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.