Monthly Archives: July 2018

Say hello to Guelph Tomorrow, the new people’s participation association

By Gerry Barker

July 29, 2918

Please Note: There is a lot of material in this lengthy piece. It is part of the long march of electors to voting day, October 22. Check out Guelph Tomorrow’s website opening in mid August for reliable updates and information.

This is composed of like-minded citizens who reject the policies of the past three councils that have conducted the people’s business chiefly behind closed doors. The city debt has never been higher. By taking development fees from other projects, public buildings have been financed outside the box of financial management. Millions have been lost on failed energy and environmental projects such as the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc’s failed projects.

The reserve funds have been depleted to a point that the administration will not reveal. In 2009, Coun. Leanne Piper was quoted that the city held $70 million in reserve funds. Would she care to update us on that one?

This occurred over the past 12 years because we the people let it happen. We elected ward councillors in the majority who collectively, were controlled by a mayor and professional staff. The former mayor who bragged that she was turning Guelph into a world-class leader in waste management and other environmental projects drove the agenda.

It’s time to elect and support individuals who are politically in the centre of the political spectrum. Guelph Tomorrow will assist those councillors running for the next four years to ensure that our municipal management must be conducted with transparency, with active accountability and open government.

This means shutting down the closed-session meetings of council that suppress public participation. It includes a quarterly summary of the financial status of city operations distributed through the Hydro mailing system.

Most important is to stop the annual property tax and user fees increases that are crippling the city and exceeding the inflation as set by the Consumer Price Index currently running at 2.5 per cent.

When was the last time you received a financial statement from the city?

For example, under the current Guthrie administration property taxes alone have increased by an estimated 17 per cent in four years.

To pay for all the mistakes, the Guthrie council approved giving away Guelph Hydro lock, poles, wires and most of the staff for a tiny dividend from the acquiring corporation.

It is a recipe for disaster, especially for lower income folks, those on fixed incomes and functioning below the poverty measurement.

In 12 years, the majority of a highly-organized political organization that operated below the public’s radar has shattered the public trust.

This group manipulated the agenda to promote their misguided and unreliable projects.

Let us count the legacy of political Action and its impact on the citizens.

Start with the Community Energy Innovation plan that was the mother ship of such leftist failed projects.

The Organic Waste Processing Facility cost $34 million and has yet to turn a profit. It imports wet garbage from Simcoe County and the Region of Waterloo, both of which are paying less per tonne than the basic operating costs.

Reason? The facility was overbuilt to the extent that its capacity was six times the needs of the City of Guelph. This is an example of a leftist dream that has resulted in the city having the highest waste collection and processing in the province.

The kicker? Don’t expect to get compost even though you paid for it

The $23 million over budget cost of the new City Hall complex took the end cost to $65 million. The settlement to the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group, was $8 million following judgment by a Superior Court judge.

The Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. built a district Energy scheme that included installing a geo-thermal piping system to supply hot and cold water to five nearby buildings. Coupled with other zany projects costing the citizens according to the KPMG audit some $60 million in shareholder equity.

The list of wasted funds is extensive. What it has accomplished is forcing Guelph taxpayers and citizens to pay for it. The result is the city has become one of their most expensive places to live in Ontario.

Guelph Tomorrow’s mission:

Transparency, Active Accountability and Open Government in all city operations.

The No Frills plan to reform and change our city to be less proactive and more reactive to measure and control management through the council and not the professional staff.

That’s why this election is so important.

Just recall the recent announcement that the city was entering a Public Private Plan to redevelop the Baker Street parking lot into a $350 million mixed-use project including a new downtown library of some 88,000 square feet.

Plans call for shovels in the groun in 2024 and occupation in 2028 barring any delays, heritage or environment problems. By just calculating the effect of inflation on the cost of the project over ten years is easily an estimated 30 per cent or more than $105 million.

Guelph Tomorrow is in favour of affordable development but not long-term schemes designed to ensure re-election of city councillors including the Mayor.

The attached No Frills reform package is necessary to halt spending on projects that bind future councils.

First, we have to clean up the mess and rebuild our city with fair taxes and fees we can all afford today but not tomorrow.

