Tag Archives: James Gordon

What are they thinking? Council agrees to bid on Provincial Guelph Innovation District property

By Gerry Barker

April 8, 2019


A staff report recommended council should bid on the sale of the Guelph Innovation District (GID) lands, owned by the Provincial government. Council unanimously approved bidding on 245 acres to create its green satellite community.

The desired lands are part of the former Reformatory and Turf Institute properties, totaling 1,074 acres. The decision was made despite the absence of important details that are in the public interest.

Details such as how is the bidding to be conducted; who can bid; financial details of the transaction; the public’s risk in such a transaction; is the process going to be transparent and made public and who pays the land transfer tax and development fees if the bid is won?

Apparently, a new plan concerning the Provincial properties, will be sold through Infrastructure Ontario, an arms length provincial agency, and CBRE Canada, the agency’s real estate broker.

The city wants to bid on 245 acres to develop its planned green satellite community that has been on city staff planners drafting boards for six years, at public expense.

CBRE, a Los Angeles-based real estate firm, oparates more than 450 offices worldwide, including Waterloo Region.

According to reports, Infrastructure Ontario employs CBRE as its real-estate broker. It would appear that CBRE directs the disposal the firm does not report to any Legislature committee to ensure that oversight and accountability is part of the process. Remember, Infrastructure Ontario is an arms-length provincial agency.

The province has announced it will start the process of disposing the surplus lands starting in 60 days. And should be completed when the new owner is successful by March 2020.

According to CBRE spokesman, Michael Cztsochowski, Executive Vice President of CBRE, the land services group, revealed the land would not have a set price. He describes a “modified auction.” He estimated that the market, once the disposal marketing materials are offered the pro[erty wuld be on the market for about two months. The bids would be treviewed and select the approved bidders, including the City of Guelph.

He outlined that because CBRE is a global company, purchasers will include developers, investors, and potential bidders thoughout the CBRE global network.

Sounds exciting, right?

But here’s the problem. The Ontario Municipal Act allows real estate transactions by municipalities to be conducted in closed-session. However, the public interest is deflected as the sale of this publicly owned property is being conducted by a third partyin closed-session.

In my opinion that’s only the start of these proposal’s problems.

We just went through a similar situation with the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities. The public was denied access to the details of the merger that, to me, was a giveaway of a city-owned successful power distribution system with a book value of $168 million, plus cash of $18.5 million cash reserves.

What did Guelph get in exchange besides a $18.5 million return of Guelph Hydro’s customer’s money? What did the city do with that gift from Hydro?

Alectra got former Guelph Hydro chair, Jane Armstrong, as the city representative of the Alectra Utilities board. Her salary is $25,000 per year plus travel expenses per diem for each meeting. All this resulted in a minuscule share of 4.86 per cent but only 60 per cent of Alectra Utilities profit. This whole takeover was conducted in closed-sessions. This occurred except for one council meeting in which council ignored the protests of 22 citizens who respectfully asked council to study and review the Alectra proposdal. Instead, council voted 10 to 3 to approve the merger.

That was the night that transparency and accountibility took a beating.

Some Guelph residents, who opposed this terrible deal, were later denied making their case before the Ontario Energy Board that approved the deal.

Strike three against public participation and the right to express public concern and interests.

Is GID about to cost the city millions more to fulfill the ambition of a small group of supporters of the environmental disasters of the past 14 years?

Is this about to happen to us again?

Who pays for the provincial mandated environmental study on the lands if the city plan contains wetlands?

Will CBRE explain in detail what CBRE means by a “modified auction?”

How is CBRE being compensated orchestrating the sale of the property?

Who pays for the extended city services links such as power and gas mains, water, sewer, police, fire, EMS, medical and hospital services, cable and telephone hook-up and Guelph Transit?

If the city wins the bid, does it absorb the development fees for the project?

As GS pointed out in a recent column, the administration was hoping for a sweetheart deal from the province that would allow the city to flipping the property to a developer. Thereby, avoiding costs of obtaining the property.

This could be shaping up to a simultaneous closing between the province, city and an unknown third party developer. Having been through one of those in my life, anything can go wrong if one of the parties questions or reneges.

When can residents learn how much the property is worth?

Can anyone tell us how the city plans to pay for this in the next 12 months, if it is the winner of the “modified auction?

Now the staging of this party is just beginning

Outsiders with major league credentials that impress our administration despite once again, influence council with pitches that leaves us in the minor leagues.

We are being told that this proposal is in our best interest.

In my opinion, no, not true. It’s in the council’s best interest to avoid becoming a third rate community while the rest of southern Ontario prospers.

Can anyone explain why or how this proposal is in the public’s best interest? Especially when there remain hundreds of acres of vacant land in the city that can developed.

Why have two successive city administrations speny our money attempting to build Green-oriented showcases for the world to decide we are a world-class city?

Adding it up for 12 years, estimates come to more than $250 million in capital wasted building monuments, driven by social engineering.

This project is just another exercise to spend money to prove we are something we aren’t.

Two councillors pushing the city to declare a climate change emergency

Coun. Phil Allt and James Gordon seem to forget why they were elected. It may come as a surprise to them that most people in the city understand the risk of climate change to their planet.

