Monthly Archives: August 2015

Was hiring Andy Best to manage open government a political snow job?

Posted August 31, 2015

It is now becoming apparent that Guelph’s new open government manager, Andy Best, was hired because of his close working relationship with former mayor Karen Farbridge.

Best worked for the former mayor during the election first, by resigning as president of the Guelph Civic League (GCL). He then created a pro-Farbridge blog called the Guelph Citizen. He was also an advisor to the mayor’s election campaign, using his skills as an expert in computer programming.

As a result, Best was appointed as co-chair of the “Open Government Leadership Task Force.” Has anyone, outside of the former mayor’s sphere of influence, ever heard about the focus and make-up of this organization? Apparently it was formed to elevate the findings in 2013, by a Toronto consulting firm called Delvinia.

The Farbridge administration hired Delvinia at a fee of $100,000 to develop a plan to create a new system of collaboration between staff, and the citizens to allow greater transparency and openness in the operations of the city.

The $100,000 open government plan

So far so good. Guelphspeaks obtained a copy of the 94-page Delvinia report, (the per page cost was $1,063.82). It documented and supported its conclusions. It referred to cities that have adopted parts of the report with different approaches to open government.

So why, in 2012, did the Farbridge council approve embarking on a program of operating a transparent and open government?

The real reason was public unrest with the secretive ways that the administration was implementing major capital projects. Many of which were projects of an environmental nature and/or planet sustainability. Adding to the unrest was the failure of the city to rebuild Wyndham Street beneath a rail underpass. When the job was finished, large commercial trucks were crashing without enough clearance.

January 2013 was the beginning of the Urbacon civil action against the city claiming $19.2 million for its termination of the new City Hall contract (of which Urbacon was the general contractor). In March 2014, Justice Donald MacKenzie ruled the city illegally terminated the Urbacon contract. Two months later, he released the 54-page judgment that was a scathing rebuttal of the city’s actions, prior to and during the five-week trial.

The city attempted to have the damages portion of the trial postponed until after the October election, but the courts refused the action.

The bloom came off the rose

Now it was election year and the bloom was off the Farbridge regime. The result was her major defeat at the polls including four of her supporters, two of whom quit politics.

Underneath all this, was the so-called Open Government Leadership Task Force. An unpaid group of selected members was busy developing an open government action plan (OGAP) for Guelph.

Here is where it gets murky. On March 18, 2015, Andy Best sent an email to “the clerks” asking that council approve hiring an open government program manager to “report to the office of the CAO”. He adds that: “Passionate city staff have nurtured this from a vague idea into an action plan which received unanimous support from the previous term of council.”

Did anyone see a copy of that open government action report? Was it reported in the local media? One observation is Best’s description of a “vague idea” was really founded on an extensive 94-page report by Delvinia and commissioned by the Farbridge administration just about the time of the gathering Urbacon storm.

The Best email was sent one week before city council approved the 2015 budget. You remember the 3.94 per cent property tax increase approved March 25? The job, promoted by Andy Best, was included in that budget.

Advertising the open government manager’s job was out of the strike zone

On May 6, the city advertised the open government manager job on a website dedicated to offering job opportunities called “Ontario Municipal Jobs”, located in Petrolia, Ontario. Applicants had until May 24 to apply. Is it not a fair open government question to ask how many applied for the job?

This raises more questions. Why wasn’t the job offered in the Guelph and K-W media? Was the job description so convoluted and pompously worded that no one in his or her right mind would come to Guelph for a one-year contract job? And there was no guarantee of being taken on the full time staff.

Here’s a sample under the ad’s duties category: “Serve as a catalyst, evangelist and leader in order to entrench the tenets of open government and a citizen first approach as guiding principles for the organization.”

Whew! With that sample, I think the city was hoping God might apply, or not.

So, allowing for a couple of weeks to review any job applications other than Andy Best’s, the position that would pay, according to the advertised range, between $76,498 to $95,623. Andy Best was offered $91,000 toward the high end of the range.

The ghost of Farbridge past endures

It just seems like a corruptive practice to consider a political supporter of the former mayor to be magically hired by the city to manage an open government plan that was created by a consultant. The open government task force worked in secret for more than a year and was co-chaired by Mr. Best.

Oh sure, the current administration went through the motions of seeking someone to manage the new ministry of evangelical openness. But sneaking a major, unknown and abstract policy through the budget at the llth hour bears all the fingerprints of a Farbridge regime that was rejected last October.

