By Gerry Barker
September 18, 2019
Today is my 89th birthday.
My wife, Barbara Barker, and I have lived in Guelph since March 2003. We have paid our taxes and service fees on time and been responsible and peaceful citizens.
However, today is special. I have filed, with the guidance of counsel, an appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeals. It is based on Superior Court Justice Cynthia Peterson’s denial of my motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit launched in 2016, by former Deputy Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi.
The following is the real story why taxpayers, including my wife and I, are paying the legal expenses of a former employee. It has been a 33-month legal journey to which no citizen should ever be subjected.
I will leave it to citizens to judge what really happened to cause this hugely expensive and frivolous lawsuit and why.
In the beginning we moved to a new home in Guelph 16 years ago
I became interested in municipal politics when I was invited to assist former Mayor Kate Quarrie in her re-election bid in 2006. I remember that just before the election, Kate welcomed people coming to the new Wal-Mart store on Woodlawn. It was the end of a long and costly legal battle to prevent the store from opening.
The opposition came from a consortium of trade unions that over 11 years, campaigned and financed the effort to stop Wal-Mart from opening stores in Canada, not just Guelph. In my view, the unions were close to restricting trade in claiming that Wal-Mart was a low paying operation for employees.
Just prior to the 2006 civic election, I approached the Guelph Mercury to write a column on the editorial page every three weeks called “Between the Lines.” It developed into a commentary that was critical of the city administration and operations. I was fired in 2011. The management of the paper did not like my new online blog. For that matter, neither did the Mayor or her administration.
Today, over a period of almost five years, I have written many columns for the Mercury and more that 1,000 posts on my blog, guelphspeaks.ca.
The City loses lawsuit against Urbacon Buildings Group Inc.
In 2014, I commented frequently on the case of Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. versus the City of Guelph. Simply, the city fired Urbacon September 18, 2008 ordering the company off the new city hall project. The building was 95 per cent completed. Still to be completed was the renovations to the old city hall into a provincial offenses court.
It was easy to remember that firing because it was my birthday.
Urbacon sued the city for $19.2 million. The city countersued for $5 million. The trial started in Superior Court January 2013 in Brampton.
As a result, the city lost the lawsuit in March 2014 brought by Urbacon. CAO Ann Pappert announced following the civic election in October, that the new city hall project cost $23 million more than the original contract of $42 million. The whole affair took more than six years to settle.
Mayor Karen Farbridge and some of her supporting councillors were either defeated or retired.
It was a shock to numbers of supporters that their leader was defeated.
This set the stage for revenge, and finger-pointing as to why it happened.
2015 became the year of administrative chaos
Two events occurred that affected taxpayers. First, there was the finalizing of the 2015 budget in which council approved a property tax increase of 3.96 per cent. This was done by a majority of councillors despite the new Mayor’s pledge to keep property tax increases to that of the Consumer Price Index. It was 1.11 per cent in 2014.
The second event was the launching of an investigation of a Ward 6 candidate who reported receiving $400 from the citizen’s activist group GrassRoots Guelph. Susan Watson, an NDP supporter and friend of the former Mayor, brought the action. The city committee hired an independent Toronto lawyer to investigate whether the GRG donation was legal or not. My wife and I were ordered to appear before him. His decision was conclusive and ruled the donation was legal.
The decision cost the city an estimated $11,000 and the initiator of the charge aimed at GrassRoots Guelph, Ms. Watson, was not held responsible.
Newly elected Mayor, Cam Guthrie, was forced to deal with a major problem that had not surfaced during the 2014 election. He also inherited a majority of council who were supporters of the Farbridge leadership and agenda.
Taking over as chair of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI), he discovered that under the former mayor’s GMHI leadership of four years, there was evidence that it had lost millions. During the course of secret progress, GMHI also absorbed Guelph Hydro and its subsidiary, Envida Community Energy Inc.
