Tag Archives: David Suzuki

How do we get off the Bike Bandwagon?

By Gerry Barker

January 21, 2019

Opinion

The other night council received its first blush of the $87.37 million capital spending budget. Here’s where it will be spent providing that council and lobby groups don’t add to the total. That’s what usually happens during the budget process every year.

It is an unnatural opportunity for councillors to impress and placate their constituents. It is far too tempting with the power to spend the public’s money on projects to patronize the various special interest groups and individuals.

For starters, here’s the list of Capital spending projects produced by the staff:

  • $3.325 million for contaminated site-related projects.
  • $8.361 million for corporate projects, including planning studies, vehicles and equipment and facility renewal and expansion. This figures includes planning and strategic initiatives of Baker District and the beginning of the city’s Official Plan review.
  • $4.96 million for emergency services. The majority being directed at the expansion of paramedic services.
  • $7.916 million for open spaces, recreation, culture and library. This includes renewal of equipment and facilities and additional funds to progress the South End Community Centre project.
  • $3.107 million for solid waste. Includes planning and construction for a public drop-off scale.
  • $4.683 million for stormwater management. Including repair, renewal and replacement of assets.
  • $14.502 million for transportation services. Including bridges, culverts, roads and parking.
  • $13.104 million for wastewater services.
  • $27.445 million for water services. Includes water testing and studies at two new wells potentially to be used for city expansion.

More than 63 per cent of this proposed $55.051 million capital budget is being spent on three vital services all involving potable water, treating wastewater and building wells.

I’d be the last guy to complain about spending money on our vital use of clean water and developing new supplies to meet the needs of a growing population. With the 2016 census, Guelph has grown to 131,000 residents. Recent increase in newcomers is in the 10,000 per person range that the 2016 census reported for Guelph.

That means that by 2021 Guelph’s population will be 142,000 if the rate of growth remains the same as the previous census period.

I agree with the staff recommendation, water is the top priority.

That total water spending proposal does not include $4.683 million for storm water management that is in the capital budget. But property owners are already paying a special levy of one per cent for storwater maintenance. It used to be part of the operating budget but was transferred to the citizens for payment, monthly, through their Hydro bill.

Let’s talk about demands by the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation. Translation: The tiny minority of cyclists who feel it is their right to travel the streets and be protected from those dirty, stinky and loud vehicles. They take it upon themselves to chiefly be responsible to support climate change by banning the use of fossil fuels.

But here’s the rub

Operators of motor vehicles pay taxes, licences and user fees to use the roads. In fact the City of Guelph, receives a gas tax rebated from the senior governments of more than $5 million annually. It’s rebated to the city not the people who previously paid for it at the pump. This results in the very people using fossil fueled vehicles end up subsidizing more bike lanes.

How much do the active transporters pay? They are not licensed, pay no taxes, are not insured, no mandatory bike inspection, no tests for ability to safely use the streets and know the rules of the Highway Traffic Act.

And yet, one Yvette Tendick, speaking for the Coalition, laid out their demands to be included in the 2019 Capital Budget.

The Guelph Mercury published the following profile of Yvette Tendick who joined the community editorial board in 2015.

Yvette Tendick is a primary school teacher with a bachelor of environmental studies degree. She has always had a strong interest in environmental issues. Over the years, her environmental focus has morphed from sustainability of natural ecosystems to sustainability and resilience of cities.

She is interested in the steps citizens might undertake to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels while simultaneously increasing our quality of life. She believes one way to achieve this lofty goal is through active transportation, which she engages in during her commute to work by bike or on foot.

She also has a keen interest in getting the next generation physically active, and is rather certain that city design and infrastructure are crucial to nudging all of our citizens to get moving.

Getting to the root of the deal

Now here is what she is proposing city council to do to improve cycling, aka active transportation.

  1. January 16, she told council that the city should clear up some of the trees and roots. These are putting pressure on the existing retaining wall along what will one day become a multi-use trail at Speedvale, including a proposed underpass.
  2. “So before even considering tearing down this retaining wall in a few years, a quick fix of removing the trees ASAP seems to be the first logical step in increasing the longevity of the current wall.”
  3. “Separated bike lanes are needed on Gordon from Kortright all the way to Wellington, and also on Woolwich from Woodlawn all the way to downtown,” she said.