It is incredible that this attempt by the former administration sought to obtain redemption for the secretive and shady methods to raise taxes, and used its reserves like an internal bank.

Andy Best had the inside track on getting this job. The evidence is there that senior staff was complicit ensuring he got the job.

How can you explain why he is to report to the CAO? How can you explain the role of the deputy CAO for corporate including human resources, for the sham hiring of Andy Best? The stench of a deliberate set-up hangs over this hiring.

And don’t expect it to go away

Perhaps the administration should reveal the budget for this new operation. Besides Best’s role as manager, how many ‘passionate” staff has been assigned to work on the project?

Having read the Delvinia report, it is apparent that not all the staff is as passionate about the open government plan as the administration would like you to believe.

On the same day as Best’s March 18 email to the clerks (sic) another email, from Bob Webb, supporting the hiring of an open government manager, and urging inclusion in the 2015 budget. His email was sent to deputy CAO Mark Amorosi with copies to Coun. June Hofland, defeated councillor Maggie Laidlaw and Information Technology manager, Blair Labelle.

The previous administration’s handiwork is all over this like snow on the roof of city hall.

Yep! It’s snowing outside.




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Your guelphspeaks Weekender

Posted August 28, 2015

Liz Sandals is the candy lady when it comes to union negotiations – City management purge surges – Christians and Soldiers 10, Seagram 0 – Important reminder – Chief Larkin’s Dilemma

 Ontario high school teachers are paid off … again

This past week, the two high school teacher’s unions were presented with a package from the province. The proposal, still to be ratified by the unions, includes a 2.5 per cent pay increase over two years of a three-year contract. And doubling the number of paid professional development and sick days.

Education Minister Liz Sandals called the proposals a “net zero” deal. Interpretation: A “net zero” agreement means that savings must be found elsewhere in the massive Ontario education budget to offset any increase in wages and benefits.

The last time the province, under then Premier Dalton McGuinty, negotiated with the teacher unions it legislated a pay freeze. Kathleen Wynne, McGuinty’s replacement, along with Education Minister, Liz Sandals, reopened the contracts giving back $469 million. It happened close to the provincial election.

Not exactly a “net zero” settlement.

The Premier refuses to describe the wage hikes in the current contract, an increase in compensation. Her detachment from financial reality is just another bump in the road to her legacy of driving Ontario into the ditch. The province is spending almost a billion dollars a month in interest alone and carrying a $8.5 billion dollar deficit.

As for Sandals, our “go along to get along” Education Minister, she has to sign off on this phoney “net zero” agreement. The full details of which are yet to be revealed.

The bottom line is that there are other unions involved in the school system. The school operating staff is represented by the Canadian Union of Pubic Employees. Its leadersip is far from a contract agreement. The result is that those teachers who have agreed to the new contract provisions may be left standing at the doors of their respective schools, September 8 without the custodial staff.

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A senior manager is fired as the purge of city staff mounts

Chief city building officer, Bruce Poole, a 31-year veteran manager and head of the building department was fired Wednesday from his $137, 825 a year job. Mr. Poole had headed the building department for the past 20 years.

As usual, the city officials clammed up, not offering any explanation of why Poole was dismissed without notice. The city response was: “You’ll have to ask him”.

This means that he was terminated for cause. He was fired.

In private industry and corporations, this is common practice. The city’s General Manager of Human Resources, David Godwaldt, said the firing was completed, using the rules of termination of non-unionized employees established by the city in such cases.

But here’s where this half-baked explanation goes off the rails.

The City of Guelph is a publically funded corporation. It has a fiduciary responsibility to advise the shareholders, we the citizens, of the circumstances of the dismissal of a senior manager.

But this is nothing new. In 2007, the new city administration headed by former mayor Karen Farbridge, fired the city’s top senior managers: Chief Administrative Officer Larry Kotseff, and Chief Financial Officer, David Kennedy.

It took two years to discover the cost of those dismissals made without cause. In addition to their entitled accumulated benefits, Mr. Kotseff and Mr. Kennedy received a settlement of more than $500,000.

If it is established that Mr. Poole is guilty of an unknown action that impaired his ability to function, the legal costs to uphold the city’s actions could still be very expensive. But if the city fired Mr. Poole without proper cause, then the price we’ll have to pay will be substantial.

Either way, by shutting down any information will end up being a costly exercise and remains a case of woeful personnel management.

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NDP candidate slams Christians and Soldiers, or was it all a joke?

Dear Andrew Seagram: In politics the rule of thumb is not to get anyone mad at you.