They also understand that the climate change problem is global and Guelph’s footprint in solving the problem is miniscule considering the magnitude of the problem.

I see their job as serving their constituents to fix the pot holes, plan a city that moves efficiently and safely without catering to the chattering, demanding alternative transport advocates, aka the bicyclists.

The best thing that can occur is that the city is outbid for the GID lands and our attention returns to common sense and fixing what’s broken.

There is no shortage of projects to be managed by our elected representatives.

One potential problem facing Guelph General Hospital and the entire medical community is the growing inability to handle the surging population of the city. We have lived in Guelph for 16 years and the current StatsCanada population’s figure shows an increase of some 35,000 new permanent residents in that time frame.

Today, there are 131,000 folks living in Guelph and the nimbers are projected to grow at each StatCan survey conducted every five years.

Further, this does not include the 22,000 University students that arrive in September and leave, for the most part, in April.

It’s something to think about.














1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

The three cheesy political moves designed to suppress your vote in 2018

By Gerry Barker

May 28, 2017

There is an interesting parallel comparing the controlling antics of the Bloc of Seven dominating city council and the Walt Disney classic “Snow White and the seven dwarfs.”

Before beginning our tour de fromage, keep in mind that for every action there is a reaction.

We all know who Snow White is in our comparative exercise. If you don’t, send me a self-addressed envelope and I will reveal who it is. We are going to play a little game when it comes to the seven dwarfs. I’ll name them and you mentally attach the names of these councillors who act and resemble our players in this exercise in political shedding of the Cheddar.

Here is the list of the Disney Seven. Make your choice beside the appropriate dwarf.

Doc                        Reader’s Choice

Happy                   Reader’s Choice

Dopey                    Reader’s Choice

Bashful                 Reader’s Choice

Sleepy                   Reader’s Choice

Sneezy                  Reader’s Choice

Grumpy               Reader’s Choice

I know, a couple of them are easy to identify with current members of council’s Bloc of Seven. But there is one other character in this bubbling pot of political fondue. The unelected defacto leader of the Bloc of Seven, Susan Watson, led the attack to stop Online voting by importing an Assistant Professor, Aleksander Essex, from the University of Western Ontario. He informed council that it should not proceed with Online voting because it lacked cyber security and trust. More on this later.

If you just arrive in town from a trip to the Moon, here is the scoop on the Bloc of Seven and how they lost their Snow White in the Kingdom of Guelph’s forest.

With a couple of exceptions, the Bloc votes on most issues as a group. The exceptions include the recent defection of Cathy Downer who voted for Online voting and retaining the operational Committee of the Whole (COW) system.

There have been three key occurrences involving the Bloc that were offensively planned to stop progress of the business of council. All three were self-serving and cheesy politics rolled into one gigantic cheese ball.

The infamous walkout by the Bloc of Seven

The first was the walkout January 25, 2016 by the majority of Bloc councillors to thwart a meeting to discuss the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.’s (GMHI) disastrous failure.

Well here’s the skinny. We believe the closed meeting was to discuss a personnel matter, a legal reason. When the Bloc of Seven did a head count, they were outnumbered 6-5 because two of that group were absent.

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

No, Mr. Allt, you and your colleagues were complicit in covering up the most serious mistake of the previous administration ever recorded in the history of the city. We learned in May 16, 2016 that the GMHI losses over five years was $26.6 million and an impaired loan of $65 million provided by Guelph Hydro, a wholly owned utility by the city and controlled by GMHI.

Aside from the Allt explanation, it wasn’t until May 16 that the truth and details were revealed. Did Mr. Allt take back his pious worded stated four moths earlier? “By denying a quorum we were defending the integrity of the city as a corporation and staff.”

Ah, the essence of Blue Cheese permeates that statement

Whistle while your work

The next Havarti experience by the Bloc of Seven came when a straw vote was held in a COW meeting last month to reaffirm allowing Internet Online voting in the 2018 civic election. Prior to that vote, Susan Watson expressed her disapproval of the Online voting. Two weeks later, she trotted out the Assistant Professor who specializes in cyber security and Internet voting to bolster her position.

Essex is not a resident of Guelph and dumbed down the Bloc of Seven to believe it was too risky to use in 2018. This was stated despite the fact that 13,000 residents voted online in 2014 without any threat, loss of privacy or security. Also, 97 Ontario municipalities use Online voting, Unfortunately it failed to impress the deniers and the system was cancelled by a 7-6 vote.

You don’t have to look further than British Columbia where the final outcome of the May 4 Provincial election is still not confirmed. The province does not have electronic or Internet voting. This is what happens when your election system has not caught up with the 21st century.

This motion to defeat Oline voting was an orchestrated effort by the Left on council to suppress voting. The denial affects hundreds of Guelph citizens who are disabled, the elderly and those whose schedule denies their vote.

The only conclusion is that the Left saw Online voting as a threat to their re-election.

Crackers anyone?

The latest power move by the cheesy Bloc of Seven was to kill the new council operating system called the Committee of the Whole. Last fall council voted to approve the system with a 12-0 margin. It eliminated the individual committee meetings thereby opening the process of government to allow transparency and accountability.

So here comes the Limburger part. The Left noticed that two supporters of the COW, Councillors Cathy Downer and Andy Van Hellemond, were absent and quickly called for a vote that killed the COW by a 6-5 margin.

