Guelph’s management of the Covid 19 pandemic is crumbling our way of life

By Gerry Barker

April 27, 2020

Opinion

How is the city shutdown working for you?

President Trump calls the U.S. response to the Covid 19 virus as a war.

He says he is not responsible for the late entry of the Covid 19 pendemic in America.

The United States’ late entry into World Wars 1 and 2 reflects the action of the current president in the 20th century. The U.S entered the conflict in world wars I and I1 years later than Britain, Canada and the commonwealths. Those nations were fighting the Axis fascist armies all over Europe and in the Far East.

The braggadocio of Trump only exacerbates his abject failure ignoring the early warnings of his own intelligence agencies.

The growing pandemic currently at 51,000 Civid 19 related deaths, in the U.S., is resident on Donald Trump’s reputation.

Meanwhile, how is Guelph doing?

The draconian measures imposed across the country mirrors our national image of respect of our government leaders and recognizes the worthiness of obeying the necessary shutdown of our community.

Yes, we are different from our southern neighbours. For example, Canada is one of 11 highly developed nations in the world that have universal health care for all citizens.

The one exception is the United States, bragging it has the finest medical system in the world but it still costs more than $30,000 to have a baby in most states.

The ghost council meeting

Monday, April 20, city council met that prevented the public from attending. It was a surreal meeting with public participation only allowed by registered delegates to participate by telephone.

On Monday night, councillors were forced, by telephone, to answer the questions by the registered delegates. For once it worked, as councillors were forced to respond to questions by the Bell brigade. In normal times, delegates are given five minutes to present their case. Most often councillors do not respond

I recall the night council voted to give Guelph Hydro away. There were 22 public delegates who presented sound reasons to delay the decision so the public could assess the proposal. Dead response.

Last Monday, my favourite response to a question was stating that cutting staff positions was needed. Coun. Phil Allt’s follow-up response referred to the American Marshal Plan that rebuilt a ravaged Europe following World War II, 75 years ago.

“I’m more interested in a Marshall Plan than slash and burn. The new relevant measures were passed by council unanimously,” he said.

There you have it, The Allt Plan to rebuild Guelph. It helps when we learn the city has a new credit facility of $50 million to handle the short fall of revenues. The cost of delaying property taxes and other expenses until the end of July is already approved to cost $9 million.

The band-aid approach to managing our money

It was necessary to defer property taxes and a number of other items to keep the city running. But questions arise:

What is the status of the reserve funds and are there any that can be used to slow the bleeding of revenue, some of which may not be recoverable?

Has the city suspended capital spending?

Are the citizens entitled to a deferral of electricity, water, wastewater and storm water deductions, as are the property taxpayers?

Is council holding any closed-session meetings during the shut down?

Are all city subsidies and donations suspended, including Guelph Transit?

Are all pending infrastructure and construction contracts reviewed and suspended until the pandemic threat is reduced to allow projects to proceed?

The federal and provincial governments have introduced programs to subsidize employees laid off. Why are city taxpayers picking up the tab of continuing to pay permanent employees? These are not slash and burn actions but prudent measures to reduce costs during this record-breaking pandemic.

As usual, Guelph resident, Pat Fung, made suggestions to reduce municipal staff to ameliorate primary expenses of the city operating budgets.

Guelph’s largest industry, Linamar, has layed off the staff in 19 plants. It is the largest property taxpayer in the city.

Contrast that example with the University of Guelph that has the benefit of an archaic system applied to every University and Community college in the Province for 37 years.

Here’s the deal: The U of G, the largest property owner in the city, pays $75 for each registered student in lieu of property taxes. It is estimated to be $1.7 million per year. The $75 rate is unchanged since being introduced by the province.

The university is not only sitting on a goldmine in undeveloped land but is the landlord of commercial and residential lands along Stone Road. These leased lands provide a regular stream of cash to the university

So why are the taxpayers also subsidizing the university? The city provides police, fire and EMS services, the hospitals, chiefly Guelph General, Guelph Transit, public health, bike lanes, water and sewer infrastructure, construction, and repairs to support the growing university and facilities.

I’d be curious to learn more of Coun. Allt’s “ Marshall Plan” for Guelph.

Is the Mayor missing in action?

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