About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Some Stuff to do

Hard to believe that January is nearly over... but since it is, I thought it might be time to highlight some of the events taking place in the coming week. It's a rather stacked week in terms of events so be sure to act accordingly and pace yourself.

Tuesday February 2nd - Guelph Remastered Open House You may have already read about the City's plan for this coming construction season, but now you can check out the plan for yourself.
City Hall, 1 Carden St.
6 to 9 pm

Wednesday February 3rd - New Downtown Neighbourhood Association Kick-off
Residents of the downtown core are invited to a kick-off social for the new DNA, a group dedicated to making Downtown Guelph a better place to live.
Alma Gallery, 133 Wyndham St. N.
7 pm

Thursday February 4th - Public Forum: Natural Heritage Strategy
Members of the public are invited to provide input into Guelph’s draft Natural Heritage policies. The presentation of the drafts will be followed by discussion with attending members of the public. If you're interested in attending Please RSVP to michelle.mercier@guelph.ca
Meeting Room C, City Hall, 1 Carden St.
6:30 pm

Sunday February 7th - Help Haiti: A Guelph Benefit for Earthquake Relief
Several well-known Guelph musicians assist in the goal to raise $20,000 for earthquake relief in Haiti. Tickets are $30 each and all proceeds are going to the Canadian Red Cross. For more information you can go to the website guelph4haiti.com.
River Run Centre
7 pm

Monday February 8th - “The State of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada”
Ned Franks, Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University, will be talking about the need for reform of parliamentary procedures, and he’ll share his own ideas on the topic.
War Memorial Hall, University of Guelph campus
7:30 pm

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Mayoral Rebuttal

So this was sent out over the interweb yesterday, an official statement from the Mayor's office in regards to that arbitrator's ruling on Tuesday as to the how social services costs are split between the City of Guelph and Wellington County.

The City and County went to arbitration, at the City’s request, to settle on a new method for dividing the costs of soical services and ambulances. As it stands now, the county runs soical services for both Gueplph and Wellington, while the city does the same for ambulances. The City was arguing though that funds should be assigned according to tax assessment rather than caseload, a funding formula that would obviously favour Guelph. The County, meanwhile wanted per-call billing for ambulance services.

The decision by Toronto-based arbitrator Douglas Colbourne effectively keeps the status quo, but looming now is the fallout of council's decision to dissolve the joint City/County committee on ambulance services and pulling out of the social services committee. Of course what's driving this tug-of-war is the all mighty dollar. Money. More specifically budgets, which have not only shrunk given recent economic conditions, but those conditions have also seen people lean on social services a lot more.

Count this in the far from over category. Here's the full statement from the Mayor's office:

"Earlier today the City and the County received Arbitrator Colbourne's decision relating to the apportionment of prescribed costs for Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program, child care, social housing, and land ambulance between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington.

"Arbitrator Colbourne has ruled the method for apportioning costs for Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program will be based on the residence of recipients, which is how costs are currently apportioned; the method for apportioning child care costs will be based on the residence of recipients for fee subsidy and special needs resourcing, and based on the location of the centre for wage subsidy, which is how costs are currently apportioned; the method for apportioning costs for social housing will be based on the prior residence of tenants, a departure from the current 75/25 split; and the method for apportioning land ambulance average call cost will be based on location of calls for four call codes, another departure from the current method of splitting costs based on population.

"We are disappointed with the decision. While we need time to understand the full implications, at this time the ruling raises more questions than answers.

"With respect to accountability and transparency for Guelph taxpayers, our concern is the situation is now worse; it's not premature to say this will be a key task for Guelph's new social services committee, the striking of which was approved by City Council last night.

"Some of the points in the ruling are in contradiction with the recent findings of the Auditor General, as outlined in his December 2009 annual report—an obvious point of concern.

"With respect to land ambulance, we do not understand why Guelph/Wellington has now become the only region in Ontario that shares costs based on location of call, which will increase administrative costs for both the City and the County.

"While the City is disappointed with the decision, we feel the process has revealed important information with respect to the breakdown of discretionary versus mandatory services provided by the County, and how Guelph taxpayers' money is spent."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Scenes from an Anti-Proroguing Protest (Royal City Edition)

It was the perfect day for a proroguing protest. The sun was shining, the crowd was large and the only voice representing the Conservatives was the schizophrenic lady that hangs around downtown. But all joking aside, today's event downtown was mostly positive, very open and a very energizing experience. A lot people came out in the cold of January, not just in Guelph, but around the country, to protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament until March.

