Ward 4 News

Councillor - Christine Billings

Welcome to the new WARD 4 NEWS Blog!


I hope this blog will be a place to share information and engage in a positive dialogue about our city.

A few things about the blog:

  • I welcome your comments. Please note that comments will be moderated to filter spam and inappropriate language.
  • This blog will not post personal attacks.
  • Any comments you post on the blog will not become part of the public record. If you have input that you would like to be part of the record, or to be addressed by Council or City staff, please send me an e-mail to christine.billings@guelph.ca. 

The opinions I express in this blog are mine and mine alone, and do not represent the official positions of the City of Guelph or City Council. Some postings will be emails sent to me that I have chosen to post but do not mean I endorse them.

I am excited about this blog and its potential to boost two-way communication between us.

Thank you,



Monday Apr 11th - 2016

On December 10, 2015 City Council approved the 2016 budget that represented a 2.99% increase to the average residential property.

Voting in favour were: Councillors Allt, Downer, Gordon, Hofland, Piper, Salisbury and Wettstein.

Voting against were: Mayor Guthrie, Councillors Bell, Billings, Gibson, MacKinnon and Van Hellemond.


If only it were this simple.  On top of this 2.99%, on March 21, 2016 council voted to shift taxes from multi-residential and industrial property classes onto other classes including single family residential (this includes detached homes, townhomes, condominiums, apartments with under 7 units etc).  This resulted in an average single family residential tax increase of 3.72% for 2016.

Voting in favour were: Councillors Allt, Bell, Downer, Gordon, Hofland, Piper and


Voting against were: Mayor Guthrie, Councillors Billings, Gibson, MacKinnon, Van

Hellemond and Wettstein.


The city has been undertaking this shifting for several years now resulting in much higher residential tax increases than advertised.

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Tuesday Sep 1st - 2015

A recently released auditor’s report found that none of Susan Watson’s charges against a 2014 council candidate were warranted.


Susan Watson requested an audit claiming that:

  • a $400 corporate donation wasn’t eligible
  • third party advertising should have been reported by the candidate, and this would have resulted in exceeding the contribution limit for the candidate
  • third party advertising exceeded contribution limits

The auditor found that “The Candidate complied with the requirements of the Act with respect to the issues raised by Susan Watson”.


The auditor was required to investigate all aspects of the campaign financing and found several small issues that: had no impact on total contributions; the candidates own contributions should have been higher; expenses were over stated by $1 and there was a $5.60 expense properly recorded but without a receipt.


The cost of the audit is expected to be about $10,000.


The matter will be back before the Compliance Audit Committee September 10, 2015.

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Friday Sep 12th - 2014

Sept 11th, 2014

This has been an ongoing issue for the city and some facts on what has been taking place over the past few years are posted here for you:


•    The City has been working for the past five years to address a long term risk to the City’s drinking water associated with quarrying operations at the Dolime Quarry, located adjacent to the City’s western boundary;

•    Under its present license, the quarry’s owner is permitted to excavate through the Vinemount Member, a geological formation which provides natural protection to the municipal aquifer from which City supply wells draw water.  As a consequence, portions of the Vinemount member have been breached. In the City’s view, until this breach is repaired, and a long term management plan is put in place, the situation presents a serious and continuing long term risk to the City’s drinking water supply.

•    In May 2014, the City won an application before the Environmental Review Tribunal for leave to appeal a recent Ministry of Environment decision to extend the Permit to Take Water at the quarry. This sets the stage for a hearing on whether or not a management plan to address the long term repair of the Vinemount , comprehensive monitoring program and financial assurances requirements should be imposed on the quarry.  

•    The parties to the hearing, (the Ministry of the Environment, the quarry owner and the City) have now agreed to adjourn this hearing and try to find solutions with the assistance of an independent mediator with extensive experience in resolving environmental disputes.

•    The parties have also agreed that the quarry operator will maintain a limitation on excavation in the Vinemount Member, to ensure the breach will not be increased while the mediation and hearing process is on-going.

•     A mediation session has been scheduled for October 22, 2014.  The City is hopeful this mediation session will chart a course for putting in place workable solutions without the need for a lengthy hearing.

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Friday Aug 1st - 2014

City and ATU to vote on Tuesday, August 5

Guelph, ON, August 1, 2014—The City and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189 have expedited the voting process so that the second tentative agreement reached between the two parties can be accepted or rejected as soon as possible.
The ATU Local 1189 vote will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. August 5 and will be followed by a closed session of Guelph City Council from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with the tentative agreement being the only item on the agenda.
“We recognize how hard this has been for our riders and are pushing up our voting day to Tuesday, August 5, which gives us enough time to share the agreement with our members and hopefully get our buses back on the streets as soon as possible.,” said ATU Local 1189 President Andrew Cleary.
“We are all working to get this service disruption over for our community as fast as we can,” said the City’s Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert. “This has been a tremendous hardship for the community, and we hope both sides will vote to ratify the tentative agreement on Tuesday.”
Once ratified, it takes a minimum of two days to bring Guelph Transit’s systems back into operational readiness. This includes inspection of the fleet and confirming scheduling.
For updates and more information regarding the negotiations between the City and ATU Local 1189, please visit guelph.ca/atu.

