Monthly Archives: May 2018

This is our Ontario Spring: Renewing responsible government democratically

By Gerry Barker

May 31, 2018

The Tuesday edition of the Guelph Tribune carried a Page One story that was based on a poll of 668 persons in Guelph.

It claimed that the Green Party candidates Mike Schreiner, was leading with 31.7 per cent in the Guelph provincial election race.

The methodology used was the pollster’s use of a daily tracker system operated by Mainstreet Research.

In second place, at 28 per cent was NDP candidate Agnieszka Mlynarz.

PG candidate Ray Ferarro followed at 25 per cent and Sly Castaldi, representing the Liberals was rated at 11.9 per cent’

It isn’t clear when this poll was conducted or what the content of the question or which party may have commissioned it. Polls do cost money.

But Mainstreet Research conducted another province-wide poll that was published Tuesday, May 28.

The City of Toronto’s section of the Mainstreet Research poll stated the NDP has 40.9 per cent support while the PC’s revealed 28.7 per cent, the Liberals with 25.5 per cent. And the Green party? Just 3.2 per cent.

If this is accurate in the City of Toronto, then much of that Liberal support that elected Kathleen Wynne four years ago may have swung over to the NDP. It’s hard to believe that the PC’s only have 28.7 per cent when it’s the heartland of Ford Nation.

But let’s look at another specific area in the Mainstreet Research’s provincial poll.

In the GTA, the PC’s are leading with 42.1 per cent. Next is the NDP with 32.4, The Liberals at 18 per cent and the Green Party at 5 per cent.

This poll seems closer to other polls in term of the possible outcome.

Starting to see if you believe in polls, precision is replaced by forced predictability. Even the candidates keep saying the real poll is Election Day, June 7.

Here’s one more area pollsters measured of interest to Guelph voters, South Central Ontario. Here we find the NDP with a commanding lead at 50.3 per cent. The PC’s are second at 34.6 per cent. The Liberals are holding at 6.9 per cent. The Green Party having 3.8 per cent. Note the total falls short of 100.

If anything is consistent it’s the voter rating of the Green Party that in three major regions of Ontario is stuck around 4 per cent.

Here we have two polls conducted by the same polling firm that indicate the high rating of the Greens in Guelph is skewed when the large data shows the Party has little support across the province.

How is this possible? Is Guelph an Island in the Green wave that will not form a government in Ontario? So why does one poll, conducted by the same polling company differ so widely with the candidacy of Mike Schreiner?

Leading the Guelph race according to the daily tracking poll with 31.7 per cent the Green Party has barely budged holding at 4 per cent support across the rest of the provincial ridings.

Did that pro-Schreiner editorial published in the Toronto Star influence the majority of Guelph voters to support the Green Party? More important, why would they support the party of David Suzuki, the millionaire voice of gloom and doom about the planet. Wonder how much he was paid to address some 300 partisans at a recent Schreiner rally in Guelph?

Guess it depends on your interpretation of “Green.”

There is no doubt that Mr. Schreiner has run a campaign that is well-funded and when the campaign finance statements are published there will be some surprises of who funded whom.

One has to wonder how the NDP brain trust, after working on the party platform for two years, could make an error of $1.4 billion in its costing of the platform. If you can’t do the math preparing a platform then, how can the NDP be trusted to run the complex finances of the province?

For a lot of people this is a hold-your-nose election.

In my opinion, for our city it is a watershed event. The millions that have been spent in Guelph on failed environmental projects in the past 11 years, reveals it is not necessary to give away our power distribution system for pennies on the dollar.

It does not mean we should turn over control of Guelph Hydro, indulge in building District Energy systems to attain energy self-sufficiency and provide a thermal system to supply hot and cold water to five downtown buildings.

It is vital for all citizens who will cast their ballots on June 7 to elect the candidate who understands our city, has lived in the city all his life, has served on council and worked with the city to develop both residential and industrial projects. Ray Ferraro is that man and the only experienced candidate when elected, will work tirelessly for Guelph in the Ontario Legislature.

He is the only candidate that can, along with his PC colleagues, bring change, responsible fiscal management and prosperity not only to Guelph but the province.

