Tag Archives: Guelph

Reasons to exercise your privileges of freedom by voting Monday October 22

By Gerry Barker

October 20, 2018

Let’s say you are not planning to vote on Monday.

The reasons vary such as, I’m too busy to bother; my vote won’t make any difference; my daughter has the measles; I don’t like any of the candidates; I rarely vote at all so, why now? Finally, my boss won’t give me time off work to vote.

Well, here’s why.

For the past 12 years the progressive left, first under former mayor, Karen Far bridge, and then under Mayor Cam Guthrie has dominated the city administration. In his case he was a closet conservative who went along with the progressive majority on council, to get along.

The last of our years

Perhaps we should work backwards examining the city operations under Mr. Guthrie.

In 2015, it started with the Guthrie election promise of keeping the property tax at the same level as the Consumer Price Index that was 1.99 per cent. Council approved the 2015 budget in March that year and the property tax increase was 3.96 per cent, that had to be adjusted to reflect the increase in assessment of all properties in the city.

That election campaign promise has evaporated in the mayor’s first term. In fact, the estimated four years of property taxes cumulative effect is 18 per cent. This includes the two-year property tax of two per cent levy was imposed two years ago.

Then, in December 2015, a closed session of council awarded $98,202 salary increases between four senior managers: CAO Ann Pappert, DCAO’s Al Horsman, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson. Only Mr. Thomson remains as CAO.

Fast-forward and the Guthrie council conducted 82 closed session meetings in the first two years in office. This did not include the closed meeting of the Strategic Options Committee that led to the take-over of Guelph Hydro by Alectra Utilities. The Ontario Energy Board approved this multi-million dollar deal October 18, 2018, just five days before the civic election.

Sure you still won’t bother voting Monday?

Here are more reasons to take the time to vote.

Mayor Guthrie stated in a pre-election announcement that a new Public Private Proposal (3P) to spend an estimated $350 million in today’s dollars, on redevelopment of the Baker Street parking lot. The private partner is Windmill Developments based in Ottawa. The Mayor said there would be a new downtown library included in the plan.

Sounds exciting, right?

The project will not start construction until 2024. It is estimated it will take another four years at least to get the new library open and running. That’s more than ten years from now. The public’s share of this project has yet to be determined. As an aside, the city claims it has already invested $29 million of Baker Street renovation.

Note that part of that investment includes the $22 million five storey Parkade being built next to city hall with no connection to the Baker Street proposal.

This Hocus Pocus financing is a bargaining chip negotiating with the private Baker Street partner.

In the six years waiting for construction to start, inflation will add another 12 per cent to the current estimated cost. That’s more than $42 million. Mr. Guthrie won’t be mayor plus council will have a number of new members.

If you believe this data, don’t bother to vote because you can’t change it. Wrong!

Your vote is vital as     s the city administration must change.

You see, the progressives don’t want you to vote. The Bloc of Seven majority on council forced a vote denying the use of Online voting in 2018. Their reasons were smothered in a wave of academic opinion claiming that E-voting created “massive security holes” thereby was dangerous.

This is an example of power over reality. In 2014, some 12,767 citizens voted Online without a single glitch or complaint. The progressive saw their leader defeated and four councillors either were defeated or did not run.

How do you change it?

Make sure to vote Monday. You have your voting card and all you need is a driver’s licence, or utility bill, or property tax statement. Your health card must have your address, some of them don’t.

Guelphspeaks.ca believes there are a number of excellent candidates ready to serve their city. This election will be different and hopefully bring change accompanied by accountability, transparency and open government.

Once elected, the candidate not only serves his or her ward but they become the stewards of the city representing all the people.

Finally, thousands of Canadians in the past 100 years gave their lives to preserve our way of life. That includes freedom of speech, public participation in government.

A personal remembrance is that of my father, his two brothers and his sister who served in France in the First World War. John Sydney Barker and Thomas Mitchell Barker were both killed in action. My parents honoured their memory by naming me after them.

It brings sadness and privilege to remember that more than 100,000 Canadians gave their lives in two world wars. They have paid a terrible price to secure our freedom.

Let’s remember them by voting this Monday.

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Why did city council suppressed citizen’s right to vote Online in the 2018 election?

By Gerry Barker

October 18, 2018

Opinion

In the spring of 2017, city council killed Online voting in this year’s civic election based on the evidence of a professor from the University of Western Ontario.

He claimed that Online voting was insecure and dangerous in terms of the election outcome. The person behind this was progressive activist, Susan Watson, who invited the professor to tell his story to city council.

Council narrowly voted to ban Online voting for the 2018 civic election based mainly on the professor’s dire warning of the dangers of E-voting.

The progressive majority on council voted against allowing electronic voting for 2018.

