Tag Archives: Mayor Cam Guthrie

Ever try to put lipstick on a pig? That’s what city spin-doctors are trying to do with GMHI

By Gerry Barker

July 10, 2017

Here’s the premise of a story that won’t go away. It’s about the losses associated with the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) and how some $163.474 million was lost in a bungled former administration’s attempt to create energy self-sufficiency in Guelph.

It’s a story that most people cannot figure out because they were not told details of the financial misadventure by the GMH Board of Directors chiefly composed of city councillors. They worked behind closed doors. Further, two of them, Coun. June Hofland and Coun. Karl Wettstein are still silent about their association as directors of GMHI.

Now it’s alarming that council continues to vote for projects such as the $12.3 million extension of trails over ten years. The off-road maintenance of these trails is estimated to be $271,000 a years. Council balked at this one and ordered staff to re-think its recommendation. In making this recommendation, why didn’t the staff, particularly those senior managers, think the maintenance costs were excessive particularly in winter?

Council caught it and recognized it was too high.

But I digress, the following is a statement by the accounting firm, KPMG, auditors of GMHI’s consolidated balance sheet.

“In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. as at December 31, 2016 and its consolidated results of operations and its consolidated cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2016 in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards.”

As quoted in the Guelph Tribune July 3, 2017: “Pankaj Sardana, the CEO for Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc., the parent company for both Guelph Hydro and Envida Community Energy Corp., also updated councillors on the status of the district energy project, which has seen millions of dollars written off or written down from the city’s books.”

The key words here are “millions of dollars” If anyone should know, it would be Mr. Sardana who addressed the dire financial condition of GMHI 14 months ago.

“The expenses are higher than the revenues, and expect to remain so for the duration of the contracts,” he added.

Here are the figures on the GMHI balance sheet audited by KPMG

The consolidated total audited current assets of GMHI are $67,943,000.

The total consolidate non-current assets according to the audit is $162,653,000.

Total assets are $230,596,000

“The capital asset has been written down to nothing, zero,” Sardana told councillors, adding many of the assets from the district energy portfolio are now considered “onerous.”

Now, here is what the audit declared as GMHI Liabilities:

Total current liabilities:                                    $30,736,000.

Total non-current liabilities:

Provision for liabilities and changes                $    490,000

Senior unsecured debentures                             $94,283,000

Employee future benefits                                     $10,297,000

Customer deposits long term portion               $ 5,196,000

Deferred revenue                                                  $22,472,000

Total current liabilities                                         $163,474,00

Shareholder’s equity:

Share capital                                                            $67, 530, 000

Accumulated other comprehensive loss            $     (555,000)

Retained earnings                                                  $     147,000

Total Shareholder’s equity                                    $67,122,000

Total liabilities                                                $230,596,000

The shareholder’s equity is worthless. The former administration used public funds to invest in the Community Energy Initiative. It needed capital to finance its blind ambition to change Guelph and convert its demand for power through what turned out to be a failed District Energy plan.

Few people knew the depth of losses that GMHI generated over five years. Almost all of GMHI meetings were conducted in closed session.

Shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic

Now the city is moving money between agencies controlled by GMHI to pay down part of the debt owed by Envida Community Energy, the total of which is estimated as $20 million.

Trouble is, it’s our money that is being shuttled around with Peter paying Paul.

According to the Tribune, “following discussion of the money lost … Mayor Cam Guthrie remarked that it “does feel good to feel that my concerns have been validated.”

How does the Mayor feel now that he and his council are stuck with a huge problem: What do we admit to the citizens? The KPMG audit reveals a brutal situation in which the public’s financial resources have taken a monumental financial dump of dollars.

There was the deliberate use of secret meetings denying the right of the public to be informed of what was going on. It was not only undemocratic but a cover-up by senior city employees and at least four councillors plus the former mayor as chairperson, who served on the GMHI board of directors.

This allowed the city council members of the board to have total control of GMHI including Guelph Hydro.

When you are not accountable, you can get away with anything

During this period, millions were being spent and committed to projects that were never openly discussed in public. GMHI never made any money but sent $1.5 million annually as a dividend to the city to validate its existence. It was all a phony exercise in which money was taken from capital funds to pay the dividend. No one questioned it yet in 2015 the GMHI board said more than $9 million had been transferred to the city over six years. In that same year, GMHI lost $2.8 million.

Now we are seeing some of the fallout. Guelph Hydro is buying the dying Eastview generating plant that relies on a dwindling methane-gas supply from the former landfill site. Also approved during a special meeting, councillors, acting as GMHI shareholders, approved the sale and transfer of solar panels. Ownership of solar panels on top of the Guelph Hydro headquarters was transferred to the utility. Also approved was the sale of solar panel installations on eight city facilities back to the city.

The sale of Eastview will generate $558,000. The solar panels on the Guelph Hydro HQ roof solar panels $796,000. The city solar installations transfer cost $276,000.

Following a question by Coun. Dan Gibson, chief administrative officer Derrick Thomson confirmed the assets were being sold to generate cash that could be used to help pay Envida’s lenders. Who were these lenders? Did this involve the holders of the senior unsecured debentures, one for $65 million and the other for $30 million?

Who is liable for repayment of these debentures that are listed on the balance sheet as a liability?

Mayor Guthrie, as a councillor for those four GMHI years, were you ever informed of what the former mayor and her entourage were doing? Were all members of council receiving regular reports of the GMHI and Guelph Hydro activities in relation to the Community Energy Initiative?

Was the plan to make the city “look good?”

In the past, Guthrie has called the district energy project “a vision that was rammed forward” because the city “wanted to look good.”

Well Cam, you and your council colleagues have known about this multi-million dollar financial disaster for almost three years. Or maybe you didn’t because there was no Chief Financial officer in place to raise the alarm. It took two and a half years to finally hire a CFO who has financial accreditation and experience to provide the necessary checks and balances needed to sort out the mess.

In 2014, the voters figured it out that there was gross mismanagement by the city administration. As a result, you were elected mayor with the majority of people seeking change.

Unfortunately the honeymoon ended March 25, 2015 when council approved what turned out to be a 3.96 per cent property tax increase. That was a long way from your election promise to contain the property tax to no more than the Consumer Price Index.

But while that was a repudiation of you as Mayor, there was a much bigger problem brewing. While praising the contribution of the GMHI board, you did take over and named two councillors to the board. One was Karl Wettstein, who had served on the GMHI board for four years. The other was Coun. Cathy Downer. Wettstein remains silent on the activities of GMHI along with Coun. June Hofland, the former chair person of the city finance committee.