Well, you suggest that you want nothing to do with Christians who are “huge friends of Jesus or the mentally ill, and you must stay away from them”.

After that outburst, you can count on them staying away from supporting you election day in October.

Hey Andrew! Don’t rest on those targets on you bigotry bucket list. You are then quoted as describing our military as “suicide bombers.”

“Idolizing our soldiers as heroes is as dangerous as proselytizing a suicide bomber as a martyr”.

Last time I looked, this self-styled bigotry and historical ignorance was not included in Tom Mulcair’s NDP platform.

Even if you believe it was a joke, a bad one at that, and taken out of context, why would you deliberately insult potential NDP voters in Guelph and across the country?

Keep up the good work.

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Important Reminder

The deadline for submissions to the September 10th Municipal Elections Compliance Audit Committee must be submitted by this Friday, September 4. The committee will receive Mr. William Molson’s report regarding his audit of the election expenses of ward six candidate, Glen Tolhurst.

This hearing is the result of a complaint by Susan Watson that Mr. Tolhurst received a $400 donation to his campaign from GrassRoots Guelph that she described as being illegal.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at city hall.

Despite being an awkward time for many people, it is the culmination of an investigation that may have negative long-term effects on the rights of citizens to organize and collectively express their opinions. A threat that could impair future municipal elections causing unwarranted litigation. will publish the GrassRoots Guelph written submission later this week.

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Is Waterloo Police Chief Bryan Larkin involved in a pickle?

This week, Chief Larkin was asked on Kitchener’s CTV station about a former female officer who had resigned from the force when faced with unknown allegations, then recently rehired as a special officer.

The chief declined to detail the former allegations as they were apparently made under the Ontario Police Act. The KW Police Services Board accepted the officer’s resignation.

Now it is revealed the lady is back on the force and the chief is unwilling to explain, except to say that the matter is being reviewed in view of the public response.

The whole question of the behavior of police officers in Ontario needs a dramatic overhaul by the province. The fact that the Ontario Police Act states that any police officer under investigation for breaking the rules, is put on administrative leave at full pay and allowances until, the matter is adjudicated by the courts or police service boards in the 444 muncipalities across the province.

There are many instances where police officers are charged under the Police Act or in criminal courts whose cases are not heard for months and, in some cases, years. This is a hardship on municipalities who must pay for police services, whether the officer is working or not.

Yet, the provincial government continues to ignore the need to change the out-dated Police Act that allows this feather-bedding action to be an unwarranted charge on the taxpayers .

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Some questions for Andy Best Guelph’s new open government program manager

Posted August 28, 2015

The Mercury ran a FrontPage story this week accompanied by a photograph of the new open government manager, Andy Best.

Well, let’s start by testing how transparent and open Guelph’s new manager really is.

* When was it decided to establish a new position to manage a transparent and open government (T and O)?

* How was the salary of $91,000 determined if this position is a first in Canada?

* Why is the position a contract position with a one-year duration?

* Where was the position posted?

* What were the job specifications for applicants?

* How many applicants responded to the job posting?

* Who posted the position and who interviewed applicants?

* According to the story in the Mercury, why is the focus on developing Internet –based communication programs when a large portion of the population does not use computers or smart phones?

* Were you not a president of the Guelph Civic League?

* Did you not support former mayor Farbridge in her failed re-election campaign?

* Did you receive compensation for work done on behalf of the Farbridge campaign?

* Why is there no mention of opening council and staff meetings that are consistently conducted in camera?

* Who do you report to?

This exercise smacks of a patronage appointment for work done on behalf of the previous administration. It is too coincidental that a loyal supporter of the former mayor and her chosen slate of candidates lands a great job with the city. Is it possible to assume that this position was not part of the 2015 budget?

And if it was, why wasn’t it debated in an open and transparent council meeting as part of the budget discussions?

This is exactly the kind of policy decisions that were made, in secret, for the past eight years by an administration that failed to protect its fiduciary responsibilities to the people.

There is no secret about the fall-out. Most voters decided that losing more than $14 million on the failed New City Hall project called for a change in the way the city was being managed.

There is no room for patronage appointments, particularly choosing those who were party to the failed policies of the previous administration.

The policies proposed by Andy Best in the Mercury, illustrate that the real problems in Guelph need to be solved by reducing costs, reviewing all management procedures and fixing the aging infrastructure.

It isn’t necessary to establish a department that is planning new communication services that has nothing to do with transparency and open government.

