Tag Archives: Mayor Cam Guthrie

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

By Gerry Barker

December 10, 2018

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

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

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

Hey! I’m just a taxpayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mushroom manipulation of the public’s business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the city administration wants to control the news

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

CAO Derrick Thomson explains Guelph’s global giving goals but doesn’t giving begin at home?

By Gerry Barker

December 3, 2018

The other day a number of community leaders attended a breakfast meeting in a downtown bar. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Guelph Gives organized he meeting in conjunction with the Giving Tuesday campaign of last week.

The UN goals include eliminating poverty, creating gender equality, climate action and reducing inequalities.

Guelph Gives organizer, Emma Rogers said: “We know Guelph is great in terms of financial give-back and in terms of volunteerism. What can we do to take that another step further?

She answered her own question. “Taking a bigger piece of the pie to not only help the people of Guelph but also helping people around the world.”

For the record, Canada is a major contributor to a number of agencies working under the UN umbrella. Also, there are many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) offering services and assistance in a host of countries around the world.

A Noble initiative

It is admirable for this organization to urge support of other people around the world but what about other homegrown issues facing our community? These include affordable housing, public safety, and drug addiction, health and wellness and updating infrastructure.

Then we have the active transportation crowd who demand more bicycle lanes and trails and don’t have to pay for it. Fast-forward 20 years. The greatest revolution in vehicles will be the general use of electricity cars, trucks, and buses.

There will still be congestion and lack of parking on our streets, just like today because in 20 years Guelph’s population will grow by an estimated 40,000. The former Liberal government’s Places to Grow plan estimated that Guelph’s population would be 175,000 by 2050.

So here is my personal dilemma. Do we continue to spend millions on bicycle lanes at the expense of vehicles that use our streets? Just so we can help people around the world? We currently have a transit system that is inefficient, expensive and geared to chiefly supplying transportation for the 20,000 University of Guelph students for eight months.

No matter what the administration has done in the past 12 years, the emphasis on failed energy projects costing millions; demands for climate change by cutting the use of fossil fuels; wasting money on bike lanes on major roads to support a tiny portion of the population of Guelph; projecting spending millions on the proposed $350 million Baker Street Parking lot downtown. The list of financial commitments in terms of multi-millions of capital spending increases while a city council seems devoid of common sense

Here’s an example. We just re-elected a mayor who promised that the city would finally get a new downtown library that would be part of the Baker Street development. Here’s the truth. The city staff says the project will not start until 2024. By the time the library is completed, at least ten years will have gone by before the first book is loaned out.

That’s big time hyperbole and that’s three city councils from now.

The article carried on the GuelphToday website quotes the Chief Administrative Officer, who attended the meeting, at length about the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Chills go down my spine when I hear this

Mr. Thomson outlines the city venturing into areas that a municipality traditionally has not done. Specifically he included the Guelph Community Energy Initiative’s (CEI) efforts by reducing the carbon footprint and the city’s goal of being net zero in its carbon footprint as well as being 100 per cent renewable in its energy uses.

He’s kidding right?

Let’s start with the CEI. The newly elected mayor Karen Farbridge stitched it together in 2007. The organizing meeting was attended by many enthusiastic community leaders about the goals if CEI.

For those of our readers not familiar with CEI here is a brief record of its achievements.

More than 300 change orders to make the new city hall environmentally green, resulted in the firing of the General Contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group Inc., and a subsequent lawsuit that cost the city an additional $23 million to complete the project. As a result the Mayor was defeated in the 2014 civic election.

Next was the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. scandal to make Guelph self sufficient in energy. This was another Mayor Farbridge plan linked to her CEI initiative. Trouble was it involved Guelph Hydro and a business plan that was labeled secretive, sloppy and irresponsible. Nobody outside of the administration knew what was happening until the results started to leak out. Long story short, the GMHI shareholders, the people of Guelph, according to a KPMG audit of GMHO operations stated there was a liability of $63 million.