The fact that Susan Watson played such a major role in creating this decision should not go unnoticed. It goes back to the 2014 civic election when her close friend, Karen Far bridge, was defeated. The progressive leftists, who had dominated city council for eight years blamed every one but themselves for their leader’s defeat.

This was the beginning of a series of moves by Ms. Watson, and the still progressive domination of city council to seek revenge. The Online vote ignored the success of the voting in 2014 when 12,767 votes were cast Online. There were absolutely no errors, confusion or evidence of misuse of the system as predicted by the Watson surrogate, the professor from London and others.

Here is the difference between 2014 and 2018. In 2014 there were 2.985 walk-in votes taken in the advance poll. This year that number was 5,400 walk-ins to the advance poll.

Voter  suppression at work

So, next Monday it will be interesting to see what happened to those 12.767 votes cast Online. The 2014 election saw a sharp increase in the number of votes cast with 43 per cent of eligible electors.

In my opinion, the Farbridge supporters, including Ms. Watson, were angry and blamed Online voting for the former mayor’s defeat.

After eight years of stumbling and fumbling administering the city, it was a shocker and that remains today. You have to ask yourself, if they believed they were snookered by Online voting, why did they vote collectively to ban it in 2018? Also, why didn’t Karen Farbridge run for mayor this term, as a number of her supporters urged her to do?

In my opinion, this was nothing but an attempt to suppress the right to vote.

Mayor Guthrie is secure that he will win because the progressive left could not recruit an electable candidate to run against him.

Not having a demographic profile on each of the 12,767 Online voters, just how many were disabled, out of town, or handling a catalogue of personal reasons that prevented them to go to their poll and vote.

Before going any further, what else has Susan Watson brought to the attention of council, in the past four years?

This was a campaign that never stopped

The first was Ms. Watson’s complaint to the city committee of election compliance regarding the donation to Ward 6 candidate, Glen Tolhurst, of $400 by GrassRoots Guelph, an incorporated, non-profit citizen’s activist group. Ms. Watson hired a lawyer to present her case that supported her claim.

Based on that lawyer’s presentation, the committee hired a Toronto auditor to investigate if the donation was illegal. Mr. Tolhurst and GrassRoots Guelph were eventually both exonerated by the auditor, William Molson. Ms. Watson, a close personal friend of the former mayor, Karen Farbridge, was not required by the city to pay the audit costs of some $11,000 that she initiated. The taxpayers had to pick-up the tab, including citizens Mr. Tolhurst and Gerry and Barbara Barker, officers of GrassRoots Guelph.

It should be noted that Mr. Tolurst had personal legal expenses regarding his defence.

The second Watson proposal to council was a request to have the city adopt the proportional voting system for the 2018 civic election. Ms.Watson is chairperson of the Fair Vote initiative, supported by the NDP across the country.

What is proportional voting? When you receive your ballot, you are asked to rank the candidates on a 1, 2, 3 basis thereby rating the whole slate. The top three are assigned points that are credited to them when the votes are counted. On the surface, this sounds plausible. The Trudeau government proposed election reform during the election campaign four years ago. Following the Liberal’s landslide victory, the Trudeau government backed off and proportional voting went with it.

The jury is out when it comes to discussing proportional voting. There are a number of municipalities, plus the British Columbia provincial government, who employ it.

Will that be pepperoni our ancovies?

The state of Israel has voted proportionally resulting in what is called the “Pizza Parliament” where none of the 18 political parties achieve a majority. This results in the party leading in the vote is forced to form a government with another party to achieve a majority. This has resulted in a right wing coalition government that has ruled the country for the past eight years.

The Watson proposal was an attempt to capture the election by running several progressive candidates in each of the six wards to maintain dominance of city council. Despite the progressive majority on council, the proposal was defeated.

There you have it. High stakes manipulation by the progressive left to stifle, thwart and defeat the greater majority of independent voters, new comers to the city and the aged and disabled.

It’s time to send their candidates to the minors and elect citizens whose real interest is making our city a successful, productive and efficient community, serving all the people not just those with special interests.

The evidence is clear. The proliferate spending on failed projects by the progressive – dominated council over the previous eight years has cost citizens millions in city support of failed projects and cost overruns on capital spending.

Next Monday Election Day, it’s your turn to change the administration to create a better Guelph Tomorrow.

Change means, affordability, civility, responsibility, honesty, creativity, unity, fairness, participation, competence, industrious, reality, and independence.

Our city has lost its compass and the new council has the opportunity to correct the course by navigating through the shoals of discontent and division.

