By Gerry Barker
May 27, 2019
Is it my imagination or is Mayor Cam Guthrie seeking a higher calling?
It is becoming clear that the Mayor has an agenda to seek higher office.
Here is one example.
Last year’s jumble of the Progressive Conservation leadership debacle led up to the provincial election last June 7. In those uncertain times, Mayor Guthrie, actively campaigned behind the scenes, seeking the PC nomination by acclamation bypassing the nominating convention required by the riding association.
He had already announced that he was running for Mayor of Guelph in the October civic election. He said he loved Guelph and his job as Mayor. He presented his documents on the first day the civic election nominations opened.
In October, he won in a landslide against the NDP backed candidate who ran third in the provincial election. You remember that one that the Ontario NDP launched the fake “orange Wave” claiming the province was going to elect an NDP government.
Instead, the PC’s won 73 seats to form the government and Doug Ford became Premier.
As for Cam Guthrie’s secret ambition to be elected to the Legislature, the huge victory of Mike Schreiner, leader of the Ontario Green Party, saved Guthrie’s future. The Green Party spent $119,0000 to elect Schreiner who won with 29,000 votes.
By comparison, Mayor Guthrie’s official financial statement contained the names of 100-persons who donated some $88,000 to his 2018 mayoralty campaign.
Was it an accident or just good luck?
Call it an accident from which Guthrie could walk away and he kept his job.
The bottom line is, why did the Mayor disguise his intention to run for the Ontario Legislature as a PC? He is, or perhaps was, a well-known Conservative supporting both the federal and Ontario branches of the party. Why did Guthrie deceived the Guelph voters claiming he wanted to be re-elected Mayor while trying to get the nomination for another?
Mayor Guthrie has moved along in his path to high office. As a member of the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus he was elected chairman of the group.
This past week, the Mayor told Guelph Today that the provincial government policies “could” jeopardize building the South End Community Centre and a new Downtown library.
Earlier he commented that the Ford government was using stealth techniques to divert public attention.
“I am very, very concerned,” he said, commenting that so are most municipalities.
So what’s the actual beef here?
The Ford government has floated a proposal to lower municipal developers’ fees. This has thrown some municipalities into a tizzy.
Here’s why, and Guelph has been misusing developer fees for funding capital projects. That is not the purpose of developer fees. It’s about infrastructure connections, increasing public safety personnel and public services impact of new development.
“ Our priorities would have to be re-looked at and it would have to be filtered through an affordability lens of what our taxpayers could handle,” warning this could happen if the municipal developer fees are reduced by the Ford government.
The big problem is the South End Community Centre
Council has already tapped the taxpayers to start the preliminary planning and design of the centre to the tune of $3.5 million. That’s a commitment toward spending the estimated $63 million to complete the project.
Here’s a clue of how council spends your developer fees.
“To be blunt, the Mayor continued. “The taxpayers should not have to front these costs.”
He goes on to state that the new main library will cost more than $50 million and 35 per cent of that was to be funded through development charges. That works out to be $17.9 million to come from development charges.
Here’s the beef.
If indeed, the Ford government mandates lowering municipal development fees, that $17.9 million will increase creating a financial gap for taxpayers to pick up.
In my opinion this is smoke and mirrors. And here’s why.
The long-awaited downtown library is part of the initial estimated cost of the $300 million Baker Street renovation project. The plan is to have costs shared between the city and a private developer. This sharing arrangement details have not been revealed.
This project is to start in 2024 and will take six to seven years to complete. Best estimates is that will be 11 years from now.
The South End project is at least five years to complete once the financing is secure. Hello taxpayers!
Then the city is about to enter an auction of the reformatory lands, aka Guelph Innovation Development lands. The plan is to develop a 245-acre satellite green community that city staff has been working on since 2013. The cost of this is unknown.
Depending on the city’s bid, this is an international invitation to bid on the property owned by the province.
It is understandable of the fallout if the province reduces the developer’s fees.
What taxpayers need to know is why are development fees being used to finance major capital projects that are mostly far over the horizon in terms of years.
The taxpayer and those charged user fees cannot continue to pay for big buck projects when it cannot fix the pot holes or pick up the garbage in parts of the city.
Guelph’s tax rates have averaged more than three per cent per year for the past 12 years greater when compared to similar-sized cities.
Perhaps Guthrie has the right idea, move up and leave the problems to someone else.