Tag Archives: Guelph Council

This poll giving the Liberal candidate a 44.1per cent lead lacks the elements of authenticity

By Gerry Barker

October 21, 2019


Having being involved in a number of elections, this poll published two days before Monday’s Federal Election, leaves out some fidelity of who ordered it? Who paid for it? Who conducted it?

To be sure, it wasn’t the campaigns of the Green Party, (23.3 per cent) The Conservatives, (21.9 per cent) The NDP, (6.2 per cent) The People’s Party of Canada (3.8 per cent). The opposition parties would never publish this result, if it were true.

The pollsters were IPolitics and Mainstreet Research. Neither appears to be incorporated. Who are the polling employees involved in making the 630 calls on September 30? That was three weeks ago.

That, in itself, makes this poll result useless and inaccurate today.

That’s a long time to publish this alleged data two days before the election.

The poll operators claimed to have a plus or minus error margin of 3.9 per cent.

Okay, how many Guelph voters were called September 30? How were they selected?

It is obvious that the Liberal campaign was in trouble just before election day and asking the Mercury Tribune to publish the result of the poll.

Here’s a personal memory. In 1968, I was the campaign manager for Liberal, Jimmy Walker, who was the party whip in the Pearson government. Jimmy narrowly won in two elections, defeating the NDP in York Centre. The previous win he only won by 33 votes.

This time was different as the NDP nominated newspaper columnist Doug Fisher.

We organized a potent ground team across the riding. Jimmy received a call from Keith Davey, the National organizer for the Liberal Party now led by Pierre Trudeau. We had lunch in a quiet restaurant in North York and Keith swore us to secrecy not to reveal what he was going to tell us. My heart sank but Keith smiled and said: Jim, you’re going to win by more than 30,000 votes according to our polling data.

In fact he won by 33,000 votes. When you are ahead you don’t talk about.

It seems this poll supporting the Liberals in Guelph is deliberately self-serving.

I believe that the electorate in the city has high numbers of progressive supporters. The Liberals have benefited by influencing some of those progressive supporters to vote Liberal. It’s been like that for a long time.

In last year’s provincial election, the Liberal candidate ran fourth in a five-candidate race as the majority of the progressive supporters migrated to the Green Party.

The remaining question about the Liberal campaign supporters is will the Green Party repeat that performance today?

Final Thought: Tonight, Guelph council is holding an emergency meeting starting at 6 p.m. to consider a staff recommendation to spend $197 million on a new consolidated operations campus. Estimated completion time is 2045.

The administration’s response was that it was too difficult to hold it at any other time.



Filed under Between the Lines

Was it coincidence that CAO Thomson is gone or just business as usual?

By Gerry Barker

April 1, 2019

This is the day of pranks, tomfoolery and the joke’s on us.

For once in his life, your faithful correspondent is speechless, witnessing the destruction of the city staff superstructure.

Thinking of the old Yogi Berra line: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” It appears this is not Derrick Thomson’s only departure described as a “parting of the ways” just before the provincial Sunshine List is published. It pops up near the end of March each year.

That List is really the only creditable source of all those Ontario public servants earning more than $100,000 a year plus taxable benefits. Dare I say it, but the former Mike Harris government created the List?

In December 2015, there was a closed-door meeting of council allegedly to discuss some substantial salary and benefit increases for the top three senior city staff managers. Not in dispute when council acted, the increases totaled $98,202.

There was no information published until the 2015 Sunshine List reported three months later.

How do we know the scope of those retroactive payments to the senior managers?? Guelphspeaks.ca compared what the three managers were paid in 2014 and 2015. That’s how the increases were discovered.

Turmoil at the top

In January 2016, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson, was the first to resign following the December 2015 meeting that allegedly approved the increases. He was gone two months before the 2015 Sunshine List was published.

Mr. Thomson accepted a position with the Town of Caledon where he lived. He left a job that was paying $207,000 (all figures rounded) plus $10,000 in taxable benefits.

In April 2016, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert announced her resignation but agreed to stay on to assist the new CAO. She left the city May 26, 2016. Her share of the $98,202 was $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000 plus $6,000 in taxable benefits.

In June 2016, Mr. Thomson was hired to replace Ms. Pappert. He announced that he would reveal details of his contract. In the fall he said he signed a three-year contract with a salary of $230,000 plus an increase of more than an $11,000 taxable benefit.

When the 2017 Sunshine List was published his salary had risen to $245,000.

Then, the city announced in early March 2019, prior to the 2018 Sunshine List publication, that by mutual agreement, CAO Derrick Thomson and the city were “parting ways.”

