LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for October 24, 2016

Tonight’s meeting will be mostly about Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc, and the responding to the Province’s review of Places to Grow. To follow all the action starting at 5 pm, you can click here for the amended agenda from City Hall, and you can click here to read Politico’s preview of tonight’s meeting. For the complete blow-by-blow of tonight’s council meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

Guelph City Council Meeting – October 24, 2016

Live blog from the meeting starting at 5 pm

  1. City council meeting about to begin. Part 1 is council as shareholder for Guelph Municipal Holdings.
  2. Council update, still in the closed session. Stand by…
  3. Mayor Gurthrie just said “Ok folks” so it’s about to go down.
  4. Direction was given to staff on a matter of a correspondence of a personal nature.
  5. Guelph CAO @CogDerrick will present Rationalization of GMHI Corporate Structure
  6. “Clarifying roles and responsibilities at a critical time, optimizing value of City’s energy assets thru transparent and inclusive process”
  7. Thomson: Apparent that the structure couldn’t meet council’s objectives.
  8. Step #1: Transfer of control of Guelph Hydro to City of Guelph
  9. Step #3: Oversight of Envida and Strategies and Ops committee goes to City management.
  10. New shareholder declaration will have to be done to reflect the new reporting structure.
  11. Cllr Piper asks if Thomson is aware of any other municipalities have “evolved” or “devolved” from similar GMHI-type structure.
  12. Staff: Build in Toronto a similar idea, but doesn’t know where they are.
  13. Cllr Salisbury wants to understand the rationale of the direction and better understand impact on future biz activity.
  14. Salisbury concerned that time/expense/energy spent going in GMHI direction and now we’re backing away
  15. Thomson: Looking at current state of portfolio. Money’s not there to keep going, beneficial for comm to do work before final decision
  16. Thomson: “It was premature to continue that structure as it is now.”
  17. Salisbury says he can see downside of GMHI structure, but gains in communication must also be balanced by loses, right?
  18. Thomson not sure about loses, but notes staff was pretty clear in revue of District Energy that they were way off with targets.
  19. Salisbury says the answer hasn’t “come home from him yet.” Still looking for the downside of staff proposal.
  20. Thomson: GMHI is ceasing operations, future opportunities to expand in holding company still there.
  21. GMHI is essentially being parked right now, will be coming back in a timely manner to discuss all that.
  22. “I’m still not entirely clear what we’re losing in this case,” says Salisbury.
  23. Salisbury concerned about the sol shareholder – Thomson – appointing himself to the board.
  24. It’s just the circumstance says staff, and appropriate.
  25. Salisbury apologizes and adds the he hopes his questions answer everyone else’s questions. Polite laughs from the rest of council…
  26. Cllr Hofland also looking for clarity, are we easing operations?
  27. Hofland: So you would report to the shareholder, yourself and GHESI Board?
  28. Hofland: There will no longer be a role for the mayor?
  29. Hofland: So you’ll be looking for resignations from current GMHI Board at end of the night?
  30. Hofland: Would it be a council decision where the dividend would go?
    Thomson: Absolutely.
  31. Hofland: Where will Envida and costs associated fit?
  32. There are transactions with Envida, owned by GMHI (why its not being dissolved), and streamline of DE assets will continue.
  33. “Very real possibility” that GHESI might take over Envida assets in the future.
  34. Thomson report will come back in Q1 2017 about future of DE nodes in Sleeman and HCBP
  35. Thomson says its premature to speculate about endgame (increase in dividends) stabilization is key right now.
  36. Cllr Allt points out that if Guelph Hydro assumes Envida, it will also assume more of the cost.
    Staff: It will.
  37. Allt asks for comment on disentangling GHESI from GMHI.
  38. Staff not sure how to answer, there was always a clear separation.
  39. Sardana says that GMHI wasn’t just a holding co. but a development one, city starting to disentangle that.
  40. Allt: for many people they’re the same thing.
    Sardana: GHESI was a subsidiary, but GMHI had potential to be bigger. Still might.
