Your GuelphSpeaks Weekender

By Gerry Barker

Posted November 15, 2015

Here’s this week’s line-up:

* Guelph Transit is a seasonal production

* Say goodbye to the editor in chief?

* The young master needs a script rewrite

* The Gummer gift of $1.5 million

* Do we really need expensive consultants?

 

Cars, bicycles and Guelph Transit fare hikes

Council is discussing the proposal by city staff to increase Guelph Transit fares and reduce weekend and holiday service.

The first indication that there is opposition to this came from Coun. Phil Allt who said that its wrong to raise fares and decrease weekend service because we have to get cars off the road to save the planet. Well Phil, thanks for that and all this time we thought that defeated Councillor Maggie Laidlaw’s war on cars ended last October.

If Allt knew anything about climate change he wouldn’t assume fossil fuels are the only cause of climate warming. One volcanic eruption spews more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than one year’s fossil fuel emmisions in North America.

There are more than 250 active volcanos in the world.

There is no question that the growing use of fossil fuels in the developing countries is affecting the climate. However, in the case of automobiles and commercial vehicles, the demand for refined fuel is dropping. Innovative engineering and introduction of electric and hybrid gasoline/electric vehicles, has to a degree, mitigated the threat of fossil fueled vehicles’ contribution toward climate change and global warming.

In Guelph, we have a minority strident group of bicyclists who are demanding special lanes for the exclusive use of cyclists. They demand that the taxpayers spend $1.3 million per year expanding these bike lanes. It was the Farbridge regime that approved this $13 million 10-year plan.

So while council considers taxing cats, it might ask itself why not licence and tax cyclists because they are getting a free ride on most arterial and major roads in the city? Once licensed, cyclists would be required to wear light-coloured clothing at night, flashing rear lights and helmets.

And also, cyclists are using the sidewalks as their path of choice. This is currently forbidden by city bylaw.

This minority group of bike users has the substantial support of the Farbridge majority on council.

Like the operation of Guelph Transit that is designed to cater to the 20,000 undergraduates at U of G for eight months of the year, the bicycle lobby is receiving millions from the taxpayers in grants and subsidies.

When a Mercury columnist suggests that the increased fares will provide a bonus of $1.5 million to the city , he neglects to mention that the city subsidizes Guelph Transit by some $15 million per year.

*            *            *            *

Is this a goodbye to the Mercury’s Editor in Chief?

Editor in Chief of the K/W Record and Guelph Mercury, Lynn Haddrell, wrote a column in the Saturday Mercury, replacing the spot normally occupied by Managing Editor Phil Andrews.

It seemed to be a goodbye piece but was chiefly about her career involving the Mercury, not the Record where she worked full-time.

It is no coincidence that guelphspeaks this week took the words of Torstar Chairman John Honderich, whose company owns both The Record and The Mercury. He said: “Newspapers are an essential informing part of the democratic process and their first responsibility must be to the local readers they serve.”

The point of the GS piece was that Ms. Haddrell and her Record/Mercury publisher, were both in Kitchener at the Record. That seemed to run counter to what Mr. Hondrich was saying. His newspapers must be transparent, open and have editorial independence. These include journalists who cover the Mercury’s catchment area.

*            *            *            *

Justin, the training wheels have been removed

Our new P.M. may need to rerwrite the script following the horrific ISIS attack in Paris last Friday night, leaving 129 dead and hundreds more wounded with an estimated 100 in critical condition.

Justin Trudeau quickly announced that Canada was withdrawing its air command from Qatar. The young master will learn to understand our intelligence better. Regardless, Canada is committed to NATO and the pledge that an attack on one, is an attack on all.

We all expect the change in government will bring about change that is orderly and responsible. That includes the use of our military and its resources.

Withdrawing forces now after what has occurred in France is ill-considered and neglects to recall the commitment to NATO.

It’s time for Canada to contribute to eliminate this scourge of terror that threatens us and our allies.

The question arises is just how effective are Canada’s intelligence services? More than ever, the apparent infiltration of terrorists in the gigantic refugee flow into Europe, threatens the Trudea promise to bring 25,000 to Canada by the end of the year, six weeks from now.

How can our government guarantee the qualifications of these refugees in the limited time frame remaining?

Time to rethink that one.

*            *            *            *

Spending $1.5 million on a handshake is irresp0nsible

With the majority of council coposed of the Farbridge Seven, it voted recently to give the private owners of the Gummer Building on Douglas Street, $1.5 million because it was promised, by the previous administration, reportedly on a handshake.

When the Gummer building was ravaged by fire several years back, the Farbridge council, agreed to give the owners who were rebuilding the building, 100 free parking spaces downtown. It was because the heritage supporters on council wanted the façade of the old building restored.

But there is more. The present owners of the Gummer received a ten-year tax break. What is not apparent is the $1.5 million bonus for completing the work, so to speak.

How long do the citizens have to tolerate the legacy of the Farbridge financial commitments, some of which were made behind closed doors with a wink, a nod and a handshake?

How much are we paying these guys?

The guelphspeaks archives yield some interesting information. Today, I discovered a draft of the city’s 2011 budget. In it there was an item about the Hamilton-based BMA consultant firm that recently completed a review of the 2015 city operations.

Five years ago, the city budgeted to hire this firm for $480,442. This was to perform an undisclosed task involving examination of operations and reporting the findings to city staff and council. The 2011 completed report was never made public..

This same firm has just completed another city operations review, the cost of which is unknown because it would have been budgeted in the final days of the Farbridge administration. Whatever, the council approved a 3.96 per cent property tax increase last March to pay the current BMA account.

Another question: Was there a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued to determine an above-board competition for the work required? It seems spending half a million bucks on this consultant proposal, requires input from other consultants who may be interested in the project. Who wouldn’t?

This is exactly what needs to controlled. The solution is to hire a Chief Financial officer at less than half of what taxpayers paid and are paying BMA.

Has this firm been engaged every year since 2011? If so, that’s a whack of consultant fees.

If any, what’s the connection between Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, and the president of BMA? Both are from Hamilton and worked together, at a point in time. Mr. Amorosi is currently responsible for all city financial matters.

 

 

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1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

One response to “Your GuelphSpeaks Weekender

  1. geo

    Gerry
    I watched Council rubber stamp the $1,500,000 gift of taxpayer dollars to Skyline. What I found most interesting about the whole episode was our new financially responsible Mayor remained mute during the entire discussion and then voted in favour of the gift.
    This genuinely surprised me and if you have any insight into the Mayor’s position I’d love to read it.

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