Monthly Archives: October 2018

Mr. Ford: It’s time to rewrite the University property tax deal

By Gerry Barker

November 1, 2018

Exclusive – Opinion

Before I am accused of insufferable whining, here are some examples of jug-headed decisions made by the current council in the past four years.

My favourite is about the tax on cats. Council taxes dogs, chicken coops, property,  waste removal, water, storm water, developers, businesses and cats.

If it moves, tax it

Council does not tax nuisances such as the growing urban flock of Canada Geese, Bicycle riders and their gear. Throw in the user fees that in 2017 the city received $105,872,000 in user fees alone. That was an increase of $9,744 million over 2016.

The biggest under taxed institution in the city is the University of Guelph. The city’s largest landowner and concentrated education complex is complete with buildings to house first year and graduate students, ultra new classroom facilities, football stadium and hockey arena.

It has a student population of 22,000 from September to April.

Now here’s the sweetheart property deal enjoyed by the University.

City residents and taxpayers subsidize the University population through paying for emergency services –police, fire and EMS as requested by University officials. No charge.

Citizens also subsidize Guelph Transit, spending $65,259 million that includes supplying extra services to accommodate students during the roughly eight months stay in Guelph. Citizens have subsidized an estimated $15 million annually to support Guelph Transit.

What happened to equal partnership?

More recently was the University’s Homecoming weekend that city taxpayers paid to control the excessive drinking, abuse of property and treatment at medical clinics. The Guelph Police Services had to pay for extra officers to keep the peace and the cost to city taxpayers’’ was a reported $63,000.

Remember, your taxes are paying for police and other public services for homecoming and St.Patrick’s Day celebrations by thousands of students, alumni and non-students looking for a party.

It is obvious that the University Police cannot control what is happening in their precinct and requested assistance from Guelph Police Services. Why not? Doesn’t cost the University anything and it takes their cops off the hook.

Now you might say this is a penny-ante complaint but when coupled with St. Patrick’s Day revelry, Guelph police are again beefed up to maintain order. It seems a high price to pay by Guelph citizens who are not involved.

Here’s some background

Celebrating the annual homecoming weekend is a string of five universities ranging from Hamilton to London, all celebrating on different weekends. The top brass at each institution agreed to hold their homecoming on different weekends starting usually at McMaster in Hamilton, Guelph, Laurier in Kitchener, University of Waterloo and University of Western Ontario in London.

The result is a moving weekend party as students bounce from one homecoming to the next. An example was this year when Guelph had its homecoming party and football game, two weeks later Western held its homecoming and the police could barely handle the celebrants in which the affair degenerated in a near riot. There is ample evidence that same drinking and flouting the law occurred at each institution.

It would appear that students and non-students move each weekend to another University homecoming. Why is this occurring? It’s because it means money to the Institutions.

Organized alumni tours encourage donation to the University’s endowment fund or they finance support of new building or courses.

. Since 1987, the $75 payment, in lieu of property taxes, has not changed or indexed to the Cost of Living Index (CPI).

How about your property taxes?

Are you paying property taxes during that time that never increased annually? Of course not. In our case; the annual increase for 15 years has averaged 3.18 per cent. Two things affect your property taxes, inflation and compounding. All I can say is that our property taxes have more than doubled in 15 years. That’s compounding for you.

Property taxes contribute, on average, 80 per cent of city revenues. The rest comes from grants, the gas tax rebate, investment interest and user fees including development charges and impost fees.

It’s easy to see that the University is paying an estimated $1.8 million annually in lieu of property taxes and the city taxpayers must cover 80 per cent of the annual city budget. The total revenue from property taxes for 2017 (the latest financial report) was $233,024 million. That figure includes the $1.8 million received from the University of Guelph’s holdings.

The UofG property tax bill represents 0.00772 per cent of the total paid by citizens. The largest landowner and major post secondary organization’s property tax bill is just not paying its fair share operating in Guelph. Not only that, each year the University’s tax portion of Guelph’s cost of operating actually shrinks.

Translation: They are paying proportionately less than all the city property owners conytribute 3.18 per cent annual increase in property taxes.

A law that’s unfair and stupid

The 2017 operational taxed increase of $8,936 million over 2016. That increase did not include any contribution from the University. So each year the City of Guelph property taxes increase, on average 3.18 per cent, but the University has not increased its property tax payment for 41 years.