  41. Cllr Gibson says the best person to answer the Q about move to GMHI is Salisbury himself, he was on the design team.
  42. Cllr Wettstein says Salisbury wasn’t involved at the inception, he was, and it wasn’t about energy in the beginning.
  43. Wettstein: Have to go back and answer 2 critical Qs: GMHI wasn’t meant to take over broader responsibility, energy wasn’t ready either.
  44. Wettstein: Before GMHI can have value, we have to have assets and identify funding.
  45. Cllr Billings: If council supports recommendation, GMHI will have less expenses, right?
  46. Thomson: Tax, outstanding loans need to be cleaned up.
  47. Billings asking about overhead. Thomson notes only himself and insurance.
  48. Billings asking Sardana about what will have to be repaid out of $1.5 M dividend.
  49. $1.8 M loan from Royal Bank will have to be paid back immediately, but for the intracompany loans they have luxury of time.
  50. GHESI statements available through ON energy board, difficult to get access to.
  51. Cllr Gordon: Needs to know what the oversight of GHESI will look like.
  52. Compared to management of Envida, which Sardana oversees as CEO. There are activities still going, and there will be reporting to holding co
  53. Sardana: “Have to operate [GMHI] as a shell, but an operating shell.”
  54. There’s a consolidating relationship with RBC, and they still look at GMHI as a parent company.
  55. Gordon says language like “ceasing” or “shelving” implies “suspended animation” but there will still be activities.
  56. Guthrie notes all business operations of GMHI will be deferred.
  57. Sardana: Until recently, GMHI has been encouraging development activity, but not anymore.
  58. Salisbury appreciates Gibson pointing out “the rhetorical nature” of questions, was trying to address his concerns thru his knowledge
  59. Salisbury will have further comments later. But still not entirely clear of how new shareholder declaration developed.
  60. There will be reservations to the city of powers, while it says Thomson has discretion to appoint Board members, its deferred to City
  61. Salisbury: Will GHESI have opportunity to offer feedback on new agreement?
  62. GHESI Board member Jane Armstrong has given feedback, but this is a work in progress and more adjustments will be made.
  63. Hofland asks Thomson if actions proposed will make it easier to sell, acquire or merge, and will it make GHESI more attractive?
  64. Thomson: There’s no predetermined outcome with the process, but they are trying to streamline.
  65. Thomson: The recommendations will streamline process and allow council to be nimble and responsive.
  66. Hofland: Is there a role for council in recommendation for new Strat and Options Committee?
  67. Wettstein asks if there’s a word that could be added that would make it clear that GHMI is not totally inactive.
  68. “Deferring *new* active business” is a change made in the first clause as per Wettstein.
  69. Council approves new 11-1. Salisbury voted against.
  70. Billings has amendment too under ‘E’ for audited financial statements to be disclosed too for transparency.
  71. FYI: Cllr Van Hellemond is not here this evening.
  72. Billings comments: a good way to deal with GMHI problems an “unmitigated disaster” for GHESI, DE and Envida.
  73. Billings says there’s end governance failure in the past, politically controlled board with entrenched ideology.
  74. Wants to shut down GMHI at end of the day and “stop the shenanigans.”
  75. Salisbury agrees some with ward mate, but disagrees with the rest.
  76. Salisbury says some ppl are saying they want to run city hall like a business, GMHI already does that. Agrees political board wrong way tho
  77. “Make no mistake, this is not coming back,” says Salisbury. Throwing away chance to run city assets like a business.
  78. “Develop out assets like a business” was the point of GMHI says Salisbury. Council moving backwards.
  79. “Who’s going to be developing a compelling business case?” asks Salisbury, Not council’s mandate.
  80. Cllr Bell says there was no “clear line of sight previously” b/c council was not all privy to what was going on.
  81. Bell, pleased to know what’s going on [again].
  82. Wettstein says public needs to know this is a bigger issue, not the load of “crap” that Cllr Billing threw out there.
  83. Billings: GMHI “caused a lot of grief” millions wasted and that’s not “a lot of crap.”
  84. Wettstein replaces “crap” with “extremely unfortunate” disagrees with characterizing board as “political”
  85. Guthrie: Didn’t think that being transparent about $14M loss is a negative to the city.
  86. Guthrie gives Wettstein kudos for the most ridiculous thing he’s heard as mayor.
  87. Piper points out that there’s no more political board than council itself. Hopes future staff and council will see benefit of GMHI
  88. Allt will support resolution. There’s been confusion with the acronyms, but still not convinced that even council knows what assets might be
  89. Gibson is pleased that the political argument has come up. GMHI goes back 8 years.
  90. 5 of 8 members of original GMHI Board in 2010 were elected politicians, controlling interest Gibson points out.
