city’s legal costs of the trial are $2,300,484, including the legal fees apparently paid to Derek Schmuck, the hired gun from Hamilton, who represented the city in its two trials.

Two you say? Yes, there was another related lawsuit over the city’s abortive attempt to have the damages portion of the Urbacon trial postponed until after the civic election. That was denied.

What is still missing from the Urbacon accounting?

We have yet to be told the costs of hiring two construction companies to complete the city hall and renovate the old city hall into a provincial offenses court. Both these projects were part of the original $42 million Urbacon contract.

How does the city account for also coughing up some $4 million to pay off the city hall subcontractors who placed liens on the new building after Urbacon was thrown off the job.

For some five years, there is the untold cost of city staff working on behalf of the Urbacon lawsuit to prepare the legal arguments. How much did the city pay lawyers and consultants, inside and outside the city staff, to support the city’s failed contention that it had the right to fire Urbacon?

CAO Pappert commenting on the new revelation told the Mercury: “The city has been keeping a running accounting of the city hall project that goes back nine years and includes the predesign work, the contraction and administration costs, legal costs and settlements.”

Then she says she is satisfied with the running accounting of the project. “I am comfortable with what I am seeing, “she says adding, “ but what I’ve asked for is a third party auditor to look at our accounting and make sure it is up to snuff.”

Nope, it’s not raining here

Snuff? Pappert then admits the city has not tracked how much internal staff time has been spent on Urbacon. She states “I don’t think they (the administration) anticipated a rainy day fund for Urbacon.”

The Farbridge administration didn’t bother because they thought they would win the lawsuit.

That was only one of checks and balances ignored in this whole affair.

Funding this new Urbacon audit will come from an existing contingency budget, Pappert says, not revealing the cost or who will do the work. The CAO said that she brought in the Deloitte construction division and asked it to review the way the city exercises complex capital issues. Note, Deloitte Touche from Kitchener, are also the city auditors.

Be careful what you put in the refrigerator

Talk about slamming the refrigerator door shut when the cheese gets too rank for consumption.

The Deloitte Construction crew investigating and recommending capital spending protocols, have lots of projects to examine, including the Wyndham Street rail underpass, the Farmer’s Market renovations, the restoration of major roads including adding bike lanes and reducing vehicle lanes, the cost of the Waste Resource Innovation Centre on Dunlop drive, the Baker street proposal, the new downtown library, and the South End recreation complex. They should also examine the money spent by the Guelph Municipal Holdings Corporation to control environmental developments and Guelph Hydro.

Ah yes, there are many issues to be studied on how it should not be done … Urbacon anyone?

As for Ms. Pappert’s role in this costly, ill-fated odyssey, the outcome may be her Waterloo as CAO of the City of Guelph.








Filed under Between the Lines

Reflections on Premier Wynne’s last picture show

Posted June 25, 2015

It was to be a cinema tour de force, a timeless window into the mind of Kathleen Wynne, the self-appointed second most powerful leader in Canada.

Even without seeing the final cut of the documentary on her career, the Wynne team pulled the plug by refusing to sign the necessary waivers to allow the production to be aired on TVO.

The producer and editor of the documentary resigned. TVO is trying to get its $114,000 advance back. The Toronto Star obtained a copy and revealed some of the parts of the documentary in a front-page expose’.

The Wynne camp moved to offset a political problem prior to a Sudbury byelection that initiated this reality show documentary. A former Liberal candidate, Andrew Olivier, was asked to step aside so that NDP defector, Glenn Thibault, was the favoured candidate by the Liberal deep thinkers at Queens’s Park.

Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, was dispatched along with Sudbury activist, Gerry Lougheed, to make a deal with Olivier to step aside and he would be rewarded with a senior party job. Olivier is a quadriplegic and recorded the conversation with the two Liberal hatchet persons.

In the byelection Olivier ran as an independent and captured third place.

The provincial police were called in to investigate this alleged attempt to influence a candidate. The result of this investigation has yet to be determined.