The No Frills Action Plan for the People by the People

Here is the Guelph Tomorrow No Frills Action Plan to return common sense and councillors’ fiduciary responsibility to the administration.

No Frills means hiring an Auditor General to supervise the internal auditors.

No Frills means the city auditor will complete a full audit of city finances before submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal h\Holdings Inc. and removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI returning it to the city as a separate department

No Frills means halting capital spending until the audit of the city finances is completed.

No Frills proposes a new senior management structure to change with a City Manager heading the staff with Directors in charge of major departments.

No Frills recommends that a reorganized administration will include an executive management team composed of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, City Manager, City Clerk, City Solicitor, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Public Services, Director of Environmental, Engineering and Planning. The City Manager acts as chair. Ex officio would include the Chief of Police, Fire Chief and Director of EMS.

No Frills recommends that the first responder departments, Police, Fire and EMS be amalgamated into the Public Safety Department. Chair would be rotated every two years between the three heads of divisions.

No Frills means stopping the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities.

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. and removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI, returning it to the city as a separate department.

No Frills means Guelph Hydro board of three members will be elected for four years.

No Frills encourages public participation in all areas of the administration.

No Frills means that the status of finances in all reserve accounts and the purpose of each and be revealed to the people.

No Frills means evaluating all polices including NGO subsidies and donations.

No Frills recommends on the advice of the Executive Team to restore the committees of council with members receiving a stipend based on attendance.

No Frills means scrapping the protocol allowing closed-session meetings. Only those conditions for such a meeting are to be used according to the Ontario Municipal Act.

No Frills means a review of the purchasing and procurement system by the CFO and Internal Auditor filing their report to the Executive Team.

No Frills mean freezing all salary and benefits until the city audit is completed.

No Frills means ordering a staff rationalization review by an independent authority.

No Frills means reviewing all by laws by the City Solicitor and reporting finding to Council.

No Frills means investigating to change the University “B ed Tax” law in lieu of property taxes.

No Frills Communication Plan

No Frills means publishing a summary of the city’s financial status every three months including budget variances.

No Frills means freezing all communications, contracts and systems.

No Frills means the General Manager of Commications will conduct a weekly media news conference at City Hall.

No Frills means recognition of staffers for operational excellence as recommended by Department Directors.

No Frills means that any closed-session meeting conducted under the Ontario Municipal Act must be summarized by the Mayor or designate within 24 hours.

No Frills fixes of Property Taxes and User Fees

No Frills means freezing property taxes to 3 per cent for 2019 and 2020.

No Frills means immediate elimination of the 2 per cent property tax levy.

No Frills means eliminating the storm water levy on Hydro bills returning it to operational expenses.

No Frills means freezing all user fees pending a review by the CFO.

No Frills mean freezing all planning and development approvals pending a review by the Director of Environmental, Engineering and Planning.

No Frills steps to fix procedures, protocols, and governance issues

No Frills means dismissing the Integrity Commissioner.

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal holdings Inc. andf removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI returning it to the city as a separate department

No Frills means dismissing the closed-session investigator Amberlea-Gravel of London. Replace with the Ontario Ombudsman’s services.

No Frills means review of the Council Code of Conduct.

No Frills means staff accountability at all levels.

No Frills means rewarding and encouraging staff performance and efficiency.

No Frills means courtesy and civility, at all levels of the administration, is required.

No Frills means that complaints by the public must be dealt with expeditiously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An obituary of the death of a beloved, old friend

By Gerry Barker

July 27, 2018

Today, the closing of nominations to our October civic election, we mourn the passing of an old friend, Common Sense, whose existence has been with us for many years. His age was lost in bureaucratic red tape that has taken over our lives.

His memory will remain with us and have cultivated valuable lessons such as:

* Knowing when to come out of the rain;

* Why the early bird gets the worm;

* Life isn’t always fair;

* And perhaps it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies such as:

* Don’t spend more than you can earn;

* Adopt reliable strategies including adults, not children, are in charge;

* Just getting out to vote.