Here’s the CEI Kayo punch to the citizens: In the fall of 2016, the council appointed a committee to investigate the sale or merger of Guelph Hydro with tangible assets of $228 million according to its 2016 financial report. Guelph Hydro was owned by GMHI. The committee, co-chaired by CAO Derrick Thomson, most times met in closed session. In October 2017, Mayor Guthrie announced the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra utilities Inc., a large-scale power distribution corporation. Despite the many questions regarding the sale or merger, the details of this deal have never been revealed. As of January 31, Guelph Hydro disappears and is no longer the property of the 55,000 customers. It’s thanks to the closed session meeting of the Ontario Energy Board thst approved the deal despite citizen’s protests.

Mr. Thomson was involved in these CEI debacles as CAO and co-chair of the dispersal of Guelph Hydro.

His boast that Guelph was the exception not the rule when it came to sustainability and environmental issues is misrepresenting the facts.

As the staff head of more that 2,100 employees not including police, fire and EMS, in his two and a half years on the job, there has been no relief of property taxes, user fees or industrial development. Instead the citizens, including those 57,000 who didn’t bother to vote, are stuck with an administration that refuses to deal with the basic underlying problems.

Darn it Derrick. Why don’t you concentrate on lowering operational costs starting with a meaningful staff rationalization by an independent firm; put a sock in the proponents of the Guelph Innovation District, turn up the heat of the Economic Development Department to attract more commercial and industrial development; work to attract technologists to develop Artificial Intelligence and new software.

At the same time, work to juice city revenue besides tapping the property tax owners every year. You can start by getting our MPP to persuade the Legislature to update the University’s bed-tax deal in lieu of property taxes. After all he says that he has many friends in the PC caucus who are unhappy with the government.

Running a municipality is not rocket science but setting off one or two rockets may make Guelph an even better place to live and work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

As a public service, the latest exercise by the administration isto plumb your opinions to satisfy their operations

By Gerry Barker

November 19, 20118

It all began in 2007 when former mayor Karen Farbridge won a sweeping election seizing control of city council.

For all you history buffs here is what happened some 11 years ago. It was an evolutionary process that took us from blue boxes to three plastic bags to three bins. The last waste management collection move cost citizens $15.5 million. Then it failed to service some 35,000 households because the automatic trucks, costing $150,000 each, failed to navigate many of the high-density condo properties.

Solution: Hire private contractors to remove waste from those condos planned and approved by the City planning department and also the majority of the Farbridge council.

It didn’t take long for residents in condo properties to figure it out that they were being taxed for city pick-up of waste but paying someone else to do it. About a year ago the waste management staff resolved part ofthe problem by changing the collection system to accommodate the owners who were paying extra to have their waste removed.

With the announcement that funds were being made available there appeared to be a number of condo sites that were not to receive the benefits of the new waste removal largess.

Declaration of interest: Our Wellington Condominium 99 Corporation was not included and that’s where we live. More on this later.

I do not blame the current waste management team led By Deputy Administrative Officer Scott Stewart. Joining the staff in 2015, he was handed a rock of wasted funding, poor service and disorganization. In such an important department, it is impossible to turn things around to serve all the residents of the city.

I do not believe this survey will accomplish anything including assuaging those of us who must pay double for waste removal. It is not just a Guelph problem.

Royson James, a seasoned writer in the Toronto Star ,outlined the problems facing GTA municipalities where the rules are different, confusing and counter-productive in basic recyclable technology

In Guelph, we are stuck with a collection system that does not cover all residents or businesses in the city and sorting is done by hand. How does a a sorter distinguish between dangerous medical materials and certain forms of plastic in a high speed assembly sorting likel that includes recyclables from other communities?

Why does the city ship its recyclables to Cambridge where Waste Management operated an automated plant to handle these materials?

Is it pride? Is it to justify the millions spent on the Dunlop Drive Waste Innovation Centre that includes the $34 million organic waste facility that was over built and is run by a subsidiary of the company that built the plant? In fact, the compost produced by the plant is not available to Guelph citizens as it is sold privately. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as we don’t know what’s in it.

So we encourage people to answer the questions and let the management know that the services need reorganization to reflect the modern needs of effective waste management.

About that rock mentioned earlier? There are several factors that reflect the mistakes made by previous administration. Our waste collection and dispersal, in my opinion, is disgraceful, inflamed by ego driven leadership and wasted millions.

Unfortunately, The survey form would not download. It can be located on the city website. In our opinion it has affected many taxpayers for 12 years.

What’s fair and should be addressed for the following reasons?

