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April 24, 2012


Council voted on expressing confidence in the CAO's decision to deny them access to an MoE report critical of operations at the new waste facility obliging almost half of Council to file a Freedom of Information request? Seriously? What right-minded person votes to be kept in the dark?

And then they turn around and vote on needing to get along better?


I think the question is answered at the end of the article Scott linked to. There's already a process for council (as a body) to make requests to staff for information, and it was bypassed. Did Cam raise a motion in a council meeting asking for the info? Was it voted on?
I think no matter what you think of the report and whether council should see it (and I think they definitely should) we can't have individual councillors acting like their authority extends outside the council chambers. Council is a body that acts as a whole based on majority consent. I wouldn't want that to change.

Steve, our elections are open and fair and the outcomes, "democratic". When we elect someone as our representative in civic matters, we are endowing that person with a high degree of trust to act on our behalf. I would question any action that would impinge on that person's ability to gain what info they seek, when they seek it, with the presumption that they would act responsibly with that info.

Once again, who is in control?!

It all goes back to 7 councillors who have a relationship with the mayor and personal agendas that do not relate to what the citizens in this city want. It's rather unfortunate that voter turn out is as low as it is, otherwise there may be a functioning council that works together to put the needs of its citizens, before personal agendas!

But they were elected as members of a council, and as such, only have the power to propose and vote on council resolutions. That's all.
Cam's new and can be cut some slack but Gloria is a veteran and should know the proper procedures by now.
'Councillors' can't demand information from city staff, but 'Council' can. Why weren't the issues raised at meetings and voted on? This could have all been avoided.
Who's in control? Ultimately, we are, but our power lies with the voting majority of council, not our individual rep.

This makes no sense. Any Councillor should be able to get any information from staff if requested. It should not have to go through all these different layers just to be shot down by a majority of Councillors who wish to with hold such a request.

My guess is that with Ken Spira and the Guelph Waste Managemnet already filing a FOI with the Ministry ( not the city) we were going to receive the report and were hoping to see it prior to the liaison committee meeting on Thursday night. After thursday that report or info in that report was going to become public so City staff are just trying to play like they were publicly going to release the report before anyone else releases the information. In my eyes they are just trying to do damage control.

So, Steve, if I follow your logic individual staffers can have access to all kinds of information that individual councillors cannot if that's how things happen or don't happen around the horseshoe? That doesn't seem democratic. Or in the public interest.

It's not about my logic. It's the way councils work...and the way they should work, in my opinion.
If Cam had introduced a motion for council to request the report then it would have been put to a vote, and any councillor voting against it would have to do so publicly, and answer for it.
The point is that there is an established procedure for Cam to request the report he wanted, and he hasn't even tried it yet. He tried his own method and when it didn't work he filed an FOA request. It makes the city look bad.
Just imagine how this blog would erupt if Maggie Laidlaw did something like this.

Whether the MoE report on the already controversial and problematic waste plant contains damning or mildly unflattering findings is now not all that important. It is now clear that our Mayor really doesn't feel she needs to respect her own personal promise of being open, transparent and accountable.

Steve is right. Bottom line, Council established a procedure for asking for information, and now they're not following it. I agree this report should (and it obviously will) be made public, but they need to use the proper process.

This admin has a penchant for treating people like children.

Councillor Guthrie asked for a report. He could have been provided it with a caution that it is in draft form. Done.

The real problem with that scenario of course is then Councillor Guthrie has an inside view of the report before it is presented, which would also include the opportunity to see any changes from the draft to the final copy... and be able to ask questions about those changes -- which the Mayor could then disallow, directing him to limit his questions to the report as it has been tabled. That would be... problematic, politically.

But isn't this all supposed to be about putting the interests of the people first?!

So again, it didn't have to come to this.

It comes down to what you consider to be the higher public good. You can rationalize why a councillor is not allowed to view info that she/he is very much responsible for (or are we actually saying the role of councillor is a quaint position in principle but the Corporation is in charge now? -- send in your request, politely, and we'll see if you merit an answer?) but I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one.

Remember, when you refuse a request of a councillor, you are refusing a request from the people they are charged to represent. That's dangerous territory.

Perhaps step back and consider if there was a mounting pretext to this response by Councillor Guthrie (et al) before you hit him too hard.

In the end, Councillor Guthrie has the option of bypassing both council and staff and taking this type of issue to the polls in 2014.

Unfortunately for some, perhaps, I'm guessing he'd be on the right side of the people. Which, hopefully, still matters. Maybe even more than what some may think.

Perhaps Phil or Scott can clarify something for me: how many reports are there? I see reference in the original article to a report from the MoE to the City re: the waste plant. I now see Craig referring to a draft report, presumably one that is being written by the City in response to that original MoE report.

Im confused.

Is it the City's intention to not ever released the MoE report and instead release its own report (presumably now in draft form and thus said to not be ready for release)?

Is the FOI request for the original MoE report? Or, is it for the City's report?