Our old friend’s health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Here are some reports that evidence the loss of individuality and accountability:

* The case of the six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for                                     kissing a classmate;

* Teacher faced with dealing with disruptive children with few methods                             of disciplining the noisy classroom disruptions;

* The Ontario government decreeing that no child can fail because it                               might destroy their self-esteem;

* Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing their job while failing to do theirs by applying discipline to their unruly children.

* Teachers are warned not to hug or touch their students.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and his son, Reason.

He is survived by his five stepbrothers:

* I know my rights

* I want it now

* Someone else is to blame

* I am a victim

* Pay me for doing nothing

Common Sense lost the will to live as churches became businesses and criminals received better treatment that their victims, even when incarcerated.

In many Ontario towns and cities, Common Sense lost the battle by elected officials conducting the public’s business behind closed doors with the complicity of senior professional staff.

Starting to ring some bells?

Common Sense’s legacy has been destroyed by apathy, ignorance, and it’s not my job to be uninformed and aware.

Public participation is the prescription for true freedom, freedom of expression without executive reprisal, freedom to be an individual, to live with the rule of law, to work, love and pray for a better life for your family. Having the freedom to accept those things you cannot change or control. Freedom to remember and honour the people you love and those who came before us in both war and peace.

Unfortunately, not many attended Common Sense’s funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, joinm the majority and do nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The time has come to make a difficult decision

By Gerry Barker

July 23, 2018

Some 15 years ago, my wife, Barbara, and I moved to Guelph.

It marked a turning point in our lives as both being retired we wanted to be closer to our children and grandchildren. Since 1990, we had wintered in Sarasota, Florida chiefly to be with my mother and stepfather. We no longer enjoy that respite from the winter months.

My step0father, Boyd Fitzpatrick, was the publisher of the Olean Times in upstate New York. My mother was a former editor of the Aurora Banner and a national newspaper award winner.

Holy Hannah! I was in a family of newspaper people. You can bet the family discussions were interesting, stimulating and lively for a pair of younger Canadians.

When we set up shop in Guelph, (my wife was born here), I was approached by a neighbour, Ray Ferarro, a city councillor. Ray wanted me to meet the new Mayor Kate Quarrie. At that point I became very interested in civic politics. I had covered city councils during my 23-year career at the Toronto Star and 11 years as the publisher of the Bradford Witness and Topic Weekly.

The experience taught me that municipal politics is the infantry of political power in Ontario. It is closer to the people and affects them more than the provincial or federal layers of government.

Living in Guelph, I quickly learned of the power centres and interests in all corners of the city. Public political activism was in the ascendancy and the city was rapidly changing.

I was saddened when Kate Quarrie and most of her council was defeated in 2006. I felt she represented the political qualities of centrism. She was a good mayor and the right person to lead the community at that time.

The result was the beginning of a left wing socialist group led by Mayor Karen Farbridge that controlled the public’s business for eight years.

In the fall of 2006, I wrote a letter to the Mercury supporting Ms. Quarrie for re-election. The letter was turned down as being too political but the managing editor said the paper would publish a commentary on the editorial page once a month. Now retired, I received $25 for each column called “Between the Lines.”

Following service in the army, I grew up in the businesses as a reporter working for the Toronto Star, covering fires, accidents and council meetings in various communities in the former York County. The 24/7 job demanded that I carry a camera, and know how to use it. I learned fast and was primarily self-taught.

As a reporter-photographer I pulled off some great beats against our archrival, the Toronto Telegram. It was an exciting and stimulating experience that kept me on the job. Every day there were new challenges as the Star was the best paper in the country in terms of news coverage.

It was a newspaper that was well respected but also hated. My grandmother, Byrtha Louise Stavert lived with my mother, Dorothy, in Aurora. My association with the hated Liberal Toronto Star, grated on both of them who were die-hard Conservatives.

My Grandmother was the campaign manger for the Conservative leader R.B. Bennett representing the riding of Calgary Centre. His party won making him Prime Minister but he was never in his own riding during the campaign.

I was immersed in the newspaper game and loved every minute of it.

My columns in the Mercury eventually were published every three weeks and between late 2006 and 2011 I became a thorn in the side of the Farbridge administration. I was let go and formed a blog titled guelphspeaks.ca. Today, the blog is followed by hundreds of followers who read my posts, usually published twice a week.

