Tag Archives: Guelph

Why won’t city council tell us why the sudden departure of the CAO?

By Gerry Barker

February 13, 1019

Opinion

Who agreed to “part ways” with Thomson out the door and no explanation for a quick exit?

Near the end of last week the announcement was made that Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson had “parted ways with the city.”

Who decided he had to leave so abruptly, Thomson or Council?

The public has the right to know why the Chief Administrative Officer of the city was summarily dropped.

Was it something he said? Did he pixxed-off certain members of council including the Mayor?

Was it so terrible that neither party wanted to reveal the details?

Or was it a personality conflict between certain members of council?

Did he misappropriate public funds?

Or was it because of health issues?

Or has he accepted another job, like he did in 2016?

So what does the Mayor do? He calls yet another closed-session meeting and, to illustrate why this council fails once again and bungles another serious senior staff development.

Witness the witless creation of a Troika assigning three Deputy Chief Administrative Officers to run the store for six months while the search seeking a new boss goes on.

Is this not a crisis where three senior staff is assigned to perform the duties of an absent CAO?

This is a dumb idea. Forcing a committee of three top managers to fill in for their former boss only exemplifies the lack of business management experience of most members of council.

There is no succession plan in place for senior management. To create this Troika is an example of the misfits of knowledge by city council.

Council, in secret session has created this awkward senior management structure by increasing their compensation for up to six months following the appointment of a new CFO of the city.

This commuter is not to disparage the ability of the three remaining DCAO’s who are capable and worthy candidates for the job.

I don’t envy the situation on which the council has put them.

In the middle of the 2019 Budget creation, why did this happen?

Some history

Since 2006, there has been four CAO’s heading the city staff: Larry Kotseff, Hans Loewig, Ann Pappert and Derrick Thomson. Of the four only one actually lived in Guelph. A year following Ms. Pappert’s appointment, council gave her $20,000 to move from Waterloo to Guelph.

Of course the city should conduct a search for a new CAO and select a candidate with an independent view and ready to clean house of the dominant partisan council.

We need a CAO who understands the role of staff is to serve the public interest and not to bury those rights behind closed doors.

The record shows that the city administration have wasted millions on building a new city hall; the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc financial loss of $63 million of shareholder value; the giveaway of Guelph Hydro; the bike lane network expansion; subsidizing Guelph Transit support of a variety of services to the University of Guelph, including low property taxes on the largest land owner in the city.

These are just a handful that has drained the Guelph Treasury for projects that often lacked a business plan. Most important has been the neglect of the city infrastructure, some of which is 200 years old.

Despite warnings from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and more recently from the city staff that has put a $450 million price tag on infrastructure renewal and replacement.

In its usual response, city staff recommended to council to place a special levy of 2 per cent for infrastructure work on property taxpayers.

Even that was bungled when council decided to split the levy with 1 per cent dedicated to “City Buildings.” Sponsored by Councillors Karl Wettstein and Mark MacKinnon, the money went to the proposed South End $63 million Recreation Centre.

It was learned that professional outside planners had spent some $3.5 million on preliminary site and design of the complex.

There has been no budget planning in the capital budget for this project. It is only one example of the voodoo financial management of council, most of whom don’t understand a balance sheet or a business plan or the correlation of each. But that’s what we have a staff for, right?

Mind you, I believe the city now has much stronger and experienced senior managers to maintain fiscal responsibity and management practices.

That’s why citizens should be concerned about Mr. Thomson’s sudden departure that has not been explained.

Once the money has been spent, we cannot get it back.

That’s why it will be most important to hire a CAO of experience, proven performance and that old standby, guts, to steer our city to create a balanced and affordable community for all citizens.

We wish council Godspeed in this search for a new CAO.

 

 

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

The short memory of Susan Watson ignores history of the past 12 years

By Gerry Barker

January 28, 2019

Opinion

Editor’s Note – Before launching into another overview of unvarnished civics reports on the management of our city, I urge everyone to read and absorb the history on which I have been reporting and commenting since 2011.  The administration is in charge of our $500 million corporation. But who is really running the show?