Andy Best cites the do-it-yourself budget simulator program on the city website, allowing citizens to tinker with departmental budgets. It amounts to nothing more than a survey. It is devoid of the nuts and bolts of budget management. A clear example is the lack of any information about the costs of lawyers and consultants.

It’s a dreadful sham that will be disregarded when the real budget planning gets under way next month.

That’s a sad excuse for selling T and O to the taxpayers.



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Say hello to Randy Norris, a new voice on 

Posted August 27, 2015

(Editor’s note) – We welcome Randy Norris to the GS writer’s bureau to add new ideas, opinions and experiences for our viewers comments and enjoyment. When I started, some four years ago, the intention was to encourage other writers to contribute to the blog. But a funny thing happened on the way, called an election. In 2014 there was a polarization of political positions and recruiting new voices became difficult.

The election outcome was satisfying to most people and change was self evident.

The welcome mat remains for those with a point of view, a story to tell of their life experiences and to capture the writing talent unique to our great city. Our editorial policy is that GS is a politically centrist blog open for copy from left and right. Regular viewers already know about the editor’s posts on local civic government. That will not change. Expanding the ideas and commentary of others will bring other points of view. Record numbers of viewers are dropping into the blog every day. It is a recent surprising increase that reflects that the blog is open 7/24 and postings  go on Twitter and Facebook.

The editor reserves the right to edit copy for publication on the blog. Copy length should be limited to 500 words. Interested? Contact

Hello Guelph!

By Randy Norris

Last week, the force behind this column suggested that he and I should talk. I was flattered when Gerry Barker offered me the opportunity to write for this blog. Obviously, I accepted.

I wouldn’t have accepted just any offer. If the Globe Mail called and was looking for a disabled, balding, cranky guy whose well on the way to looking like an older John Candy, then I’d be their man. But I haven’t received the call.

Thank goodness Gerry ignored these characteristics and invited me anyway.

Two weeks ago, I had my 65th birthday which is certainly reason enough to be reflective. I saw many mistakes, pain, terror, sprinkled with a dash of regret. At the same time, I saw joy, love and gratitude for just being alive.

Sounds like a marriage of 42 years doesn’t it?

There’s one thing, however, that’s the basis of everything I am and that’s experience. I’ve put a few miles on myself. Some good, some bad.

I flunked out of community college at 20 and then wondered around in the distractions of a self indulgent time.

I panhandled and looked the part of a generation that was going to change the world. Meanwhile my father, the barber, fretted about my long hair.

I went back to school and completed a diploma in social work, and then worked with traumatized kids. Immediately after this, I completed degrees in Psychology, Public Administration and Planning.

I’ve tried to keep this part of myself from everyone since there is such a thing as too much education.

I’ve worked as a short order cook, delivered newspaper copy to Robertson Davies, publisher of the Peterborough Examiner, while working in the circulation department. I worked as a restaurant busboy and dishwasher, short order cook, swept the floors in a pool hall, orderly in an old age home where I happened to meet and marry my wife. Don’t ask.

In addition, I’ve been a student painter, night watchman, factory press operator, research assistant, real estate appraiser, land development manager, land use planner, government environmental planner, academic counsellor and sports columnist.

At risk of being accused of writing by the pound, I’ll stop now. Suffice to say that I fell into most of this. Life is a funny thing sometimes.

Gerry and I talked about many aspects of my experience and he has encouraged me to share my experiences and my opinions with you, the viewers.

I intend on doing just that.



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Is Al Horsman the fall guy for the $14 million Urbacon lawsuit loss?

Posted August 25, 2015

In 2012 when Al Horsman was hired as Guelph’s new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), there were two issues facing him: One, he was caught in the middle of a brewing lawsuit that could cost as much as a loss of $19.2 million, two, he had no formal financial accreditation to equip him for the job.

The Farbridge administration had decided to fire the former CFO when she dared to question the increased capital spending on major projects without having a business plan. The city’s finances were turned over to a manager in the CFO’s office for about a year before Mr. Horsman arrived to take over. That lady left the city and took a position with Wellington county.

While a city press release patted Horsman on the back announcing his resignation, what was the real reason he was eased out? It confirms the old story, it’s easier to get a job when you have one. Horsman is to take over the Chief Administrative Officer’s job in Sault Ste. Marie, starting September 28.

It wasn’t about the money he was paid in Guelph, ($182,761 plus $6,238 in taxable benefits). It was a about the post election shuffle that took him out of Finance to oversee a huge list of varied responsibilities in which he had little background or training.