Did I mention the blog was ad-free and could be accessed by anyone?

In 2012, with some like-minded people we founded GrassRoots Guelph Inc. By now, I had written many posts, highly critical of the Farbridge administration. With the help of a couple of financial professionals, we assembled facts taken from the city’s published financial data that pointed to mismanagement of the people’s treasure.

These facts were presented to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Minister aid the claims w should be handled locally by the two parties. Shortly after, she resigned and announced she was running for Mayor of Brampton.

In March 2014, along came Urbacon Buildings Group. The fired general contractor of the new city hall complex was thrown off the job in September 2008. The company sued the city for $19.2 million for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract and the city counter-sued the company. There were other lawsuits made.

The judgment stated the city fired Urbacon illegally. In June 2014, Justice Donald MacKenzie released a detailed judgment ordering that costs were to be assigned by October, the month of the civic election.

When the dust settled, the new city hall complex cost $23 million more than the $42 million contracted in 2006.

Coun. Cam Guthrie defeated Mayor Farbridge.

The Farbridge supporters were furious and blamed GrassRoots Guelph and guelphspeaks.ca for the outcome. We graciously accepted responsibility.

Yes, these have been exciting times and I have enjoyed being a part of it.

Then, because I was critical of the method that four senior managers were given a total of $98,202 in raises divided among them, I was sued. The decision by city council in closed-session, December 10, 2015, was never revealed to the public until the provincial Sunshine list came out March 2016. Guelphspeaks compared the 2014 Sunshine list of public employees who earned more than $100,000 and discovered the amount of the senior staff increases approved by council in 2015.

A former employee sued me for defamation in November 2016. The case has yet to be adjudicated so I cannot comment at this time.

Recently, several residents urged me to run for mayor.

I discussed this with professional advisors and my wife. I concluded that at my age it would not be fair to the people of Guelph if I were unable to devote the time and energy to be head of the community for the next four years.

Accordingly, I will not be a candidate for office in the October civic election.

I will continue to produce posts in support of true reforms as outlined in the Guelph Tomorrow “No Frills” statement of changes needed in the administration of our city. I feel these changes are necessary to serve the public better and manage our city operations more efficiently with transparency and accountability.

The public trust has been severely damaged by the Guthrie administration and must be restored.

I sincerely thank all those folks who indicated support for my candidacy.

Don’t worry, I’m not going away but will continue writing and commenting about our civic administration.

After all, Barbara and I are taxpayers with skin in the game.

 

 

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The illusion of progress, decoding the $350 million Baker Street redevelopment

By Gerry Barker

July 20, 2018

Gee! And all this time we were told the proposed downtown main branch library was only going to cost $53 million. It has now morphed into an 88,000 square foot facility in the proposed $350 million Baker Street redevelopment plan.

Instead, the city staff, buttressed with the signatures of eight senior managers, convinced city council to approve the huge redevelopment of the Baker Street parking lot. The public library being the anchor of the development.

Costs were estimated to range from $315 million to $360 million but staff said the real costs have yet to be determined. The inflation factor for the next six years will boost today’s average cost of $350 million by at least 15 per cent or an additional, estimated $52.5 million.

Then there is the strange inclusion of some $29 million that the city claims it has already invested toward the redevelopment plan. Some $22 million of that is the Wilson Street Parking garage now under construction adjacent to city hall. Why is that capital being assigned to the Baker Street plan?

It was announced that “green” private developer from Ottawa, the Windmill Development Group, had been selected to be a 3P partner – Public Private Partnership over four other private proposals, Windmill’s design proposal was accepted and will create a huge downtown complex complete with hi-rise residential, commercial retail, possibly a Conestoga College campus.

The “green” reference is because Windmill will create “innovations in land use, water, air, energy, design, waste management and smart building technologies to create healthy, high performance green buildings and communities and underground parking.”

Wow! That’s a lot of green

Let’s get real. This project will not even put a shovel in the ground before 2024, six years from now. Why is this lame-duck city council approving this now without knowing the real cost in today’s dollars?

What is the cost sharing arrangement?