For four years, two people were in complete control of the city Corporation, GMHI and Guelph Hydro Electric Services; the control corporation of all Guelph Hydro assets. Mayor Karen Farbridge and CAO Ann Pappert held all the lines of power. The downside was that most of the GMHI Board of Director’s meetings were conducted in closed-sessions.
There was no accountability, transparency or open government. Worse, nobody knew what was going on except for a clutch of chosen officials, including four members of city council, all Farbridge loyalists, who kept their mouths shut including, Councillors June Hofland, Karl Wettstein, Todd Dennis and Lise Burcher.
The irony was that many senior city staff was not aware of the GMHI situation. In July 2016, the city staff presented a devastating report detailing the true picture of the GMHI collapse and financial disaster.
GMHI was responsible for a variety of projects including installation of solar panels on public buildings, installing natural gas-driven pumps in the Sleeman Centre and Hanlon Business Park. The plan was to generate electricity and pump hot and cold water to five nearby buildings to the Sleeman Centre, from geo-thermal underground sources.
Later, GMHI purchased land from the city to build a natural gas, generating plant to help make Guelph self sufficient in power, currently sourced off the provincial grid.
The Guthrie administration held 42 closed-session council meetings in 2015 in the first year. What was discussed has never been revealed, nor has Ann Pappert’s participation.
Here’s what we do know
FACT: In August 2015, the General Manager of Human Resources said that Ms. Pappert requested payment of her unused sick day and vacation benefits. The GM, when asked by city Coun. Cathy Downer in August 2016 said that Pappert received a $27,000 retroactive performance bonus that was applied to her 2015 salary package. Ms. Pappert had left the city job May 26,2016.
FACT: We now know that Ann Pappert, Derrick Thomson, and Mark Amorosi divided $98,202 in 2015 with the bulk of it going to Ms. Pappert of some $37,000 over her 2014 salary. Not included in these figures are the taxable benefits that each received.
FACT: All these amounts were approved at a closed-session council meeting December 10, 2015. They were retroactive for 2015. DCAO Mark Amorosi confirmed this date. He later stated in a sworn affidavit, that council did not approve staff salary increases. Only the CAO performed that task. Who was the CAO December 10, 2015? It was Ann Pappert.
I attempted to obtain the minutes of that meeting and four months after making the request it was denied by the city’s special closed-session investigator. So much for accountability.
FACT: in late December, council, again in closed-session, approved a bylaw that indemnified all employees and elected officials by paying their legal expenses in their capacity as public employees or elected officials. To be clear, this bylaw, in my opinion, does not cover the case where the employee is paid to sue a citizen.
That being the case, that interpretation of the bylaw’s purpose was approved by the administration and used by Mr. Amorosi in his lawsuit against me. This precedent opens the door to become open season on anyone publicly criticizing the performance or disagreeing with public policies. Any employee or elected official could sue anyone with all legal expenses paid by the taxpayers.
FACT: Details of both these closed-session council meetings were not revealed to the public. The bylaw wording was available but no details of the discussions or a record of the votes cast.
Only a judicial inquiry into the GMHI failure and merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities could reveal the answers. In my considered opinion, it is the only way to get at the truth of the mismanagement of the city’s business.
FACT: The three senior managers, in the 2015 provincial Sunshine List, published March 2016, were compared to the three salary levels in 2014 that revealed the $98,202 salary increases and taxable benefits.
FACT: CAO Ann Pappert resigned in April 2016 and vacated her job May 26, 2016.
FACT: Two devastating reports in May and July 2016 by GMHI and city staffs revealed the serious financial status of GMHI. It is noted that Ms. Pappert co-signed the May 16 report presented by Pankaj Sardana, her successor at GMHI as Chief Executive Officer with financial responsibilities.
The report was blunt in that it declared that GMHI was no longer a viable city-owned asset chiefly due to gross mismanagement and an unrealistic business plan. Just ten days later, Ms. Pappert gave notice of resignation.
FACT: In June 2016, Derrick Thomson was named Chief Administrative Officer of the city of Guelph. He announced he had agreed to a three-year contract earning $230,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,300.