  91. Gibson says that Sardana notes that there was pressure to “get on” with District Energy.
  92. Gibson takes exception with Hofland’s comments on transparency in March 14 @GuelphTribune article.
  93. Gibson says he want to believe in this, but lack of transparency “disgusts” him.
  94. Gibson says he’s committed, thanks Thomson for “cleaning this up”
  95. Gibson disagrees with Wettstein, thanks mayor for his dedication to transparency. “Wouldn’t be here tonight” otherwise.
  96. MacKinnion says in business when things aren’t working, you change direction. We “have other things we need to move on in the city.”
  97. Hofland says its a good idea to stop operations, but sad b/c it feels like moving backwards. Supports staff tho
  98. Hofland says its obvious that “we don’t have the sophistication or the leadership to move forward with a holding company.”
  99. Piper says DE file is very different from the founding vision, for the record.
  100. Wettstein says operating phase began Jan 2015, maybe few months before. Finger-pointing should go to the right place, he says
  101. Bell says he does not recall supporting the founding of GHI in the first place.
  102. Billings says she objects to political controlled *arms length* and not transparent.
  103. Gordon thinks he has to regrettably vote against, not a reflection on CAO and staff.
  104. Gordon says it seems like there’s a risk to mobilize an effort to “kill the whole thing.” Going to support till “the knives were out 4 it.”
  105. “I walked into a mess,” said Guthrie. “It already was in a terrible situation, and I tried, and I tried, and I tried” to bring issues up
  106. From Guthrie: “We’re almost 2 year into it.” 1/
  107. It’s eaten me alive to be accused tonight that I operationally made decisions to have a $14 M loss in this city is unacceptable.” 2/
  108. How dare anyone accuse me of that, all I’ve wanted is to bring this issue forward. I deserve a moment to be angry.” 3/
  109. “If I wasn’t your mayor I guarantee that there was something else going on. There is a lot of saving of face going on.” 4/
  110. “I do not think it should have been working the way its been working the last several years. Staff is thrilled that this is behind.” 5/
  111. “[Staff] can work on stuff that’s, I don’t know, for the city.” 6/
  112. “Every single person should be quite upset at the city.” 7/
  113. “If I was not the mayor tomorrow, I would hold my head up high leaving this building. These comments said about me is unacceptable.” 8/
  114. “The most amazing motion I’ve seen in the last two years.” 9/
  115. “We can put it aside for now, & get back 2 things that matter for the city, like fixing the sidewalks & getting financial house n order” 10/
  116. “That’s leadership by the way, Councillor Hofland.” 11/
  117. Council accepts the report 10-2. Salisbury and Gordon vote against.
  118. For the record, I did not get all of the mayor’s remarks, but I did get most of them, and I think you got the flavour.
  119. For the record, we still have one item from the GMHI shareholders meet to clear before the actual council meeting.
  120. Tara Spring, general manager of corporate communications, now presenting the plan.
  121. Citizens expectations of engagement continue to increase, says report.
  122. Four goals: design process w/integrity, encourage engagement, gather actionable input, maintain public confidence.
  123. Guiding principles: transparent & accountable, easier to understand terms, timely, authentic, inclusive, and easy to participate.
  124. A phased program and decisions won’t be made quickly Sprigg says, “an evolving dialogue”
  125. The process launches today. First report comes back Jan ’17, final report in fall/winter ’17.
  126. Q from Hofland: asking about consistency on messages to the public.
  127. Sprigg, new site uses plain language, accessible to all so everyone on even field. A communal source of info for everyone
  128. For recapping later: This is where GMHI ENDS and COUNCIL BEGINS!
  129. Guthrie apologizes to those that have been waiting in the gallery
  130. Billings notes a discrepancy in the minutes a motion for which Downer’s vote wasn’t included.
  131. Council passes approval of past meeting minutes as amended.
  132. Only consent agenda item pulled is Optimal Resource Deployment of Emergency Services
  133. Delegation for Advertising Acceptability Policy not here, but Gibson ask it be pulled anyway. Has some comments.
  134. First up: Presentation of 2016 Provincial Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review Comments.
  135. Before that, Allt asks to acknowledge visiting @UoG interns.
  136. Change up: Advertising Acceptability Policy being discussed first, b/c it might be dispatched quickly.
  137. Gibson asks staff about future questions.
    Mark Amarosi: Gives City framework where once there was none.