We live in a land condominium composed of 22 single family homes and the city has never picked up our waste. Instead we pay a private contractor to remove our waste weekly, we have lived in our home for 15 years. Most of our neighbours voluntarily segregate wet garbage from recyclables. We do not have any city supplied bins or carts to dispose of our waste so we use plastic bags. The cost of this to residents is more than $7,000 a year although we must pay for the service through our property taxes.

We have made overtures to the waste management without resolution. We pay to have our street cleared of snow, we maintain our water and sewage system including a connection to the Guelph Country Club.

We believe it is hypocritical of the city to charge for waste removal through our taxes and ignore that we do not meet the high standards of waste removal as dictated by city council.

When city approve a plan of subdivision, why do they not adhere to their own waste management bylaw?

We live in the heart of the city, a lovely island of privacy and independence and pay the same tax rate as those nearby who enjoy the services the city provides.

The solution is simple. Just remove those city services it does not provide from our tax bills. This would include roads, curbs, water and sewer system maintenance, snow removal, waste pick-up including recyclables, street lighting, tree servicing, administration, liability insurance, common area maintenance. Most importantly, residents are required to contribute monthly to our reserve fund to support the various assets for which the city is not responsible.

We understand that other municipalities do grant discounts for services they do not provide.

Our board of directors would be pleased to discuss this possibility or other resolution.

Gerry and Barbara Barke

271 Riverview Place

Guelph, ON. N1E 7G9

 

Bo

1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

The Ford government has little incentive to bail out Guelph because we elected the wrong MPP

By Gerry Barker

November 15, 2018

Guelph is a no man’s land when it comes to accountability and transparency.

Yet a Guelph Today writer seem to believe that holding closed=session meetings is okay. In the first two years of the Guthrie administration, there were 84 closed-session meetings held by council. It is impossible to obtain the minutes of those meetings.

I know from personal experience when I requested a copy of the minutes of a closed-session held, December 10, 2015. It concerned the pay increases for four top city managers. The request was referred to an outfit in London, known as the “Closed Session Investigators” who took four months to deny my request.

The organization has been on retainer with the city since 2008. Since then there were three requests for minutes of closed-session council meetings all of which were denied.

That’s transparency Guelph council style

It’s a political island in a provincial sea of blue. It has elected a member of the Legislature who is a party of one, the Ontario Green Party. He is a member who is politically left of the late NDP leader, Jack Layton. A man who is bent on creating a David Suzuki brand of an environmental green nirvana that most Ontario electors voted against last June.

The election was a total repudiation of the Liberal government’s policies of structuring a disastrous energy file, the cost of which has yet to be determined. The Kathleen Wynne government imposed a long-term residential development plan on every municipality in the province. The focus of the plan was building residential housing incorporating “Intensification” by eliminating single-family development. By condensing more housing units on smaller acreages, the result was low-rise condos accompanied by strip attached townhouses with little open space.

The evidence of these ghettos of intensification is concentrated along Victoria and Clair Roads. Tiny garages, open space parking for condo owners, and jammed together like sardines.

The bonus to the city was increased assessment that created increased revenue. The downside is these developments do not produce any affordable housing.

All this happened in eight years under former Mayor Farbridge’s two-term councils. And it still continues to this day. City planners have allowed development that has inadequate driveways and narrow streets with little visitor parking.

The Wynne plan called for Guelph to have a population of 175,000 by 2031. However it is predicted that the city is rapidly becoming a bedroom city, occupied by commuters heading for jobs in the GTA.

Successive progressive dominating councils, have ignored eight years of failure of the economic development department to seek and encourage industrial and communications companies to come to Guelph to create jobs.

Economic development, what’s that?

Since 2006, the city’s ratio of residential assessment compared to commercial/industrial has not changed. Some 84 per cent of all city assessment is residential. This places an enormous burden on property owners whose taxes and special levies average more than 3.5 per cent annually.

Just remember that the man just re-elected Mayor, promised in his first campaign to maintain property tax increases at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index. That was 1.99 per cent when he was elected in 2014. His first budget approved in March 2015 by council, was 3.96 per cent following changes in property assessment. Rookie mistake?

The new council, as described by the Guelph Today writer, is not new at all. All of the incumbents were re-elected. Only two new councillors were added. That looks like the same council as before continuing the domination of the progressives who retain a 7-6 majority.

