Tag Archives: Guelph Mercury

Introducing the Letter Box, now open for your Letters to the Editor

By Gerry Barker

Editor guelphspeaks.ca

Posted January 31, 2016

Say hello to a new feature that allows Letters to the Editor, to be published in the exclusive Letter Box in guelphspeaks.ca, (GS), Guelph’s most popular news commentary blog.

It’s popular because it’s non-profit and not beholden to any political party, cause or individual. With the help and support of a wide variety of citizens, GS digs beneath the surface of those events and stories that affect all citizens.

The results are obvious. In a number of cases, GS scooped the Guelph print media chiefly because of publishing deadlines and frequency of editions. On GS, your letter can be read at anytime because the blog never closes.

Guelph Speaks was born, oddly enough, as a column published in the Mercury from 2007 to 2011 in a column titled, “Between the Lines.” Guelph resident, GS editor Gerry Barker, was the author and commentator. Now the Mercury is gone and leaves a number of traditional departments without your access or exposure.

These include letters to the editor, opinion columns, editorials, obituaries, death notices, classified ads, advertising, provincial, federal and world news, comics. Puzzles, real estate news, weather, social notices such as birthday, wedding and anniversary greetings, sports and entertainment news, and city government news and analysis.

This has left an enormous vaccum of iformation that thousands of residents relied upon.

The death of this newspaper marks the revolution for news and commentary to be instantly transmitted online. GS has been doing that for five years and has influenced major changes at City Hall and commented on events at the provincial and federal level that affect Guelph and its citizens.

The new Letter Box platform allows you to publish your ideas, suggestions, concerns and opinions. Naked plugs for publicity by commercial interests are not welcome.

Remember GS’s mission statement that has not changed: “For the people by the people.”

GS cannot replace the entire Mercury package overnight. What we are planning to do is offer citizens the opportunity to send their letters for publishing in the Letter Box section of the GS blog.

The Letter Box is open and available 24-7. Of course, there are some restrictions such as use of profanity, libelous copy, copy limitation of up to 300 words and light editing for clarity purposes. We will not publish anonymous letters.

The Letter Box is opened every morning and the new contents are posted. Your letter stays in the box for five days then is moved to the Letter Box archive where it may be accessed. We ask that you include your name, address and telephone number. This information is private and will not be transferred or sold to any individual, company or political organization. The information is secure, period. Only your name and municipality will be published.

And it’s free. Send your letter to gerrybarker76@gmail.com. Please ensure the words: “Letter Box” is at the top of your letter. This is to differentiate the letters from the comment section of guelphspeaks.ca.

So, all you Mercury letter writers, you now have the opportunity to run your letters on the online guelphspeaks.ca site. The huge guelphspeaks.ca audience will read your letters; the most followed blog in Guelph.

Former Mercury Community Editorial Board authors and columnists are invited to make submissions for publishing articles or commentary in guelphspeaks.ca. If you require additional information send your questions to: gerrybarker76@gmail.com.

Welcome to the online world that never sleeps.






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Fallout from the Mercury closing reverberates through the community

By Gerry Barker

Editor of guelphspeaks.ca

Posted January 26, 2016

The impact of the closing of Guelph’s daily newspaper flies in the face of the city’s claims that Guelph is Number One in Canada for jobs. It bolsters the argument that Guelph’s large number of civil servants who depend on the public purse, skews the claims that the city is number one in terms of jobs.

The Mercury was a leading supporter of the Farbridge administration. The orders to support the administration came from the Kitchener- Waterloo Record. More specifically, it was the Record’s and Mercury’s Editor in Chief, Lynn Haddrell, who no longer holds the job.

The 2014 election result spawned changes in the operation of the Mercury. Monitoring the diminishing advertising linage over a few months, it was apparent that the newspaper was financially hurting. A basic problem was the lack of local advertising that was placed in the twice-a week Guelph Tribune.

Guelphspeaks wrote a post that predicted the reduction of the Mercury operations following the removal of the printing operations to Hamilton.

The Mercury office site on MacDonnell Street will probably be sold to a developer for another downtown hi-rise condo.

The guardian of the public trust is dead and the torch is handed to the Internet and social media to maintain.

More on the public service jobs

These public-funded jobs have salaries, wages and benefits that are guaranteed by the citizens forever. For example, take the two Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals working for the city of Guelph. Their contracts contain a rigid, no-contracting out clause of their jobs after two years.