GMHI audit by KPMG shows a $66 million shareholder’s liability
Later, the accounting firm, KPMG audited the consolidated finances of GMHI and reported there was a $66 million shareholder’s liability. This was how the citizens of Guelph, through their council acting as shareholders, had financed GMHI for more than four years.
Both staff reports used the accounting term “impaired assets.” This meant that there was no possible way that GMHI could recover that $66 million because it operated at a loss and never repaid the principal or any interest advanced by the shareholders, that is city council. One curious wrinkle GMHI claimed was that it provided a dividend to the city for $1,500 annually.
Is it possible that the city was involved in a version of a Ponzi scheme, taking funds from one pocket and returning some of it back to another pocket?
Recapping the story so far
In 2010, following Ms. Farbridge’s re-election, GMHI, whose assets included ownership of the Guelph Junction Railroad right of way, became the corporation reflecting the mayor’s vision driven agenda.
This included creating changes in power sources, waste collection, delivering underground heating and cooling of water to five buildings, restricting vehicles to eliminate fossil-fueled emissions to help save the planet from destruction by humans.
One might say those ideas were admirable, ambitious but not affordable, as it turned out.
In fact, the cost was losing Guelph Hydro, an efficient, profitable and successful asset, to a private, third party organization for pennies on the dollar. The Guthrie administration stubbornly never explained why this asset was sold or the details of the so-called merger. While details of the deal were never disclosed, the deal closed in January, this year.
Simply put, this was a convoluted, secret operation controlled by the two top leaders of the city administration from 2011 to 2014. There were no checks or balances to oversee what was happening to GMHI, or Guelph Hydro. The city staff reacted as some of the details came out but it was too late.
A surprising pay out for services
FACT: Ms. Pappert, according to the March 2017 Sunshine List, was paid $263,000 for 2016 when she was employed for only five months.
FACT: In January 2016, prior to the publishing of his 2015 salary, Derrick Thomson resigned to take a job with the Town of Caledon.
FACT: In August 2016, I was served with a notice demanding an apology for comments made in guelphspeaks.ca, that was critical of Mark Amorosi’s role in the secret payout of $98,202 for Ms. Pappert, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson. I declined, despite being threatened with a defamation lawsuit.
FACT: At the time of receiving the demand for an apology from Amorosi’s lawyer, I was not aware of the city’s indemnification bylaw of employees that was passed in closed-session in December 2015 and not made public.
Eventually, my counsel received a copy and it was clear that it applied only when an employee or elected representatives were faced with legal action as a result of their performance. Specifically, it did not cover any employee suing a citizen for defamation.
Comment: Accordingly, the citizens of Guelph are paying the legal bills of a former employee thereby supporting a lawsuit initiated by Amorosi against a citizen who has had to spend thousands of dollars to defend himself.
Is this the role of the city administration? To use public funds to support an employee who knew in advance his legal expenses would be paid by the city? Further, why are his legal bills being paid after being fired for cause? That occurred just two and one half months after filing his lawsuit.
Just wondering. Did the city pay former Chief Building Inspector Brice Poole’s legal expenses when he was forced to sue the city for wrongful dismissal? Guess that indemnification bylaw did not apply in that case.
Why do I get the feeling that the city did pay Mr. Poole a substantial settlement?
Begins a 32-month journey
FACT: On November 16, 2016. Mark Amorosi announced in a FrontPage story in the Mercury Tribune newspaper, that he was suing me for $500,000 for defamation and that the city of Guelph was paying his legal expenses.
The missing part was the city’s explanation why it was paying Amorosi’s legal costs.
FACT: Just 79 days later, Mr. Amorosi was fired for cause failing to oversee the leak of some 50,000 corporate and private emails to a Kitchener lawyer.
The lawyer represented Mr. Bruce Pool, whom the city fired because he questioned why some 50 city building projects did not apply for a building permit. He sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal.