Time to get serious. The city is facing a growing drug problem, a fiscal problem that will never go away until the brakes are pumped to control the grandiose plans to redevelop Baker Street. There is need to freeze further city funds for the Guelph Innovation District on the provincially-owned reformatory lands. What influence does Mr. Schreiner, our MPP, have to persuade the province to part with the more than 1,077 acres of the reformatory property?

Why are we financing these two projects?

There is no capital funding for these two projects that are proposed for long-term construction and purchase of the reformatory property.

Instead, concentrate building a new downtown library with adequate parking and make it convenient to all citizens.

In the near term, there will be the task of funding additions to the Guelph General Hospital as the population increases each year.

Let’s get started building the South-end Recreation Centre in three stages: First, infrastructure for entire project, parking and rinks, community rooms and staff offices; Second, children’s area, library branch and computer facilities, auditorium for stage events and film; Third, swimming pool, change rooms, exercise area and more parking.

Architects and planners can rearrange elements. Once the plan is ready the public should have input. This is a major and necessary project and could be spaced out over the new term of council.

The chief decisions that need immediate attention is to review all audited statements, eliminate unnecessary spending on staff and social programs. The staff reviews are painstakingly slow and the internal auditor should be given assets to speed up the review process.

It’s not all dark and gloom. It is important that financial information be presented to the public in print as well as online. The Financial Department has made great progress in improving the clarity of information but if you don’t have a computer, you won’t see the information. Sending a note requesting preference of citizens to receive important details of city operations will be beneficial to all citizens.

Bon chance, mes Amis

Leave a comment

Filed under Between the Lines

Will the new council come clean about the GMHI $66 million asset sitting on the 2017 city financial statement?

By Gerry Barker

November 12, 2018

Opinion

In a little more than two weeks, the newly elected city council will take command.

The October civic election sent 11 incumbent members back to council plus two newcomers. Rodrigo Goller and Dominique O’Rourke.

So, nothing has changed when change remains more needed now than in the previous four years.

The seven progressive members of council still hold the majority and will for the next four years. While the Mayor worked to establish a slate to create a personal majority to offset the power of the Leftists, it failed. What occurred was Ms. O’Rourke replaced Mr. Wettstein and Mr. Goller replaced Mr. Van Hellemond.

The voter turnout was one of the lowest in many years with some 57,054 out of 90,786 eligible voters who did not bother.

The only explanation is that those voting absentees must be satisfied the city was in good hands. Or, many were not informed of the issues, present company excepted. Between the communications staff at City Hall and various online bloggers, the organic action of city council was rarely, if ever, reported.

So let’s review: Unfortunately, right now there is faint hope that the new city council will address the mistakes of the past and reform needed governance and financial issues. There is no evidence that those elected incumbents will stop clinging to their failed concepts that have already wasted millions.

For starters, and this is information that you will not find anywhere in the softball media serving Guelph, is the financial asset listed in the official City of Guelph audited Consolidated Position as of December 31, 2017. The listing was the asset of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) of $66,341,000.

Did you ever read or hear about that?

So the next question is: What happened to that $66,341,000 in 2018? Guess we’ll have to wait for the 2018 official financial statement that will be published sometime next year.

But here is what I believe occurred.

In February 2017, the little known Strategies and Options Committee, (SOC) was appointed by city council to study the disposal of Guelph Hydro that operated under the GMHI board of directors. Initially, the SOC was composed of joint chairmen Chief Administrative Officer (CA) Derrick Thomson and CEO Pankaj Sardana, Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Hydro. There were three other non-elected public members.

Their mandate was to sell Guelph Hydro, or amalgamate with another municipally owned electric power distribution system or merge with a large power distribution corporation.

That February meeting of SOC removed the sale of Guelph Hydro as a consideration. What followed was a purge in which Mr. Sardana was removed and replaced by Ms. Jane Armstrong, chair of Guelph Hydro. One of three committee members resigned later stating he was opposed to taking the sale of Guelph Hydro off the table.

The GMHI Board of Directors consisted of Mayor Karen Farbridge as Chair, Councillors Lise Burcher, June Hofland, Karl Wettstein and Todd Dennis plus two non-elected civilian members. The CEO was CAO Ann Pappert. Ms.Papert left her job as CAO May 26, 2016.

