By a 6-3 vote council agrees to a staff proposal to spend $197 million on a new operational super garage

By Gerry Barker

October 28, 2019

Opinion

Why did four city councillors not show up to vote spending $197 million on a maintenance and transit garage? Council voted 6-3 to proceed with planning the project which will take 25 years to complete.

The vote was as follows:

IN FAVOUR: Mayor Guthrie, Councillors Allt, Gibson, Goller, Gordon and Hofland (6)

AGAINST: Councillors Bell, Piper and Salisbury (3)

ABSENT FOR VOTE: Councillors Billings, Downer, MacKinnon and O’Rourke (4)

That’s 46.15 per cent of the 13 members elected to council making this decision.

Considering the outcome, why was it so necessary to hold the meeting on federal Election Day?

It happened last Monday night when council met to approve spending $197 million on a new consolidated operations complex next to the Waste Resources Innovation Complex, aka the city dump, off Watson Road.

Council voted to proceed with preliminary planning. It is remarkable that six councillors voted to spend $197 million by 2045. If by some miracle there will be seven successive councils elected and each agrees to continue this plan.

But here is the kicker. Coun. Mike Salisbury seconded the motion to proceed with the project moved by Coun. Dan Gibson. When it was time to vote, Salisbury was one of three councillors voting against the motion.

What happened? Did some councillor say they would second the motion but failed to turn up?

Here is the actual amended motion approved by six councillors:

That staff be directed to proceed with planning and design for a consolidated City Operations Campus consisting of operations facilities for Transit, Operations, Fleet Maintenance, and Corporate Building Maintenance located on the City owned Dunlop Drive property and that the final decision on a new city operations campus be determined following the presentation of a detailed business case and staging plan being provided to Council.

Not even the Government of Canada would commit that amount of money on a single-fixed service facility to be completed in 25 years.

Of course it has been said that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Get out the Togas staff; looks like you will break the Guinness World Record for long-term planning.

Next, a staff proposal to apply another tax levy on taxpayers

I predict the cost will zoom in the next 25 years if all seven successive councils go along with it, based on just inflation to an astronomical $400 million. The affect of inflation impacts on increased labour costs, materials including cement, steel, bricks, lumber, tools, consultants, vehicles, fuel, insurance, finance charges, change orders.

The special levy is estimated to provide $50 million in capital to help pay for the project in the next ten years. This is beginning to smell like that $350 million Baker Street renaissance Private and Public project to include a library. That was a proposal Mayor Guthrie announced before last year’s civic election.

Is this a moon-shot by council?

In view of this latest display of staff self-serving planning, after 18 years when former Mayor Karen Farbridge announced council would build a new downtown library, it appears council has benched it again.

Those six councillors won’t be around to witness the ribbon cutting in 2045. So why would they approve a 25-year project of such magnitude? Is this some magical municipal financial proposal that would be created by David Copperfield … now you see it, and now you don’t?

The preliminary plan, authorized by the six coucillors, focuses on building a new Guelph Transit maintenance and operations facility. That is only estimated to cost $80 million.

How will the administration finance projects already in the pipeline?

What about those two capital projects including the downtown library, ($68 million), the South End Community Centre, ($68 million). That adds up to $136 million. The new well construction project, ($30 million) adding two new deep wells is included in the 2020 capital budget. Not in this list is the $450 million for infrastructure that is currently being financed by one per cent levy on property taxes.

A report published in the Mercury Tribune outlined cost of the South End Community complex of $68 million. In 2021, $58 million will be available chiefly from development charges. That leaves a gap of $10 million. Some of that missing amount has already been spent from city operating funds passed by the previous council. In the 2022 capiital budget there is another $587,140 for maintenance equipment.

Now there is wind of another property tax levy. Pardon my cynicism but when the administration blows $66 million on Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc and gives Guelph Hydro away for pennies on the dollar, what do we expect?

Staff predicts another 60,000 new residents by 2045

Does this group of six councillors seriously believe this is even remotely possible?

They decided these long-range capital projects to justify their egos, loyalty and survival. The city staff is also married to senior management who know what they are doing. Or more likely, are some members of council listening to their supporters and ignoring the financial requirements of such a huge project.

The process started Monday without analysis of how all those other capital projects will be financed. They made a decision that did not include a business plan.

It’s time to serve the people’s immediate needs

I can think of immediate needs for a new dowtown library, plus a major construction of two new wells to supply future needs (already in the 2020 Capital Budget). Is the Guelph Innovation District plan still alive?