Well, that’s a tall order.

I think after reading this report, she is asking the council to add $30,000 to the capital budget for her short term plan A to make it easier for cyclists to use the trail to downtown. Trouble is the location of this on Speedvale, some eight kilometers long, is not identified in the article. Which retaining wall? Which trees and roots? Where on Speedvale?

This is a game of assumptions that leave the rest of the citizens out of the loop.

City council, since 2007, has spent millions on developing bike lanes, reducing vehicle lanes on major routes to accommodate them.

Ms. Tendick’s profile is clear but misguided. Does she really believe that the so-called active transportation theory will work and vehicles using fossil fuels will disappear in her lifetime?

How many citizens depend on bicycles 12 months of the year?

It’s a known fact that the city has zero documentation of the number of residents using bicycles on Guelph streets and roads 12 months of the year.

The groups of environmental activists, who ride bicycles, resemble a cult bonded by the belief that they can change the way we transport ourselves while at the same time clean up the atmosphere.

I think of Kevin Costner in the movie, A Field of Dreams, in which the punch line is ‘if we build it, they will come.’

This group is the whiniest, pushy and provocateurs of social engineering for which we have already paid to placate their cause.

It is if they want to roll back society more than 150 years or, as my wife is fond of saying ‘I loved the good old days.’ Neither of us has ridden a bicycle since we were 16.

We are not alone.

How can the proponents of active bicycle transportation be so narrowly focused on the environment when most citizens cannot and never will use bicycles to get out and about?

Think of riding a bicycle to perform simple tasks such as getting groceries and needed drugs, or going to the hospital or doctor’s offices, going to the library, visiting family and friends, going to the cottage or vacation, getting to places of worship, volunteering and going to the park, theatre or your granddaughter’s recital.

Especially when it’s raining, snowing or just damned cold. It’s not a time for the Mary Poppins trick of flying under her umbrella.

Stop and think of children, seniors, the disabled, and all those outside the active transportation groups’ demographic of ages 18 to 40.

I think the expense of expanding or spending more money accommodating the cyclist group should be frozen. That is until we get the handle on our basic infrastructure needs and financial shortfall of some $450 million increasing at a rate of $20 million a year.

Has anyone calculated how much fossil fuel as been reduced as a result of building this network of bicycle lanes in the past 18 years?

We would rather be able to flush our toilet and enjoy a glass of water from the tap than paying for more bike lanes.

Are the demands of the minority greater than repairing the infrastructure of our city that serves everyone? Transportation technology is moving ahead at warp speed. Bicycles are not part of the transition.

It’s time for council to get off the Bike Bandwagon.

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The high price we are paying for going “Green”

By Gerry Barker

June 30, 2016

Happy Canada Day to all our readers and viewers.

We live in a great country, and I’ve been in enough other countries to make that claim. We are not the greatest but are fortunate to live in an advanced society that is diverse and prosperous. I remain distressed over the Alberta wild fires that almost destroyed Fort McMurray. The David Suzuki enviro commandos will say: “We told you so.”

Here in Guelph, our home and native city, the burden of paying for our very existence is the result of nine years of assets and operations squandered to fulfill the promise of sustainability and doing our bit to reduce the threat of climate change. “Bit” is the operative word here.

The recent revelations of the cost and failure Community Energy Initiative, is but one example of the legacy of former Mayor Karen Farbridge, a disciple of David Suzuki, the multi-millionaire guru of all things environmental. She even had an endorsement from the man in her failed attempt to be re-elected in 2014.

Suzuki’s latest paying job was with the Ontario Government. Premier Wynne brought him in to bolster her whacko Green Plan for Ontario. What got me was the Suzuki commercial sponsored by the Ontario Government. He was shown warning children that they had to stop climate warming.

That was totally inappropriate. The production was lit to show Suzuki, complete with white hair and flowing beard, doing his shtick on saving the world. That’s a great approach; threaten the vulnerable to make a point. This is pure charlatanism, smoke and mirrors, what ever you want to name it, by using children to make your point. And folks we paid for it.