Keep in mind that the SOC meetings were held in closed-sessions. GMHI did not produce regular summary of operations, financial statements, objectives or recommendations to council.

Not until October 2017, when Mayor Guthrie announced an agreement in principal to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc., a large power distribution corporation for several Greater Toronto Municipalities.

All it took was $2.36 million of your money to convince council

Yes, that was what the city spent promoting the deal with town halls, telephone surveys and an online document, the size of the Toronto telephone book, with little substance or financial details. Hard copies of the multi-page book was only available to a few key people. Certainly few of the 55,000 Guelph Hydro customers read the this online-based document, presented just 12 days before the council meeting that approved the deal.

More of your tax dollars at work

Slam Dunk! No details except a glowing endorsement from the Mayor about what a great deal the city had made. In December, city council approved the deal, still under negotiation, by a 10 to 3 margin and the rest is history.

The only evidence that exists today, following the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) approval, four days before the civic election, is the statement by the OEB that Alectra Utilies was purchasing all the outstanding, shares and issues of Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc, aka Guelph Hydro.

Key word here is “purchasing.” Could it be that the price happened to be $66 million of GMHI as shown on the city’s 2017 financial statement?

Is this what council traded to get out from under the GMHI financial disaster?

All along Mayor Guthrie has stipulated that Guelph Hydro is not being given away.

So why did he not tell the truth and refuse to reveal the financial details?

We may never know except that the $66 million asset of GMHI had better be part of the city’s assets in the 2018 financial statements. I’m betting it may still be there because the merger with Alectra closes January 31 2019. It will take another 18 months before the money disappears from the city books.

By then Guelph Hydro will no longer exist.

I still maintain that Alectra got the bargain of the century. Guelph city council looked like hicks at the circus approving this flawed merger concocted by highly skilled lawyers with little oversight of our representatives..

Of course, the new council should tell us what really happened to that $66 million asset on the city nooks in terms that citizens understand.

2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

The Guthrie record: Now are you better off today than in 2014?

By Gerry Barker

October 15, 2018

Mayor Cam Guthrie published a full-page advertisement in the Tribune this past week, just ten days before the civic election extolling his virtues, track record and, regretfully, dodging the vital issues facing the community and lying by omission (LBO).

This is a classic deja-vu of his election in 2014 in which he was the default victor over a Mayor who the public decided was not worthy of re-election. And, with good reasons.

The vast majority of the voting public understood there had to be change at the top. And Cam Guthrie filled most voter’s hopes and expectations beating, Ms. Farbridge by more than 5,000 votes.

The left progressives, who had dominated city council for eight years, were dumb- founded.

As an incumbent candidate, Guthrie campaigned on keeping property taxes at the same level, as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) at the time was 1.95 per cent.

In March 2015, the new council approved a 3.96 per cent property tax increase accelerated by the previously frozen increased assessment on property that was not included in the 2015 budget as presented to the public.

In his four years as mayor, Mayor Cam Guthrie presided over more than an 18 per cent increase in city property taxes.

So, why would citizens believe him now?

So, early in January 2015, guelphspeaks.ca published the fact that Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert’s, contract was being reviewed by city council. This resulted in an investigation of who had tipped off guelphspeaks.ca?

The Mayor, enraged over the leak, even sent out an e-mail to an undisclosed group of people, presumed to be his supporters, that Barker was not to be believed as he always got his facts wrong. Really? Prove it!

The new Mayor even threatened a Guelph citizen who published the four-year track record of the CAO’s performance in not balancing the city books and resorted to taking money from reserves to meet the provincial regulations that no municipality can carry a deficit into the new year.

For her trouble, Mayor Guthrie said he would take legal action against this citizen’s accurate analysis of the Ms. Pappert’s five years on the job. That threat disappeared for good reason.

But the Guthrie defence of the former CAO continued

In December 10, 2015, city council met in closed session. The purpose of the meeting was to approve some $98,202 increases to four senior staffers for the fiscal year 2015.

The main recipient was CAO Ann Pappert. Her increase included: A retroactive performance bonus of some $27,000. It also unclouded payments for unused vacation and sick leave credits that totaled a $37,000 increase in her base pay for 2015. This took her remuneration to $253,000 not including her taxable benefits.

