Tag Archives: Guelph debt

The Guelph Civic League resurfaces claiming it is non-partisan

Taxpayers should pause over the resurfacing of the political machine known as the Guelph Civic League. Remember the role this self-described non-partisan organization played in the 2006 election of Karen Farbridge and her fellow travelers?

The League held a workshop recently to advise citizens how to deal with council and city hall.

Excuse me if I’m skeptical. The League is still partisan dedicated to perpetuating the philosophies of the left-leaning Farbridge majority on city council.

While organizer Dave Sills says the League is non-partisan, he’s playing with the truth. In 2006 the group scared voters with the lie about the “Big Pipe” to bring water from Lake Erie. Further, they demonized former Mayor Kate Quarrie and her council for supporting the Walmart store on Woodlawn Avenue.

Give them their due, they organized labour, dedicated leftists and even imported NDP organizers from British Columbia to mastermind the Farbridge campaign. The 2006 civic election was a tour de force by the NDP and it swept aside a group of dedicated councillors to elect the dictatorial council that has run the city for the past five years.

In the recent provincial election, members of this organization supported defeated NDP candidate James Gordon, the founding president of the Guelph Civic League.

For the past five years, the League has undergone changes. Chief among them was obtaining a Provincial government Trillium Foundation grant of $135,000 allegedly for community work. They set up a separate organization named 10 Carden Street that happens to be the same location of the Guelph Civic League’ s offices conveniently located across the street from City Hall.

During the gestation period of obtaining the grant, the League melted into the background and became dormant so as not to appear to influence the grant application. It was only a matter of time before it came out of the closet.

The mission of 10 Carden Street is to conduct community workshops to assist citizens in matters of civic interest. One of those workshops was to invite a renowned bicycle activist to extol the virtues of creating easier venues in the city for those using bicycles for basic transportation.

It’s different today than it was in 2006. Our city has witnessed huge increases in its debt. The maximum amount of debt the city is supposed to carry is currently $91,850,000. The reality is the debt is reported to be $118,000,000 or $27,850,000 more than the approved ceiling.

All the spending and unfinished projects will not go away and the city is facing a financial crisis due to the recent court ruling it must pay $10 million toward new headquarters for the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health unit.

This was an unbudgeted expenditure and can severely impact the 2012 budget.

A major unfinished project is the $15,500,000 Guelph Civic Museum that is still not completed after four years. The main push to convert the derelict Loretto convent into the museum on the pretext it was a heritage building, was Coun. Leanne Piper’s pipe dream.

To have the Guelph Civic League piously coming forward to assist citizens to deal with council and city hall is beneath contempt. They were partly instrumental in creating the financial mess the city now faces.

It only took five years to discover that spending public money is a sacred trust not an instrument to build monuments for elected politicians.

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Guelph’s golden goose is already cooked

If you believe what Mayor Karen Farbridge says about Guelph’s stature as a great city admired across the country, don’t look further than the books of the city. In honesty, only the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche gets to examine the books along with a high-powered packet of senior staff managers.

Close your eyes and get ready for the annual shell game of staff presenting a 5.6 percent tax increase knowing full well that Council will reduce it.

This year’s target of council is the old reliable 3 per cent increase. They do it every year because they can get away with it. Don’t let the taxpayers get too restless is the name of the controlling majority of Council’s game.

Since Karen Farbridge became Mayor, every budget tax increase has exceeded the cost of living inflation index by some 1.5 per cent. Chump change you say? Add it up over five years and the exponential cost is staggering.

Do you believe that tax increases since 2006 amount to more than 19 per cent over five years? Do you know that most residential tax rates in the City of Toronto are lower than in Guelph?

Why can’t staff bring in a budget that reduces city tax rates for change?

For two years the downward spiral of managing city finances has accelerated to the point where debt exceeds the Council-imposed limit; taxes are among the highest of any similar-sized city in the country and the city is unable to retain a professional chief financial officer to run the show.

Meanwhile the infrastructure of the city has been chaotic for almost four years. Millions has been spent on major arterial streets being narrowed, bike lanes, a time clock in the Sleeman Centre, the ice rink/water feature in front of City Hall, and replacement of aging water and sewer facilities.

Good stuff the citizen’s may say. A little sacrifice will only makes the city more livable … but for whom?

The latest staff screwball scheme to raise capital is to sell the streetlights to Guelph Hydro for $7 million. Problem! The city owns Guelph Hydro. Isn’t this a thinly disguised way to overcome the city’s debt crisis by giving to one pot and taking from the other? Note that it was Karen Farbridge who promoted selling Guelph Hydro two years ago. The people and a majority of Council axed that idea.

The Farbridge administration is gasping for air and not without reason. Complicit in all this is a failure to level with the taxpayers and tell the staff to get real. We have already sold the golden goose and it’s time for the staff to cut costs.

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