The film portrays the Premier’s spouse, Jane Rounthwaite, as an “amazing political manager, smart and savvy”. The segment showing the two of them talking identifies Rounthwaite as a loyal spouse, friend and comrade in the Ontario political arena.

Her opinions include:

* The Wynne brand: “Your honesty”.

* Trudeau: “He should be taking advice in Ontario on how to get those seats back”.

* Image making: “Kath never wore make-up, it was a point of principle, but with all of the exposure you have to look good every minute of the day.”

* A pesky young reporter” “He’s a twerp.”

Do you remember electing Jane Rounthwaite last June?

Not only did Wynne rely on her spouse’s advice but also spoke with her mother about the Sudbury affair. Sudbury was an embarrassing event in which her loyal deputy, Pat Sorbara, could face charges over the abortive attempt to dissuade Andrew Olivier from seeking the Liberal nomination.

But the documentary reveals the whiny, dark side of the premier when challenged in the Legislature by a Tory MPP who alleged her judgment was skewed by her sexual preference.

She fired back: “Is it because I’m a woman? Is it that I’m a mother? Is it that I have a masters of education? Is it that I was school council chair? Is it that I was the minister of education?”

Well Premier, we’re glad you brought up the education comments. Along with your appointed Minister of Education, Guelph’s Liz Sandals, the two of you, both former school trustees, have managed to almost destroy any hope of settling with the province’s teachers before school starts after Labour Day.

You used up your one ace in the hole in 2013 when you spent $435 million to placate the teachers most of whom were working to rule. It worked then and members of the teacher’s unions showed their appreciation by working to elect Liberals to the Legislature.

Tell us, what does your confidant and advisor, Jane Rounthwaite, tell you to do now? The high school teachers are poised to walk, the public elementary teachers are positioned for striking and the Catholic teachers are moving to conciliation after talks with your management team have failed.

Who can be surprised that you pulled the plug on this documentary? What seemed like a good idea at the outset has now fanned the flames of discontent with your leadership and that of your friend, Liz Sandals, who, as it turned out, was not ready for prime time.

The Star article about the documentary portrayed you as a thoughtful and conscientious boss who treats her staff and her cabinet colleagues well as they prepared the budget.

However, her real bosses are the people of Ontario. When your government raised Hydro rates by more than 42 per cent in three years, allow beer in major grocery stores but not wine; cave into the Beer Store monopoly by limiting the amount of beer sold in the LCBO stores and major groceries; move to sell off 60 per cent of Hydro One, you have a serious problem.

Premier, you and your colleagues have some real work to do rebuilding an Ontario that you and your predecessor have destroyed by multi-million dollar mistakes driving down a once vibrant economy.

The numbers don’t lie. Manufacturing jobs have evaporated. The provincial infrastructure is crumbling. The public sector is the only employee bloc that is growing and prospering.

And, according to the Liberal budget, we still have a deficit of $8 billion.

It is difficult to ascertain how much these Liberal successive budget deficits from McGuinty to Wynne, have cost the people of Ontario. It’s dead money being sucked up by the province’s lenders. A growing provincial debt that eats away at the government’s ability to get Ontario out of the economic ditch which eight years of Liberal governments have created.

Imagine, could run your household this way?



Filed under Between the Lines

Did Bryan Larkin do a snow job on the police commission?

Posted June 24, 2015

Let’s go back to January 2014. That’s when a report on renovating the Guelph Police downtown headquarters was presented to council costing $13 million.

Bryan Larkin was Guelph’s Chief of Police at the time and persuaded the Guelph Police Services Board (GPSB) to hire an independent consultant to review the needs of the police and the conditions under which they had to work.

Mayor Karen Farbridge and Coun. Leanne Piper, the two members of council serving on the board, went along with the chief’s recommendation. Their apparent rationalization was: Who knew better than the guy in charge?

While this process was ongoing, Larkin received feelers from the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board regarding replacing the board’s outgoing Chief of Police.

About a year ago, Larkin announced he was accepting the Waterloo offer and would leave his Guelph responsibilities August 31. Before his resignation, the GPSB received the consultant’s report and the cost of the headquarters renovation zoomed to $34 million.