Before the cheesy crowd could exalt over their victory, the City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien, offered the option of suspending procedures and re-voting the issue. The concerns of councillors emerged when they discovered there was no alternative immediately available. The vote had the effect of dismissing the staff recommendation to retain the COW.

Following a break, a second vote was taken with only Coun. Leanne Piper opposing.

Following the meeting there were some interesting comments made by those who voted to eliminate the COW.

Coun. Gordon said: “The first (vote) was a signal, the second was maintaining our democratic process until we can reassess.’

He went on to claim that, “it has a lot of problems, it’s ineffective, it’s confusing.” He added that it doesn’t matter if this committee made things easier for staff. “That’s not our job.

James, that being the case, why did you vote for the COW systemlast fall? Is it your plan to reassess the COW before the next election? Your bench mate Phil Allt agreed with you saying that the “highlight was public confusion as one of the biggest issues.”

There they go again, the breeze brothers defining what their job is. If what they say is true, who’s confused here, you two or your constituents? Your job is to help and inform your people to understand the issues.

Holding regular closed session meetings does not help public clarity of city business.

Please pass the Camembert and crackers.



Filed under Between the Lines

It’s not about tax and spend in Guelph; it’s now about spend and tax

By Gerry Barker

December 5, 2016

Editor’s note: I want to thank all those folks who have expressed support for me and www.guelphspeaks.ca.

Here we are nearing the end of the 2017 budget exercise to determine the taxes and fees the citizens will have to pay next year.

Wednesday, December 7, council will finalize the 2017 budget. It has been a carefully orchestrated process to meet a number of capital spending proposals and operating expenses that council is facing today and next year and the years following.

Along comes Ward 6 Councillor Mark MacKinnon stating he intends to introduce a motion to increase the special property tax levy from .5 per cent, as proposed by staff, to 1 per cent for 2017. Councillors Cathy Downer, June Hofland and James Gordon will join his motion but for different reasons as it turned out.

Let’s examine the motives and background of these four members of city council.

Mr. MacKinnon has implied that paying taxes is a privilege of citizenship and citizens owning property should mortgage their properties to pay their taxes. Further, he argues that with the increasing equity in private properties is reason to force people to pay for the wasteful spending of previous administrations. This outrageous theory is the hallmark of the previous administration. The property taxes and user fee increases in the past 10 years have soared in Guelph to a point where the city operating and capital spending costs are 50 per cent greater than either Kitchener and Cambridge.

The MacKinnon theory is that we all have to pay taxes and user fees whatever council demands. Question: Does that mean that when property values decline, that taxes are lowered?

First, during this entire 2017 budget process the fiscal elephant in the room has been the condition of the city’s infrastructure. There is ample reason for concern. Following a lead by Coun. James Gordon, council spent hours debating the state of the aquifer that supplies water to the city. His target was Nestle who draw on the same aquifer, one of the largest fresh water sites in the world. The fact that the Nestle bottling operations are not in Guelph, failed to deter Gordon and his fellow travelers from trying to plug the Nestle draws.

Which brings us back to the Guelph infrastructure problem. It is reported that the underground water pipes are leaking far more aquifer water that the draws by Nestle. You have to give Mr. Gordon credit. His water crusade caught the eye of the Wynne government and they are debating stopping Private Corporations from drawing water from Ontario sources

Question: Why is attacking a private company licensed to draw water more important to city council than working to fix our leaking infrastructure?

The city infrastructure now needs capital spending of more than $200 million according to an estimate of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

Ward 5 Coun. Cathy Downer, is a member of AMO and presumably she concurs with the estimated cost of restoring the city’s vital infrastructure. It has been starved of funding for nine years because money was being spent on major waste management and other environmental projects. Ms. Downer, although not on council from 2006 to 2014, was a close personal friend of the former Mayor, Karen Farbridge, and was her campaign manager for the 2010 civic election that the Mayor won.

So while Ms. Downer supports doubling the levy for 2017 she wants to split the funding with half going to infrastructure and the other half going toward “city building projects.” She did not detail which city building projects she had in mind.

Ward 3 Coun. June Hofland, agrees with the Downer position in supporting the 1 per cent levy motion. She took it a tiny step further saying that “city building” included partial funding of the south end recreation centre.

To sort this out, this Wednesday night, council will vote on the motion to double the levy for one year. The staff proposed a .5 per cent levy on property taxes for ten years with a reopening of the levy on a regular basis. The staff did not propose doubling the levy in the first year.

Let’s review. Coun. MacKinnon believes that citizens must pay taxes and fees even if they have to increase the mortgage on their homes.

Coun. James Gordon takes the position that fighting a private corporation is more important than solving a serious infrastructure problem in the city he represents.

Coun. June Hofland, supports doubling the levy to 1 per cent but splits the funds to support a recreation centre in Ward 6. That derails the staff proposal to take a longer view to solve the neglected infrastructure problem. She was a member of council during the Farbridge administration and apparently, in her mind, infrastructure repairs and maintenance was not a priority for eight years.