I haven't head the exact numbers yet, but all together I think it was safe to say that 150-200 people came down to St. George's Square this afternoon. The goal was to be "boisterous, not belligerent." Although billed as a non-partisan event, the Prime Minister certainly took his lumps as speakers raked him over the coals over Afghan detainees, the economy, and what Trudy from CUPE called Harper's "complete distaste for democratic processes."

The event was emceed by Hugh Whiteley of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. (So not quite completely the usual suspects as my right-leaning colleague observed in his post.) Other scheduled speakers included George Kelly of the Guelph Coalition for Social Justice and Guelph MP Frank Valeriote. Valeriote said that the subject of making adjustments to how and why Parliament gets prorogued has been a subject of discussion in his party's caucus last week adding that Harper governs through cynicism, and was banking on Canadians' own cynicism and indifference to get away with proroguing the House for the second time in two years.

Representatives of other parties were invited to the mic, specifically Green Party candidate Bob Bell and Conservative candidate Marty Burke. Bell accepted; Burke, it seemed, was not in the proverbial house. "The Prime Minister has found a little loophole through which he continues to jump," said Bell, who added that he was almost happy for the proroguing because it stifles Harper's "misguided" agenda. "He'll have to earn the forgiveness through change of direction because if he doesn't, the wrath of the Canadian people will be on him."

A woman named Bobbi spoke for the NDP since they haven't acclaimed a new candidate in Guelph yet. She said that Jack Layton will be going up to Parliament Hill on Monday to insist that the government be opened for business as usual, and that if Harper opens the House, Layton will offer NDP support for Parliament's winter agenda. Sweet deal, some how I don't think there'll be any takers though.

The rally ended with a decision being rendered from the "Supreme Court of Public Opinion" saying that the court orders the "Managers of Parliament Hill" back to work, and if they refuse, they're remanded to "binding arbitration" with the Chief Electorial Officer of Canada.

After the rally, things moved swiftly to Metcalf Hall in Knox Church on Quebec Street for a panel and perogies. It was standing room only in a hall that I was told by one of Valeriote's staffers had been set up with only 100 chairs. Supplies of perogies were limited because of the numbers, but it still seemed that anyone that wanted a hot Polish pastry was still able to partake. The panel was made up of several influential and well-known community members including Valeriote, disability activist Susan Wheeler, U of G Political Science Prof. Byron Sheldrick, former NDP candidate Phil Alt and Executive Director of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre Jim Profit. They made several points about the need for more tranparency in government and listened to thoughts and concerns by community members.

But at least there was also room for a bit of humour in the day too...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Residents Win Gravel Fight

Residents against the proposed development of a gravel pit in the south end of the city have seen their luck with the Ontario Municipal Board hold, as an appeal before the OMB has worked out in their favour. The OMB, issuing its second major decision concerning Guelph in as many weeks, dismissed an appeal by Capital Paving Inc. and found in favour of the Cranberry Area Residents and Ratepayers Association.

This was an appeal by Capital Paving to the OMB to get an area in Puslinch rezoned so as to allow the company to create a gravel pit. Capital's application was first made back in February 2005, but was later rejected after CARRA protested. Capital filed an appeal, which was heard over 31 days last year. But in its decision, the OMB said ahat "The Planning Act Appeals for Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment do not represent good planning and are not in the public interest." The result is that the appeal is dismissed and a license will now not be issued from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

In case you weren't following this one, it was one of those Goliath Vs Goliath stories. What we have here is a gravel company that was looking for a permit to collect aggregate from a lot in the Township of Puslinch. The people fighting this new pit were residents who lived within one kilometre of the site in, let me quote to get the wording right, "substantial homes on large estate type lots." Puslinch was also against the pit, but mostly on the basis of protecting the water table, and pushed for limits to be placed on below the ground extraction.

Capital is a Puslinch-based company that wanted to collect 1.25 million tonnes of aggregate over three years to used mainly for the company's road construction operations. This site would have been a feeder site, where the gravel would be collected and then shipped to the main Capital plant where the aggregate would be processed.