If city council decides to consider contracting waste collection out to private industry, this clause prevents it from doing so. This is a hangover from the Farbridge administration that was very generous to those unions that contributed to the former mayor’s three election campaigns and those supporters elected on council.

Remember that the former mayor did not do this alone. She relied on key senior staff to make nice with her union supporters by settling weetheart contracts over the eight years she held office. These senior staffers included Mark Amorosi, hired as head of Human Resources in 2008 and in charge of union negotiations. The mayor also relied on two Chief Administration Officers, the current occupant of the job, Ann Pappert, and her predecessor, Hans Loewig.

Today, both Pappert and Amorosi are still running the city with the support of the seven members of council who are consistently voting as a bloc to ensure the Farbridge agenda is continued.

This is the intolerable situation that Mayor Cam Guthrie and five independent members of council face every day.

So, how serious is this situation? In council’s first year in office, the bloc of seven councillors voted to raise property taxes in the city by 11.62 per cent. This is composed of a property tax increase for 2015 of 3.96 per cent, approved last March, and a 2.99 per cent increase for 2016, in December. Add the 4.67 per cent that transferred a portion of operational and capital costs to debt.

The taxpayers have to service the debt and in Guelph the debt is out of control. The city’s appointed consultants whenreviewing operations, warned that reserves were “red flagged” as being seriously underfunded.

All you have to consider is the $8.96 million settlement with Urbacon Buildings Group for wrongful dismissal of the company chosen to build the new City Hall. That money was taken from three reserve funds.

The parties involved in this decision were former mayor Farbridge, CAO Ann Pappert and former Chief Financial Officer Al Horsman. Horsman was replaced by Mark Amorosi, a resixdent of Hamilton, a senior manager who never seems far from the action at Guelph City Hall.

We’ll miss the Merc, a paper that reported and commented on the life of our city six days a week.

There is a giant newshole that will be gone by this weekend.

                                                  Introducing The Letter Box

Please note that following the demise of the Mercury, guelphspeaks.ca will accept Letters to the Editor in its new feature: The Letter Box.

The usual rules of decorum apply and all points of view will be welcomed and considered. Please leave a contact name and telephone or email address with each submission. Only your name will be published. Letters are limited to 300 words or less. Send your letter to guelphspeaks.ca marked comments – letter box.





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The Guelph Mercury: An old friend passes and we are the less for it

By Gerry Barker

Posted January 25, 2016

I guessed last year when the Mercury presses were moved to Hamilton that the newspaper may close. Love it or ignore it, the Merc has been a key news source in our city since Confederation in 1867.

While the bulk of local advertising went to the Guelph Tribune, it spelled trouble for the six-day a week daily to sustain its existence. My condolences go to the staff of 23 fulltime employees, eight of whom were editorial writers and editors. A fine pool of talent managed by Phil Andrews.

I expect Metroland to find homes for these talented people who have performed their job under trying conditions. The bean counters decided that Metroland would be financially better off.

Other’s affected are the members of the Community Editorial Board whose variety of opinions were a cheap way to fill the space. Most of that group was writing self -serving pieces but not all, there were some levl-headed members who wrote balanced points of view and did it well.

Missed, will be the locally paid columnists such as veteran newsman, Geoffry Stevens, Owen Roberts and Michael Strickland.

Remember that the Letters to the Editor feature will pass on and no longer provide space for individual opinions. Instead, the only letters content will be in the twice weekly Tribune, with space to print no more than three of or four each issue. That’s a far cry from the Merc’s letters, space that published sometimes 24 letters a week.

But here’s the real fallout of this corporate decision to close a daily newspaper: In the business, the space provided for news and opinion is referred to as “the newshole.” That means the rest of the page space is for advertising.

This is what happened to our Mercury.

The editorial staff filled its space allotment every day. But the advertising space kept shrinking putting more pressure on editorial to fill the remaining space, thereby reducing the nember of pages each day.

Our Mercury has been on a page diet ever since Metroland bought the paper.

The corporate strategy of Metroland, a subsidiary of Torstar, owners of the Toronto Star, has driven the newspaper to oblivion, through patronizing the former Farbridge administration for some eight years. The result is the paper was way behind the wave of pubic rejection of that administration. The civic election results of 2014 were obviously the harbinger of the death of the Mercury.