Cathy Downer was not on the Farbridge council. Her proposal to split the property tax levy between operating budget and capital spending, defeats the urgent intent to clean up a neglected mess underneath our city.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the proposals made to council and staff by Guelph resident Pat Fung, CPA, CA, to reduce the operating overhead without affecting services. Staff and Council has largely ignored his recommendations freezing the 2016 budget, reducing staff and non-essential projects.

His analysis of audited city financial statements for four years plus the report of city hired consultants BMA of Hamilton, led to his detailed report that has been received by thousands of citizens.

If the elected officials that you supported don’t listen and react to proposals made by a highly qualified financial professional, what alternative do we have?

Your turn for action comes October 2018.











Filed under Between the Lines

Are we, the “per capita” class, so irrelevant as Mark Amorosi describes us?

By Gerry Barker

November 14, 2916

The man in charge of our administration finances has gone out of his way to pooh-pooh the documented proof that compared per capita costs with other Ontario cities is irrelevant when it comes to Guelph’s financial situation.

I give Mr. Amorosi the silver tongue award for twisting and manipulating the facts. Here’s an example:

Guelph citizen Pat Fung, CA, CPA presented to council in September referred the statement made by Mr. Amorosi during the 2016 budget talks last December.

“The DCAO (Amorosi) stated the staff budgets has been reduced in successive years.”

Well, what’s Mr. Amorosi’s definition of “budgets?”

Here’s his explanation: Mr. Fung used the city’s official audited statements to show that expenses have increased by 52 per cent since Mr. Amorosi joined the staff in 2008. The chief of city finances claimed that he was referring to “reduced budgets in successive years” as part of the budget preparation. He referenced using data from starting point to presentation to council as evidence to support this – Mr. Fung’s statement disregards this context.”

Welcome to Amorosi-Speak.

The DCAO, responsible for the most important portfolio in the City of Guelph’s Corporate portfolio, shoots down the legitimate analysis prepared by a financial expert, that clearly shows our public finances are not on a “solid financial foundation” as Mr. Amorosi keeps saying.

Is he now telling council that Pat Fung does not understand budgeting? Is he saying he doesn’t understand “context?” For the record, Mr. Fung has done more corporate budgets and analysis including, reducing overhead costs than Mark Amorosi has ever experienced as a Human Resources trained specialist.

So if Mark Amorosi believes that city expenses did not rise by 52 per cent in eight years, why have our citizen’s expenses living in Guelph payable to the city, its subsidiary corporations and cost sharing with outside institutions, have collectively increased by an estimated 80 per cent? It is particularly interesting when the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by only 16 per cent during the same period.

Let us count the ways of how our Guelph costs have risen during the same eight years. Property taxes have almost doubled; electricity charges have increased by 42 per cent in four years; water bills have increased by more than 83 per cent since 2007; transit subsidy of 15 million a year; bicycle lanes development annual subsidy of $300,000; waste management operational losses of $270,000 a year; now the city is charging residents wanting to deliver trash to the multi-million dollar Waste Management Innovation Resource Centre $5 to use the facility the citizens financed.

The liability nobody in charge wants to talk about

But the biggie current white elephant liability is the cost of the Community Energy Initiative (CEI), managed by Guelph Municipal Holding Inc (GMHI) that has worthless assets. GMHI is bound by legal contracts that must be unwound. Add a debt load estimated to be $90 million including an impaired asset of some $69 million, as stated in the city’s 2015 annual audited financial statement. It’s now sitting on the city books as an impaired asset that GMHI has no financial ability to pay back or even hold tangible underlying assets.

That was originally a loan from Guelph Hydro that GMHI controlled when the former Mayor and her GHMI board folded Guelph Hydro into GMHI. Now the city has moved Guelph Hydro to become a city-controlled department eliminating any former arms length relationship with the utility.

Why did council do this? Because it is paving the way to sell Guelph Hydro to pay off the GMHI debacle and get that impaired asset off the city books. It is possible that the sale could bring in some $150,000.

Do we really want to have Mr. Amorosi get his hands on $150 million after the dubious track record of the previous Farbridge administration and now the Guthrie administration? Is it oblivious of what has occurred to the city’s finances in the past two years?

Mr. Fung’s analysis is dead on. Guelph has serious spending problems that is not going away.

Here’s why. There are the political reasons and there is the cost of operations.

First, let’s consider finances. As Mr. Fung has accurately pointed out, the city has a very high cost of operational overhead. It’s 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge. In his analysis he pointed out that staff costs are eating a large piece of the operating budget. This area is manageable and does not affect services to the public.

Cutting the city administration overhead is not being considered

But Mr. Amorosi refuses to even consider reducing staff. In fact in his first two budgets as chief of finance, he persuaded council to add some 40 additional full-time staff.

Judging from the reports coming out of city hall regarding the 2017 budget, we could be facing a total city tax and user fee increases of 5 per cent. First, there is the staff proposal of 1.96 per cent; then add the proposed .5 per cent, ten-year special levy for infrastructure maintenance; then add the annual assessment increase on property; the storm water levy of $4 a month added to your hydro bill; your water levy that will be increased by 4 per cent starting in January; your hydro bill over which the city now has control; Premier Wynne’s carbon tax will be billed starting in January on your hydro bill; the high cost of just moving around in Guelph, transit, parking, increased traffic congestion.

