Fallout from the Mercury closing reverberates through the community

By Gerry Barker

Editor of guelphspeaks.ca

Posted January 26, 2016

The impact of the closing of Guelph’s daily newspaper flies in the face of the city’s claims that Guelph is Number One in Canada for jobs. It bolsters the argument that Guelph’s large number of civil servants who depend on the public purse, skews the claims that the city is number one in terms of jobs.

The Mercury was a leading supporter of the Farbridge administration. The orders to support the administration came from the Kitchener- Waterloo Record. More specifically, it was the Record’s and Mercury’s Editor in Chief, Lynn Haddrell, who no longer holds the job.

The 2014 election result spawned changes in the operation of the Mercury. Monitoring the diminishing advertising linage over a few months, it was apparent that the newspaper was financially hurting. A basic problem was the lack of local advertising that was placed in the twice-a week Guelph Tribune.

Guelphspeaks wrote a post that predicted the reduction of the Mercury operations following the removal of the printing operations to Hamilton.

The Mercury office site on MacDonnell Street will probably be sold to a developer for another downtown hi-rise condo.

The guardian of the public trust is dead and the torch is handed to the Internet and social media to maintain.

More on the public service jobs

These public-funded jobs have salaries, wages and benefits that are guaranteed by the citizens forever. For example, take the two Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals working for the city of Guelph. Their contracts contain a rigid, no-contracting out clause of their jobs after two years.

If city council decides to consider contracting waste collection out to private industry, this clause prevents it from doing so. This is a hangover from the Farbridge administration that was very generous to those unions that contributed to the former mayor’s three election campaigns and those supporters elected on council.

Remember that the former mayor did not do this alone. She relied on key senior staff to make nice with her union supporters by settling weetheart contracts over the eight years she held office. These senior staffers included Mark Amorosi, hired as head of Human Resources in 2008 and in charge of union negotiations. The mayor also relied on two Chief Administration Officers, the current occupant of the job, Ann Pappert, and her predecessor, Hans Loewig.

Today, both Pappert and Amorosi are still running the city with the support of the seven members of council who are consistently voting as a bloc to ensure the Farbridge agenda is continued.

This is the intolerable situation that Mayor Cam Guthrie and five independent members of council face every day.

So, how serious is this situation? In council’s first year in office, the bloc of seven councillors voted to raise property taxes in the city by 11.62 per cent. This is composed of a property tax increase for 2015 of 3.96 per cent, approved last March, and a 2.99 per cent increase for 2016, in December. Add the 4.67 per cent that transferred a portion of operational and capital costs to debt.

The taxpayers have to service the debt and in Guelph the debt is out of control. The city’s appointed consultants whenreviewing operations, warned that reserves were “red flagged” as being seriously underfunded.

All you have to consider is the $8.96 million settlement with Urbacon Buildings Group for wrongful dismissal of the company chosen to build the new City Hall. That money was taken from three reserve funds.

The parties involved in this decision were former mayor Farbridge, CAO Ann Pappert and former Chief Financial Officer Al Horsman. Horsman was replaced by Mark Amorosi, a resixdent of Hamilton, a senior manager who never seems far from the action at Guelph City Hall.

We’ll miss the Merc, a paper that reported and commented on the life of our city six days a week.

There is a giant newshole that will be gone by this weekend.

                                                  Introducing The Letter Box

Please note that following the demise of the Mercury, guelphspeaks.ca will accept Letters to the Editor in its new feature: The Letter Box.

The usual rules of decorum apply and all points of view will be welcomed and considered. Please leave a contact name and telephone or email address with each submission. Only your name will be published. Letters are limited to 300 words or less. Send your letter to guelphspeaks.ca marked comments – letter box.





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