That’s thanks to a dated and stupid provincial law that never considered the effect of inflation, passed by the provincial Liberal government in 1987. The deal chiefly protected the province’s growing post secondary schools from paying appropriate property taxes.

By sheer accident, the University of Guelph, over the years, became a huge beneficiary because it owns thousands of acres inherited from the former Agriculture College, before it was granted University status.

Over the years as the city grew, certain parts of those lands, particularly along Stone Road, became cash cows as the University property was leased back to commercial retailers and housing developers. At the same time, the city had to install infrastructure including roads, water and sewer lines plus a fire station. Oh! I forgot the $2 million spent on bike lanes.

This land lease income became a great opportunity to expand the University with new buildings, facilities courses and faculties. However, it brought unintended costs to the city to service the needs of the expanding university. The property tax deal denied the city’s right to collect higher property taxes. Because there was no assessment established of the University properties by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. There was no need the city was prevented due to the fixed rate payment in lieu of property taxes established by the provincial government.

The effect of this property tax loophole was that municipalities were forced to increase its costs to improve infrastructure, emergency services, transit, plus many other services over the years as the city and student population grew.

The University or Conestoga Community College cannot be blamed for this situation. The blame falls directly on successive provincial governments that ignored the consequences for more than 41 years, of this off-loading of the costs that many growing cities are facing in relation to blooming post secondary institutions.

The exponential financial property tax load has fallen on taxpayers and citizens.

Well, the UofG recently released a report showing the economic benefits the institution brings to Guelph and Wellington County. Most of that benefit is focused on businesses through increased sales and services but does not trickle down to the taxpayer who is paying most of the bills. It’s another version of trickle down economics that doesn’t work.

It has been suggested that any increase in the so-called student “bed tax” will only be passed through to the students and families.

Here’s the Bottom Line:

The estimate value of the Univisity of Guelph today, in terms of assessment including buildings and land, internal infrastructure, residential structures, laboratories, sports facilities and a number of other important assets of the corporate complex are estimated to be more that $5 billion.

The University’sconomic statement said itemploys 12,000, not all located in Guelph. This, it claimed, is major contributor to job creation. Again they don’t all live in the city.

The City of Guelph with a population of 131,000, in the 2017 consolidated financial statement shows the city having total assets of $1,186,081,000.

This is a challenge that needs the municipalities affected by this unfair arrangement to call on the government to change it.

 

 

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The takeover of Guelph Hydro is only the beginning of the elitist domination of city government

 

By Gerry Barker

October 29, 2018

Thursday, October 18, three members of the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) handed down a decision that approved the merger between Alectra Utilities and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. (Guelph Hydro).

The former Liberal provincial government appointed the three OEB members’ decision that states the deal closes January 31, 2019.

The decision fails to disclose the amount Alectra paid for all issues and shares of Guelph Hydro held by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.

This former Liberal government encouraged the sale, merger or amalgamation of medium to small municipally owned power distribution systems. The purpose was to allegedly create larger, more efficient systems.

At the time, Guelph Hydro had more than 55,000 customers and 120 employees.

In a large ad published in the Guelph Tribune April 19, 2018, The OEB outlined some details of the proposed merger. One section was headlined: “Be informed and have your say.”

It went on to state that: “You have the right to information regarding the application and to be involved in the process.”

Involvement disappeared

A number of Guelph citizens responded requesting an oral hearing in order to have “Their Say” in the matter before the board. Some us received a confirmation by the OEB acknowledging our request to intervene in the hearing.

On July 12, 2018 the OEB detailed the hearing process. Now the applicants had filed a written submission to the board and requested a written response.

There were a number of Guelph residents, including my wife and me, who requested an oral hearing giving reasons for doing so. The main issue was the complexity of the deal of which the public received an outline available only Online, 12 days before city council approved the agreement in principal.

It was not a transparent detailed version of the agreement but a carefully crafted PR document that had little relevance to the real agreement that was still being negotiated.

Council approved the agreement in principal by a 10 to 3 majority despite the presentation of 22 citizens who asked council to delay the vote until the public, some 55,000 of them, had the opportunity to study and digest the details. That never happened.

Further the deliberations by the Strategic Options Committee, appointed by council, was in charge of negotiating the merger that was held in closed session without public participation.

So, did we, a group of interveners, ever given the chance to present our case? Regardless of being acknowledged by the OEB, we were denied intervening.

Here’s more from the July 12 OEB action statement: “Decision of Confidentiality and Procedural Order No. 2:

The bogus invitation

“The OEB invited interested parties to advise if they thought that an oral hearing was needed.”