These are citizens’ pocketbook costs that Mr. Amorosi fails to calculate when the 2017 budget is being presented, not just to city council but to we “per capita citizens” who actually pay the greatest proportion of the approved budget.

According to the city Human Resources department there are some 1.440 city-staff only employees. of which 55.5 per cent do not live in Guelph including Mr. Amorosi and Mr. Thomson. Wonder why some 799 city employees don’t live where they work or don’t pay taxes? Is it possible that Guelph is too expensive in which to reside?

Council still doesn’t get it

It is interesting that council voted 11 to 1 to adopt the ten-year property tax special levy to pay for the infrastructure backlog that eight years of the Farbridge administration failed to address. Failed that is because of investing in other priorities such as bike lanes; vehicle lane reductions; Urbacon lawsuit; overbuilt Waste Management Innovation Resource Centre on Dunlop Drive; the Communality Energy Initiative and focusing on downtown redevelopment.

But the Farbridge administration had no capital to build a south-end recreational centre or a new downtown library. Unless the operational overhead costs are not substantially reduced, don’t expect either of these projects to be built in the next ten years. The Chief Administrative Officer has stated that the nine-year capital spending budget is already $170 million short of capital and it’s only a year old.

It’s more than establishing priorities; it’s about serving the needs of the people, the “per capita citizens” whose needs have been ignored and left behind. Not by just the dedicated Ms. Farbridge loyalists, but present control of the city by James Gordon and the rest of the Bloc of Seven on council.

With thousands of litres of water leaking from municipal pipes why is council talking about Nestle?

And what are they talking about? It’s about the underground aquifer from which Guelph and other communities draw their water. Instead they focus on Nestle drawing water at Aberfoyle urging the province to control bottled water operations.

Yet they say or do nothing about the tremendous leakage of water from the city’s aging pipes. The amount of water taken by Nestle is miniscule compared to the water wasted and leakage problem in Guelph. Their solution? Increase taxes to pay for repairs.

Do we really trust this administration to use our money to be spent on infrastructure repairs with its record of tapping into dedicated reserves over the last ten years to balance the city books?

Sorry that my trust in this administration to work for the people has long vanished.

I am reminded of a motion, I believe it was in the 2015 budget to spend $50,000 to solve the infestation of Canada geese in the city parks, particularly those located adjacent to water. Recently during my wife’s morning walk; sidestepping the goose pooh, she counted 127 geese in Riverside Park.

If council and staff can’t handle the goose problem, how can we expect it to solve the mismanagement of our “per capita” finances?

If you have not read the Fung analysis, it can be obtained from http://www.guelphspeaks



Filed under Between the Lines

Why voters are saying: Gee! I didn’t vote for that

By Gerry Barker

August 25, 2016

While many Guelphites are on vacation and catching the rays, it dawns on me that many people are still wondering what has happened to our city in the past nine years? Traffic congestion is greater than ever due to the shrinkage of lanes on some major route; Taxes are at their highest level since 2006; Garbage collection and processing covers only 87 per cent of the households and businesses; the infrastructure repairs and maintenance in Guelph will cost more than $250 million in the next ten years, according the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO).

We have been governed by a number of aggressive progressives, aka the “Progs” who have had their way with the public purse employing tactics to achieve their goals that would make Donald Trump blush.

They had power and used it. They set records for closed meetings doing the public’s business. So let’s look at some of the progressive achievements that a minority of citizens supported. If you did not vote in 2006 or 2010 don’t get mad, get even and make sure you vote in 2018.

But let’s look at how the progressives changed your city.

* Coun. Mike Salisbury moves a motion to spend $600,000 on bicycle lanes on Woodlawn Avenue in the 2015 budget and was supported by his majority of colleagues. They became known as the Bloc of Seven. A perfectly good four-lane road in one section of Woodlawn Road East was re-marked to a lane each way, a centre left turn lane and bicycle lane.

Gee, I didn’t vote for that!

* The city rebuilt Wyndham Street under the CNR mainline that does not provide enough height for large trucks with trailers to pass under. Depending on your point of view, during the Santa Claus parade the big guy nearly had his head taken off as his float passed under the bridge. It still hasn’t been repaired and the engineer in charge is no longer with the city.

Gee, willikers, I didn’t vote for that!

* DCAO Mark Amorosi of Corporate Services and Human Resoures, first advertisied for a Chief Financial Officer, then hired a headhunter to locate a suitable candidiate. He ended up appointing a junior financial analyst in the finance department as CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. Now that’s a giant leap up the ladder! Problem is the lady is on maternity leave and will not report for work until next year.

Is it possible he made a mistake? I didn’t vote for that!

* Guelph Hydro has hiked electricity rates by 42.5 per cent since June 2013 to July 2016. And a Hydro executive said that Guelph Hydro had one of its best years ever in 2015. Really!. Combining the electricity increase, water and sewage rates for the same period, in June 2013 – water $130/sewage $141; in July 2016, water $159 sewage $173 makes Guelph one of the highest energy and water cost city’s households and businesses in the province.

Holy bananas! I didn’t vote for that!

* Mayor Cam Guthrie campaigned in 2014 promising a Better Guelph and property taxes contained to the Consumer Price Index. The index was 2.1 per cent in January 2015 but the property taxes including increases in assessment were 3.96 per cent under his watch.