So, the polls are not what they pretend to be. Consider bias, misinformation by respondents and a river of news reports and partisan commentary that, depending on your preference, often get it wrong.

This, I predict, will be our day where party loyalty will be a soufflé of switches, misses and, hopefully a renaissance of recovery for Ontario.

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Only ten days to go for Doug Ford to face the Nabobs of negativity

By Gerry Barker

May 28, 2018

It’s a peculiar election with the emphasis on puffy style and forgetting the substance of a Liberal government that’s long past its due date.

The case for the prosecution is clear. The Wynne Liberals have pushed its social engineering so far to the left that it is teetering on a wipeout at the polls.

Still not convinced? The fundamental problem is the absence of sound financial management of the public’s money. This is accompanied by driving up energy costs by borrowing $4 billion to pay for a limited reduction in electricity; hiking user fees and new taxes including taxing tangible belongings after you die on top of probate fees.

How did you benefit when the minimum wage was increased by $2.60 an hour and will be bumped by another buck next January. On top of the rewrite of the labour code, part-time workers are now entitled to the same benefits as full-time workers. Benefits such as sick leave, vacation time and the new one, personal family leave with pay.

Is it any wonder why the economy of Ontario is suffering as southwestern Ontario is being labeled as Canada’s Rust Belt? This is due to the disappearance of manufacturing jobs that will never come back.

So, while Toronto has become the Centre of the provincial universe and the benefactor of the Liberals dominance of seats in the GTA, this government has earned the position of running last in recent polls, for good reasons.

The Toronto Star, early last week, published an editorial encouraging Guelph voters to support the Green Party Leader, Mike Schreiner. Thanks Star, but Guelph’s voters can think for themselves and predictably, Mike will not represent the city when the ballots are counted.

Now I know this is going to enrage those folks who believe in the dangers of Climate Change, as I share that view.

Here’s another Toronto Star doozy. Just the other day it published a page one report about Doug Ford denying “role in fake membership.” But placed prominently on the right of the story was a colourful box stating a poll showed Andrea Horwath of the NDP with 47 percent of the respondents; Doug Ford of the PC’s had 33 per cent; Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals were at 14 per cent and Mike Schreiner was at 4 per cent.

The poll was taken by Forum Research and was described by The Star that it was the most recent poll and played it big time.

According to the Star report, Forum used an interactive voice response system and contacted 906 persons across the Province. How many calls did Forum make with this interactive system (robo call) before actually receiving an answer and comment?

In my opinion this poll was so far out of whack even when compared to another Forum poll done May 9. It reported the Ford Tories at 40 per cent, followed by the NDP at 33 per cent, the Liberals at 22 per cent and the Green Party at 4 per cent.

One thing is clear, Mike Schreiner is holding last in both polls at 4 per cent.

This is the greatest comeback since Judy Garland sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

This represents a 14 per cent swing favouring the NDP in just 16 days!

However, if Forum hit the mother load of NDP respondents in publishing the poll, later polls suggest the race is very close with Ms. Horwath’s NDP at 37 per cent and Mr. Ford’s Tories at 36 per cent.

Predictably, the last ten days will be a wild push for all parties.

The battle will be fought in the ridings across the province.

Regardless of your political persuasion, this is going to be a barnburner and I wouldn’t bet on the outcome.

But this is an election about change. Under our parliamentary system, the party that elects the most number of its candidates forms the new government.

Following last night’s leadership debate, the NDP may have slipped because its leader, Andrea Horwath, frequently talked over the other participants. The battle of words between Premier Wynne and Horwath witnessed Doug Ford sitting back and let them go at it.

The PC leader scored some good points about the state of the provinces’ finances particularly the cost of carrying the provincial debt of $12 billion a year.

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Why Change is the real issue in the June 7 Provincial election

By Gerry Barker

May 21, 2018

In just 17 days, the voters in Ontario will go to the polls to elect a new government in Ontario.

In Guelph a riding encompassing only the City of Guelph, the indication is that voters just want Change meaning ABW – Anybody but Wynne. That leaves just three candidates for the Guelph riding including Ray Ferarro, representing the Progressive Conservatives; Mike Schreiner of the Green Party; and fot the NDP – Agnieszka Mlynarz.