When we submitted our reasons for an oral hearing in April that was acknowledged in writing, it was the last we heard from the OEB.

We can only assume this deal was already baked. There is no mechanism for appealing this arbitrary decision that was announced in a city press release of one page, Friday morning, April 18, barely 12 hours after the decision was made.

This kind of governance demonstrated by the OEB regarding other provincial and municipal governments is one of the main reasons that the turn out in the recent civic election saw only some 33,000 votes cast out of more than 90,000 eligible citizens.

The voter bunch missing in action

Some 57,000 eligible voters did not bother to vote. That means that almost 60 per cent of all eligible voters in Guelph did not show up to be counted.

We are a city of 131,000 citizens. We are owners of a corporation that is valued at $600 million and we don’t bother to exercise our right to vote?

The so-called merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Inc. can only be blamed, ten years from now on a electorate that didn’t care in 2018. The result as time goes by, and most of this council today, and for the next four years, will be gone and no longer responsible.

Can’t blame them now. Only blame ourselves for failing to pay attention and stop giving away a treasured asset worth some $160 million for peanuts.

Voter apathy is a recipe for corruption

Citizen’s apathy is a disease and most people of Guelph are currently incurable.

We have to realize that in four years, our city will endure the progressive demands of the majority of council. It will be a repeat performance of the past four years with a majority of council accountable to their masters at Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

We are under the control of a National leftist party. The New Democratic Party, that the Ontario branch supplied expertise and support to the six re-elected progressive members of council.

Nothing is going to change. It will be more of the same even increasing property taxes, dodgy environmental projects, failure to remove all the city’s waste from every household and increasing the debt.

All those headlong efforts including operational costs need revenue. Some 80 per cent of it comes from property taxes.

The ugly by-product of non-participation

In the last four years, the exponential increase in property taxes was more than 18 per cent.

If we ever experience a recession, and our private sector job force is affected, then what happens?

Lloyd Longfield, Guelph’s member of the House of Commons, boasted the other day that Guelph had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, only 3.6 per cent.

What he forgot to add was that a huge portion of the city workforce is either unionized or has secure government positions. For example there are more employees working for the University of Guelph than our major private employer, Linamar.

On a comparison basis, Guelph has more public servants per capita than its peer group of similar-sized cities in the province.

Secure, well paying jobs that are recession proof, and the numbers, are increasing every year.

The issue is clear. Why would all those protected civil servants care whether or not there was an economic down turn? Their paychecks and pension payments will keep coming.

Why would they bother to vote in a municipal election?

Because they don’t have to.

The province and the city guarantee their jobs and income benefits.

As long as the minority of voters, those who care, put up with this elitist-dominated city, chiefly populated by civil servants with guaranteed salaries and pensions, our taxes and user fees will increase exponentially and the city will gradually become too expensive a place in which to live and do business.

 

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The inside view of how some 10,352 votes were killed by the council’s progressive majority

By Gerry Barker

October 23, 2018

Analysis and Opinion

First, congratulations to the seven incumbent councillors who were re-elected to represent the citizens for the next four years. Also, congratulations, to Mayor Guthrie who doubled the result over his opponent, Aggie Mlyarz 22K to 11K.

Impressive wins that left this observer, well, flummoxed.

But let’s examine how it occurred.

Here are important numbers and factors leading to the election result.

The first is the refusal by these same progressive councillors to allow online voting in 2018.

In 2018, there are 90,786 eligible voters in The City of Guelph. This would be greater than 2014 as the population grew, according to Stats Canada, by some 10,000 newcomers to the city in four years.

Election 2014

43 percent of eligible electors voted

Advance poll walk-ins – 2,985

Online voters – 12,767

Total – 15,752

Election 2018

37.16 per cent of eligible electors voted

Advance poll walk-ins – 5,400

Online voters – 0

Total 5,400

Comparing the numbers, apples to apples, there is a huge number of eligible voters, some 10,352 who voted using Online voting in 2014 did not vote in 2018.

Council’s decision to disallow Online voting has deliberately skewed the outcome.

Consider, more residents were eligible to vote in 2018 but the percentage dropped dramatically. Where did those 10,352 eligible voters go?

In my opinion this was a deliberate action by the progressive majority on council all of who, except one, were re-elected by substantial margins. It is beyond belief that the performance record over the past four years of these incumbents warranted re-election.