Leapin’ Alligators, I didn’t vote for that!

* The operating costs of two culture centres in the city show a city subsidy of $780,000 just to keep the the doors open. In case you’re wondering, the cost for the RiverRun Theatres – $531,000 and the Sleeman Centre – $249,000. But hold the phone, The city negotiated a new 10-year deal with the Guelph Storm Hockey Club to reduce the city share from the receipts. It has been reported that the cost to the city is $5 million over the term of the contract. The Storm are the only lessees for the Sleeman that goes dark for three months each year.

Blazing hockey pucks! I didn’t vote for that!

* Coun. James Gordon describes his role on council is to deal with housing, poverty, environmental sustainability, a living wage, food security and climate change. He is serving on a municipal council not an NDP member of the Ontario Legislature, he tried once but he lost. Every vote in which he participates is a function of his personal beliefs and not those of the people who elected him.

Beliefs, Schmuliefs. I didn’t vote for that!

* Coun. June Hofland brings 25 years of banking to her job as chair of the council finance committee. She has held the job for four years, but who is counting? Ms. Hofland takes her orders from DCAO Amorosi. She won by just five votes in 2014. That’s not a towering approval rating for the eight-year councillor. The question remains: Are we in good hands with Hofland at the financial tiller?

Will that be $20’s or $50’s? I didn’t vote for her


Filed under Between the Lines

Oh! What a tangled web they weave

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 18, 2016

Among progressives, James Gordon is their Pope and Cardinal Richelieu rolled into one.His soft-spoken piety devoted to the NDP and progressive policies, has worked over the years to maintain control of the city.But when accused of a possible conflict of interest as a member of city council, he trots out Susan Watson to lecture the guelphspeaks. ca editor to fact check his assertions.

You all remember Susan Watson. A close friend and financial supporter of former mayor Karen Farbridge, she launched a complaint to have an audit of former candidate Glen Tolhurst’s election financial report.

To bolster her claim before the Compliance Audit Committee, all members appointed by the Farbridge administration, she hired a Toronto lawyer to present her case.

The audit committee agreed with the premise that Mr. Tolhurst took an illegal contribution from the citizen’s activist group GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). The city clerk, Stephen O’Brien, a Farbridge hire just before the 2014 election, assigned Toronto-based auditor, William Molson, to conduct the audit.

His conclusion was that GRG had the right to donate the money and that Mr. Tolhurst was guilty of a minor oversight, he forgot to list the purchase of a $6 city map in his official financial return.

In the end, council took no action and the taxpayers were stuck with an $11,400 bill, the cost of this frivolous charge.

So who should pay that bill, Sue?

In 2014, Watson and her husband donated thousands not only to the Farbridge campaign but also to other progressive candidates. This included a donation to June Hofland who received $500 from Watson and her husband and won by just five votes. James Gordon was also a recipient of the Watson et al generosity.

The city clerk refused to allow examination of the ballots on the required recount but just ran them through the vote counting machine. That’s not a recount, that’s an exercise. Also two weeks before Mr. Molson’s report, Clerk O’Brien said that Watson would not have to pay the costs of the audit.

Council, including James Gordon, never discussed the matter in open council. Are you beginning to see the thread connecting the key people in this scenario?

Another city deal that went south

Moving on, when the former Civic Museum on Dublin Street was put up for sale by the city, there were two bids. One of them was from a husband and wife partnership that proposed converting the building into a set of offices and studios for budding artists and computer developers.

During the public meeting to hear the application, up pops citizen James Gordon who whole-heartedly supported the bid. There was no mention of the second bid, who made it and for how much?

So, this entrepreneurial couple bought the former museum for an estimated $550,000. Then a couple of things happened. The city’s manager of real estate who handled the deal resigned amid rumours that the undisclosed bid was considerably higher. One estimate of the market value was $900,000.

And the end of this story is that there are no budding artists or computer developers in the building. Instead, it is occupied by an up-scale art  gallery, a situation far from the original promised use of the building.

The Akers project, a win-win for James Gordon, a loss for taxpayers

Again, now a city councillor, James Gordon is hot to trot on supporting another progressive scheme to convert the former Akers Furniture store on Carden Street, into a cultural downtown hub for organizations, most of whom are part of the progressive’s network.

Requesting support from the city for this project is 10 Carden Street Space Inc. It is the stepchild of the Guelph Civic League that was founded by James Gordon. This is the same James Gordon whose friend, Susan Watson, claiming he had no connection with the Guelph Civic League or the Hillside Festival for the past 20 years. It is now evident that Coun. Gordon is an influential contributor to the Karen Farbridge cause to change our city regardless of how much it costs.

For the record, after getting elected to council, Mr. Gordon supported two property tax increases last year totaling 6.96 per cent. He also supported increases in the water bills and the transfer a portion of 2016 operating costs to debt.

He voted to spend $14 million to widen Speedvale Avenue to accommodate bicycle lanes, despite widespread protest against the plan by residents in the ward he represents. His support failed because the staff did not recommend it.

He participated in the January 25 walkout, by five members of the Bloc of Seven councillors.