Susan Watson, the high Priestess of the Left-leaning coalition of power figures controlling our city administration. In a letter to the media, she says: “We all care about our property tax bills.”

She then adds that we should all care about impending increased changes to the development impact by-law updating currently before city council.

Three guesses as to where this is going.

She urges readers not to believe the ‘old’ slogan that, “Growth will pay for growth.”

However, before we consider her statement that in the next ten years, citizens will subsidize development in Guelph at an estimated rate of $5 million a year or $50 million. Those figures come from Tara Baker, the city’s General Manager of Finance and Treasurer.

Ms Watson claims that in the past five years taxpayers paid $21.5 million to subsidize development in the city.

There seems to be a difference here between the city staff manager, responsible for all things accountable is projecting in public administration. Susan Watson’s recent five-year analysis of taxpayers subsidizing development does not agree with the Financial GM’s forecast.

None of these figures define ‘development.’ For example, do the figures include city development projects or are these Ms. Watson’s personal political views?

Are development impact fees charged to the Wilson street five store parkade the city is building across the road from City Hall? That’s a $22 million project.

That cost has been declared as part of the estimated $350 million renovation of the Baker Street project announced before the civic election won by Mayor Guthrie. He said a deal has been struck between the city and Windmill Developments based in Ottawa. It is called a 3P or Private, Public Participation Plan. Whoops that’s four P’s.

This apparent proposal won’t start until 2024 and take at least five to six years to complete. The joker is what is the city’s capital share of this and its public liability? What is the estimate of revenue including taxes and, wait for it! Developments fees?

Some may believe it is heresy regarding city-managed projects to dredge up some of the spectacular management failures in the past 12 years.

Whopper Alert!

Here’s a run down of some of the historical failures:

* The organic waste processing facility costing $34 million of taxpayer’s money and the public does not have access to the organic mulch by-product. It was so overbuilt to handle Guelph’s wet waste that it depends on Simcoe County and the Region of Waterloo for feed stock to keep the joint operating. To top it off, a subsidiary of the company that built the facility, operates it through a subsidiary corporation and sells the finished compost. Details of this arrangement have never been revealed to the people who financed it.

Would you agree this information is in the Public Interest?

*         *         *         *

* Along came the new city hall construction. In 2006, city council approved a contract for $42 million. In 2007, a new council took over and by September 2008, booted the general contractor off the job. The contractor sued the city for $19 million and six years later, a Superior Court judge ruled the city responsible for wrongful dismissal. The overrun cost of the entire project was $23 million.

Why did a lawsuit outcome fail the interest of Public Interest?

*         *         *         *

* The $34 million police headquarters renovation will not be completed until next December. This is a city-managed project and so far it is on schedule to avoid cost overruns coming in at contract cost. However, experience dictates that missing the 2018 completion date indicates possible cost overruns.

* The greatest city mismanaged failure was the five-year record of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) led by former mayor Karen Farbridge and aided by her former Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, who had the dual responsibility as Chief Executive Officer of GMHI.

The real cost of this multi-tasked attempt to create self-sufficiency in power supply and a geo-thermal heating and cooling water system to a small collection of nearby buildings. These include the city- owned Sleeman Centre, River Run theatre and Hanlon Business Park. The only information about the cost of this operation was stated in a consolidated audit of GMHI conducted by accounting firm KPMG

There was a shareholder’s liability of $63 million. That’s a loss to taxpayers in any language.

Was GMHI shrouded in closed- sessions in the Public Interest?

*         *         *         *

Does Ms. Watson object to private enterprise and its role in creating housing both affordable and upscale? Or is it another undocumented scare tactic to reflect her ongoing anti-Conservative campaign to discredit the likes of Mike Harris and Doug Ford?

Susan, look back to the future

Ms. Watson should go back 12 years to examine the track record of former mayor Karen Farbridge and close friend who was supported financially in the three elections.