Does this sound like a promotion or a prepping of the trapdoor in the Chief Administrative Officer’s office?

His responsibilities included: Infrastructure, planning and enterprise activities including environmental services; planning, urban design and building, and engineering services. The guy had to have the longest job title to ever fit on a business card.

After the Farbridge defeat and the assumption of the job by newly elected Mayor Cam Guthrie, there was a lot of finger pointing and playing the blame game among the defeated mayor’s supporters.

There was denial, disbelief and words of revenge election night and in the following weeks. It is safe to assume that CFO Al Horsman was a target for the election fiasco that saw the mayor fall not only from grace but by more than 5,000 votes.

Now he’s moving on and catching a pretty good job in the process. There is now indication that other staff may choose to move on because of fear and a better working atmosphere elsewhere.

Possibly the time has come to bring in a CFO, qualified and experienced, to pull the city out of the financial mess it is currently experiencing.

The fact that after two hours of debate recently, city council was unable to agree on guidelines for preparation of the 2016 budget. It is a clear indication that financial management is still in disarray.

Also, it doesn’t help that the 2014 Financial Information Report is still not available. The deadline for release is June 30. Presumably when you do not have a CFO and the new general manager and treasurer took over that responsibility in March, things get behind.

Happy trails, Al.

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Your guelphspeaks Weekender

Posted August 22, 2015

Sex and the city – Shake-up in Waste Management – Phil Allt’s applesauce and marmalade comparison

The survey says: Guelph is right up there when it comes to online adult dating credit card transactions

WARNING – Content in this posting may be offensive to some, particularly if you are a taxpayer.

This week, the adult dating service Ashley was hacked, twice. Credit card transactions revealed which postal codes indicated where Canadians spent most money on the website’s services. The company that operates the Ashley website, Avid Life Media Inc., is located in Toronto. It also operates another website called

Guelph is fifth of all Canadian municipalities with the top spending on Ashley Madison postal codes. The analysis, reported in the Toronto Star, said the total Ashley Madison credit card transactions came from only one postal code in this city.

The top five municipalities in the country by postal code that spent money to hook up on the adult dating site were:

Toronto – $233,220.60

Lloydminster – $146,024.20

Milton – $132,206.34

Oakville – $130,134.89

Guelph – $126,200.32

What in heck is going on in Lloydminster?

In Guelph’s case, the concentration of transactions in only one postal code indicates a high concentration of computers located within that postal code area. The number of addresses in the area determines the size of the postal code.

The question is, which postal code in Guelph has this high concentration of relentless libido? With a population of 121,000 and a number of postal codes, does it not seem strange the just one would be so super engaged with Ashley Madison?

The analysis reported that there was high usage of the Ashley Madison site in the Department of National Defence and the House of Commons. This indicates that those credit card payments emanated from those in the public service allegedly using government computers.

Taking it a step further, is it possible that in Guelph, the high concentration of publically owned computers is in the City of Guelph’s site located in postal code, N1H 3A1? Or perhaps it might be the postal code of the University of Guelph where there is an abundance of university owned computers. But most students could not afford computer dating.

The irrefutable fact is that in just one of Guelph’s postal codes there is a lot of seething hormonal activity going on. Could it be city hall? Or is it the downtown library, police headquarters or fire department HQ? There are a lot of computers in the Ontario Service Centre on Stone road.

Remember, all this horny activity came from only one postal code in the city.

So, go with the concentration of publically owned computers in one environment and a single postal code. It appears that across the country, there is evidence that public money and equipment is being used to promote, attract and connect with partners. The objective is not tea and crumpets, or somebody to talk to or share life’s disappointments.

It’s all about sex, baby.

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City hires a new General Manager of Environmental Services

Say hello to Ramesh Ummat, P.Eng. He assumes command of the city’s solid waste resources, water and wastewater departments.

The solid waste department lately has been under scrutiny for being very un-environmental. Residents living near the Waste Resources Innovation Centre WRIC), have been complaining of odours for more than a month. The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) ordered a clean up of certain facilities including storage of materials outside the recycling facility.

The next question is where does this leave Dean Wyman the current general manager of waste resources?

While Mr. Ummat is highly qualified, why was it necessary for a 10-month search to hire a manager from Nova Scotia, who is possibly unfamiliar with the MOE laws in Ontario?

In the end it is results that count and there is a big job ahead for the new man to clean up the mess left by the previous administration.

Welcome sir.