It is now apparent that Larkin had the support of the GPSB, including Mayor Farbridge and Coun. Piper. There was no mention at the time of how the project was to be financed, the fiduciary responsibility of Farbridge and Piper.

In September, city council voted to approve the project, right in the middle of an election campaign.

Then out of the blue, the now former police chief publicly endorses the mayor for re-election. His endorsement was contained in a political pamphlet written, printed and distributed by the Farbridge campaign before his resignation as police chief in Guelph. The trouble is that under the Ontario Police Services Act, police officers are not permitted to endorse candidates, regardless of how they feel towards them.

As it turned out Larkin’s endorsement did not affect the outcome, as the Mayor was defeated.

But his highly persuasive talent saddled Guelph citizens with a project that could cost more than the consultant’s estimate of $34 million. You don’t have to look further than the inept handling of the new city hall under the Farbridge regime and its inability to manage capital projects. That Urbacon lawsuit is a $13 million, and counting, mistake that caused Farbridge and some of her supporters to quit or be defeated.

Some of those same councillors involved in the Urbacon affair are still on council.

In a recent column in the Toronto Star, columnist Rosie Dimanno wrote about the exemption of Ontario Police Services Boards from oversight by the Ontario Ombudsman’s office. The new Accountability and Transparency Act approved last December by the Ontario Legislature gave the Ombudsman the authority to investigate the operations of municipal governments. The police chiefs of the 12 major departments in Ontario asked the province to enact legislation to exempt police boards from the Ombudsman’s Act.

Deputy premier Deb Matthews described the decision as not being an oversight but the police boards were just not added in the legislation last December when the Accountability and Transparency Act was passed.

It took a recent report in The Star that exposed the police board’s exemption from the Accountability and Transparency Act.

The facts are that police boards are composed of two elected officials, two civilian appointees and two provincial appointees. They then elect a chairperson. In the case of Guelph, provincial appointee Judy Sobara is the chair of the board.

The power of the chiefs and senior professional staff in influencing the board is well documented throughout the province. It’s a magnification of the problems faced in most municipalities and that is deferring decisions to the professional staff. That’s why the chief of the 12-major departments in the province want the Ombudsman out of their house.

Keep in mind that funding for all police operations comes from the taxpayer.

The artful maneuvering of Bryan Larkin to get his way to spend $34 million is a classic example that oversight of the GPSB operations is necessary by an independent authority such as the Ontario Ombudsman, Andre Marin.

There is no question the headquarters building was badly in need of renovation. The question remains: Did it take $34 million to fix it?

Larkin is gone, Farbridge is gone, former Farbridge councillors Ian Findlay, Maggie Laidlaw, Lise Burcher, and Todd Dennis are all gone. But the citizens are stuck with the bill.

Let’s see. The Wynne Liberals can’t educate vast numbers of students, they allow police chiefs to refuse oversight of their operations by the Ontario Ombudsman and electricity rates have risen by 42 per cent in just three years under their watch.

Can Ontario stand another three and one half years of this dismal performance?






Filed under Between the Lines

The Guelph General Hospital shooting needs answers now

By Gerry Barker

Posted June 18, 2015

Like most people in Guelph, I am concerned about the circumstances of the shooting death of a man by police in the hospital’s emergency waiting room.

It seems incongruous that the local police department or the Special Investigations Unit investigating the incident have failed to stem public fears of the safety of just going to the hospital for treatment.

A man, an apparent patient, was shot nine times by two Guelph police officers in the waiting room of the hospital emergency department.

There is no official explanation of what happened that day a month ago. Did the man have a gun, a knife or some weapon that would cause the officers to shoot him? There is no explanation of these circumstances that led to deadly force by police.

The longer the information remains locked up, the more suspicious the public will become.

The question people are asking is: “ Was it a righteous shooting?” Were the officers in danger of being wounded or even killed by the victim?

