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March 09, 2012


And taxes will increase, according to our leader Karen. Thanks Karen..

So now we know it cost Maggie Laidlaw (The Tax Payer) at least $3250 to go to Italy. Thanks Maggie, and thanks Karen for allowing this crap to happen.

Maggie went to Italy on the public expense tab? For what?

D C,

The City will not say. Numerous people have asked for expenses, but they keep stalling. She went on City business to Italy, and then went and asked Council to top up her expenses. Council than agreed to do so, but wont release any expenses.

We could have gone $10,000 if she promised not to come back.

A bit of a different spin to the article in the Trib... not quite so sensational.

Must depend on the audience.


Not that easy, Geo. In the interests of protecting their dairy industry from prion-type infection, the Italians have an excellent quarantine system.

Thanks Jan, it's just Allan Boynton (aka the Guelph Factor, aka the Guelph Standard) trying to get some publicity for his blog that no one reads.


It would perhaps help us out a lot if Allan would actually explain why he is so hot to trot to find out how much Maggie spent on the City's tab during her trip to Italy.

She may not be everybody's cup of tea but it does seem odd to be going on and on about it without explaining why you want to know.

I'm having a hard job imagining that she was living the high life over there. She cycles everywhere here. She certainly doesn't come over as the sort of person to be splurging at the taxpayer's expense.

So Allan, what's the story?

Or is this just part of some personal vendetta?

Jan, Googlicious Maggie set herself up for this sort of scrutiny when she stated she ignores wealthy people's opinions on tax increases.

If Maggie Laidlaw truly believes what she preaches about other people who can most afford things paying their way, then she should have paid for her entire trip to Italy out of her own pocket and not expected the guy with a boat in his driveway to pay for it.

Was a trip to Italy absolutely necessary when the city is in financial trouble? Many might wonder if Maggie Laidlaw even had the decency to ask herself that before hopping on the plane.

So yes, it is quite reasonable for taxpayers to know the details of this travel expense.

If the city sends a councillor to Italy and the trip is paid for with municipal tax dollars, is the city not obligated to make the purpose of the trip known to the people who paid for it?

I didn't realize taxpayers were required to state a reason before having access to government spending information.

I'll let the feds know.

Jan: Exactly how much did those fighter jets cost?

Ministry of Defence: Why do you want to know?

Don't be silly. Citizens have a reasonable right to know what government is spending their money on. Alan wants to know so Maggie can look bad, not that it matters. And the city is resisting because Karen doesn't want Maggie to look any worse than she already does.

I wonder if a request for Gloria or Cam's expenses would be met with as much resistance?

For those of you who would like to see Maggie Laidlaw's expenses for 2010 including her trip to Italy, you can do so here.

We went and asked her for them. She happily obliged - anything to set the record straight.


So why didn't they release the expenses earlier, when requested?

Sympathetic reporting only, please? Or does Maggie only release expenses to people after googling their houses and approving their number of vehicles?

The issue only came to my attention when what's-his-name asked for them and was denied. Now that it's come to my attention, I'd like to know why we're paying for Maggie's trip when there are so many other priorities?

Maybe if the city had provided the information when originally requested, this wouldn't have become an issue.

What are they hiding? This delay is clearly indicative of some sort of systemic chicanery at work, which though I know nothing about it, clearly goes all the way to the top. We need at least four investigations: public audit, OPP, Canada Revenue, and certainly a Royal Commission. And a left-leaning news provider to flog the issue eternally.

(Child blogger warning: Above paragraph sarcastic. Do not take literally. Children who have not yet learned to recognize sarcasm should be adequately supervised while reading this blog.)

It's creepy that it matters who is asking the question.

Agree 100%, Craig.

Who asked the first time? Was it Guelph Standard, the unknown blogger, or was it the guy who as far as I know still doesn't admit to being behind it? Was Maggie asked personally or was the City asked? Does the city normally release itemized details of these things or do they just report the total cost? There's more to it than how it's being spun.
Or maybe they just don't like Boynton, which would be understandable as well.

It has more to do with how you ask the question. If you are an anonymous blogger, known for lying about your identity, and posting slanderous remarks on your blog, then you should probably have to go through the proper process(freedom of information act). If you're a responsible, respectful journalist you'll probably get a response.

A few of us here may want to reconsider the precedent that is being set.

Why does it matter who asked?! We're now determining who merits an answer and who doesn't? How is it that we are now qualifying who gets their questions answered when it comes to public dollars?!