The 2020 capital budget is $151.6 million subject to public and council review. The ten-year capital spending forecasts that by 2029 the total will be $1.7 billion.

According to DCAO Trevor Lee: “The ten-year plan is funded based on asset management principles that lays out the long-term investment needs for our city.

Our General Hospital is asking the city for $4.7 million to expand to meet the needs of a growing population.

These are a few of the pressing issues that affect all citizens, not just the working conditions of the staff. Spending $22 million plus on a parking garage next to city hall will basically serve the city employees. More than two-thirds of the parking spaces are only available to monthly users. Guess who they are?

City council has continued to ignore the downtown area. despite the promise by the former mayor that the downtown would be a vibrant and exciting place for everyone.

How did that turn out?

The property tax deal is a hidden subsidy to the U of G

I’ll wrap up this pet beef. When is city council going to influence the provincial government to amend the 32-year property tax deal granted to all post secondary institutions? They only pay $75 a year per registered student in lieu of property taxes.

The University of Guelph has a huge advantage under this outdated plan because it is in the property land rental business, obtaining income from properties it owns along Stone Road plus hundreds of acres currently not in use. That acreage can be leased to developers with no impact on the city property tax deal with the province.

Bottom line is the city receives approximately $1,65 million per year based on 22.000 students in lieu of property taxes. Meanwhile, the University leases it land to developers and the city receives no property tax assessment income.

How does this compare to Linamar’s property taxes with 19 plants operating in the city?

Yet citizens owning property receive annual tax bills that in recent years increases by an average of 3 per cent. In 32 years how much of an increase has the University paid in lieu of property taxes? Zero.

It has been going on for years and Guelph residents are subsidizing city services pertaining to the University and the community college.

This is iniquitous and has not been upgraded since inception to even allow for inflation.

This places a huge burden on city residents who must subsidize transit, infrastructure, police, fire and EMS services to the growing city and university/community college population. In the 2020 budget, the police services board is requesting a 10 per cent increase in the police budget.

By 2045, the staff estimates there will be 60,000 new citizens living here.

It’s something to think about.

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Sometimes the writer has feet of clay

By Gerry Barker

October 24, 2019

Opinion

Well, some days are better than others.

This week it was the federal election in which the Liberals won 157 seats but not a majority.

My prediction that Mr. Dyck of the Green Party, would be elected was not only way off the mark but letting instinct dominate instead of trusting the polls. Mea culpa!

Green Party leader Elizabeth May now had two new MP’s to join her caucus of one.

I totally misjudged the power of the Green Party in Guelph that I felt would be a major factor on election day. Actually, Mike Schreiner, the leader of the Green Part in the Ontario Legislature was a runaway victor becoming a surprising factor in the 2018 provincial election. I presumed it would be a major factor in the Guelph federal election.

Dyck was matched against a Liberal incumbent, Lloyd Longfield, who spent a ton of money and the Green factor vanished.

It baffles me how the political pendulum swings in Guelph. First, the city voters are chiefly interested in progressive issues. Accordingly, the party candidates have owned Guelph federally. For 14 years now, the New Democrats and some Liberals have dominated our municipal administration. .

The loser on Monday was Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, the first member of that party to be elected in Ontario. One would think that he would be busy recruiting candidates and raising money to support National Green Party leader, Elizabeth May. I lost interest when about 11 p.m. I was tired of staring at the TV and the little green box that had the number 1 in it. .

It’s okay Mr. Dyck, my wife and I voted for you.

The NDP pushed hard again along with the Greens for proportional voting that incorporates a ranked ballot where voters select their one, two and third choices. You will recall that the Liberals said they would reform the first past the post system of electing a candidate federally, provincially and municipally.

For four years, it never appeared on the House of Commons order paper.

I believe only British Columbia uses proportional voting. With the current controlling party in B.C. is the minority NDP supported by two elected member of the Green Party.

This minority government is the official opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline to move Alberta crude to new markets rimming the blue waters of the Pacific.

Makes one wonder what Prime Minister elect, Justin Trudeau, will do to get his pipeline built, seeing the party failed to elect a member west of Manitoba.

 

 

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This poll giving the Liberal candidate a 44.1per cent lead lacks the elements of authenticity

By Gerry Barker

October 21, 2019

Opinion

Having being involved in a number of elections, this poll published two days before Monday’s Federal Election, leaves out some fidelity of who ordered it? Who paid for it? Who conducted it?