Important Notice: We incorrectly reported that a Canadian passport was proof of ID when voting next Monday. It is not acceptable because it does not contain your address. The key documents that a voter must present at the polls includes a valid driver’s licence, a utility bill or a mortgage statement, provincial ID card with your photo, name and address. Your Health card may be one of a series that does not have your address on it.

If you have not any of these ID documents, contact the city website, Guelph.com website with a link to voter rights and procedures.

If that does not solve your right to vote, contact the City Clerk’s office for clarication.

First priority: Be sure and vote.

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That nagging flaw acquiring the 1,077-acre Reformatory property, AKA Guelph Innovation District

By Gerry Barker

October 8, 2018

(revised)

There was a flurry recently on Twitter about the Guelph Innovation Secondary plan that was to create a green city in the middle of our city. The plans are detailed and claimed it would house 7,000 residents and provide 9,000 jobs.

City council approved this project May 13, 2014. It was a pet project of former Mayor Karen Farbridge. City staff planners were engaged to develop the detailed layout of the site including housing and commercial development and a street pattern that almost eliminated fossil-fueled vehicles.

The theory was that residents could walk, roller skate or ride their bikes to work right in their own neighbourhood.

Seven years later, the traffic in Guelph is congested twice a day on all major streets and roads as a result of the former administration’s ant-vehicle traffic policies of shrinking vehicle lanes on many major streets to allow bicycle lanes.

In 2011, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FOCM) gave the city a $142,252 grant toward developing the plan. The Guelph planning staff led by General Manager Todd Salter, and General Manager of Economic Development, Peter Cartwright, swung into action employing city staff to work on the project.

It is safe to assume that $142K FOCM’s green grant would not last a year scoping out the project now called the Guelph Innovation District.

But here is the nagging problem

The city does not own the land on which all these development drafts represent an expensive exercise in futility. It is compared to the $16.5 million spent on the Civic Museum built on lands owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton.

A plan of this magnitude would cost some $300 million in today’s dollars not including the cost of purchasing the land. The PC government has said it wants to dispose of provincial lands no longer needed. The Reformatory lands are a rich plum for the province to sell to the highest bidder.

What role would our newly elected Green Party leader, Mike Schreiner, play in this game? Here’s an important local issue that has a full development plan for the 1.077-acre property sitting in the city-planning department

It begs the question: How much has the city spent in seven years on this project that is no closer to realization than it was in 2011?

An educated guess is that the province could value the property at $200,000 per acre and that amounts to $215,540,000. The city could engage in some creative scheme to line up some builders to financially participate. Servicing that debt could cost $7,539,000 @ 3.5 per cent in interest alone and no reduction in principal per year. A revenue source would be the property taxes assessed for the development. However, the carrying costs alone would never be supported by property taxes.

Based on their design they could lease the land to the builders, a la Arboretum, and pay down the costs. This would include servicing the property, plus what has already been spent to prepare the site with the necessary infrastructure and facilities such as police and fire stations, and services buildings.

But in view of the city’s maxed-out financial situation, is it prudent to go into large-scale property developments?

The Guthrie administration has already agreed in principle to spend an estimated $350 million renovating the Baker Street parking lot. This is a ten-year Public Private Participation Plan with long-term liability to the citizens.

For the record here are capital projects already under construction: The Guelph police Services headquarters $34 million renovation; the $22 million Wilson Street parkade next to city hall; the $63 million south end recreation centre; the $53 million new downtown library integrated with the Baker Street redevelopment, the cost to citizens has yet to be revealed; the windup up of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc multi-million financial disaster, the cost of which we may never know.

It’s egregious for the mayor to claim that a new downtown library is a major component of the plan that will not open for ten years, according to reports. Construction is not scheduled to commence until 2024.

It is important that the new council carefully examines these various plans because the city’s growth of debt and liabilities is being placed on the shoulders of future councils.

Mayor Guthrie declared in his Sate of The City address to his friends at the Guelph Chamber of Commerce last February that he was “a numbers guy” who drills down to check the details of a proposal.

His statement that the city was not giving Guelph Hydro away regarding the merger with Alectra Inc. is patently untrue. Perhaps the Mayor should check the batteries in his calculator before making such a claim.

There’s a simple explanation Mr. Mayor, if the Ontario Energy Board approves this deal, name the owner of the assets of Guelph Hydro and holder of the title of that corporation.

Less than two weeks left to Election Day. Please make the most of it and vote for change.

Check out guelphtomorrow.ca for commentary on the election October 22 and post-election news and coverage.

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Just say NO and let them GO as the Ontario NDP muscles into the Guelph municipal election

By Gerry Barker

September 4, 2018

I was sent a flyer from the Ontario NDP asking for support.

“There are a number of great progressive candidates running in this election who share NDP values,” the handout states.