None of this was made public until March 31, 2016 when the provincial Sunshine List was published, naming all public servants in Ontario earning more than $100,000.

Comparing her remuneration for 2014 ($219,000) to the 2015 provincial list, demonstrates a 17 per cent increase.

Mayor Guthrie presided over this December 10, 2015 closed session when council awarded these senior managers the huge increase. Guelphspeaks attempted to obtain the minutes of this meeting and was denied after a four-month wait for an answer from Amberlea Gravel, the council-appointed closed-session investigator on retainer by the city.

To this day, Mayor Guthrie has not acknowledged the details or rationale of that closed meeting.

The result was the people of Guelph paid Ms. Pappert in the first two years of the Guthrie administration some $463,000 for 17 months work.

This meeting was just one of 82 closed session meetings the Mayor oversaw in the first two years in office.

In his full-page ad, the Mayor lists the “Community Assets” of the city. These include: Breaking ground on the South End Community Centre ($63 million); Ensure the $350 million (in today’s dollars) Baker Street redevelopment project moves forward (including the $53 million Downtown Library); Setting aside funding for the “much needed” hospital expansion; To protect and promote the tree canopy of Guelph; Create fenced-in dog parks.

As the late Peggy Lee used to sing: “Is that all there is?”

Let’s dissect this “Community Asset” run for the roses by the Mayor.

Let’s start with the fenced in dog parks across the city.

This is not an asset; it’s an operational wish list. But let’s address the real poop problems that pervade our parks, Canada Geese. It’s not pleasant to enjoy our parks when there is a proliferation of geese chomping on the grass randomly pooping wherever they feel. And they are so content most stay in Guelph for the winter. You can fence in dogs but cannot handle the bigger problem of goose infestation. Sounds like a plan, priority dogs. How about goose-control pills?

Aside: Whatever happened to the tax on cats?

The declaration of setting aside funds for the Guelph General Hospital is an important issue. But where is the money coming from? The Guthrie administration has not only followed The Mayor’s campaign promise to maintain property tax increases to the CPI but has socked property owners with a two per cent surcharge.

The money allegedly is to go toward repairing and renovating neglected infrastructure but half of it goes to “city buildings.” Those levy funds go for financing the proposed $63 million South End Recreation Centre in which the Guthrie council has already quietly committed $3 million for preliminary architectural planning.

This is the first major community recreation centre to be funded by a property tax levy of 1 per cent across the city.

At this point you have to wonder where the priorities are.

The Mayor has proclaimed that a new downtown Library will finally be part of the Baker Street redevelopment. This is nothing but an empty promise. It will be ten years before a new Library is open. The mayor and most of council will not be in office because the shovels don’t go into the ground until 2024. Many are frustrated supporters of a new downtown library. It’s just Cam promising anything to pander to their hopes and dreams after 20 years of promises by various administrations.

This is what didn’t show up in Community Assets

The Mayor neglects to reveal his role in the Guelph Hydro merger with Alectra Inc. The crown jewel of real assets has been given away for a pittance.

The proposal has yet to be approved by the Ontario Energy Board.

He must feel vindicated and confident that his support of this multi-million dollar asset giveaway was best for the 55,000 customers of Guelph Hydro.

As the saying goes: “It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings.”

For these reasons my wife and I did not vote for either Mr. Guthrie or Ms. Mlyarz.

If you have not done already we urge you to vote Monday, October 22. Eligible voters have already received their voter card with the location of the poll in each ward. Along with the official voter card, be sure and bring some ID such as driver’s licence, health card, utility bill or your Canadian passport.

Contact the City Clerk’s office. They will be happy to assist voters with information if required.

It’s your city and your vote.

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

How Mayor Guthrie interfered in the Guelph P.C. campaign

By Gerry Barker

September 24, 2018

A year ago, guelphspeaks.ca received a tip that the P.C party was interested in having Mayor Guthrie as its candidate. Mayor Guthrie denied he was available and the matter disappeared. Until that is, when the election Writ was dropped by the Liberal government slated for June 7, 2018.