  138. Amarosi: Policy states it will apply with all applicable laws, up to and incl. the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  139. All Gibson’s Qs are answered. Guthrie says he’s happy with the answers to his own Qs, he voted against at CotW
  140. Update will deal with sustainable growth thru 2031.
  141. Guelph’s comments are that the new goals are overly ambitious, trying to fi square peg [Guelph] into a round hole {policy]
  142. Sticking point: densest neighbourhoods outside DT will be along the fringes of city.
  143. Guelph would like expanded definition of Prime Employment Areas, and wants separate greenfield area density target.
  144. Guelph would also like more connectivity between local, prov, and fed natural resource mapping.
  145. Part of this is concern about limited water sources.
  146. Council tonight: Response to provincial Growth Plan. Natural features and groundwater limitations must be respected.

    Council tonight: Response to provincial Growth Plan. Natural features and groundwater limitations must be respected.
  147. Comments also consider addressing climate change, integrating infrastructure, and improving plan implementation.
  148. City also looking to be shield from future OMB appeals based on decisions made to reach these goals.
  149. Billings asks about the greenbelt, which is part of a separate process but currently no plans to add anything in L. Erie area (incl. us)
  150. Cllr Downer asks if its beneficial to have some connections thru to Lake Erie. What would the difference be?
  151. If province extends urban river valley designations it would connect Guelph to greenbelt plan area…
  152. Staff says city’s own natural heritage plans is more comprehensive anyway.
  153. MacKinnon asks if policy is bad or if Guelph is looking for special treatment i.e. growth targets
  154. Other municipalities have similar concerns about targets.
  155. “On behalf of the Gordon corridor in Ward 6, good luck!” says MacKinnon.
  156. Gibson asks how council can help on the density argument.
  157. This report is the city’s primary response, says staff.
  158. Piper asking about “blue belt” and the purpose of climate change comments about ground water recharge?
  159. Are we having discussions about combined responses with surround township? asks Piper.
  160. Nothing proposed in Wellington County for greenbelt, says staff.
  161. We’re now on to the delegations. Emile Compion, on behalf of the Good Growth Guelph organization team up first
  162. Compton normally works with Wellington Water Watchers on expanding the greenbelt.
  163. Compion sees many areas of agreement between staff report and Good Growth’s comments.
  164. Guthrie notes that the council workshop on the review was not closed to the public, apologizes if the wrong impression was given
  165. Downer asks if GGG has sent their comments in to the ministry yet. No, they wanted to bring it to council first.
  166. Hofland eches Downer and encourages GGG submit their feedback ASAP
  167. No more questions for Compion. Perennial delegate Hugh Whiteley is up next.
  168. Whiteley says that when he arrived in the 50s he didn’t appreciate the depth of knowledge on Guelph’s river valleys people had.
  169. Whiteley says Guelph had a full river protection policy in place, now it has a partial one.
  170. Want’s see Guelph engage with Halton’s urban river renewal efforts.
  171. Gordon agrees with Whiteley recommendations, notes that GGG report seems to capture his comments.
  172. Whiteley says the City has stopped being active on supplying the future with awareness of river valleys, handed things over to province.
  173. Whiteley wants to see City take back initiate, understanding and acting on it.
  174. Murr worried about projected population increase as someone that concerned about protection of greenbelt and water.
  175. Murr notes that there’s not even 5% parkland downtown, and city has yet to see benefit of density in the core.
  176. Salisbury asks about what being included in the greenbelt will accomplish.
  177. GRCA already protects the river shoreline and the flood plane.
  178. Murr points to property next to Marianne’s Park and 5 Arthur st as two missed opportunities.
  179. No more questions for Murr, Karen Rathwell is the last delegation.
  180. Rathwell says staff dismissed the idea that the Greenbelt is applicable to the city. She disagrees.
  181. Rothwell says that Guelph has a long history of environmental stewardship.
  182. Rathwell says the last couple of months have shown that the Province is listening to citizens, hopes council will do the same.