In my opinion, this is nothing but blatant influence pedaling. A major political party with deep pockets and endless professional resource to force the outcome of our municipal election is conducting it.

After 12 years of holding the majority of city council, the time has come to end the NDP domination of our council.

It does not name these self-described “great candidates” but the flyer is asking to support them by volunteering, donating and meeting sign requests.

Presenting for your consumption, names of the Bloc of Seven that has dominated Guelph council for the past four years: James Gordon, Ward 2; June Hofland and Phil Allt, Ward 3; Mike Salisbury, Ward 4; Cathy Downer and Leanne Piper, Ward 5; and Mark MacKinnon Ward 6.

There are others running who are suspected NDP supporters to insure another NDP control of council. One additional NDP candidate is Aggie Mlynarz, running for Mayor and with no municipal governance experience. If she is elected, the NDP will lock up control of council for the next four years.

If you believe that these seven “great candidates” have worked diligently as city councillors on your behalf and warrant re-election, support them.

If, on the other hand, you agree that the NDP dominance of city council for the past 12 years has been littered with financial mismanagement, self-serving policies and projects including the Urbacon wrongful dismissal lawsuit, the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) multi-million dollar fiasco and the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc.

Then: “Just say NO and let them GO.”

If you believe this, consider the following:

Revive the Community Energy Initiative that has already cost citizens millions chiefly through the GMHI that in 2016 loss $17 million. The 2017 report is not available but is estimated by experts to increase the loss to an estimated $24 million.

Increasing spending on bicycle lanes of major streets and trails resulting in squeezing many major roads causing increasing traffic congestion caused by a growing population. The active bicycle lobby does not contribute to these annual lane expansions but remain entitled to the free rude.

A promise made and a promise not kept

Going downtown? Where can you park? City council deferred a $700,000 budget item to buy new parking meters for downtown. Instead, it channeled the funds to a preliminary spending on the proposed $63 million South end Recreation Centre. This was promoted and approved by council on a motion by Ward 6 councillors Karl Wettstein and Mark MacKinnon, both part of the NDP Bloc of Seven controlling council.

Are you still driving around the block to find a parking space?

Closing down public participation

Suppressing public participation by conducting the people’s business in closed-sessions. In the first two years of the Guthrie administration there were 82 closed-sessions conducted by the administration. What were they talking about? We’ll never know because the minutes of those meeting are sealed.

Is the Guelph Hydro deal in the best interests of the people?

Here are the ten councillors who voted December 13, 2017 to approve the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Inc: Mayor Cam Guthrie, Councillors Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond (not running), June Hofland, Christine Billings, Mike Salisbury, Cathy Downer, Leanne Piper, Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein (not running).

It is painful that the Ten ignored the public response to reconsider the Alectra deal. Fortunately, it has yet to be confirmed by the Ontario Energy Board. Given Guelph’s dismal record of managing the energy file, the outcome of saving this jewel of city assets is uncertain.

Playing the Reserve Funds Rumba

How council balanced the books by misusing reserve funds. Official documents show that under her management for five years, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, failed each year to balance the city books as required by law. This was because the budgets were overspent, it’s called a negative variance.

An example was the $8 million settlement with Urbacon of which more than $5 million was taken from three non-related reserve funds to complete the payment to Urbacon. To the best of knowledge those funds were never returned to the three reserve funds. What do you think?

Spending money on social engineering projects such as waste management, transit, injection clinics, Wellbeing programs, intensification of new housing, but nothing on affordable housing in Guelph that County Wellington managed. And let’s not forget the Wyndham street underpass botched reconstruction that denied large trucks that had crashed into the underside of the overpass.

Another way to drive up the cost of living in Guelph, raise taxes

Adding property tax surcharges – it’s a tax by any other name to fund failing and neglected infrastructure. The city staff has declared that the cost of updating the infrastructure in the city is more than $400 million.

Increasing staff does not justify the modest annual increase in population. Of course, certain staff increases are needed particularly in the three public safety divisions, police, fire and EMS. But needs under the past three NDP dominated councils do not necessary match those public safety needs but diverted staffers to support NDP self-serving projects of which the general public is not informed.

Why is the Ontario NDP interfering with our municipal election?

They are protecting their agenda that is part of the National NDP platform such as minimum wage increases, guaranteed annual income, pharmacare for all citizens, higher taxes, energy and environmental projects. In Guelph annual property taxes have risen, on average, by more than three per cent in the past 12 years. That does not include the two per cent property tax surcharge that started in 2017.

We believe it is the citizens’ time to express their views at the ballot box and “Just say NO and let them GO.”

These are just some of the priorities of the council majority if it is composed of NDP dedicated members. They drive the policies that were forged by the former mayor of Guelph that had resulted in the city having higher taxes than most of its peer group in Ontario.

