By Gerry Barker
January 6, 2020
Let’s start with the first anniversary of the giveaway of Guelph Hydro that became effective just about a year ago. But questions remain.
What ever happened to that $18.5 million that we were told was part of the cash of Guelph Hydro and was to be distributed to the city’s general revenues?
Why are the hydro poles on Speedvale Avenue being relocated?
What is the cost of this work being performed by Alectra Utilities, the successor to Guelph Hydro?
Why was there a spike in hydro rates last August?
How many Guelph Hydro employees left their jobs as a result of the take-over by Alectra?
Why have there been a number of power outages since the takeover?
What benefits did the city receive as a result of the takeover?
It cost the administration some $2.6 million to sell the proposal to the citizens using fake town halls and slanted communiqués that lacked any pertinent details of the transaction.
Why did city council hold closed-session meeting regarding the impending giveaway?
Why has there been no documentation of the details of this so-called “merger” of a city-owned distribution system valued at $226 million in 2016 by Guelph Hydro?
Why was the CAO Derrick Thomson financially rewarded using public fund?
Co-Chair of the Strategic Options Committee Mr. Thomson received a $67,000 performance bonus in 2018 and resigned in February 2019.
Jane Armstrong, chair of the Guelph Hydro board of directors, was also co-chair with Thomson on the SOC that recommended the merger with Alectra with no details.
Her reward was being appointed to the Alectra Utilities board of directors for five years as city council’s choice to represent Guelph. Her salary was $25,000 per year plus expenses. After a tear there has been no information about the promised dividend from Alectra that was included in the deal. In fact, there has been no communication about this to the citizens.
This giveaway was an example of how public information is dispensed. It is a policy of this administration to conceal, misrepresent and control the details of business to which is in the public interest.
Other examples of ignoring the public trust
The Guelph Innovative Development project has been simmering beneath the surface of the public interest. In 2012 the city staff was assigned to create a new green inspired community on the reformatory property owned by the province.
Last year, the province hired a real estate company to sell the 1.072-acre property in a modified auction. Last spring the real estate company announced the property was on the market and the results of the auction were to be announced in July.
“Silenco!” As they say in the Sistine Chapel.
All that money spent on planning a new “green” development by the city staff appears to be history. The piece of property the city coveted bordered on York and Victoria,
That was one of a number of mistakes made by the Farbridge administration. Just don’t ask why the city started the overbuilt Organic Waste Facility; Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc; bike lanes that start and stop on major roads; Lane reductions on major streets; increasing traffic congestion; City hall construction that was over-spent; the assessment ratio between residential and commercial/industrial remained at 84 per cent versus 16 per cent. That has been unchanged for 13 years.
That last one has the greatest impact on residential properties. Regardless of the increased population and the increases in revenue to the city, much needed new industrial development has been bungled.
And the citizens who pay user fees, special property tax levies, increased assessments and taxes annually pay the bills every year.
We are surrounded by municipalities that have successfully increased the commercial/industrail ratio. These include Milton, Kitchener, and Cambridge.
Did I mention the city staff refusing to pick up used needles on city property? Or
The $25 million parking garage next to city hall that chiefly benefits city staff?
What’s the story spun by the mayor during his re-election campaign about the $350 million Baker Street redevelopment with a private partner and a new central library?
How has the Mayor’s task force dealing with the homeless and drug addicts, unemployed youth and those street people suffering from metal illness? This is not just a Guelph problem but also one that exists in most urban communities across the country.
It begs the question, why can’t all levels of government collectively deal with this growing problem?
There will always be an underclass but there are many today smitten with illness, loss of job, disabilities that should be offered a leg up with counseling and a guarantee of an annual income. Those qualifying should receive support.
There are pilot programs of this kind of support in the U.S. While I commend Mayor Guthrie’s task force initiative, this is a national problem that needs to be addressed.
Growing up during the Great Depression, I recall the hardships encountered by my parents. My dad lost his GM dealership and passed away in 1941. My mother worked in a factory during World War 2. We always had food on the table but no car or permanent home until after the war.
But that’s another story about my widowed mother who never gave up.
I realize that the problem can never fully be resolved but in our country blessed with resources, human, on top and under our vast lands, there can be a better way to enhance the lives of all our fellow citizens.
When you think about it, we all benefit from helping those less fortunate frequently through no fault of their own.