Tag Archives: Ontario

Magazine claims Guelph leads the country if you’re looking for a home

By Gerry Barker

April 13, 2017

Money Sense magazine announced this week that the City of Guelph is the most attractive place to buy real estate in Canada. The editors claimed that Guelph was chosen because it has one of the healthiest real estate markets in Canada.

Supporting this is the estimated average cost of a home in Guelph is $441,000, which is four times the average household income. This contrasts with the city’s average home price of $333,877. The criteria for stating these figures are not revealed. But the disparity between the two is $107,123.

That’s a big number that influences the Money Sense claim that Guelph is the top city in the country in which to buy a home.

The report extols Guelph’s short distance from Toronto and the low unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent. It continues to praise the high paying jobs in the public sector and the diversity of private corporations in industry.

What it doesn’t tell its readers is that it skews the unemployment figure, the source of which is unknown and has not budged for six years. The highly-paid public workers, represented in all three levels of government have the finest job security benefits in the country.

The report does not touch the cost of living in Guelph, another dubious distinction for the city with one of the highest tax rates and user fees in the country. It fails to note the millions spent by the administration on failed environmentally -ocused projects that have cost more than $100 million in the past ten years.

Nor is there any mention of the administration’s aggressive policies to install bicycle lanes on major roads shrinking the lanes used by vehicles. They operate a waste management system that fails to service some 6,000 households but they are still taxed for the service. Several millions have been spent on the Organic Waste Facility, part of the Waste Resource Innovation Centre. The organic plant takes wet materials from other Ontario communities but does not sell the compost to citizens.

Inconsequential issues you may say?

Let’s talk about the planning policies of the administration. In eight years, the former administration halted single-family home construction in the city. Instead new, approved projects were high-density developments with low-rise condo buildings mixed in with homes that were connected in strips.

This policy exists today and the city has these islands of high-density developments. These projects benefit the developer who builds more households on smaller sites, and the municipality achieves greater revenues from the high number of assessed homes.

It was done using the Ontario government’s directive “Places to grow” to increase density to stop sprawl of single-family homes.

Council is about to approve a high-density project sitting on some three hectares on the busy Highway Six in an undeveloped site at the south end of the city. This project will contain 491 residences plus underground parking for 700 cars.

The project is isolated from shopping and services. Approval requires council to change the height bylaw to accommodate the developer.

This project should be rejected if for no other reason that it is in the wrong place. Residents will create traffic problems and the infrastructure to service the development will be costly. The strain on the city’s ability to provide water services, storm runoff and expanded road to accommodate the increased traffic is daunting.

Guelph does not need this development. What it does need is a balanced development policy that provides choices for citizens, including allowing single-family home development.

It’s no secret that in Guelph, established builders of homes have been driven out of the city to more friendly communities who welcome balanced development.

There is plenty of undeveloped land in the city, much of it owned by the University.

The high-density development policies of the former administration should be changed to create balanced lower density developments.

It can start with denying this development on Highway Six south of the heart of the city.

It is reasonable to shelve it until the city hires an accredited Chief Financial Officer, a City Solicitor and a Deputy Chief Administrative Officer to take over the Corporate Services department.

 

 

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Are Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals dying a slow death in government?

Posted September 24, 2015

It has been 15 months since Kathleen Wynne took the Ontario Liberals to power, and the record shows it was a shallow victory.

This is a premier who has consistently failed to get the handle on managing the people’s money. She ignored the demolition of the two gas generating plants in Mississauga and Oakville that the audit showed cost the province a billion dollars.

The province has operated with a deficit for six years that now stands at $8 billion. Even with a prime lending rate of 2.5 per cent, that amounts to an annual estimated cost of $200,000,000. That’s what must be paid first before any other expenses.

We cannot run our own finances this way so why does the Ontario Liberal government get away with it? Just figuring the continued deficit the province has been running for the past seven years, and the debt load, is almost impossible to calculate. Those deficits drive up the provincial debt which in turn increases the annual costs of running Canada’s largest province, by population.

And yet, Ontario Finance Minister, Charles Sousa, keeps saying the deficit will be gone by 2017. Maybe he should call former Prime Minister, Paul Martin, who knows how to cut costs and balance the books.

One keeps thinking about the former Montreal Mayor Drapeau stating that chances of the cost of the Olympics exceeding the budget, was eqivalent to man having a baby. Well, we know how that turned out.