There was no further explanation other than he left immediately prior to the 2018 Sunshine List hit the Internet.

Déjà vu, again?

There will be no tag days for Mr. Thomson as his 2018 salary was $335,081 plus the $11,000 taxable bonus.

That is more money than the Premier of Ontario is paid.

It indicates that Mr. Thomson received more than a $90,000 increase between 2017 and 2018. The questions remain why was he suddenly gone on a cool Friday afternoon? The absence of explanation is part of the administration’s tight control of public information. You know: “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them.”

These are matters of the public interest yet there is no information surrounding these developments and why the turmoil exists in the senior echelon of the city government.

Almost forgot. Ms. Pappert worked five months in 2016 but was paid $263,0000, according to the 2016 Sunshine List.

The only way the pubic can receive this information is through the provincial Sunshine List. Without it, none of us have a clue and that’s the way the Guthrie administration wants it. The fact that council convened 84 closed-session meetings in 2015 and 2016 is evidence of denying the public access to information.

The rising trajectory shutting down public participation

For the past 39 months, annual property taxes increases in Guelph exceeded that of Brampton, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Toronto, Windsor and many more. Why? Why are other comparable cities able to manage their finances without hitting the property taxpayers’ ATM every year? Guelph’s tax rate is consistently more than 3 per cent.

For example, this year Brampton’s property tax rate is 1.1 per cent. With all the turmoil that city management has been through, it’s an astonishing achievement.

This year brought a welcome break when the city announced a property tax rate of 2.63 per cent less than the annual  3 per cent for only the second time since 2007. There are adjustments coming that will likely increase that tax rate.

In my opinion, there are two crucial aspects of this failure to govern responsibly:

The left majority of city council has politicized the staff. We blew the opportunity last October by not turning out to vote or participate. Municipal voting only occurs every four-years and we’re stuck with an administration that is frequently incompetent, secretive, authoritarian and irresponsible.

Don’t get me wrong. There are talented and dedicated employees on staff. Unfortunately, in Guelph, the leadership is the weak link.

The other vital action that needs to engage is public participation. This means attending council meetings and presenting contrarian points of view. Further, protest decisions that are not in the public interest. Sad to say, some councillors cherishs ambition and not pragmatism.

The woods are filled with competent and talented individuals experienced in public service. They aren’t hard to find. It’s too easy to blame the staff but after witnessing the merger of Guelph Hydro, council failed to look after its own destroying one of the best group of staffers in the province.

If we don’t react to stupidity and careless statements that city council has already demonstrated, we can only blame ourselves.

The real power governing the city lies with the people.

Let’s restore it.







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If Milton can decrease the size of its council from 11 to 9, why can’t Guelph?

By Gerry Barker

July 4, 2016

Recently, the town of Milton’s 11-member council voted to reduce the number of elected councillors to nine. It will reduce the number of wards to four and will adjust the boundaries.

According to Mayor Gordon Kranz, the process took a little more than an hour and the vote was six to five in favour of the reduction to be effective in the 2018 civic election.

The differences between the two municipalities are marked by Milton’s aggressive attraction of industrial and commercial assessment that leaves Guelph biting their dust.

Guelph’s industrial/commercial assessment is 16 per cent of the city’s total assessment. Residential assessment is 84 per cent. It has been stuck in that ratio for the past ten years.

The provincial average of industrial/commercial assessment is 40 per cent and 60 per cent residential. Guelph is not even close to that provincial average. This is one of the chief reasons that residential taxes are among the highest in the province

You can only blame the policies of the previous administration that failed to attract and sell the city on locating to the Royal City. The former Farbridge administration focused instead on a narrow schedule of environmental issues, such as the organic waste composting facility; the automated waste collection system requiring the use of bins of presorted garbage; reducing the traffic lanes on major roads to accommodate bicycle lanes. To accomplish their goals the former administration increased the full-time staff from 1,400 in 2007 to more than 2,145 this year.

Guelph has 13 councillors including the mayor. Its reliance on property taxes of the greater majority of residential properties has not only driven up taxes and user fees but also its policies of attracting and approving industry have failed miserably.

It’s no wonder the city is not attracting industry because the costs of operating in Guelph are not competitive with other municipalities in the Wellington/Halton/ Waterloo catchment area.

This performance is one of the main reasons that neighbouring Cambridge and Kitchener have operating and capital costs that are 50 per cent less than Guelph’s.

You may recall the 11-year battle to have Wal-Mart come to Guelph. Some of the same people on city council today worked hard to make sure the world’s largest retailer would never set up shop in Guelph.