Going Rogue Against Proroguing

Stephen Harper's surprise, post-Christmas proroguing of Parliament has once again inspired the ire of a nation that can't make up its mind as to who they want in power the least. But our Prime Minister has proven once again that if he's good at anything, it's bringing people together... against him.

This Saturday, in communities across the nation, people will gather to protest the proroguing. Below is the itinerary for the Guelph Protest called "Perogies not Proroguing" and yes, perogies will be served.

Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament in cooperation with The Council of Canadians & CUPE Present – Perogies not Proroguing

Date: Saturday, January 23rd
Time: 1:00 pm
Location: St George Square
1:00 pm -Gather at St. Georges Square
1:30 pm – March to Knox Presbyterian Church, 20 Quebec St. Enter auditorium from back door,
1:45 pm – Perogies served
1:45 pm – Court of Public Opinion theatrical piece
2 pm – Address from Liberal M.P. Frank Valeriote
2:30 pm – Q&A Panel

RSVP at Facebook Event

But if I could take a minute to rant, let me say that no matter what side of the political spectrum you front for, this kind of action is nothing but a good thing in my opinion. Sometimes I think our democracy is far too docile for its own good and anything that invites people to get active rather than passive has my vote. I know it's kind of a joke, but there is one thing I'll say about the guys in the below video, they are really passionate about governance.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guelph Remastered, or get ready for 4 times more construction this year over last

Yes kids, you read that right. Straight from the mouth of Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig comes confirmation that this coming year's construction will be four-times more busy than last year's. Or, to put it another way, that's five years worth of construction crammed into one calendar year. If that boggles your mind, then you're probably in a good head space to read on and learn what the city's doing about it.

At a media briefing this morning, city officials including Mayor Karen Farbridge, Loewig, and Manager of Corporate Communications Tara Sprigg laid out several points that they hope will alleviate the stress of rampant road work in the City of Guelph. Once again, this construction, which is focused on fixing roads and the replacement of sewers and watermains, is brought to you by the $48 million in stimulus funds from the Feds and the Province. In all, 25 projects have to be completed by March 2011.

First, it'll be the downtown that gets hit the most once again. The bridge on Wyndham next to the train station will be getting a facelift and, according to Loewig, the whole of Carden Street will be impacted as well. Especially hard hit will be the corner of Wilson and Carden, a fact which the city has been preparing businesses for since last September. Paisley and Norfolk should remain open, but the truth of the matter is construction will be city wide.

So how will the city keep citizenry and businesses informed? Get ready for the charm offensive:
  • The City's tagline for the informational campaign: "It'll be worth it."
  • Starting next week, an information insert will be sent out to Guelph homes via the Mercury and the Tribune
  • That will be followed up with regular print/radio/web updates as the city will try to keep citizens up-to-date through local media
  • The City's website will be the main hub for updated information; as well people can report a construction problem or submit a question through the web
  • Regular meetings with businesses to share info
  • Way-finding signage to help people with the detours
  • And to keep things light, a contest. Residents will be able to share their best construction-related story in 200 words for the chance to win one of 10 GPS systems
So, in other words, get ready! Construction season will get underway either late March or early April. Weather permitting.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Prepare to Pay More For Bad Parking

The City of Guelph sent out this release today warning drivers that if you're going to be a parking scoflaw in the borders of the Royal City, then you're going to start paying more for it starting nthis week. Here's the press release:

GUELPH, ON, January 13, 2010 – The City of Guelph has increased fines related to the City's Traffic Bylaw, in accordance with the 2009 budget process. Following the approval of an increase in fines about a year ago, several housekeeping amendments to the City's traffic and parking by-laws have been made and additional by-law provisions have been incorporated. With this work now complete, the City is ready to implement the fee increase.

Effective January 19, 2010 traffic fines associated with Guelph’s Traffic By-law will increase.

Parking fines associated with other Guelph by-laws will increase, once the set fines for each these by-laws are approved by the Regional Senior Justice, West Region, which is expected to occur over the next few months.