This is the crux of the case. If there was no immanent danger to persons in the waiting room, the staff or the police, did the officers panic, draw their weapons and open fire? Was it a case of split-second decisions on the part of the officers? Whatever the outcome of the SIU investigation, there must be a new emphasis of operational training as it pertains to use of firearms by the Guelph Police Services.

In my younger days as a reporter for the Toronto Star, I was assigned to the police beat and I got to know a lot of cops. My favourite story about police operations in those long-gone days was about a motorcycle officer whose patrol area was Amour Heights in North Toronto. Every day Constable Hamilton would put on his gear and drive off for his shift. “Ham” never carried a gun in his career. He always carried a ham sandwich in his holster for lunch. Ah well, as the desk sergeant used to tell me: “nothing ever happens in North Toronto.”

Times have changed. In my view, Guelph police are not always open and are closed- mouthed about their operations. A police services board composed of civilians, whose main occupation appears to be protect the force and stay out of the line of fire.

This means hunkering down and leaving the public in the dark.

One does not have to look too far in the past to remember the way the Guelph police handled the dreadful death of Constable Jennifer Kovach. The police clammed up and even the victim’s mother, Coun. Gloria Kovach, could not gain access to the accident report until four months after the crash that killed her daughter.

The hospital shooting is a rare occurrence. The victim is dead. The police officers responsible were back on the job just two days after the shooting. That folks was a public relations blunder.

What does this tell the public? That it was a “righteous shooting?”

Already some segments of the public are describing the victim as a harmless, sweet, mentally disturbed young man. He was known to police and the hospital staff. And what do you expect? People are upset, not just curious. This is something that affects every person who uses the hospital facilities.

It affects the safety of patients who must mingle with persons who may be unstable and potentially dangerous. There must be police and hospital assurance this event was isolated and unpredictable. To do this, the police and SIU must explain in detail what happened and what steps are being taken to prevent it from ever occurring again in a public building.

Just what happened that awful day? A man died at police hands and we are not informed of the circumstances?

Here’s hoping the details of this tragedy are soon released if, for no other reason, than it’s the public’s right to know.






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Questioning Guelph’s failure to collect waste from 6,400 homes that are taxed for it but not getting it

Posted June 15, 2015

After four years, the following questions are still unreported by the city despite many attempts to obtain the answers. This has occurred for good reasons, as the administration is too embarrassed to allow the truth to be told.

From the get-go, this entire waste management complex on Dunlop Road was a failed project that lacked a business plan, created by a naive management team and powered by a majority group of elected ideologues. They were determined to use public money to meet their unrealistic environmental goals to divert waste from the landfill.

It is a system that fails to collect waste from an estimated 6,400 homes and businesses. Instead, the owners of these homes must pay private contractors to remove their waste. The city has steadfastly refused to compensate these owners through their tax bills.

Now the Fair Tax Group of citizens advocating compensation is discriminated against depending on the advent of a new 20-year waste management plan to serve all residents and businesses.

Trouble is, the first version was a $55 million dollar failure. The authors of much of this failure are now gone. Executive Director of waste management, Janet Laird has retired to British Columbia. Karen Farbridge lost her re-election bid last October.

But questions still remain and need answers:

1. Why did the $34 million Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF) general contractor, Maple Reinders, tell an Ottawa construction convention that the Guelph waste management facility only cost $28 million?

2. What happened to the $6 million difference that was subsequently quoted by the city’s cost of $34 million? Where does the truth lie?

3. Is there a contract to process, sell and divert waste between the city, (owner of OWPF), Maple Reinders and its subsidiary companies Aim Environmental (AE), Wellington Organix (WO)?

4. What is the legal relationship including terms of the contracts, between the city and the Maple Reinders companies?

5. What are the details of financing the OWPF and the waste management centre on Dunlop Drive?

6. Does the city pay all debt servicing and maintenance costs of the whole waste complex? What are those costs in the past rour years?

7. Does AE/WO have exclusive rights to operate the OWPF plus sales of composted material?

8. If so, what are the terms of the contract, length of agreement, commissions, loss provision, depreciation, and operational subsidies?

