Lost in the rush to indict the drivers of Guelph Transit on the whole overtime fracas, is their side of the story. This open letter from the drivers of Guelph Transit has been making the rounds online, including Cam Guthrie's blog and Ian Findlay's blog. I mentioned it on the last edition of "The Guelph Hour" on Beyond the Ballot Box, and I wanted to post it here too. The picutre it paints suggests that the maybe there's bigger operational problems with the city's mass transit service.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
As the budget process heads into the home stretch, it seems that the city has found some extra change in the couch cushions, at least enough to knock down the expected tax burden by about one per cent. As it stands now, the tax increase for 2014 is expected to be 2.37 per cent as opposed to the previously reported 3.36 per cent.
The cut comes courtesy of new figures from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and the County of Wellington, and despite the fact that the total operating budget is now $400,000 more than the initial estimate released on November 5th. That's good news for city hall deficit hawks, and good news for the average tax payer, but will all parties be satisfied with an increase that's still more than a full point more than the cost of inflation?
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The latest money-related controversy shaking City Hall involves overtime. Actually, make that excessive overtime. The city's new internal auditor, Loretta Alonzo, told city council last night that overtime costs could clock in at $5 million by the end of 2013. That's a lot of overtime, you may joke. That's a scandal, deficit hawks may say lividly. That $5 million figure is across all city services, but the focus of much of the discussion is around the one service that takes up one-fifth - or $1 million - of that cost, Guelph Transit. According to the city, there's a 25 per cent rate of daily absenteeism among transit employees, with some employees taking as many as 50 sick days per year. If the average number of days worked a year, accounting for weekends and two weeks vacation, is 250, that means that some employees are off sick one-fifth of the year.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
As Toronto City Hall went into meltdown earlier this week, many looked to a higher power to do something about the pending situation with Rob Ford and his stubborn refusal to step down, and that higher power was the Ontario Legislature led by Premier Kathleen Wynne. This is where politics get even more political though because when you have a left-leaning politician threatening to sanction a right-leaning politician, no matter how justified, fur is going to fly.
Of course, I think Wynne is far too shrewd to put herself in a position to set a precedent like having a Premier turf a duly-elected and sitting Mayor of Toronto, but that didn't stop Ford's allies from playing defense. Still, twice this week, I've heard both Cllr. Doug Ford and the Toronto Sun's Joe Warmington use the phrase "unelected premier," when talking about Wynne. It's a phrase I hadn't heard in a while, but it does two things, suggest that Wynne has no power, and if she does, then she has no authority to use it. I had thought we were past this because it's both silly and incorrect, but here we go again, confusing process for democracy.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Today marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy while on a campaign swing through Dallas, TX. Like with a lot of tragedies, the weather that day presaged anything but doom. On a bright and sunny Texas afternoon, Kennedy and his lovely wife were driven down Elm Street, through Dealey Plaza, with the top down on the Presidential limo when three shots rang out, the third one fatally wounding the young President. To merely say it was a day that changed everything sounds like something of an understatement. Franklin Roosevelt called the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941 - a day that would live in infamy, but November 22, 1963 would truly be a day that would live in infamy.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
This coming Monday, four ridings go to the polls to find a replacement for their recently departed Members of Parliament. From Montral's Bourassa and Toronto-Centre to Brandon-Souris and Provencher in Manitoba, voters will determine if it's time for change, or if they will stay the course and stick with the party that's represented them thus far. The NDP is looking to make gains in Quebec and Ontario, while the Conservatives hope that the senate scandal will not affect their chances in Manitoba. But what are the polls saying? Forum Research might have the answer.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
The legal action around the 2011 robocall scandal is another reminder that real-life legal proceedings are nothing like Law & Order; one hour and you're done! The bad guys are in jail, and it's on to the next case. The comparatively glacial pace of real-life legal matters as compared to their fictional TV counterparts in understandable - We want justice, and we want it now! - but the wheels of jurisprudence grind slowly and deliberately. Every once and a while though, news breaks and we get somewhat closer to a resolution.
In the news this week were the details of a partially lifted publication ban on the case thus far against Michael Sona, director of communications for the Guelph campaign of Marty Burke during the 2011 election. Sona is charged with wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent a voter from casting a ballot, and the court placed a publication ban on the case this past August. After petitioning by various media sources, including PostMedia and the CBC, the ban was partially lifted in September, but the full ban coming off this past Wednesday. As for Sona himself, court proceedings have been held over till June at which point it will be decided whether or not Sona will be taken to trial, but the new papers suggest that he maybe somewhat less than the innocent pawn he's been selling himself as since he was thrown under the bus by the party he so loyally served last year.
