Local impact of the economic recession

July 9, 2010

Blog

Whenever I have delivered my annual state of the city address, I have always been able to say that unemployment rates track significantly lower in Guelph than provincial or national averages.  

That is except in 2009.  Unemployment rates rose across the country as a result of the economic recession and in Guelph we saw an even sharper increase in job losses.

Since the recession hit, I have corresponded with a family where the father, mother and son had all lost their jobs.  I spoke with a single father with two teenage children, one hoping to head to University this fall, who had lost his job, his home and was struggling to find suitable and affordable housing for his family.  This was the first time in his life he had experienced this level of financial uncertainty.  I spoke with another woman who was still employed but only because her work colleagues had taken a significant roll back in salaries. 

While we are seeing good signs that we are pulling out of the recession, the economic climate is still uncertain.  These are times when we all have to tighten our belts.

The closure of City facilities and the suspension of services for five non-consecutive days this summer are an unfortunate result of an $8 million revenue shortfall in 2010—a consequence of the economic recession. To avoid passing this cost onto tax payers in the form of higher property taxes Council voted to reduce the City’s payroll budget along with a number of other expenditure reductions. 

All City employees, including management and Councillors, are affected and will experience five unpaid days in 2010.  During these unpaid days of closure, services are affected because City employees are not working and are therefore not able to deliver service. This, while we realize creates an inconvenience, saves $1.2 million and has contributed to cutting $8 million out of City Hall’s budget. 

Believe me when I say that Council and staff understood all too well that these service reductions would cause inconvenience for our residents.  However,  I also believe it was the right thing to do. 

The loss of one weekly waste pick up out of 52 has helped ease our community through a recession. 

While we have done our best to communicate these temporary austerity measures, we recognize there will be residents in our community who will be taken by surprise by the closures and loss of service.  

On behalf of the City of Guelph, we thank you for your understanding while these temporary measures are in place.   We hope you will appreciate why they were necessary.  We apologize for the inconvenience they cause as we understand how valued and important our City services are to the citizens of Guelph.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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5 Comments on “Local impact of the economic recession”

  1. B Mcm. Says:

    I think it is unfortunate that you keep blaming the service cuts and budget shortfall on the recession,one city councillor just recently commented to the Tribune,and I agree that it is the result of mismanagement of our tax and budgeted dollars.Free parking for people in your employ is one problem(free parking for all or free parking for none).Our transit system has cost taxpayers over 2 miliion in 2 years(if you have a problem with that number then,as I have asked you to do 4 times already, tell the public yourself how much it has cost us).I see that you and city council members have voted yourselves a 13 percent raise while cutting our services.I feel as though all of you have truly earned a 13 percent paycut for what has been done to our budget.Still I hear that you are planning a multi-million dollar transit terminal that we can’t afford to house a transit system we can’t afford,also this plan for rapid transit in Guelph will just be another costly venture for the citizens.There is an election coming up so a little forthrightness and honesty towards the public would probably be in your best interest.

  2. E Says:

    @B Mcm – First, Do you really think free parking necessarily means mismanagement? Or does it just mean that the City of Guelph is not collecting some revenue that it could, in theory, collect?

    Second, do you think that that 13% raise that you speak of it anything other than meeting inflation for the past few years? Remember that members of a City council are the executive of a large corporation. In a private company they would be getting paid 10x what they get now. The same goes for management level civic employees.

    Finally, transit is a public good. It helps those who are less well off and students (who make a huge contribution to the local economy) get around town. It reduces the environmental impact of travel throughout Guelph. And in every city in the developed world it is considered necessary. So how can you criticize it.

    Be careful with your words. Much of what you’ve written belies the fact that you know very little about how a municipality is run and how a decent member of society should act. Particularly in these tough times, we should not be criticizing those efforts to cut back and provide services to those who need them most.

  3. b mcm Says:

    I can criticize transit because my taxes and transit fares keep going up due to an overindulgent system.I am not trying to stop transit,I rely on it as well,I am trying to get them to run a more cost effective and eco-friendly system and if you look at the new system coming in May(after 9 more months of running our current wasteful system)you will see that they are going to implement the very system I told them we needed two years ago.You can thank me for saving the city some money on that.I agree that free parking is not mismanagement of fund,it is a loss of potential revenue though and needs to be stopped.As for 13% raises.The mayor on her blog said she was talking to two men who lost their jobs,one of them also lost his home,and a woman who retained her job only by taking a pay cut.My wages have been frozen and the mayor says we all need to tighten our belts,I say she should lead the way and not take this raise at this time.She won’t feel the crunch as much as some of us.As for how a decent member of society should act,I don’t care what you think of me,I am merely frustrated with the lack of answers from city officials.

  4. Brian Holstein Says:

    I have been away from the mechanisms of council for a while, but I do want to answer some of the above criticisms.
    Every year,I understand, council must look at a report that considers pay increases. This year council voted for the raise, but it may never affect some. The raise is for next year’s council; the one elected in October. Hopefully most of the present councillors will retain their seats and make use of that raise, but that is at the pleasure of the voters..
    Regarding inflation, etc., when the five days of service cuts were introduced, I understand that councillors were the first to voluntarily take the same pay cut, so they are not playing the part of “Do as I say, not as I do – they are leading by example.
    Things would have been a lot easier had this council had the luxury of having a contingency fund which they could fall back on during the recession. But this fund, carefully buily up over many years, was pillaged by the former council. The fund was emptied; not because of a recessionary catastrophy, but because that council wanted to use the money to avoid raising taxes “too much”. They emptied the fund, yet the taw increases of the Quarrie regime remained the highest on record. And they were the supposedly fiscally conservative team that was elected. Small wonder most were turfed out of office at the first opportunity.

  5. E Says:

    The term “fiscally conservative” in politics is the biggest lie there is. Has there ever been a self-described “fiscally conservative” politician or political movement that actually achieved any savings?

    My year of experience studying this say no. The Mulroney government was “fiscally conservative”, but Canada’s budget inflated more during that government than ever before. The same thing can be said of the current Conservative government, even before the recession spending. Look at the Reagan and Bush administrations in the USA, both cases showed huge increases in spending, far more than any Democrat in history.

    I don’t get involved in party politics, but after years of observation, the term “fiscally conservative” is about as much of a misnomer as the term “tax and spend liberal”. The Liberal Party in Canada and the Democrats in the USA are, by far, the most fiscally responsible political parties in North America (based on their performance). It is really unfortunate that the right wing parties are so capable at selling centrists as socialist spenders. Moreso, it is unfortunate that social conservatives seem so convinced that their preferred policies are also inherently spend-thrift, which also tends to be the case.

    I apologize for this diatribe, but I too know what Kate Quarrie’s regime did to Guelph, and I’m watching it happen again at the federal level. I just don’t understand it.

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