The intrusion of the Ontario New Democratic Party to support the majority of progressive councillors contributed to the election win. Candidate’s financial statements must include the cost of support by the Ontario NDP, either in cash or in kind.

They voted to suppress the number of voters by denying Online voting. And it worked.

For the next four years nothing will change to permit Online voting in Guelph. The new council, I predict, will vote to ban it.

One of the factors involved see a return of the progressive majority of seven councillors, this is what I call the ‘Schreiner effect.” The MPP built a strong core of supporters to sweep the June 7 provincial election, gaining 29,000 votes.

If just half of those votes consorted to support the progressive civic incumbents, it gives them another advantage over challengers.

I don’t know about you but I cannot tell the difference between the Green Party, the NDP or Liberals. To me, their agenda’s are similar. In Guelph, a progressive majority on council has dominated and from 2007 to 2022.

The effect of this is negative. It discourages good candidates to run for office. The pay for ward councillors is another reason to discourage good candidates who want to contribute to their community. The progressive majority of the new council reveals only one of the seven progressives has a full-time job. Yet they are considered to be part-timers being paid $40,000 a year.

The system is dated and flawed and reform is needed.

The progressives are able to keep control of city council due to the ward system. It is relatively inexpensive for a ward candidate to seek election. Yet the majority of the 12 part-time councillors control the council agenda, particularly when they share the beliefs of the progressive movement. Velia! Because some 57,054 eligible Guelph voters failed to participate by voting in this election, it sets the stage for manipulation of the system including preventing people from voting Online.

On Ontario, some 191 municipalities allowed Online voting this year, but not in Guelph.

Now you know why.

The last check on the outcome lies when all candidates submit their election financial statements that must concur with the new regulation of the Municipal Elections Act. These are public statement; available from the City Clerk’s office sometime next month.

Unfortunately, there is faint hope that there will be reform enacted by a majority of city council who cling to their failed concepts that have already wasted millions on projects such as the new city hall, the Organic Waste Processing Facility, Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc., Downtown parking, bicycle lanes and shrinking pf vehicle lanes, downtown Fire Department Headquarters, Clair Road police /fire station.

The list goes on and we still don’t have a modern main branch library; a South End Recreation Centre because of money being spent on environmental and fails energy efficiency projects and multi-million dollars plus the renovation of the Baker Street parking lot and preparing a plan for the 10070-acre Reformatory lands, owned by the province.

But some 57,054 eligible voters did not turn up Monday, would it be true that Online voting may have changed the outcome?

It was not a great day for Guelph.

 

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Reasons to exercise your privileges of freedom by voting Monday October 22

By Gerry Barker

October 20, 2018

Let’s say you are not planning to vote on Monday.

The reasons vary such as, I’m too busy to bother; my vote won’t make any difference; my daughter has the measles; I don’t like any of the candidates; I rarely vote at all so, why now? Finally, my boss won’t give me time off work to vote.

Well, here’s why.

For the past 12 years the progressive left, first under former mayor, Karen Far bridge, and then under Mayor Cam Guthrie has dominated the city administration. In his case he was a closet conservative who went along with the progressive majority on council, to get along.

The last of our years

Perhaps we should work backwards examining the city operations under Mr. Guthrie.

In 2015, it started with the Guthrie election promise of keeping the property tax at the same level as the Consumer Price Index that was 1.99 per cent. Council approved the 2015 budget in March that year and the property tax increase was 3.96 per cent, that had to be adjusted to reflect the increase in assessment of all properties in the city.

That election campaign promise has evaporated in the mayor’s first term. In fact, the estimated four years of property taxes cumulative effect is 18 per cent. This includes the two-year property tax of two per cent levy was imposed two years ago.

Then, in December 2015, a closed session of council awarded $98,202 salary increases between four senior managers: CAO Ann Pappert, DCAO’s Al Horsman, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson. Only Mr. Thomson remains as CAO.

Fast-forward and the Guthrie council conducted 82 closed session meetings in the first two years in office. This did not include the closed meeting of the Strategic Options Committee that led to the take-over of Guelph Hydro by Alectra Utilities. The Ontario Energy Board approved this multi-million dollar deal October 18, 2018, just five days before the civic election.

Sure you still won’t bother voting Monday?

Here are more reasons to take the time to vote.

Mayor Guthrie stated in a pre-election announcement that a new Public Private Proposal (3P) to spend an estimated $350 million in today’s dollars, on redevelopment of the Baker Street parking lot. The private partner is Windmill Developments based in Ottawa. The Mayor said there would be a new downtown library included in the plan.