The point is that Gordon doesn’t care about you or me. He is a doctrinaire member of the NDP whose mantra is to force their policies, particularly in municipalities, to gain control of the administration. In Guelph, the progressives have held power for nine years. This group is directly responsible for depleting the reserves, jacking up taxes and user fees to pay the bills, increased the debt and subsidize Guelph Transit by some $15 million a year.

The operating and capital costs numbers don’t lie but the James Gordon Bloc of Seven refuses to accept them or the obvious conclusion. The numbers are taken from the official Financial Information Reports submitted by all municipalities in the province annually.

The core numbers are the comparison of operating and capital costs for 2014 between Guelph and Kitchener and Cambridge. The number for the latter two, show their figures are 50 per cent less that Guelph’s. The figures for 2015 are about to be released. And, that’s a straight-up, apples to apples comparison.

Coun. James Gordon and his six fellow travelers are consumed by a socialist manifesto that most people in the city rejected in 2014. His resourcefulness in getting elected speaks to his determination to continue the Farbridge agenda no matter what the silent majority thinks or feels.

For years he has operated outside the public view working to maintain the progressive’s grip on Guelph.

He is never going to change his outlook or political views. He is an altruistic financial amateur when it comes to managing corporate finances and sticks to his simplistic approach that the taxpayers will provide.





Filed under Between the Lines

More on the world of Coun. James Gordon and a conflict of interest

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 13, 2016

James Gordon continues his theory on building a city to provide services and wellbeing to the citizens. He studiously avoids the word “spending” instead substitutes the word “investments.”

His point is, he and his coleagues are justifying their nine-year spending spree by claiming they are investing in the future. Their list of “investment” failures includes the Sleeman Centre; the new City Hall; the Wyndham Street underpass that prevents large vehicles from using; the organic waste processing facility, the garbage bin collection system; losing a legal battle with the Public Health Service; establishing the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc that has consistently lost money.

Now Gordon wants to build a new downtown library. And, whatever happened to the South-end recreation centre? According to Gordon, these are “investments” for the future of the city. But both were ignored by the previous council. Why?

The man doesn’t seem to grasp that the public trough was emptied by the previous administration, who spent the money on their own pet projects.

Recently, Gordon professed that the taxpayers are content with the way the city is being run and the taxes imposed. And they’d better be because the bloc of seven on council, of which he is the defacto leader, knows best and controls the administration.

While Gordon says the property taxes paid by residents are in line with similar sized cities in Ontario, how does he square that with the truth? The facts are well established. Guelph’s operational and capital spending costs are 50 per cent greater than Kitchener or Cambridge. They are similar sized cities and are part of the Region of Waterloo. When the regional tax rate is included with the local tax rate, their costs still remain 50 per cent less than Guelph.

Members of council have received the details of this analysis, so it’s not like a bolt out of the blue. The fact that the bloc of seven ignores the data taken from the official Financial Information Reports filed by all municipalities in Ontario, bespeaks of the sloppy and careless way our city is really being managed.

Now that Gordon has pontificated his political views there is a nagging suspicion that he may have crossed the line of integrity and is in a conflict of interest.

James Gordon is the founder and director of the Hillside Community Festival that is held on conservation lands on the northwest side of Guelph Lake, outside the City of Guelph.

Before leaving office, former mayor, Karen Farbridge’s controlled council passed a motion to create a “wellbeing committee” to dispense public funds to a wide variety of organizations. It was a job that council used to do but was turned over to a committee composed of supporters of the administration.

Now this was a very astute move on the part of Ms. Farbridge. It gave her control of dispensing money to whom ever her hand-picked committee chose.

This year, the wellbeing committee dispensed more than $101,000 to some 48 organizations. Among them was a grant of $11,000 to the Hillside Community Festival. The rationale was: “The grant will support the festivals, and broaden initiatives including aboriginal drumming, workshops in aboriginal culture, some writing and peacemaking.”

Why, one may ask, is the muncipality supporting a festival whose focus is on aboriginal affairs when this is the responsibility of the Federal and Provincial governments. And we all pay taxes to those governments as well as municipal taxes.

Now this festival is a part social and part commercial enterprise with a number of vendors selling their wares. This places Coun. Gordon in a potential conflict of interest. As Executive Director he had to be involved in the planning and presentation to the “Wellbeing committee.” He will possibly deny a conflict. Regardless, he is part of the administration that approved the $11,000 grant of which he has a longtime association.

Did Mr. Gordon, declare his interest when the grant was awarded?

In his letter to the editor, Gordon stated that the city is obligated to supply the services to make our city livable. He doubles down by saying taxpayers must ensure these services are not cut back or reduced in any way.

He obviously was not referring to the high costs of staff to maintain these self-serving services and benefits to the citizens. The people soundly rejected the policies and irresponsible spending of the previous administration.

Now we have an elected member of city council benefiting from a grant from the taxpayers in which he has a personal interest.

He has two choices: Resign or return the grant to Hillside and apologize for failing to recognize he was in conflict with his sworn fiduciary responsibility to the citizens he represents. Now there is no integrity commission to hide behind. Mayor Guthrie should appoint an independent, special counsel to investigate Mr. Gordon’s association with Hillside and his organization receiving an $11,000 grant.

This is a cancer of entitlement on our city that continues to grow despite the defeat of the former mayor and members of her council.