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Phil Allt and his apples and oranges comparison of Guelph and Barrie

The mind boggles when Phil Allt attempts to write a guest column in the Mercury. He is obviously not an original thinker.

First, here is the back-story. Allt wrote his piece following an internal document distributed by Coun. Dan Gibson that detailed the similarities and differences between the two cities. Gibson researched the data and distributed it FYI to all members of council and DCAO, Mark Amorosi.

The analysis clearly demonstrated that Barrie with a population exceeding Guelph by 20,000, had a operational budget that is $6 million lower than Guelph’s; and a staff that has 800 employees fewer than Guelph.

But Allt turns apples into applesauce when he cites the cost of policing. Barrie pays some $761 per household for policing while Guelph pays only $554. Phil, you left something out, Barrie has 20,000 more households than Guelph and a much larger police force.

Then he says that these figures prove that Guelph is the more fiscally prudent than Barrie. Really Phil! In 2014, did Barrie lose $14 million as a result of mismanagement and lawsuits that Guelph experienced? Was that prudent management, ya think?

Then he says that Barrie’s waste collection system is privatized and so is their transit system. Do they know something our council doesn’t? Here’s a clue, 80 per cent of Guelph’s city staff is unionized.

We’ll forgive him for misstating the 2015 Guelph property tax rate increase. Council approved a 3.55 per cent increase that was later adjusted to 3.94 per cent due to the increase of assessed properties. Barrie’s increase was 3.19 per cent.

More applesauce. He argues that Guelph has a large industrial base and a university requiring tax dollars asserting that Barrie doesn’t have these additional costs. Guess Phil hasn’t been to Barrie recently, where the largest community college between Toronto and Sudbury is located. Also there is a major regional health centre that services a broad area including cottage country. And Phil, there is industry in Barrie.

This brings up the great job the previous administration failed to accomplish. The assessment ratio between residential (84 per cent) and commercial industrial (16 per cent) has not changed in nine years. Phil, drive, sorry, ride your bicycle, around the industrial areas of the city and see all the vacant lots and buildings standing empty.

Former Chamber of Commerce president, Lloyd Longfield used to brag about the economic benefits that the university brings to the city, none of which trickles down to the property owner.

Guelph electors voted for change in Guelph’s administration. You and your colleagues have paid no attention to that and continue the tax and spend policies of the previous administration.

Next time, Phil, don’t use someone else’s research to score points.









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How the Axis of the left controlled our city for nine years and we are paying for it

Posted august 20, 2015

Former mayor Karen Farbridge controlled the city with an iron hand for eight years. She did it by having a majority of councillors support her field of dreams by turning our city into an environmental, political correctly haven, espoused by the New Democratic Party and the Liberal party.

This is a classic example of what happens when major political parties and their supporters gain control of municipal governments. It is an Axis of power that well meaning politically neutral residents, wishing to contribute, are shut out or shouted out.

In Guelph, our municipal government has been dominated by doctrinaire members of the New Democratic Party and of the Liberal party. You don’t have to look further than the strange robocall support of Liberal MP Frank Valeriotte of Karen Farbridge in the final stages of her civic election campaign.

The role of the Guelph Civic League in three municipal elections represents a quasi NDP-front organization, founded by James Gordon, who was elected in October to city council. Two former NDP candidates, Gordon and Phil Allt, in separate provincial elections, are now serving on Guelph city council.

The late NDP leader, Jack Layton, developed the plan to run NDP candidates in municipal elections. The idea was to provide two things: One to develop future candidates for the provincial and federal NDP campaigns; two, impose NDP national policies at the ground zero of politics, the municipalities.

An example of this is the effort of Susan Watson to represent the Guelph chapter of the Fair Vote organization, dedicated to promoting a proportional voting system to all levels of government. This system is in both the Liberal and NDP 2015 federal election platforms. The premise is if you fail to win a majority in provincial and national elections, change the voting system.

How the unions keep supporting the Left Axis

In Guelph, we have been governed by an Axis of the left who succeeded with the support of the municipal unions. Keep in mind that those unions represent more than 80 per cent of city employees. So, where do you think their loyalties and money reside?

As a result, the civic election last October was a repudiation of the Farbridge Axis coalition’s policies to create a dynamic socialists city. The mayor and four of her supporters were either defeated or quit.

When the dust settled, there remained seven councilors on the left and five, including Mayor Guthrie on the reform side, plus one uncommitted councillor to either side at the moment.

This one-vote margin could change. Actually, it is probably healthy and keeps everyone on his or her toes.