But don’t get me wrong. I am alarmed about climate change. But we can’t fix it in Guelph or in Ontario. This is a world-wide condition that requires all nations to take steps to control carbon emissions.

How low can the Premier Wynne sell her plans to remake Ontario into a world-class example of reducing global warming and electrifying basic transportation? One particular portion of the Wynne Green Plan is that by 2025, if you have two cars, one will be powered by electricity.

But that has a familiar ring about it as that was similar to the Farbridge eight years of trying to change the city into a “world class” social engineered example of environmental management. It includes reduction of waste; sustainable sources of power; squeezing vehicle lanes on major streets to accommodate bicycle lanes.

Also the Farbridge legacy provides a heavy taxpayer subsidy to Guelph Transit; increased the city staff by more than 50 percent in eight years; spent more than $22 million on litigation and employee severances; an estimated $28 million on cost over-runs of city projects.

The project that gave community energy a bad name

And now the most expensive Farbridge inspired plan known as the Community Energy Initiative (CEI) that, so far, has cost taxpayers an estimated $40 million. It involved setting up two district energy plants in the Hanlon Business Park and the Sleeman Centre.

Then her administration folded Guelph Hydro into the mayor’s Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI). This set the stage for a new Guelph Hydro subsidiary called Envida Corporation that was used to manage the various schemes to fulfill the Farbridge dream. It was a sustainable energy plan including geo-thermal piping to supply hot water to two new, downtown high-rise apartment buildings built by TriCar.

Since the GMHI plan was announced in 2011, the business of GMHI, Envida, and Guelph Hydro has been conducted behind closed doors. There was no publication of the activities of these various corporate entities except for some glowing annual reports by GMHI.

In 2014, GMHI reported sending a $1,500,000 dividend to the City of Guelph. It also stated that since inception, GMHI has sent some $9 million to the city treasury. What they did with these funds remains a mystery. GMHI also reported in the 2014 annual report that it lost $2.8 million.

The bizarre official reporting on this situation is convoluted and murky due to the intertwing of three corporations and the funding. One thing is certain, there is a $26,637,244 cost as reporteed by GMHI CEO Pankaj Sardana.

This is a major-league scandal that is still unresolved. It remains a shameful exploitation of the public trust and treasure.

So, when all this is going on, city council approves an $110,000 grant to 10 Carden Street to renovate the second floor of the former Akers Furniture building. Yjod is to provide studio space for budding artists etc. To be clear, 10 Carden Street is a self-standing cousin of the Guelph Civic League (GCL) who occupy, Tah Dah! 10 Carden Street. Again it is unclear how this money is to be spent, who is accountable and will there be a building permit issued? Just asking.

Coun. James Gordon was a founder of GCL and now the question arises, did he vote on council to award this grant to an organization to which he remain connected? Did he recuse himself when the vote was held?

It remains another extension of maintaining power by the bloc of seven leftist members of council.

A rapid promotion

Then there is the appointment of Coleen Clack to Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) responsible for operations, Guelph Transit and liaison with first responders.

In 2015, as General Manager of Culture Tourism and Community Investment, Ms Clack was making $142,017 plus a taxable benefit of $1,599. The city has not revealed her new salary or benefits as a DCAO.

However, let’s look at the 2015 salaries of Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi. Thomson earned $207,544 plus a taxable benefit of $6,472. Amorosi earned $209,629 plus a taxable benefit of $6,472.

Neither of these senior managers live in Guelph. Amorosi lives in Hamilton and has done so since joining the city staff in 2008. Thomson lives In Caledon, where he had accepted a job before being named CAO of the City of Guelph to replace Ann Pappert.

It’s an interesting coincidence that both managers share identical taxable benefits. Are the taxpayers paying these two employees a stipend just for getting to work?

This is another example of the dysfunctional culture that still exists in Guelph. It is one that has cost citizens millions of dollars wasted to meet the demands of a former mayor who was determined to change Guelph in her image.

Well, so far she seems to have succeeded.

If two neighbouring cities, Kitcher and Cambridge, can manage their operational and capital costs more efficiently and costing less than Guelph, what is the problem?

On that happy note, have a great Canada Day and remain hopeful that the House of Guelph will survive with determined and responsible leadership.

 

 

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