Did the city finance committee ever discuss what was going on with GMHI and Guelph Hydro, both owned by the City of Guelph?

What possessed elected officials to develop such a brain cramp about their connection with GMHI? Were they so loyal to the former mayor’s vision that they refused to blow the whistle?

What the public needs to be told are details of the wind-up of GMHI and the Community Energy Initiative. And, it is more important, to be informed of the costs resulting from this misadventure.

Stop playing games. Report to the real shareholders the details of this costly exercise to fulfill the ambition of a community leader who is no longer in power.

Meanwhile lets stop spending public funds on trails, road shrinking to create more bike lanes, wading pools, art centres and wellbeing giveaways until our house is put in order through an action plan.

Let’s learn from what happened in the 2014 election. The real political power in Guelph for the past ten years has rested with the 12 ward councillors. This will be the 2018 battleground and the citizen’s only opportunity to restore political balance on city council

 

 

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NO SALE: Is the city selling Guelph Hydro to recoup losses by a previous administration?

By Gerry Barker

June 12, 2017

Part Two: Selling the crown jewel of Guelph

When will the Mayor tell us the truth about why we are spending thousands to sell Guelph Hydro in the next 12 months?

It is one of the most expensive and devious plans to capture the equity of Guelph Hydro that has an estimated book value of $125 million. On the surface, when reading through the 48 pages of plans and goals of the council-appointed Strategic Options Committee (SOC), it would have you believe this is the right thing to do.

Council appointed five people to represent the city in selling Guelph Hydro. The committee lost two members between October and April. Included was co-chair Pankaj Sardana, CEO of Guelph Hydro, who was replaced by the Guelph Hydro board chair, Jane Armstrong. A public representative, Ron Puccini, stepped aside to be replaced by Douglas Auld.

Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson remains, as co-chair of the SOC. Is Mayor Guthrie an ex-officio member of this committee?

Before going any further, this is a sale of all or parts of Guelph Hydro. To dress it up as a merger is mere window dressing. Perhaps that’s why Mr. Sardana was removed from the SOC because he warned about the sharing of responsibilities as a result of a merger, does not have a successful track record. History in Ontario has shown that local community-owned electricity distribution system mergers don’t always work well because of the cultural clash between the parties of the merger.

We should mention that the SOC plan points out that the Province has encouraged the consolidation of small (Provincial designation) municipally-owned power distribution systems to create more efficient systems across the province. This is NOT mandated but suggested.

Why the push to amalgamate local power distribution systems? The McGuinty and Wynne governments granted juicy 20-year overpayments to corporations to produce solar and wind turbine renewable power. Now it has attracted interest in corporate ownership power distribution systems. These deals have cost power consumers millions and left Ontario having the highest cost of power in the country.

“It isn’t easy being green,” Kermit the frog.

Without hesitation, the beneficiaries of these deals include both Liberal provincial governments and those corporations that have benefitted from their largesse.

One of the members of SOC said that the distribution of power is changing, predicting that most homes in the future will have electricity storage units in their garages, powered by solar panels. The cost of this is astronomical for most people. Why the rush to sell off Guelph Hydro, lose any semblance of control and costs as it now it provides economic benefit to the 53,000 current customer base?

Those self-sufficient storage units have a definite future but are only cost efficient for the wealthy among us. It will take years to become a common reality.

But it is a prime rationale among an element of civic leaders who foisting their opinions, were bolstered by outside consultants including the core of the SOC.

Here’s a sample of what the SOC is planning:

SOC RECOMMENDATION:

  1. THAT the Strategies and Options Committee (the “SOC”) of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (“GMHI”) be directed to conduct further discussions, engage in further due diligence, and prepare preliminary business cases to assess potential mergers between Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. (“Guelph Hydro”) and potential merger partners.
  2. THAT the SOC continue its communications and community engagement to inform its work.
  3. THAT the SOC report back to Council in early fall 2017 with the results of further discussions and due diligence, communications and community engagement and a preliminary business case, including recommendations regarding next steps.

            The four phases leading to selling Guelph Hydro

The SOC plan is divided into four phases. Following the June 13 meeting, the next phase is Part 3 to be reported to council in October, or thereabouts.

Here’s one of the reasons citizens should be concerned. Two members of the SOC, in my opinion, have a conflict of interest.

Note in the recommendation above that the SOC is the offspring of the Farbridge Folly that created Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI). We now know that it cost citizens close to $100 million, so far. This appears to be a desperate attempt by the Guthrie administration, to convince citizens to support the sale of Guelph Hydro. We say: NO SALE!

Getting back to those two SOC members. The former mayor appointed Mark Goldberg as an independent member to the GMHI board of directors. Did Mr. Goldberg support the GMHI projects that lost $26.6 million? What is he doing on the SOC? Is he part of the salvage crew out to sell a profitable, locally owned Hydro Distribution system to cover up the total failure of the Community Energy Initiative (CEI)? It is now clear that the former mayor sold the merits of the CEI to an unsuspecting public. Then buried its operations in closed sessions of the board.

Or, let’s hear from SOC member Guelph Hydro Deputy Chair, Robert Bell, who in answer to a question by Coun. James Gordon about how the public feels about the sale of Guelph Hydro replied that he was an expert in mergers and acquisitions, (M&A) and knew more about it than the general public.

That arrogant answer confirms the takeaway that this is a contrived set-up to sell the publicly-owned Guelph Hydro in part or all-in, to pay off the debts of previous administrations.

Well, those two men, for different reasons, seem to have their minds made up.

This is a very serious political play in which, with respect, may result in Mayor Guthrie’s ongoing support for the sale, being figuratively bitten in the derriere come Election Day. His fair-weather friends on council could blame him for either the success or failure of the Hydro sale proposal. As he is Mayor, it’s a lose, lose situation no matter what happens.

It’s not too late to regain the support of the majority of the public by disassociating himself from continued support of the sale.

Here is the SOC schedule of how we can say bye-bye to Guelph Hydro before the next election.

SOC says: “If, in the fall, Council directs the SOC to pursue the next phase of the process, details about potential merger partner(s) will be shared with the public. At that time, the SOC will seek public input on the proposed merger. More public and stakeholder engagement will occur to generate that input.”

GS Comment: Just how are the SOC and its partners Guelph Hydro and City Council going to inform the public during this “process?” There is a ground swell of objection among many citizens that this phase is not going to sell. So far the attempts to communicate this to the real stakeholders, the citizens of Guelph, has been an abject failure. But read on to see the proposed timetable of selling the utility.

SOC says: “Phase 1 (Complete)

“Explore options; begin community consultation, present findings and recommendations to Guelph City Council in early 2017.