The reason was the Metroland decision to support the former administration was to protect the estimated $500,000 a year advertising contract with the Guelph Tribune to buy city-paid space in the name of “City News.”

The Mercury editorial was instructed to support the Farbridge administration up to the election, despite the the loss of some $23 million, buidling the new city hall following a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal brought by the general contractor of the project.

In those days running up to the civic election last October, the Mercury, in its editorials, questioned the management of the city hall project’s cost overruns.

So what’s the fallout of this decisions to shut down our daily newspaper?

A friend and space is gone. A platform for personal expression is gone. An essential part of community is gone.

Oh well, only an estimated 9,000 subscribers really care if you believe the Metroland corporate decision.

It all occurred right under our very noses.

The rush is at city hall to force citizens to rely on city propaganda. It is being pumped out daily on the Internet by a large staff in the public-financed city communications department. It is presumed that it is sufficient to meet the balanced news of a multi-dimensional, community,

No, it isn’t

We know the power of the Internet. But not everyone is connected. It doesn’t provide sufficient public critique of action taken by the city on its website.

Our democratic right is to ask, challenge, demand answers and influence our elected members of various legislative bodies.

Today, we lost that ability with the death of the Mercury.

Finally, our Mercury delivery lady, Marla, presented our Mercury every day. We oten chatted with her at the front door and she was a credit to her employer. She was like a daughter to us but a corporate decision comes home and we won’t see her at our doorstep now. Just another victim of corporate action.

This decision was nother but a naked corporate exploition of a small community that cannot fight back.










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Is spending $100,000 for catering responsible, reasonable or a rip-off?

By Gerry Barker

Posted November 24, 2015

This week the Mercury reported that the city spent $103,282 on catering in 2014. The only way the citizens learned about this was because the newspaper filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Even then it will take another request to drill down to where the money was spent and who received the money.

DCAO Mark Amorosi is in charge of finances and his comments are opaque and stocked with generalities but no specifics.

For example, he says that the city caters to visitors, such as events at city hall by invitation only, or from outside organizations and government. Then it is appropriate for the city to supply coffee, juice or cookies.

Please Mark, you’re breaking me up.

This isn’t about cookies, coffee and juice, this is about lavish bun feeds at Cutten Fields or Bueno Gusto. This about the use of City of Guelph corporate credit cards being used to cater food and drinks for unnamed senior officials and unknown reasons.

When you divide the total amount recorded, $103,282, by the number of full-time equivalent employees, 2,100, it amounts to $49.18 per employee. So let’s stop kidding anyone. More than 80 per cent of those employees never claimed a dime for city-paid catering. That’s 1,680 staff leaving 420 employees, plus certain members of council, who probably used their corporate cards to cater, but to whom?

Experience has shown that the administration is exposed to people who want something and are prepared to pay for entertaining key staffers (decision makers) and members of council.

It appears that the chiefs of the administration are the main beneficiaries of the city catering budget, if one even exists.

But here’s Coun. Leanne Piper commenting on catering costs: “As far as saving money goes in relation to negotiating next year’s budget, it wouldn’t be worth it for the city to cut catering costs.”

Piper goes on to make the point that most councillors have day jobs, like her, and she says she leaves her University of Guelph job at 4:45 pm and doesn’t have time to go home and eat because council meets, usually starting at 5:00 pm. City Council meets some 26 times a year based on twice a month, except at budget time and takes the month of August off.

Then she adds: “Under the Employment Standards Act. If you’re working a double shift, if you’re working all day and expected to work into the night, then the employer is obligated to provide a meal.”

This warped logic only epitomizes the entitlement attitude that Ms. Piper feels she deserves.

First, who pays for the meal? The University or the City? Second, the city job is a part-time job that she chose. Third, if she thinks that this catering issue is not worthy of close examination, then she has little regard for her fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Guelph as an elected member of city council.

In polite circles it’s known as the Marie Antoinette syndrome: “Let them eat cake”

Oops, this piece is about catering. Okay it’s just an appropriate play on words.

You may ask why the Mercury was forced to obtain the catering information to which it had every right to obtain, from senor administrators. It’s public money and the public has the right to know.

Three years, ago, the former mayor and council spent more than $100,000 to a Toronto consultant to prepare an Open Government Action Plan to allow a free-flow of information to the people.

Today, we have Farbridge supporter Andy Best, manager of the open and transparent government plan. He was hired last spring on a one-year contract paying some $92,000.