After the McGuinty years of making bad deals to restructure Ontario Hydro, Wynne inherited a financial mess that only David Copperfield could make disappear.

It’s a carefully coordinated illusion that has driven electricity rates to among the highest in North America. It was caused by deals made with private industry to build wind farms, solar panel farms and renovate aging nuclear plants. These decisions, each given 20-year guarantees in many cases, of 20 cents per kilowatt hour, has exponentially driven up the retail cost of supplying power to homes and businesses.

These sources now generate too much power that cannot be stored, that Ontario sells to U.S. jurisdictions at a loss. This is voodoo management at its best.

The beer sale fiasco

The latest fiasco is the new scheme of marketing beer in Ontario. With great fanfare the Wynne government has said that beer will be available in a select group of major supermarkets by Christmas. Left out was the supply would be rationed to those selected stores and only six packs would be available. By rationing, there is a quota and if it exceeded, there will be fines. There is no provision in this new arrangement for outlets to set prices according to the market. The consumer has no opportunity to shop for a better price. This is another example of supply side management by our own government. The price is set and the consumer has to pay.

The six-pack rule also applies to the LCBO outlets. Only the famed Canadian 24 is available at the Beer Store. Remember them? Molson- Coors (U.S), Ambrew (Belgium), Sapporo (Japan), own the Beer Stores in Ontario. Outside of the LCBO outlets, the Beer Stores have the exclusive right to sell beer in Ontario and fix the prices.

So this deal was about distribution of beer, not the competitive marketing of beer. If you can buy 24 cans of Molson Canadian in Quebec for $24 why not in Ontario, where the product is brewed? Same beer, same packaging and is available throughout Quebec in stores, gas stations, and supermarkets at competitive prices.

Why was the premier afraid to allow the free sale and distribution of beer in Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario? It’s all about the money. She needs every penny she can find to pay for past terrible financial decisions that have almost destroyed manufacturing in the province.

The automobile plants in the province are constantly negotiating financial assistence to stay. They’ve all bellyed up to the trough to get funding with the dire threat of moving to Mexico where operating costs are much lower.

The one area that one would believe is the premier’s strength lies in the province’s education system. In 2013, just after winning the Ontario Liberal Leadership, she and her fellow school trustee, Liz Sandals, paid off the teacher’s unions with $463 million to settle the work-to-rule tactics being employed by the disgruntled unions.

Most of those union contracts expired nine months ago. Education Minister, Liz Sandals, has failed to settle contracts with one of the largest, the Elementary School Teachers of Ontario. The other unions accepted an offer of cumulated 2.5 per cent plus increased benefits, including sick days and professional days.

Yet, with a straight face, both Wynne and Sandals said the increases were “net zero” in terms of budgeting. What both failed to say was what programs would be chopped to provide that “net zero” demand from more than 250,000 teachers in the province.

If you cannot get the teachers to work, why do we need a Minister of Education?

A strategic political alignment?

With the public discord over Kathleen Wynne’s stewardship of our province, why would federal Liberal Leader, Justin Trudeau, tie his tale (sic) to Wynne? Undoubtedly she is a good campaigner but her performance as premier has negated that shill (sic) set.

Trudeau desperately needs winning seats on Ontario. But tying up with Wynne is not going to encourage Liberals to support him, based on that association and her performance.

The governing Ontario Liberals are dying from overburdening debt, mismanagement, operational costs and misguided policies.

With friends like that, Mr. Trudeau should ask, who needs enemies?

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An oil carbon tax, to be or not to be, that is the question

Posted January 20, 2015

A recent column in the Mercury presented a case for creating a carbon tax in Ontario.

The writer, a reformed peak oil believer, makes the case that with oil now priced so low, it is the perfect time to fire up another tax on already overtaxed Ontario citizens.

He pointed out how well the seven per cent per litre carbon tax at the pump works in British Columbia. The proceeds are returned to taxpayers with matching reductions. He claims its revenue neutral. He also said that fuel consumption in B.C. has dropped by 16 per cent while it has risen by three per cent in the rest of Canada.

Now for the rest of the story.

The writer fails to define what kind of fuels he uses in his B.C. example against the rest of Canada. He makes no reference to natural gas, a growing important source of energy. He is focused on fuel for automotive vehicles that use gasoline as fuel.