During the recent debate on budgeting, it was disturbing to see Coun. Allt reading from a prepared script. James Gordon also spoke from notes on his desk.

Admitting that both are rookies on council, the message they delivered ignored the case for zero-based budgeting. Or at least they could have agreed to create a rational starting point as espoused by the new President of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, Keitho Mawanza.

For almost two hours, council debated the budget planning without any agreeable conclusion, just the status quo.

Axis action plans that drove up taxes

Here are some examples of the Farbridge action plans, launched over eight years that cost millions while adopting a minor concern of fixing the infrastructure of a 200-year old city. Much of it is broken and needs fixing.

* The Urbacon lawsuit’s financial fallout, $14 million and counting. Not accounted for in the 2014 budget.

* The formation of the Guelph Municipal Holding Corporation and subsidiaries. One, Envida Corporation, is budgeted to spend $24 million on a geo-thermal heating and cooling system in the Hanlon Business Park and downtown Guelph. This corporation includes Guelph Hydro that pays a dividend to the city each year that has now reached $9 million since 2012. Is this a secondary tax on your electricity bill?

* The Downtown Secondary Plan – The costs are mostly hidden but the project to turn the downtown into a family oriented area, has failed miserably.

The war on cars and wild spending for bike lanes

* The ten-year $3 million bicycle lanes plan, referred to as the war on cars, goes on unabated as major roads lose lanes to create bicycle lanes. The 2015 budget included spending $600,000 on Woodlawn bike lanes and lane shrinkage. The watermain freeze up of last winter failed to warn council of the infrastructure problems facing the city.

* The $100 million Waste Management Innovation Complex that is causing the emission of toxic odours, plus a bin-type collection system that fails to pick up waste from an estimated 6,000 residences and businesses. It also has abnormally high maintenance costs of the special trucks needed in the system.

* The $4 million Wellbeing plan that is a smoke and mirrors project, the brainchild of a university professor.

* To pay for this, taxpayers have experienced an 85 per cent growth of property taxes plus user and development fees in the past ten years.

* The $34 million renovated police headquarters that was originally budgeted to cost $13 million.

* It has been a major failure to attract industrial and commercial business assessment to ease the burden on residential taxpayers. The ratio, 84 per cent residential and 16 per cent industrial commercial assessment has been unchanged for eight years.

* Subsidizing the transit system at an estimated cost of $15 million that only serves a minority of citizens. Its biggest customers are university students who are in the city for eight months. They pay $75 a semester for a Guelph Transit pass. While your property taxes increase annually, the University of Guelph, for the past 28 years, pays only $75 per student in lieu of property taxes. It is the largest landowner in the city.

* Giving tax breaks to downtown condo developers, exhausting a $32 million Brownfield remediation reserve fund.

* There has been a 50 per cent growth of city staff by 700 employees in eight years versus a 5.7 per cent increase in population. Today, 85.5 per cent of the property tax levy is spent on staff wages, salaries and benefits.

Financial manipulation obscures reality

The finances of this city have been manipulated to allow these leftist inspired plans. Very few people know and understand the actual financial picture. It is a mirage of shuffling money between reserve funds, mandatory revenues and creating debt.

The citizen’s activist group GrassRoots Guelph delivered a scathing report on glaring deficiencies in the city’s annual financial reports over four years, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The request for an audit was referred back to the GRG group and the city to sort it out. That never happened but the facts are as true today as they were before the Urbacon disaster unfolded.

Today Mayor Guthrie has been rendered powerless to fulfill his promises to bring change to Guelph. We strongly urge him to take the initiative and take his case to the very people who elected him. He can do it by holding town hall meetings to present his case to the people and by holding regular media conferences to explain his plan for change.

It’s called cranking up the volume.

By doing this he will bring pressure on his opponents on council to work as a team and not be influenced by party politics.



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They didn’t get the memo?

Published August 19, 2015

(Editor’s note) This is a letter to the Guelph Tribune that was rejected. We publish it in full in the public’s interest. It is of particular interest now that the city has published online a 2016 citizen’s do-it-yourself budget program. There will be more on this later.

The recent article by the Tribune’s Doug Hallett “Mayor, city staff not eye to eye on property tax” shows how absolutely dysfunctional are both city staff and the rump of Farbridge tax and spend councillors, as well as their recently elected  ilk.

Doug’s enumeration of 8 reported different budget options illustrates the 8 “dead cat bounces” of a cat’s 9 lives. It would appear that staff is anally fixated on a dart board game of trying to choose how to maximize spending on their pet projects rather than considering what taxpayers really need.

