By Gerry Barker
August 27, 2018
On Saturday a great American statesman, Navy pilot and patriot, died.
John McCain was 81 years old and loved to be called the “Maverick.” His historic “no” vote to stop the total dismantling of Obama Care in the U.S. senate, ended the attempt by his fellow senators to finish the job.
This week in Guelph Today, there was an opinion piece written by local blogger Adam Donaldson in which he described the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) annual meeting as “ much AMO about nothing” – cute. So its no wonder that one cannot take Mr. Donaldson seriously.
He said he interviewed Mayor Guthrie who was enthusiastic about the AMO meeting stating: “They (the provincial government), have been very welcoming, very open to hearing what’s going on in Guelph.”
The piece later on quoted Premier Doug Ford telling the AMO delegates that the government had no plans to further emulate the Toronto Council reduction (Bill 5). It would reduce it from 47 members to 25 matching the provincial and federal riding boundaries in the city.
Is Donaldson still smarting over the total defeat of the Wynne government and its policies by the Ford Tories? Guess he’s not been around to recognize the political reality of removal as the party that was in power for several years. .
Good grief! The Liberals were in charge of this province for 15 years. The Ford Tories have held the reins of power for less than three months.
But the Liberal media including my former paper, The Toronto Star, are doing a character assassination number on Mr. Ford while his cabinet members are still trying to find their offices.
The Guelph Today Ford wrecking ball commentary asks the question: How long will the Ford government treat the AMO with ‘gusto’ and how long will it last?
That will be four years.
The Wynne government used the AMO to reinforce its wacko energy plans that have driven the cost of electricity in Ontario to one of the highest in North America. That’s because the AMO is funded and supported by the party in power. A creature of the province, one may surmise, like the 444 municipalities in Ontario.
It’s one way for the party in power to control and manipulate the operations of its 444 supplicants. It’s also a convenient instrument to keep all those municipal councils in line with the implied threat of denying grants, favours and support.
There is nothing equal about all this. It’s done our way or our cooperation will disappear.
The election of Green Party candidate Mike Schreiner as our representative to the Ontario Legislature has isolated the city from provincial support initially. Schreiner is a party of one with no recognition as an official party in the Legislature.
His effectiveness under this situation handicaps his obligation to ensure the city is able to access the support of the various provincial departments now dominated by the PC’s.
Recently, there was a story published in the Toronto Star describing the movement of young families from Toronto due to the high cost of housing. The story mentioned destinations including Barrie, Kitchener, Cambridge, London and Kingston. There was no mention of Guelph.
Why was that? With respect, there are several factors. The first is that Guelph’s residential property taxes are among the highest in the province. The city is home to the University of Guelph that currently has a reported 22,000 students.
While there is great pride in the University, there exist huge costs to most citizens to subsidize the university such as infrastructure of utilities roads, transit, medical facilities, street maintenance including snow and leaf removal,
The burden of these and many other services falls on the property taxpayer of the city of Guelph. The University is the largest landowner in the city. Provincial legislation in 1987 decreed that in lieu of property taxes, the universities and colleges in Ontario would pay $75 for every full-time student attending for two semesters.
This arrangement has not changed in 31 years. Compared to citywide assessment of properties in that same period, using a base of the Consumer Price Index for inflation, the increases to city property owners is almost incalculable.
In 15 years, did the provincial Liberals ever consider fixing this unfair and costly archaic system?
By banging the drum to complain about the Ford leadership, look inwardly Guelph because the governance of our city in the past 12 years has neglected the basic fiduciary responsibility of the elected and senior management.
There are three major events that have cost residents dearly. First the $23 million additional cost of building the new city hall; then came the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. cover-up that so far, has resulted in a major write down of Guelph Hydro’s tangible assets plus a loss of $17 million in 2016. The third project, linked to the GMHI debacle, is the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc.
You cannot walk away from these mismanaged projects and then announce a potential $350 million renovation of the Baker Street parking lot involving a partnership with an Ottawa company to commence construction in 2024.
Guthrie gushed that the prime tenant would be the new downtown library.
I am not against this proposal but question what is the taxpayer’s commitment to this project?
Oh! I forgot this is election time.
Meanwhile, the demolition of the Wynne government’s social engineering policies will continue because most voters rejected them by electing Doug Ford and 75 members to the Ontario Legislature.