Friday, November 15, 2013
...And then she changed her mind. Despite reports to the contrary, including mine, it seems that Maggie Laidlaw will not be riding off into the political sunset at the end of the current term of council. The often controversial Ward 3 councillor had said that she would not be seeking re-election in 2014 after taking into account both her pending retirement from her day job in 2016, as well as her husband's pending retirement from teaching. But it looks like Laidlaw spoke too soon.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
It's getting so that keeping up with the goings on of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a full-time job, In fact, I think the Toronto Star has 3 or 4 people on it. But just as today's debate in city hall, which at times seemed like a trial with 43 prosecutors, looked like it was coming in for a landing, a judge decided to throw napalm on the out-of-control fire that's burning in Ford Nation by un-redacting more of those police documents from the investigation into Ford's alliances, and the picture it paints ain't pretty. As Ford emphatically stated again and again that he was not an addict on the council floor, police documents recounted one night where the Mayor finished a 40 oz bottle of vodka, took Oxy, snorted coke, and consorted with a woman believed to be a sex worker while sexually harassing one staffer, and calling a taxi driver a "Paki." And you thought you partied hard.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Monday marks Remembrance Day in Guelph and across Canada, and there will be a number of ceremonies in the Royal City for the occasion.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Mayor Karen Farbridge delivered her annual State of the City address today, and the message was that Guelph is different than other cities, someplace unique and special. It's a message designed to appeal to Farbridge's base, I think, and one that's unlikely to appeal to any of her critics. However, much like the U.S. President's State of the Union, it's more or less designed as a cheerleading session to remind the people of Guelph what's good and what's going to soon be great about the Royal City.
"Guelph is different. And people are noticing," the address begins. "I am having more conversations where someone comments on Guelph’s uniqueness to me ‐ whether I’m talking to local business owners seeking to attract talent, people who’ve chosen to live in Guelph or those watching from outside what we are achieving as a community."
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Prepare to pay 13 cents more for your water services. That's the total change in increases approved by city for the Water and Wastewater Services, Building Code Administration and Court Services budgets. Of course, that doesn't come out to a 13 cent increase on your bill. The average bill will see an increase from $781 to $808, which is $27 or 3.5 per cent more, but the city notes that this is the smallest increase in these costs in five years (which is sure to be small comfort to those getting the bill).
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
So it turns out that when he said he didn't, he did. Today's revelation by Mayor Rob Ford that he did indeed smoke crack though he can't remember the circumstances or the fact that somebody filmed it, came as something as a shock. But it was secondary to the revelation that Ford, having admitted his mistake (finally!), refused to step down, either permanently or temporarily, as a result of his drug use. Between the doings in Toronto and the pending vote to suspend three senators in Ottawa, it's hard to imagine a busier news day, and it seems like a great chance to engage in some of this newfangled rich media like podcasting.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
It wasn't a great day yesterday for Pamela Wallin as the RCMP came out and alleged that she has defrauded the Senate, committed a breach of trust in filing inappropriate expense claims, and that "irregularities" in expense reports since 2009 have been flagged several times. Clearly, things are not going well for the senator, a once respected journalist turned university chancellor turned Conservative politician, which is why when I found this yesterday, I thought it might turn some frowns upside down...
Friday, November 1, 2013
It's that time of year again, the time to discuss the whats, wheres, whens and hows of the city's fiscal allocation. That is to say it's budget time. Always a difficult, and sometimes contentious, process the yearly budget battle struggles to keep up with the increased cost of services and the desire to make the tax burden as small as possible. Council consistently tries new things to make the process as smooth and as transparent as possible, and sometimes there's success and sometimes there isn't. But here we are again, and here we go again, with the deliberations for the 2014 budget.
The details of the 2014 budget thus far were outlined in a press release from city hall today. By the numbers, the proposed 2014 budget comes out to $192,865,918, which is a 3.36 per cent increase over last year. Interestingly, the city's decided to de-emphasize the need for new spending in this budget, so the total 3.36 per cent increase accounts for 2.73 per cent to maintain current programs and services, with an additional 0.63 per cent for investments in "initiatives designed to streamline and optimize City operations."