To be sure, it wasn’t the campaigns of the Green Party, (23.3 per cent) The Conservatives, (21.9 per cent) The NDP, (6.2 per cent) The People’s Party of Canada (3.8 per cent). The opposition parties would never publish this result, if it were true.

The pollsters were IPolitics and Mainstreet Research. Neither appears to be incorporated. Who are the polling employees involved in making the 630 calls on September 30? That was three weeks ago.

That, in itself, makes this poll result useless and inaccurate today.

That’s a long time to publish this alleged data two days before the election.

The poll operators claimed to have a plus or minus error margin of 3.9 per cent.

Okay, how many Guelph voters were called September 30? How were they selected?

It is obvious that the Liberal campaign was in trouble just before election day and asking the Mercury Tribune to publish the result of the poll.

Here’s a personal memory. In 1968, I was the campaign manager for Liberal, Jimmy Walker, who was the party whip in the Pearson government. Jimmy narrowly won in two elections, defeating the NDP in York Centre. The previous win he only won by 33 votes.

This time was different as the NDP nominated newspaper columnist Doug Fisher.

We organized a potent ground team across the riding. Jimmy received a call from Keith Davey, the National organizer for the Liberal Party now led by Pierre Trudeau. We had lunch in a quiet restaurant in North York and Keith swore us to secrecy not to reveal what he was going to tell us. My heart sank but Keith smiled and said: Jim, you’re going to win by more than 30,000 votes according to our polling data.

In fact he won by 33,000 votes. When you are ahead you don’t talk about.

It seems this poll supporting the Liberals in Guelph is deliberately self-serving.

I believe that the electorate in the city has high numbers of progressive supporters. The Liberals have benefited by influencing some of those progressive supporters to vote Liberal. It’s been like that for a long time.

In last year’s provincial election, the Liberal candidate ran fourth in a five-candidate race as the majority of the progressive supporters migrated to the Green Party.

The remaining question about the Liberal campaign supporters is will the Green Party repeat that performance today?

Final Thought: Tonight, Guelph council is holding an emergency meeting starting at 6 p.m. to consider a staff recommendation to spend $197 million on a new consolidated operations campus. Estimated completion time is 2045.

The administration’s response was that it was too difficult to hold it at any other time.

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Council chooses Federal Election Day to approve a $197.4 million on an operations campus suppressing public participation

via Council chooses Federal Election Day to approve a $197.4 million on an operations campus suppressing public participation

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October 17, 2019 · 11:26 am

Council chooses Federal Election Day to approve a $197.4 million on an operations campus suppressing public participation

By Gerry Barker

October 17, 2019

Opinion

Here is the headline in a local media outlet regarding the 2019 capital budget:

Council shows restraint as balanced capital budget presented

It did not explain the degree of “restraint and balanced” in that headline but the number was $87,370,100. It was approved January 17, 2019 at a council meeting held on a Wednesday night.

The 2020 capital budget, (Capex) proposed by staff is $151.6 million or 75 per cent higher.

That was less than ten months ago.

That’s odd. The new announcement recommended by staff for just one project is priced at $197.4 million.

What about the other capital projects, and in today’s costs?

In a news release last Friday, just before the Thanksgiving long weekend, the city administration announced the staff recommendation to spend $197.4 million on a new consolidated operations campus (Opscam) located on a 70-acre site adjacent to the Dunlop Drive waste processing plant.

Hmmm! Was “restraint” exercised here? What happened in the 10 months to select the Federal Election Day as the only date available to conduct a special meeting?

How many closed-sessions were conducted to shut down any criticism from the media or the public?

It’s funny that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Let’s take a look at the capital projects that have epithet been staff recommendations or already approved by council:

The Downtown Library –                       $67.7 million

South End Recreation Complex          $69.3 million

Two new wells construction                  $30 million

Wilson Street Parkade                        $22 million

New Operational Campus                    $197.4 million

Guelph Innovation District                 $12 million

Infrastructure                               $450 million

Total         $844.4 million<

Estimated Soft costs not included     $84 million

* Time of completion of Oscar – 2045

Staff predicted 2045 city population – 192,000 – Is the growing part-time contingent population of University and College students included?

Just what are soft costs?