"Most traffic and parking fines will increase by approximately $10," says Doug Godfrey of the parking regulation and enforcement office for the city. An exception would be parking in an accessible parking space without a proper parking permit which will increase by $50. Traffic By-law violations affected by the increase in fines include riding a bicycle on a sidewalk and skateboarding on a roadway.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Make Guelph Part of a Monopoly

The makers of the board game Monopoly are coming out with a 75th anniversary Canadian edition this summer, and they're looking for the citizenry of Canadian cities from one end of the country to the other to the other to stuff the ballot box for their town to get one of 22 slots on the Board. Guelph is one of 65 cities already listed on the website monopolyvote.ca, but write in votes are acceptable.

The two cities that get the most votes will get the distinguished localities typically taken up by Park Place and Boardwalk, while the dubious distinction of subbing for Baltic and Mediterranean avenues will be decided by a wild card vote.

Obviously there's a lot of passion and interested in getting Guelph a place of honour on a Monopoly Board. The Mayor herself, in addition to getting out the vote, has suggested that maybe the Guelph Junction Railway deserves a place of distinction on the new board as well.

So let's all head to Monopoly Votes right now, register, and vote as often as you can to get Guelph all the way to Baltic or Mediterranean. Voting closes on February 7th. And if you think that sounds impossible, remember last year at this time when we almost got this guy to Australia.

Graffiti: Not Just for Whippersnappers anymore....

In looking for tidbits for next week's edition of Guelph Beat, I came across this headline in the Guelph Mercury:

"83-year-old man charged with hate crime"

Wait, it gets better:

"An 83-year-old city man has been charged in connection to anti-Semitic graffiti and symbols scrawled in the span of two years on the walls of several local buildings."

Long story short, he's been charged with five counts of mischief under $5,000 and another charge of willful promotion of hate. That has a maximum of two years behind bars attached to it if you're found guilty.

If any thing, you have to admire the old guy's commit to the spread of racism and hate seeing as how he's been connected to incidents from Stone Road Mall to Meadowvale Garden Centre to Riverside Park’s Enabling Gardens to Wal-Mart. So pretty much from one end of town to the next.

But in all seriousness, there is no excuse for the spread of racial hate in this day and age

The accused, Max Mahr, will be back in court on February 5th.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lafarge Deal A-Go: OMB

The first of two major Ontario Municipal Board decisions concerning Guelph came down this morning with the announcement that the OMB has endorsed the City's plan to develop the brownfield commonly known as The Lafarge Site. Here's the press releases:


GUELPH, ON, January 13, 2010 – In a decision released this morning, the Ontario Municipal Board supported the City of Guelph’s position regarding the re-designation of the former Lafarge lands.

The triangular parcel is a vacant, underutilized brownfield site located on either side of Silvercreek Parkway, between Paisley Road and Waterloo Avenue and east of the Hanlon Expressway.

In 2008, Guelph City Council rejected an application by Silvercreek Guelph Developments Limited to develop a large retail centre on the property, but did direct staff and City advisors to participate in and report back to Council on any further discussion or mediation.

Through mediated sessions, Silvercreek Guelph Developments Limited modified its proposal to address the concerns of City Council. These modifications included a significant reduction in the retail floor space and restrictions of the location, size and phasing of this space. The changes also included the introduction of business park, residential components, and lands to be dedicated to the City for parks, trails and infrastructure such as stormwater management and roads. Holding zone provisions are also included to ensure that the infrastructure upgrades are completed.

The revised plan, with the support of the Howitt Park Neighbourhood Residents’ Association, was supported by Guelph City Council in 2009 through Minutes of Settlement that included modified amendments to Guelph’s Official Plan and Zoning by-law to accommodate the revised mixed-use development.

Armel Developments opposed the appeal made to the Ontario Municipal Board by Silvercreek Guelph Developments Limited at a 22-day hearing. Together with the Howitt Park Neighbourhood Residents’ Association and Silvercreek Developments Limited, the City was successful in demonstrating to the Board that the re-designation of the property, so that it can be developed as a mixed-used node, represents good planning and is in the public interest.

Armel was the sole holdout basically because the commercial area proposed, which may end up including a Costco, would be in direct competition with their commercial development at Imperial and Paisley, which includes the Mega-Zehrs.

It's a big, beautiful piece of open land, and I hate to see it go, but if area residents, as represented by the HPNRA, are endorsing the new mixed-use plan, then why not the rest of us? For me, I'd rather see infill get built on then tearing up whole stretches of green space on the outskirts of the city anyway.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

So, it's four days into the New Year and I'm already behind... Qu'elle surprise! That's okay, I'll get there. Anyway, all this New Year's stuff got me thinking about my goals for this year in regards to my various assets.