The other day, I was told that inflation has hit the Guelph municipal candidates in which four years ago a ward candidate would usually spend on average up to $5,500. Today that has almost doubled.

Is it logical that to run for a job that pays $40,000, you have to spend $10,000? Yes there are other perks, most taxable such as honourariums for serving on some boards and committees.

The Mayoralty race in previous years has cost more than $80,000. Mayor Guthrie has the advantage of being an incumbent but also has a large following of friends and supporters. But even he cannot depend on those juicy cheques from various businesses and organizations that are incorporated.

Where does mayoralty candidate, Aggie Mlynarz, 28 year-old Fine Arts graduate with no municipal experience find that kind of money?

In my opinion, the Ontario NDP should butt out and stop using the City of Guelph as an incubator for grooming candidates for future higher office.

The definition of insanity: Re-electing these seven NDP councillors and electing an inexperienced mayor, is again like electing the same NDP council majority and expecting a different outcome

Just say NO and let the NDP GO!

 

 

 

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Swimming upstream against a tsunami of incompetence

By Gerry Barker

August 23, 2018

More than two years ago, I asked the Ontario Ombudsman office to assist me in obtaining the minutes of a city council closed-session meeting conducted December 10,2015. That meeting approved salary and bonus increases to the four senior staff managers that totaled $98,202.

At the time of the request, only council and some staffers knew what those increases were and why was there no explanation?

The Ombudsman representative told me that that office could not assist because “Guelph had its own special investigator of closed session meetings” … Amberlea Gravel located in London. This organization was hired by the city in 2008 and had been on retainer for the past ten years.

I filed a request for the minutes through the city clerk’s office. It took more than four months to be told that my request was denied. By that time, the increases had been revealed when the 2015 Sunshine list was published in March 2016.

To this day, the city administration has never explained why it withheld that information for almost four months and has yet to acknowledge it.

The cover-up was controlled behind closed doors.

It got me thinking this year about the methods used by the current Guthrie administration to suppress public participation in the business of the city.

So I checked with the city clerk and requested how many closed-session meetings were held since January 2015 to a couple of months ago.

I was informed that in 2015 and 2016 there were 41 such meetings held in each year. That’s 82 over 24 months. That number dropped in 2017 when the council voted to conduct its business acting as the ‘committee of the whole.’ Last year there were 12 closed-session meetings with a similar number this year to date.

Why does this matter?

It is a slippery slope that allows city council and senior staff to virtually, make decisions in secret, without public input or knowledge. It results in pre-digesting the contentious items of business without telling anyone.

That’s how the Farbridge administration wasted millions on the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) by imposing silence for four years using closed-session meetings.

To prevent leaks of the details of those closed-sessions, the hammer over the councillors was the threat of the Integrity Commissioner investigating the alleged misconduct and potential penalties.

The scope of this GMHI ‘green’ adventure was to create power self-suffiency and potential heating and cooling of downtown building and the Hanlon Business Park.

It was finally exposed following the defeat of the former mayor in 2014. It took until May 2016 before the awful truth was revealed. Ironically, the report was presented by GMHI CFO Pankaj Sardana and signed by Chief Administrative Officer (at the time) Ann Pappert. Ms. Pappert was appointed Chief Executive Officer of GMHI in 2011. So, she was wearing two executive hats and had to have intimate knowledge of the city and GMHI operations for four years.

But it gets better, or worse as the case may be. The former mayor was chairperson of the GMHI Board of Directors. Because of her position as mayor and head of GMHI that included Guelph Hydro, she named four members of council to the GMHI Board.

These included Councillors June Hofland who was also head of the council finance committee, Karl Wettstein, Lise Burcher and Todd Dennis. This gave Ms.Farbridge complete control of both the city and GMHI.

The disturbing situation some four years later, is that the financial mess is still to be cleaned up as contracts and operation of the District Energy pumps are still operating to supply hot and cold water to five buildings downtown, including the Sleeman Centre and River-Run theatre across the street.

Best estimate of the cost of wrap-up will require $17 million and counting. The bottom line is there remains insufficient revenue to continue operating GMHI but the problem has yet to be resolved. The purchase of GMHI shares by Alectra may solve the situation. According to the merger agreement, the proposed Alectra Inc. dividend will be paid to GMHI, not the city.

The Guthrie administration has promoted the sale of GMHI shares, which are worthless, to Alectra Inc as part of a merger agreement. The data shows that the owner of Guelph Hydro ‘s tangible assets including poles, wires, substations, and equipment is the subsidiary corporation Guelph Hydro Electric Services Inc.

And who owns GHESI? Why it’s GMHI. That’s why Alectra is ‘purchasing the shares of GMHI.