The Farbridge administration thatran the city for eight years was no slouch in cutting deals with private developers. These include Tricar developments that received deferred development fees in construction of two high-rise condos. There were others given deferred development and deferred property taxes to build housing, particularly in the downtown area.

These deferments were covered by transferring funds of the Brownfield reserve fund valued at more than $30 million. One of those sites was the former LaFarge cement manufacturing plant, east of the Hanlon, south of Paisley.

The funds were set aside to clean up contaminated sites that needed remedial action to remove dangerous elements in the soil.

That Brownfield reserve transfer was done to limit the annual property tax increases and deferred development charges that would impact the city budgets over the years. Again, details of these deals have not been revealed.

But there is more

But the biggest flop of the Farbridge administration was the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. The audit of this project by accounting firm KPMG, revealed shareholder’s loss (the citizens of Guelph) was some $63 million. The details of this were published following council meetings May 16, 2016 and mid-July 2016.

This audit showed the costs of creating self-sufficiency in power and a geo-thermal underground system providing hot and cold water supplied to a few city-owned building, a church and two large high-rise conco towers near the Sleeman centre.

The Guelph Hydro giveaway

Then the new council, in 2017 voted to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities.

I remain convinced it was a terrible deal because the only thing citizens received was return of its own money. The surplus of Guelph Hydro cash of $18.5 million, that’s our money, is about to be returned to the city. Also, the city is to receive a 4.36 per cent share of 60 per cent of the Alectra Utilities profits.

Breaking news! In 2019 the city, according to budget documents, will receive a dividend of $1 million from Alectra Utilities.

So, why was it merged with Alectra when Guelph Hydro was sending an annual dividend to the city of $3 million?

The administration’s war on fossil-fueled vehicles

The reconfiguration of major city streets is another alleged development of reducing the use of fossil-fueled vehicles. In fact, the opposite has occurred as traffic congestion has substantially increased due to the shrinkage of traffic lanes on major streets to accommodate bicycle lanes.

The cost of this abortive attempt to cut emissions is in eight years: Council has spent some $300,000 annually on bike lane development. Included also was $2 million received for special bike lanes on Stone Road as part of the 2009 infrastructure program of the provincial and federal governments. Oh yes! That also included spending $75,000 on a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre. That replaced one that was working well.

What in hell has that to do with infrastructure?

Added up, there were millions spent on projects described first as optional, but the Farbridge administrations were determined to adhere to climate change and environmental projects to achieve their dream. As usual, citizens picked up the tab.

I do agree with Ms. Watson about private developers paying the costs of connecting to city roads, water and sewer lines, power distribution and public safety facilities, to name a few. But I remain confused about the financial status between private and public development.

Property taxes spiral because of kitchen table accounting

We have just gone through 12 years of council and support staff that have strayed off the reservation.

The good news is there are some moves made to install experienced money managers who can re-focus and concentrate on fixing the infrastructure and freeze the mega projects such as Innovation Guelph Reformatory lands plan and the Baker Street renovation.

Reducing overhead operating costs, debt, pie-in-the-sky projects and maintains services are more important than ever.

How do you get out of the hole, stop digging.

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

Was this appointment part of the Hydro merger?

By Gerry Barker

January 7, 2019

Opinion

Well, that’s been a weird winter so far. One day the kids are sliding down the first fairway of the Guelph Country Club and a day later there is no snow.

Even stranger is the appointment of Hydro Chair Jane Armstrong as Guelph’s representative on the Board of Directors of Alectra Utilities.

If you missed the news Guelph Hydro is now dead and no longer our property. As of the beginning of the year, Alectra Utilities took over the city’s electricity distribution system.

So, who benefits from this disposal of a $228 million successful city-owned distribution system serving some 55,000 customers?

Well we now know of one person, Jane Armstrong, a 12-year Guelph Hydro Board member and more recently the chairperson. No doubt she is a seasoned, well-qualified individual to represent our interest of things, such as electricity and who is running the system?

Patience friends, remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will this takeover of our power distribution system and delivers promised services in a day.

