By Gerry Barker
June 30, 2016
Happy Canada Day to all our readers and viewers.
We live in a great country, and I’ve been in enough other countries to make that claim. We are not the greatest but are fortunate to live in an advanced society that is diverse and prosperous. I remain distressed over the Alberta wild fires that almost destroyed Fort McMurray. The David Suzuki enviro commandos will say: “We told you so.”
Here in Guelph, our home and native city, the burden of paying for our very existence is the result of nine years of assets and operations squandered to fulfill the promise of sustainability and doing our bit to reduce the threat of climate change. “Bit” is the operative word here.
The recent revelations of the cost and failure Community Energy Initiative, is but one example of the legacy of former Mayor Karen Farbridge, a disciple of David Suzuki, the multi-millionaire guru of all things environmental. She even had an endorsement from the man in her failed attempt to be re-elected in 2014.
Suzuki’s latest paying job was with the Ontario Government. Premier Wynne brought him in to bolster her whacko Green Plan for Ontario. What got me was the Suzuki commercial sponsored by the Ontario Government. He was shown warning children that they had to stop climate warming.
That was totally inappropriate. The production was lit to show Suzuki, complete with white hair and flowing beard, doing his shtick on saving the world. That’s a great approach; threaten the vulnerable to make a point. This is pure charlatanism, smoke and mirrors, what ever you want to name it, by using children to make your point. And folks we paid for it.
But don’t get me wrong. I am alarmed about climate change. But we can’t fix it in Guelph or in Ontario. This is a world-wide condition that requires all nations to take steps to control carbon emissions.
How low can the Premier Wynne sell her plans to remake Ontario into a world-class example of reducing global warming and electrifying basic transportation? One particular portion of the Wynne Green Plan is that by 2025, if you have two cars, one will be powered by electricity.
But that has a familiar ring about it as that was similar to the Farbridge eight years of trying to change the city into a “world class” social engineered example of environmental management. It includes reduction of waste; sustainable sources of power; squeezing vehicle lanes on major streets to accommodate bicycle lanes.
Also the Farbridge legacy provides a heavy taxpayer subsidy to Guelph Transit; increased the city staff by more than 50 percent in eight years; spent more than $22 million on litigation and employee severances; an estimated $28 million on cost over-runs of city projects.
The project that gave community energy a bad name
And now the most expensive Farbridge inspired plan known as the Community Energy Initiative (CEI) that, so far, has cost taxpayers an estimated $40 million. It involved setting up two district energy plants in the Hanlon Business Park and the Sleeman Centre.
Then her administration folded Guelph Hydro into the mayor’s Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI). This set the stage for a new Guelph Hydro subsidiary called Envida Corporation that was used to manage the various schemes to fulfill the Farbridge dream. It was a sustainable energy plan including geo-thermal piping to supply hot water to two new, downtown high-rise apartment buildings built by TriCar.
Since the GMHI plan was announced in 2011, the business of GMHI, Envida, and Guelph Hydro has been conducted behind closed doors. There was no publication of the activities of these various corporate entities except for some glowing annual reports by GMHI.
In 2014, GMHI reported sending a $1,500,000 dividend to the City of Guelph. It also stated that since inception, GMHI has sent some $9 million to the city treasury. What they did with these funds remains a mystery. GMHI also reported in the 2014 annual report that it lost $2.8 million.
The bizarre official reporting on this situation is convoluted and murky due to the intertwing of three corporations and the funding. One thing is certain, there is a $26,637,244 cost as reporteed by GMHI CEO Pankaj Sardana.
This is a major-league scandal that is still unresolved. It remains a shameful exploitation of the public trust and treasure.
So, when all this is going on, city council approves an $110,000 grant to 10 Carden Street to renovate the second floor of the former Akers Furniture building. Yjod is to provide studio space for budding artists etc. To be clear, 10 Carden Street is a self-standing cousin of the Guelph Civic League (GCL) who occupy, Tah Dah! 10 Carden Street. Again it is unclear how this money is to be spent, who is accountable and will there be a building permit issued? Just asking.
Coun. James Gordon was a founder of GCL and now the question arises, did he vote on council to award this grant to an organization to which he remain connected? Did he recuse himself when the vote was held?
It remains another extension of maintaining power by the bloc of seven leftist members of council.
A rapid promotion
Then there is the appointment of Coleen Clack to Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) responsible for operations, Guelph Transit and liaison with first responders.
In 2015, as General Manager of Culture Tourism and Community Investment, Ms Clack was making $142,017 plus a taxable benefit of $1,599. The city has not revealed her new salary or benefits as a DCAO.
However, let’s look at the 2015 salaries of Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi. Thomson earned $207,544 plus a taxable benefit of $6,472. Amorosi earned $209,629 plus a taxable benefit of $6,472.
Neither of these senior managers live in Guelph. Amorosi lives in Hamilton and has done so since joining the city staff in 2008. Thomson lives In Caledon, where he had accepted a job before being named CAO of the City of Guelph to replace Ann Pappert.
It’s an interesting coincidence that both managers share identical taxable benefits. Are the taxpayers paying these two employees a stipend just for getting to work?
This is another example of the dysfunctional culture that still exists in Guelph. It is one that has cost citizens millions of dollars wasted to meet the demands of a former mayor who was determined to change Guelph in her image.
Well, so far she seems to have succeeded.
If two neighbouring cities, Kitcher and Cambridge, can manage their operational and capital costs more efficiently and costing less than Guelph, what is the problem?
On that happy note, have a great Canada Day and remain hopeful that the House of Guelph will survive with determined and responsible leadership.