If the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has identified problems with the operation of a waste facility in our city, then we deserve to know what is in that report. We should not be forced to settle for a revised report produced by the City that likely paints a rosier picture

I don't think anyone would trust a report produced by the City at this point given the clear attempts to hide previous problems and deflect responsibility. It wouldn't shock me to see the City's report suggest it is not the plant responsible for odours, but rotting leaves and expect us to swallow that ridiculous lie again.

Craig: Staff was not going to change the rport. They said they disagreed on some aspects of it and wanted time to prepare answers to those concerns/issues before making it public.

D C,

There is a report from the ministry to the city, however the city disagrees with some elements of that report and is preparing an "accompanying report" outlining these concerns.
My understanding is the ministry report and the city's accompanying report are both to be distributed at the meeting tomorrow night, so we will see what the ministry wrote and also what is essentially the city's response to it.
Craig can jump in if I'm wrong, but I believe his reference to a 'draft' report was a suggestion city staff could have released the ministry report with the caveat they disagree with some elements of it and it should therefore be considered along with the city's response.
I hope that clarifies it.

Yes, thanks Scott. :)

Some interesting food for thought....... the MOE officer incharge of the Guelph district which includes the organics facility has suddenly received a new job placement ( promotion, lateral move or demotion I don't know) regardless the timing is impreccable. Oh, the politics

Thanks, Scott. I was thinking "draft" because I was trying to make sense of a current councillor being denied access to something staff had, and so towards cutting staff some slack I guess my mind went to a scenario where staff were afforded the opportunity to review and comment on a report in advance of it being released -- and wanted councillors to not have it until the final copy was made public.

Otherwise, and even still, it's difficult to appreciate why Councillor Guthrie was refused a copy of it.

Maybe he forgot and emailed using his name, "linda"?

Preparing an accompanying report, proper procedure by a city councillor, whatever reason city staff pulls out of their...... hat, the fact is they have no right to withhold a provincial report and the only reason for doing so is because there trying to hide something!

What amazes me is that he didn't even try making the request through council. Why? It would have saved him $1.00.
Not very fiscally responsible for a guy whose name is being floated as a potential mayor ;-)

Fiscally responsible....are you serious.
Look at our fiscally responsible council....
unknown price tag on recycling plant?
unknown price tag on the transit hub?
unknown price tag on the city hall?
all these lawsuits that get settled privately?
the firing of the senior members of staff?
(with the undisclosed payouts).
And then you talk of following procedure....
How about all the requests that went into for the full disclosure of the per tonne charge at the recycling centre?
All the requests that went into the bad smell
problems at the city recycling centre.
The price tag on the new info mercial to
so called promote the city of Guelph.
All the requests were either stone walled,not even answered or they came up with some pretty stupid answers on that you would just stand there and shake your head on.
So before you talk of following procedure you
should look at the mayor and her followers of 8 and how they follow procedures.

No, I wasn't serious. That's what the ;-) was meant to convey.

Steve - I know you were not being serious, but Jerry just highlited a number of issue's that keep getting washed over, forgotten or just outright ignored by our so called representatives. Amazing that we continue to put up with it and then put them back in power. Anybody got a new baseball bat. Mine just wore out from beating myself over the head with it. :-)

And they're all valid concerns, even though a few of them are outside of council's influence. Not all decisions are made or influenced by them, after all.
And you already know I'm no supporter of the current mayor or any politician, for that matter. When someone better comes along I'll be voting for them.
For now, I stand by the idea that the city has a responsibility to respond to council, but not individual councillors. I suspect the upcoming integrity commissioner's report will say the same (and folks here will probably claim he's the mayor's lap dog)

I just read a column in the Merc, "it was one of those weeks for city hall", where the writer apologized to the city for negative coverage.
If you want accurate information on any subject involving the municipal government in Guelph your going to have to get it yourself.

Of course "lap dog" and yes the city does have that responsibility, but don't you think the city has the responsibility to respond to the individual as well, regardless of position in this community. It's what we pay for through our taxes. If not then I liken it to other comments whereas it is a case of shut up and pay me your money or because I have a boat in the driveway I don't have the right to complain.

The Mercury had no reason to apologize. What they commented on is of concern. For the Mayor to hide spending, and especially spending that was not approved by Council is just what good Journalists should bring to the attention of the taxpayer.

Just what "convinced" the Mercury to apologize?
Just what convinced the MOE to "relocate" the MOE staff member who was responsible for the black eye to the Mayor's second white elephant - The "New and Improved" non-smelling Compost Plant?
Why was The Director of "Stink" not at the meeting of the Public Liaison Committee for this facility?
How many more wheels will fall off the Farbridge vehicle? Is this what getting Guelph back on track really means? And before the Mayor sheds any more crocodile tears. I do care about Guelph, I just hate to see what her misguided agenda is producing.I await the holy indignation of the diminishing number of loyalists she still has!

geo and Serious,

I suggest you read Phil's column again. I would have been disappointed if he apologized to City Hall (or anyone else) for our municipal coverage during the past week, the majority of which was mine.
He did not.


I read Phil's piece and did not see nor sense an apology. Thanks for confirming Scott.

I look forward to and respect your coverage of city hall but Phil's piece read like an apology to me.

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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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