By Gerry Barker
April 20, 2020
Last month when City Hall was shut down along with other facilities and businesses the permanent staffers was told to go home but they would be paid regardless.
The city was shut down to stop the spread of the Covid 19 respiratory virus
Now this represents a jumble of rules applicable to layoffs, retirements and separation. It’s anyones guess who and how many are still receiving their money, paid by those taxpayers.
But the city layed off 601 part-time and casual employees. They will now be eligible for Employment Insurance. The taxpayers still foot the bill. All those property taxpayers who pay for their city employee’s benefit may also be in a position not able to pay mortgages, vat and credit card expenses.
That decision did not include the first responders, Police Fire and EMS who carried out their responsibilities. Their risk of getting the Covid 19 virus was extremely high and they carried on despite a shortage of protecting safety equipment that the medical teams were wearing.
The shortages of this vital equipment seriously affected the medical staff as Ontario was not prepared for the onslaught of the Covid 19.
Ontario responded by shutting down the province to stop the spread of the disease. But it has become obvious that the most vulnerable citizens are those aged more than 70, many of whom are living in nursing homes.
The Bobcaygon nursing home tragedy in which some 28 residents have died. Other nursing homes in the province are coping with the threat of exposure to Covid 19.
In Guelph, there appears to be little information about the disease’s infiltration into our community including the city-owned Elliot senior facility.
It should be noted that the medical front-line staffs have also faced the risk of being infected and they have carried on.
This is the essence of courage and nobility.
In early February, I was a pre-Covid patient in the Guelph General Hospital. I suffered a serious lung infection and placed in isolation. I cannot praise the medical staff enough for the care before Covid 19 struck.
A few days before I was discharged, an echo cardiogram test revealed I had a faulty valve in the aortic chamber of my heart.
I was sent to St. Mary’s hospital in Kitchener for assessment of an operation called a Tavi. The cardio team decided to reschedule the assessment until April 27. Stay tuned.
After being quarantined at home for six weeks, the status reports missing are the Covid 19 effect on Guelph and surrounding communities in Wellington County.
Where is our Mayor?
The Mayor seems to have disappeared and the print media does not report the Covid 19 status and its affect on the city.
There has been no Covid 19 reporting. Could it be that the Medical Officer of Health for Guelph, Wellington and Dufferin, decided not to reveal the daily status to the quarantined public?
But the bills must be paid and there is a property tax installment for many citizens coming up at the end of this month. Has the city made any provision to allow deferment of taxes with no late payment charges?
Two major Canadian municipalities have stated the financial situation is serious. The Mayor of Vancouver said his city is within two weeks of insolvency.
His concern was shared by the Mayor of Mississauga, who said diminishing property tax revenue leave few options left to balance its books as mandated by the province.
She did say the city reserves were in good shape but most were dedicated for specific expenses.
The option of transfering capital funds to operational funds to shore up city finances is not an option.
Talk to us Mr. Mayor
Whoever is in charge of the city administration should be informing the citizens of the financial status and what they are doing about it.
This current council used closed-session meetings. The previous administration, regularly used reserve funds to balance its books.
One glaring example was the more than $5 million taken from three dedicated reserve funds. It was part of the $23 million contract overrun. A wrongful dismissal lawsuit was brought by three general contractors who were ordered off the site before the project was completed.
Council also has used developer fees for city capital projects.
Instead the administrations philosophy of doing whatever it chooses is amoral and possibly illegal.
Meanwhile, the citizens, businesses, schools, city services, excluding the first responders and and medical services’ personnel are struggling to treat the Covid 19 victims.
For some five weeks of the city shutting down, the fact is the first victim is the truth in the war battling the Covid 19 virus.
With reduced taxes, how does Guelph pay the largest portion of its operationl budget with the full-time staff sent home?
There are three choices: Borrow from the bankers, take money from the reserves or raise taxes.
Why aren’t those in charge talking?
The problem is we live in a news-less environment in Guelph where the tiny number of news gatherers are dependent upon news releases from city hall’s team of communicators.
It does matter to question the catalogue of decisions that mask the details of a pandemic that affects every citizen. Those who face financial stress living in almost total isolation, not knowing how to pay the mortgage, put food on the table or pay ther bills’
Worse is not knowing when it all ends.
If the newspaper is uncomfortable reporting this, why not use more public money and report the status of the Covid 19 virus in the Tribune’s “City News” eve ary week?
Let the finger pointing begin.