Hold onto your hats folks, that contract has been extended under the proposed staff 2016 budget to three years costing $264,000.

Guess the only conclusion is, what’s Andy Best’s job? Is it worth paying $356,000?

Yet it is another expensive hangover of the former mayor’s eight years in office. The trouble is those policies and costs aren’t going away.

At least, not if Leanne Piper has anything to do with it.







Filed under Between the Lines

Your GuelphSpeaks Weekender

By Gerry Barker

Posted November 15, 2015

Here’s this week’s line-up:

* Guelph Transit is a seasonal production

* Say goodbye to the editor in chief?

* The young master needs a script rewrite

* The Gummer gift of $1.5 million

* Do we really need expensive consultants?


Cars, bicycles and Guelph Transit fare hikes

Council is discussing the proposal by city staff to increase Guelph Transit fares and reduce weekend and holiday service.

The first indication that there is opposition to this came from Coun. Phil Allt who said that its wrong to raise fares and decrease weekend service because we have to get cars off the road to save the planet. Well Phil, thanks for that and all this time we thought that defeated Councillor Maggie Laidlaw’s war on cars ended last October.

If Allt knew anything about climate change he wouldn’t assume fossil fuels are the only cause of climate warming. One volcanic eruption spews more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than one year’s fossil fuel emmisions in North America.

There are more than 250 active volcanos in the world.

There is no question that the growing use of fossil fuels in the developing countries is affecting the climate. However, in the case of automobiles and commercial vehicles, the demand for refined fuel is dropping. Innovative engineering and introduction of electric and hybrid gasoline/electric vehicles, has to a degree, mitigated the threat of fossil fueled vehicles’ contribution toward climate change and global warming.

In Guelph, we have a minority strident group of bicyclists who are demanding special lanes for the exclusive use of cyclists. They demand that the taxpayers spend $1.3 million per year expanding these bike lanes. It was the Farbridge regime that approved this $13 million 10-year plan.

So while council considers taxing cats, it might ask itself why not licence and tax cyclists because they are getting a free ride on most arterial and major roads in the city? Once licensed, cyclists would be required to wear light-coloured clothing at night, flashing rear lights and helmets.

And also, cyclists are using the sidewalks as their path of choice. This is currently forbidden by city bylaw.

This minority group of bike users has the substantial support of the Farbridge majority on council.

Like the operation of Guelph Transit that is designed to cater to the 20,000 undergraduates at U of G for eight months of the year, the bicycle lobby is receiving millions from the taxpayers in grants and subsidies.

When a Mercury columnist suggests that the increased fares will provide a bonus of $1.5 million to the city , he neglects to mention that the city subsidizes Guelph Transit by some $15 million per year.

*            *            *            *

Is this a goodbye to the Mercury’s Editor in Chief?

Editor in Chief of the K/W Record and Guelph Mercury, Lynn Haddrell, wrote a column in the Saturday Mercury, replacing the spot normally occupied by Managing Editor Phil Andrews.

It seemed to be a goodbye piece but was chiefly about her career involving the Mercury, not the Record where she worked full-time.

It is no coincidence that guelphspeaks this week took the words of Torstar Chairman John Honderich, whose company owns both The Record and The Mercury. He said: “Newspapers are an essential informing part of the democratic process and their first responsibility must be to the local readers they serve.”

The point of the GS piece was that Ms. Haddrell and her Record/Mercury publisher, were both in Kitchener at the Record. That seemed to run counter to what Mr. Hondrich was saying. His newspapers must be transparent, open and have editorial independence. These include journalists who cover the Mercury’s catchment area.

*            *            *            *

Justin, the training wheels have been removed

Our new P.M. may need to rerwrite the script following the horrific ISIS attack in Paris last Friday night, leaving 129 dead and hundreds more wounded with an estimated 100 in critical condition.

Justin Trudeau quickly announced that Canada was withdrawing its air command from Qatar. The young master will learn to understand our intelligence better. Regardless, Canada is committed to NATO and the pledge that an attack on one, is an attack on all.

We all expect the change in government will bring about change that is orderly and responsible. That includes the use of our military and its resources.

Withdrawing forces now after what has occurred in France is ill-considered and neglects to recall the commitment to NATO.

It’s time for Canada to contribute to eliminate this scourge of terror that threatens us and our allies.