The fourth candidate is the Liberal candidate Sly Castaldi who has the dubious task of defending the policies of the Wynne Government whose party is mired in third place in the polls. Chief Liberal problem is the low approval of the leader Kathleen Wynne, who has not budged from a 20 per cent approval rating in more than a year.

The desire for change in Ontario exists right here in Guelph. Right now, the PC’s are leading over all the other parties to form a new government. It is their’s to lose aided and abetted by the Toronto Star’s daily concentrated negative news and commentary carried throughout the news pages. The Star’s target is PC Leader Doug Ford who despite a few missteps, seems to maintain his party’s lead in the polls.

In my opinion, this election is about Change triggered by 15 years of Liberal governments that reflect abuse of the public trust (gas plants destruction). Overbuilding power green generation facilities with expensive long-term contracts (wind and solar) making Ontario with the highest power costs of most jurisdictions in North America.

Even the Ontario Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, said the government borrowed $4 billion off its books. This was to finance the five year “fair hydro” 25 per cent reduction of power charged to end users.

What happens then when that money must be paid back? Our power rates will soar in 2022 when the deal expires.

Another reason Ontario will vote for Change.

Assuming the Liberal candidate has no chance of retaining the seat, lets compare the remaining three candidates and what issues are Guelph voters most concerned about? What influence can they have to accommodate their constituents’s concerns and desire for Change?

Health accessibility and long-term care – Ray Ferarro: “If elected, I will work as your member to undo the Wynne government’s cuts to hospital and long term care expansion. I pledge to fight for an end to hallway medicine where patients, for lack of space, are ware-housed in the hallways of Ontario’s medical service institutions.”

The NDP candidate, Agnieszka Mlynarz, is responsible for the Party Leader’s platform that while critical of the Liberals, represents costly social programs that are warmed over policies of the Wynne government. The platform came under fire recently from financial experts who claimed the numbers did not add up. Regardless, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, a veteran of 12 years in the Legislature, has been running an intensive campaign that has her moving the party into second place according to the latest polling.

Can Agnieszka Mlynarz win? In my opinion too many memory of the Bob Ray NDP government still lingers in the minds of many voters. Besides her platform does not represent change but a version of the Liberal’s social engineering policies.

The green tinge of the environmentalists in the NDP does not help in Guelph where citizens were hammered by a secret abortive green-power scheme. It was to create power self-sufficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions that are affecting climate change. The cost was more than $60 million of citizen’s public money.

The Green Party candidate, Mike Schreiner, has mounted a well-funded campaign including the best signs on the roads and streets. Voters know that the Green Party under leader Mike Schreiner, has never elected a Green Party candidate in Ontario.

But where does the Green Party money come from?

Well, the Greens held a rally in Guelph that was allegedly attended by 350 people with the guest speaker David Suzuki, the British Columbia multi-millionaire exploiter of fear of the earth atmosphere destroying the planet. This guy has made a handsome living promoting fear and loathing of the use of fossil fuels that he, among others, is destroying our atmosphere.

Some facts. That erupting volcano on the Hawaiian Big Island spews more carbon dioxide, the dreaded CO2, into the atmosphere in five minuses than all the fossil-fueled facilities in Canada in a month.

Canada contributes two per cent of all global CO2 emissions in a year.

This is the party that elected three members in the B.C. legislature and yjeu are propping up the NDP government opposed to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline. It will take Alberta crude to the Pacific and open new markets for our resources.

The Canadian Government approves the pipeline as it has passed all regulations including an environmental assessment. But the three Green Party members of the B.C. legislature are dead against it. Based on the hypothetical argument it will carry fossil fuel feed stock and the threat of a tanker oil spill on its coastline is too great a risk.

More facts: The polls in B.C. show the majority of people are in favour of the pipeline. The three Green Party objectors have been members of the Legislature for little more than a year. Yet they are effectively stopping construction, so far, this pipeline that is legal and necessary to open up new markets for Canadian resources at better prices now only available from the U.S.

Ask yourself, why is Mike Schreiner running in Guelph?

In my opinion, even if he is elected to the Ontario Legislature, he will be the loneliest member in the House with no power, no influence and no support.