How did we get into this pickle?

Because as citizens we were denied important information and details including a supportive business plan that made sense, not chaos.

It was a carefully orchestrated scheme that was under the control of a city council, of which most members were bereft of skills, financial acumen and conscience.

So what does the Guthrie council do? They approve entering an agreement with a private corporation to redevelop the Baker Street parking lot into a spiffy downtown showcase of mixed use including a new library, businesses, shops and residences.

The estimated cost of this grand design is unknown. One estimate said between $314 and $350 million. This proposal won’t start until 2024. Citizens have no information about the city’s share of the development. And it won’t be ready for occupancy until at least 2028.

When is this stream of building abortive monuments going to stop? There is plenty of blame to go around. But until we elect responsible and experienced councillors we will continue swimming in a sea of uncontrollable, ego-driven waste of resources.

 

 

 

 

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Setting the record straight on the Guelph Hydro/Alectra merger

By Gerry Barker

August 20, 2018

Some days are better than others.

This past week I had the opportunity to spend time with a professional accountant who was familiar with much of the details of the proposed merger between Guelph Hydro and Alectra Inc.

Right off, this was a complex agreement containing many parts that was conducted in such a manner that defied understanding, especially to me who had to rely on city statements, devoid of the details.

As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get it right and for that I apologize to my viewers.

My advisor walked me through the maze of financial manipulation of city-owned Guelph Hydro Inc (GHI) and Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) conducted by the former Mayor, Karen Farbridge.

It turned out to be an epic misadventure of the use of public funds over a time frame from 2011 to 2014 when she was defeated. She was joined by four of her supporting councillors, June Hofland, Karl Wettstein, Lise Burcher and Todd Dennis to serve on her GMHI Board of Directors. Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert was appointed Chief Executive Officer of GMHI in 2011.

Without going into the convoluted explanation here is a recap.

It started in 2011 with GMHI commencing its control of the following players: Guelph Hydro Inc, Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc (GHESI), and Envida Community Energy Inc.

Explanation: While the city-owned GMHI and its assets, the leadership was the same, Mayor Farbridge and CAO Ann Pappert. Supporting this arrangement were councillors friendly to the mayor and her agenda.

The key to fulfill the agenda of GMHI were the profits of GHESI, owners of the tangible assets, including the poles, wires, substations, service equipment and cash to serve the 55,000 customers. The 2016 GSI financial statement put the value of these assets at $228 million.

During these four years, the GMHI operated almost entirely in closed-sessions, defying the public its right to understand what was going on.

So, what was going on?

Guelph Hydro Inc, the parent company of these assets and liabilities, was brought into the GMHI Corporation. This was done to strengthen the financial viability of GMHI that was not earning sufficient income to support its agenda and pay the operating costs.

The profits of GHESI allowed it to pay a dividend to GMHI who only paid a portion of these dividends to the city. This development provided GMHI with only one source of financing.

Following the result of the 2014 election, Mayor Cam Guthrie assumed chair of GMHI along with Coun. Karl Wettstein. It was reported that in 2014 GMHI had lost some $3.5 million.

In the middle of this was Envida Community Energy Inc., a GHESI subsidiary that was operating the District Energy pumps in the Sleeman Centre and Hanlon Business Park plus other projects. In May 16, 2016, the CEO of GMHI, Pankaj Sardana, reported to council that the Envida assets were impaired and should be written down. Further impairment occurred the following year.

In 2017 it was reported that Envida had lost $17 million on district energy. The district energy assets were worthless. This in itself was a growing cash liability that needed to be addressed.

During 2016, the city appointed a Strategies and Options Committee (SOC) to examine the options available to move forward with GHESI. Council removed the option to sell GHESI at an open meeting.

My accountant showed that the GHESI had total assets of $228 million and liabilities of $159 million in 2016, not as how I had described it. GHESI’s value for the merger that was $129.4 million. While I speculated the proposed merger was a $300 million giveaway, it appears, based on the evidence now obtained that the merger value is is in exchange for a 4.63 per cent of Alectra Inc.

The merger agreement consists of a special dividend to the city of $18.5 million. While I believe that it is being paid with our own money, I now believe it is a righteous adjustment to clear up the financial morass created by the former mayor and her GMHI board of directors.

So what does the city get in return for agreeing to this merger? I have been informed that there will be a dividend paid annually by Alectra Inc. based on a pooled share of 60 per cent of that corporation’s profits. Alectra Inc is a $2 billion corporation and our share will be 4.63 per cent of that pool of profits. Right now it’s difficult to determine what the dividend will be. We’ll know better following the potential approval of the merger by the Ontario Energy Board and with the first dividend payment.