SOC says: “Phase 2 (March to June)

“Scan the industry for potential merger partners. Consider publicly-owned utility companies likely to provide value to Guelph Hydro customers, the City and the community.”

GS Comment: Phase 2 is the topic of the June 13 meetings including a closed session of council starting at 4 p.m. and the public open meeting at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Let’s get this clarified. Guelph Hydro supplies electricity to 53,000 customers. No one in this city or Rockwood is without power. This should make them the stakeholders in this plan. The City of Guelph owns this utility and history shows that the citizens want to continue owning it. The SOC should conduct a poll by an independent polling organization to measure public support for selling Guelph Hydro. The result may save citizens the cost of pursuing this project.

SOC says: “(June to fall) If City Council votes to explore further: engage specific targets, develop a preliminary business case and financial analysis, outline impact on shareholders rate payers, discuss governance, compare to maintaining full ownership, and make recommendation to City Council.”

SOC says: “Phase 3 (fall to winter)

“If Council decides to pursue a merger: enter into memorandum of understanding, announce the parties involved, continue community engagement, begin exclusive negotiations, conduct financial, legal, operational and regulatory due diligence, develop merger and shareholder agreements, finalize rate impact and make recommendation to City Council.”

GS Comment: And during this phase when does the public have its say? Where is the business plan underlying any proposal?

SOC says: “Phase 4 (late 2017 to 2018)

“If City Council approves the transaction: submit a MAADs (?) application to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) for approval, develop implementation plan and establish leadership and governance of the new utility. Following OEB approval the transaction would close, the parties would enter into the shareholders’ agreement, and the merger would be given full legal effect.”

GS Comment: Just in time to create a huge issue in the October 2018 civic election. This is an attempt to wrap up the before the election and deny the public the right to dissent.

            Recommended next phases of developing the sale:

SOC says: “Given the potential cost of developing complete business cases with multiple parties, the SOC recommends developing preliminary business cases with the most promising candidates and making a recommendation to Council in early fall 2017. This approach is a cost effective way to provide Council with more information while being fair and respectful to potential merger partners.”

GS Comment: The Guelph Hydro board affirmed the recommendations made at the outset of this report at its May 29, 2017 board meeting. None of them were elected to represent the public’s interests. So, why now? Why is this plan being presented to the citizens who are not collectively in favour of selling Guelph Hydro? Here’s more of the sale plan.

Value for the City of Guelph
SOC says: § Realizing the best financial return and overall value.

GS Comment: Again what is the real purpose of this proposal? Is the city in such financial shape that we have to sell Guelph Hydro to pay for the financial mismanagement of the past ten years? Is it fair to say that if Guelph Hydro is sold that it can recover that “impaired” asset that it loaned GMHI and now sitting on the city books, can be recovered? One would believe that had to be a condition of any sale.
SOC says: § Supply electricity efficiently and cost-effectively.

GS Comment: Isn’t that what is being delivered today?
SOC says: § Contribute capital funds for reinvestment.

GS Comment: Ah! The truth is starting to come out. What reinvestments are they talking about? Is it reduction of debt? Paying down the Police Headquarters $34 million renovation? Providing $400 million for the aging infrastructure? There is no shortage of projects but because of the financial mismanagement, the cupboard is essentially bare.

It is welcome news that the city has finally hired Trevor Lee, an experienced professional who has the financial accreditation to bring responsible order to our city’s finances. The evidence exists that successive councils relentlessly continue to jack up property taxes and user fees to cover up bad management and questionable decisions.
SOC says: § Support long-term community planning and economic development.

GS Comment: There has been little effort to address the high overhead costs of running a city. What has this sale got do with economic development? How will it create jobs and at the same time protect Hydro employees? How can citizens be assured of cost controls if the utility is sold or merged? How much has this proposal cost year to date? Who is paying those costs? What operational guarantees are included in this proposal that affect all Hydro customers?

What does the SOC mean when it says it will engage in “open, honest communication with community and industry stakeholders?” This and past administrations have a terrible track record of operating in closed sessions without transparency and accountability doing the public’s business. The record of the previous GMHI board of directors conducting its business in an open and accountable fashion is a sick joke.

City councillors Karl Wettstein and June Hofland were members of the MHI board for four years and today accept no responsibility for the financial disaster. SOC member Mark Goldberg is another former GMHI board member who has never commented publicly about his role on the board.

A good place to start is opening all SOC meetings to the public. Making all electronic communications pertaining to the sale among SOC, its consultants and members of council available to the public. The one exception is discussions regarding proprietary information of bidders.

Regardless, in my opinion, this proposal was tried in 2008 and was rejected by a majority of council including supporters of the former mayor. I see no reason why this won’t happen this time. Sorry, NO SALE

Frankly, city council approved this methodology of selling Guelph Hydro. It’s time for a serious rethink of the project.

Now council owes the citizens a specific reason for creating this proposal to sell Guelph Hydro. That includes full financial disclosure of the costs and benefits to the citizen stakeholders.

This is only Act One of the Theatre of the Absurd

Until that closes, we still say: NO SALE.

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Is the Dark State ruling Guelph?

By Gerry Barker

May 23, 2017

Yes, who is running our city? Why have there been so many closed session meetings of council? Whose reputation is being protected?  Why is the public’s right to know being consistently thwarted?

In a letter to the editor in the Toronto Star, Pat Biondi, takes umbrage over an editorial in the paper entitled: Long live the deep state in Washington – May 19.

Biondi’s opening paragraph set the stage for a blistering criticism saying, “I could not believe the Toronto Star, the self-proclaimed bastion of democracy, would stoop to such a level.”

At this point, I should reveal the headline of the letter: “Civil servants subvert the will of the people.” Such headlines are designed to capsulate the content of the letter but also to attract the reader.

It sure got my attention.

Biondi went on to say, “that in a democracy, it is the elected officials empowered by virtue of the ballot box. It is those same politicians who are held accountable for their actions the next time the electorate is asked to pass judgment on their performance while in office.”

That has a familiar ring about it when it is applied to Guelph governance. Looking back, the electorate in Guelph responded in October 2014 to defeat the mayor and two of her council supporters plus two others who chose not to run.

Biondi continues: “A deep state (i.e. civil servants) working in the shadows is the antithesis of what democracy is all about. The notion that a few unelected and unaccountable career civil servants can subvert the will of the people expressed in a free election is absurd and dangerous in the extreme.”

Starting to see what the letter writer is talking about as it’s applied to the unelected senior management of the City of Guelph in the past 10 years?