The Poole case was settled within three weeks once the errant emails were returned.
Wasn’t that in the public interest? Not so, a confidentiality agreement denied the results of the settlement.
Judgment Day Arrives
FACT: August 9, Justice Peterson, in her judgment denying the motion to dismiss the Amorosi claim, stated that the defamation evidence “outweighed” our argument that it was in the public interest.
FACT: The city is indemnifying an employee who didn’t like what was being written about his performance as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) as head of Finance and Human Resources.
Are public employees now immune from criticism or commentary?
Regardless, Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson, fired Amorosi, and then confirmed that the city would continue to pay his legal expenses regarding the lawsuit that he initiated, not the city.
FACT: Mr. Thomson was one of the three senior employees who divided the $98,202 in 2015. He left the city in March 2019 that was described as a “parting of the ways” by the city.
His unexplained departure followed the 2018 Sunshine List that showed his salary as $335,000. It was a $67,000 increase in one year. The List also revealed he received a taxable benefit of some $11,000.
Mayor Cam Guthrie described this bonus was in recognition of his work on the give away of Guelph Hydro to Alectra Utilities. But, Mr. Mayor, wasn’t that his job?
Now I’m asking anyone living in Guelph, who pays taxes and user fees to this city, if this lawsuit is fair, reflecting good management? Or was it revenge against a citizen blogger who questioned and commented on the administration for 13 years?
What possible precedent exists in Canada that makes such a guarantee to an employee dismissed immediately for cause? Amorosi’s sworn statement to the Judge was that he agreed to leave. If so, did CAO Thomson promise to keep paying his legal fees or other departure perks?
We’ll never know, as Thomson is no longer employed by the city.
Epilogue: in February 9, 2017, 85 days after launching the lawsuit, his former colleague, Derrick Thomson, fired Mark Amorosi. Ambrose’s sworn version of that day is that he agreed to leave.
Justice Peterson noted that three major news outlets, National Post, CBC Radio and Global News reported Amorosi was fired.
So, who benefited from this noble gesture? Why it’s Mark Amorosi.
What is this journey costing?
As of May 2018, in closed-session, council was advised the city had paid $30,000 toward Amorosi’s legal costs. That figure has increased as events occurred.
Today, it has cost me $71,000 to defend myself against a deep-pocketed corporation.
Together, the estimated costs today could total between $130,000 and $150,000.
This whole story is about the misuse of power, using public funds to destroy the reputation of a citizen who dared to criticize the elected officials who bungled their responsibilities. The enormity of the cost of this spiteful and dangerous attack is unprecedented in Ontario.
In my opinion, having been intimately involved in a lawsuit for almost three years, I am appalled that my adversary is being financed by the City of Guelph.
The city position is untenable. Despite claiming the lawsuit was a private matter between Amorosi and me, there is no doubt that the city administration supported this decision b because Mr. Amorosi stated in a newspaper article announcing the lawsuit that the city was paying for it.
The minutes of these closed-session meetings that council conducted are not available.
I don’t know who authorized the payments, even after he was fired. In his sworn testimony, Amorosi said that city council does not approve staff salary increases. If that is true, then who did agree to pay Amorosi’s legal expenses?
A senior member of the city administration had to be involved. According to Amorosi, the Chief Administrative Officer’s bylaw covering his responsibilities and rights to manage is permitted to approve or disapprove staff salaries.
The CAO appointed in June 2016 was Derrick Thomson, a colleague of Amorosi and former CAO Ann Pappert in sharing the $98,202 salary increases in 2015.
It should be noted that it wasn’t until March 2016, when the provincial Sunshine List published the 2015 salaries of every public employee in Ontario earning more than $100,000
All three of these senior managers made the list. When compared to the 2014 List, the increases were revealed.
I contend that this event was well known among members of city council, including Mayor Guthrie. The decision to support Mr. Amorosi was designed to shut me down.
I contend that these details were contained in my sworn affidavit requesting the lawsuit to be dismissed.
