By Gerry Barker
Posted April 21, 2016
“Power is not given, it is taken,” anonymous
It started in October 2006.
That’s when the New Democratic Party (NDP) swept into power in the City of Guelph with the election of Mayor Karen Farbridge and ten supporting councillors. They did it legally using tactics that most citizens never experienced before. First, they spent three years opposing and obstructing former Mayor Kate Quarrie’s administration of moderation.
The undying support of the civic unions, the backbone of the NDP power source, provided the financial support needed to achieve victory. The Orange Crush was also financially supported by a group of so-called “silk stocking” socialists, wealthy individuals. These supporters were usually professionals who were paid from the public purse.
The Orange Crush took power. It has led to nine years controlling the city administration. It forced a series of projects that reflected the platform of the New Democratic Party.
Today, self-serving Orange Crush socialists who dominate Guelph, are determined to maintain power and continue to impose their spendthrift policies on the Royal City.
To seize power in the 2006 election, they invented phony issues such as the ‘Big Pipe” to bring water from Lake Erie. Signs opposing this sprouted across the city prior to election day. They sent out vote- at cards to voters, advising them to go to the designated poll and vote for their candidates. Fear tactics? Yep.
The Orange Crush 2006 offensive buried the political moderates
The sad part was the opposition was ill-prepared to face up to these tactics or worse, they remained in denial. Kate lost along with five councillors that heralded the beginning of a total dictatorship by the NDP and its elected supporters.
The Orange Crush was in charge, orange being the official colour of the NDP.
Then they launched a campaign to stop urban sprawl, launched to convince voters that the city should only be engaged in intensified housing development. Supporter and urban planner, Tony Leighton, writing in the Mercury, decried the cookie-cutter appearance of single-family homes being built in the city. It was another attack on freedom of individuality.
The Farbridge administration spent millions shrinking major arterial roads to accommodate bicycle lanes. The unintended consequence of the Orange Crush’s “war on cars” was that the volume of vehicular traffic today in the city is greater than ever before. One former councillor, Maggie Laidlaw, bragged that within 20 years there would be no cars on the streets of Guelph. This is why in Guelph today, the cost of maintaining a street or road is $28,000 per kilometer while the provincial average is $11,000.
It was all part of the Orange Crush’s plan to get people out of cars and onto bicycles or walking to their jobs, shop and visit the doctor or do their banking. It was as if they wanted to turn a functioning and vibrant city into a series of connected villages that have all services within walking distance of the condominium home.
The astonishing thing is they decided to carry out this socialist nirvana plan patterned after cities in Europe that were built hundreds of years ago. The present NDP control is the essence of collectivization of Guelph’s basic transportation; social order; waste management; sustainable access to power including electricity, heating and cooling.
And what a price we have paid
It represents the concerted effort to dumb down a society that had developed a lifestyle that allowed freedom of choice, individualism and human development. The Orange Crush policies reflected a political ego that they were right and knew what was best for Guelph.
That’s why the Farbridge communications team kept publishing handouts to the media, crowing about the awards the city was receiving for it “progressive” policies.
The decimation of the NDP in the fall general election was because of the adoption of a new manifesto created by veteran socialists Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, at the Edmonton NDP National convention. It demonstrated the need for the party to return to its socialist roots in an effort to become a credible political movement. It’s back to the days of NDP icon, Tommy Douglas.
Canadians have voted they are not ready for this brand of politics. Did I mention they also fired National Leader Thomas Mulcair?
Exit single-family detached homes, enter intensified housing
The Farbridge council soon put a stop to single-family detached home construction grinding it to a halt. Instead at the south end of the city, off Victoria Road, the city approved hundreds of multiple-family low rise condos and strip housing. The irony now is the city is unable to collect waste from most of those homes, due to the installation of the $15.5 million cart-bin collection system. Residents in these developments asked, where do we store the bins? The automated pick-up trucks could not manouvre in the narrow lane ways.
The senior managers who created this cock-up, Janet Laird and Dean Wyman are now gone.
The Farbridge regime insisted that Guelph had to reduce the waste going to the landfill.
So here’s what her NDP dominated council did. They spent $34 million to build an organic waste compost facility that was triple the needs of the city of Guelph for 20 years. They then turned over operation of the facility to the contractor, Maple Reinders. To this day, the financial details of that contract have not been revealed. We receive periodic reports of the volume of raw material but not the cost of operating it by the outside operator, Aim Environmental, a subsidiary of the Maple Reinders who sells the compost.
All these decision were made in closed session.
The Orange Crush was only beginning
Feeling their oats in 2008, construction of the new City Hall and conversion of the old city hall into a provincial courthouse, was missing completion deadlines. It was due to some 300 change orders by the Farbridge administration. On September 18, 2008, CAO Hans Loewig, ordered Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. off the project with assistance of the Guelph police. To this day not one member of council at the time has admitted they voted to toss Urbacon off the job. Mayor Farbridge apologized “on behalf of the city.” She refused to accept responsibility.
This was the beginning of a dreadful breakdown of management on the part of the administration. It became a major repudiation of the Orange Crush domination of city politics.
The end result was the decision in March 2014, by Justice Donald MacKenzie, that the city was guilty of illegally dismissing the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group. The timing of that decision could not have been worse for the Orange Crush administration led by Mayor Farbridge who was seeking re-election..
But they didn’t stand pat. They sent their lawyers to argue to delay the imposed hearing for damages deadline to occur before the election. That judge refused to delay that hearing imposed by Judge MacKenzie. Instead, the city negotiated a damages settlement that cost $8.96 million in the fall of 2014..
Not even the Orange Crush could save their leader
The 2014 civic election was the end for Karen Farbridge after eight years of being mayor of Guelph. Her CAO, Ann Pappert, told the public that the settlement would not affect property taxes. Well, that wasn’t quite how it worked out. The administration drained three reserve funds to make the payments. Property taxes were increased by 6.96 per cent in two budget cycles, 2015 and 2016. To date, there has been no staff plan revealed to replenish those three reserve funds, as instructed by council in the 2015 budget discussions.
Ms. Pappert finally reported that the new city hall project cost an additional $23 millions over the original contract cost.
Regardless, today the Orange Crush is still in control of managing Guelph.
In a recent letter to the Tribune. Oxanna Adams said that the majority of people in Guelph are progressive adherents. Her argument was based on the results of the recent federal election won by the Liberals, plus a couple of leftist runners-up.
In her irrational analysis, Ms. Adams’ theory compares apples to oranges, orange being her favourite colour. The issues in the Federal election had little to do with the mangled financial mess that affects all Guelph residents. The Orange Crush Sherpas such as Ms. Adams, are aiding and supporting a failed and dysfunctional city government.
The growing number of closed sessions amounts to an ongoing cover-up denying the citizens of information that affects their lives, and pocketbooks.
In my view, the administration is on the defensive because of the Orange Crush’s mismanagement of the city’s finances.
To defend wasting $23 million of the city hall project, losing $2.6 million on an abortive contract with a Detroit waste company and ram through a $34 million on an over-buily organic waste compost plant, are not “investments” as Coun. James Gordon states.
The combination of the Farbridge appointed senior managers, CAO Ann Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officers, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson plus the bloc of seven Farbridge supporters controlling council, means the Orange Crush is still in charge.
If you believe that national political parties should not stay out of municipal politics then you are dreaming in NDP orange.
If you are like the rest of us, instead of drinking the orange Koolaid, let’s take back our city. Now is as good a time as ever to start.