What is the city’s financial and legal exposure in this proposal?

The staff is pushing this today when it is apparent that the first book or video taken from the proposed downtown library, under perfect conditions, will not occur until 2028.

Comparing it to the length of time a major similar development has taken to complete is the new Guelph Police Headquarters.

Council approved spending $34 million on the project in August 2014. Almost four years later the job is still not finished. Perhaps I missed my invitation for the open house.

Early in the process the police issued reports of the progress of the renovations to a vital public safety HQ that continued to function. But there has been no report on the costs and whether it is going to come in on budget.

If this is any example of completing complex buildings then this could easily be a ten-year project to complete.

The Baker Street redevelopment can be an important addition to the downtown but we need more specific information, not just the potential news of more jobs, more money spent and more property tax income.

Let’s skip the gravy and get to the beef

This announcement’s urgent approval smacks of politics to demonstrate how progressive and action oriented the city council is under the leadership of Mayor Guthrie.

It’s another ram job by the mayor in this election year to enhance the image that he is doing a great job, when in fact his track record has failed to come close to the promises he made in 2014.

The capital spending deadline in an election years is mid-August.

The risk is that this city council is committing future councils to a multi-million dollar spending on a project that will be costly to cancel now that it has been approved bu council. Financing, beginning today and extending for the next ten years will daunting regardless of who is in power.

When is the Guthrie administration going to tell the truth about all those closed-session meetings concerning management of the public’s money, that have shut out the public?

As the British paratroopers dropped in Holland in WW 2, their objective was to take and hold the bridge over the Rhine.

It turned out to be a bridge too far.

It’s a lesson in failed strategy that city council should consider.

Most councillors, if not all, will not be around to see the Baker Street redevelopment completed.

It is their bridge that is too far.

 

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Introducing a No Frills blueprint to change and control the people’s business

By Gerry Barker

July 16, 2018

The following is a detailed Action Plan to return power to the people that has been denied, covered up and mismanaged by successive councils and administrative staff.

Guelph Tomorrow is an organization created by concerned citizens to return democracy and accountability to the civic administration of the City of Guelph.

The people’s hope and expectation, following the election of Mayor Guthrie in October 2014, have been drowned in hypocrisy, blatant cover-ups, secrecy and disdain for the public trust.

The Guthrie record is clear. He capitulated authority of the public trust to the professional senior staff that perpetuated the failed policies of the two previous administrations.

Are you better off today after four years of this Guthrie administration? His record in just two instances, escalated property taxes by more than 3 per cent annually plus 2 per cent special levies. He gave Guelph Hydro, worth $228 million, away for peanuts. The value contained in the 2016 Guelph Hydro financial statement, is just the tangible assets, not including cash on hand or goodwill.

Now we learn of his “action plan” to elect friendly supporters to councillors positions to gain control of council and continue more of the same.

In my opinion, Cam Guthrie was like the month of March; “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” Don’t be deceived any longer. The city council needs an election enema to stop the political wrangling, control by individuals whose performance has been dismal.

Now it’s our chance to change the administration to serve the needs of ALL the people not the few who have controlled our city for 12 years. It’s a situation that mirrors the recent demise of the Ontario Liberal Party in the provincial election.

In Guelph, the disenchanted Liberals, disdained their own candidate and turned to electing a candidate with no election experience representing a Green party with no power. Mike Schreiner espoused the same policies that drove up the debt in Guelph under the previous administrations. Mike Shriener ran as the Green Party’s Ontario Leader. He is now the boss of a party of one, Mike Schreiner, MPP.

Small guess: Mike will be wooed by the Liberal seven-member cause that needs an eighth member to be recognized as an official party in the Ontario Legislature. That will make all those Guelph Liberals happier than Doug Ford cutting the gas tax.

Here’s’ the people’s No Frills Action Plan developed by a team of fellow citizens familiar with the tawdry history of 12 years of administrations.