The anti-Wal-Mart campaign was funded by the various labour unions, the cost of which was never known but the city spent more than a million dollars to oppose the union involvement. It became know as the anti-Big Box stores wars.

With a city staff that is 80 per cent unionized, the influences exercised by this collective hampers industrial development. In the case of Linamar, the city’s largest private employer, more than half of its workforce lives outside Guelph. Why? You may ask, it is because the cost of owning property and living in Guelph is much higher than either Cambridge or Kitchener?

This did not happen overnight. The hardcore majority of the environmentally element on three successive councils enacted polices such as attempting to reduce carbon emissions by trying to force citizens to get out of their cars and pedal.

Today, James Gordon, Leanne Piper, Cathy Downer, Phil Allt, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury and Karl Wettstein are the majority of city council and most times vote as one bloc.

This group is responsible for the anti-business attitude that pervades the staff.

The only way to change it is to defeat them in 2018 on the grounds of their obstructionism and collective tactics that only serve their loyalists, union members and hangers–on.

Putting council on a reduction diet has about as much chance as a Mandarin meatball heading down the pie-hole.

The present ward system suits the Group of Geven just fine because it’s easier to fund, run and win a ward seat on council rather than across the city.

If we are to create change and aggressively attract quality industry, the ward system needs to go, among reforms of governance created by the previous administration.

Here’s a heads-up on reforming the first past-the-post election of candidates. There is a group in town actively trying to have the city adopt proportional voting, an NDP platform policy.

And all this time you believed getting rid of former mayor Farbridge would bring reform, lower taxes and a council that would work for the common good, not their own personal agenda.


Filed under Between the Lines

Why does this council perpetuate what 45 per cent of the voters rejected in 2014?

By Gerry Barker

June 27, 2016

It’s a revelation that two city-owned facilities, managed by the city and used by the public, lose a total of $780,000 a year. Not just in 2013, but also by admission of the former General Manager of Tourism and Culture, Coleen Clack, it has averaged that for the previous four years.

This is a stunning admission by the newly appointed Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) of all city operations including infrastructure maintenance and repairs, Guelph Transit and public first responder operations, Police, Fire and EMS.

Now we don’t know Ms Clack. But as a taxpayer and shareholder in our city’s corporation, I find it difficult to understand why Ms. Clack would be promoted to such a senior position without experience or accreditation in managing such a large portfolio and attendant responsibility.

We understand there was urgency in appointing Operations Senior Manager in view of former DCAO of Operations, Derrick Thomson’s, and appointment as the new Chief Administration Officer (CAO).

But why the haste? The city operations won’t cease because of a temporary gap in leadership. There are capable middle managers that are able to keep the city working.

Coleen Clack may be capable of handling the job. I have been told she is an able and good manager.

But wait a minute! If this is true, why under her responsibility as a manager of these two facilities, is the RiverRun Centre losing more than $531,000 and the Sleeman centre losing almost $249,000 every year?

Now that Ms. Clack is in a most senior management position, how can we taxpayers be assured that she can handle the job in view of her past record?

Perhaps the powers making this decision should have put Mark Amorosi in charge of Operations awaiting arrival of the new Chief Financial Officer has been hired.

What we do know is that we don’t mind paying taxes as long as I get value. In 14 years that has not been the case. This is our personal beef about not getting value for our taxes. My wife and I live in a community of 22 homes that is a land condominium corporation.

The City of Guelph does not plow the street in winter, clean the street of winter debris in the spring and fall; does not pick up our garbage, saying we live on a dead end street and the trucks cannot turn around, although the fire department has no such difficulty. As members of a Home Owners Association, we own and are responsible for the infrastructure of the development that includes paying into a reserve fund to replace roads and aging underground water and sewer pipes. The reserves are based on an engineer’s study estimating when the infrastructure needs replacement or maintenance.

Our little community is a self-sustaining village within a city. The rub is that this development was approved by the city and regardless; we must pay taxes for basic services that the city does not supply.

So, for the privilege of living in Guelph, we must be double taxed for basic services.

Seems to us that is reminiscent of the kind of thing that started the American Revolutionary War in 1755 when the citizens, protesting the tax on tea, boarded a ship in Boston Harbour and dumped crates of tea from England into the harbour.

As we said, we don’t mind paying our way but this is a parallel tax grab by a corporation dominated by the political activists who are hungry for revenue.

