Tag Archives: gerry barker

Guelph Speaks achieves a record 30,579 viewers

By Gerry Barker

June 19, 2017

Last week Guelph Speaks experienced the largest number of viewers in its seven-year history. From Sunday June 11 to Saturday June 17, there were 30,579 views of the blog. Most were from the following post made September 3, 2015. We were frankly stunned at this huge response to a Guelph Speaks posting especially concerning a column that was posted 22 months ago.

The analysis of what occurred was that a number of the Internet search engines found the piece in the GS Archives containing 880 postings, resulting in the unprecedented response. The views came from all over the province with some beyond our borders. It tells us that the Liberal government and its leader Kathleen Wynne are facing widespread disapproval of the Premier and her administration. In fact, her current approval rating has shrunk to just 12 per cent across the province according to the latest poll.

In my opinion, even though the provincial election is a year away, moving a government to attain a 40 per cent vote majority of the result or even managing winning enough ridings for a minority government, is highly unlikely. The ABW (Anyone But Wynne) syndrome is now fully engaged. No amount of throwing the people’s money at fake promises will save the day.

Two events may affect the result next June. The Premier may resign but it’s highly unlikely as calling a leadership convention to replace her takes time and resources. The other is Ms. Wynne calls a snap election but her record leading the province is so tarnished it would backfire.

The fate of the Liberal government will affect the outcome of the vote in several Liberal ridings including Guelph. Currently held by Liz Sandals, President of the Treasury Board, in the Liberal dominated legislature and close friend of the Premier, the Guelph seat will be difficult to retain under present circumstances.

There is the old expression that old governments along with old soldiers never die, they just fade away.

On a personal note: This expression was an adaption of the widely quoted comment by General Douglas MacArthur, in 1951 to the U.S. Congress following his firing as Commander in Chief of the United Nations forces fighting in Korea. I was a young Lieutenant completing my training as a Royal Canadian Amoured Corps officer listening to the General on a rickety radio. I am now just another old soldier but not quite ready to fade away. GB

 

Ontario Liberals now tax you after you die

By Gerry Barker

Originally Posted September 3, 2015

Here’s a new, not so nice tax called the Estate Administration Tax (EAT) that the Wynne Liberals slipped through, effective Jan. 1, 2015 and no one (in 2015) is talking about it!   The EAT was originally introduced by the Mike Harris government but the Wynne Liberals have drastically modified it to make it more difficult and onerous for the survivors of any deceased Ontarian.

Basically, your survivors and executors have to report the value of all your stuff, valuables, cars and trucks, second homes, boats, RV’s, right down to the exercise bicycle in the basement.

It is yet another roadblock to discourage real growth in Ontario joining the other job killers and evaporating prosperity. Here are some examples of how the Ontario Liberals have mismanaged the Ontario economy: We have the most expensive electricity rates in North America; a new jobs- killing Ontario pension plan; the most expensive alcoholic beverages in North America; sky-high gasoline taxes; supply management agriculture boards that have driven basic food prices to excessive levels; an integrated sales tax of 13 per cent on all goods and services with minor exceptions.

Yes the province even charges the HST on the cost of your funeral.

The province charges the HST on the electricity you use.

The HST is charged on a number of consumables including vehicles, non-prescription drugs, clothing, and items that most people would describe as food or a derivative.

When does the Premier stop her relentless quest to bail out a province she and her predecessor created that is now carrying an $8 billion deficit? Her finance minister claims the Ontario budget will be balanced by 2017.

That runs counter to what her federal Liberal leader is saying. He wants to remove the Harper government’s balanced budget legislation and go to deficit financing to fix the country’s infrastructure.

These two leaders are currently working together to elect federal Liberals in Ontario, but don’t seem to be playing from the same page. Update: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won the 2015 Federal Election winning 183 seats in Parliament.

For all the details of this new tax grab, go to the link below where the government explains it or you can read the comments from funeral directors printed out below in layman’s terms, or both. But be forewarned, it’s scary stuff.

Our Wynne Liberal Government presumably has to find a way to repay the billion dollars they gave the construction companies not to build the gas-fired hydro plants and subsidizing wind/solar power projects, the Orange air ambulance fiasco, the E-health record keeping program that cost millions, and other boondoggles they created.  The aptly named EAT even has local Funeral Directors seeing red.

Here’s the skinny of Kathleen Wynne’s latest play to extract more money from taxpayers, even after they’re dead.

The current EAT tax rates

  • $5 for each $1,000, or part thereof, of the first $50,000 of the value of the estate, and
  • $15 for each $1,000, or part thereof, of the value of the estate exceeding $50,000.