Filed under Between the Lines

Coun. James Gordon’s cockeyed view of running a city

By Gerry Barker

Posted March11, 2016

In a letter to the editor, Ward 2 councillor James Gordon explains why paying taxes is a good thing, while complaining about high taxes is a bad thing.

Such silly statements as: “ I seldom hear people say, I moved to Guelph because I was looking for lower taxes,” begins the downhill slide of a thesis that is filled with false premises and unattributed evidence.

It’s like the wonderful world of Garp.

Let’s look at some more words of wisdom from the world according to Gordon. You remember Gordon; he was the mastermind of the first Farbridge victory in 2006. He was also the founder of the Guelph Civic League that played a major role in the three elections of the past 12 years.

“In fact, our taxes are totally in line with other cities our size in Ontario.” James, that’s your first Pinocchio moment. If what he says is true, how does he explain that Guelph’s operational and capital spending is 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge? Those are documented comparisons, extracted from the Financial Information Reports (FIR) that each municipality is obligated to send to the province annually.

Gordon, a man who obviously has his ear to the ground, when he’s in town that is, opines: “For most of us who are community-minded, we understand that to keep the quality of life we need to contribute as taxpayers and as good neighbours to maintain that high standard we are now known for.”

Again, another assumption on Gordon’s part that denigrates more than half the population of the city who do not agree with the aggressive spending policies of the former administration. Nor its surviving rump of seven of the present council determined to continue those policies.

The proof of this is in the election of mayor in 2014, when Cam Guthrie received more than 5,000 votes than the incumbent. Mayor Guthrie is the only member of council who was elected by all city voters, as opposed to those councillors who ran in the wards.

As a representative of Ward 2, James, and a council rookie, perhaps you should do some homework and understand the financial management of the city whose costs have soared out of control. Skip all the buzzwords of your beliefs about our city. When taxpayers are faced with a two per cent special tax levy for ten years, to pay for an aged infrastructure, it comes down to choices.

Does council approve more bicycle lanes; higher subsidization of a transit system designed to serve the population of the University of Guelph; more on a community energy policy that will cost millions to execute?

Why aren’t bicycle riders using the road regulated?

Speaking of bike lanes. Coun. Gordon supported the motion to spend $14 million to widen Speedvale Avenue to allow bicycle land between Woolwich and Manhattan Court. The response from citizens in the area was overwhelmingly against the proposal but lost.

Is this a man obsessed with a point of view that is neither rational nor responsible?

James, tell us about how much has been spent on affordable housing in Guelph in the past nine years? How many units have been created and where?

What has been done to attract business to Guelph to strengthen the tax base? The ratio of industrial/commercial assessment has not budged since 2006. The taxpayer portion of property tax assessment remains at 84 per cent. FYI the Ontario average is 60 per cent residential and 40 per cent industrials/commercial.

Attracting business, Gordon says, enables our city to grow our economy and keep our taxes affordable. The key word here is “our” and Gordon seems to believe that his way, or that of those like-minded cohorts, is the only way to make Guelph better. Didn’t that approximate the slogan in Mayor Guthrie’s campaign, “For a Better Guelph.”

James now you are plumping for a new downtown library. Karen Farbridge. in her first term as mayor. promised that would happen 15 years ago. Libraries have morphed big time since then and the last figure I recalled was to spend $64 million on the project.

Old library projects never die, they just fade away

Your bent economic theory that a new downtown library will pay for itself quickly lacks any economic basis. I cannot recall any municipal operation in the city that has ever paid for itself and the capital spent. A great example is the Sleeman Centre whose main customer is the Guelph Storm. It cost millions when a deal was struck with Nustadia to operate the arena during the first Farbridge administration. Today, there is a paid staff of more than 100 to run the place. Tell me, how much business did that bring downtown?

And another example is the Civic Museum. The council has never revealed the operating costs of that $16 million, built on land the city doesn’t own. Has it paid back the capital it took to renovate the pre-Confederation convent on the hill?

Here’s another example of irresponsible spending. The Organic Waste Processing Facility that cost $34 million and was built exceeding the needs of the city of Guelph for 20 years. Today, to keep it running, wet waste comes from outside sources to maintain the function of the operation. We have yet to learn how much compost is manufactured and where it is sold.

Mr. Gordon’s political views are well established. His claim that: “A small minority but vocal minority who would sacrifice service cuts, cut back programs, widen our income gap and turn their backs on investing in the future.”

What? Has Gordon now appointed himself as the spokesperson for the city administration? Again, he has no substantiation for this charge. How does he know the minority is small? Is that in numbers or stature?

Gordon, much like his fellow Farbridge travelers on council, knows how to spend other people’s money. The tight control of the former regime led us to a huge lawsuit defeat that cost taxpayers $23 million, or so the administration has admitted so far. To pay for this and a variety of projects, the reserves were raided to a point that replenishing them will take years and further burden the taxpayer.

So Mr. Gordon, as a member of council, perhaps you ought to seek more information about your colleague’s ambitious plans to build for the future without regard of the city’s ability to pay.

As for your demand for a new downtown library, look inwardly at your caucus. The $34 million approval to renovate the downtown police headquarters further pushed the library down the trail.

Even Gordon should get that.

What’ll you have? Cops or Readers?





Filed under Between the Lines