We can hear the complaints coming that we elected to live here and must accept the responsibility. That’s true but the city has created ghettos of condominiums in which its planners disregarded access to public service vehicles. The number of households affected by these policies is estimated to be more than 6,000. That’s 13 per cent of the total property taxed properties in Guelph.

The misguided war on cars

The previous Farbridge administration developed policies that emphasized restrictions of vehicular traffic on major streets. Often well-travelled major streets were remarked to accommodate bicycle lanes by reducing four lanes for vehicles to two lanes.

In eight years in office, the Farvridge administration permitted new housing in the area bordered by Arkell, Victoria, Clair and Gordon streets. There are few single-family homes in the area but scores of low-rise condos and linked, strip townhouses. The residences are not welcoming to cars or commercial vehicles because of narrow interior roads that prevent street parking and interior connections to major roads. Driveways barely accommodate a full-sized vehicle and there is little visitor parking.

It’s an example of social engineering to create intensified housing in accordance, the administration claimed, was the Ontario “Places to Grow” directive. The administration believed that single-family housing created increased dependence on the automobile. Instead, it spent millions creating bicycle lanes that are used by a small minority of residents in many cases as basic transportation but chiefly not in the winter months.

This same group of cyclists ignores the law that states they cannot ride on sidewalks when those bike lanes disappear on major roads.

These measures contributed to increased property taxes and user fees in Guelph. Today, the city’s legacy of those forced collectivization efforts has forceded the citizenss into a state that reflects major changes in lifestyle. It has been done in the name of reducing carbon emissions and abortive sustainability projects costing millions.

None of this was discussed or approved by the vast majority of citizens save for loyal supporters of the Farbridge administration. These included the civic labour unions that now represent 80 percent of the city staff. Also the remnants of the Guelph Civic League and its successor 10 Carden Street, that is a publicly funded political action organization.

The trouble is Guelph’s operational and capital costs are 50 per cent higher than either Cambridge or Kitchener, due to the excessive spending of the previous administration.

The underlying problem in the city is the culture of entitlement that has grasped not only the minority of leftist citizens who support the social engineering changes but most of the senior staff who are beholden to the previous regime.

It becomes a struggle to change the culture because of the bloc of seven councillors supporters who support and are dependent on the senior staff. For them, it’s business as usual despite replacing the Chief Administrative Officer whose performance over five years led to her resignation.

The cost of financing these projects plus multi-million operating deficits of city- owned facilities is still prevalent among the staff administration that is currently undergoing major senior staff changes.

How the culture is perpetuated

It’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole, when one is whacked down another immediately pops up.

In our view, there are two councillors, June Hofland and Karl Wettstein, who have been deeply involved supporting the former mayor’s policies from the beginning of her mandate in 2007. These policies have squandered the public trust and treasure. Accordingly, as key enablers of these failed costly projects and financial management, both these councillors should resign.

The reason is that collectively, they have failed their responsibility to represent the people by morally abandoning them and forcing an agenda to which the majority of citizens did not agree. This was proven in the 2014 election, in which Cam Guthrie won the citywide mayoralty race by more than 5,000 votes.

Despite that overwhelming victory, the supporters of the former mayor won ward by ward contests in which it allowed victories with a small number of voters in each ward. Ms. Hofland won by only five votes in Ward Three. Mr. Wettstein ran second in Ward Six almost 900 votes behind newcomer Mark MacKinnon.

These two councillors during their four-year involvement on the Community Energy Initiative (CEI) from its active inception in 2011, provides ample proof that they were complicit in initiating and participating in the failed $26, 637,244 loss implementing the project. This figure is the amount presented to Council May 16 by the GMHI Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Pankaj Sardana and then CAO Ann Pappert.

The two councillors had to know what was going on through their membership on the board of directors in Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI), the operating corporation running the CEI. They are the only two serving councillors, appointed by the former Mayor, who are still on council

Wettstein has already recused himself from the probe of GMHI by claiming he had a pecuniary interest because he received a stipend for serving of the board. For her part, Ms. Hofland voted against further investigation by council into the GMHI record. Only she and Coun. Mike Salisbury voted against the motion.

Councillors Hofland and Wettstein not only shared responsibility along with the former mayor for the GMHI financial disaster but also are now stonewalling any investigation including an independent forensic audit of the affair.

They have abrogated their responsibility and there is no back door to escape. They must resign.

Do you believe this is corruption at its very worst? Or is it just business as usual?


Editor’s note: I’d like to read your opinions of this post. Please use the comment section of the GuelphSpeaks postings page. Your ID is protected.




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Is Guelph a city in crisis in which a vacuum of leadership exists?