Nice guy but running in the wrong place.

In summary, I like Ray Ferarro for my member in the Ontario Legislature. He is the only candidate born, raised and worked in Guelph and as a former city councillor who knows what the people are concerned about.

That’s why he will work to improve our ailing healthcare system. Battle to stop the Guelph Hydro/Alectra merger now before the Ontario Energy Board for approval.

He will speak up on the issues affecting Guelph not only in the P.C. caucus but also in the legislature.

If elected, we can depend on Ray being part of Change at Queen’s Park.

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It’s time to stop financing the myth that bicycles are a major mode of transportation

By Gerry Barker

May 15, 2018

If you drive around town enough you can see how the two-wheeled cycle has pushed its way into our environment. Bike lanes are the stepchild of the consortium of the environmentalists many of whom are embedded in all levels of government.

Bicycles are seen by the environmentalists as its public face and proponent of eliminating fossil fuels as an energy source to be replaced by pedal power.

Say hello to thunder thighs and the new city of Guelphenhagan.

Guelph has been a leader in shrinking vehicle lanes to install or widen bike lanes. Every repaving of a major city street, is re-marked to accommodate bike lanes

I am reminded about eight years ago when then councillor Maggie Laidlaw, an ardent cyclist, predicted that in 20 years there would be no cars on the streets of Guelph.

Well, it hasn’t work out that way.

Instead, we have more fossil-fueled cars and commercial vehicles on our street than ever before.

The former Farbridge administration pushed hard to provide more and wider bike lanes wherever a major road was resurfaced. In many cases, vehicular traffic was confined to just one lane each way.

Such was the former mayor’s legacy to create today’s traffic congestion on our major streets and routes.

An example if this planning was the resurfacing of Downey Road. Before the road was resurfaced, a decision was made to widen the bike lanes to allegedly three meters. Now here is urban planning gone berserk. There are not two painted lines on the road for bike lanes but three.

My information is the planners want to make drivers aware that the actual bike lane had been widened and to give them warning.

Holy Mackinaw! How long does this minority group hold Guelph hostage to serve its use of public streets and roads? The biker minority expands its world at the expense of the vast majority of the population.

So let’s look at the numbers.

The City of Guelph has a ten-year bike lane-funding program of $300,000 a year. Over the years this has paid for lane restrictions, fancy coloured bike boxes at intersections and establishing bike lanes that are not complete. They start and then end, leaving the cyclist to fend with vehicles without the benefit of the completed bike lane. Driving around the city it is apparent that we have a part-time system of bike lanes.

Without question, successive Guelph administrations have spent millions on bike lanes to placate a strident bike lobby represents a tiny portion of the 131,000 people who live here.

Despite the traffic studies that show time and time again that motor vehicles vastly out-number the cyclists, the bike lobby remains funded with taxpayer money. In designing the Downey Road bike lane layout, an independent consultant measured vehicle flow two periods a day when traffic was heaviest. The result was that some 4,000 vehicles used the road during the two test periods while just 113 cyclists were spotted sharing the same road.

We now know that the bike lanes on the right side of Downy have this weird three-line configuration while the original bike lane on the other side of the road was not modified. Again, the vehicle lanes were shrunk to accommodate this new layout.

Who or what department is responsible for these whacko decisions?

Here’s what needs to be done.

Freeze all proposals to create additional bike lanes.

The staff should review and assign resources to complete ‘start and stop’ existing bike lanes on major roads or streets as a priority.

Set up a free bike licensing and safety incentive plan. This would encourage cyclists to protect their property with serial numbers embedded in the metal frame for ID in the event the bike is stolen. Offer front and rear blinking lights, a warning device and fluorescent vests. A copy of the Highway Traffic Act should be given each cyclist. This opportunity would have a time limit to encourage cyclists to sign up.

Unlicensed cyclists would face fines and possible suspension.

If we are to allow cyclists to use the bike lanes, observe the HTA rules covering the use of public streets, then the marriage of pedal power and the internal combustion engine powered vehicle should be much improved.

The Wild West that now exists is the outcome of neglect by the administration.

