Tag Archives: city of guelph

Canada’s Ballard Power rises from the ashes brings new heavy vehicle pure power to the world

By Gerry Barker

January 13, 2020

Opinion

This is a story of a Vancouver-based company that has experienced a bottom and bust past developing a third source of power that is emission-free. It is capable of powering locomotives, container ships, heavy trucks, buses, forklifts and large recreation vehicles.

This break-through technology saw Ballard Power Corporation shares, in the last decade soar to $200 a share only to crumble to penny stock levels.

Ballard Power went from darling to peasant in a few years. Collapse of auto companies and a global recession did the company in but not dead.

Today the company shares have made a modest recovery by forming alliances with a major Chinese engine manufacture, Weichjai, to partner converting fossil-fueled heavy vehicles to use the Ballard hydrogen fuel cell technology.

How does it work?

Hydrogen fuel cells combine elemental hydrogen with oxygen in the air, capturing the energy for conversion to electric, according to Ballard Power.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the company worked with a number of major vehicle manufacturers including Honda, Daimler-Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Right now, around the world, Ballard and its partners are concentrating on heavy vehicle power that is emission free. The only discharge is water.

There are now thousands of such vehicles using the Ballard Power hydrogen fuel cell technology.

This has the potential of moving heavy vehicles safely and contributing to the reduction of carbon by fossil-fueled commercial vehicles.

What has this to do with Guelph?

There are two reasons that affect citizens.

The presence of Linamar Corporation and its place as a leading manufacturer of auto parts is essential to our community’s economy. They face new challenges to adapt to the growing use of electricity to power car, light trucks, SUV’s and vans.

Did I mention the slow death of sedans with the growth of SUV’s of all shapes and sizes?

Remember the old expression, the trend is your friend?

The new opportunity is supplying large vehicle companies with parts such as engines needed for hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicles.

This is rapidly taking place. The Chinese engine manufacture Weichai has already partnered with Ballard. As well the U.S. engine builder, Cummins, has signed an order with Ballard Power.

The limitation of electric-powered personal vehicles is the range based on the capacity of the batteries and the limited power available in light vehicles.

Tesla Motors produced some 200,000 EV’s last year and finally made a profit. Tesla produces luxury EV’s that have costs above fossil-fueled vehicles despite government subsidies to purchasers.

One may question why the government is subsidizing EV purchases when private enterprise seems to be pricing emission-free vehicles in greater numbers now.

The second concern for Guelph is about the heavy city and transport trucks using our streets daily. They are going away and cannot convert to electric power sourced from the grid. Also, the cost of switching can be daunting.

In my opinion, Guelph Transit should be the starting point by gradually replacing its fossil-fueled buses, fleet with hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles.

The same applies to the heavy equipment used by the city.

And hydrogen fuel cell power was developed in Canada, eh?

 

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Why are the citizens still paying the legal costs of a former employee who was fired for cause?

By Gerry Barker

December 16, 2019

Opinion

The following facts support how the abuse of political power that is far too prevalent in terms of fair comment and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights.

FACT – For the record, my wife and I are residents of the City of Guelph.

FACT – In 2016, I wrote 10 blog posts as outlining Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi’s statement of claim in which he sued me for defamation. The posts were critical of his role in secretly concealing a total of $98,202 salary increases shared by three senior executives including Amorosi.

FACT – These increases were awarded December 10, 2015 in a closed-session of city council.

FACT – It has never been revealed whether these increases were paid retroactively for 2015 or were received throughout the year before the approval.

FACT -I was served in August 2016 with a demand to apologize to Mark Amorosi for publishing posts on guelphspeaks.ca, critical of the city administration for concealing senior staff salary increases for 2015.

FACT – The lawyer representing Mr. Amorosi, wrote the demand for an apology. The terms included that he would write it. He demanded that it had to be posted at the top of the guelphspeaks blog for 30 days. This demand was rejected.

FACT –  Amorosi’s counsel stated to my counsel that if I refused, he would recommend legal action.