The question arises is just how effective are Canada’s intelligence services? More than ever, the apparent infiltration of terrorists in the gigantic refugee flow into Europe, threatens the Trudea promise to bring 25,000 to Canada by the end of the year, six weeks from now.

How can our government guarantee the qualifications of these refugees in the limited time frame remaining?

Time to rethink that one.

*            *            *            *

Spending $1.5 million on a handshake is irresp0nsible

With the majority of council coposed of the Farbridge Seven, it voted recently to give the private owners of the Gummer Building on Douglas Street, $1.5 million because it was promised, by the previous administration, reportedly on a handshake.

When the Gummer building was ravaged by fire several years back, the Farbridge council, agreed to give the owners who were rebuilding the building, 100 free parking spaces downtown. It was because the heritage supporters on council wanted the façade of the old building restored.

But there is more. The present owners of the Gummer received a ten-year tax break. What is not apparent is the $1.5 million bonus for completing the work, so to speak.

How long do the citizens have to tolerate the legacy of the Farbridge financial commitments, some of which were made behind closed doors with a wink, a nod and a handshake?

How much are we paying these guys?

The guelphspeaks archives yield some interesting information. Today, I discovered a draft of the city’s 2011 budget. In it there was an item about the Hamilton-based BMA consultant firm that recently completed a review of the 2015 city operations.

Five years ago, the city budgeted to hire this firm for $480,442. This was to perform an undisclosed task involving examination of operations and reporting the findings to city staff and council. The 2011 completed report was never made public..

This same firm has just completed another city operations review, the cost of which is unknown because it would have been budgeted in the final days of the Farbridge administration. Whatever, the council approved a 3.96 per cent property tax increase last March to pay the current BMA account.

Another question: Was there a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued to determine an above-board competition for the work required? It seems spending half a million bucks on this consultant proposal, requires input from other consultants who may be interested in the project. Who wouldn’t?

This is exactly what needs to controlled. The solution is to hire a Chief Financial officer at less than half of what taxpayers paid and are paying BMA.

Has this firm been engaged every year since 2011? If so, that’s a whack of consultant fees.

If any, what’s the connection between Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, and the president of BMA? Both are from Hamilton and worked together, at a point in time. Mr. Amorosi is currently responsible for all city financial matters.



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Newspaper readers deserve better says Torstar Chairman

By Gerry Barker

Posted November 9, 2015

In an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star, the chairman of the Torstar Corporation. John Honderich takes umbrage over Postmedia CEO, Paul Godfrey, ordering his chain of 16 papers to endorse Stephen Harper.

Honderich decries the Postmedia action in the recent federal election pointing out that “owning a newspaper is a privilege, not a right.”

The Torstar Chairman goes further stating “ Newspapers are an essential informing part of the democratic process and their first responsibility must be to the local readers they serve.”

Right on, John.

He goes on to state: “In the interest of transparency, it must be declared that editorial independence has always been the official policy of the Torstar newspaper group.”

For clarity reasons, it is important to know that Metroland Publishing, a division of Torstar, is owner of the KW Record, Guelph Mercury, Guelph Tribune and Hamilton Spectator.

Two people manage the Guelph Mercury editorial department. The managing editor and, who reports to Lynne Haddrall, editor in chief at the Record and Mercury. Donna Luelo is publisher of both papers. The Mercury is now printed in Hamilton resulting in closing down its in-house printing operation.

So, perhaps Mr. Honderich can explain how the Guelph Mercury is independent and transparent? As he pointed out, the first responsibility is to the local readers they serve. So with the publisher of the Mercury and his editor in chief working and living in Kitchener, where is the editorial independence of the Mercury/Tribune readers and citizens of Guelph?

Mr. Chairman, I can help you with this as I have been covering Guelph municipal affairs for nine years. For five years I wrote a regular column in the Mercury that was often critical of the administration.

I was let go about three months after announcing that I started an online blog guelphspeaks.ca to fill the void of three weeks in which my Mercury columns were not scheduled. I have no regrets about that decision. It gave me more freedom to question the administration’s policies and how our city was being managed.

The bottom line is, in eight years, the Mercury suffered staff cuts in the editorial department, thereby reducing its ability to check slanted news releases from the city communication department and investigate the facts and operation of the municipality.

As time went by, it became increasingly apparent that the two-term regime of Mayor Karen Farbridge was in serious trouble. The situation exploded in June 2014, when a superior court judge found the city wrongfully dismissed the general contractor  constructing the new city hall and the renovation of the old city hall into a provincial offences court.