9. What are the commissions paid to AE/WO on the sale of OWPF finished compost?

10. Why is the Region of Waterloo failing to meet its contract to deliver 20,000 tonnes of feedstock to the OWPF?

11. Is the Region paying for the 20,000 tonnes regardless of whether they meet the contract to deliver? What is the rate per tonne paid by the Region.

12. How much does each tonne of organic waste cost to process?

13. What are the full operating costs of the OWPF including overhead, debt charges, commissions, bonuses, salaries and benefits, insurance, consultants, maintenance, modifications, legal, accounting, and engineering?

14. What are the costs of trucking waste to the landfill?

15. What is the 2015 estimated net revenue from OWPF operations?

16. What is the true percentage of waste being diverted to the landfill in 2014?

17. What was the profit (loss) position of the OWPF in 2012, 2013 and 2014?

18. What did the “Arkona Farmer” pay for the 3,400 tonnes of compost produced by OWPF in 2012 and subsequently?

19. Did AE/WO negotiate that sale? Was there a commission paid for that transaction?

20. Why did the city build a plant to process its wet waste that is triple its needs for the next 16 years? Further, those 6,600 residents must pay $1,433,600 to the city for NOT collecting its garbage. Instead they must pay private contractors to remove their garbage that winds up, unprocessed, in the landfill.

*            *            *            *

If this $52 million exercise was to divert waste from the landfill, unless proven otherwise, it is an expensive and colossal failure. Out of 105,000 tonnes processed in 2012 at the waste management site on Dunlop Drive, some 48,000 tonnes went to the landfill. That’s 45.7 per cent.

If the city lacks the capacity to feed wet waste into its organic composting plant, now or in the future, taxpayers must ask: “What were they thinking?”

Too late, we’re stuck with this Byzantine white elephant that citizens will be paying for over the next 20 years.

And it was created by a few elected officials under the leadership of former Mayor Karen Farbridge, who put their personal environmental views ahead of the city’s responsibility to collect and process waste from all homes.

The sad part of this exercise that citizens are now locked into a waste management system when, in 2007, alternatives were rejected including incineration of waste for power generation.











Filed under Between the Lines

When the Farbridge house of cards is on fire, call the Farbridge fire brigade

Posted June 10, 2015

As the likes of Susan Watson, Dennis Galon, Phil Allt, Ms. Gajerski-Cauley, Laurie Garbutt, Karl Wettstein, Leanne Piper, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, unroll the hoses to put out the Urbacon fire, their serene leader remains above it all.

The flames of lies, denials and dereliction of duty by the majority of members of that 2008 council, like their defeated leader, are still burning brightly. Yet, collectively they still deny responsibility for the firing of the new city hall contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group, Inc.

It is now looking like an $18 million mistake that will not go away for years to come. Most of this council, with its majority of Farbridge team players, had the gall in the 2015 budget to reduce the promised amount of annual replenishment of the three raided reserve funds from $900,000 to $500,000.

But the $8.9 million is only what they used to settle with Urbacon.

The real costs are now starting to be revealed. These include settlements with bond holder Aviva, architects Teshima and Moriyama, the city’s outside lawyer who acted in two cases, the two contraction companies hired to complete the project and the settlement with the subcontractors.

The math is simple. Take $18 million divide it by $500,000 and it will take 18 years to repay the ultimate costs of this Farbridge induced fire. Of course, it will take longer because of the effects of inflation on the Canadian dollar. It means over the next 18 years that Guelph residents will be paying for this monumental mismanagement of the public’s money.

The truth is that repayment will be in steadily deflating dollars. Just imagine what a litre of milk will cost in 10, 18 years from now? That Urbacon cost, in Canadian dollars, will never be fully repaid because of the diminishing value of the dollar and the increasing costs of goods and services.

Compared to the Canadian Senate scandal, Guelph’s Urbacon final settlement costs dwarf those of the spendthrift members of the Chamber of Sober Second Thought. Yet, tucked away in a small Ontario city is a group of people, Farbridge loyalists, attempting to justify their leader’s role in the Urbacon affair and subsequent execution?