It’s no secret there has been an inordinate amount of turmoil in the past two years not only among the senior staff but also with the hardworking rank and file who carry out their orders. Look no further than the lawsuit by a fired 30-year veteran of the city Building Department, Bruce Poole, who performed as Chief Building Inspector for the past 20 years.

Mr. Poole sued for $1 million for wrongful dismissal by former Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert.

Follow a mysterious dump of some 53,000 emails sent to Poole’s lawyer containing hundreds of confidential and personal information, the case was promptly settled by the city. It was a legacy left by the former top civil servant for the citizens to pay.

Here is another statement by Biondi. “ When a society is governed by a deep state, democracy crumbles and anarchy ensues.”

Isn’t this the accurate description of how Guelph has been controlled by a two-term autocratic mayor and equally pervasive senior civil servants? They were really running the city with the support of a council that rolled over in their sworn responsibilities to the public.

The examples of that eight-year domination of Guelph governance have been well documented. Millions were wasted on social engineering projects under the guise of world leadership. This included making the city into a world-class leader in the environment, reduction of greenhouse gases, and restriction of vehicular traffic routes to accommodate bicycle lanes and waste management.

What really occurred in that time period, was increased property taxes by a compounded 36.7 per cent; the cost of basic civic services such as electricity and water soared; waste management’s so-called innovation racked up millions in operations and capital and it mostly occurred in secret sessions of council.

Autocratic senior managers and members of council, almost all who have left the city, for a variety of reasons, have left a legacy of alleged corruption and financial mismanagement. Yet, the disastrous policies of the previous administration continue to be supported by the majority of the current council.

Any evidence of city council working together to solve the tattered legacy of the previous administration has not happened in three years. The majority of council is known as the Bloc of Seven as they frequently vote as a bloc thereby dominating the 13-member council.

Regardless, some pluses have occurred, including revelation of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMH. This wholly owned subsidiary of the city is the most costly failure by the previous administration. Chaired by the mayor, this functioned under the Community Energy Initiative, with former CAO Pappert as Chief Executive Officer of GMHI for four years.

Losses to date are $26.6 million plus a $60 million impaired loan from Guelph Hydro that has no collateral in GMHI to even pay the interest. That loan now sits on the city books as a declining asset.

Are you starting get the picture? In my opinion, this is why there is a concerted effort to sell Guelph Hydro, wholly owned by the city, to cover up the huge liability of GMHI.

Ms. Pappert left the city in May 2016, following publication of the provincial Sunshine List in March 2016 of those earning more than $100,000. It reported that she had received an annual salary of $237, 501. This was received even though she only worked five months in 2016. Her increase, along with three other senior managers, was approved in a closed-session meeting of council December 10, 2015. The public was made aware of the $98,202 awarded to four top managers in March when the Sunshine list revealed the increases.

In view of this, why does the mayor continue to endorse Ann Pappert who is seeking a new job? Mr. Guthrie is mentioned twice endorsing Ms. Pappert in her lengthy new profile posted on LinkedIn

It’s all part of the culture of entitlement that pervades the senior management of our city from civil servants to elected councillors. Both share responsibility with one glaring exception: Every four years, councillors must face their constituents and explain their performance. Meanwhile, the hired staff is free to carry on as if there was no election.

A clear example was the reorganization of the top senior staff in November 2014. CAO Ann Pappert conducted the reorganization during the lame-duck period between the changes of administrations. Mr. Guthrie took over December 1, 2014. The new council never had the opportunity to approve the new management arrangement because it was not in charge at the time.

It only took 13 months for the top four managers to receive hefty increases and the public was never informed until March 2016.

I realize that some GS readers are critical of the constant reporting of this event.

It states truth to power and the perpetrators got away with it and now only one is left, CAO Derrick Thomson.

Judge for yourself; is this a responsible and honourable way to run our city of 131,000?

Only if a resolute, informed and politically centrist group of councillors are elected in 2018, can necessary true reform and change occur.

 

I would be interested in hearing from readers about their feelings, good, bad or indifferent. Send your comments to guelphspeaks.ca or email gerrybarker76@gmail.com. Your identity will be protected if requested. Thank you.

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Student tells Mayor how his family had to move because of Guelph’s high taxes

By Gerry Barker

May 8, 2017

This student told the Mayor that his family was forced to move to Fergus because Guelph taxes and fees exceeded their ability to pay. For his part, Mayor Guthrie was sympathetic and wondered if his own children would be able to afford their own homes in Guelph.

It comes as no surprise that after ten years, three successive administrations have painted property owners into a corner with average annual tax increases of 3.5 per cent.

Starting this year, property owners will be facing a two per cent special levy to pay for infrastructure and a slush fund called “City Buildings.” Toss in the growth of compulsory user fees such as electricity, water, storm water, public transit, waste removal, and parking. Adding those essentials the cost of owning property and living in the Royal City is making it tough on pensioners, lower income folks, and young families just starting up.

Another factor influencing the rising cost of housing in the city is exacerbated by the demand of people escaping the soaring costs of housing in the GTA. Our problem is years of financial mismanagement resulting in the loss of millions, has added to our corporate debt, the reduction of reserves and an operational overhead that is 50 per cent greater than either Kitchener or Cambridge.

The city has received all kinds of advice from consultants and citizens to reduce spending and overhead. According to the latest Statistics Canada census, the population of Guelph increased by 9,000 in the past five years. That’s about 7.5 per cent or 1.5 per cent increase per year.

The mayor claims that the city is forced by the provincial “Places to Grow” demands for higher density residential development. Guelph’s PTG target is a population of 175,000 by 2031. That’s an arbitrary target of population increase of 45,000 that must be met within 14 years.

Whoa! Increasing our population by 9,000 in five years and maintaining that rate, the city will miss the target in 2031 by 20,000 new residents.

The frantic efforts of the two Farbridge terms in office has accelerated the number of homes by greater use of land, building complexes of low-rise condo buildings mixed in with strip housing. Very few single-family homes in comparison have been built in Guelph since 2007.

So, after ten years of almost killing single-family home construction, forcing builders to seek more friendly communities to develop housing, this great social engineering mission has failed its purpose. Purpose? To cram people into areas without front or back yards in most cases only benefits the builders and boosts assessment revenues to the city.

The City of Guelph has oodles of land, most of it owned by the University of Guelph, to develop properties that are calm, open and beautiful residences. These are the real places to grow. Such development gives character and convenience to those folks who don’t want to live in the crammed ghettos, the hallmark of an administration that fails to understand the need for personal space as a part of living.

The high-density developments in the south end between Victoria and Gordon, on Eastview orchestrated by the administrations has created a new kind of sprawl in which traffic increases, access is limited for emergency and city service vehicles.