By Gerry Barker


Posted February 29, 2016

Recently, guelphspeaks.ca reported details of the city administration’s bungling managing the public’s money. We now learn that the General Manager of Finance, Janice Sheehy has resigned. Also, former veteran Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole, is suing the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal and according to the statement of claim, defamation of character.

Going through the files, we discovered a report by Mayor Cam Guthrie commenting on the final cost overrun figures from building the new city hall. The report by the Chief Administrative Officer(CAO), Ann Pappert, revealed it cost the city $23 million more than the contract price of $42 million. Most people refer to it as the Urbacon affair.

“It’s now time to turn our focus to the things that made our city great and new ideas that make it better,” Mayor Guthrie stated.

In an editorial in the Guelph Mercury, the mayor is quoted: “I sincerely hope that this audit will take a heavy burden off our collective backs and help us focus on great things happening in our city now and the great things that are about to happen in our future.” The Mercury editorial questioned the Mayor’s assertion that the Urbacon affair be shifted to the back burner.

In a word, platitudes and promises have not settled the people’s concerns about the financial management of the city.

A case in point was the recent revelation in the Guelph Tribune.

During a recent meeting, Coun. Christine Billings asked the staff to confirm that the Capital Renewal Reserve Fund was short $5.24 million because the money was used to settle the Urbacon Buildings Group Inc.’s breach of contract lawsuit. City General Manager and Treasurer Janice Sheehy conceded: “Yes, we did fund that particular issue from the reserve.” Was that admission the cause of Ms. Sheehy’s resignation after less than a year on the job?

As reported in guelphspeaks.ca some months ago, there were three reserve funds that were raided to pay the $8.96 million Urbacon settlement and legal costs.

The CAO reported that the settlement would not affect property taxes and the three reserves would be replenished at a rate of $900,000 annually for five years. Well, that soon went off the rails when Coun. Karl Wettstein, during the March 2015 budget talks, moved successfully to reduce the amount in the 2015 budget to $500,000. He then flipped the problem over to the staff, knowing full well that the $8 million Capital Renewal Reserve had been reduced to just $3.7 million.

Wettstein knew the Guelph Hydro $30 million note was called by the city and knew where the money was spent. He also knew that the administration used $5.24 million of the reserve to settle with Urbacon.

This is an example of the mindless lack of fiduciary responsibility that has gotten Guelph into the current financial crisis. And Wettstein is not alone. His colleagues in the Gang of Seven, all supporters of the defeated former mayor, have become so dependent on the professional staff that is causing the city’s troubles.

With a slim 7-6 majority on council, they have obstructed attempts to reform operations. They are so confident of their power, that despite two of their members away on vacation, they walked out of a regular council meeting January 25, because they did not have the majority.

The man the voters counted on to bring change in the way the city was being managed, speaks of the wonders of the future of the city. His lack of moral fibre to take leadership and root out the rot, destroying our city from within, is becoming increasingly apparent to many people including those who supported him in the election.

This city badly needs a mayor who will lead, not a cheerleader.

He is leading a totally dysfunctional council, in which even those councillors trying to make changes are becoming demoralized over the lack of progress with an obstructionist seven-person majority.

The first step is appointing a committee of citizens to review all those quirky bylaws set up by the previous administration to maintain control of the agenda and rules of operations. They must have the power to dump any governance bylaw that causes obstructionism and unecessary control.

These proceedural bylaws are major stumbling blocks to reform of governance. They are the epitome of self-serving control of all city business by the previous mayor and her hand picked senior administrative managers.

The sheer affrontery of former Mayor Farbridge to spend hundred of thousands of dollars to set up a Transparent and Open Government Action Plan, is laughable in its pretext for righteous governance.

The irony is, that citizens are stilo paying for this “action plan” currently being managed by Andy Best, a paid supporter of the former mayor and appointed by the Guthrie administration.

By a 7-6 majority vote, council approved spending another $267,000 in the 2016 budget for continuing the open government action plan.

And you wonder why we have a financial crisis.

Please Note: Viewers can access previous posts in guelphspeaks.ca archives. There are 749 posts written since 2011 covering, for the most part, the city of Guelph’s administration. Editor Gerry Barker may be reached at gerrybarker76@gmail.com.







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Finally, the city administration admits the financial cupboard is bare

By Gerry Barker

Posted February 17, 2016

You can assume that finger pointing has already started.

Tuesday’s report in the Guelph Tribune has exposed how Guelph has wasted millions on a variety of projects including building an organic waste processing facility costing $34 million. This was six times the annual amount of wet waste generated by the city annually.