FACT – On November 15 2016, Amorosi announced on the front page of the Guelph Mercury Tribune newspaper that he was suing Barker for $500,000 damages. It was based on defamation as a result of the alleged critical posts. He stated in the article that the City of Guelph was paying his legal expenses.

FACT – In January 2017, Mr. Barker requested a copy of the minutes of the Dec. 10 closed-session meeting of council, and it was denied in April with no explanation.

FACT – On February 9, 2017, Amorosi was fired for cause published in the Mercury Tribune newspaper. He left the city February 20.

FACT – In a sworn statement Amorosi testified that “he agreed to leave” when confronted with an an inadvertent release from the Information Technology department. It forwarded some 50,000 confidential emails to a third party representing a fired employee, Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole. Mr. Poole sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. Amorosi was in charge of that department and it formed the basis of his dismissal.

FACT – Three major news outlets, described Amorosi’s dismissal as being fired. The word ‘fired’ was also published in the Mercury Tribune article about the firing

FACT – On March 31, 2016, the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published. The public learned of the three senior managers shared salary increases of $98,202. The province publishes the List composed of all public employees in the province earning more than $100,000 a year, not including taxable benefits.

FACT – The three recipients of these increase included the Chef Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, who received an increase of $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000. The majority of that increase included a retroactive performance bonus of $27,000.

FACT – DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson shared the balance with Amorosi’s 2015 salary jumping 14 per cent by $209,000

FACT – Derrick Thomson received an increase of 19 per cent taking his 2015 salary to more than $207,000.

FACT – The three senior managers cost the city in 2015, $673,000 plus some $20,000 in taxable benefits.

FACT – CAO Ann Pappert resigned in April 2016. DCAO Thomson resigned in January 2016 but was rehired in May to replace Ms. Pappert who left her job May 26, 2016.

FACT – When the 2016 Sunshine List was published in March 2017, former employee Ms. Pappert was paid $263,000 for five months work in 2016.

FACT – The new CAO Derrick Thomsob, announced details of his three-year contract which included a salary of $230,000 plus $11,000 taxable benefit for using his personal car for city business.

FACT – In March 2019, Derrick Thomson “parted ways with the city” for reasons unknown today. When the 2018 Sunshine list was published, Mr. Thomson’s salary was $335,000. In just two and a half years on the job, Mr. Thomson earned $100,000 more than his stated 2016 three-year salary of $230,000.

FACT – Mayor Cam Guthrie explained that Mr. Thomson was given a $67,000 performance bonus for his work on giving away Guelph Hydro to Alectra Utilities. Guelph Hydro stated in its 2016 financial report that the city-owned power distribution utility had a total value of $228 million.

FACT –Amorosi testified that city council did not approve staff salaries. Under the CAO bylaw, it was CAO Thomson who must have approved his 2018 salary and performance bonus.

FACT – I requested a statement from the city in 2018 of the amount of public money that had been spent on Amorosi’s lawsuit and it was denied because the case was before the courts.

FACT – From a reliable source, I learned there was another closed-session meeting of council in May 2018 to discuss the status of the Amorosi lawsuit and the legal costs to May 2018. It was reported the city paid Amorosi’s legal costs of $30,000. Without reservation, knowing what my legal costs are to date, it will be much more than that figure and counting.

FACT– This is another example of the city denying and obfuscating the details that aren’t serving the public interest.

FACT – The city has never explained why it is continuing this attack on one of its citizens. One who dared to criticize an issue that according to the city’s own code of conduct, that excludes open government policies, allowing accountability and transparency of the peaple’s business?

FACT – It has cost Amorosi nothing in three years to perpetuate the city’s complicity in contnuing to finance his lawsuit that is without merit.

FACT – To date it has cost me $86,000 to defend myself. It’s not over yet.

FACT – The city administration has never cooperated or acknowledged details of that December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council. It approved the three senior staff increases’ increases. In that same month, in another closed-session, council approved a bylaw indemnifying any employee or elected officials by paying their legal costs if facing a legal proceeding against them.

