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.