This appointment is shrouded in secrecy. Who made the appointment of Ms. Armstrong? Was it council in secret session? Was it the board of directors of Guelph Hydro? In the release of the news in Guelph Today, there was no mention of just how she got the job.

It’s a juicy assignment reported to have a base salary of $25,000 plus travel expenses and payment for attending the Alectra board meetings.

Oh yes, it includes a four-year engagement.

But here is what bothers me. Ms. Armstrong was the co-chair of the Strategic Options Committee, (SOC) appointed by council, to investigate the sale. Merger or partnership of Guelph Hydro with another municipally-owned power distribution system.

In February 2017, Ms. Armstrong replaced Hydro CEO Panaj Sardana as co-chair of SOC along with Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson.

A closed-session of SOC detailing with SOC’s board personnel changes, also decided to take the option of selling Guelph Hydro off the table. This set the stage for a merger.

This information made public by Richard Puccini who was a member of the SOC board until replaced.

The rest of the story is that Alectra Utilities, in partnership with the Guthrie administration, convinced10 members of council to support the Alectra merger December 13, 2017. Three councillors voted against the merger, Phil Allt, James Gordon and Bob Bell.

Getting back to the Armstrong appointment. As the co-chair of the SOC that recommended the merger with Alectra Utilities, the perception exists that she was in a conflict of interest.

It should be noted that no elected official or city staff were eligible to take the job under the terms of the merger agreement.

Was there any attempt to advertise the position? Were other persons interviewed for the position?

Although public money is not involved in this appointment, she is representing the interests of the citizens.

Now about that $18.5 million “special dividend” the city will receive, it’s a sick joke. It is a return of cash from Guelph Hydro that is the property of the citizens.

There is nothing like closing a deal by paying us with our own money.

Here’s another observation. The low turnout last October in the civic election may be traced back to not only indifference but also failures of people to understand the Merger deal.

I believe that was by design by the Guthrie administration that was determined to merge Guelph Hydro. The only issue left out was what did the city receive for eclipsing Guelph Hydro?

Only in Guelph, you say?

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

What’s New? How is the world treating you? Sung by Linda Ronstadt with the great Nelson Riddle band

By Gerry and Barbara Barker

January 2, 2019

And now here’s something a little different.

Both of us have spent the past 36 years together. Unusual in that we spent time some 25 years prior with other partners who passed away but are not forgotten.

The result has been an integrated family with adventures and events that have created a loving and interesting human experience.

Along the way we lost a daughter and witnessed the growth of six children and 12 grandchildren. The new wave is the arrival of eight great-grandchildren.

We have been fortunate to have traveled the world including an 80-day cruise around the world visiting 28 ports of call. We have walked the Great Wall of China, ridden on the Moscow Subway, cruised the Greek Islands, ridden a clog train up the Matterhorn and kissed the Blarney Stone.

For many years we spent our winters in Sarasota, Florida visiting Gerry’s mother who lived for 101 years passing in 2001. Alas, we are unable to enjoy that aspect of our lives due in part to our advanced years.

When all is said and done, Guelph has been our favourite home for the past 15 years living in the city. Barbara was born here some 86 years ago.

Oh sure. There have been times of disagreement and disappointment, but our love for each other surmounts negativity. Barbara always says: “ Never go to bed angry.”

Well, it works most of the time.

Lately we have been filtering through our accumulated stuff. Barbara came across a poem she had written several years ago and submitted to a Poetry Publisher. She received a rave review from the organization but with all the moving and travel, it was lost until recently.

We thought you might enjoy her poem.

Trying Out My Wings

By Barbara MacDonald Barker

“We thought you might enjoy her poem.

“Trying out my wings

By Barbara MacDonald Barker

“I am trying out the wings of my mind

Testing the water cautiously

I’m frightened of things I might find

But need to live my life thoroughly

I’ll face each and every day

And learn to love and laugh again

I’ll watch the sunset’s orange rays

And walk on sand and smell the rain.”

Looking back over the past 36 years we can see the parts of our lives that are manifest in this poem.