FACT – I did not sue Mr. Amorosi, he sued me, or I didn’t fire him or, in his submission made to the judge in 2019 that he was unable to get a job because of what I had written about him in 2016.

FACT – Two independent individuals searched Amorosi’s name on the Internet. There was only one of my posts on the site but references to his dismissal from the city dominated the site.

FACT – Since August 2016, the same lawyer has represented Mr. Amotosi.

DACT – CAO Ann Pappert who left the city in May 2016 recommended the indemnification bylaw in December 2015.

SUMARY

These are facts. They represent a major attack by a city council on a private citizen for unfounded reasons.

The cost to the citizens of Guelph including me, the defendant, is being covered-up by the administration.

If you believe the proceeding facts are not true and agree with the administration that are worth very penny, you are signaling denial the right of a citizen to protest the abuse of power by controlling city council, then good luck.

Our taxes, fees and services are way out of line with comparable communities. It has been like that for the past 13 years. That’s the main reason that our costs of living in Guelph keep increasing every year. Just remember the promise made by Cam Guthrie in 2014 that he would keep the property tax annual increase equal to the rate of inflation.

That promise went out the window with his first budget for 2015 when the final rate was 3.96 per cent. The Consumer Price Index for 2014 stated the inflation rate for Canada was 1.1 per cent.

So if you are not satisfied with the way your city is being managed, with respect, you should start researching how this city has arbitrarily increased its operating cost and sourceded capital to build needed projects, such as a new central library, the South End Community Centre to name just two.

Two projects leap out that are now approved under way, The new Maintenance capus for Guelph Transit and the Parkade on Wilson Street next door to City Hall. Both these projects on the surface seem important but strikingly inclusive for staff needs.

There has been too much waste of resources, mismanagement, not to mention the millions lost including Urbacon, GMHI, environmental services, downtown, dodgy deferred taxes and development breaks to developers, to name a few emptying the city till.

If you believe that we and the city can do better then let your councillors know and demand a clean up of the administration’s policies. Press staff and council to lower operating costs. Get rid of the deals and stop the shallow spinning of action. When the city says, that within ten years it will have spent $1,7 billion on capital funded projects, lets have some specifics including estimated costs, dates to completion and the sources of revenue to pay the bills..

This administration is overdue for a diet. Waiting three years to change the cast of characters can’t come soon enough.

Please note that like most of us we are about to enjoy the holidays, guelphspeaks.ca will be on hiatus until Monday, January 7, 2020. That gives us time to say goodby to the leftovers and start the new year with good health and optimism for 2020. Enjoy!

 

 

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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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Along came a spider who sat down beside her and said, “what a nice new Library you may have”

By Gerry Barker

September 26, 2019

Opinion

This is one of the great myths of our lives. In 2004 during Mayor Farbridge’s first term in office, council debated whether to replace the downtown Library with a new one. The Library had outgrown its capacity to serve a growing population.

It sparked the growth of satellite branches and a bookmobile.

The Library lobby continued to campaign annually asking council to approve building a new facility to meet the needs of the present and future. The first proposal was to build a 93,000 square foot main branch Library downtown on the Baker Street Parking lot.

At the time, it was obvious that council was engaged in building a new city hall and renovating the old hall into a provincial offences court. This major project turned out to be a six-year financial disaster completes with a major wrongful dismissal lawsuit by the general contractor and a $65 million dollar bill.

The Library project went to the bottom of the capital-spending budget.

That was followed with the $66 million loss of shareholder’s investment in the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc district energy project. This was launched in 2011, during the same time frame of the city hall lawsuits. There were five different interests suing, including each other. Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. suing the city for $19.2 million brought the main one. The city counter-sued for $5 million.

It was a three-ring circus of flying legal briefs and claims.

It was the dark period of the city administration amid the Library project, which bubbled beneath council’s primary interests.