I call them the unintended consequence costs that include inflation effect on long term projects; developer fees used for capital costs; consultant, legal and licensing fees; connections to vital city services including water, electricity, sewer, treatment and processing facilities; performance of contract costs; increased cost of police, fire and EMS to service the growing city; changing financial costs; insurance; reduced senior government support.

Then there are the change orders in a capital project that can be under contraction for years. Look no further than the Urbacon new city hall project, (six years) during which the administration ordered more than 300 contract changes.

I am aware that these capital projects do not always happen together and are started at different dates. That is, a different council for different reasons can change the Capex schedule.

I believe in long-term capital planning but why do I get this queasy feeling that the downtown library is not included this year or next or the year after that?

Using development charges to finance Capex projects

For some time now, Guelph has jacked up developer fees intended for the soft cost charges. Instead, the fees are used as a source of funding capital projects. That’s why Mayor Guthrie complained about the Ford government’s plan to limit development fees charged by many municipalities.

The Premier was concerned that these municipal- imposed development changes were inhibiting the growth of badly needed housing in the province, particularly the major cities.

The threat could kill the goose that has laid the golden eggs in previous projects, including the police HQ renovations to be completed in December, five years after a Capex cost of $34 million being authorized by council in 2014.

So, how are we going to pay for these capital projects?

ell, let’s start with the $197.4 for the operational campus that the staff report says will be completed by 2045. Also, if council approves the $197.4 project next Monday, some $11million provided in the new 2020 capital budget to launch the 25-year project.

The staff report stated that the new Guelph Transit facility would cost $80 million to bee spent between 2024 and 2028. That does not include the $11 million proposed in the 2020 capital budget.

The city is expecting senior government grants for the new transit facility of $34.7 million as part of infrastructure programs. The remainder of funding will come from development fees ($58.2 million) and tax reserve funds of (99 million).

There is no explanation of what and when these funds are available.

If the tax reserve fund has $99 million sitting in the reserve, why have successive city administrations increased property taxes more than 3 per cent every year plus the one per cent infrastructure levy?

If that’s true, then I want a property tax rebate.

This proposal binds future councils to a Capex agenda not of their making

This is a sloppy 25-year Capex commitment that breathlessly ignores today’s capital needs (see list above) and not 25 years from now.

It is apparent that the staff and council do not want public participation in this major decision. That’s why the meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. next Monday, Federal Election Day.

It’s when most people sit down for supper. Then there are hundred of citizens engaged in the election. Some voters will miss the meeting to go to the polls and cast their ballot.

By the time the polls close, the emergency special meeting will be over because council has already decided it previously possibly in closed-sessions.

City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien, the senior staffer in charge of planning, arranging council meetings and reporting the minutes, said that it was too difficult to hold the special meeting on another day.

It was general knowledge among most Canadians that the federal election had to take place in October. When Parliament was dissolved and the writ dropped, there were more than six weeks to avoid calling the meeting on Election Day.

Vote suppression is not unique to Guelph

So, here’s my take. Mr. O’Brien did not make this decision on his own. The Mayor and some members of council expressed their view that, I suggest, was purely political to avoid the disasterus public reaction the night council approved giving Guelph Hydro away to Alectra.

I believe this was a classic move to suppress public opinion and participation.

Why was the meeting date announced Friday the day before the Thanksgiving weekend? How was that decision made and by whom?

Why start the meeting at 6 p.m. when citizens are busy and involved in the election?

It can be no surprise that a project of this size and projected cost, based on the needs of the next five years of capital projects presents a political danger if the public is allowed to participate. Not at the end of the planning but details produced during the gestation period. And this did not occur overnight.

Again it is a deliberate move to pretend the public was informed and participated but it’s all a shameful display of misused power.

It’s a lesson that this city administration has yet to learn or even advocate.

 

 

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Next Monday, Is there a minority federal government in the making?

By Gerry Barker

October 15, 2019

Opinion

As of today, there are seven days remaining before Canadians go to the polls to elect a new federal government.

The pollsters measuring the mood and intent of the electorate, it would appear that two parties are neck and neck to form the next government.

For the most part, the Liberals have maintained a hairline edge over the Conservatives, whose leader, Andrew Scheer, who if elected with the most seats in Parliament, could be the first Canadian Prime Minister with dual citizenship having two passports, U.S. and Canada.

Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has fought back against the tide of Tory attacks on his character and performance. At the beginning of the campaign, Trudeau faced a barrage of criticism that because he wore blackface in a school play, he was a racist. The PM apologized and that may have helped the right wing of the Conservatives but put Mr. Scheer in an awkward position as leader of the Tories.