What do you think? I’d appreciate hearing from anyone regarding this situation.
I am the victim of this lawsuit, not Mr. Amorosi, (even though my taxes, and yours too, have been paying Amorosi’s legal expenses.)
There is a law in Ontario titled Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation or SLAPP. My motion to dismiss was based on the parameters of the SLAPP legislation.
The bottom line is we all lose. My only hope to recover our legal expenses is to have the Ontario Court of Appeals overturn Justice Peterson’s dismissal of my motion.
Stay tuned for more information
By Gerry Barker
September 16, 2019
NOTE: This Wednesday, guelphspeaks.ca will publish the story of how the city administration financially supported the lawsuit initiated by a former employee against long-time columnist and citizen, Gerry Barker, for defamation including the costs of the action to date.
When we moved to Guelph16 years ago the population of the city was some 112,000 residents. In the last Canadian national census four years ago, our population had grown to 131,000.
That does not include the 20,000 University of Guelph students who arrive in September and leave in April/May.
A few years back I spent three hours in the ER with a sinus-related condition but walked out. The staff was busy and triage decisions must be made to determine severity and complications. That is understandable.
With this week’s announcement of expansion there was a missing element that the need in emergency, with respect, is greater than the current plans to increase internal services.
Current estimates of population growth of the Greater Guelph Area (GGA) include the provincial government estimate of the city’s population will reach 150,000 by 2030. Further, the provincial planners estimate a population of 175,000 by 2050.
This growth is exacerbated by greater volume of daily transportation to Toronto by rail and buses.
Again this growth affects many services but our General Hospital will be hard pressed to maintain the high quality services and needs to this growing population, that not only includes the city but the surrounding municipalities that rely on Guelph General.
Here’s the major problem. Financing major expansion to meet the needs of tomorrow. I believe there is a huge tsunami of people descending on our community over the next 30 years.
In my opinion, this city cannot depend on senior government handouts to finance the growing needs of front-line care and control of health services.
I would hope that the hospital’s Board of Directors has considered the impact of this growth and how to deal with it. It is more than just a bricks and mortar solution, it requires our community to participate expanding our General Hospital.
This means a cohesive long-range plan in which the medical needs of the citizens now and in the future are met.
The past 13 years in Guelph city council has markedly changeds the growth strategies by emphasizing the Community Energy Innovation policies established in 2007. Many of these policies have drained the ability to support hospital expansion necessary to serve a growing population.
The Guelph General Hospital is a major vital public service component that depends on senior government financial support operating under the Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan, plus donations to function. The institution cannot charge user fees to patients. It cannot ask the residents; through taxation and dedicated fees to support hospital expansion. The city finances remain tied up, paying for the policies of former administrations,
The city administration does not have the power to raise revenues through a special hospital tax, lottery, or increasing new user fees without provincial approval.
Our community has resources to contribute toward the most important community project the GGA has experienced. The project will require leadership action and pride in achieving what the community has done to participate in a long-term renaissance of a hospital. And it was the community that pulled it off.
The Hospital Board of Directors should show the way with a plan to expand. I am a layman of the science of medicine although I have been on the receiving end of services and care over the years.
In my view there needs to be a goal established with a number attached and the reasons for rationalizing the acute needs in the next 30 years. Or will it take every person, every corporation, every planadjacent municipality, every school from K4 to commencement graduation, every business large or small, every bank or credit union, plus volunteers to execute the grand expansion plan.
I have been involved in raising money. It requires a plan, patience, determination and a good story to sell the goals of the project. Presentation to large-scale potential donors is vital. Professional presentation materials use video of facilities; models of the proposed extensions and retrofitting areas, well-written and colourful leave- behind brochures.
It would be like the United Way on steroids.
In terms of Basketball it would be a full court press.
But first, there must be a plan to meet the needs of the future.
Remember, first complete analysis, then developing a plan, finally how to finance it.
The entire community must be involved and engaged.
There is no time like the present to get it started.