The agreement has the dividend paid to GMHI. It currently owns GHESI and will own the Alectra Inc. I believe that GMHI, if the agreement is approved, should be closed down and the dividend paid directly to the city.

In my opinion, GMHI was a dreadful episode in our city’s history serving the personal agenda of the operators including Karen Farbridge, Ann Pappert, Councillors Karl Wettstein, June Hofland, Lise Burcher and Todd Dennis those elected officials who served on the GMHI board. They failed their sworn duty to protect and represent the citizens who elected them.

In my Opinion, for that reason, GMHI board members and council candidates June Hofland and Lise Burcher should not be considered for re-election.

The solution to continue supporting GMHI’s condemned function is to close it down.

According to my source that the end of all this is a $17 million loss, and the clean up has yet to be completed.

It is possible that it will take ten years of Alectra dividends to eliminate this increasing loss.

Finally, I am not yet prepared to accept this as a good deal until all the facts are known. I appreciate the advice I have received from a professional accountant and will continue to monitor and report.

 

 

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One man’s opinion: Was there a conspiracy to merge Guelph Hydro instead of selling it?

By Gerry Barker

August 13, 2018

As many viewers know, guelphspeaks.ca has been a severe critic of the proposed merger between Guelph Hydro and Alectra Inc, the parent corporation of Alectra Utilities.

I call it the steal of the century.

The onus of this multi-million dollar giveaway lies with those 10 members of council who, on December 13 2017, voted to approve the merger. The truth, as it is gradually coming out, is that the council majority had already taken the bait and decided to approve the complex deal months before it took shape.

Despite late hour protests by citizens, including 22 who appeared before council expressing the need for more truthfulness, clarity and delay until the people understood what was at stake. Protests denied.

We have yet to be told how much GMHI cost the city over five years.

What did ten councillors know that we didn’t?

As a public service, here are the names of the ten: Mayor Cam Guthrie, Councillors Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Christine Billings, Leanne Piper, Cathy Downer, Mark Mackinnon, Karl Wettstein.

Councillors Phil Allt, James Gordon and Bob Bell voted against the approval.

In my opinion, there is no public record of discussions by members of council to accept the terms and considerations of this merger. The public, those people who actually own Guelph Hydro, were totally ignored by the majority of council in making the decision to merge with Alectra Inc.

So what is the truth and consequence of this decision? In my opinion, it was a conspiracy to bail out the multi-million dollar financial losses incurred by the former administration operating Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) that included Guelph Hydro.

It took more than a year to finally be told the extent of the failed GMHI scheme.

Those losses and wasted resources were a stain on the city’s account books. The council realized that not even the financial resources including the credit rating of the Corporation of the City of Guelph could sustain and repay the losses.

Since early 2015, the administration has quietly worked behind the scenes with accountants and lawyers to extricate itself from the GMHI disaster in creating a system of power self sufficiency and incorporating it with a geo-thermal hot and cold water delivery to a small number of to commercial and hi-rise residences.

City council was frequently blinded as GMHI business was conducted in closed sessions for more than four years. The public, including this writer, had no clue as to what GMHI was doing.

That is, until May 16, 2016 when Chief Administrative officer, Ann Pappert signed a report along with CEO of GMHI Panaj Sardana, that revealed parts of the looming scandal that would have a disastrous impact on the city’s finances.

In mid-July 2016, a staff report provided additional information that gave more insight into what had occurred in the five years that GMHI operated in almost complete secrecy.

The plans created under the leadership of former Mayor, Karen Farbridge, were flawed and executed without the proper and necessary checks and balances.

Until the May 16 report there were many people, city staff and elected officials, who knew what was unfolding and never said a word.

The players

Let’s be frank, this could not have happened without the support and loyalty to the former mayor. Included were key staff members and some councillors who served on the GMHI board of directors. These included Lise Burcher, June Hofland, Karl Wettstein and Todd Dennis. Wettstein is not a candidate this year, Hofland and Burcher are candidates and Mr. Dennis is no longer associated with council.

It is important to note that former CAO Ann Pappert was also the Chief Executive Officer of GMHI for four years. The closed session meeting of council December 10, 2015 was when the four senior managers received the salary and bonus payments totaling $98,202. Ms. Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officers Derrick Thomson, Al Horsman and Mark Amorosi were knowledgeable of the GMHI operations and problems.

Today only Derrick Thomson remains with the city as CAO although he resigned in January 2016 to take another position then returned in June to take over as CAO.

Not one of those councillors associated with GMHI, spoke up about the GMHI operations. In my opinion, they committed the highest form of dereliction of their sworn fiduciary responsibility. In fact, they were all paid extra for participating on the GMHI Board.