The issue, if one could call it that, disappeared in the void of much ado about nothing.

But the Trudeau government had warts on their record. These included the still not resolved investigation of his Attorney General and the Health Minister of interference of the Privy Council in carrying out their responsibilities. The issue was the large Canadian Engineering Company SNC Lavalin, based in Quebec, that was facing serious charges for kickbacks to various government officials and corporate malfeasance.

The PM said that it was necessary to avoid confronting the company because it could cost thousands of jobs in Canada ever though the company operated in many parts of the world.

Regardless, a member of senior SNC Lavalin executives left the company or was charged in other jurisdictions.

The Trudeau government’s failed treatment of containing refugees who walked across the border with no qualifications seeking asylum. In fact, Canada allowed more refugees into Canada without prior vetting or information than the U.S on 2017. It is important for Canada to allow immigration to replace those who have departed and to meet the nees of a growing economy including agriculture.

Despite this, I believe Prime Minister Trudeau is the best choice to again lead the new government in Ottawa. At dissolution, there were 185 Liberal member of the House of Commons, 106 Conservatives, 43 NDP and two Green Part members.

Given that the incumbent Liberals would normally be re-elected, there are circumstances this year that indicate the race will be closer than 2015.

Steven Dyck of the Green Party who has waged a strong campaign supported by MPP Mike Schreiner may represent the Guelph riding outcome, next Monday night.

Confession time: My wife and I voted for Mr. Dyck in the advance poll. Mr. Longfield, despite spending thousands of dollars starting last spring to be re-elected.

Our rejection of this member is basic. Just after he was elected, I hand delivered a letter to his Guelph office that I asked for his input of why the CRA was withholding money for taxes when withdrawing funds exceeded the imposed limit for that particular year. Registered Retirement Funds (RIF) are designed to provide income to the owner of the fund when required.

In my opomion, this policy discrininates against those who may need more income ito live as costs rise in various parts of the country. One size does not fit all.

In our situation, over the years, we experienced 20 per cent tax withheld in most withdrawals. Of course the withheld funds were a tax credit when jiling nthe return in April the following year but the need for funds occurred the previous year.

My letter was respectful and I counted on our new Member of Parliament to reply.

I never received even an acknowledgement of my request.

More Predictions

The Green Party could be the party needed for support if either the Liberals or Tories fail to obtain a majority.

Maxime Bernier’s Canada Party will steal some seats from the Conservative in Western Canada and Quebec.

The Liberals will face losses in Alberta and Ontario to the Conservatives and NDP.

After receiving approval of the federal Environmental Authorities, the failure of the Trudeau government to start building the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion has threatened support in Western Canada. It owns the lands on which the pipeline will be added to an existing one, to move crude oil to the Blue Water Pacific for shipment and export to new markets.

There are too many hurdles being thrust upon the Federal government to open new markets for selling our oil to both the Pacific and Atlantic ports. We are too dependent on the U.S. markets that depress prices of our natural resources.

I know that this is going to anger the climate-change proponents but Canada is not the only country shipping crude and refined petroleum products. The Middle East countries, have been capitalizing on shipping oil at top prices exploit fossil fuel use around the world.

Canada’s carbon contribution is about two per cent of the world’s carbon distribution. But there are other elements in the overload of carbon in to atmosphere. Start with the 262 active volcanoes in the world that spew huge quantities of Carbon Dioxide and other noxious gases, lava and dust.

Or why does the Brazilian government promote destruction of the massive Amazon rain forest? It absorbs carbon for growth and the creatures in the wetlands. Why did this occur because the government wants to produce pasture for live animal production?

Oil will be an important element un the world’s economy for years to come.

Controlling excessive carbon dispersal of our planet will be any ongoing International effort to clean up our mess.

As Canadians, we must participate in the global needs in an organization that will create programs and execute the efforts to reduce carbon so our planet is secure.

Unfortunately, I do not have faith in the United Nations to take on this global task.

We are a big country with a sophisticated political system that is a world leader in human structure, rule of law and a responsible population with resources available to most people.

Next Monday, make sure you vote to make us stronger and proud of our great country.

There isn’t another country in the world that’s like us. We are so blessed.

 

 

 

 

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Nothing nefarious or backhanded here Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie tells concerned citizens

via Nothing nefarious or backhanded here Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie tells concerned citizens

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October 10, 2019 · 9:59 am