The new Mayor, Cam Guthrie, announced that a private public partnership was being assembled to renovate the Baker Street site that staff primarily would cost the city $300 million. The plan called for a combination of commercial and residential complex. Included in the Mayor’s statement was that the proposed 88,000 square foot downtown Library would be the anchor on the site.

The timing was perfect as the Mayor decided to run for re-election and spoke highly of the Library project. He was re-elected.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Baker Street proposal was being scaled back due to costs and would not include the Library.

Council shows restraint in capping 2019 capital budget

This past January 17, city council approved a 2019 capital spending budget of $87,370,100. Almost half of that budget was slated for wastewater and two new wells to accommodate future development.

Of the nine projects in the staff recommendation, absent was the new downtown Library. You remember, the one Mayor Guthrie announced in 2018 before the civic election.

Here we are in September, and the same members of council agree to add $44 million in debt to partially fund a new downtown Library to an estimated cost of $67 million. The reports say that the begging bowl is out to get a $36.6 million grant for the Library from the federal government depending on which party wins the October 21 election.

Is this a promise to be broken?

This form of financial brinksmanship is an enduring fixation by the majority bloc of city council that has stalled funding library for the past 13 years by diverting funds for other projects.

It remains today to be a malignant history of exceeding budgets, using reserves to balance the books, wasting public funds in sketchy decisions and planning, conducting public business in closed-sessions with no public participation. Ignoring its own protocols for open government, accountability and transparency.

This was not another Guthrie example of selling the sizzle, not the steak. He was one of four councillors who voted against the proposal. The mayor had his reasons but if he was not aware of the details of the project, or perhaps he was. There seems to be a lack of fiduciary judgment by the nine councillors who voted to spend $67 million on a project that was not part of the 2019 capital budget.

Regardless, Monday, September 16, council approved spending $67 million to build a new 88,000 square foot downtown Library. Coun. Dominique O’Rourke initially objected, stating that without all the information pertaining to the proposal, “It wasn’t going to happen.”

Later she relented and voted to spend the money.

To assist those members of council who voted for the Library, here are some of the missing details to support the project that will cost more than twice that of the new renovated police headquarters.

* Has a site for the new Library been chosen, where and the cost?

* What is the acreage of the site to accommodate adequate parking?

* What’s the estimated time of construction and the start-up date?

* When does the special Library levy to taxpayers kick in?

* In 23 years what is the total cost to property owners paying the Library levy?

* Is this levy fixed or will it increase as property taxes increase over 23 years?

* Is the financing in place and approved to justify the $67 million in capital approved?

* Has a business plan been prepared that separates the construction costs from the equipment required?

* Is the present library going to be sold with proceeds going to new Library costs?

* Has an architect been commissioned to design the new Library and monitor construction?

* Has a Request for Proposal been prepared to establish construction costs?

* What does this decision do to completing the $63 million South End Recreation complex?

* How can council approve funding the Library when it is not in the current capital spending budget?

* If this is council’s intention, where will it find the $67 million it has now approved and added to the 2019 capital spnding budget?

*         *         *         *

The only possible explanation is the costs will be spread over five or six years during the time frame of completing the project. If this is the case, why didn’t council tell the public of this method that is logical and potentially manageable?

Quite frankly, this is another crapshoot by an administration that by now should have learned better handling public money.

If any of these questions have not been reviewed by staff and reported to council, how can a motion to spend $67 million succeed by a 9-4 majority without the answers?

I believe we need a new main branch Library to meet the needs of our growing city?

However, the people need a specific plan and the costs. The staff report says that $44 million is being added to the city debt.

The remaining details are not confirmed including a request to the federal government for a $36,6 million grant. The outcome of that grant request is unknown today because there is no federal government because Parliament has been prorogued until after the election.

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Apparently, to land a good job with the city it helps whom you know in the administration

By Gerry Barker

September 9, 2019

Opinion

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.