The voters got it. She was soundly defeated.

To this day, the former mayor has not personally apologized or acknowledged her culpability in creating this expensive excursion from reality.

The closest she came was to release a statement after Justice Donald MacKenzie found the city responsible for firing Urbacon. “I would like to apologize on behalf of the City of Guelph…” What she should have said was: “I apologize to residents of the City of Guelph…”

Her friend, Farbridge firefighter Susan Watson, has complained that a defeated candidate in ward six, Glen Tolhurst, accepted a donation from the citizens activist group, GrassRoots Guelph. Her demand for an audit of Tolhurst’s official election financial report totalling less than $4,000 will cost the city some $10,000.

Then in a newspaper opinion piece, rookie Councillor Phil Allt, makes an argument that having an integrity commissioner provides ample value to the city. He was responding to a report that eliminating the integrity commissioner would save $5,000.

Allt reminds us of the differences between and integrity commissioner and an ombudsman.

The ombudsman, (a position the city has not filled) addresses the performance of the administration, not the ethics of council. The ombudsman can investigate citizen complaints about the operation of the administration. The integrity commissioner, according to Coun. Allt, is charged with keeping “us as a council honest and working with each other. Nothing is more important than integrity and operating with an ethical paradigm.”

Hmmm. What’s ethical about voting to increase property taxes by 3.94 per cent this year?

Let the record show that this is utter nonsense. The history of the integrity commissioner’s role in the past three years is one of attempts to correct alleged political actions on the part of council members. His decisions changed nothing.

Things would have been different if Guelph had an ombudsman in 2008, when the Urbacon project was beset with more than 300 change orders. The failure to inform the people of the growing crisis, led to the current estimated $18 million mismanagement loss by the Farbridge administration.

This is a failure shutting the people out of council decisions by meeting behind closed doors, manufacturing excuses and manipulating public funds.

To now suggest that the integrity commissioner would create an atmosphere of being transparent and open in governance, is a bad joke. You can’t buy that for five grand a year, the retainer for the job.

What we needed in 2008 and today, is an ombudsmen to allow the citizens to react to the arbitrary and officious manner we have experienced from our civic administration for the past eight years.

At present there is little evidence that anything has changed since the 2014 election.

The Farbridge fire brigade is determined to put out the fire that has engulfed our city’s finances.


Filed under Between the Lines

Finally, the real cost of the Urbacon debacle is starting to add up

Posted June 8, 2015

It now appears there is some sort of settlement with the Aviva, the completion bond holder for the city hall project who sued the city for $4 million, and architects Teshima and Moriyama who sued for $2 million. No numbers yet but a promise to announce them when negotiations are completed by the middle of the month.

The newspaper report said that the city paid an additional $2.3 million to settle with subcontractors hired by Urbacon. This revelation coupled with the actual settlement with Urbacon of $8.9 million boosts the cost to $11.2 million.

Beside the aforementioned settlements, there are two outstanding costs yet to be revealed. The first is the legal bill from Derek Schmuck, the Hamilton lawyer, hired by the city, to represent its case before Justice Donald MacKenzie. It is safe to assume that the city’s outside legal costs will match or exceed the $2.3 million paid to Urbacon for its legal representatives.

That could bump the costs to $13.5 million or more.

The other outstanding issue, yet to be revealed, is how much it cost to complete the new city hall after Urbacon was fired in September 2008. Burlington-based Alberici Construction Ltd. was hired to do the job. The circumstances of that hiring and the costs are yet to be revealed.

Similarly, Collaberative Construction of Cambridge was hired to complete the conversion of the old city hall into a provincial offences court. Again the method of selecting these two firms or the terms of their contracts, remain unknown to the citizens.

Keep in mind the original contract for both the new city hall and the conversion of the old city hall was $42 million. Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, was quoted as saying the final cost of the project would be $57 million.

If what she says is true, then it appears the completion cost of finishing the two municipal buildings would be $1.5 million. That being the case, why did the city countersue Urbacon for $5 million? It was dismissed with costs.