But what about trucks, buses, locomotives, power plants, aircraft, industrial plants, ships, boats, residences and businesses using oil or gas fuels for heating?

He assumes that oil in all its refined forms is responsible for global warming. The theory is, if the nations of the world reduce the dependence on oil and gas, the atmosphere will clear. Planet earth will be able to prevent the disastrous events that will cause oceans to flood coastal areas and severe weather conditions, currently being blamed on global warming.

Has the writer considered the amount of carbon gas that is spewed daily by more than 200 active volcanoes around the world?

What is happening is a natural evolution of planet earth. For millions of years it has constantly changed. There is no doubt that controlling petroleum-based carbon emissions will help to slow global warming but it is not the only cause of the changing global atmosphere.

Is the alleged reduction in B.C. due to introducing alternative energy sources such as wind farms and solar system arrays? The devil is always in the details.

In Ontario, successive provincial governments controlled by the Ontario Liberal Party have introduced sustainable energy projects to replace coal-fired power plants. Private corporations have developed almost all of these wind and solar farms. Under a government scheme, it guarantees them to charge twice the water and nuclear cost of power generation for 20 years.

One of the negatives of this development is that they are generating too much power and it is sold to other jurisdictions, chiefly in the U.S., at below cost, fire sale prices. The problem is you cannot store unused electricity. The provincial government has proposed a 10 per cent across the board increase in electricity in 2015 with further increases planned in the next three years.

This has made Ontario power generation the highest cost of any major jurisdiction in North America. Just look carefully at your Ontario Hydro bill at the list of charges, other than electricity, you have to pay, including the debt reduction charge to pay for mismanagement of Ontario Hydro in previous years. That stranded debt is $35 billion and there is no sign that it is being reduced because the government won’t tell you. Where is the money going?

It’s akin to paying twice for power, even power used years ago.

So when the Mercury columnist suggests that Ontario citizens pay more taxes for fuel consumption, why would anyone in their right mind give the Wynne provincial government control of such a cash stream?

The record of the McGuinty and Wynne governments is best described as being disastrous. Throw in the $12.5 billion annual deficit and you don’t have to hold an MBA degree to figure out the cost, every year of carrying that deficit, plus the highest debt in the province’s history.

Those costs do nothing for the citizen’s of Ontario. Until the Wynne government stops spending more than it is taking in, the problem will not go away but grow exponentially.

When the Ontario finance minister states that the $12.5 billion deficit will be eliminated by 2017, he sounds like the man from La Mancha, Don Quixote, and the impossible dream.

 

 

 

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The tragic denouement of a once great province

January 9, 2015

Premier Kathleen Wynne is driving Ontario and its muncipalities into the ditch by introducing costly programs including this year, a 10 per cent increase in Hydro rates.

All this on the back of spending $1.9 billion on smart meters that have failed to reduce consumption of electricity as planned instead, it has sharply introduced higher rates around the province.

One of the causes is the clumsy way the McGuinty Liberal government introduced wind-powered generation that has tied the costs of this form of power for 20 years at rates far exceeding that of traditional nuclear and water power.

Just driving around southern Ontario you can see the hundreds of windmills generating power. Trouble is it is high cost generation and there is too much of it. There is no way that this excess costly generation can be stored so it is sold to U.S. adjoining states at below cost.

The winners are those private companies that built these wind farms because the provincial government made long term, costly contracts as an inducment. Then add the billion dollars spent to demobilize the two partially constructed gas-fired generation plants in Oakville and Mississauga.

The ongoing OPP investigation into whether this action was the result of political determination to save four Liberal seats in the 2010 provincial election, has yet to be concluded. The files pertaining to this event were removed from the computers in the Premier’s office.

The ten-year record of managing power generation in Ontario is a mismanaged financial disaster that has made the province uncompetitive and created the highest cost of power in North America.

It has led to the destruction of the manufacturing sector in the province. Many rural and even larger communicties, in Ontario, are facing financial disaster as residents can no longer pay the ever-increasing property tax rates. It has divided the private and public sector where public employees are working with guaranteed jobs and benefits that private sector employees cannot match.