 

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Executive spite boosted the new city hall project costs by $23 million

By Gerry Barker

August 1, 2019

Opinion

Part Three of Seven stories to fuel your min

It all seems like yesterday when there was a sea-change in the composition of Guelph Council, or so most citizens thought and I was one of them

The defeated councillors included Mayor Karen Farbridge, Maggie Laidlaw; Mike Salisbury was elected in ward 4 replacing Mayor-elect Cam Guthrie. Retiring from council was Karl Wettstein in ward 6, Andy Van Hellemond in ward tw

Here is the result of the 2014 civic election: the majority of progressives totaled seven. These include James Gordon, June Hofland, Phil Allt, Mike Salisbury, Leane Piper, and Cathy Downer. The uncommitted are Rodrigo Goller and Dominique O’Rourke. The moderate councilorsr include Dan Gibson, Bob Bell, Christine Billings and Mayor Cam Guthrie. Holding the swing vote in council is Mark MacKinnon, ward 6.

The story on election night was the defeat of Mayor Farbridge by rookie Councillor, Cam Guthrie.

The defeat of the mayor was the lawsuit brought by the general contractor of the new city hall and renovation of the old city hall into a provincial offenses court. In 2006, council approved the $42 million contract.

Karen Farbridge was elected mayor in 2006 and her council held a majority of 11 councillors out of 13.

Enough already!

But a funny thing happened before the contract was completed. September 18, 2008, the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group Inc., was kicked off the job that was 95 per cent completed. Guelph police were called to expedite the removal of all employees including the sub contractors.

The reason was, and no one was taking responsibility including the Mayor or council or senior management, admitted they were responsible.

Later, chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert said that her predecessor, CAO Hans Loewig, was responsible for the Urbacon firing. She said his authority was covered under the CAO bylaw.

Following the time of the firing of the general contractor, Mr. Loewig was awarded a three-year contract paying $190,000 annually for his work on the Urbacon file. Ann Pappert replaced him in 2011.

At best, Mr. Loewig was a part-time CAO being allowed 12-weeks, vacation spent at his Arizona home. Mr. Loewig was hired to replace the former CAO, Larry Kotseff, as acting CAO and on contract. That changed to permanent employment in 2008 followingnthe Urbacon firing.

Urbacon did not sit idly by and served the city with a wrongful dismissal suit for $19.2 million.

Meanwhile, the Farbridge administration was faced with hiring replacement contractors to complete the project Then the city counter-sued Urbacon for $5.3 million. Next was to deal with the completion bondholder, Aviva, and the architects charged with overseeing the construction. This was followed by lawsuits from the sub contractors who were not paid for their work before the firing of the general contractor.

Once work stopped it was more than a year before it was completed, using two other contractors to finish the job.

Whew! This was a disaster caused by the Farbridge administration despite the Mayor never owning up to it. My sources said she was enraged because Urbacon kept advancing the completion date.

There were reasons for this. First, during a subsequent five-week trial in 2013 in Brampton, the court heard there were more than 300 contract changes ordered by the city. Second, there was a sense of emergency over a number of city employees still working in nearby rented offices in which the leases had or were about to expire.

The Brampton trial was wrapped up in early 2013 and Superior Court Justice, Donald MacKenzie, delivered his judgment brief in March 2014 in favour of Urbacon. It was followed up with a devastating detailed judgment in June.

This document ordered that the costs of the case were to be completed in October, the month of the civic election.

Undaunted, the city lawyer took the case to another court requesting the costs of Justice Mackenzie’s judgment be postponed until after the October civicelection. That was denied by the presiding judge who said he would not change Justice Mackenzie’s’ judgment. In August, a settlement was reached costing the city$8 million payment to Urbacon.

This was the final event that led to the mayor’s defeat in October.

Shortly after, CAO Pappert announced that the city hall costs had increased by $23 million.

Urbacon, the six years of unnecessary expenses

In my opinion, as a taxpayer, this was a sloppy, self-centered series of events that spun out of control and should never have occurred.

When one thinks about it, that mismanagement, recognized as such at the ballot box, could have been used to build a new downtown library as was promised by two Farbridge administrations. Five years later, we are still eaiting.