In closing we want to tip the hat to our neighbourhood cat, Tuxedo. We are entertained by his travels around the ‘hood looking for chipmunks, the odd slow bird and the occasional bunny. He is rewarded along the way with the occasional saucer of milk and a stroke or two of his glistening coat.

Some Cat that Tuxedo!

We wish everyone a happy New Year, good health, prosperity and the company of good friends.

Life is good.

What’s new? Hope the world is treating you!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Thoughts on the gradual death of print journalism in Guelph

By Gerry Barker

December 26, 2018

The Mercury Tribune has dropped its Tuesday edition. The paper is promising every Thursday “readers will find analysis, investigative stories, commentary and a variety of content written by our award-winning journalist.”

Also a;pended are about three pounds of advertising inserts, the bread and butter of the enterprise.

In just two years, Metroland Publishing, a division of the TorStar, proprietors of the Toronto Star, has shut down the daily Guelph Mercury and now the Tuesday edition of the Mercury Tribune.

Ah! But stay tuned. The company says it is providing online coverage 24/7 of the news and commentary. Readers must register in order to access the website. The paper is not demanding your first born but just the usual name, address, telephone number and email to access it.

Welcome to the cyber Age of Aquarius, the new electronic access to the news.

The following are important stories about Guelph that are rarely covered in depth by the eviscerated print media. Instead, when questioned, the newspaper says it doesn’t have the space or resources to dig into the stories that affect every citizen in Guelph.

Here’s a recent sample of lack of coverage:

* Explain the “Open Guelph,” a statement of about open government in relation to city council accountability and transparency. Why are they still conducting the public’s business by closed-sessions?

* Explain why Guelph property tax rates and user fees increase every year by far greater than the equivalent of the Consumer Price Index.

* Failure of the Economic Development staff to expand the industrial and commercial assessment to reduce costs to property owners and businesses.

* Guelph Hydro merger that will see the end of the city-owned electricity distribution system that closes at the end of January.

* How much is the city spending advertising in the Mercury Tribune?

* Explain why it has taken five years to renovate the downtown Police HQ that is not expected to be complete until December 2019?.

* Where does council spends the $10 million in gas tax rebates it receives from the Federal and Provincial government?

* How much, if any, do those rebates go toward creating more bike lanes and trails?

* How much of the gas tax rebates are used to expand downtown parking?

* What are the operating and capital costs of the Guelph Civic Museum since it opened?

* How does that figure square with the cost of subsidizing the downtown library?

* What is the status and costs of replacing the Niska bridge?

* Explain the source and details of the financial statements in “Financial Snapshot” section published in the city’s website called: “2017 Report to the Community?”

* What is the ratio of residents using bicycles on Guelph streets and roads compared to those using vehicles?

* Are cyclists subject to the regulations of the Highway Traffic Act? If so, why are they not licensed and carry insurance?

* What are the stats of bicycle and vehicle collisions in 2017 and 2018? What are the injuries to cyclists and drivers? What are the charges brought by Police Services Board and the rationale?

* How much money has been given away or loaned by the city? Aso, explain whar taxparer’s finds are being used to support the Kazoo Festival?

* How much is it costing the city staff services to support the University of Guelph and Conestoga College?

* * * *

Every example listed here costs those citizens who own or rent property and pay user fees.

It’s your money and you have the right to know how it is being spent.

Happy New Year! May good health and prosperity come to you and yours in 2019.

Gerry and Barbara

 

5 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Critical words denied by those sworn to allow it, our civic democracy is in peril

By Gerry Barker

December 10, 2018

I am a wordsmith, a lover of language and expression. In some 12 years I have been covering the politics of a city that is drenched in diversion and opacity. I have searched for truth and transparency in reporting some 200 columns in the former Mercury daily newspaper and 997 posts in my blog, guelphspeaks.ca.

I am not always right. It isn’t easy as one pursues the truth from a closed operation known as the City of Guelph. The city administration for those 12 years has been dominated and controlled by a pernicious movement controlled by a coalition of the labour movement environmentalists, the Green Gang and by NDP loyalists.

