Dissecting the History of GMHI & District Energy in Guelph

Speaking notes from October 24th, 2016

From the outset, I take great pride in making the personal decision early on in this file to take ownership and indeed immerse myself in it’s history in order to better understand and determine how we’ve arrived at today’s outcome (suspending operations at Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc indefinitely).

So to the beginning, the creation of GMHI and pursuit of District Energy for that matter go back almost 9 years in Guelph. On November 24, 2008 council at the time struck a design team shortly after approving the original Community Energy Initiative in 2007. They appointed a sub-committee to build a business case detailing objectives, mandate, guiding principles and a proposed structure for HOLDCO (later termed GMHI).  On that design team were former mayor Karen Farbridge, former councillor Ian Findlay, and current councillor’s Mike Salisbury, Bob Bell and Leanne Piper.

Now, fast forward to June 28, 2010 (I’ve referenced this date many times in the past), Council endorsed a design (founded on this subcommittees work) for GMHI that includes 5 of 8 voting members of the board being elected officials. I’ll acknowledge Councilor Bell was the only member of the design team to vote against the proposed structure of GMHI. Appointed to the original GMHI board were Karen Farbridge (chair), Todd Dennis, Lise Burcher, and current councillors June Hoffland and Karl Wettstein. 5-8 voting members were politicians (a controlling interest) by design. Politicians that now maintained governance and oversight of Guelph Hydro and its subsidiary companies. Companies that, as we’ve heard Mr. Sardana state in the past, were subjected to “pressure” and “moral suasion” to get on with pursuing District Energy in the Hanlon Creek and Downtown. Initiatives that ultimately lead to $14M dollars being invested in District Energy, of which, $8.7M has already been written off in losses.

This was a well crafted sell to the residents of Guelph. I know because as a resident before being elected I voiced support for the concept of GMHI and District Energy, and today my trust has been broken over what I’ve come to know. This is a personal issue for me because I know what it means to government’s social license when environmental initiatives (shrouded in a lack of transparency), fail.  One only has to look provincially, at the erosion of public trust in government’s ability to implement renewable energy as proof of how important social licence is in these pursuits. GMHI and District Energy is no different.

So, now residents know, just like we (councillors) know the history and I fully support Mayors Guthrie efforts to bring transparency to this file.  Those who designed, created and ultimately governed over these pursuits should no longer be allowed to distance themselves from it or shift blame. I hope that in the coming months we can continue cleaning it up, and start rebuilding the trust that has been lost in our city.

My thoughts from Monday’s meeting are attached.

Update: Traffic Study at Watson Pkwy & Eastview determines traffic lights are warranted

Some exciting news for east end Guelph.  A recent traffic study completed at the Watson/Eastview intersection on September 20th demonstrates new signalized traffic lights are warranted .  Please see below correspondence received from staff today (Oct 7, 2016).


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Councilor Gordon does not speak for me when it comes to conservation & sustainable resource use

After reading the desire of Ward 2 Councilor James Gordon to “kick the asses” of a provincially regulated, private employer of more than 300 people, out of our region this week, I felt the need to state unequivocally that Councilor Gordon does not speak for me on this issue.

It’s one thing to relay our community’s concerns regarding the conservation of water and the current Permit to Take Water process, but it’s another thing entirely to create (as some have described) “hyper-rhetoric and division” around the issue.  Division that (as Gordon suggests) could lead to hundreds of Guelph residents, neighbors and friends, losing their jobs.   My thoughts on this file are as follows.  Continue reading

Ward 1 Town Hall | September 28, 7-9 at City Hall

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Also joining us will be guests Mike Schreiner (Green Party Leader of Ontario) and Kithio Mwanzia (President and CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce) for a facilitated community discussion on updating Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative.

Please consider joining us.

Dan Gibson
Ward1 City Councilor
519-827-6407 (c)
On Twitter | @ward1guelph
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Note to parents of new Ecole Guelph Lake students

Many parents may have already received this from the school board but as a reminder there will be a new crossing guard stationed at Eastview & Severn starting in September. This is based on the School Boards research into pedestrian traffic to the new Ecole Guelph Lake.  As a note, there will also be a traffic study completed at Watson & Eastview within the first few weeks of September to gauge the increased traffic to and from the school. This will help determine the necessity for traffic lights in the future.

Enjoy the last few weeks of the summer!


In Defence of Inflationary Tax Increases

Attached are some of my comments shared during the 2016 budget debate.  My challenge to council as we move closer to the 2017 budget process is, “how are our decisions on taxation supporting vulnerable home owners in Guelph”.


National study’s would suggest that as many as 11,000 households in Guelph are currently living paycheque to paycheque while trying to own or pay a mortgage on their home.  This represents a significant demographic in our city that is truly exposed to sudden spikes in taxation and/or inflation.  These households are not wealthy.  Their savings are invested in their homes and they’re relying on that investment to be their primary source of long term security as they retire, start a career or seek to raise a family in Guelph.

Finding common currency in Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative

The idea of residents finding common currency (or interest) in Environmental Initiatives is very important to me.  Whether your currency is financial (ROI), social or environmental, your values should be reflected in the Community Energy Initiative (CEI).  This is how we as a council can ensure as broad based support as possible.

Looking back to April, 2016 I’m confident that the process (and debate) council undertook on updating the CEI will prove to be successful.  With strong fiscal and environmental performance metrics embedded in the plan; moving forward we can now report back to citizens how the CEI is progressing and whether we are achieving our stated fiscal and environmental goals.

Thoughts on the 9 Year Growth Discrepancy in Guelph’s Operating and Capital Budgets


Closing thoughts on District Energy and the need to rebuild public trust toward Environmental Initiatives in Guelph


Update on Guelph’s Existing District Energy System

Guelph, Ont., July 18, 2016 – Guelph’s existing district energy nodes in the downtown core and Hanlon Creek Business Park will continue to operate with no further expansions at this time, as directed by Council this evening.

The financial and technical performance of the existing nodes was evaluated by Deloitte and FVB Energy Inc. to develop a business case for the future direction of district energy in Guelph. The business case outlined three options: exit the current investments; operate the current nodes as is; and preserve the opportunity for growth.

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