By Gerry Barker
Posted November 22, 2015
Here’s this week’s line-up:
* The city of Guelph according to Chairman Piper
* Some Adult truths to tickle your fancy
* The city reserve funds are on life support
* Life aboard Liz Sandals’ submarine
Leanne Piper bares herself as a Farbridge loyalist
Coun. Leanne Piper has a bagful of opinions and has become the defacto leader of the elected Farbridge Gang 0f Seven (FGOS) who currently dominate city council. It is a group dedicated to carry on the Farbridge agenda that more than 48 per cent of electors rejected last October.
Here we are a year later, and the bloc voting of FGOS is paralyzing the people’s business. They include: Leanne Piper, Cathy Downer, Karl Wettstein, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Phil Allt and James Gordon, the godfather of the Farbridge agenda.
The remaining councillors include Mayor Cam Guthrie, Dan Gibson, Bob Bell, Andy Van Hellemond, Christine Billings and Mark MacKinnon.
Leanne Piper posted a message June 3, 2014 with the heading, “Mayor Karen Farbridge Recognized for Leadership.”
Piper went on to say that “we don’t recognize how well regarded our city and our Mayor are until we leave the city limits. The Canadian Urban Institute knows that great cities are no accident. Leadership at all levels – politicians, staff and community – work together to develop and achieve great things. Congratulations, Karen!”
Now it’s appropriate for a councillor to support the mayor. But the date of this pronouncement from Chairman Piper suggests adoration and responsibility do not mix. Especially when the city has been found guilty of wrongful dismissal of Urbacon Buildings Group Corp., the general contractor of the new City Hall. The cost of this decision made in September 2008 is currently $23 million. That’s above the original project cost of $44 million totaling $67 million plus HST.
The city set aside no funds in the event it lost the lawsuit initiated by Urbacon. There was no admission of responsibility by neither Mayor Farbridge nor any of her majority of supporters including Leanne Piper, Karl Wettstein, June Hofland, and Mike Salisbury. These councillors are part of the FGOS dominating city council today.
The Farbridge legacy is a hangover of mismanagement of personal environmental projects, ego, and lack of financial control of public funds. It has left the city with a multi-million dollar shortfall in reserve funds, critical condition of our aging infrastructure and a dysfunctional staff.
Yes Leanne, you are to be congratulated for being a key player in creating the irresponsible actions of a Farbridge-led council gone wild.
It will take years to return Guelph into a fiscal condition to repair the handiwork of your leader.
Time for a rethink, Leanne.
* * * *
Some adult truths to tickle your fancy
* Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch three consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
* Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.
* There is great need for a sarcasm font.
* Was learning cursive really necessary?
* Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
* Bad decisions make good stories.
* I keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
* I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Molson Export than Kay.
* I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
* How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?
* I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front.
* The first testicular guard, the “Cup,” was used in hockey in 1874 and the first helmet in hockey was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.
* * * *
Whatever happened to all those reserve funds?
The city hired a consultant group from Hamilton to conduct an operations review. BMA reported that the city’s reserve funds, except the water reserve, were in a “red flag cautionary” mode.
What does this mean to the average citizen? Not much really except that it will drive taxes and fees up to replenish the under-funded reserves.
There are three reserves that were raided by the former administration to pay the $8.96 million settlement costs to Urbacon Buildings Group Corp as a result of losing a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.
There was a recent report that the reserves’ shortfall was due in part because of the Urbacon settlement. However in the past eight years of the Far bridge administration, the reserves were often used to provide internal capital to cover mistakes, cost overruns, pet projects, and a number of other issues.
In short, the administration used the reserves as an ATM to conduct the city business; spending money outside the budget.
They did it because staff had the backing of the leadership, both elected and senior staff. In eight years, the city staff has been stocked with Friends of Farbridge (FOFS) and senior staff. Many of these employees do not live in Guelph. Yet they are making decisions that affect not only the tax and user fees rates but have done it with immunity.
One of the problems that got us into this mess was the lack of a Chief Financial Officer who could provide the necessary checks and balances required in a $500 million corporation.
The Farbridge Gang of Seven is still blocking necessary reforms to restore fiscal responsibility to the city.
* * * *
Liz Sandals is in her submarine as the system crumbles
It’s hard to imagine why Liz Sandals is still Minister of Education. While the Ontario education system is in tatters, Liz submerges beneath the ocean of discontent.
Her public comments reveal a Minister without common sense, respect for the students, the parents and the taxpayers.
When questioned by reporters following the Globe and Mail revealing the secret $2.5 million pay off to three teacher unions to cover extra negotiating costs, she said it was “nothing about anything.”
When asked if the unions supplied receipts to back up the payments, Sandals replied that it wasn’t necessary because she was familiar with the added costs. She said, “ you don’t have to see every bill when you’re doing an estimate of costs.”
Premier Wynne later jumped in and said the unions had to supply receipts for fear that the Sandals statement would cause a wave of expense account manipulations when receipts were not required.
The Minister refused to say how much the government spent on its own negotiating costs.
Under her leadership, Sandals has caused major disruption in the everyday operations of Ontario’s Schools. It has been going on for 18 months and still going on as unions remain engaged in work to rule, obstructing the normal operations of thousands of Ontario Schools.
Even the principals of those schools are powerless to properly operate the institutions that are responsible for educating future generations. Union-ordered cancelled field trips, report cards, extracurricular activities and only allow parent consultations if they feel like it.
The teacher unions have to step back and let the process continue as it should without the cheesy, obstructionism that is out of control. It’s that way because the Wynne government allowed it to happen. The convoluted “new” two-tiered system of negotiating with the union and the school boards has been an unmitigated disaster.
And next year, the negotiating process starts all over again.
This isn’t about politics, it’s about responsibility to keep labour peace and supply our children with a quality and productive education.
Time to say goodbye Liz. With you in charge nothing will change.