It became known as the Urbacon affair and the current overrun cost to the municipality is $23 million.

Mr. Chairman, the result in the October civic election was the defeat of the mayor and four councillors who either quit or were defeated. This happened because the people were galvanized to bring about change in the operation of the city.

I regret that the two newspapers that Torstar owns in Guelph played so little role in this major political upheaval. Their phlegmatic approach reporting the news over those eight years, and their loyalty to the administration, did not go unnoticed. Record numbers of electors flooded the polls. Shortly after the election the editor of the Tribune retired.

So John, perhaps you ought to inform your Metroland group to grant real editorial independence and transparency to the Guelph Mercury and Tribune.

Otherwise your declaration of the newspaper’s first responsibility is to the local readers they serve, doesn’t wash in this part of the province.

Guelph is not Kitchener-Waterloo nor is K/W, Guelph.

I think you get the point.


Gerry Barker


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Another staff report to justify its waste management incompetence

By Gerry Barker

Posted October 30, 2015

Ruvani Shaubel, CA, the city’s internal auditor, who joined the staff three months ago, prepared the curbside waste collection system report. She analyzed the city’s waste system from 2010 to 2014. Her overall conclusion was that city residents are getting good value for their money when it comes to curbside waste collection.

What is good value? The first key consideration is to explain why the curbside management ignores 13 per cent of the number of eligible properties in the city. She reported 6,000 Guelph households and businesses are not served. Out of 51,000 eligible households, only 45,000 had their waste collected.

This is not new information. In fact, guelphspeaks (GS) has reported this for the past three years. The waste management staff never once disputed the GS assertion that there were 6,400 households and businesses that pay private contractors to haul away their garbage, most time unsorted and sent to the landfill.

Also, ‘mam, were you informed that these neglected households also had to pay for city waste pick up through their property tax bill?

From the city staff perspective, this is a great deal. They’re operations are subsidized by a minority of residents who do not receive the service they are paying for through their tax bills. When the proposal to switch to bins and automated curbside pick-up, Dean Wyman, General Manager of solid waste collection and processing, told council the city would save $430,900 by 2014.

According to the internal auditor, the actual savings were $294,000.

The wool expands over the eyes

So the qualifying explanations start flowing. The reason for the bad savings estimate was higher than expected gasoline costs and council’s decision to continue picking up yard waste in the spring and fall.

To put this into perspective: Mr. Wyman expects citizens to believe that the management of his department is in their best interests. It was misleading if he informed council in 2010 that he did not accurately calculate the cost of fuel for the next four years. Particularly in view that per litre gas prices dropped during that period. As to telling an outright lie during his council curbside bin proposal, he neglected to mention his proposal included not doing the semi-annual yard waste collection. During the period, council said waste management had to continue picking up the yard waste in spring and fall.

Members of council in 2010 believed him and agreed to spend $15.5 million on the new system.

For the past three years Mr. Wyman has been promising resolution of problems the new system was experiencing, failing to service 6,000 mostly condominium properties. He said the matter would by part of a new 20-year waste management plan.

Residents and some businesses continue to pay double for waste collection. Few trust what Wyman tells them that their problem will be resolved.

Part of the problem lies with the former Farbridge administration insisted on approving strip condo developments without regard to storage of bins. The building of detached single family homes dried up to less than 160 units a year following Farbridge’s election in 2006.

No thought was given to the ability of the bin curbside pick-up system, including allowing room for the new automated trucks to serve these strip and low-rise condo buildings.

To further slap the owners in the face, city council refused to reduce those affected homes by rebating their property taxes equivalent to the city cost of collection.

She is just doing her job but leaving out the most important aspect

With respect, the Shaubel report is nothing but a whitewash of bad planning, lying by omission and failing to accurately forecast and budget effectively. She did what she was asked and she reported what she was told. She acted professionally and has been exposed to the waste management’s attempts to prop up their story the system is working as they planned.

And Wyman is still trying to placate those residents who do not have their waste picked up. His latest hint is that on November 10, the staff 2016 operating budget will contain provisions to solve the non-pick up issue.

Unfortunately, Wyman has been promising this for four years despite many discussions with affected citizen groups.