Vehicles using the public roads are required to pay taxes including ownership taxes, insurance taxes, property taxes, environmental taxes, sales taxes for fuel and repairs.

Cyclists using those same roads only pay, perhaps property taxes if they own property.

Until we tackle these issues the public money spent on bike lanes will continue unabated without the rule of law governing the safe sharing of the public thoroughfares.

 

 

 

 

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Some of the cheesy council decisions now leading up to the civic election.

By Gerry Barker

My 9, 2018

Editor’s Note – Guelphspeaks faced some computer glitches last Sunday as we attempted to launch a new post. We’re back in business now. GB

If you like cheese, as I do, council was unable to turn Limburger into New York cheesecake when the opportunity arose. You will see how a majority of council voted to eliminate online voting in 2018, the Committee of the Whole (COW), the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra utilities aka “the Great Guelph Giveaway.”

The heady scent of Gorgonzola lingers over the council chambers today as Mayor Guthrie gushes about a linkage with the County of Wellington to win $100,000 in some vague lottery of spending other people’s public money. Go figure.

The relationship between County and City is strained, has been for some time.

Over the years the city agreed to share the cost of public health services with the county. Mayor Farbridge, who was on the public health board at the time, objected to the cost of building a new public health headquarters on Stone Road costing some $17 million.

She sued to get out of the arrangement and lost so without consultation, the project went ahead and cost Guelph some $10 million.

Ah, the sweet whiff of cheddar melting on a hot apple pie.

Another handout by the City to the County was to handle the affordable housing file.

The result that in ten years there was no construction of affordable housing in the City but the towns and hamlets in the County received affordable housing units.

If I didn’t know any better, was this decision made by Guelph Council to prevent lower income people from deflowering the Royal City? Just asking. Was it an elitist Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) decision?

These are a few examples why Guelph should assert its mission as a city of 131,000. The city’s needs and interests are different from that of the County of Wellington. The city is now a Provincial and Federal riding within its city limits.

It means we need to elect councillors who have experience, are responsible, understand financial data and are politically positioned in the centre.

The problem we face is old town rules that state a councillor only works part-time so should be paid on that basis. We will never solve this problem until we increase the salaries of the 12 councillors. And make them full-time. What is the cost to double their salaries? It’s just $840,000.

We only get what we pay for. Raising the salaries and benefits for councillors will attract well qualified candidates with a subset of truly representing the people

My argument is basic. These 12 alleged part-timers are responsible for overseeing a $500 million corporation. Yet 80 per cent of the $380 million annual budget is going to the paid staff who work for the council, our representatives..

Consider the $ 130,000 salary paid to the Mayor. He is the head of the community. Yet the four top senior managers earn more than $200,000 a year and the numbers trickle down among the ranks of the remaining 90 managers.

The way it is now, anybody with some $3,000, which is what it would cost to run in a ward for that $35,000 part-time job.

This is how the former administration kept control. Many of those successful councillors accepted campaign funding from unions as well as some deep-pocketed NDP supporters.

We cannot do much about it now as the current system remains in place until the new council is elected next October.

By electing councillors in the majority who are not ideologically bent, are beholden to no one and love their city enough to run for council, only then can we return the city to one of the most attractive and affordable in the country.

Unfettered public participation in the affairs of our city is a high calling.

Please pass the Camembert and crackers.

NOTE – If you are thinking about running for council, and have questions, feel free to contact me at gerrybarker76@gmail.com so that we may connect for an interview. Your information will be confidential and respected.

 

 

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Part Two: How to change our city by reducing operating costs, property taxes and user fees

By Gerry Barker

May 3, 2018

Here is a list of changes that a new council will face to effect change. For every action there is a reaction including job security, money, public services and that old standby, entitlement.

Some will say these proposed reforms are draconian and the staff service to the public will be seriously affected. Let’s look at some examples:

Bike lane expansion;

Waste management costs;

The wellbeing program;

Grants to non-governmental organizations;

Materials and service procurement checks and balances;

Subsidies to Guelph Transit and other organizations;

Cost of water and electricity;

Legal and consultant costs;

Staff reduction through rationalization;

Planning and development costs;

Debt management and costs;

Staff and council expenses;

Advertising costs;

Budget variances;

Reserves rationalization and replenishment;

Review all staff contracts.