What's germaine in all of this is it's about public dollars and not about who is wanting info about how they are spent or if they asked in a way that is "acceptable" to the powers-that-be.

This matter has been mishandled, needlessly drawn out and inexplicably made a lot more difficult than it had to be. That is now the issue. And that is why we need change at City Hall.

I would like an answer to the question about what the big fuss is in anyone requesting this typically benign info from the City, regardless if you agree with a person's politics or their forum.

The issue is should you be able to ask any mindless question and the City is expected to drop everything they are doing to respond to you. It's a complete waste of everyone's time (and taxpayer money).If you are spewing off a bunch of questions to the Mayor every day by email to try to find some 'controversial story' to promote your blog, you are wasting City staff's time, and taxpayer money. If it's important enough you'll take the time to follow the proper procedure.

It's easy to say the City should answer every question they are asked, but are you willing to support a tax increase to pay for the additional staff it would take to respond to every email/question the city gets (and BTW it's a lot)

So Chief Garbage Officer Janet Laird got a 4.5% salary increase from $168,661 to $176,235. I guess it's not tied to performance, eh?

John, this is about who was asking the question, not the question in and of itself. Which was further exposed when the Guelph Standard got the supposedly qualifying membership, and as far as I know still didn't get any answers. Meanwhile, we'll see which of the other "personal blogs" in town DO get their questions answered going forward.

With all due respect, John, as far as I know this wasn't a case of what you were describing. And our bureaucracy not only must be non-partisian, it should take certain pains to appear to be so.

The bottomline is this request was not handled well.

The question now is which councillors:

1) Support the new policy from Staff regarding answering questions;
2) Support a policy of publicizing these kind of expenses as a matter of procedure;
3) And as a follow-up to #1 and #2, are willing to stand behind their positions in 2014.

John's comments are well made.

Craig, with respect (perhaps it was not clear) but I asked Maggie directly by e-mail why the Guelph Standard was asking so many questions about her expenses for 2010.

She provided the expense report direct to me as part of her reply. I did not go through the city to get the information.

I also informed Allan Boynton by phone that I had the expenses and would be posting them so he could see them.

This is certainly not about favouritism at City Hall.

As I pointed out to Allan, had the Guelph Standard identified itself properly it may have received a more favourable response from the city.

Hopefully things will improve on all sides going forward. More voices, the merrier as far as I'm concerned. But if you want to be taken seriously, it's best not to try and ask questions anonymously.

The most interesting thing about this matter should be how on earth The Guelph Standard (AKA Allan Boynton) managed to get a membership in the Canadian Association of Journalists while being an anonymous blog.

As usual, it would appear to be all about the money.

Jan, I could have a blog not-so-cryptically named "Craig Chamberlain's Blog" or a paper called "Craig Chamberlain's Newspaper" and according to policy City Hall would not answer my questions if for one reason or another I did not pursue or was granted membership in that association. Indeed, it now seems that THAT really doesn't matter, as far as I know City Hall has yet to respond to the Guelph Standard regarding this request.

Is it not now clear that that qualifier was just smoke in mirrors towards delegitimating a forum that didn't meet with the approval of City Hall?

The request was made to City Hall. There was nothing wrong with that. It was not handled well. Instead of a simple answer to a simple question we got a policy. You should be concerned about that.

Questions on this will be coming forward in 2014.

Have a great weekend. Over and out.


I'm not sure if you just prefer not to read what other people post but...

My point again... the requests made to City Hall by The Guelph Standard were ANONYMOUS.

Being outed by the Guelph Tribune as Allan Boynton, President of the Provincial PCs is not the same as writing "Hi, this is Allan B from the Guelph Standard blog, I have a question..."

The reason that City Hall has a policy now to cover blogs (which I don't think is very good bearing in mind that you can get a CAJ membership for $100 even if you are blogging anonymously) is because he was asking questions ANONYMOUSLY.

If anything, the CAJ should be paying more attention to their own ethical guidelines. The issue of anonymous journalism as well as conflict of interest is clearly covered.

The actions of the anonymous Guelph Standard may indeed have made it more challenging for others using a blogging platform to get responses from City Hall which is a shame.

Harassing people anonymously at City Hall does not get the job done.

Get it now?

Jan, trust me, I get it.

Someone asked a question. Someone else dreamed up a way to avoid answering it.