It is a highly organized group determined to change the way we transport ourselves, collect and process our waste, annually increases charge us for our water, incoming outgoing and storm runoff that now represents 33 per cent of my residential Guelph Hydro electricity monthly bill.

Hey! I’m just a taxpayer

This council has given away, (my words and opinion) our Hydro distribution system to a large corporation that has no connection with the 55,000 customers who were quite happy with the former Guelph Hydro.

That single exercise masked the truth and was not transparent. To this day I would like to hear from any member of council how much the city received for our system. Yes, words do matter but only when they are used to reveal the truthful interests of the public.

The control of this group rests with words. They publish the words that they want you to read and believe. There is little or no media investigation of the major mismanagement of the people’s business since 2007.

Their words are designed to block public participation in the politics of the city.

And In October, that strategy worked because for a lack of transparency and accountability, two thirds of those citizens eligible to vote, some 57,000 of them failed to turn up and vote.

Regretfully it is by design. It’s called the lullaby system. Without a vibrant and responsible media to force open an accountable government to inform people. They are the large group of eligible citizens who are not informed and then assume their vote is not important or needed.

Mushroom manipulation of the public’s business

Here’s what you’ll rarely read or view in the Guelph focused media. Critical news of the administration, particularly when it comes to financial news and development decisions. The exception is the Ontario Municipal Act that oversees the governance of the 445 municipalities in Ontario. That Ministry also published the annual Sunshine List of every public employee in the province earning more that $100,000.

This is an invaluable resource to track down who and how much Guelph employees whomake the list earn each year.

Yes, words, facts and figures do matter. The province gets it, why doesn’t Guelph?

That was a major break-through in discovering how city council, in December 10, 2015, in closed-session, approved $98,202 in salary increases to four top staff managers. Not one of the so-called media covered this, even when the 2015 Sunshine list revealed their salaries in March 2016.

I was interested in the numbers and checked their salaries in 2014 and discovered the size of the increases and to whom they were awarded. The city to this day has never admitted those increases that they covered up for more than three months. Did they believe that none of us would notice or question it?

I attempted in January 2016 to obtain the minutes of the Dec. 10th closed-session. It turned out three levels of consultants denied my request after four months. More on this to come later. It is a form of voter suppression that has been perfected for the past 12 years.

I wrote several posts critical of the silence that enveloped any official explanation or an apology. In addition, my posts aggravated the senior staff and certain members of council.

Yep! Words do matter, along with actions that blind public participation even when such a monumental mistake occurs under the administration’s watch.

Why the city administration wants to control the news

This is an example that words are important and matter in our modern society. Unfortunately, the City of Guelph administration has chosen to shut down public participation because the words do not fit their agenda.

Finally, here’s my point. If city council abuses the right of citizens to know and understand the administration’s operations, there is no better example than the numbers of closed-session meetings of council plus that of some of its non-elected committees.

In two years, 2015 and 2016, council conducted 84 closed-session meetings not including those conducted by other committees appointed by council.

The question is: These suppressive tactics to deny the right of the public’s right to know, are allowed to continue, nothing will change and we can only change it by organizing, and preparing for the next civic election in 2022. Only with political action by the voters can end it and return real democracy to our city.

I will do everything I can as long as I am able to help make this happen. More on this later.

Meanwhile, let’s get started. Let me know, if you are ready to join the coalition to change the way to stop our city being controlled by a group of self-serving people. Drop me a line at gerrybarker76@gmail.com. We can start by forming a steering group to set up an organization that will represent all parts of the city.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Reflections on the decay of real journalism in the Royal City

By Gerry Barker

November 26, 2018

I stumbled across an article written by the Mercury Managing editor, Phil Andrews April 3, 2014. Four some five years, I worked for Phil writing a column on the editorial page every three weeks. I’ve worked for a number of ME’s in my life, some really good, talented and could deal with an involved publisher. Others were mediocre, devoid of original thought and officious with staff to cover upon their inability and insecurity. They came and went like ships passing in the night.