Now that we put two and two together, the Farbridge plan was to plan a new city on the reformatory lands owned by the province. It is now revealed that city staff was used to plan the new city where vehicles would be banned except for deliveries, businesses would locate allowing workers to walk or ride their bikes to work, shop or play tennis.

This was the plan to meet the provincial Places to Go population targets.

Just last February the administration announced that it was pursuing ownership of the lands. The cash-strapped provincial government was not prepared to give the property away to the city and it was listed for sale.

But wait! Plan B called for attracting developers to participate buying the lands, because the city does not have the capital to do so. Here we are with a land use plan and detailed construction of mixed housing, commercial and industrial development.

There has been a lot of public money spent already on this project laying out detailed plans for development. Trouble is the city doesn’t own the lands that contain the former reformatory complex and potential available land for development at about 55 per cent.

Why is the administration even considering this? Now we know why. They need the property to meet the PTG target and control the design and elements of the lands.

I don’t know about you but combining the capital that has been misspent, blown on failed projects and draining the reserves, this social engineering project should be stopped. Stopped that is, until the city finances have been restored to be able to afford such enterprise.

The prices of housing will taper off but Guelph housing is already too costly for the average person.  The question is will the high-density residences hold their value?

We need development that serves the people and is broad in terms of variety, location and choice.

Today we don’t have that choice.

 

P.S. Today is my wife’s birthday, Barbara is the eternal goddess who has brought joy and all that other good stuff to our union. Happy 39th, honey.

 

 

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How personal exploitation leads to mismanagement and higher taxes

By Gerry Barker

April 10, 2017

If you read the story about our taxes going up again this year in the local weekly, you wouldn’t know up from down. That’s when a rewrite of a city press release and an attempt to turn it into English happens.

Bottom line, homeowner’s property taxes under the Guthrie administration have risen 10.56 per cent since his election.

It’s an astounding figure when considering that the senior staff has been in total disarray since Mayor Guthrie took over, but not necessarily because of him. The residue of millions in losses land mismanagement left by his predecessor hangs over him like a cloud burst waiting to happen.

He has tried to work with council but the majority of Councillors, James Gordon, June Hofland, Phil Allt, Mike Salisbury, Leanne Piper, Karl Wettstein and Cathy Downer, have obstructed, denied and pushed the agenda of the previous administration.

It’s as if there never was an election

Then we have Ward four Coun. Mike Salisbury, pontificating that the Mayor has failed to be a leader because he has not been collegial with council. Goodness knows, Mayor Guthrie has tried only to be thwarted when the suggestion of change or reform surfaces. Well, you have to understand the source of the Salisbury whining spectacle.

So, now the new property tax increase is 3.61 due to the impact of assessment by the Municipal Provincial Assessment Corporation (MPAC), an independent body set up by the provincial government to conduct informed and fair assessments of properties across Ontario.

But in most cases, MPAC does what I call, a drive-by calculation based on their own formula and process. In recent years, it has been complicated by a four-year freeze on assessments by the former McGuinty government in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis.

Starting in 2014, MPAC resumed raising the assessment on a pre-set formula basis with modest increases for four years.

I fail to understand why this 2017 assessment by MPAC was not included during the budget preparation last fall and approved in December with only three councillors voting against the budget. What did they know that the other councillors and staff did not? We received our annual MPAC notice that showed the assessment increase on our property for four years including 2017.

It is important to understand the impact of assessment increase. First of all, they are mandatory. The city takes the revised assessment information, and using the mill rate determines the added cost to property taxpayers. This process occurs during the annual budget deliberations.

What happened to the two-per cent special property tax levy?

The local weekly made reference to the one per cent special levy on property taxes although council approved a two per cent levy on property taxes in the 2017 budget. Also, how did the city determine the average price of a home in Guelph is $333,877? The story claimed that taxes on that average value would go up by $86.04 or 2.61 per cent. That included the one per cent property tax levy for infrastructure maintenance bringing the increase to 3.61 per cent.

And you’re confused?

Didn’t council approve a two per cent property tax levy for 2017? Remember that Coun. Mark MacKinnon moved to add another one per cent tax levy for “City Buildings” that was approved by council and would provide $2.23 million per year for the next five years?

Must have been a typo.

The approved property tax levies, each aimed at specific areas requiring capital spending, just added a $4.46 million extra burden on homeowners. The irony is Coun. MacKinnon has stated that people should be willing to pay taxes for the services they receive. He theorizes that because the value of their home increases, they could refinance through a new or second mortgage or reverse mortgage in order to pay their taxes.

Is the council majority too subjective, ignorant or willful?

This is the kind of beliefs that MacKinnon epitomizes about the majority of his colleagues on council. They don’t care about the impact of their authoritative policies on the very people who elected them. They have the power to access the public ATM machine at will without recourse. This fall the 2018 budget will be prepared.

It is now necessary to hire a Chief Fiancial Officer with the proper financial accreditation and experience. If any department in the city needs capable manage,ent, it’s Finance.

Here are some other examples of decisions made by the majority of council in the past seven years:

Start with the $23 million increased cost of the new City Hall project; the $26.6 million loss by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. operation; the inflated cost of the downtown police headquarters of $34 million; employment costs that have been growing exponentially; the retirement settlement amounts paid to former senior managers who have left the city, either forcefully or resigning; the high costs of living in Guelph with electricity, water, taxes, user fees, among the highest in the province; the high cost of managing our waste reported to be the highest among peer group of cities; the costs of overhead that the administration refuses to address and ignores.

These are examples deserving of an indictment of sheer malfeasance mixed with self-serving stupidity.

Stopping Online voting, a precursor of losing an election

One final example: The seven members of council voted recently to cancel electronic voting in the 2018 civic election after listening to delegates and not accepting the staff recommendation to extend the service.

The decision was made during a council committee meeting and will be confirmed or rejected April 24 by council.

Go figure! Every one voting to reject electronoc voting, benefited from this type of voting when they ran successfully in 2014 when some 13,000 citizens used the system.

In my view, this bloc of councillors, are motivated by fear, fear of losing after what happened in 2014.

If this majority continues to oppose Online voting, they will lose in 2018.

If they support the sale/merger of Guelph Hydro, they will lose.

If they continue to raise taxes at rates similar to the past three years, they’ll lose.

If they continue to insult the Mayor, they’ll lose.

 

 

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Royal City Blues: A documentary

By Gerry Barker

March 20, 2017

If there ever was the opportunity to develop a documentary to describe the woeful record, it is now outlining how three administrations have lost more than $136 million in ten years. Perhaps it’s time to reconcile the city’s finances by hiring a Chief Financial Officer with experience and savvy.