Guelph Tomorrow

Presents

The No Frills Action Plan

No Frills means leadership, transparency, accountability and responsibility to all the people p

No Frills Priorities

No Frills means that the city auditor will complete a full audit of city finances before submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs

No Frills means halting capital spending until an audit of the city’s finances is completed

No Frills proposes a new senior management structure change to have a City Manager heading the staff, with directors leading the major departments

No Frills recommends that the he city administrative structure will include an Executive Management team composed of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, City Manager, City Clerk and Department Directors. The City Manager will act as chair

No Frills means making every effort to kill the Guelph Hydro-Alectra merger

No Frills means using common sense, arresting spending and encouraging public participation

No Frills means reviewing the status of all reserves and clarify each for its purpose

No Frills means evaluating policies involving all subsidies, donations, and employment contracts

No Frills means eliminating the Committee of the Whole system of conducting public meetings

No Frills on the advice of the city manager, restores the committees of council with appropriate honourariums for councillors serving on committees based on attendance.

No Frills means no closed-sessions council meetings unless there are legitimate legal reasons to do so

No Frills means a complete review by the Director of Finance and the internal auditor of purchasing and procurement systems

No Frills means freezing all salary and benefit increases pending review of pay systems

No Frills means ordering a staff rationalization review by an independent authority

No Frills means reviewing all bylaws to update and remove those not applicable

No Frills means Investigating areas of increasing revenue including the University of Guelph’s ‘bed tax’ deal in lieu of property taxes.

 

No Frills Proposed Communications Plan

No Frills means reporting a summary of the financial state of the city every three months

No Frills means freezing and reviewing all communications contracts and systems

No Frills means the general manager of communications will conduct a regular media briefing weekly

No Frills pledges publishing a monthly report of the administration’s hits and misses and introducing personality profiles of council members and staff using the Guelph Hydro mailing list to distribute

No Frills means that the mayor or designate following a closed-session must release a summary following the meeting within 24 hours

 

No Frills proposed fixes of Property Taxes & User fees

No Frills means limiting property taxes to a 3 per cent increase for 2019

No Frills means an immediate elimination of the 2 per cent infrastructure levy on property owners

No Frills means eliminating the storm water levy on hydro bills

No Frills means freezing all user fees until the financial review is completed

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.

No Frills means freezing all residential planning until a full review is completed

 

No Frills action to fix procedures, bylaws and protocols

No Frills abolishes the Integrity Commissioner, cancels the Closed Session investigators, Amberlea Gravel of London

No Frills means freezing all consultant contracts until proven justified

No Frills means a complete review of the Council Code of Conduct

No Frills means banning any closed sessions involving political strategy issues

No Frills means staff accountability

No Frills means rewarding and encouraging staff performance and efficiency

No Frills means reporting regular financial performance with a clearly defined base line

No Frills means public accessibility to the people’s house and its services

Join the crusade for change at Guelph Tomorrow.ca.

 

 

 

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Sis, Boom Bah! Mayor enlists the Cam-ettes to help take control of council

By Gerry Barker

July 11, 2018

Recently, I have been pressed to run for Mayor of the City of Guelph

Supporters want to prevent another four-year term of Mayor Guthrie who, they feel, has failed to meet his promises made when elected in 2014.

I am still considering making a decision to tackle the job of changing and reforming the administration’s spending on failed projects. This has painted a political picture of the Mayor whose trust of the city staff is suffocating the public trust.

My wife and I voted for him in 2014, as did most people who voted in record numbers.

We all had such high hopes for the energetic new mayor to clean up the fiscal debris of the previous administration.

But that did not happen. Instead, in the first four months in office, his election promise of keeping property taxes pegged to the Consumer Price Index (1.99 per cent in 2014) failed. The 2015 property tax approved by the Guthrie Council in March 2015, peaked at 3.96 per cent.

I’m not going to pursue the mismanagement, pandering to the staff, giving away Guelph Hydro, and holding all those closed-session meetings to prevent the public knowing the conduct of its business.

No, I’ve exposed much of it and picked up a lawsuit, still not concluded, for my trouble.

Instead, it’s time to end Guelph’s reality show. The attempt by the Mayor and his supporters to stage a well-planned coup to take control of council has now been exposed.

Introducing the Cam-ettes

It started early this week with a meeting between two councillors and me.