Sounds exciting, right?

The project will not start construction until 2024. It is estimated it will take another four years at least to get the new library open and running. That’s more than ten years from now. The public’s share of this project has yet to be determined. As an aside, the city claims it has already invested $29 million of Baker Street renovation.

Note that part of that investment includes the $22 million five storey Parkade being built next to city hall with no connection to the Baker Street proposal.

This Hocus Pocus financing is a bargaining chip negotiating with the private Baker Street partner.

In the six years waiting for construction to start, inflation will add another 12 per cent to the current estimated cost. That’s more than $42 million. Mr. Guthrie won’t be mayor plus council will have a number of new members.

If you believe this data, don’t bother to vote because you can’t change it. Wrong!

Your vote is vital as     s the city administration must change.

You see, the progressives don’t want you to vote. The Bloc of Seven majority on council forced a vote denying the use of Online voting in 2018. Their reasons were smothered in a wave of academic opinion claiming that E-voting created “massive security holes” thereby was dangerous.

This is an example of power over reality. In 2014, some 12,767 citizens voted Online without a single glitch or complaint. The progressive saw their leader defeated and four councillors either were defeated or did not run.

How do you change it?

Make sure to vote Monday. You have your voting card and all you need is a driver’s licence, or utility bill, or property tax statement. Your health card must have your address, some of them don’t.

Guelphspeaks.ca believes there are a number of excellent candidates ready to serve their city. This election will be different and hopefully bring change accompanied by accountability, transparency and open government.

Once elected, the candidate not only serves his or her ward but they become the stewards of the city representing all the people.

Finally, thousands of Canadians in the past 100 years gave their lives to preserve our way of life. That includes freedom of speech, public participation in government.

A personal remembrance is that of my father, his two brothers and his sister who served in France in the First World War. John Sydney Barker and Thomas Mitchell Barker were both killed in action. My parents honoured their memory by naming me after them.

It brings sadness and privilege to remember that more than 100,000 Canadians gave their lives in two world wars. They have paid a terrible price to secure our freedom.

Let’s remember them by voting this Monday.

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Why did city council suppressed citizen’s right to vote Online in the 2018 election?

By Gerry Barker

October 18, 2018

Opinion

In the spring of 2017, city council killed Online voting in this year’s civic election based on the evidence of a professor from the University of Western Ontario.

He claimed that Online voting was insecure and dangerous in terms of the election outcome. The person behind this was progressive activist, Susan Watson, who invited the professor to tell his story to city council.

Council narrowly voted to ban Online voting for the 2018 civic election based mainly on the professor’s dire warning of the dangers of E-voting.

The progressive majority on council voted against allowing electronic voting for 2018.

The fact that Susan Watson played such a major role in creating this decision should not go unnoticed. It goes back to the 2014 civic election when her close friend, Karen Far bridge, was defeated. The progressive leftists, who had dominated city council for eight years blamed every one but themselves for their leader’s defeat.

This was the beginning of a series of moves by Ms. Watson, and the still progressive domination of city council to seek revenge. The Online vote ignored the success of the voting in 2014 when 12,767 votes were cast Online. There were absolutely no errors, confusion or evidence of misuse of the system as predicted by the Watson surrogate, the professor from London and others.

Here is the difference between 2014 and 2018. In 2014 there were 2.985 walk-in votes taken in the advance poll. This year that number was 5,400 walk-ins to the advance poll.

Voter  suppression at work

So, next Monday it will be interesting to see what happened to those 12.767 votes cast Online. The 2014 election saw a sharp increase in the number of votes cast with 43 per cent of eligible electors.

In my opinion, the Farbridge supporters, including Ms. Watson, were angry and blamed Online voting for the former mayor’s defeat.

After eight years of stumbling and fumbling administering the city, it was a shocker and that remains today. You have to ask yourself, if they believed they were snookered by Online voting, why did they vote collectively to ban it in 2018? Also, why didn’t Karen Farbridge run for mayor this term, as a number of her supporters urged her to do?

In my opinion, this was nothing but an attempt to suppress the right to vote.

Mayor Guthrie is secure that he will win because the progressive left could not recruit an electable candidate to run against him.

Not having a demographic profile on each of the 12,767 Online voters, just how many were disabled, out of town, or handling a catalogue of personal reasons that prevented them to go to their poll and vote.

Before going any further, what else has Susan Watson brought to the attention of council, in the past four years?