Here is a draft outline that details the events that have drained the financial resources of the city, to the extent that the current Guthrie administration is engaged in selling Guelph Hydro to rebuild the financial losses of previous administrations.

The Guthrie administration is hamstrung to even pay for needed infrastructure repairs and replacements, let alone reducing costs. A new city report clearly states that it is going to cost double what the administration estimated when approving the 2017 budget.

And council couldn’t even get that straight when it voted to double the so-called special property tax levy from one per cent to two percent. The staff recommended a one per cent levy to help pay for the infrastructure costs but council added another one per cent to pay for “city buildings.” The reality? It is an attempt to start construction of the $60 million South End recreation centre.

Trouble is there is no capital funding for this project. So council approved shelving some $700,000 to replace the parking meters downtown, a project in the 2016 budget, to produce parking revenue. Then council turned around and spent some $650,000 toward pre-construction costs of the South End recreation centre.

Most people would believe this is a commitment to proceed with the project. Most people will figure out what is occurring is a back-door attempt to force the next council to come up with the capital funding for the project.

Both Ward Six councillors, Karl Wettstein and Mark MacKinnon, pushed this attempt to force future councils to pay for it.

Is this any way to run a city? Any way to mortgage future generations of residents to pay for something they did not vote for? Is it right to ignore the costs of infrastructure to assuage the desires of a minority of citizens?

Already, there are decisions being made to ensure the re-election of the present majority of council including the mayor. A key problem is the greatly diminished level of reserves that have been used to shore up projects and balance sheets for far too long.

That’s where we stand today. But let’s look back at how and when we got into this mess.

Back to the future, Guelph style

In February, City Solicitor, Donna Jaques, resigned and left for a job in North Bay with the Ontario Northland Railway. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, who was dismissed, followed right after her departure. They are yet further additions to the exodus of senior executives leaving the city since Mayor Cam Guthrie was elected. Scott Worsfold, another city lawyer resigned last fall.

More than 20 senior managers have left the city since 2014. These are the people who administer the operations of our corporation. In any business, the adage is it’s more difficult to replace a key employee than to fire the incumbent.

An example is the recent announcement that the General Manager of the Community Energy Initiative (CEI), Rob Kerr, has been dismissed. At the same time the city is setting up a Climate Change Office. Is this really needed? Premier Wynne is already taxing us through our Hydro bills for our use of household fossil fuels. These include use of natural gas in a variety of appliances including barbeques, stoves, dryers, fireplaces, furnaces, and water heaters.

And now we need a Climate Change Office?

What follows is a documentary of how our city investments have been squandered by three administrations. Since 2007, these administrations have created social engineering projects that most people did not request or want.

It documents abuse of the public trust, its right to know and participate. We have been subjected to absolute control, secrecy, distortion of facts and unparalleled arrogance. So, we can only blame ourselves as we elected them. Here is a record of how our money was misused and managed without recourse on our part.

Scene One: The genesis of a financial disaster

It’s early in January 2007 when the newly elected Mayor of Guelph, Karen Farbridge, persuades leaders of organizations across the city to join, creating the Community Energy Initiative. More than 20 prominent individuals accepted her invitation to join and participate. They represented the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, The University of Guelph, Guelph Hydro, Industrial and commercial leaders and energy experts.

Little di we know then of the impact on city finances of this project.

Scene Two: Spending $16 million renovating a derelict building on someone else’s property

Mayor Farbridge becomes immersed in running her city and introducing a number of initiatives. These included approval of spending $12.7 million to move the Civic Museum into a leased former derelict convent next to The Church of Our Lady. This project took five years to complete and cost more than $16 million. Of that amount, the federal and provincial governments provided roughly $6 million. As an aside, more than $1 million was spent landscaping the hill in front of the Museum, on land the city does not own.

Scene Three: The $33 million great landfill diversion scheme

With little public input, council approved a new solid-waste management system. It included spending $33 million on an organic waste-processing facility that had a processing capacity that was three times the needs of Guelph for 20 years. It was operated by Aim Environmental a subsidiary company of the builder of the plant, Maple Reinders. Another Maple Reinders subsidiary called Organix sold the compost produced.

Details of the organic operation were never revealed to the public, including the sale of the composted material. The city management said it could not reveal the details because of “private proprietary interests.” An internal audit of the waste- management operations in 2016 revealed it was losing $270,000 a year. The Executive Director of Environmental Services, Janet Laird, resigned after the 2014 election. Her General Manager, Dean Wyman, left in December 2015 for a job in Edmonton.

The department is now undergoing a rationalization study to develop a greater degree of effiency and reduce reduce costs of an operation that is losing $270K a year. This is under the leadership of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, (DCAO) Scott Stewart. Good luck, Scott.

Scene Four: A fateful decision to get tough and lose millions

It’s spring 2008. Mayor Farbridge was getting impatient about the progress of General Contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group Corporation, building the new city hall and renovating the old city hall into a provincial court. The original contract was $42 million for both projects. On September 19, 2008, Acting CAO Hans Loewig ordered Urbacon off the site, supported by Guelph Police.

For his loyalty, former CAO Loewig was given a four-year contract starting at $199,000 plus generous benefits, including several weeks of vacation annually. Ann Pappert replaced him in 2012.

Urbacon responded by suing the city for breach of contract and sought $19,184,181.71 in damages. This began a legal wrangle that lasted for five years and eventually included five lawsuits. Fast forward to March 2014. Justice Donald MacKenzie delivered a stunning verdict in favour of Urbacon and chastised the chief city witness, the site manager, Murray McRae for his testimony. The mayor’s impatience cost a $23 million overrun of the new city hall, from $42 million to $65 million.

Here is a comment from a guelphspeaks posting September 9, 2014:

“This remains an epic error in judgment for which the Farbridge administration must take responsibility. How can they say, with a straight face, that the costs are covered and there will be no impact on taxpayers? They’re manipulating your money to suit their agenda and again avoiding responsibility.”

As it turned out, it was CAO Ann Pappert, who made that claim misleading the citizens.

Scene Five: The year of multi-mistakes leading to the defeat of the mayor

Election year 2014, witnessed several events. They included the Urbacon decision, transit strike and approval of the $34 million police HQ renovations which would take more than five years to complete. These events impacted the future of Mayor Farbridge and four council supporters who either decided not to run or were defeated.

The progressives were stunned over the loss of their leader. Changes came swiftly. The top senior staff was reorganized when Janet Laird retired to Whistler, B.C. and Derek McCaughan resigned. The shuffle occurred before Cam Guthrie took over as the city’s new mayor, December 1, 2014.

Observation: The city administration does not have much success when it comes to constructing major capital projects and staying on budget. Besides Urbacon, there was the Civic museum, both of which exceeded contracted costs by $33 million.

Scene Six: It’s 2015 and we’re off to a rocky start

Early in 2015, there were events that would shape the new council that was dominated by seven supporters of the previous Mayor and her policies. In January, Mayor Guthrie attacked me in an email urging his followers to ignore me. The outburst was attributed to a piece I published in guelphspeaks.ca in which I said the council was reviewing CAO Ann Pappert’s contract.

The Mayor, for whatever reason, supported Ms. Pappert until the day she gave her notice in April 2016 that included her extravagant retirement payoff estimated to be more than $150K. Early last year, concerned citizen, Rena Akerman, sent a detailed email to other citizens outlining the performance of the CAO in the past four years. Mayor Guthrie threatened legal action against Ms. Akerman. Fortunately for him, that didn’t happen.

Scene Seven: the Guelph Municipal Holdings debacle

In 2015, there was an even bigger scandal brewing. Mayor Guthrie and Coun. Karl Wettstein were appointed as council representatives on the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) board of directors. The former mayor said GMHI was to manage the city-owned assets including Guelph Hydro, its subsidiary Envida Community Energy Corp. and the Guelph Junction Railroad.

Simmering below the surface was this disastrous experiment created by the former mayor. It is a wholly-owned corporation of the city. Mayor Farbridge appointed herself as chairperson of the GMHI board of directors, composed of a majority of her council supporters, plus two members of Guelph Hydro and two independent directors. CAO Ann Pappert was appointed Chief Executive Officer of GMHI and remained in that job for four years.

On May 16, 2016, the truth was revealed in a GMHI situation report signed by Ms. Pappert in her capacity as city CAO, and Pankaj Sardana, her successor at GMHI. In fact, in its five years of existence it has never made a dime but the losses climbed to more than $26.6 million. This loss, according to a May 16, 2016 was reported and presented to council, jointly by CAO Ann Pappert and Pankaj Sardana, CEO and CFO of GMHI.

The report stunned everyone when Mr. Sardana said GMHI had lost $26.6 million and had no financial ability to continue operations. It turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg. GMHI had accepted a loan of $65 million from Guelph Hydro to expand its projects to achieve electric power self-sufficiency for the city. That loan is now an impaired asset on the city’s books and was on the 2015 Financial Information Report valued at $69 million. “Impaired Asset,” means that the receiver of the funds, GMHI, has no money to pay the interest on the loan. Also it has insufficient assets underlying the loan.

Over time, this large loan will have to be written off. Unless, the city can sell Guelph Hydro and profit from the estimated proceeds of more than $150 million. Later this year, the Strategic Options Committee will make its recommendation after shopping Guelph Hydro in the market place.

It is only recently revealed the former mayor and the GMHI board had secured land in the Hanlon Business Park and Downtown to build large natural gas-fired generation plants as part of its Community Energy Initiatives. Again, public input was not invited or considered.

The two natural gas plant sites were obtained when the Guthrie administration shut down operations. Guelph Hydro was brought into the city as part of its finances.

It is now plain what the former mayor was bent on accomplishing. Electric power self-sufficiency and sell Guelph Hydro to the highest bidder to get rid of the losses.

Please think about this: If Ms. Farbridge had been re-elected in 2014, we would still be kept in the dark while millions were poured into a scheme to make our city self-sufficient in electricity supply. If fact, Mr. Sardana said that in order to make the two $8.7 million District Energy Nodes to break even, it would require an additional investment of $60 million.

Did the former mayor ever consider the billion it cost to dismantle two partially built gas-fired plants by Premier Dalton McGuinty to save four Liberal seats?

Well folks, so far it’s only cost you and me $96 million including the $65 million loan from Guelph Hydro. It will eventually disappear into the mists of One Carden Street.

For comparison, the Ontario gas plant tear down cost just over a billion dollars. The population of Ontario (including us) is more than eight million people. So Guelph loses $96 million spread over some 121,500 residents and businesses. Our loss will cost $790 per person, babies, young, old and the infirm. That money has gone.

McGuinty’s gas plant loss cost each of the eight million population of the province $12,500.

But wait a minute! We are included in the Provincial figure so that means every citizen of Guelph is responsible for $13,293. A high price to pay for badly managed, high cost social engineering schemes, all of which failed on both levels of government.

The real problem is that it’s public funds that have been misspent. Regardless of whether it’s posted in the Guelph Hydro books or the city books, it’s a stunning loss and misuse of public money. The city has no choice but to write it off.

But here’s the concern for all citizens: Until there is an independent investigation and forensic audit of the whole GMHI debacle, the people will never know the truth. Most recent development is the dismissal of Rob Kerr, general manager of CEI and the formation of ”Climate Change Office.”

Is this what Karen Farbridge promised when she campaigned in 2006 to “Put Guelph back on track?” Just asking.

Scene Eight: Revenge: Thy sting is not so sweet

In early 2015, Susan Watson, a strong supporter of the Farbridge administration, hired a Toronto lawyer to represent her in an action before the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC). It was in regard to a $400 donation that had been given to former Ward Six candidate Glen Tolhurst by the civic action group, GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). Her lawyer argued that GRG was not permitted to donate to candidates under the Ontario Elections Act (MEA).

Two of the three CAC members voted to have an independent auditor examine Mr. Tolhurst’s election financial statement and the role of GRG. As members of GRG, my wife, Barbara, and I, were subpoenaed to appear before the auditor, William Molson of Toronto. We were questioned for an hour and a half. A couple of weeks later the auditor presented his findings to the CAC committee exonerating Mr. Tolhurst and GRG of any breach of the Municipal Elections Act.

The estimated $11,000 costs of this procedure were paid by the taxpayers and not by Ms. Watson who initiated the complaint.

Scene Nine: Along comes the mother of municipal financial failures

Starting in 2011, GMHI annually deposited a $1.5 million dividend to the city. In 2015, GMHI said it had sent a total of $9 million to the city as dividends. The only problem was the GMHI never made any money. Ten days after signing the report, she left the city to work for the Province of Ontario.

So far, more than $8.7 million, the cost of installing the two District Energy nodes, has either been written off or written down. But there remains a number of unresolved issues including contracts with those buildings connected to the co-generation thermal system supplying hot and cold water. The city cannot afford to subsidize these already installed connections to five large buildings. The statement has been made that it will continue to supply the service. The city has maintained that the Community Energy Initiative is under review with decisions to be made when a staff report is presented to council.

The real problem lies with the $65 million Guelph Hydro loaned to GMHI after board chair Karen Farbridge and her board voted to fold Guelph Hydro and its subsidiaries into GMHI. Since then, the city has taken control of Guelph Hydro. But a major problem remains. In doing so the city has shifted the Guelph Hydro loan to GMHI into its own books as an asset, although impaired. That means that in 2015, that impaired asset had grown to $69 million because GMHI had no money to even pay the interest. The huge problem is that there are no assets in GMHI or funds to even pay the interest on the loan.

Well, the fact is the city now has the loan on its books it’s like lending your son or daughter $25,000 to go to college and never expecting it to be paid back. It’s all in the family.

Scene Ten: The fallout of financial mismanagement will affect all of us for years

Please think about this: If Ms. Farbridge had been re-elected in 2014, we would still be kept in the dark while millions were poured into a scheme to make our city self-sufficient in electricity supply. If fact, Mr. Sardana said that in order to make the District Energy Nodes to break even it would require an additional investment of $60 million.

It is only recently revealed the former mayor and her colleagues on the GMHI board had secured land in the Hanlon Business Park and Downtown, to build large natural gas-fired generation plants as part of its Community Energy Initiative.

Again, public input was not invited or considered. Did the former mayor ever consider the billions it cost to dismantle two gas-fired plants, partially completed by the McGuinty Liberals to save four Liberal seats?

Well folks, so far it’s only cost you and me $96 million including the $65 million loan from Hydro.

When you stop and think, imagine what that $96 million could have done to capital spending in the city. Particularly for a new downtown library, the former mayor promised that 19 years ago. Or the South End recreation centre that was promised by the same mayor nine years ago as a priority.

These are bread and butter issues. We have been held hostage for ten years now by a radical group of progressive councillors who are “big picture” representatives. They obsess about climate change, energy, bicycle lanes, public transit, water sold commercially from the aquifer, protecting the environment.

Running a city is not rocket science. Councillor’s primary responsibility is to make sure everything works. It includes roads, water supply, waste disposal, parks and recreation, cleaning the streets, picking up the garbage and creating jobs.

And please don’t tell me that we are better off than we were four years ago adding more than 400 new full time equivalent employees, with property taxes soaring by 14.2 per cent and user fees for using our own dump and managing our storm water.

 

 

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GuelphSpeaks annual Top losers and winners for 2016

By Gerry Barker

March 12, 2017

It’s time to review 2016 when we look back and pick those events and people who won some and lost some. It was not a great year for our city as political reform is still a bridge too far. No matter what good things happen and there are a number, they are offset by the frequent absence of transparency, accountability and common sense governance at City Hall. Feel free to add or pooh-pooh the picks.

Coming up is the 2016 Sunshine list in a couple of weeks that will reveal all the names of public employees earning more than $100,000 a year. In June the 2016 audited Financial Information Report should be made available to the public on the city website.

First, Here are the losers:

  1. Mayor Cam Guthrie abandoned his promises to reduce property taxes to the equivalent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In three budgets over which he has presided, the property taxes approved by council were increased by 10.08 per cent. He, along with eight councillors, voted to approve the 2017 budget.
  1. Waste management and the struggle to unwind costly business practices and losses by the former management of waste control, collection and environmental services. The leadership is gone but citizens remain stuck with the financial fallout. The former internal auditor said the waste management operation was losing $270,000 a year. That flies in the prediction that controlling waste and diverting it from the landfill would be self-liquidating. Help is on the way, (see number 5 in winners).
  1. The hundreds of Canada geese who make their year-round home in Guelph paddling in the rivers and munching on parkland grass. Well, you know the rest of the story when they leave their calling cards. What ever happened to that $50,000 approved by council a couple of years ago to study the goose problem?
  1. Those two councillors, June Hofland and Karl Wettstein, who were members of the GMHI Board of Directors for four years and paid for their service, never said a word about the collapse of GMHI. During a GMHI discussion by council, Wettstein recused himself because he had a “pecuniary interest.” That’s not all he had.
  1. The privately owned Guelph Storm Junior Hockey club successfully extracted $5 million over ten years in a new rental agreement with the city. It effectively ties up the Sleeman Centre for 12 months each year. Under the old agreement, taxpayers were subsidizing the arena by $249,000 a year. Release the details of that contract including revenues, expenses, cost sharing and insurance. Go figure!
  1. To the eight councillors who usually vote as a bloc. They believe in the agenda of the former mayor and perpetuate her theories of a new Guelph. A city with a vibrant downtown, self-liquidating waste management, reduction of carbon emissions and approving high-density development but few single-family homes. Is this what you voted for?
  1. To Coun. Mark MacKinnon goes the annual Chutzpah Award for his assertion that paying taxes is not only an obligation but also a privilege. His rationale was because house prices have increased then people should be prepared to meet their ever-increasing tax bill. Even if it means taking out a second mortgage to pay their taxes. This sounds a little self-serving, isn’t Mark in the mortgage business?

Tah Dah! The Winners:

  1. Those three city councillors, Christine Billings, Dan Gibson and Bob Bell, who had the courage and understood their responsibility to protect the public trust in city government. When the mayor called the vote to approve the 2017 budget, these three Councillors voted no. They deserve your support no matter where you live in the city.
  1. While GS is not a big fan of Coun. Phil Allt, he performed a courageous act donating a kidney to his brother.
  1. The approval of a rationalization of the waste management and environmental services is the right step cleaning up a system that is out of control. Citizens spent $33 million building a compost plant but we cannot even buy the finished composted mulch. It’s sold privately.
  1. The resignation of Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert who left May 26 only after she had secured a job as an Assistant Deputy Minister in the Culture Tourism and Sports Ministry. Goodbye, hold the luck.
  1. The unfolding details of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. story of mismanagement, deception and a loss of $26.6 million. There are still many questions about this abortive project that conducted its business in closed sessions led by the former mayor. This is what happens when you operate in an opaque vacuum shutting out public participation.
  1. To former Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole, who was fired without cause and sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. The case broke wide open when, in the process of examination for discovery, Mr. Poole’s lawyer received an external drive from the city Information Technology department that contained 53,000 files, most confidential and unrelated to the case. The city demanded a return of the drive after the story broke in Guelph Today. The result was a rapid mediation of the Poole case that produced a settlement. The outcome remains confidential. Well, I guess this is another case where the city loses another lawsuit. City Solicitor, Donna Jaques, has left for greener pastures joining the exodus of more than 14 senior and upper management employees who have left the city administration in the past 17 months..

 

 

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