Note: There is no estate administration tax payable if the value of the estate is $1,000 or less.

The estate administration tax is calculated on the total value of the estate. For example, for an estate valued at $240,000 the tax would be calculated as follows:

  1. $5 per thousand for the first $50,000 of the estate = $250
  2. Plus $15 per thousand for the remaining $190,000 of the estate
    • $240,000 – $50,000 = $190,000
    • $190,000 X $15 = $2,850
  3. For a total of $3,100 ($250 + $2,850) payable to the Minister of Finance. The EAT act demands that the executors or appointed representatives must complete the EAT return within 90 days.

This does not include estate probate fees on the $240,000 estate value, used in this example or any taxes due on capital gains on investments owned by the deceased

In order to comply with this new death tax, the estate appointed representatives are forced to consult with the following professionals: Financial advisor, registered appraiser, lawyer, funeral director, insurance broker, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, the estate banker. Most of whom charge a fee for service in preparing the Estate Administration Tax returns. Those fees alone, depending on the size of the estate, could run into the thousands.

Yes, and the return, when filed, must be accompanied with payment in full.

Licensed Funeral Directors Tim Baragar and Jeff Neuman are sounding the alarm bells over a tax program that they say will make life difficult for estate representatives in Ontario.  Baragar makes it clear that his service does not end at the cemetery.

He and Jeff Neuman do their best to help families obtain pertinent documents and ensure that a loved one’s affairs are in order.

Sounding the Alarm

And that’s why Baragar and Neuman are sounding the alarm bells over the newly changed tax that took effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Its timelines and penalties are something these Funeral Directors think everyone needs to be aware of.

The newly changed tax program that Baragar finds frightening requires an executor to assess, appraise and value any and all property owned at the time of death on a tight timeline. This EAT appraisal includes anything that is not passed directly to a spouse or passed through joint ownership. Assets that are being gifted to charities also need to be included in the valuation. The tax is then calculated and needs to be paid immediately to the Province of Ontario as a deposit.

Baragar explains it this way – when a loved one dies and you are named as the executor of the estate, you apply for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee and then you have only 90 days to file your Estate Information Return. As soon as you file you have to pay the tax as a deposit. And if you don’t file, there are serious consequences.

According to the Ministry of Finance, “estate representatives who fail to file an Estate Information Return as required, or who make false or misleading statements on the return, may be found guilty of an offense and, on conviction, are liable to a fine of at least $1,000 and up to twice the tax payable by the estate or, imprisonment of not more than two years or both.”

Has Ontario become a police state?

This is aconcern to Mr. Baragar.  “It is completely unreasonable for the Ministry of Finance to expect this reporting within 90 days of the trustee beginning their role,” Baragar says. “Just getting print outs and information from banks and investment companies takes a lot of time. My biggest concern is that quite typically the trustees are often family members or close friends of the person who has died. So this simply isn’t a matter of completing a task that the Ministry of Finance merely views as a new source of income, it is a very emotionally demanding and time-consuming job. Couple that with the added stress of dealing with the loss as a family member or close friend, and it can make this role very upsetting and emotionally draining.”

And to be clear – the valuation can’t be a guess. The Province requires that you be able to back-up what you’re filing so if you’re not sure what the current market value is of taxable posessions, for example, it’s up to the executor to hire someone to do an appraisal.  There is even a link on the Ministry’s website to the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

And once you appraise, value and file you still have to be sure that nothing changes. If you made a mistake or if you missed something you have to immediately contact the Ministry (within 30 calendar days) and make all the necessary corrections.

“For our Government to threaten these individuals with charges and penalties is absurd,” Baragar says. “We pay tax when we earn our living. We pay tax when it generates income within an investment. We pay tax when we pull it from that investment, so this same money certainly shouldn’t be taxed again within the boundaries of someone’s estate.”

Enough is enough.

 

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Why Guelph’s bureaucratic costs are crippling our city, because staff won’t listen

By Gerry Barker

September 12, 2016

On August 22, My wife and I sent an open letter to the Hon. Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs. In the letter, the details of mismanagement of our city were outlined and we asked a reply to our request for an investigation of city operations.

That was three weeks ago and we are still waiting.

Premier Kathleen Wynne appointed Mr. Mauro in her recent cabinet shake-up. He has experience on this file as he served in the job before. Our MPP Liz Sandals was moved in that shake-up from Minister of Education to President of the Provincial Treasury Board, a less onerous cabinet job with little or no public exposure or consequence. That’s the equivalent of a “D” in politics.

Meanwhile Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi disagreed with his new boss, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Derrick Thomson, about the state of city finances. His statement claiming the city was in “sound financial condition” contrasted with the CAO’s statement that the nine-year capital expense plan was underfunded by $170 million after just one year in operation.

Believing today that this city can afford a new Downtown Library, South End recreation Centre, the Wilson Street parking garage and redevelopment of the Baker Street parking lot, is pixie dust and impossible.

It is now open and transparent about how public money has been wasted by a staff in concert with council in the past nine years.

It is not Mayor Cam Guthrie’s fault. He, unknowingly in taking office December 1, 2014, inherited a financial cesspool of millions spent and wasted on self-serving policies of the previous Farbridge administration. You remember them and all their self-promoted awards. To read a recent column written by one of her supporters, the writer painted her as Saint Karen, the revered leader of Guelph. Yikes! Is there no limit to their arrogance?

The problem today is the rigid control of council. They regularly support the senior staff that has seen a CAO and DCAO leave the city because of the revelations of mismanagement.

In his fine analysis of the bloated city operational costs, Pat Fung, CPA, CA, outlined why the city’s operating costs were growing at an unsustainable rate that lasted seven years.

Here is a telling chart of Pat Fung’s analysis

Guelph’s Operating Costs 2008 to 2015 (source: Audited financial statements)

($ thousands) 2015 2014 2008   $ ’08 to ’15 per cent
           
General government 27,070 25,136 18,891   8,179 +43.3%
Protection services 79,550 75,506 51,855   27,695 +53.4%
Transportation services 60,381 57,405 43,380   17,001 +39.2%
Environmental services 76,238 72,697 35,035   41,203 +117.6%
Health services 29,180 27,522 18,524   10,656 +57.5%
Social and family services 43,601 52,280 51,183   -7,582 -14.8%
Social housing 21,372 20,444 n/a   21,372  
Recreation and cultural services 40,906 39,481 23,947   16,959 +70.8%
Planning and development 7,313 6,155 3,986   3,327 +83.5%
           
Total Expenses 385,611 376,626 246,801   138,810 +56.2%
Consumer Price Index 126.6 125.2 114.1   12.5 +11.0%

Guelph should reduce its operating expenses by $20 million and freeze taxes and fees at current levels to fund the capital/infrastructure gap. We cannot continue to increase spending on operating costs on top of increasing our spending on capital and infrastructure.

The Fung Solution: It can be done by freezing revenues at 2016 levels and reducing expenses by $20 million annually. It can be accompkised by freezing expenses at $365 million for 20 years, allowing for increases for index of inflation and assessment growth. City reserves would be built up to $200 million in 10 years. This would be reduced by whatever is spent in the interim on capital and infrastructure. This has the same financial effect as increasing taxes but is funded totally from within the current taxation, user fees and spending.

Will Guelph do the right thing and reduce staff and operating costs?

Guelph’s current financial situation is close to what the City of Brampton faced last week when it terminated 25 senior managers. Mr. Fung pulls no punches in his analysis saying in order to reduce operational expenses, the city will have to lay off staff, reduce salaries and reduce management personnel. According to the provincial Sunshine List there are 92 city staff positions with the title “ manager.” That’s one for every 22 full-time equivalent employees

Regardless, the new CAO is quoted as saying that: “One option the staff will not present to council this fall as a solution to its capital funding woes is drastic cutting of services.”

That’s the usual claptrap excuse that has enveloped thinking of both city staff and leftist members of council.

Mercy me. We can’t cut services as the runaway train of financial mismanagement plunges off the cliff? Thomson disregards the Mayor’s request to investigate funding alternatives other than another property tax increase.

With that thinking by the CAO, who heads the 2,100 member of staff, get ready for a recommendation by staff to approve a 2 per cent special levy of property taxes for more than five years. Or, perhaps a longer period. It remains a sloppy and quick fix to the deep financial problems existent today and are not hoing away. It’s just another way to extract more money from the property taxpayer.

Do these deep thinkers on staff not understand why Guelph’s operating costs on a per person basis in six active operational areas, far exceed the average of the rest of the municipalities in Ontario?

According to the independent BMA consultant report, every person in the city pays $836 for the operational costs of six defined areas. The average in Ontario is $586 per person. That’s a 42.66 per cent difference, or total excess spending by Guelph of $30 million per year.

Now let’s take the General Government’s cost comparison. Guelph spends $229 per person in this category. The Ontario average cost per person is $104. The difference is a whopping 120 per cent additional cost to every resident of the city. Further, General Government expense is not a service but overhead. It can be reduced to meet needed cost cutting measures to bring the city government costs in line with what most Ontario municipalities are currently paying, based on a per capita population.