The Dunlop Drive waste management facility cost was never revealed to the public. Next was spending $15.5 million on using household bins and automated trucks to pick it up. Trouble was, some 6,400 households were not served by the system.

To keep the waste operation going, the city approached other municipalities to use its facilities to process waste. While Guelph citizens underwrote these waste management facilities, there has never been a real financial statement that outlines the status of this Farbridge-inspired plan to become a world-class manager of waste processing. The sick joke is that 45 per cent of the waste generated in Guelph, is still going to the landfill.

This is just some of the reasons that Guelph is under financial duress.

Precious capital was spending $10,000 renovating a derelict former convent building on Catholic Hill. This resulted in a civic museum. The problem remains that the money was spent on someone else’s property. This could create a problem for future councils. The truth of this abortive exercise is the foundation needed severe remediation to support the three-storey structure. Cost is unknown, Special cabinets were ordered from Europe only to find sprinkler heads were too close to the tops of the cabinets.

During the recent meeting, Coun, Christine Billings asked the staff to confirm that the Capital Renewal Reserve Fund was short $5.24 million because the money was used to settle the Urbacon Buildings Group Inc.’s, wrongful dismissal lawsuit. City General Manager and Treasurer Janice Sheehy conceded: “Yes, we did fund that particular issue from the reserve.”

In fairness, when that decision was made, Ms. Sheehy was not an employee of the city. Her admission however disputes the Chief Administrative Officer’s 2014 public statement that there was more than one reserve fund raided, to pay off the Urbacon settlement and legal fees. Ms. Pappert stated further that the impact of the lawsuit would not affect property taxes.

In July 2015, city council decided not to repay the $5.24 million taken from the Capital Renewal Reserve Fund. That decision was made knowing that it would cripple the potential participation in a federal-provincial infrastructure plan that would require the city to pay one-third of any accepted proposal.

At the time, the staff warned that future capital projects may “limit” the city’s ability to take part in any future large-scale infrastructure grant programs because there is no money to pay for the city’s share.

On December 9, the meeting of council determining the 2016 budget quickly buried a staff proposal to institute a ten-year, 2 per cent special property tax levies to pay for needed infrastructure repairs in the city.

Tuesday, the Tribune reported what remains of a $30-million Guelph Hydro note that used to make an annual contribution to city coffers. In July, 2009, council decided to cash in the longstanding Guelph Hydro note and use most of the proceeds, $22 million, to fund the city’s share of a flurry of infrastructure-related construction projects, done in Guelph under a federal-provincial stimulus program.

That leaves $3.7 million in the fund. The whole reserve situation is severely underfunded as stated in the BMA consultant’s report on city operations.

Well, we should be used to this by now. In 2009, the city participated in a federal-provincials infrastructure program. Today there is only $3.7 million left in the Capital Renewal Reserve Fund

In March 2013, the Capital Renewal Reserve Fund was created with the money remaining, $8 million, left from the $30 million Guelph Hydro note. But the city’s share of the federal-provincial infrastructure funding in 2009, grew to $27 million as such infrastructure items such as $2 million spent on Stone Road bike lanes, and a new $75,000 clock in the Sleeman Centre. It is apparent that the $4 million share overrun was paid through successive budgets, in which the real costs were buried.

How did this city get into such a mess?

It was accomplished by a city council dominated by Karen Farbridge and her supporters. For the past four years the council appointed chairperson of Finance, June Hofland, whose financial credentials do not extend beyond a teller’s cage. The former administration was aided and abetted by senior staff; today, four of them appointed by the former administration, are running the city. The present senior staff is devoid of responsibility in maintaining the net worth of the corporation, its ability to pay its bills or finance an aging infrastructure.

The agenda of the former mayor and her supporters on council is filled with projects and schemes to fit their plans with little public input. They have been supported by members of nine unions making up 80 per cent of the total city staff.

The present city staff has grown to such a point that the city can no longer support their numbers. Yet, the seven councillors continue to vote for more staff, as recommended by their cohorts in management, the city staff. This only perpetuates the growing costs and employment liabilities to the taxpayers and those citizens who must pay record-high user fees.

There are only two ways to fix the immediate cash problem: Add cash by going deeper in debt or sock it to the taxpayers with a special levy to raise cash. Sorry, I’ve seen this play before and you won’t like the ending.

The stakeholders in Guelph have been neutered by a minority group of individual, who have grasped power determined to change the city in any way they want.

And here’s an example of Councillor Mark MacKinnon’s solution to the city’s participation in a possible new federal-provincial infrastructure plan: “Take as much money as the federal government will give us.”