It sounds like the low men and women at the city of guelph are going to pay for all of the city mistakes that the top dogs are making again.. Good luck you guys. It seems it's always the low guy who has to pay...not just at the city but everywhere..I hope you had a good time in Italy, now lets lock out the bottom people to pay for all of this....

In a business when expenses get to high the company either makes the employees give back, close the doors, or move the business. When tax payers are footing the bill none of this usually happens. The employees won't give back because they have a strong union that usually wins out in the end because people want the services restored.
You can't close the doors on city services for very long because people complain and get angry.
You can't pickup and out source guelph to china.
Way to many people work for this city and every other city that are way over paid. Unions have done to good a job in increaseing wages, pensions, job security ...

Just to be fair.
Middle and upper management in this town needs a major MAJOR overhaul. They to are way overpaid and WAY under perform. The job they do no way justifies the kind of money they make.

I wonder how many hours were wasted in meetings about how to avoid the original question?

Jan, speaking on the record here, do you really think that an email, "Hi, I'm Alan Boynton, your arch-nemesis. Please send me your expenses," would result in a positive response?

'Cause if you do, there's an easy way to test that assertion, next time there's some information the public's wanting!

Not that it matters. The city played right into Alan's hands by refusing to divulge. I and most of Guelph didn't know Maggie was sponging off the public dime in Italy, and wouldn't have known had the city not made it an issue. The actual expenses are irrelevant. Mission accomplished.

To be fair detailed travel expenses, where they went and why, should be posted by all of Guelph's city councillors. Then the taxpayers could determine for themselves if this is money well spent.

You should also include a trip report in your list of required postings. After all this would share the learning experience and avoid the sending a gaggle of geese(Councillors) to sessions like FCM and AMO.
Good suggestions from the taxpayers.

Just to clear up some misinformation in earlier comments, the position put out by the City regarding anonymous bloggers was not a policy, it was just an email from the CAO, and I'm pretty sure she didn't check with her staff before making such a completely ignorant statement.

jj -- Huh? Copied from the Guelph Standard:

"Here is the response from Mark Amorosi, after City CAO Ann Pappert did not respond:

Mark.Amorosi@guelph.ca to administration
Feb 24 (2 days ago)

Hello Guelph Standard,

The City interacts with legitimate media outlets that follow the Ethics Guidelines of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

Please be advised that after consideration, the decision has been made that the City of Guelph will not respond to requests for information from any personal ‘blog’ website.

Therefore, I am writing to inform you that the City of Guelph will no longer respond to requests for information from your blog website ‘The Guelph Standard.’



Jan; I don't see any use of the word, "anonymous" in the City's communication sent to the Guelph Standard.

"The actions of the anonymous Guelph Standard may indeed have made it more challenging for others using a blogging platform to get responses from City Hall which is a shame." -- Jan Hall

I am a bit surprised how if I have a blog named Craig Chamberlain's Blog and for whatever reason don't pursue or am not granted membership in the CAJ, which again now seems to not particularly matter anyways -- the City will not answer my questions as per policy -- and you only acknowledge that as "a shame".

Wow. Disturbing and creepy, perhaps? Why aren't you up in arms over this?!


It's about being anonymous. Not sure how many other ways I can say it.

I admire your tenacity here but you really are looking in the wrong place for the story here.

How do I know this?

Because being concerned about access to information from City Hall, someone I know asked... directly... under their real name, in case you are wondering.

Although I am privy to the e-mail correspondence on the issue, I do not have permission to post it here however someone else may choose to respond.

Now go back and read the rest of my e-mails regarding this issue. I've made my own feelings on this issue quite plain.

"The actions of the anonymous Guelph Standard may indeed have made it more challenging for others using a blogging platform to get responses from City Hall which is a shame." -- Jan Hall

So, to be clear, Jan, you are privy to email correspondence between the City and the Guelph Standard? Through whom?


Stop being so dense. This sort of exchange does you no favours.

I am privy to the question to the city regarding the issue because I was copied on the e-mail that was sent inquiring about whether the policy regarding media access had changed.

And to be absolutely clear, I have not seen any correspondence between the city and the Guelph Standard except that you printed above.

Now can we get back to some far more important issues affecting the City of Guelph?


At the recent Mayor's Address put on by the Guelph Civic League, Mayor Farbridge shared a letter from Ann Pappert to staff re "Anonymous media inquiries". It includes the following:

"The City is committed to open, honest and respectful communication with media representatives and City spokespeople are encouraged to participate in interviews with journalists and bloggers who:

* identify themselves and any affiliation they may have with print, broadcast or online media outlets
* conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the Canadian Association of Journalists' Principles for Ethical Journalism and Ethics Guidelines.