By Gerry Barker
September 9, 2019
The city announced last week that a former member of the Cam Guthrie re-election team has been hired to be manager of corporate communications and government relations.
Jodie Sales comes to Guelph from the Town of Milton where she has held a similar position for three and a half years.
On the surface it appears she is qualified for the job.
However, was the position advertised? Were other candidates applying for the position? Was Ms. Sales or other candidates interviewed for the posted position?
Tell us, was the job posted and where?
Before accusing me of nit picking, this is a job serving the public interests. It entails that there is opportunity for qualified citizens to apply. The city release did not mention the salary or benefits for the position.
Further, I am not criticizing Ms. Sales but the methods used by the administration to hire anyone for a staff position, especially one described as an “executive position.”
Perhaps in hiring employees over the years, the administration must focus on being careful to ensure that the recommended candidate will not be disruptive or offend other employees. Recommendations by a friend or relative of an employee should always be part of the hiring process.
Prior to being appointed to the management job, was Ms. Sales interviewed by senior management? Recruiting is 50 percent performance knowledge and 50 per cent having a gut feeling.
In this case, the perception is that she had the inside track on getting the job because of her work on the Mayor’s campaign.
Mayor Guthrie was asked if he had recommended her and denied he had any part in the process. Judging from that I would surmise that he was consulted but politically, he denied it.
Maybe he did not have to say anything. One thing we do know is that she did a bang-up job handling communities for the Guthrie campaign.
The most interesting part of this announcement is, what is the role of council, including the Mayor who is the only member elected across the whole city?
That email sent by the Mayor stated: “All city administration hiring is done through the CAO or other city management.”
Former DCAO Mark Amorosi who stated that council did not approve staff increases they are approved in the annual budgets. He confirmed this during a recent sworn testimony. That would indicate that council does approve salary increases because it must approve the annual city budget.
Those increases, according to the Mayor and Mr. Amorosi, are set in December for the upcoming calendar year. But the increases are not publicly released until 15 months later.
In formulating the 2015 city budget, did council have the right to approve or disapprove staff salary increases? If true, why didn’t council tell anyone? The salary increases were only reported annually each March in the provincial Sunshine List.
It lists every public employee in Ontario who earned more than $100,000 annually.
That data names the employee, the salary and taxable benefits. That list is the only record available to the public.
In recent years, the administration has published its own list prior to the Sunshine list. It is incomplete when compared to the previous provincial list to illustrate changes in salary or job responsibiliyies.
Case in Point; In 2015, the public did not learn about the three senior staff manager’s increases until Match 2016.
The 2015 budget was approved in January boosting property taxes by 3.96 per cent, including adjustments reported later.
I will be reporting more details of this and other tactics used by the administration to suppress information of concern and what is in the public interest.
I also recognize that our new CAO, Scott Stewart, is not responsible for these tactics that were created by a previous administration. Instead I am hopeful that all bylaws covering procedures and operational details be reviewed and open for the administration to open government, to accountability.
I personally wish Ms. Sales success and fulfillment in her new position.
The administration leadership has markedly changed in the past year and the opportunity exists to return our city into one of progress, financial responsibility, transparency and accountability.
A good first step is to reintroduce online voting in 2022.
By Gerry Barker
September 3, 2019
When the underlying issues of a civilized society are endangered by a dictatorial and secretive administration, democracy, as we know it, vanishes.
It’s a natural instinct for those in power to withhold information that may reflect on their actions and management of the public assets.
Once in power the tendency is to surround you with friends and supporters who blindly follow.
One of the first tenants of political power is to control the message and give the appearance of serving the public stakeholders. Those controlling the agenda ignore disagreement and rejection of the controlling political organization’s policies.
This leads to anger and disillusionment on the part of the stakeholder, you and me.
So, thanks to a report by Carol Goar, a senior writer and columnist in the Toronto Star, some years ago that are even more important today. Here are three lessons to emphasize the theory of democracy discarded by those empowered.
