About the Blog:

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 10 Local/Provincial Stories of 2011

 10. Get on the GO
An event years in the making, the GO train finally returned to Guelph on December 19th, but it was not without some controversy. Still, 2011 demonstrated a dramatic leap forward in public transit for the City of Guelph. Guelph Transit announced new routes and schedules that will take effect on January 1st, summer cuts to service were repelled in budget deliberations and stat holiday service was restored for many holidays in 2011, and for the entire year in 2012. If some real progress could be made on finishing the transit hub, and if council could resist the urge to not increase transit prices on a yearly basis, we might be the closest we've ever been to a transit utopia. But perhaps true perfection is being left that one, small thing to complain about.
9. The Struggle to Balance Budgets
If you're feeling mathematically exhausted, it might be because this year had two budget processes in them. Whether the 2011 budget deliberations last winter or the 2012 discussions last month, the City struggled with balancing spending, maintaining services and keep tax increases, if tax increases were necessary, as low as possible. In the process some odd sorts of financial arrangements have been made or attempted. Among them the approval of borrowing from the City's savings in order to cover operational costs for the 2011 budget and the proposal to sell the City's street lamps to Guelph Hydro to cut costs in the 2012 budget. For both years, some trimming here and some new spending there has meant a rather steady increase of three per cent per year, and all the while the debate rages: do we pay too much in tax as compared to our municipal neighbours, or too little? I guess we will see what wonders awaits when we hit the ledgers for 2013.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 National/International Stories of 2011

10. The End of the Iraq War
After nearly nine years, the Iraq War ended with a whimper last week with the last U.S. combat troops crossing back over the border to Kuwait. The violence that has erupted since was more or less prophesied, but really, what else could have possibly happened? Would staying another year, another two years, been enough to change the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? Doubtful. As for the American people, the majority of whom felt that war with Iraq was not just necessary, but the very right of the U.S. in aid of guarding their own security, they had more or less abandoned the support of the fight, especially in the wake of the ongoing economic crisis in America. In fact, the only chicken hawks still walking upright are most of the Republican nominees for President, the majority of whom feel that President Barack Obama was too premature in his withdrawal, and are now looking at a confrontation with Iran as inevitable. Hopefully, the appetite of the American people is for diplomacy over military conflict.
9. Quebec Enjoys an Orange Crush
There were numerous fascinating and surprising stories to come out of this spring's Federal Election, but few were more surprising, or fascinating, than Quebec's rejection of the Bloc Quebecois, and its nearly, wholehearted embrace of the NDP. In total, the Jack Layton-led NDP picked up 59 seats in the Province of Quebec, which was several times more than the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Bloc combined. As a side-story, the flip side of the "Orange Crush" was the decimation of the Bloc, who lost 43 seats in Parliament and losing official party status in the process. The real question going in to 2012 is will the NDP be able to hold on to its foothold in Quebec, and whether or not the NDP and its eventual new leader will be able to capitalize on their popularity with the Quebecois, and translate that support nationally.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friendly Thoughts

Recently, a strange thing happened. I started getting several new comments on a blog post I made just over a year ago. It was called "50 Reasons to Be Pretty Damn Euphoric You Live in Guelph," and I'd like to think that its now timeless appeal comes from a rejection of the bitterness and partisanship seen in comments on other blogs, but I'm not (yet) than optimistic.
But I think there might be a kernel of truth that despite the politics, we all are here in Guelph for a reason, and that reason, or reasons, makes us passionate about our community. So in the midst of this holiday season meant to promote peace and fellowship amongst our fellow men and women, let's all try to keep that in mind.
Thanks for reading. And Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture...?