For media inquiries
Stewart McDonough
Communications Specialist
519-822-1260  extension 3356
Andrew Cleary
ATU Local 1189 President

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Monday Jul 28th - 2014

July 28th, 2014 at 11:30am

City administration and ATU Local 1189 to meet this week

Guelph, ON, July 28, 2014—In a joint announcement, the City of Guelph and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189 are letting the public know they will be meeting this week with regards to the current lockout of Guelph Transit’s union employees.
“We believe there is a way to end this lockout and get Guelph Transit running again soon,” said the City’s Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert. “We are hoping to see a reasonable and affordable counter-offer presented by the ATU Local 1189 executive that clearly represents the objectives of their membership.”
“We want to be working and serving our community,” said ATU Local 1189 President Andrew Cleary. “Any step that can help us move towards that goal is one we’re willing to consider.”
During this period of negotiations, the City and ATU Local 1189 will not be commenting to the media.

For media inquiries
Stewart McDonough
Communications Specialist
519-822-1260  extension 3356

Andrew Cleary
ATU Local 1189 President

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Friday Jul 25th - 2014

Transit Negotiations: How we got here and how we can get out

July 25, 2014

How we got here and how we can get out

The City of Guelph is interested, first and foremost, in having Guelph Transit back serving the community as soon as possible. To achieve this, the City needs to reach a reasonable and affordable contract agreement with ATU Local 1189. When transit is running for the community and the City’s employees are back in the workplace, City administration and their transit employees can address workplace concerns and rebuild a positive and productive relationship.


The following details the sequence and rationale behind where we’ve ended up and the continued hope for a fast resolution.


·         Exhaustive negotiation: Months of negotiations through to the end of June including 22 days of bargaining – seven with a conciliator – led to a list of demands from the ATU, which had not yet included a wage and benefit proposal. The union had indicated a wish to reach wage parity with Grand River Transit so we have included those figures in our calculation. The cost of ATU’s demands combined with wage parity with Grand River Transit would be:

o   $4.6 million in new dollars over three years

o   An additional 2.34% increase to property taxes over three years

o   20 to 30 new unionized drivers to cover requests for vacation days, lieu days, floater days, birthdays off etc.

o   No improvement to transit service delivery


·         First offer: On Wednesday, June 25 the City put an offer on the table with a deadline for union response that was missed. When asked if the union would take it to its members the response was it would take it to the members in two to three weeks with a clear endorsement against the proposal.


·         Final offer: On Friday, June 27 the City put forward a “final offer” to ensure a ministry-monitored vote in a faster timeframe.


·         Offer rejected: On July 11 ATU members rejected the vote – 186 voted no and 12 voted yes


·         Notice of lockout announcement: On July 12, Mayor Karen Farbridge and Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert address the media and public to provide two days of notice to the community before suspending Guelph Transit service.


·         Tentative agreement: At midnight on July 13 the City and union executive agree to a tentative agreement:

o   The union brought 15 items to the table for consideration andconsensus was reached on the resolution of the items.

o   Agreement to resolve that list included agreement on a binding letter of understanding about key workplace concerns raised by the union that fall outside the collective bargaining agreement (e.g. lunchroom and washroom facilities)

o   Signed by ATU executive and City administration

o   Ratified on July 14 by Guelph City Council


Typically, union executives only accept and take agreements to a membership vote if they are confident they will be ratified. 


·         Tentative agreement rejected: Union executive recommend tentative agreement that is “overwhelmingly” rejected by the union members.


·         Lockout reinstated: With the City’s original concerns compounded with an increased disconnect between union executive and members and potential instability within the union, the lockout was reinstated.


·         Why lockout: City makes decision to lockout ATU Local 1189

o   A consistent pattern of unexplained and lengthy delays leads City officials to believe the union is trying to delay negotiations to September before taking a strike vote. A September strike would create the maximum amount of disruption to the Guelph community (transit ridership moves from 7,000 per day in July to 14,000 per day in September) and apply political pressure in an effort to force capitulation to union demands.

o   Typically lockouts take effect immediately to protect the safety of the community, frontline service providers and property.

o   Exhaustive negotiations with a union that hadn’t moved on any items on the table; hadn’t offered wage and benefit requests; and, based on comments in the media, hadn’t been clear about its members’ main concerns

o   Working without a contract indefinitely creates uncertainty for employees and service users and continual negotiations is a perpetual drain on public funds.


·         Lack of clarity: The gap between union executive and members on the tentative agreement has not been explained officially by the union to City officials.


The union president and lead negotiator stated in a Guelph Mercury article on July 24 that: “I don't believe it's a mystery," Cleary said of the issues, "which were outlined in a package presented during negotiations last October. They know what was in that package."


Which takes us back to where we were at the beginning. ATU Local 1189 requests add up to a 2.34% property tax increase over three years to maintain existing service levels for on City department. To put that number in perspective, the 2014 tax increase from the City’s entire operating budget including fire, emergency services, public works, transit, parks and recreation etc., etc. was 2.38% total.


·         Union instability: The union’s negotiating team changed on June 18 with a slim vote margin and a second union executive vote is expected at the end of July. Another change in the negotiating team could mean new priorities, a new approach and, most certainly, more delays.


·         Counter offer: The City has demonstrated its willingness to make adjustments within the Council-approved negotiation mandate as well as its interest in addressing workplace concerns through the binding letter of understanding in the tentative agreement. A reasonable and affordable counter offer would be seriously considered by the City.

For media inquiries
Stewart McDonough
Communications Specialist
519-822-1260 extension 3356




Stewart McDonough, Communications Specialist
Corporate Communications, Corporate and Human Resources
City of Guelph

519-822-1260 x 3356
E  stewart.mcdonough@guelph.ca  

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