* Lesson One: “Those with power – politicians, police and bureaucrats – don’t believe they should have to share that power. Basically, they dismiss the rights of citizens to share that power and don’t believe they have any role to play in their sphere of influence.
* Lesson Two: “Governments frequently slap pejorative labels on those who oppose and complain. Such methods are to use surrogates to attack those objectors labeling them as ignorant, dangerous, violent and out of touch.
* Lesson Three: “Citizens have to use the tools they have to keep democracy alive. These include solidarity, willingness to stand up to authorities and to reach beyond their own ranks.”
How do those lessons in maintaining democracy rank with what has been going on in Guelph for the past 13 years?
First, we have been governed by a civic dictatorship composed of a majority of councillors who, 99 per cent of the time, vote collectively their own agenda. The opposition – in the first four years consisted of just two councillors. Since 2010, the opposition has grown to five councillors who have voiced concerns about the operation of the city government but are defeated most times when votes are held
There is evidence that former mayor Karen Farbridge, the architect of Guelph’s public policy, along with a close-knit group of unelected advisors, created unrest among voters.
Democracy is no longer operative in this council. The results of the 2018 civic election only exacerbated the lack of public participation, transparency and open government.
The use of closed=session meetings has drained accountability to which the stakeholders are entitled.
It has become so pervasive that despite the absence of the four senior city managers between 2016 and 2019, little has changed in terms of controlling the operational details to the public
The administration works in two parts. The mayor and a majority of city council carry out the agenda and handpicked the senior bureaucrats. Policy rests with the mayor and his advisors.
It has beeb\n five years sunce the Farbridge elected supporters have influenced and received support from a number of community and neighbourhood groups supplying public funding, support in planning and social issues.
The offshoot of all this is the vast silent majority of voters who are not united, knowledgeable nor organized to question or oppose policies advanced by the city administration.
This has resulted in a perverted, participatory democracy failing to acknowledge the needs, will/ and interests, of the people.
Once again, here is Lesson Two: “Governments frequently slap pejorative labels on those who oppose and complain. Such methods are to use surrogates to attack those objectors labeling them as ignorant, dangerous, violent and out of touch.
I am one citizen who has felt the wrath of the Guthrie administration that has supported a dismissed employee who sues me for $500,000 for defamation by paying all his legal fees since August 2016.
I have had to spend a great deal of money to defend myself. And it’s not over yet.
This lawsuit seems to strech the meaning of “pejorative” describing the action of the City of Guelph government.
Still not convinced?
The ambition of this group has cost taxpayers millions in failed personal pet projects, dumb planning, excessive legal expenses and fiscal mismanagement aided and abetted by unqualified or now absent individuals,
those no longer responsible for maintaining the public interest.
Mayor Guthrie, democracy has left your building.
By Gerry Barker
August 22, 2019
Part Seven of Seven
Experiencing the ebbing of summer as it morphs into fall, I reflect on the forces and political events that in the past 13 years have changed Guelph forever.
The city has changed as the demographics have changed. Many new people have moved to this city touched by gentle rivers, lush parks and being a preeminent home to the new Canada, one of diversity, tolerance and peace.
With that statement of idealism comes the downside of transferring a beautiful city to meet the challenges of a changing planet, separate of the demographic between the young and old and the handmaiden of authoritarian civic rule.
The outcome has been a mixed bag of modernization, coupled with a rigid cultural shift that transferred political power to an efficient majority of progressive believers in change at any cost.
It has been incredibly uncomfortable in this period of dominant control of our civic affairs, pegged to some 16 years of Liberal-dominated provincial governments. In fairness, some of the mistakes in wasted capital were made in Guelph by the administration of dream catchers.
If you have been following this series, you have read the details of the high cost of change driven by a council and senior staff to turn the city, they said many times over, into a world class municipality of unparalleled elimination of fossil-fueled vehicles, alternative transportation (bicycles), reduction of waste, developing self sufficiency in sourcing clean power.