We reserve the right to refuse anonymous media requests, or requests from individuals who do not conduct themselves in an honest and respectful manner.

Employees are not obliged to respond to requests for information that include:

* profane, threatening or other inappropriate language
* content considered defamatory, disrespectful or insulting to city staff or representatives"

I'd say that's pretty clear - don't hide your identity; be respectful and you'll get respect back.

The memo also mentions that the opportunities and challenges of social media will continue to be explored, possibly at a symposium later this spring.

This is silly. The problem I see is that Boynton's blog does not identify that he is behind it. While everyone knows its his baby, I don't see his name attached to it which makes it easier for the city to dismiss it as an anonymous request.

To add, I was also copied on the email Jan referred to above, which was sent in by a well-known local blogger who uses his own name in all dealings with the city and others.
The response from the city indicated they would have no problem continuing to recognize him as a member of the media, even though he is not, to my knowledge, a member of the CAJ. (For that matter, neither am I)

"We reserve the right to refuse anonymous media requests, or requests from individuals who do not conduct themselves in an honest and respectful manner."

... so I guess Karen Farbridge no longer speaks to her former campaign manager, Cathy Downer, who fraudulently and intentionally misrepresented herself posting on this very blog under several anonymous aliases.

No wait, the good Mayor defended the lying Downer, kept her on as her campaign manager and then turned a blind eye when the dishonest Cathy Downer was promoted to Returning Officer during the 2011 Ontario Provincial Election. Oh well, what's a little fraud between friends.

Boynton's only problem is that he isn't the Mayor's friend.

Scott, from the Guelph Standard blog site...

About The Guelph Standard
The Guelph Standard
The Guelph Standard - Setting a new standard for news and the open expression of opinions in Guelph. This Page is Monitored and owned by Allan Boynton
View my complete profile

(But I agree with you, Scott, that this IS SILLY. As I have said, this matter was mishandled by the City. Isn't that apparent now?!)

Craig, to (hopefully) stop you spinning this further...

Boynton only added the "This Page is Monitored and owned by Allan Boynton" information to the About section of his Guelph Standard blog on Friday afternoon, March 16.

That was just after we had a phone conversation during which I pointed out that he might find it easier to get information out of City Hall if he refrained from acting anonymously. Something he agreed to take on board.

Ahem. Jan, nope, no spin -- here. There's nothing "anonymous" about the Guelph Standard. At least give-over already on that. Where I sit this looks very much like an exercise in figuring out how to delegitimize a critic's forum. When it comes to tax dollars and accountability, something like that isn't cool with me. A simple answer would have been easier and more dignified.

Karen Farbridge is not capable of a direct clear honest answer.

Jan, I don't see how Craig is spinning anything here. On the contra-re it seems more like you who is spinning. Very simply, the city is stating we will not respond unless you are the Mercury, Trib or notable person.
This is simply covering up or not being transparent as our good city claims to be. This city is only transparent as it relates to what it considers positive. Hide the negative and the general populace will never know how bad it really is. You got to wonder why taxes are going up so much every year, unless you accept that taxes will increase every year regardless. time to pull your head out of the sand.

Jan is completely right, have you read any of the Guelph Standards posts? It's like reading the National Enquirer. He doesn't base any stories on actual fact, he just makes stuff up. Do you really think City Hall should spend my tax payer money responding to him? Just because you have a blog you should be allowed to bypass the process for information is completely stupid. The Merc, Tribune and the reputable bloggers are valued news sources. If you want to find out something you are always welcome to file a Freedom of information act request. So the City isn't hiding anything, they are just saving your money from dealing with wasteful requests. If Boynton feels it's important enough the information is always there for a mere $5.

I think we can all agree on at least one thing ... the Guelph Standard is horribly written. It's full of Grade 6 grammar mistakes and wrong words.

What a shell game we're playing here. It's seemingly about the Guelph Standard not being a member of the CAJ as per the City's reply to it, then no, it's actually about it being anonymous, though everyone and their dog knows who the poster is, unless someone here wants to go on record saying they actually did not and don't know who it is, or better yet, that the powers-that-be don't know -- and then well, the language isn't to our liking. Insufficiently journalistic and what-not. We're now seeing some of us doing hand stands arguing this wasn't what I'm guessing most of us -- at least beyond 59 Carden -- would plainly see it to be -- a move to delegimatize a forum that has been critical of the City.