This is another example of Farbridge’s bad management historic hangover. She’s gone, but her policies are still around. The author of this waste management mess, Janet Laird, has retired and the financial management of our city remains suspect without a Chief Financial Officer. A year ago, the last CFO was transferred to waste management and has since left the city.

Today, Mark Amorosi, a Farbridge appointee, controls city finances. A general manager of finance, who joined the staff last March reports to him. With Coun. June Hofland as chairperson of the council finance committee, the people is expected to trust these three individuals to manage a $500 million corporation that the people own.

It’s a stupefying assumption that we are in good hands.


Filed under Between the Lines

Your GuelphSpeaks Weekender

By Gerry Barker

Posted October 2, 2015

The Guelph File

Mercury editorial rides above the madding crowd – If only the Guelph progressives would do a Mulcair – The great goose management strategy – Candidates who want to be Members of Parliament


Mercury editorial tries to put lipstick on a pig

Guelph’s newspaper of record, recently offered its interpretation of Susan Watson’s abortive attempt to deny third party participation in municipal elections. Her efforts resulted in costing the citizens $11,400 for an audit that absolved Glen Tolhurst and GrassRoots Guelph from contravening the Municipal Elections Act (MEA).

If the city-appointed audit said there was no breach of the MEA, why are the citizen’s required to pay? The Mercury editorial loftily claims it’s a matter of interpretation. It goes on to say that the case became “a matter of polarized viewpoints.”

Before going further, it is important to understand that not only the city must pay the costs of this exercise but also Mr. Tolhurst has substantial legal fees to pay, to defend him against charges that were totally dismissed by the auditor.

The Mercury stated: “In the end the auditor found Tolhurst made a few minor errors in his election expenses report.” Those errors totaling less than $2o4.60 did not satisfy the auditor that Mr. Tolhurst contravened the MEA.

Yet the Mercury says: “By the letter of the law, those minor filing flaws were enough to qualify the audit as warranted and not something that should have costs covered by the complainant, as might have been open to the audit committee to order.”

Throughout the editorial, the person who launched this frivolous exercise, Susan Watson’s name is never used. But Mr. Tolhurst’s name is used along with GrassRoots Guelph.

The Mercury headline atop the story reporting the Compliance Audit Committee’s final report stated, (paraphrased), Committee says Tolhurst will not be charged.

It is a sad day in city journalism when such a biased editorial in the paper of record, continues to support the administration today and for the last eight years, with equivocation.

GuelphSpeaks has written 687 posts in three years about the abuses of power, fiscal mismanagement, failure to investigate vital issues, not getting both sides of the story, and failing to apply critical thinking during that period of the city’s administration on the Mercury editorial pages.

Unfortunately, what can you expect from a corporately owned newspaper that has its editor in chief working at the Kitchener Record? When the late Lord Thomson remarked, “news is the stuff we put around the ads,” he set the benchmark of editorial content for the Guelph Mercury and Guelph Tribune.

For years the emphasis in the TorStar owned Metroland, operators of the Mercury and the Guelph Tribune, has been on the advertising revenue particularly the money spent in the Tribune for so-called “City News” multiple pages. The estimated annual cost to the city is estimated to be more than $500,000.

Is that not a reason to keep the political leaders in the community comfortable when it comes to managing the news in favour of the incumbents?

This editorial proves that no matter how hard you try, you can’t put lipstick on a pig.

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It’s happening to NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and it can happen here

Reviews of the Friday French language debate between the federal leaders showed that Mulcair’s support in Quebec is eroding rapidly. And it’s mostly due to his stand on allowing Islamic women to cover their faces while swearing in to becoming Canadian citizens.

The dainty half-face masks are a custom among many Islamic females and indigenous of their culture, before deciding to become a Canadian. A recent decision by the Federal court said the women did not have to remove their Naqib for religious reason. Ta Da! It’s a Charter issue under the subtext, freedom of religion.

The question remains, when does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms kick in, before or after becoming a citizen?

The Harper government is appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn the court decision and insist that during a citizenship ceremony, they must reveal their faces.

Mr. Mulcair was in favour of allowing the women to cover their faces even if it was in a private citizenship meeting with a judge.

The trouble emerged when most people in Quebec want the faces uncovered during the official citizenship ceremony, regardless of their previous cultural demands.

He has alienated many Quebec NDP supporters leaving the campaign wide open to the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Now, if only we could have a “Naqib” moment in Guelph to loosen the grip of the NDP-dominated progressives in our city government, the playing field would be leveled and common sense would return.