The only thing I can reveal, as the meeting was off the record, was the enthusiasm expressed in describing the new candidates for council. One of the councillors said he had been working hard to recruit and consult with a group that he predicted would change the composition of council and get rid of the controlling socialist majority.

I was excited at the prospect of new, bright candidates to finally start the process of reform and the reduction of overhead of city operations.

What I did not tell them at the time, concerned a meeting the next night of folks wanting me to take on Mr. Guthrie. At that meeting, we discussed the pros and cons of my candidacy.

Then I told them of my meeting, the night before, and the proposal to introduce qualified candidates to eliminate the socialist majority on council. As much as I have been critical of this “Gang of Seven,” politically, all that was needed was to defeat just two, Coun. Wettstein and Coun. Hofland.

But then things don’t always work as planned.

Both these councillors were on the Board of Directors of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. for four years. In my opinion, both failed to carry out their sworn fiduciary responsibilities by not revealing the failed operations of GMHI that cost the citizens millions.

Now here is the Guthrie team plan

So far there are four Cam-ettes running: In Ward 6, Stacy Cooper and Dominique O’Rourke; in Ward 4 Indu Arora, friend of the Mayor’s wife; in Ward 1 Charlene Downey. All of these women were nominated May1st along with the Mayor. Fact checking indicates none have been elected to a municipal council.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but remains a strong indicates collusion. There’s nothing wrong with that except that these four have been groomed to support Cam Guthrie as dedicated councillors voting for the Guthrie agenda.

Here’s the rub. Any attempt to elect a majority to gain control results, in this case, of Cam Guthrie gaining a majority of councillors for the next four years.

I find that undemocratic and manipulative. No surprise there, considering Mayor Guthrie’s penchant to use people then discarding them when they are no longer useful.

The political world of Cam Guthrie

Here’s a sample of how the Mayor says one thing and conceals his real intent. In the recent provincial election, the Mayor denied he was a candidate representing the P.C.’s. Guelphspeaks announced in August 2017, he was the chosen candidate to represent Guelph throwing the P.C riding association into administrative chaos.

Candidates who indicated they would run had to be put aside while P.C. headquarters told the riding association that they had a candidate and not to pursue a nomination meeting. This all occurred following the Patrick Brown dismissal.

Bob Coole, the Guelph P.C. Association president, received a call from Cam Guthrie inviting him to lunch at a pizzeria on Stone Road. At that meeting, Guthrie said he was the P.C. headquarter’s choice as the candidate. Coole was told not to agree holding a nomination convention, as Guthrie wanted an acclamation. There were more delays and finally Doug Ford named Ray Ferraro the Guelph candidate.

The mayor’s back door interference created an organization nightmare of which the Association did not recover.

The irony is the Guthrie interference in the process was accompanied by the Mayor’s crocodile tears that he loved Guelph and would be a candidate for re-election in October.

There is no nice way to put this but Cam Guthrie’s behind the scenes duplicity in sabotaging the Guelph P.C. campaign reflects the blind ambition and self-absorbed character of our mayor.

Let’s move on

Don’t you think that 12 years of the domination of council, by the extremist left that controlled our city administration could deter re-election of some of the incumbents? Social engineering projects wasted millions on waste management, staff salaries and benefits, the new city hall complex, GMHI failure to impose energy policies that didn’t work and now the giveaway of Guelph Hydro.

If all four of the Cam-ette newbie’s are elected, they will join incumbent Guthrie councillors, Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond, Christine Billings and the Mayor. That would give the Mayor complete control of council.

Then there are the wild cards

In Ward 6, Mark MacKinnon has the advantage of being an incumbent. I would be the last to support him as he stated that paying taxes is the price of living in Guelph. He further opined that because your house increased in value, you should borrow money to pay your property taxes.

Bob Bell, the veteran councillor in Ward 1 has yet to declare. I’m told that his business of building bicycle accessories has created opportunities in China and The Czech Republic.

Incumbent members of the “Gang of Seven” who are running again include James Gordon, Phil Allt, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Cathy Downer, and Leanne Piper. Karl Wettstein, the seventh member, has not filed his papers. In Ward 6, former Farbridge councillor, Lise Burcher ,is attempting a comeback.