Phil Andrews was an “A” list managing editor. Firm but fair and ran a small but productive staff. They are all gone now as the Mercury died in January 2016.

The following is an example of what a news organization should be.   The medium doesn’t matter, and the principles are the same. Phil wrote it in response to a question from the floor when he was guest speaker at the Guelph Wellington Men’s Club.

It is a journalistic mission statement that is now a lost element of good stories, well-written and fair comment based on fact, clearly separating news from opinion.

Here is part of Phil’s reply to his questioner.

“I enjoyed my speaking engagement and Q&A session with the Guelph Wellington Men’s Club this week.

“The first question from the floor for me was posed by a gentleman. I was later advised he was a retired judge.

“He wanted to know who owns the Mercury and how/when we get marching orders to cover certain things and take certain editorial positions. I advised the questioner that the Mercury was a Torstar paper — within its Metroland division — and that it has a set editorial mission statement. I also advised that no corporate-editorial marching orders have ever been issued to me, that the mission statement would likely trouble no one in our market

“The following principles guide our editorial board:”

  1. Community responsibility. The Guelph Mercury will be an advocate for sound planning and good government at all levels. We will encourage local citizens to play an active role in the growth and health of Guelph and Wellington County.
  2. Freedom of speech and thought. The newspaper will uphold and preserve the principles of free speech and defend those who exercise this right. We support academic freedom and universal access to education. We will encourage a full range of opinion on our editorial pages.
  3. Social justice. The Guelph Mercury’s editorials reflect a belief that societies have a shared responsibility to ensure that the most needy and disadvantaged among us have a decent quality of life, including the most basic needs of food, shelter and health care. We support the equal treatment and civil liberties of all citizens as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  4. A United Canada. The Guelph Mercury believes in a strong and united Canada. The newspaper envisions a culturally diverse, bilingual country that plays a positive role on the world stage.
  5. Environmental responsibility. The newspaper supports environmental responsibility through the responsible preservation and protection of the environment for future generations.

I spent 23 years in the editorial department of the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper. I was proud that I was a reporter and later editor managing various editorial management areas of the paper.

Some of Canada’s top newspaper people worked for the Star. I covered Marilyn Bell’s swimming across the Strait of Juan de Fuca separating the U.S. and Victoria B.C. then covered the Beatles first North American Tour and went on to conduct a scientific vehicle gasoline consumption test to compare the performance in the leading models of cars at the time.

Through it all, some great bosses who trained me in journalistic principles and accuracy influenced me. I learned during the late and great newspaper daily war between the Star and the Telegram. The name of the game in the Star newsroom was beat the Tely.

Today in Guelph we are bereft of community responsibility with the media being corporately controlled by non-resident corporate owners. There have been several major events in the city of which every citizen’s interest is blocked.

In the first two years of the Guthrie administration, city council conducted 84 closed-session meetings that were never summarized or reported to the public. It is odd that the same number 42 occurred in both years. There are some issues that should be discussed in closed session but not nearly the numbers held by the city of Guelph.

Next comes Freedom of Speech and Thought. City council has the opinion that what citizens don’t know won’t hurt them. That’s a perverse and irresponsible action by elected officials who practise it with the aid of some senior staff. Sadly, news coverage has deteriorated markedly since the Mercury closed in 2016.

Those two principles sum up the decay of news coverage in Guelph. The parade of city softball press releases and the police occurrence sheet is not journalism. News means coverage of events that affect all citizens. It includes the give-away of Guelph Hydro based on a phony premise that the future of electricity distribution is better in the hands of a large power distributer.

As citizens, we are held in the grip of a powerful political organization that has mismanaged our city and in the process has wasted millions.

But if the last civic election is any example of voter apathy, the real reason is they are not informed on a regular basis. The truth, like Elvis, has left the building.

Will the deceit and cover-ups disappear?

Only the people can do that by voting.

We lost that opportunity last October when more than 57,000 eligible voters did not turn up to express their support or denial of those seeking public office.

The enemy of democracy is apathy.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines