By Gerry Barker
November 12, 2018
In a little more than two weeks, the newly elected city council will take command.
The October civic election sent 11 incumbent members back to council plus two newcomers. Rodrigo Goller and Dominique O’Rourke.
So, nothing has changed when change remains more needed now than in the previous four years.
The seven progressive members of council still hold the majority and will for the next four years. While the Mayor worked to establish a slate to create a personal majority to offset the power of the Leftists, it failed. What occurred was Ms. O’Rourke replaced Mr. Wettstein and Mr. Goller replaced Mr. Van Hellemond.
The voter turnout was one of the lowest in many years with some 57,054 out of 90,786 eligible voters who did not bother.
The only explanation is that those voting absentees must be satisfied the city was in good hands. Or, many were not informed of the issues, present company excepted. Between the communications staff at City Hall and various online bloggers, the organic action of city council was rarely, if ever, reported.
So let’s review: Unfortunately, right now there is faint hope that the new city council will address the mistakes of the past and reform needed governance and financial issues. There is no evidence that those elected incumbents will stop clinging to their failed concepts that have already wasted millions.
For starters, and this is information that you will not find anywhere in the softball media serving Guelph, is the financial asset listed in the official City of Guelph audited Consolidated Position as of December 31, 2017. The listing was the asset of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) of $66,341,000.
Did you ever read or hear about that?
So the next question is: What happened to that $66,341,000 in 2018? Guess we’ll have to wait for the 2018 official financial statement that will be published sometime next year.
But here is what I believe occurred.
In February 2017, the little known Strategies and Options Committee, (SOC) was appointed by city council to study the disposal of Guelph Hydro that operated under the GMHI board of directors. Initially, the SOC was composed of joint chairmen Chief Administrative Officer (CA) Derrick Thomson and CEO Pankaj Sardana, Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Hydro. There were three other non-elected public members.
Their mandate was to sell Guelph Hydro, or amalgamate with another municipally owned electric power distribution system or merge with a large power distribution corporation.
That February meeting of SOC removed the sale of Guelph Hydro as a consideration. What followed was a purge in which Mr. Sardana was removed and replaced by Ms. Jane Armstrong, chair of Guelph Hydro. One of three committee members resigned later stating he was opposed to taking the sale of Guelph Hydro off the table.
The GMHI Board of Directors consisted of Mayor Karen Farbridge as Chair, Councillors Lise Burcher, June Hofland, Karl Wettstein and Todd Dennis plus two non-elected civilian members. The CEO was CAO Ann Pappert. Ms.Papert left her job as CAO May 26, 2016.
Keep in mind that the SOC meetings were held in closed-sessions. GMHI did not produce regular summary of operations, financial statements, objectives or recommendations to council.
Not until October 2017, when Mayor Guthrie announced an agreement in principal to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc., a large power distribution corporation for several Greater Toronto Municipalities.
All it took was $2.36 million of your money to convince council
Yes, that was what the city spent promoting the deal with town halls, telephone surveys and an online document, the size of the Toronto telephone book, with little substance or financial details. Hard copies of the multi-page book was only available to a few key people. Certainly few of the 55,000 Guelph Hydro customers read the this online-based document, presented just 12 days before the council meeting that approved the deal.
More of your tax dollars at work
Slam Dunk! No details except a glowing endorsement from the Mayor about what a great deal the city had made. In December, city council approved the deal, still under negotiation, by a 10 to 3 margin and the rest is history.
The only evidence that exists today, following the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) approval, four days before the civic election, is the statement by the OEB that Alectra Utilies was purchasing all the outstanding, shares and issues of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc, aka Guelph Hydro.
Key word here is “purchasing.” Could it be that the price happened to be $66 million of GMHI as shown on the city’s 2017 financial statement?
Is this what council traded to get out from under the GMHI financial disaster?
All along Mayor Guthrie has stipulated that Guelph Hydro is not being given away.
So why did he not tell the truth and refuse to reveal the financial details?
We may never know except that the $66 million asset of GMHI had better be part of the city’s assets in the 2018 financial statements. I’m betting it may still be there because the merger with Alectra closes January 31 2019. It will take another 18 months before the money disappears from the city books.
By then Guelph Hydro will no longer exist.
I still maintain that Alectra got the bargain of the century. Guelph city council looked like hicks at the circus approving this flawed merger concocted by highly skilled lawyers with little oversight of our representatives..
Of course, the new council should tell us what really happened to that $66 million asset on the city nooks in terms that citizens understand.