How both these firms were hired is in question. Were there procurement tenders issued? Were the contract costs fixed or open-ended on a cost-plus basis? There is no doubt time was of the essence as there were leases for other private buildings, housing city staff, to be settled.

When all the accounts are settled, it appears the cost of firing the city hall contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group Inc, could reach $18 to $20 million over the original contract cost.

That’s an increase of some 42.8 per cent over the contract price of $42 million.

Yet there are people sitting on council today who were part of the decision to fire Urbacon and are still denying any participation in that 2008 decision. They include Leanne Piper, June Hofland, Karl Wettstein, and Mike Salisbury.

The people voted to fire the mayor. Two of her cohort councillors quit, Lise Burcher and Ian Findlay and one, Maggie Laidlaw, was defeated by two of her former friends, June Hofland and Phil Allt.

It doesn’t change anything. The mayor’s fingerprints are all over city hall and her policies are being steadfastly maintained by a majority of newly elected cohorts. They are still adhering to the Farbridge agenda that most people voted against.

This includes a 10-year bicycle lane increase plan costing $3 million; a 20-year waste management plan that is short of numbers but long on promises when it is ever published; a secondary downtown plan, the cost of which is not known.

It’s almost like Ms. Farbridge is still in charge, gulp!

That’s why we received a 3.94 per cent property tax increase this year instead of the maximum of 2.4 per cent promised by Mayor Cam Guthrie during his campaign.

The property tax increase in Oakville and Kitchener was 1.7 per cent.

Maybe we should amalgamate with Kitchener and Waterloo.






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Potpourri, a collection of thoughts and observations


Posted June 6, 2015

            The publicly-funded grudge that never seems to go away

Why is it that Guelph’s socialist doyen, Susan Watson, seems to believe that it’s okay to spend the people’s money on an errant goose chase and to dispute the right of people to organize and protest?

But that’s what’s happening with her complaint that former council candidate Glen Tolhurst accepted a donation from citizen’s activist group, GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). While the two-man Compliance Audit Committee has recommended an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s official election finance report, the real Watson target is GRG.

Watson, the Mother Teresa of the Left, is still smarting over the defeat of her friend, mayoralty candidate Karen Farbridge, to whom she donated $750. Plus her husband, Dr. Ian Digby, also followed suit and donated $750 to the Farbridge campaign. They didn’t stop there other labour candidates also received donations from the couple. The question begs answering: Were they not a third party trying to influence the outcome of an election with more than $4,000 in donations?

That’s the basic question on the table. GRG was not alone in the groups of organized labour supported candidates promoting their beliefs and messages.

But it’s not about the money. It’s an attempt to use a flawed bylaw, governing candidate complaints created by the Farbridge administration in 2007. The evidence introduced so far, is based on opinion, self-serving mangling of the intent of the Ontario Municipal Elections Act and the Ontario Corporations Act.

The case is important. If Watson is successful in proving her complaint, count on an independent judge toreview the decision and decide the rights of the people to organize and take legal political action to resolve their differences.. That will determine whether under the Charter of Rights and Freedom, the people have the right to assemble, organize and protest. That’s exactly what GRG did and followed the letter of the law to do so.

The audit will now cost more that $7,500 plus expenses and the result will not be revealed until late August. Throw in the cost of managing this complaint by staff and committee members and the bill can easily reach some $12,000.

Mr. Tolhurst acted legally and in good faith reporting his election expenses. And he lost his bid to be elected to council last October.

Meanwhile Watson is now on another crusade to force the federal government to convene a Royal Commission to investigate the infamous robocall scandal in the 2011 federal election campaign. As usual, her timing is perfect with a Federal election slated for October and the newly acclaimed Gloria Kovach, a 24-year veteran of Guelph City Council, as the Conservative candidate.

Has this woman’s insatiable devotion to her New Democrat Party principles and affiliation have no logic, responsibility or reason? Just asking.

            The insatiable greed of the major oil companies

Here we are in a country with an abundance of oil and natural gas and yet, we still import oil from the Middle East.

A litre of refined gasoline has no country, no loyalty and no obligations.