With respect, Mr. MacKinnon, that’s remark is a purely political sound bite that ignores the real financial situation this city faces.

City Council must engage in serious political decisions to extricate the stakeholders from this serious financial situation.

Not to take charge and assert financial principles, will be done at your political peril.






Filed under Between the Lines

Note to citizens: If we don’t get our own way, we’ll strike

By Gerry Barker

Posted January 28, 2016

Last Monday, believed to be the first time in the history of Guelph, five members of council walked out of a council meeting. The five, together with two of their already absent number, stopped the meeting cold following a closed door meeting, as Mayor Guthrie found himself unable to continue the public meeting due to a lack of a quorum.

The underlying reason for this walkout is unknown at this time because Coun. Phil Allt told a citizen that he could not “reveal what occurred” to cause this deliberate boycott of conducting the city’s business. It becomes even murkier with the deafening silence of city clerk Stephen O’Brien.

Well here’s the skinny. We believe the closed meeting was to discuss a personnel matter, a legal reason. When the Gang of Seven did a head count, they were outnumbered six to five because two of that group were absent.

But let’s hear more of this sappy Allt response: “You will have to trust that this rather simple message is of importance to all Guelph residents. By denying a quorum we were defending the integrity of the city as a corporation and staff.”

These are the last guys we should trust to defend the integrity of the corporation and the staff. Besides, it is not their exclusive responsibility to “defend the integrity of the city.” That’s the role of council, the whole council.

Did that closed meeting precipitate the defection of responsibility concerning a senior member of the staff? It has been the opinion of many in the city that there is too strong a bond between the senior staff and the Gang of Seven majority on council.

More importantly, the Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert; Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Mark Amorosi; DCAO Derrick Thomson; City Clerk Stephen O’Brien; and City Solicitor Donna Jacques, were all appointed by former Mayor Karen Farbridge and supported by her council majority.

So how do we attain change and transparency if the same team is on the field?

Is this a problem of the Great Divide?

What has occurred here is that we now have two councils, the Gang of Seven councillors who are determined to continue the policies and capital projects of the former administration and raise taxes exponentially, and the real one that is led by Mayor Guthrie, who is the only member of council elected by all the voters in the city with more than 20,000 votes.

The other is led by: Who knows? The role of spokesman has fallen on Mr. Allt, who was elected with some 3,000 votes in Ward Three. His Ward Three colleague, “Landslide” June Hofland, won her seat by five votes.

The bottom line is this group has few bright stars in its stable. In fact, most are financially illiterate to the point where they depend solely on the staff for guidance. The result was the recent two-day budget meetings. The comments from the Gang of Seven destroyed the attempts by the Guthrie supporters to reduce taxes and review the city operations to lower costs.

Collectively, these seven councillors are acting like kids in the candy store with a hundred bucks to spend because it’s not their money.

If you believe Phil Allt, it’s like: “I got the money from Daddy and he said don’t tell Mommy.”

Of course they’re not going to explain their irresponsible actions.

They just didn’t attack the Guthrie administration, they attacked every person in this city and they refuse to explain their actions and on what possible grounds?

Is this the way this totally dysfunctional council is going to operate from now on? If they don’t like something they walk out destroying a quorum?

If the Mayor is smart, he’ll issue a meeting notice to do the city’s business within 24 hours. If the Gang of Seven refuses to attend, then cancel all pay, allowances and perks of those councillors not attending. Revoke any committee chair positions and memberships to other boards they may hold and receive extra pay. Then ask the Integrity Commissioner to investigate the reasons for the boycott.

If none of that works, obtain legal advice to consider suing the absent councillors on the grounds of failure to perform their fiduciary and elected responsibilities. Instruct the clerk that until further notice, there will be no in camera meetings of council.

These seven councillors need to apologize to the citizens of Guelph for their irresponsible actions.





Filed under Between the Lines

Gang of Seven Councillors boycott council meeting, shutting it down

By Gerry Barker

Posted January 27, 2016

As the old song goes: “ It’s days of wine and roses,” as the sun finally sets on the Gang of Seven Farbridge progressives who have shanked any kind if reform attempted by the new Guelph council.

The repetitive 7-6 vote dominance by this group has dumped thousands of dollars in increased property taxes and user fees in just 13 months onto the backs of citizens.

This week, two members of the Gang o0f Seven, June Hofland and Karl Wettstein, were not attending the meeting. The reason is not clear.

This action shattered the Gang of Seven’s majority on council. Along with Mayor Guthrie, five other reform-minded councillors suddenly had the majority.

