The world according to Coun. Leanne Piper

By Gerry Barker

Posted February 16, 2016

The nine-year record of city Councillor Leanne Piper, reveals that when it comes to credibility, her record is wanting.

The following contains part her response to a letter sent by Glen Tolhurst that questioned the city’s financial administration.

But let’s review her nine-year performance as an elected member of Guelph city council. This includes her undying support of former Mayor Karen Farbridge who was defeated in the 2014 civic election. Recently, Ms. Piper denied the charge that there is division among councillor stating that most votes are not 7/6, but carry with a much greater majority.

She goes on to complain that those councillors and their supporters who complain about this situation are merely perpetuating division on council. That sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.

The real problem is she and her six colleagues are attempting to perpetuate the Farbridge agenda despite its repudiation by the city electorate.

We begin with her assertion that a 3 per cent tax increase does not affect those who pay taxes. Her explanation comes right from the professional staff playbook.

To quote her: “A 3 per cent increase in the ‘net tax levy’ does not mean that your taxes, or anyone else’s, are going up 3 per cent.” She proceeds to explain that 3 per cent is the increase from the previous year’s budget. Okay so far. Then she says that new and revised assessment adds to revenue. The combination of tax increase and new assessment results in the net tax levy. Both are used to determine the mill rate.

She neglects to explain how that ‘net 3 per cent’ does not affect the amount of taxes a taxpayer must pay.

Well councillor, you didn’t mention that for four years the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) did not increase assessments on orders from then Premier Dalton McGuinty. Despote the loss in revenue that did not stop your administration from increasing property taxes annually during that period. In fact, since the 2008 global financial collapse, you were party to approving excessive property tax rates and user fees that far exceeded the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of less than 2 percent per year. Did your associates and street sources not understand the impact on ratepayers?

Is it possible they are not taxpayers and don’t care?

Whatever happened to pay off the Urbacon $23 million cost overruns?

A stunning example of this disregard for reality is the statement of Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, that “the $8.96 million settlement with the fired Urbacon contractor of the new city hall, would not affect property taxes.” Most citizens are still waiting for answers to that statement cause their taxes continue to increase.

Coupled with the lowest rate of wage increases in 10 years, it resulted in excessive municipal taxation by your administration. Your lust for revenue translated in forcing many homeowners to struggle to pay their taxes and municipally controlled service fees such as power and water.

You closed your mind when data on city operations as reported by your administration and that of two adjacent municipalities, shows that Guelph’s operating and capital spending is 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge.

You obviously don’t understand the principle of exponential growth of self-serving, uncontrolled spending and its affect on taxation.

This analysis is the unvarnished truth as determined by Guelph resident Mr. Pat Fung, CA, and CPA., who presented his findings to council. At the rate the current council increases property taxes and spending, that gap of serious financial disparity, will widen in the next few years. Apparently, Ms. Piper doesn’t believe it or doesn’t want to. The data produced by Mr. Fung was taken from the official Financial Information Reports filed by the three cities to the province.

The result of this misguided municipal tax strategy has placed Guelph as one of the most expensive cities in Ontario in which to live.

Summing up, the main beneficiaries of the city corporation are its employees. With seven unions representing 2,100 city employees, all of whom enjoy wages, salaries and benefits that far exceed private enterprise.

In fact, the Guelph and District Labour Council is a major supporter of the previous administration’s elected officials.

Despite this self-serving body of workers’ control, the people rejected the policies of the previous administration by defeating the former mayor and four of her council who either quit or lost the election.

That vote sent a strong and clear message that the citizens wanted a change in direction of council and the administration.

You and your colleagues, including the remnants of the previous administration, are still in technical control of council. As a bloc, you steadfastly refuse to engage or agree with reforms that the public voted for. Excessive taxation tops the list of public concern.

It’s the epitome of arrogance, disdain and dishonesty in which you and your colleagues have shunned your fiduciary responsibility by glossing over serious financial problems. Not the least of which is the $23 million loss associated with the Urbacon lawsuit and its fall out.

Yet, you and your colleagues refused to attend a January 25 regular council meeting claiming that your actions were to “protect the integrity of the corporation and staff.” The five of you walked away from your responsibility refusing to represent the people who elected you.

And the real reason was, during a closed session, you and your colleagues realized you did not have the majority to get your way and you walked away.

What were you thinking? Did you believe that you were a trade union with some kind of collective agreement that allowed you to walk out? Come the next civic election be prepared to defend your service to the electorate.

And that’s the world according to Coun. Leanne Piper.



Filed under Between the Lines

4 responses to “The world according to Coun. Leanne Piper

  1. Doak McCraney

    From what it appears the majority group on council continues to control. I also wondered why in any sense of logic the police building renos we would publisize a figure for all to see prior to getting quotes for the anticipated work done .It just seems that we are putting out an extremely high figure as a starting point rather than getting best value for our dollar on a scope of work first ? I managed businesses for years and never did we tell suppliers up front a price we were willing to go to ..We provided a full scope of work allowed bidders to come see the lay of the land than we accepted tenders based on that . Last we would review tenders and supplier capabilities and review what we had prior budgeted for the job

    • Doak McCraney: Here is some history. The city council, led by Mayor Karen Farbridge, approved spending $34 million to renovate the police headquarters in August 2014, just before the election. Some two weeks ago, the city announced accepting a bid from Brampton-based Archer Construction, for $26 million with work to start at the end of this month. On the surface this appears to be a saving of some $8 million. However there has been considerable money spent already on detailed plans including electrical, plumbing and contracting a parking garage, moving staff during the construction. The Guelph Police Services Board and the \ city have been silent on these expenses.

      The bottom line of this project is so obscure, that not only is the public in the dark but it smells like a repeat of what happened with the Urbacon fiasco that ended up costing more than $23 million over the original, approved contract of $42 million.

      The sudden realization that the cupboard is bare, calls for resignations of the senior staff who have been running the city since 2008. I take no satisfaction in the years of reporting and maintaining that Guelph’s financial management has been a disaster. The fact that the Guthrie administration has not hired a Chief Financial Officer to put the lid on the gratuitous, self serving spending that has brought the city to its knees. Be afraid, very afraid. This is going to take a long time and a lot of money to clean up.

  2. Brent

    I still recall the council meeting a few years back when Councillor Bell recommended that the City not staff the new fire station at the south end with a full complement of firefighters since the station was built for a much larger community than what had existed at the time. Ms Piper challenged this reasonable argument on the grounds of greater safety and insisted that a full slate of personnel be hired, and with the Fartridge majority voted to hire 6 more firefighters than was really needed at an annual extra cost of $600,000. Her record consistently shows little regard for what anything costs the homeowners and businesses in this city…the word efficiency seems lacking from her vocabulary and mindset.

    I am sure that many of these problems will be resolved in a couple of years when we get the much anticipated $500,000 plus open government report from Andy Best enabling the public to be better informed and better enabled to participate in the decision making process that would avert this sort of financial irresponsibility.

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