The Weekender

Romance? Not here, we’re Guelph – Why is a new downtown Library still on the back burner? – Is the CFL screwing up a great game? – More on Guelph Municipal Holdings, Inc.

Posted August 8, 2015

The day the city tried to kill the office romance

 The city has adopted a draconian conflict of interest policy that defies logic or even a smidge of common sense. And council passed it without debate.

Here’s an example: “If anyone found to have a concealed relationship as defined within this policy … or otherwise violated this policy, may be disciplined up to and including termination.”

I do not make this stuff up. The basis is if you have a “significant social relationship.” According to staff report, social relationships include any current or former relationships outside work by any employee.

The definition of social relationships includes “romantic or sexual relationships.”

What brought this on? Is city hall a seething mass of hormonal activity?

Not only that, but also you godparents and godchildren are under the city sex thought police (STP) spotlight. Even for a staff couple working outside the city bathysphere of righteousness in an outside business, it could mean dismissal.

Was it former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who said the government should keep its nose out of the nation’s bedrooms?

The most interesting question is, what or who prompted this dopey decision to stifle natural human behaviour in the name of conflict of interest?

The lawyers must be rubbing their hands in anticipation of defending the first City of Guelph employee fired for having lascivious thoughts about Dagmar in Engineering, or Randy in Finance.

Hey! This is 2015 not 1901.

*            *            *            *

What’s needed to build a new downtown library? 13 years of brush-offs is enough

Susan Radcliffe is no stranger to the levers of power at city hall. She is a member of the Library board and a strong advocate of preserving our heritage. Today she is hosting a local TV program on the Rogers community channel titled “Pages of our City.” It will dwell on authors and the joys of Guelph’s cultural treasures.

It brings to mind the day Coun. Leanne Piper convinced the new 2007 council to renovate the 140 year-old Loretto Convent into a civic museum. To create more parking spaces on Catholic Hill and the Church of Our Lady, the owners, the Diocese of Hamilton, wanted to tear it down.

That project took almost seven years to complete and the city says it spent $16 million. The renovated building, standing on private property, bears little resemblance of a renovated pre-confederation structure.

The city never reports the cost of maintaining the building, the terms of the lease or the number of people using the museum.

So the question arises, did Susan Ratcliffe’s friend promote a museum at the expense of a new downtown library thatis badly needed and used daily by hundreds of people?

The current library faces serious problems and yet, in eight years, the project languished at the bottom of the Farbridge administration’s capital projects list.

We wish Ms. Ratcliffe well. Ot is hoped the current library board and executive will finally be able to fill a serious void in the living mosaic of Guelph’s cultural treasures.

Trouble is, right now, there is no one on council to champion an update of this desperately needed public cultural resource.

*            *            *            *

Is the Canadian Football League stifling the brand?

It’s supposed to be Canada’s game.

Watching the Toronto Argonauts play the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday night was a painful exercise. There were so many penalties in the first half that nullified great plays that killed interest in what was once a great game.

What’s wrong? First, the league has to get serious about cracking down on headhunting, particularly on quarterbacks and dirty physical play. This responsibility lies with the coaching staffs. It’s a tough game but not a game that encourages winning at any cost.

Then, along came the second half and while the red penalty flags were still flying, it was an exciting and different game in which the Argos won 30 -26.

The other aspect of dull football lies with the referees and their game staff. Saskatchewan had scored 24 points that were called back because of penalties. The officials should have spoken to both benches and admonished them for sloppy, bad and illegal play. It would also help if a penalty is called, that it takes two minutes of consulting by officials before anyone knows what the call is and against whom?

Watching CFL football can be highly entertaining, but not this current brand.

*            *            *            *

Why is Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. hiding its financials?

GMHI is a creation of the former Farbridge administration. In its recent annual report, it claimed it sent $1.5 million dividend to the city but also, on another page of the annual report, admitted its operations lost $2.8 million. The report stated that $9 million in dividends had been delivered to the city in the past three years. What is the source of these funds claimed by a fledgling corporation whose chief asset is Guelph Hydro?

Doesn’t this strike one as a secondary form of taxation paid through the cost of electricty charged by Guelph Hydro?

The former mayor set out to accomplish two things when she pushed formation of GMHI through a friendly council in 2011. One, she wanted to get certain public works projects off the city balance sheet. Two, she positioned Guelph Hydro as part of GMHI so she could sell it if amalgamation of small hydro transmission operations was ordered by the province. The book value of Guelph Hydro is estimated today at $170 million.

Why did the mayor do this? She fell in love with her personal power. She decided that Guelph was ready for large scale, publicly funded geo-thermal heating and cooling energy loops or systems. GMHI formed a new company called Envida that was to execute the geo-thermal project. First phase is in the Hanlon Business Park. Then there is an underground distribution loop in downtown Guelph to service major hi-rise buildings including businesses and condominiums.

The cost of this project has never been revealed. Much like the overbuilt organic waste facility, the revenues and expenses and balance sheet are a closely guarded secret.

All this planning and organization was off the city’s books. GMHI is owned by the city but operates independently. Currently it has 125 employees, with an estimated payroll of $10,750,000 plus benefits.

This is a charade of financial chicanery to window dress a hangover from the previous administration, blinding citizens of the real cost of the Farbridge agenda.

The people overwhelmingly rejected Mayor Farbridge and the process of cleaning up the detritus of her eight years in office will take more than eight years to correct.

Mayor Guthrie, please end this experiment in abuse of power and fold GMHI into the city administration. With the millions of dollars needed to fix the serious infrastructure problems in the city, there is no rationale for the grand Envida program to continue.

Paraphrasing the old saying: “If it’s broke, let’s fix it first.”

 

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