Part Two: How Mayor Guthrie’s Great Wall of secrecy is locking us out

By Gerry Barker

March 24, 2018

In the past three years of his mayoralty, Cam Guthrie has consistently demonstrated adherence to the councillor’s Code of Conduct. In fact, there have been more closed-session meetings of council and it’s appointed Strategies and Option Committee (SOC) when Noah organized the Ark.

“ Hold it God, I need a little more time here. Still can’t find a pair of baboons.”

This is an affront to every citizen of Guelph. It’s a manipulated system to dumb down the electorate and cover-up mistakes from public exposure. The reason? What they don’t know won’t hurt them.

There is no shortage of information underlying doubt about this Guelph Hydro/Alectra merger,

City council, again in closed-session, approved spending $2.36 million to sell this deal to its own citizens. How many bus shelters would that pay for?

The plan was to create the illusion that most people in the area were in favour of the merger, employing leading questions to force a phony outcome in which the process involved some sparsely attended town hall meetings. A telephone survey used a carefully worded script to create approval of the recipient.

Example: Do you believe the merger will bring more jobs to Guelph?

Again in a closed-session meeting of the SOC, the sale of Guelph Hydro was removed from its options, Taken off the table in early 2017. Why was this decision made without public input? Because they knew it would not be accepted. The questions remains, why?

And it all happened right under our noses.

They produced a phony 245-page “Final Agreement” document just 12 days before the meeting that was only available online. I charge that fewer than 250 hard copies were distributed to selected members of the public.

In the Public Relations business, this is known as salting the minds of participants to obtain a specific result.

It worked and the people are the losers.

Here are a couple of communities where there was merging and privatizing proposals of city-own Hydro distribution systems with larger corporations, (Alectra and Hydro One) were either halted or turned down by people power.

Here is a report by the citizens activist group “We Own It:”

“The famed Conservative politician Sir Adam Beck would be ecstatic: public power has won two significant victories in recent weeks.

In Collingwood, a judicial review has been ordered to look into the murky details behind a scheme to privatize the town’s hydro system. And in Peterborough, citizens rallied behind their city-owned hydro system, forcing Hydro One to abandon its attempt to buy it for less than it is worth.”

Here’s more from the ::We Own It” website and I thank Keith McEwen for forwarding this info:

“The judicial review in Collingwood was sparked by a growing number of questions about the sell-off of the town’s hydro system to a private company called PowerStream (a subsidiary of Alectra). The town got $8 million when it sold 50 per cent of its hydro distribution system in 2012. But then it got $13 million when it sold the remaining 50 per cent last year. According to Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson, that big price difference “makes you wonder.”

The review won’t likely take place until 2019, but Saunderson and his constituents hope the review will bring accountability and transparency to the controversial sell-off.

In Peterborough, meanwhile, fans of public services cheered when it was revealed that Hydro One abandoned its attempt to buy Peterborough Distribution Inc. (PDI) for cheap.

“Had the people of Peterborough not been so passionate in their resolve, I suspect the final offer would have been much lower and the conditions far more favourable for Hydro One,” said Save PDI volunteer and “We Own It” mobilizer Joel Usher in the Peterborough Examiner.”

When people speak up together, they can stop expensive and secretive privatizations! Invite your friends, family, and co-workers to join us!

Please Note: Guelphspeaks will be writing more about this so the people can stop this forced disposal of our Guelph Hydro for pennies on the dollar. Stay tuned.

We Own It!

In case you’ve been living in Bora Bora for the past year, council has approved giving away our Guelph Hydro with a value of $300 mllion. The price in exchange? It’s a tiny 4.36 per cent of Alectra Utilities’ profits but only 60 per cent of those unknown profits.

Is this not a great deal or what?

This contrived communications’ plan did not explain the deal through Guelph Hydro’s network of 55,000 customers except until the last days prior to the public council meeting. It was a tiny resume of the deal’s alleged advantages inserted in the Hydro/Water bills.

To top this cake with a cherry, the administration announced that it would receive a “special dividend” from Guelph Hydro of $18.5 million as part of the deal. That’s strange. In its 2016 financial statement, Guelph Hydro reported a cash surplus of $22 million. What happened to the rewmaining $3.5 million?

For the record, Guelph Hydro is wholly owned by the City of Guelph. That being the case, we are being paid a dividend with our own money.

Is this a great deal or what?

So as city Communications General Manager, Tara Sprigs, described the process of informing all those Hydro customers who were being convinced with nothing to lose in return for a boatload of empty promises.

I would like to think that at least four councillors who voted for the merger would recant their vote for the sake of integrity and fiduciary responsibility. They voted for a deal in which the terms were still being negotiated.

This week I requested a status report of the merger negotiations from City Solicitor Christopher Cooper. I am still waiting for an answer.

How council manipulates the Municipal Act closed-session guidelines

It’s simple really; they made up their own closed-session guidelines.