This was a campaign that never stopped

The first was Ms. Watson’s complaint to the city committee of election compliance regarding the donation to Ward 6 candidate, Glen Tolhurst, of $400 by GrassRoots Guelph, an incorporated, non-profit citizen’s activist group. Ms. Watson hired a lawyer to present her case that supported her claim.

Based on that lawyer’s presentation, the committee hired a Toronto auditor to investigate if the donation was illegal. Mr. Tolhurst and GrassRoots Guelph were eventually both exonerated by the auditor, William Molson. Ms. Watson, a close personal friend of the former mayor, Karen Farbridge, was not required by the city to pay the audit costs of some $11,000 that she initiated. The taxpayers had to pick-up the tab, including citizens Mr. Tolhurst and Gerry and Barbara Barker, officers of GrassRoots Guelph.

It should be noted that Mr. Tolurst had personal legal expenses regarding his defence.

The second Watson proposal to council was a request to have the city adopt the proportional voting system for the 2018 civic election. Ms.Watson is chairperson of the Fair Vote initiative, supported by the NDP across the country.

What is proportional voting? When you receive your ballot, you are asked to rank the candidates on a 1, 2, 3 basis thereby rating the whole slate. The top three are assigned points that are credited to them when the votes are counted. On the surface, this sounds plausible. The Trudeau government proposed election reform during the election campaign four years ago. Following the Liberal’s landslide victory, the Trudeau government backed off and proportional voting went with it.

The jury is out when it comes to discussing proportional voting. There are a number of municipalities, plus the British Columbia provincial government, who employ it.

Will that be pepperoni our ancovies?

The state of Israel has voted proportionally resulting in what is called the “Pizza Parliament” where none of the 18 political parties achieve a majority. This results in the party leading in the vote is forced to form a government with another party to achieve a majority. This has resulted in a right wing coalition government that has ruled the country for the past eight years.

The Watson proposal was an attempt to capture the election by running several progressive candidates in each of the six wards to maintain dominance of city council. Despite the progressive majority on council, the proposal was defeated.

There you have it. High stakes manipulation by the progressive left to stifle, thwart and defeat the greater majority of independent voters, new comers to the city and the aged and disabled.

It’s time to send their candidates to the minors and elect citizens whose real interest is making our city a successful, productive and efficient community, serving all the people not just those with special interests.

The evidence is clear. The proliferate spending on failed projects by the progressive – dominated council over the previous eight years has cost citizens millions in city support of failed projects and cost overruns on capital spending.

Next Monday Election Day, it’s your turn to change the administration to create a better Guelph Tomorrow.

Change means, affordability, civility, responsibility, honesty, creativity, unity, fairness, participation, competence, industrious, reality, and independence.

Our city has lost its compass and the new council has the opportunity to correct the course by navigating through the shoals of discontent and division.

Important Notice: We incorrectly reported that a Canadian passport was proof of ID when voting next Monday. It is not acceptable because it does not contain your address. The key documents that a voter must present at the polls includes a valid driver’s licence, a utility bill or a mortgage statement, provincial ID card with your photo, name and address. Your Health card may be one of a series that does not have your address on it.

If you have not any of these ID documents, contact the city website, Guelph.com website with a link to voter rights and procedures.

If that does not solve your right to vote, contact the City Clerk’s office for clarication.

First priority: Be sure and vote.

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The Guthrie record: Now are you better off today than in 2014?

By Gerry Barker

October 15, 2018

Mayor Cam Guthrie published a full-page advertisement in the Tribune this past week, just ten days before the civic election extolling his virtues, track record and, regretfully, dodging the vital issues facing the community and lying by omission (LBO).

This is a classic deja-vu of his election in 2014 in which he was the default victor over a Mayor who the public decided was not worthy of re-election. And, with good reasons.

The vast majority of the voting public understood there had to be change at the top. And Cam Guthrie filled most voter’s hopes and expectations beating, Ms. Farbridge by more than 5,000 votes.

The left progressives, who had dominated city council for eight years, were dumb- founded.

As an incumbent candidate, Guthrie campaigned on keeping property taxes at the same level, as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) at the time was 1.95 per cent.

In March 2015, the new council approved a 3.96 per cent property tax increase accelerated by the previously frozen increased assessment on property that was not included in the 2015 budget as presented to the public.

In his four years as mayor, Mayor Cam Guthrie presided over more than an 18 per cent increase in city property taxes.

So, why would citizens believe him now?