Who is vulnerable in this group? In my opinion, I’d pick June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, James Gordon. Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein if he runs.

On paper it looks that Mayor Guthrie, so far unopposed, will have a comfortable majority in the next council.

As for me, I have the support of a seasoned campaign team, plus a platform that is extensive and is described in detail in the No Frills Action Plan to be published next week.

My inclination is to run but the task is great and there are serious mitigating facts to be considered.

Predicted surprises will occur before the close of nominations July 27 at 2 p.m.

In the meantime, pencil me in.

 

 

 

 

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Its time to clean up the Guthrie administration’s inherited train wreck

By Gerry Barker

July 9, 2018

In 2006, some 12 years ago, the Mayor elect, Karen Farbridge, campaigned on the slogan “She will put Guelph back on track.”

Well, eight years with Karen Farbridge and four years of Cam Guthrie, has created the train wreck that is the legacy of three election cycles being dominated by the successive council’s being stymied by the leftist majority In the case of the Guthrie administration the leftist majority driving up debt and escalating property taxes and user fees.

After monitoring and writing this for those 12 years it is not rocket science to know what has happened to successive administrations. Three councils all made promises they never kept. But the two Farbridge administrations set the the downward glide of excessive spending and mismanagement.

Remember the new downtown main library? A promise made by then Mayor Farbridger and not kept. Cam Guthrie made that same promise. We still have no new downtown library.

Remember the Urbacon disaster in which the Farbridge administration wasted more than $23 million to complete the new city hall complex that was originally contracted to cost $42 million?

It cost Farbridge and four of her councillors their jobs in 2014.

The doozy of bad deals occurred December 13, 2017 when by a 10-3 cote, council approved the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra utilities in which there was no payment by Alectra for the estimated $300 million Guelph Hydro distribution system.

That agreement is now before the Ontario Energy Board and some citizens have been approved to intervene when the hearing is held.

Turning to Mayor Cam Guthrie’s performance, his penchant to hold closed-session meetings of council led to the infamous secret increases to four senior managers in December 2010. The cost came to $98,202 with Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, receiving more than $37,000 most of it was a $27,000 retroactive performance bonus.

Pappert resigned four months later but stuck around until May 26, 2016 then left. The provincial 2016 Sunshine List revealed she was paid $263,000 for five months work.

Couple that with the seven months performed in 2016 by her successor, Derrick Thomson, and the cost of paying the two CAO’s in 2016 was $397,166 not including taxable benefits. In Mr. Thomson’s case, his taxable benefit was an additional $11,000.

This all happened under the leadership of Mayor Guthrie. Aside from the Finance department and members of council, 99 per cent of citizens would never know how much that December 10, 2015 closed-session would impact the citizens. That is until guelphspeaks.ca revealed it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Council by an 8-5 vote approved increasing the Mayor’s salary from $122,000 to 152,000. The 12 city councillors were also given an addition $5,000 increase.

These increases were made to maintain the take-home pay of all councillors because the Federal government has cancelled the one-third portion of their income that used to be tax-free.

Now here’s what happened.

The Remuneration Advisory Committee, appointed by council, recommended that 12 councillors should receive the increases but not the Mayor. Four days after that decision was published, council awarded the Mayor the increase in order to retain his take-home pay.

Then the Mayor voted to increase his new salary and that of the councillors.

The question, was this a conflict of interest? Five councillors who voted against the motion seemed to think it was. These council salary approvals are always a difficult decision. I happen to advocate that all elected position salary should be greater in order to attract qualified candidates but reflect the increasing workload as the city grows rapidly..

In the case of the Mayor he should have recused himself.

It reflects the deep-seated disregard of that business that is troubling and must change.

I don’t disagree with the increases to elected officials, just the way it was handled that leads to public mistrust. Something that’s not a good idea in an election year.

I do not agree with the method of choosing salary and benefit increases by senior management. Those salary and benefits of senior managers should be determined by an outside body to avoid further conflicts of interest.

Final example. When Mr. Thomson was appointed CAO in June 2016, he said his contract was for three years at a salary of $230,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,000.

The 2017 Sunshine list revealed his salary was more than $260,000.

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