In January last year, two city Councillors, June Hoflanf and Leanne Piper, supporters of Ms. Far bridge, during a workshop to assist women to become entrepreneurs, asked attendees to donate money to re-elect the former mayor.

Wisely, Ms. Farbridge chose not to be a candidate in last October’s civic election.

Next, Part Four of Seven:

Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. covers-up losses of $68.3 million

 

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How the Mercury Tribune rations online access to its website content

By Gerry Barker

July 2, 2019

Opinion

How low can the Tribune stoop to deny full access to its online news?

In all the years of working in the news business, I have never witnessed a newspaper reject access of its online content that has already been published.

Is it possible they are building a list of future subscribers?

Here is what the organization that owns the weekly newspaper demands before you can access content online. This is reproduced from the Mercury Tribune online website under the heading “Local News.”

Unless you aren’t registered to receive the complete story online, the following is posted on the Mercury Tribune’s website:

HEADING -Guelph could phase out vacant property tax discount by 2021Currently, vacant and excess commercial and industrial lands see 30% discount on property taxes

News Jun 26, 2019 Guelph Mercury

In a report to council, city staff is proposing to phase out the 30-per-cent property tax discount for vacant and excess commercial and industrial properties by 2021. – Dreamtime

Owners of vacant commercial and vacant properties may soon have to start paying the same tax rates as others in the city.

According to a report to be presented to councillors at their July 2 meeting of committee of the whole, city staff are recommending that the property tax discount for vacant and excess commercial and industrial lands be phased out over the next two years. (Balance of  the article is blanked out)

You’ve reached your article limit  (Directed at guelphspeaks)

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Please register to support the local, relevant news you need from a source you trust.

Register now and enjoy:

  • Breaking news that affects your community
  • The latest neighbourhood news, opinions and insight
  • Ability to comment on articles
  • Access to our events calendar, including the ability to submit your own listings.

*         *         *         *

Torstar is the corporation that owns the Toronto Star and Metroland Publishing that owns the Mercury Tribune. Now, you may ask, why is there an arbitrary limit to access the full article online, as published free every Thursday?

Am I the only reader who has reached his article limit? Perhaps the Tribune management should explain why the restriction online access is only to those who register.

This is a form of public information censorship that only one major advertiser would request.

The only advertiser who resen any criticism of its operations by gielphspeaks.ca is the City of Guelph administration.

The Tribune refuses to label the city administration’s weekly ads labeled “City News” when, in fact, it is advertising and not labeled as such. The kicker is that these “City News” ads are paid with public funds.

Now some of the “City News” content, as published weekly in the Tribun includes legal notices that are required to be published. It remains advertising and not news. Missing is the city logo. Wonder why?

But that does not excuse the city spending thousands of public funds to pretend the content is legitimate news. Perhaps the following Tribune statement urging readers to register to get their news online explains it:

“Please register to support the local, relevant news you need from a source you trust.”

Two words stick out from this statement, ‘support’ and ‘trust.’

Believe me, I know from personal experience that both those words can mean the opposite.

I can only comment about the Tribune statement using the expression, ‘support local, relevant news you need.’ It’s not only an untrue premise but a deceptive way to disguise the Tribune’s real intent to support the administration’s point of view.

This comes down to trust.

How can the thousands of citizens who receive the free ad-heavy Mercury Tribune each week trust the content? More important why is the city paying to print only one side of the story produced by the city’s communications department?

I know what it has cost me to defend my right to speak freely as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights.

It comes down to public participation in government affairs without the threat of litigation to prevent it.

This concerns every citizen to be able to access information and comment on it wuthout the threat of costly retaliation.

Opinions matter.

One final question to ask yourself: Would you have voted to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities in December 2017?

Well, ten elected members of council did and that sealed the deal.

That was the most lurid misuse of the public trust that this city has endured in the past 13 years.

Trust is not just a five-letter word.

 

 

 

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