By Gerry Barker
February 26, 20118
Oh, while we absorb the Mayor’s statement that our property taxes are the lowest since he became mayor, lets review the outstanding major capital projects the city council must consider.
First, after 19 years the central library project currently estimated to cost $53 million is still a figment of council’s imagination.
Next comes the South End Recreation Centre, estimated cost $63 million in which some $3.5 million has already been spent to prepare the architectural design and site preparation.
Then along came the Guelph Innovation district.
This was a dream of the former Farbridge administration that the current Guthrie administration keeps on the front burner.
This, despite the fortune of public money that has been spent already on planning, consultants, land use, function and probability.
If you wonder why the city’s operating overhead is 50 per cent higher than either Cambridge or Kitchener, this is a perfect example of irrational spending.
Tonight, council will again review the project. Once that is over it has has no title or control of the lands, no planning control or any decision regarding land usage.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Why is the city staff spending time to plan a satellite community on lands in which it has no title, no authority but a degree of chutzpah that stretches the imagination?
Because it doesn’t own the land but in the past seven years has spent public fund designing and laying out a town plan that includes zoning and types of buildings.. The Province of Ontario does own the property that includes the former reformatory complex that was closed years ago and now wants to liquidate it to recover its investment.
For some reason, that defies explanation, the city mandarins believe they will get the extensive property for nothing.
The best estimate is that the property contains more than 250 acres and is probably worth, to the province, some S25 million.
So let’s get down and dirty about this.
June 7, the provincial election will be held. Recent polls show the Liberals under Kathleen Wynne are 19 points behind the Progressive Conservatives. The NDP and Liberals are tied at 23 per cent.
The most interesting statistic is that more than 50 per cent of eligible Ontario voters would not support Ms. Wynne.
The Tories are in disarray over the former leader Patrick Brown’s alleged sexual misconduct. They are also split due to the foolish “Take back our Party” campaign that has divided core conservatives.
The Tories Hari Kari act may provide them with a margin of victory. We’ll know later in March who is elected PC leader, and the policies of the party.
Is it possible that NDP leader Andrea Howarth could pull off a “Bob Rae” and win the most support leading to a minority government?
The Ontario electorate faces a disturbing choice June 7.
Right now we don’t know whom the PC leader will be following the snap leadership convention to replace Mr. Brown who is running for his old job. In fact, at this point, I don’t know whether we have PC, NDP and Liberal candidates in Guelph. Been away for a while.
The one factor that most Ontarians know is that Kathleen Wynne is viral in terms of performance governing the province.
In this scenario, do you really believe that the Ontario government is about to give a $25 million property to the City of Guelph for nothing?
Our Mayor seems to believe this according to recent statements. He believes that giving away the infrastructure of Guelph Hydro to a corporation that offered a small minority of its shares (60 per cent), might be a case of dreaming or hallucinating.
Until the June election is decided, the government may not be ready to give away the reformatory lands, AKA the Innovation Guelph District.
Has the city made any proposals to take over the lands? Perhaps an offer? Or a share of the development profits? Or set up a 3P arrangement? That’s a Public Private Participation Project.
Don’t hold your breath on that one.
The city for eight years has tried to set up a 3P deal for the Baker Street parking lot. It’s still a parking lot.
So then council approves spending $20 million on the Wilson Street five-story Parkade. It’s not hard to figure out where that $18.5 million special dividend from Guelph Hydro is going.
When Derrick Thomson said a year ago there was a $170 million shortfall in the newly minted ten-year capital spending program, you have to ask: Where is the money for all these projects?
For the last ten years there has been a parade of financial mangers whom have been unable to stop the spending on unproductive and special interest projects that constantly drain the city’s ability to conduct its business in an orderly and common sense manner.
Mr. Guthrie is no different than the former mayor in this sense.
Two issues stick out:
His support in a closed-session meeting to approve high percentage increases to three senior managers. The other is his support of the giveaway of Guelph Hydro to Alectra. It remains the worst deal ever made by a council in the history of this city.
And that friends, is what he is going to run on.