Staff seems to have not gotten the voter’s memo (or didn’t understand it) who overwhelmingly endorsed Mayor Cam Guthrie’s platform of holding property tax increases to the rate of inflation.

Staff and council should recall in the late 1990’s BF (before Farbridge) that under the direction of councillor John Pate, the city operated with a zero-based budget process. However, once the Farbridge regime was installed, zero-based budgeting was replaced by tax and spend which saw taxes skyrocket by 85.7% while CPI increased by 31.8% over 12 years.

The 2015 tax increase, is the highest since 2010, and was opposed by only four council members (Guthrie, Billings, Van Hellemond & Gibson).

With Canada now facing a mini recession, it is time for citizens to contact the mayor and councillors to demand a zero-based budget process with any increase limited to the Canadian CPI.

If staff continues to have problems comprehending the need for such a budget process, they should be firmly reminded of the “voters’ memo” and to either comply or be terminated.

Glen N. Tolhurst


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The guy who tried to kill Guelph’s Wal-Mart is now defending Susan Watson

Posted August 18, 2015

Public opinion is surging strongly to have Farbridge friend and supporter Susan Watson, pay the cost of her campaign complaint against Glen Tolhurst. Today, her Toronto lawyer, Eric Gillespie, said there was a loophole in interpreting the auditor’s report that cleared both Mr. Tolhurst and GrassRoots Guelph (GRG).

“By finding that the third party newspaper ads are not contributions in this case, it does leave open the possibility of future contributors might see this as an opportunity to ‘donate almost unlimited amounts’ ”, Gillespie told a local newspaper.

What he neglects to mention is that there are limitations to what individuals can donate. The Municipal Elections Act does not preclude corporations to donate funds to candidates. By the absence of any reference to ‘third party” in the Act, both GRG and Mr. Molson agreed it is perfectly legal for corporations to donate to candidates.

He went on: “If someone can buy an ad supporting a candidate, or their position, without that being a contribution, to many people. this seems to be a very large loophole in the legislation.”

But Mr. Gillespie, this was not “someone” it was a legally functioning Ontario Corporation that donated $400 to Mr. Tolhurst’s campaign. By your argument you may want to look at the $4,200 that your client and her husband Dr. Ian Digby donated to a number of candidates. Or take a look at the funds that were spent by the Guelph and District Labour Council to various candidates who were listed throughout the election campaign on its website, “We are Guelph.”

Most people would not remember Eric Gillespie. He represented the unions who objected to Wal-Mart setting up shop in Guelph. During the 11-year battle to prevent Wal-Mart to establish, he represented the opposition in addition to Ben Bennett, the paid representative of the unions that financed the attempt to stop Wal-Mart. The battle ended in 2006 when Guelph council approved the project and the rest is history.

Now Susan Watson, facing paying the cost of her effort to discredit Tolhurst and GRG, has employed Gillespie to defend her false accusations against the two parties. These accusations were nullified by the city appointed auditor, William Molson, CA.

His findings came after investigating the arguments put forth by Watson’s first lawyer and a fellow traveler, Denis Galon They remain as specious today as they were May 6 when the two-man Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) voted to order the audit.

Gillespie’s smokescreen is nothing but a nonsensical delaying tactic. According to the nine-page report by Mr. Molson, not one of Susan Watson’s claims of illegal contributions by a legally organized non-profit corporation was judged valid.

For Gillespie to now claim that resolution of this case will take a long time, he’s spitting in the wind. He says that his client can seek redress in the courts over the audit’s conclusions.

Does he seriously expect the City of Guelph to pay for continuing this exercise of a personal vendetta against Glen Tolhurst and GRG? The bill is now more than $10,000 and sorry, Mr. Gillespie, you have a strong tide of public opinion running against your case and your client.

Susan Watson was warned following the May 6 meeting in which she persuaded the CAC to conduct an audit, that she might be liable for the costs.

On September 10, the CAC will receive Mr. Molson’s report. It is understood that citizens can make representation in person or in writing, to express their opinions.

Susan Watson has already thoroughly embarrassed the city and citizens with these ill-founded claims of election irregularities.

If she is seeking redemption of her reputation, she should accept the auditor’s report and move on.

She has already alienated supporters by pursuing a manufactured protest that will not change the outcome of the 2014 election.

It does have the potential for serious personal lawsuits that could claim damages for unwarranted claims, causing personal anguish, pain and suffering.




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