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Cheeky geese create another $50,000 policy debate

Apparently, the city administration has recognized that Guelph has a Canada goose problem. Living near Riverside Park, one has do the doo-doo dance while strolling along the river

This has prompted creation of a Goose Management Strategy. Estimated cost $50,000.

Here are some suggestions: Hire some goose dogs to keep chasing the pooh birds until they go to Cambridge or winter in the Everglades. That would diminish their numbers as the alligators and pythons would relish dinner.

Perhaps set up public pooh stations for geese. Of, course training them could be a problem. It would be similar to the problem of training late night revelers relieving themselves in public downtown.

The trouble is the geese have been allowed to get too comfy in the Guelph parks and no longer migrate.

Maybe we could hire that guy who flies his light plane with the geese in formation. Ah, but where does he leave them?

“Fly me to the moon

Let me play among the stars”

Frank Sinatra, 1970

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This is an election where experience counts

There are seven candidates running for the Guelph federal seat in Parliament. It’s a pretty good gig as there are plenty of incentive because the pay and perks are above the Canadian family average. The candidate’s approved election expenses are paid by the government, provided they obtain enough votes.

Of the seven, only one, Gloria Kovach, running for the Conservatives, has campaigned in both civic and federal elections. She has also served as President of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. Her record as a city councillor for 24 years gives her the edge among all the candidates, being the most qualified of the seven candidates to represent Guelph.

Her chief opponents include Lloyd Longfield for the Liberals. He is a past president of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce and has never been elected to public office. Spending on his campaign appears to be more than the other candidates.

Running for the NDP is newcomer Andrew Seagram, who also has never run for public office, let alone being elected a Member of Parliament.

Gord Miller for the Green Party was a senior civil servant as Commissioner of the Environment in the Ontario government. He too is a newcomer running for elected office.

Other candidates include:

Tristan Dineen representing the Communist Party of Canada

Kornelis Klevering of the Marijuana Party

Alex Fekri of the Libertarian Party

It is an eclectic mix representing a number of views that make up the Canadian mosaic of political interests.

There is a growing feeling that the three major candidates on the left of the political spectrum will suffer from vote-splitting. The most likely strategic voting victim could be Lloyd Longfield with two other candidates, Miller and Seagram, vying for the same constituency.

The most surprising outcome may be the support of the Green Party’s Gord Miller.

When the dust settles on October 20 the winner having had the most effective ground game paired with experience, will be our new M.P.


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We don’t always agree but this time the Mercury got it right

Posted February 27, 2014

The Guelph Mercury has been the paper of record in our community for many years. I have had complaints and differences of opinion with the editors.

This week, the paper’s editorial of the city’s response to the Ministerial letter declining to proceed with an audit, drew unusual over-the-top comments from the Chief Administration Officer and the Mayor.

But the Mercury editorial took a balanced response and quoted parts of Minister’s  letter, also received by GrassRoots Guelph members.

Thanks to the Mercury editors who kept their heads. They produced a commentary that was fair and accurately reflected the intent of Minister Linda Jeffery in her letter to all parties.

She never said nor inferred that the GRG petition was a “waste of time.”


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Guelph Mercury becomes suddenly assertive

Media Watch

Like bombs bursting in air, the mighty Mercury awoke this week from its long sleep covering city hall to discover events that stirred the editor to publish two critical editorials.

It is an event of historic proportions, as I cannot recall in recent memory, the Mercury being critical of the current administration on its editorial pages. I wrote a column on those pages every third Saturday for five years that was critical of the Farbridge leadership.

Managing editor Phil Andrews took the unusual step of acknowledging there are other voices in the community who articulate the warts of the current administration.  To suggest that those critical of public affairs and trust management, address the issues as “a hobby”, is like telling journalism icon H.L. Menken to shut up.

It’s not a hobby Phil, it’s a cause.

People are becoming more concerned about the way their city is being run. There is plenty of evidence that the city authorities massage the news to make them look responsible and innovative.

There are too many instances ignored by the mainstream media that have cried out for detailed explanations from city authorities when things go wrong.

The Mercury lacks critical purpose and it shows. But keep the faith. Things are going to get warmer and more interesting as time wears on.

As Pogo reflected in the Okeefenoki swamp: “We have seen the enemy and they is us.”

Gerry Barker

Editor – guelphspeaks.ca


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