So, early in January 2015, guelphspeaks.ca published the fact that Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert’s, contract was being reviewed by city council. This resulted in an investigation of who had tipped off guelphspeaks.ca?

The Mayor, enraged over the leak, even sent out an e-mail to an undisclosed group of people, presumed to be his supporters, that Barker was not to be believed as he always got his facts wrong. Really? Prove it!

The new Mayor even threatened a Guelph citizen who published the four-year track record of the CAO’s performance in not balancing the city books and resorted to taking money from reserves to meet the provincial regulations that no municipality can carry a deficit into the new year.

For her trouble, Mayor Guthrie said he would take legal action against this citizen’s accurate analysis of the Ms. Pappert’s five years on the job. That threat disappeared for good reason.

But the Guthrie defence of the former CAO continued

In December 10, 2015, city council met in closed session. The purpose of the meeting was to approve some $98,202 increases to four senior staffers for the fiscal year 2015.

The main recipient was CAO Ann Pappert. Her increase included: A retroactive performance bonus of some $27,000. It also unclouded payments for unused vacation and sick leave credits that totaled a $37,000 increase in her base pay for 2015. This took her remuneration to $253,000 not including her taxable benefits.

None of this was made public until March 31, 2016 when the provincial Sunshine List was published, naming all public servants in Ontario earning more than $100,000.

Comparing her remuneration for 2014 ($219,000) to the 2015 provincial list, demonstrates a 17 per cent increase.

Mayor Guthrie presided over this December 10, 2015 closed session when council awarded these senior managers the huge increase. Guelphspeaks attempted to obtain the minutes of this meeting and was denied after a four-month wait for an answer from Amberlea Gravel, the council-appointed closed-session investigator on retainer by the city.

To this day, Mayor Guthrie has not acknowledged the details or rationale of that closed meeting.

The result was the people of Guelph paid Ms. Pappert in the first two years of the Guthrie administration some $463,000 for 17 months work.

This meeting was just one of 82 closed session meetings the Mayor oversaw in the first two years in office.

In his full-page ad, the Mayor lists the “Community Assets” of the city. These include: Breaking ground on the South End Community Centre ($63 million); Ensure the $350 million (in today’s dollars) Baker Street redevelopment project moves forward (including the $53 million Downtown Library); Setting aside funding for the “much needed” hospital expansion; To protect and promote the tree canopy of Guelph; Create fenced-in dog parks.

As the late Peggy Lee used to sing: “Is that all there is?”

Let’s dissect this “Community Asset” run for the roses by the Mayor.

Let’s start with the fenced in dog parks across the city.

This is not an asset; it’s an operational wish list. But let’s address the real poop problems that pervade our parks, Canada Geese. It’s not pleasant to enjoy our parks when there is a proliferation of geese chomping on the grass randomly pooping wherever they feel. And they are so content most stay in Guelph for the winter. You can fence in dogs but cannot handle the bigger problem of goose infestation. Sounds like a plan, priority dogs. How about goose-control pills?

Aside: Whatever happened to the tax on cats?

The declaration of setting aside funds for the Guelph General Hospital is an important issue. But where is the money coming from? The Guthrie administration has not only followed The Mayor’s campaign promise to maintain property tax increases to the CPI but has socked property owners with a two per cent surcharge.

The money allegedly is to go toward repairing and renovating neglected infrastructure but half of it goes to “city buildings.” Those levy funds go for financing the proposed $63 million South End Recreation Centre in which the Guthrie council has already quietly committed $3 million for preliminary architectural planning.

This is the first major community recreation centre to be funded by a property tax levy of 1 per cent across the city.

At this point you have to wonder where the priorities are.

The Mayor has proclaimed that a new downtown Library will finally be part of the Baker Street redevelopment. This is nothing but an empty promise. It will be ten years before a new Library is open. The mayor and most of council will not be in office because the shovels don’t go into the ground until 2024. Many are frustrated supporters of a new downtown library. It’s just Cam promising anything to pander to their hopes and dreams after 20 years of promises by various administrations.

This is what didn’t show up in Community Assets

The Mayor neglects to reveal his role in the Guelph Hydro merger with Alectra Inc. The crown jewel of real assets has been given away for a pittance.

The proposal has yet to be approved by the Ontario Energy Board.

He must feel vindicated and confident that his support of this multi-million dollar asset giveaway was best for the 55,000 customers of Guelph Hydro.

As the saying goes: “It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings.”