At the time, these efforts were appealing to the council supporters, including the labour unions, employee associations, the University of Guelph and Conestoga Community College, plus the two Liberal governments at Queen’s Park.
The previous six parts of this blog have detailed, in my observation and opinion, a dismal record of misuse of power and personal ambition lust to alter a way of life.
New housing did not include detached homes
The type of housing in the city changed dramatically almost overnight. The virtual elimination of detached single- strip attached homes incorporated in low-rise condominium development. It was the urging of the Wynne Liberal provincial government to create the intensification developments to discourage detached single-family home sprawl.
Unfortunately, the costs of servicing these new developments soared as the city’s operational overhead costs increased with each new proposal.
City council adopted the intensification proposal mainly because it had a higher return of property tax than the detached home developments.
Many viewers reading the series of blog posts for whatever reasons, may sneer, some will dismiss me as an ”irritant,” I call others the Monday regulars, those who appreciate my reporting and analysis. Then there are the readers on Twitter and Facebook where the blog material is regularly posted.
In my opinion, Guelph is still a small town and managed accordingly. On the ground, we have the size of a city but are controlled by ward councillors who have been in charge for 13 years. I call it parish pomp politics run chiefly by a part-time council.
There remain important issues to be resolved. Some are the result of a transformation of society. Many are neglected and need action with the most important being the city’s aging infrastructure.
Past mistakes are hard to fix and expensive. If we have learned anything, we need much closer public participation, a new reduced full-time city council elected at large, and nine would be a good number.
Instead of the dated Community Energy Innovation plan, circa 2007, lets study the new jobs that the future will demand. The shift in information collection and delivery has seen the loss of print media including newspapers, snail mail, call centres, transportation, healthcare and delivery of cyber services.
Like it or not, the transformation of our society is bringing rapid changes. Manufacturing jobs are shrinking with the advancement of robot technology that is pervasively replacing workers. This issue will hit Guelph’s manufacturing companies who will have little choice but to lay off employees due to robots taking over.
You know, robots don’t pay taxes, do not participate in the community, don’t drive cars, don’t get emotional and have one line of repetitive thinking. This will seriously impact the future basis of determining business taxes in the city.
Guelph’s drug crisis that is deadly and growing
A comment from a reader described Guelph as the Meth (amphetamine) capital of Canada and the downtown area was awash with needles. Is that an exaggeration? Will legalized distribution of pot change this dangerous opiod growing epidemic? Don’t bet on it.
My experience living in Guelph, is I believe that use of illegal drugs in our city has been a long-term problem. It is one that can be controlled but will never disappear even with the advent of recreational pot.
Guelph police have focused on the dealers of these drugs including the arrival of the powerful opiod fentynal
Several things need to happen: Enforcement of choking off the supply and distribution. That includes drug wholesalers, pharmacists, physicians and illegal drug dealers. This campaign will be costly and take time. It’s time city council stops denying and providing the resources to halt this scourge that is not unique to Guelph. Regardless the drug supply and culture in the city lays the groundwork for very serious consequences.
Dealers and users should be arrested and dealt sever penalties if found guilty. No more releases of accused druggies on their own recognecense, provide the resources for more law enforcement, the courts and the professional organizations whose members may be part of the distribution of illegal drugs.
This is the time to set aside the capital projects such as the proposed Baker Street $350 Million project, the Guelph Innovated District planned purchase, the South End Recreation Complex, all bike lane expansion and climate change and other environmental and Innovation projects.
The focus must turn on the transformation issues now affecting our immediate future. Council has a lot of work to do to meet the new direction of society including public health.
I am in the December of my years but my one regret is that I will not be around to witness and participate in the real changes that are at the doorstep of civilization.
Where do Guelph citizens figure in all this?
I am positive that if the administration is reduced and keeps the public informed regularly, allows online voting and attracts representatives with experience and qualifications, and pays them well as full-time councillors. I am confident if this occurs, Guelph will become more than just another pinpoint dot on the atlas of Canada.