By Gerry Barker
October 15, 2018
Mayor Cam Guthrie published a full-page advertisement in the Tribune this past week, just ten days before the civic election extolling his virtues, track record and, regretfully, dodging the vital issues facing the community and lying by omission (LBO).
This is a classic deja-vu of his election in 2014 in which he was the default victor over a Mayor who the public decided was not worthy of re-election. And, with good reasons.
The vast majority of the voting public understood there had to be change at the top. And Cam Guthrie filled most voter’s hopes and expectations beating, Ms. Farbridge by more than 5,000 votes.
The left progressives, who had dominated city council for eight years, were dumb- founded.
As an incumbent candidate, Guthrie campaigned on keeping property taxes at the same level, as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) at the time was 1.95 per cent.
In March 2015, the new council approved a 3.96 per cent property tax increase accelerated by the previously frozen increased assessment on property that was not included in the 2015 budget as presented to the public.
In his four years as mayor, Mayor Cam Guthrie presided over more than an 18 per cent increase in city property taxes.
So, why would citizens believe him now?
So, early in January 2015, guelphspeaks.ca published the fact that Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert’s, contract was being reviewed by city council. This resulted in an investigation of who had tipped off guelphspeaks.ca?
The Mayor, enraged over the leak, even sent out an e-mail to an undisclosed group of people, presumed to be his supporters, that Barker was not to be believed as he always got his facts wrong. Really? Prove it!
The new Mayor even threatened a Guelph citizen who published the four-year track record of the CAO’s performance in not balancing the city books and resorted to taking money from reserves to meet the provincial regulations that no municipality can carry a deficit into the new year.
For her trouble, Mayor Guthrie said he would take legal action against this citizen’s accurate analysis of the Ms. Pappert’s five years on the job. That threat disappeared for good reason.
But the Guthrie defence of the former CAO continued
In December 10, 2015, city council met in closed session. The purpose of the meeting was to approve some $98,202 increases to four senior staffers for the fiscal year 2015.
The main recipient was CAO Ann Pappert. Her increase included: A retroactive performance bonus of some $27,000. It also unclouded payments for unused vacation and sick leave credits that totaled a $37,000 increase in her base pay for 2015. This took her remuneration to $253,000 not including her taxable benefits.
None of this was made public until March 31, 2016 when the provincial Sunshine List was published, naming all public servants in Ontario earning more than $100,000.
Comparing her remuneration for 2014 ($219,000) to the 2015 provincial list, demonstrates a 17 per cent increase.
Mayor Guthrie presided over this December 10, 2015 closed session when council awarded these senior managers the huge increase. Guelphspeaks attempted to obtain the minutes of this meeting and was denied after a four-month wait for an answer from Amberlea Gravel, the council-appointed closed-session investigator on retainer by the city.
To this day, Mayor Guthrie has not acknowledged the details or rationale of that closed meeting.
The result was the people of Guelph paid Ms. Pappert in the first two years of the Guthrie administration some $463,000 for 17 months work.
This meeting was just one of 82 closed session meetings the Mayor oversaw in the first two years in office.
In his full-page ad, the Mayor lists the “Community Assets” of the city. These include: Breaking ground on the South End Community Centre ($63 million); Ensure the $350 million (in today’s dollars) Baker Street redevelopment project moves forward (including the $53 million Downtown Library); Setting aside funding for the “much needed” hospital expansion; To protect and promote the tree canopy of Guelph; Create fenced-in dog parks.
As the late Peggy Lee used to sing: “Is that all there is?”
Let’s dissect this “Community Asset” run for the roses by the Mayor.
Let’s start with the fenced in dog parks across the city.
This is not an asset; it’s an operational wish list. But let’s address the real poop problems that pervade our parks, Canada Geese. It’s not pleasant to enjoy our parks when there is a proliferation of geese chomping on the grass randomly pooping wherever they feel. And they are so content most stay in Guelph for the winter. You can fence in dogs but cannot handle the bigger problem of goose infestation. Sounds like a plan, priority dogs. How about goose-control pills?
Aside: Whatever happened to the tax on cats?
The declaration of setting aside funds for the Guelph General Hospital is an important issue. But where is the money coming from? The Guthrie administration has not only followed The Mayor’s campaign promise to maintain property tax increases to the CPI but has socked property owners with a two per cent surcharge.
The money allegedly is to go toward repairing and renovating neglected infrastructure but half of it goes to “city buildings.” Those levy funds go for financing the proposed $63 million South End Recreation Centre in which the Guthrie council has already quietly committed $3 million for preliminary architectural planning.
This is the first major community recreation centre to be funded by a property tax levy of 1 per cent across the city.
At this point you have to wonder where the priorities are.
The Mayor has proclaimed that a new downtown Library will finally be part of the Baker Street redevelopment. This is nothing but an empty promise. It will be ten years before a new Library is open. The mayor and most of council will not be in office because the shovels don’t go into the ground until 2024. Many are frustrated supporters of a new downtown library. It’s just Cam promising anything to pander to their hopes and dreams after 20 years of promises by various administrations.
This is what didn’t show up in Community Assets
The Mayor neglects to reveal his role in the Guelph Hydro merger with Alectra Inc. The crown jewel of real assets has been given away for a pittance.
The proposal has yet to be approved by the Ontario Energy Board.
He must feel vindicated and confident that his support of this multi-million dollar asset giveaway was best for the 55,000 customers of Guelph Hydro.
As the saying goes: “It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings.”
For these reasons my wife and I did not vote for either Mr. Guthrie or Ms. Mlyarz.
If you have not done already we urge you to vote Monday, October 22. Eligible voters have already received their voter card with the location of the poll in each ward. Along with the official voter card, be sure and bring some ID such as driver’s licence, health card, utility bill or your Canadian passport.
Contact the City Clerk’s office. They will be happy to assist voters with information if required.
It’s your city and your vote.