The loss of manufacturing jobs is endemic throughout Ontario. Young people in the smaller communities are migrating to the big cities for jobs. This leaves an aging population that struggles to pay the ever-growing tax increases, higher utility charges. Three small cities come to mind, North Bay, Windsor and Timmins where there is a growing net decline in population.

This a growing social problem created by the Liberal governments in Ontario. Excessive spending on power generation, full time kindegarten and public employee union contracts, has resulted in an ongoing annual cash deficit of more than $12 billion. This must be borrowed and financed. At an average loan rate of 3 per cent, the annual interest cost is $360,000,000 before any principal is paid.

At that rate, Ontario Finance Minister Charles De Sousa will be long gone before that deficit disappears. He is predicting the deficit will disappear by 2017, the year before the next provincial election.

With the province struggling to rebuild its manufacturing base, there is little opportunity to create revenue to shut down the huge deficit. If you are Ford or Honda, you squeeze money to expand production facilities. If you are the chief financial officer in hundreds of stressed communities, good luck.

Guelph has recently experienced a direct consequence of excessive spending by the former administration over eight years. The result is a city with high costs, a stagnant industrial and commercial assessment base and that means the residential sector bears the weight of exacerbating financial mismanagement.

The Ontario premier must bear responsibility for this growing problem. The honeymood (sic) is over and the time has come to reduce costs across the board, introduce incentives to grow the economy and jobs and meet the reality of a province in serious decline.

There are 444 municpalities in Ontario that need a change of attitude at Queen’s Park.

The buck stops at the Liberal benches in the Legislative Assembly.

 

 

 

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Deciphering Mayor Farbridge

The recent  breakfast conducted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce heard that Canadians do well at invention but“suck at commercializing that invention.”

This from a guy who should know, Kirk Roberts, executive director of Innovation Guelph.

His statement was echoed in part by Erin Skimson, Director of business development office of the University of Guelph. She said the universities of the country are brilliant at research but not stellar in development.

Then we come to Mayor Karen Farbridge, a participant on the panel. In an astonishing reversal the mayor admitted that the city was not an easy place in which to do business.

“The city must closely examine its core business and be committed to real change not simply to “tweak around the edges.”

Well mayor, there’s been a lot of tweaking around the edges in your administration for the past five years. Two independent consultants have warned that the city is not an easy place to do business.

Why is that?

Folks, it’s an attitude problem that the majority in two councils holds about business, and a reluctance to see free enterprise flourish. It is strange because three members of the last council were independent businessmen. All three supported the Farbridge majority. In the current council there are three businessmen, two in the opposition ranks and the other a soldier in the Farbridge majority.

When the mayor speaks of a “commitment to change” one wonders how this new approach occurred in view of past performance.

Is it the fact that so many senior managers have left the city during her term of office?

Could it be that the city has operated without a Chief Financial Officer since last May? Correction: They hired one in September but he resigned in a week.

There appears to be a breakdown between city council and fellow elected officials in neighbouring communities where responsibilities are shared. There is a feeling of animosity between these folks that is palpable in intensity.

If you can’t get along with your neighbouring partners how can city council respect new businesses wishing to set up shop in the city?

The red tape and rules that new businesses must surmount are all under the direction of city council. Can’t tell whether its envy or just being ornery, or an abuse of power.

But here’s the bottom line: The ratio between commercial and industrial  (C/I) assessment and residential assessment has barely budged since the Farbridge council was elected in 2007. The C/I is stuck at 16 per cent while the residential ratio is 84 per cent.

This translates into a stagnant growth in the city for the past five years.

The people who elected this council are in that residential category.  What they must consider is to elect a council that will encourage development the city and decrease that C/I ratio to at least 75 per cent.

The only way to do it is to adopt and execute aggressive, responsible business development policies.

With the mayor unable to fill a key staff position in her treasury department and losing two top managers in the planning department, plus a change in Chief Administration Officer, there does not appear to be a commitment for change.

It is a failure of management. The responsibility lies right at the top in Mayor Karen Farbridge.

She claims attracting talent and fostering a vibrant arts and culture life and improving infrastructure is the bellwether of her administration. She goes on to tell her audience that city government must strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection.

When you fail to grow economic development how do you expect to protect the environment?

More bike lanes, Sleeman Centre time clocks and city hall ice rinks?

This administration has grown old and directionless. It is devoid of meeting the real challenges of our city.

Yes Toto, we are reminded this is the same old Guelph

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