For these reasons my wife and I did not vote for either Mr. Guthrie or Ms. Mlyarz.

If you have not done already we urge you to vote Monday, October 22. Eligible voters have already received their voter card with the location of the poll in each ward. Along with the official voter card, be sure and bring some ID such as driver’s licence, health card, utility bill or your Canadian passport.

Contact the City Clerk’s office. They will be happy to assist voters with information if required.

It’s your city and your vote.

 

 

 

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That nagging flaw acquiring the 1,077-acre Reformatory property, AKA Guelph Innovation District

By Gerry Barker

October 8, 2018

(revised)

There was a flurry recently on Twitter about the Guelph Innovation Secondary plan that was to create a green city in the middle of our city. The plans are detailed and claimed it would house 7,000 residents and provide 9,000 jobs.

City council approved this project May 13, 2014. It was a pet project of former Mayor Karen Farbridge. City staff planners were engaged to develop the detailed layout of the site including housing and commercial development and a street pattern that almost eliminated fossil-fueled vehicles.

The theory was that residents could walk, roller skate or ride their bikes to work right in their own neighbourhood.

Seven years later, the traffic in Guelph is congested twice a day on all major streets and roads as a result of the former administration’s ant-vehicle traffic policies of shrinking vehicle lanes on many major streets to allow bicycle lanes.

In 2011, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FOCM) gave the city a $142,252 grant toward developing the plan. The Guelph planning staff led by General Manager Todd Salter, and General Manager of Economic Development, Peter Cartwright, swung into action employing city staff to work on the project.

It is safe to assume that $142K FOCM’s green grant would not last a year scoping out the project now called the Guelph Innovation District.

But here is the nagging problem

The city does not own the land on which all these development drafts represent an expensive exercise in futility. It is compared to the $16.5 million spent on the Civic Museum built on lands owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton.

A plan of this magnitude would cost some $300 million in today’s dollars not including the cost of purchasing the land. The PC government has said it wants to dispose of provincial lands no longer needed. The Reformatory lands are a rich plum for the province to sell to the highest bidder.

What role would our newly elected Green Party leader, Mike Schreiner, play in this game? Here’s an important local issue that has a full development plan for the 1.077-acre property sitting in the city-planning department

It begs the question: How much has the city spent in seven years on this project that is no closer to realization than it was in 2011?

An educated guess is that the province could value the property at $200,000 per acre and that amounts to $215,540,000. The city could engage in some creative scheme to line up some builders to financially participate. Servicing that debt could cost $7,539,000 @ 3.5 per cent in interest alone and no reduction in principal per year. A revenue source would be the property taxes assessed for the development. However, the carrying costs alone would never be supported by property taxes.

Based on their design they could lease the land to the builders, a la Arboretum, and pay down the costs. This would include servicing the property, plus what has already been spent to prepare the site with the necessary infrastructure and facilities such as police and fire stations, and services buildings.

But in view of the city’s maxed-out financial situation, is it prudent to go into large-scale property developments?

The Guthrie administration has already agreed in principle to spend an estimated $350 million renovating the Baker Street parking lot. This is a ten-year Public Private Participation Plan with long-term liability to the citizens.

For the record here are capital projects already under construction: The Guelph police Services headquarters $34 million renovation; the $22 million Wilson Street parkade next to city hall; the $63 million south end recreation centre; the $53 million new downtown library integrated with the Baker Street redevelopment, the cost to citizens has yet to be revealed; the windup up of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc multi-million financial disaster, the cost of which we may never know.

It’s egregious for the mayor to claim that a new downtown library is a major component of the plan that will not open for ten years, according to reports. Construction is not scheduled to commence until 2024.

It is important that the new council carefully examines these various plans because the city’s growth of debt and liabilities is being placed on the shoulders of future councils.

Mayor Guthrie declared in his Sate of The City address to his friends at the Guelph Chamber of Commerce last February that he was “a numbers guy” who drills down to check the details of a proposal.

His statement that the city was not giving Guelph Hydro away regarding the merger with Alectra Inc. is patently untrue. Perhaps the Mayor should check the batteries in his calculator before making such a claim.

There’s a simple explanation Mr. Mayor, if the Ontario Energy Board approves this deal, name the owner of the assets of Guelph Hydro and holder of the title of that corporation.

Less than two weeks left to Election Day. Please make the most of it and vote for change.

Check out guelphtomorrow.ca for commentary on the election October 22 and post-election news and coverage.

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