You be the judge.

Let’s start with an action plan.

* Stop the Guelph Hydro merger with Alectra even if it means hiring an energy experienced lawyer to make our case before the Ontario Energy Board.

*   Make no specific promises about lowering property taxes until council receives a full, independent analysis of proposed budgets in 2019 and 2020.

* Review all bylaws to establish effectiveness, relavence and currency.

* Close down the recyclables’ operation of Dunlop Road and negotiate a deal with Waste Management to take our recyclable materials to its plant in Cambridge.

* Hire an Auditor General to oversee all spending and systems who reports directly to council every three months.

* Review the council Code of Conduct and dismiss the Integrity Commissioner. Also dismiss the Amberlea-Gravel special closed-session investigators. Replace A-G with the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office closed-session investigative team.

* All closed-session agenda require approval of the Mayor, and two designated councillors. The public must be informed in advance of any such meeting, the reason and outcome. The Mayor must file a separate report to briefly explain the reason, outcome without using names. Residents have the right to request the minutes based on impact and cost of a closed-session meeting. If challenged by any resident, authority to allow a closed-session council meeting will be made by an outside appointed adjudicator.

* Adopt the recommendations of the Pat Fung report that outlined how the city can reduce its overhead to save $20 million a year.

* Confine the committee of the whole system to only vote on a motion, because most of the issues have already been discussed in closed-sessions. The committee of the whole meetings are still too long and time wasting.

* Review all rules concerning public participation including notifying all citizens of council meetings. Reliance on such notices excludes many citizens who do not have access to computers.

* Restore Online voting for the 2022 civic election.

* Order the internal auditor to investigate the following.

*  Rules and regulation of procurement of supplies and services including systems’ controls, verification of work performed. Any order exceeding $1,500 must be  made by a Request For Proposal (RFP) and publicized Online and in the local      newspaper.

*  Commence a formal review of Guelph Transit operations including an audit of the last three departmental budgets.

*   Appoint a public advisory committee to work with Transit management to plan a more efficient system.

*  Freeze the bike lane budget until a thorough study is completed to ascertain future viability and usage.

* Develop a plan within 90 days to reduce full-time staff, part-time staff and contract employees by ten per cent by December 2019. The Police, Fire and EMS will be exempted.

* Cancel the ”City News” advertising pages in the Guelph Tribune. Replace with weekly online reports and supply a print copy to residents without a computer.

* Examine and redefine the role of the communications department.

* Cancel the two per cent property tax surcharge and the storm water charges added to the hydro bills.

* The finance department will send a quarterly copy of the financial status of the city as it pertains to the city budget (variances) and non-budgeted charges.

* In all new staff contracts the accumulation of unused sick leave and vacation time will be eliminated. Use it in a calendar year or lose it. An arbitration board composed of two councillors and three civilians will oversee any derivations or exceptions.

* Appoint a new accountability committee composed of three councillors and three civilians to examine and recommend reducing the amount of funding the city provides many organizations and services.

* With council and staff, prioritize budget items by October 15 each year.

* Drop all planning department work on the Reformatory lands.

* Halt the intensification emphasis on future developments and freeze all plans. Commence planning subdivisions of single-family homes in a range of price points.

* Cancel free downtown parking for all employees.

* Review all payments made to non-governmental organizations.

The city is not a bank or a lender. All such requests must be considered by the staff and approved by council. Such requests will be frozen until the state of the city finances is positively corrected and overhead is substantially reduced to lower property taxes.

The terms and results of the annual city financial audit, as required by the province, must be made public Online and in print to those requesting it.

Similarly, a summary of the Financial Information Report to the province must be available by Jan 31 the year following.

The direction of these issues has a two-fold affect. The first is to returtn the power to the people through its elected representative. Second, the staff influence will be more focused on executing the reforms and thereby restoring open government, and meeting the will of the people.

All citizens should be on guard to prevent the financial disasters of the previous and current administrations.

Next October the people have their say on how they want their city to function and seize opportunities to develop smartly and gradually lower our taxes and user fees.

 

 

 

 

 

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