For reasons currently unknown, the council went into camera, i.e. private session.

Upon returning to the public meeting, the five members did not turn up. The Mayor cancelled the meeting.

So what happened? Why did these five councillors fail to attend a meeting of council, to which they were elected and sworn to uphold the city’s operational bylaws governing procedure of the people’s business?

There is no apparent reason for this unprescedented action.

They just quit their responsibilities.

Let’s name them. They were elected to represent the people in their individual wards. Do you think those electors would realize that their taxes would increase by 11.62 per cent in just one year? Did they realize that their representatives would vote for these increases?

Included in this group profile is Ward 2 councillor, James Gordon one of the walk-outs. He voted to increase property taxes in the 2015 and 2016 budgets; he also voted to spend $14 million to widen Speedvale Avenue from Woolwich to Manhattan Circle. It was strongly opposed by citizens.

In Ward three, councillor June Hofland won by just five votes and was not at the boycott incident.

Boycott walk-out, Ward three councillor Phil Allt, is another supporter of the tax increases and it is apparent that his ambition is to join the NDP caucus in Queen’s Park.

Walk out parparticpant Ward four councillor Mike Salisbury also supported the tax increases. He also has little understanding of the city’s finances and believes that if you don’t spend it in one year, you can spend it in the next year.

Ward Five councillor Leanne Piper is a doctrinaire Farbridge supporter. She also voted for the tax increases. The mystery surrounding her performance is the real cost of the Guelph Police headquarters renovations. The contract deadline was December 9 and there is no announcement of the cost of this major project. Hello!

Ward five councillor Cathy Downer was also a member of the boycotting Gang of Seven. She also voted for the 2015 and 2016 budget increases and spending $267,000 on the open government project that is being run by Farbridge supporter, Andy Best.

Ward Six Karl Wettstein did not attend the bocotted meeting. Regardless, he voted to raise property taxes and user fees.

It’s now clear that this Gang of Seven is determined to obstruct any attempt to reform the city’s administration.

This action only illustrates the blind stupidity of this group in not realizing their responsibility to reflect the majority of the people’s wishes for change.

So, when the chips are on the line, they walk out.

Call them, tell them to get back to work and do what they were elected to do.

Conversely, if they can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

If they continue to thumb their noses at the city and the people, then dock their pay, cancel their perks and inform them in writing of their responsibilities.



Filed under Between the Lines

The civic election campaign has started

Posted July 6, 2012

I recently completed a comprehensive survey conducted by a branch of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing partnered with the City of Guelph.

The pitch was that opinions expressed in the lengthy survey would help shape future city services and policies.

The details requested, included views on the environment, city cultural opportunities, and how satisfied they were with the operation and transparency of the city government.

You know how I answered that one.

All these questions, with an incentive draw to win one of two baskets of the city’s offerings, will provide the Farbridge administration with ammunition to fight the next election in the fall of 2014.  And they are doing it without revealing the cost of this questionnaire with the loaded questions. Nor who is on the results distribution list.

Talk about being bought with your own money.

Nowhere are you asked about the cities tattered finances. What are the real costs of the civic museum; the compost plant; settling litigation over the new city hall; legal costs of the losing case against the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health case?

There is no reference to the operation of the city except for one question: “Are your satisfied or dissatisfied with the city administration’s operation and transparency?

Respondents were not asked about the spending and lack of details about costs incurred by the majority of council’s pet projects. No mention of the emphasis on heritage preservation, the environment and all the taxpayer’s money spent trying to remake the downtown.

This survey is designed to shore up the Farbridge majority’s image and management of the public’s business.

It’s another example of a waste of the taxpayer’s dollars.

Their record is dismal when you consider the overhang of millions of dollars in commitments that taxpayers must sustain to balance the city books.

But they don’t care when they promote building a new $16 million park by tearing down a viable strip mall at Gordon and Wellington Streets. Or sneakily getting the chief librarian to announce a $63 million downtown library on the Baker Street parking lot. Already a fulltime fund-raiser is hired to raise another $10 million to equip this new project.

Then the council passes a new strategic plan that will overlap the term of this council.

With a debt that exceeds the self-imposed limit by $24 million there is little room left to finance some $90 million in future projects. The city’s debt has reached more than $118 million. This does not include the money spent to civilize the downtown, a Farbridge favourite project that has fizzled monumentally in the past six years.

This survey is classic Farbridge. When a decision must be made, hire a consultant or conduct a survey. Never allow the blame to shift to your persona.

It’s called escape hatch management.


Filed under Between the Lines