Prior to that, in Late January, the P.C. Leader, Patrick Brown, who Mr. Guthrie, is alleged to befriend, was forced to resign over alleged sexual misconduct. Across the province, P.C. riding associations were thrown into a tizzy as the party leadership had to redefined and hold a leadershuo convention that Doug Ford won.

In Guelph, there was a crisis in selecting a candidate because of interference from the Tory team inToronto.

And now, for the rest of the story.

I like to call it Pizza-gate for reasons soon to be revealed.

Guelph PC Riding Association President, Bob Coole, and his campaign team were interviewing and seeking candidates to carry the PC banner in the June election. A front-runner at the time was lawyer, Peter McSherry who dropped out. While the Association was working to set up a nomination convention because there were other candidates interested in running, a message came from P.C. headquarters in Toronto.

The gist was not to proceed with the nomination meeting because, without identifying the individual, team Toronto said they had a candidate and the nomination convention would possibly not be necessary.

The Tory riding association was confused and concerned about losing time to get a candidate nominated and organized for the June 7 election.

There was speculation of who the pre-selected candidate would be.

When asked, Mayor Guthrie steadfastly denied he was the one because he loved his job as Mayor and would be seeking re-election.

What the Mayor never revealed was the secret recruiting campaign that along with Coun. Dan Gibson worked to nominate candidates to support him if elected Mayor.

If this was a horse race, this action might be compared to hedging your bet.

Some of those team Guthrie candidates allegedly are members of the Lakeside Evangelical Church. Both Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Gibson are members of that church.

It is still perfectly legal but not above board.

Mr. Gibson admitted to this writer that he had spent weeks talking and recruiting candidates although their religious affiliation was not included in discussions.

Nor should a candidate’s religious affiliation be a factor in any election.

Unknown to the voting public was the Mayor’s political stick handling to become the P.C. candidate in the June provincial election while publicly denying he was seeking the nomination.

Unfortunately, the question of religious affiliation pointed out by some opponents of Mr. Guthrie, who charged him with creating a slate to favour his mayoralty.

What these people are claiming is nuts and blatantly untrue.

For eight years, the progressives left in Guelph ran a slate of supporters of then Mayor Karen Farbridge.

In my opinion, the chickens have come home to roost. The NDP slate of candidates are facing imminent defeat, based on the record of wasted millions on projects such as the new City Hall and the GMHI debacle, to name two. But in the past four years the progressive’s Bloc of Seven, held a majority on council and played a role of obstructionism and stalled necessary reforms.

Playing both sides of the street

Let’s return to the Mayor’s sabotage of the Guelph P.C. Riding Association’s abortive attempts to conduct a legal nomination convention. The P.C. headquarters team was complicit in creating the delay because it refused to confirm the identity of their chosen candidate. And they never did.

As a result of the Mayor’s action behind the scene, a nomination meeting was never held.

In the midst of the P.C. Association turmoil of uncertainty, Mr. Coole received a telephone call from Mayor Guthrie asking him to lunch and suggested they meet at a pizza restaurant located in a Stone Road plaza. In the course of that meeting, Mr. Guthrie said he was interested in receiving the P.C. nomination but only by acclamation.

Mr. Coole advised him that the nomination process involved other candidates and he could not recommend to his board the request by the Mayor. By now, some weeks had gone by and the P.C.’s had no candidates.

To fill the gap, the riding association attracted two candidates, former city councillor Ray Ferarro and a Rockwood veterinarian. The PC headquarter’s team interviewed both. But time to hold a nomination meeting had almost run out.

The new PC leader, Doug Ford, on a Saturday three weeks before the election, named Mr. Ferarro as the Guelph P.C. candidate among 18 others in ridings across the province.

On May 1st, nominations for city council opened with Mayor Guthrie and four new individuals signing up for council.

It became apparent that the Mayor was setting up a slate of supporting candidates who shared similar interests and beliefs.

But in doing so, he sabotaged the Guelph P.C. Riding Association’s efforts to run a fair and open nomination convention.

Unfortunately for Mr. Guthrie, blind ambition led to the P.C.’s getting hammered in the June provincial election. As a member of the Conservative Party, he is now considered persona non grata.

Voters have no choice but to elect Cam Guthrie as our mayor. If he struggled in the past four years dealing with a strong opposition, this next four years will not be any easier.

He must speak truth to power.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Between the Lines