Now topping Guthrie’s Great Wall of secrecy are the Municipal Act policies regarding closed-session meetings of council. The following are the legal reasons under the Municipal Act to hold a closed-session council or local boards meetings:

Section 270 of the Municipal Act provides that municipalities must develop and maintain various policies regarding the accountability and transparency of municipal government and its operations.

The key words are Accountability and Transparency

The following has been adopted by Council and has allowed it to go into closed-session:

  • Sale and Disposition of Land
  •  Number 1: Only covers the sale and disposition of land not the acquisition of the provincially-owned reformatory lands owned by the provice and designated the Guelph Innovation lands.
  • Hiring of Employees
  • Number 2 – Yes, hiring employees should be confidential but does not include             approving salary increases to staff and then not revealing it to the public.
  • Procurement of Goods and Services
  • Number 3 – This covers a lot of areas and there is evidence it has been used to             blackball certain contractors from bidding on city jobs.
  • Public Notice
  • Number 4 – This is an oxymoron; hold a meeting in closed-session to discuss a public notice? It’s a convenient method of calling a closed-session meeting to discuss almost anything in private.
  • Accountability and Transparency
  • Number 5 – Again, why is it necessary to call a closed-session meeting to discuss accountability and transparency? The previous administration has already paid an estimated $500,000 to a Toronto consultant to come up with an A&T plan. The result was a 47-page document. There was little or any public participation in the process.
  • Delegation of Authority
  • Number 6 – This dovetails with the administrations’ allowance such as giving $98,202 raises to four senior managers in 2015?
  • Delegation of Authority Bylaw (Office Consolidation)
  • Number 7 – This allows council, in closed-session, to discuss just about                                     anything because the terms are so broad that anything could be discussed                                     behind closed doors.

Oh! What a collection of excuses to escape the surly bounds of responsibility.

The Council adopted this collection of reasons to legally hold a closed-session meeting.

Seems it’s self-serving giving council and the boards absolute power and control of the public’s business. It’s like turning off a tap, shutting off any information they choose for whatever reason. These reasons would include political liability and criticism, personal benefit, alleged criminal or corruptive activity, to protect adherence to a political philosophy.

Is this not the action of an authorative government? To do as you are told or face the consequences if you don’t?

Why would any responsible persons who wanted to make a contribution to his or her city, ever consider running for city council under this system of controlling the message and the method?

The two Councillors who served for four years on the GMHI board of directors, the operators of Guelph Hydro, were paid over and above their regular salaries. Councillors June Hofland and Karl Wettstein still voted in favour of the merger. They not only benefited serving on the GMHI board but, in my opinion, were in a conflict of interest.

The Great Wall is intact and a barrier to the public interests

These “blocks” of the public’s business have been refined over the past 11 years to giving the administration unf=fettered control of the message. It denies the public’s access to its right to know and understand the corporation’s operations on their behalf.

In future posts, GS will provide specific reforms covering a widespread grouping of issues that the electorate should consider before entering the voting booth.

The most vital reform is to make the council and administration operate open and accountable.

This year, October 22 to be precise, citizens have the opportunity to return power to the people by electing councillors who understand their responsibility to the people who elected them. That means persuading civic-minded, experienced individuals possessing universal, mature backgrounds to turn this city into the jewel of Southern Ontario.

It means a sharp turn to the centre of the political spectrum, away from the left wing domination of our political management where there have been too many mistakes in judgment, losses of public money due to misguided projects that have set the city back in the past 11 years.

The time has come to elect councillors ready to reform and employ critical thinking managing the people’s business.

Coming up on Guelph Speaks

There are a number of issues that are to be digested and reported in the next few weeks..Here are some of them:

* The 2017 provincial Sunshine list of those City of Guelph employees earning more tha $100K per year.

*   A review of the number of employees and increases awarded.

* A review and comment of the capital budgets for the next eight years.

*   The waste management review and the contracts that were entered into to spend money that created substantial losses over the past 7 years.

* The gushy announcement by the Mayor of the city receiving $100 million for Transit.

*   The internal battle over reviving the city’s debacle managing recuclables.

*   The growing exhoritant cost of overhead required to fulfill the promises of the former administration.

*   A review of the Mayor’s performace once iminations are received in May.

Guelpspeaks.ca – the voice of the people for the people

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

3 responses to “Part Two: How Mayor Guthrie’s Great Wall of secrecy is locking us out

  1. I am distressed by this, too. But why is the opinion piece writer surprised? This is no longer Guelph, it’s just (one of the latest) boroughs of Toronto.

    • Old Stock: I’ve been doing this for ten years.Surprise has morphed into disgust. What’s that old saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  2. Glen

    I concur with Gerry’s comment about needing mature civic minded citizens to change Guelph into a jewel of Southern Ontario. It is time for decent men and women to run for council and defeat the bloc of 8 who keep pushing their tax and spend agendas. The alternative is more mediocrity and wasted tax dollars. Who will step up?

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