In the end, instead of answering a question we got a patronizing policy for determining what is considered an acceptable forum and therefore merits a response. To borrow horribly from a quote I heard on CBC Radio last night, the Mayor and Council doesn't just speak through speeches, it speaks as well through policy. And so yes, unless we're getting into Hate here, the calling is to take the higher road, if that's how you want to look at it, and answer the question.

Not a big deal. Or at least, it wasn't.

Time for some of us to give-over already. As I said, a question was asked and instead of us getting a simple answer we got a policy -- which will now need to be interpreted. Talk about political minefields. Good luck with that.

There's nothing to delegitimize, Craig. It's just a guy with a blogger account, poor writing skills and an axe to grind. The internet is full of them. The few that gain any semblance of legitimacy are the ones that have earned it.
If you wanted to know the details of the Italy trip, why didn't you ask? Why rely on Boynton to get your answers? You must know that if he had received an answer that he couldn't spin into criticism of council (Kovach and Guthrie excluded, of course) he wouldn't have printed it anyway.
It's not that "we" didn't get an answer to "our" question. One blogger that didn't even identify himself as a citizen of Guelph didn't get an answer. That's all.

Hey there, Steve;

I didn't know about the trip, and if you look back I haven't commented on it.

A big part of what I've posted on 59 Carden has been about the relationship between the City and citizen/ rate payer. I am troubled by the trend I see in this respect. I have also be critical of the times and ways issues have been mishandled, unnecessarily made more difficult. There is a common thread here with past misadventures.

I will side every time with the person seeking information from their local government, so long as it doesn't compromise us legally. It's not for us to get into their heads and determine what their motives are in making the request. The expectation is that Staff act professionally and yes, that sometimes means dealing with inquiries that are not framed as we would perhaps always hope them to be. And Staff no doubt do that any number of times every single day. It's not always pretty. That's the job. On this particular occassion, it seems someone dreamed up a way to avoid answering a question -- with a qualification for inquires that clearly looks like a move towards delegitimizing a critic's forum. That's when my principles are challenged. In the end, we should take the higher road.

Well put Craig and Steve, I agree with Craig. It's not the case of this person "Guelph Standard" it is the case of the response. Many of us did not know of this trip of Maggie's until it was brought forward. Therein lies the problem. Was the trip frivolous, justified or otherwise? When we are challenged financially, all expenses should be scrutinized to value. If Maggie justifies this trip then no problems. If the trip is not justified then we have a problem, especially when no one knew about it. We are into hard times and things are not looking rosy at this time. This councils response has been to often, no problems, just raise taxes or we don't respond to your type. When does this end?

Any taxpayer deserves an answer from the city. Not just those Karen, Jan and Maggie, the three witches of spin, agree with.

Okay Pilgrims
Lets remember what started this.
Maggie went to Italy - Nobody knew!
Maggie went for "professional development"
Nobody cared!
Maggie overspent - Nobody kmew!
Maggie apparently never filed a report, nobody asked
Maggie organized a "workshop" - very few knew!
Maggie did her usual begging act- Nobody knew except Council who quietly approved it thus showing the true value of Council resolutions!.
Council approved this over excess - Nobody raised any concerns!
Not one member of the "Gang of Four" as Jan Hall refers to them raised any flags.
So the gang of four are as useful as the ---Well you know!
One blog AKA Allan Boynton asked for info. The Blog being anonymous at that time was refused a reply by City Hall. Can't blame them for that call. Remember Allan ran in Ward 1 in the last Municipal Election where he finished second last out of 11 candidates with about 400 votes. And somehow he thinks that qualifies him to be a spokesperson! Fantastic!
Okay Pilgrims - Just why should we pay attention to Allan? I do not see any reason. Do you?
But going back to the Maggie issue, that is exactly her nature. She will roll in every public trough that she can find. Front loading washers, energy upgrade incentives, you name it.
Something about a leopard not changing its spots?
Once a bottom feeder - always a ---
And to all a good night!

It's enormous that you are getting ideas from this piece of writing as well as from our dialogue made here.

Hello, I enjoy reading through your post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.

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Joanne Shuttleworth is the newsroom lead in municipal affairs coverage for the Guelph Mercury. She is a former Guelph YWCA Woman of Distinction honouree and a past winner of an Ontario Newspapers Award for her work as an editor. You can reach her at jshuttleworth@guelphmercury.com

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