  183. Gordon notes that its rare that everyone on council and in gallery are on the same page about a report. Just some nudges.
  184. Gordon asks about reflecting public will concerning greenbelt in the document.
  185. Province has initiated a separate comment on extending the greenbelt ring, and city could comment in that process. But council could add
  186. Gordon asks if it would be appropriate to have GGG report accompany staff report.
  187. There is some crossover, but GGG report went further on some things, says staff. “Local issues” that extend beyond the purview of report.
  188. Scott Stewart says staff is hesitant b/c they haven’t had a chance to review the whole of GGG report.
  189. “There might a lot of really good things in here, but we haven’t gone over it yet,” says DCAO Stewart
  190. Gibson would like to learn more about treating waste water and put it back into the system.
  191. Adds that it’s important to point out that sometimes council can come together on the same page even after contentious face-off.
  192. Piper: does Guelph own any land outside of municipal boundary?
  193. The city does btw, so we might have skin in the game, but again that’s different process.
  194. Guthrie helps Gordon form motion to included delegation and public comment material along with, but separate from city comments.
  195. Staff says they can forward it along as “Additional comments” no motion necessary.
  196. “I think its about time we push back on the province on this issue,” says Guthrie. Hopes MPP will be made aware too.
  197. Now Optimal Resource Deployment of Emergency Services, report pulled by Cllr Bell
  198. Bell asks about general history of fire station situation around Guelph. Requested info be brought forward.
  199. City now has a six station model, and Bell concerned b/c he thought it was a five station model.
  200. Bell thinks the information given was inadequate. Hesitant to move forward b/c he doesn’t think council has full scope of issue.
  201. “You sit on council long enough and you start to think ‘jeepers, we really didn;t follow the best course,” Bell says.
  202. Bell says one police chief wanted a $13 million station, then the next chief wanted the #34 million building…
  203. The report has been moved and seconded. No other comments.
  204. Bell to move amendment if no one else wants to “meander” down the road in approving another $15 M facility.
  205. Clack redistributed an old report for 2003, but the report here is about paramedics. No bearing on police service.
  206. Five year plan for paramedics, nothing for fire service. That’s the focus.
  207. Allt ask if the motion is out of order if the report is about paramedics and not fire. Bell concerns about fire.
  208. Billings says the 2007 report (not ’03) was all over the place.
  209. Clack says the report featured data from ’03, can check to see if there was an update subsequently.
  210. There are new growth projections to keep in mind.
  211. Bell says that council needs to decide where the 911 centre at Wellington/Wyndham goes. It’s all three.
  212. Amarosi says that when city took on ambulances in ’09 some changes were made as leases came up and other concerns.
  213. “I think there’s a couple of reports we’re talking about here,” says Amarosi.
  214. Downer suggests that staff look for the ’07 report and then ask if that report is relevant to what staff are asking to do.
  215. Otherwise the fire station issue doesn’t seem relevant in this.
  216. There will also be a capital budget request, says Clack, will pull materials but Guelph’s had 6 fire stations since ’11
  217. Staff will send subsequent email with information. Bell refuses to withdraw motion, Billings withdraws second.
  218. Last item: Haiti Emergency Fund, a matter from FCM to all municipalities.
  219. Gordon notes that the Feds have donated $2.3 M to the cause.
  220. Gordon: The larger question is if the municipality in the business of supporting humanitarian aid.
  221. Gordon would like to encourage everyone to donate privately, but is wanting to gage interest in have a public humanitarian fund.
  222. Not sure this should be done tonight, but worth exploring in the future.
  223. Guthrie says there will be lots of opportunities starting this week to look at budget matters and a humanitarian fund.
  224. Mayor’s announcements Ward 2&3 budget town hall tomorrow at city hall in Room C
  225. Sad news as Harry Dunning (former Deputy Fire Chief) Assa Camiso (sp) a customer service agent at West End Rec Centre passed away

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