Why then does gasoline cost, in Canadian dollars, the equivalent of almost twice the cost of one U.S. gallon in the United States? Is it economy of scale, i.e. more cars more pumps versus that available in Canada?

No, it is because a tight consortium of major oil companies controls the supply and equipment to distribute petroleum products in Canada. Major U.S. oil companies control most of them. Some examples: Royal Dutch Shell controls Shell; Esso is controlled by Imperial oil and is owned by Exxon.

The failure of our Federal government to execute legislation to prevent what is apparent price gouging by companies using our oil to fatten their bottom lines is a stunning admission that corporate robber barons are still functioning.

Just check how prices change almost daily with the rise and fall of crude oil. The most egregious example is how gasoline prices seem to always increase before weekends during the warm weather months when many Canadians are on the move.

Gasoline in Canada should cost on average between 75 and 80 cents a litre when compared to the U.S. at the pump cost of 63 cents per litre, in U.S. dollars. That just means the per-litre premium Canadians are paying, on average. It’s a premium of some 39 cents. Translated that means for every 50 litre fill-up Canadians are paying at the pump, amounts to an estimated $2 more that Americans.

Don’t think that’s much? Think about all the SUV’s and trucks Canadians drive plus public transportation and commercial vehicles plus aircraft and trains and the amount is in the millions.

As Gordon Gecko said in the Wall Street classic film: “Greed is good.”

            Why spend amillions on bike lanes and sidewalks at the expense of a new dowtown library, needed parking and a South End rec centre?

In a recent magazine article, Guelph Councillor Bob Bell said that 100 pound cars are on the way. Perhaps the good councillor is thinking his bicycle operation can become the bicycle version of Tesla motors, the electric car manufacturer.

The “Active Transportation” (AT) organization is now focusing on widening Speedvale from Woolwich to Manhattan Court, just east of Metcalfe to allow bike lanes and sidewalks. The estimated cost is $14.35 million. But the AT spokesperson protested that the proposal did not follow the cycling master plan created in 2013 by the former Farbridge Administration.

According to City Engineer Kealy Dedman, that plan could not accommodate bike lanes between Riverview Drive and Manhattan Court. The city would have to expropriate land to widen the road to accommodate the bike lanes and sidewalks. “In some cases the sidewalks would be right by the owners front steps,” she added.

Yvette Tendick, spokesperson for AT, took umbrage that not allowing the bike lanes in that stretch of Speedvale was a potential exemption of the original ten-year cycling plan. That was also passed by the previous administration in 2013.

First there must be an environmental study done on the area over the Speed River Bridge. The city engineer said contruction possibly might start in 2018.

When will this political pandering of the minority of cyclists stop? Council said this year that it did not have the money to build a new downtown library or additional parking, or the South End recreation centre as promised 13 years ago by the 2000/2003 Farbridge administration.

But council approved spending this year alone $600,000 on bike lanes and sidewalks on Woodlawn.

This is what happens when a tiny minority can effectively lobby to spend millions in public money while restricting vehicle traffic flow that is rapidly turning the city into a parking lot during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

Motorists pay for the use of the roads through permits. Most pay taxes to maintain the roads. Buying fuel they also indirectly contribute millions through the Federal gas tax rebate to the city coffers.

None of the active transportation people who share the public roads are licensed, pay insurance or are regulated in any way. Any one of them can ride wherever they feel without restriction. Some adhere to traffic rules and some ignore the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA). The police do not have the resources to stop errant cyclists who ignore the rules of the road.

Yet, what do the cyclist pay to support their demands for more access to public roads that are supported by the taxpayers?

In most circles, this is described as a free lunch.

It is time to regulate cyclist’s with enforcement of the HTA, a registration of their bicycle, proper lights for safety and an indoctrination session of their rights and responsibilities.

We must live on the roads together but use of the roads carries joint responsibilities.

Challenging a 2 tonne vehicle with a 12-kilogram cycle is no longer appropriate if, for no other reason, to engage in common sense and courtesy.





Filed under Between the Lines