Last year was a transformative year for me (as they should all be) where I sort of left the listlessness of 2008 and seemed to find some genuine direction. Or perhaps too much direction. One of the things that got lost in the shuffle was The Politico, which sometimes suffered for weeks at a time without an update.

Granted when Guelph Politico started it was as the Guelph By-Election Blog '08 and was intended to last for 6 weeks in the Summer of 2008. But then the By-Election became a full-blown election and 6 weeks turned into 12 weeks. After that I was content to let GB-EB08 become part of the internet tapestry of hibernating sites, but soon after I realized that politics in Guelph are too big for my weekly 600 word Echo column, and thus The Guelph Politico was born.

Well, last year I managed to barely beat the number of posts I did in half the time the year before, which, yeah, is sort of unacceptable. This year, I've decided to change that. It is an election year after all, so if there was ever a better time to get onboard with being onboard, then I don't know what is. So below, I've written a few goals I have for the year. Why? Because unless I write something down, I'll completely forget about it.

  1. I'm going to get back to doing the "Better Know a Ward" segments. I got halfway done last Christmas and I still have half a city to go. So if you're a councillor for Wards 4, 5 or 6, be warned. I'll be in touch soon or soonish.
  2. Catch up with Federal politics. Apparently Parliament's getting prorogued again (for the Olympics?), but frankly I haven't heard too much about this. And speaking of Frank...
  3. I hope to be interviewing Frank Valeriote again soon. It was something I've been meaning to do since the first anniversary of his election in October, but c'est la vie.
  4. Along with that, I hope to get a chance to sit down with the other named Federal candidates so far, Marty Burke for the Conservatives and Bob Bell for the Greens, and get to know their stands a little better. At least before an election's called (But if it were up to me, I'd wait one more year so as not to distract from the municipals in the fall. Speaking of which...)
  5. I'd like to look at of the issues in Guelph more in depth, particularly transit. Actually, especially transit.
  6. Hanlon Creek Business Park Part II. I'll be there because you know that as soon as the snow melts, it's on!
  7. I'm toying with the idea of having guest columnists on The Politico so that they can talk about the issues that are important to them heading into the election. Actually, it's more than a toy, I'm just working out the logistics. If you're interested, stay tuned.
That's all I can think of for now. Of course, odd bits will continue to come up every now and then and I look forward to seeing what this new year has in store for me and, indeed, all of us.

Nominations are Open!

Today's the day, gang! The election year officially kicks off today at city hall. So, if you're at all interested in running for Mayor, city council or Trustee for the Upper Grand or Wellington Catholic District School Boards, head down to the city clerk's office to get your nomination papers. Are you eligible? What do you have to do to get nominated? Here are the details straight from the City's website:

To run for the position of mayor or councillor, you must be
• a Canadian citizen
• at least 18 years of age
• a resident of the city of Guelph, or the owner or tenant of property in the city of Guelph (or the spouse of an owner or tenant)
• eligible to vote
• not disqualified to hold office by any legislation

To run for the position of school board trustee, you must be
• a Canadian citizen
• at least 18 years of age
• a resident in the school board’s area of jurisdiction
• eligible to vote for the school board
• not disqualified to hold office by any legislation

Nomination forms will be available in the City Clerk’s Office on January 4, 2010.

The following nomination filing fees apply
• $200 for the Office of Mayor
• $100 for the Office of City Councillor, School Board Trustee

The filing fee must be paid either in cash, by certified cheque or by money order made payable to the City of Guelph. Nomination forms, signed by the candidate, may be filed in person or by a candidate’s agent at the City Clerk’s Office, 4th Floor, City Hall, 1 Carden St, Guelph. Subject to proclamation of amendments to the Municipal Elections Act, the last day to file a nomination paper is September 10, 2010.

Lois A. Giles
City Clerk and Returning Officer
City of Guelph
1 Carden St
Guelph, ON N1H 3A1
T 519-837-5603

Then there's that whole thing about running for office and meeting people and researching the issues. Sure you have until September 10th, but to be on the safe side, nominate yourself early and nominate yourself often.