Now current acting CFO, DCAO, Mark Amorosi, doesn’t like to talk about this per captia cost. He says it’s irrelevant. What doe he care? He lives in Hamilton.

The present senior staff management and the Bloc of Seven on council, show no signs of acknowledging the growing financial problems being foisted on the taxpayers year after year. Plainly the staff is bloated with too many managers, high salaries and benefits, plus in some cases, two high priced managers doing one job.

Mark Amorosi’s crowning triumph was getting council, in closed session, to approve a 17.11 per cent increase for his then boss Ann Pappert and his three DCAO colleagues between 14 and nine per cent increases for 2015.

The public found out about it in March this year when the provincial Sunshine List of every public employee in Ontario earning more than $100,000 is named with taxable benefits five months after the fact.

Mark Amortosi was in charge of the city finances and Human Resources when council approved those increases December 9, 2015. Why is this man still working for the City of Guelph?

We urge folks to read the complete Fung Report. It can be found in the guelphspeaks.ca archives – Part One was posted August 29, 2016 and Part Two was posted September 1, 2016. If unable to locate the report, please contact Pat at pat.fung@sympatico.ca or guelphspeaks.ca

 

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Gazing into the belly button of Guelph politics

By Gerry Barker

Having written volumes about how our city functioned within the past six years, some conclusions have been reached about the future prospects of our civic society.

Guelph historically has been benign when it comes to voter participation in election campaigns.

That changed in 2006 when Karen Farbridge was returned to the mayor’s post along with a majority of councillors who accepted her leadership and proposals. It was a sweeping victory driven by a well-run and well-funded campaign, aided by professional organizers.

The defeated mayor, Kate Quarrie, ran a campaign that failed to recognize the public build-up of resentment against her and her council. Only two survived the onslaught.  Even though the Quarrie council was responsible for a new WalMart store that opened days before the election, it failed to ignite support.

The next four years saw the Farbridge majority council increase the city debt by more than $56 million with grandiose projects that played into the council’s self interests.  These included the $33 million compost plant and the new civic museum. The city’s $25 million share of the $74 million tri-government stimulus program was partially offset by calling a $30 million loan from Guelph Hydro.

These are just the tips of the crushing debt the Farbridge administration has created in five years of office. Revenues did not meet spending because of the anti-development attitude among many members of council coupled with the multi-million dollar unbudgeted costs.

These are known facts. It’s the unknown costs that voters must fear.

In 2010, Mayor Farbridge was re-elected with a reduced majority and she lost three members in her previous majority caucus. Actually it was four as re-elected Coun. Bob Bell joined the five councillors who did not support the Mayor’s policies. Getting even, the Mayor publicly lashed out at Coun. Bell for daring to challenge her authority.

Only 28 per cent of Guelph voters bothered to cast their ballot in 2010. It was the year that the two local papers shifted allegiance to the Farbridge administration. The move was subtle but nonetheless biased.  I know because my columns were the skunk at the garden party regarding the shift.

For five years I have been writing a column on the Mercury editorial page. My association became challenged just before the 2010 election when I was told I could not write a column that was biased against “you know who.” Following the election my columns, mostly critical of the Farbridge council, were regularly challenged or dropped altogether.

I wasn’t surprised when informed by e-mail that the column was finished. The added touch was that I should feel free to submit letters to the editor or the occasional guest column when the muse sparked.

That’s like putting the bull out to pasture and denying conjugal rights.

I have no regrets and my association with the Mercury editors remains amiable, as far as I’m concerned. They were only following orders,

The creation of guelphspeaks.ca has provided a platform that I can post almost daily to keep my viewers informed.  The daily growth of those viewing the blog has been phenomenal. It gives me confidence to feel that the great majority of voters is awakening and is starved for what is really going on.

The goal of guelphspeaks is to publish not only comments and opinion submissions by others, but to add more voices to build relevance to the blog.

The 2010 election remains a wake-up call for voters to ensure that competent, credible candidates are elected in 2014. Those prepared to represent all the people and return financial stability to the city hopefully will put their names forward.

Make no mistake, the city’s financial situation is crippling and will impact future councils for many years as they unravel the mindless spending of this administration.

Guelph has a great future as a bustling community with urban amenities and good paying jobs and services.  Unfortunately, the financial hole that has been dug by the Farbridge administration will delay the potential of this fine city.Step one starts today.

I urge citizens to become engaged in civic government. Question the slanted press releases from the city hall communications group. Question ward councillors about the issues and why they voted the way they did.  Express yourself through guelphspeaks.ca or letters to the editor.

Use your voice; study the issues and then we may begin to make change.

Guelphspeaks is your blog.

 

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