Coun. Karl Wettstein declined to participate during a council meeting discussing the   GMHI situation on the grounds that because he received remuneration for his membership on the GMHI board, he declared a perceived conflict of interest based of his financial connection.

But that didn’t stop Coun. June Hofland and Mr. Wettstein from voting for the merger of Guelph Hydro.

The extraordinary part of approving the merger is that those ten councillrs couldn’t have known what they were approving. The agreement was still being negotiated and it wasn’t completed until February, this year. That’s when a written proposal, containing 19 documents was available on request. Some of which had major redactions, Alectra Inc. and Guelph Hydro presented it to the Ontario Energy Board for approval.

No date has been set for the OEB to conduct a hearing and make its decision. There are four interveners who will ask the OEB to reject the proposal. A spokesperson for the board estimated that the hearing will not be held for up to 12 months.

Based on that statement, no decision will be made before the October civic election.

Entering from Stage Left, the SOC

The framework for this abortive, agreement hatched for the most part in closed sessions, was created in the fall of 2016 by the council-appointed Strategies and Options Committee aka SOC. It was originally co-chaired by Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson and Guelph Hydro Chief Executive Officer Pankaj Sardana. There were three other members on the committee who we’ll call civilians.

There were no elected officials on the committee.

The structure of the SOC changed as Hydro Chair Jane Armstrong replaced Mr. Sardana. Two other members were replaced. This change occurred prior to February 2017 when council made a major decision, in open session, to remove the option of selling Guelph Hydro from further discussion or negotiation.

So why was council told to dump the option of selling the $300 million profitable, publicly-owned power distribution systems serving 55,000 customers?

I have learned that there were at least two neighbouring municipalities that expressed an interest in buying Guelph Hydro. Because this was discussed behind closed doors, we’ll never be told who they were.

The reason that the SOC was instructed to stop selling the crown jewel of Guelph remains a great, untold story of backroom intrigue and arm-twisting.

But the reason is clear that the massive debt accumulated by the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc., along with Guelph Hydro, chaired by the former mayor, had to be dealt with on the city books.

For the record, this merger is to get rid of that debt by giving away Guelph Hydro and its assets to Alectra Inc for almost nothing. You don’t have to hold a PhD in accounting to figure this out.

How did the city get out of this hole created by a former administration without borrowing money from a recognized lender such as a bank or credit union?

Welcome to Trader Joe’s

The answer friends is they made a deal with the devil and traded Guelph Hydro and all its functioning assets to Alectra for a tiny share of Alectra Utilities’ profits of just 4.36 per cent but only sharing in 60 per cent of Alectra Utilities profits.

Voila! The trade kicks the accumulated debt of Guelph Hydro controlled by GMHI. The merger agreement states:

“The purchase by Alectra Inc. of all the issues and outstanding shares of Guelph Hydro held by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. a wholly owned corporation of the City of Guelph.”

It’s important to note that Alectra Utilities is a subsidiary of Alectra Inc. This corporation is the so-called “purchaser” but Guelph only shares in the profits of its ubsidiary corporation.

Here’s the brutal truth. Alectra Inc. once approved as the new owner of Guelph Hydro, is dropping that brand name as soon as the OEB approves the merger. Here’s another possibility, Alectra Inc. can sell the assets of Guelph Hydro to the highest bidder and walk away with millions.

Mayor Guthrie keeps saying that the city is giving nothing away when asked about the proposed merger.

Did you know that the city admits it has spent YTD some $2.6 million of your money to sell this deal to us. The head of the city’s communications department was the key driver of the campaign to convince us with slanted polls and town halls where few people turned up.

Then just before the vote to approve the merger, the city announced that it was receiving an $18.5 million “special dividend” from Guelph Hydro as soon ad the deal is approved.

So our council is so smart to believe that getting $18.5 million of our own money is a fair trade for a $300 million corporation that the citizens happen to own.

Alectra Inc. is virtually getting a very valuable asset for nothing. The city negotiators were even willing to give Alectra the Hydro reserve cash but they declined.

And why not? They just got the whole enchilada for Pesos on the dollar.

Can you imagine this happening in a private corporation?

Those remaining eight councillors running for re-election will have to explain why, why did they fall for this grand theft Hydro?

It’s insulting and deplorable that in the new Working Together community report addition to the city website, the claim is made that city assets have increased by $13 million and the debt has been paid down by $24.4 million.

It only goes to prove that there is a sucker born every minute. Only we are the suckers who have experienced the malfeasance of those councillors who approved this deal.

In my opinion, there is strong evidence that this is a major cover-up that has the odor of conspiracy to defraud the citizens of a valuable asset to settle the mismanagement of the previous administration.

I believe there are grounds here to have an investigation by the Ontario Attorney General to determine if there is evidence of a crime being committed.

This isn’t going away.

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