 
If you said that, for a Christmas card, it doesn't highlight traditions like "family, faith and freedom," then you just might be Sarah Palin.
 The former Alaskan Governor and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, apparently in desperate need of some attention this holiday season, decided to pick on the First Family's choice of Christmas card cover art. Talking on Fox News radio, which seems to be the last place still open to Palin and her thoughtless meanderings, the polarizing politician said that everyday Americans prefer "American foundational values illustrated and displayed on Christmas cards and on a Christmas tree." This card though, she added, "It's just a different way of thinking coming out of the White House."
Good thing then that this tradition of the simple, secular Christmas card is a new phenomenon. Just look at all these cards. Of course, the Governor didn't outline what would constitute a proper representation of "family, faith and freedom" on a Christmas card, not that you really expect her to because this incident, like so many others, are about Barack Obama being black trying to find any little, ridiculous excuse to hide his opponents' overt racism behind. 
So whether you're ultra-religious or super-secular, Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Points in Between

GO train service started up again this week, in a move that's been greeted by the vast majority as a tremendous next step in securing better intra-city transit options for the City and People of Guelph. My jubilation was somewhat elated though when local media pointed to the one or two dark clouds in an otherwise cloudless sky.
To begin with, the CTV station in Kitchener talked with a transit advocate that said that the new Monday to Friday commuter service would do nothing to help out students, not that it's really supposed to. But he said that one train could do the job of the extra buses GO puts on Friday to ferry university and college students from K-W to Toronto. That's a bit like getting chocolate cake for you birthday, but complaining because it wasn't chocolate fudge, because as a transit advocate, anything that improves transit in your area should be lauded for its existence, not derided for what it doesn't offer.
The other news item was from our own Guelph Mercury, who in covering the first day of GO service, mentioned in the first sentence of the article that the train was three minutes late. In the numerous problems with transit this year, such a statement throws in a problem with the way public transportation is viewed and covered in this city: most people, be it the people in power, city hall, or the mainstream media in Guelph, are people who don't take public transit very often. If they had, they'd realize that a three minute late train is nothing to sneeze at. I don't think I've ever boarded a train at the exact time it was meant to depart. Or put it this way, last week it was announced that American Eagle Airlines will start running flights into the Waterloo Region Airport. Can you imagine the mainstream media reporting that the first plane arrived three minutes late? At least as the lead of the report? Have ever been on a plane that's arrived at its destination at the exact time that was printed on your ticket?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Was It All For?

It was announced today on the TV news website TV Line that Jane Fonda has joined the cast for Aaron Sorkin's new program, which is currently titled Newsroom. (No relation to the classic Canadian show of the same name.) Within moments, a website that reports on casting news, ratings, and spoilers for American TV shows was spam bombed by angry objectors calling for Fonda's hanging, her trial for treason, the elimination of HBO and more than a few times, the term "Hanoi Jane" was thrown around.
Nearly 40 years after the fact, some people still carry a bitter, frothing resentment for Fonda and her 1972 excursion to North Vietnam where she was famously photographed laughing and clapping while posing on an anti-aircraft gun with a group of VC soldiers. This capped a week where she renounced American war policy on the radio, and visited with American POWs in Vietcong custody. On this latter point, it's been a persistent rumour for decades that Fonda was given messages by POWs for their families back in the States and she never delivered, a rumour that's as patently untrue as the notion that they filmed the moon landing on a soundstage in Burbank. 
It's interesting that this should come up today, because if the TV Line junk pile on Hanoi Jane four decades later is a reminder of anything, it's that America doesn't lose wars well. To put the failure of American foreign policy in Southeast Asia across three different presidencies at the feet of Fonda is disingenuous and simplistic; Fonda did her country no favours, and she has acknowledged as much in print interviews, TV sit-downs and even two books by her own pen in the years since. It makes me wonder though, on whose fault will responsibility lie for the failure of the Iraq War: the administration of George W. Bush, or Michael Moore and the Dixie Chicks?

Sniffing Out Some Solutions

If something smells strange in your naeighbourhood, and you think it might be the new Organic Waste Plant on the next block, then an event on Monday might interest you. 
According to the below press release from the city, there is a plan in motion to deal with the smell coming from the plant that was discovered last month. The release mentions that there are several potential solutions on the table, all developed by Maple Reinders, the company that build the plant in partnership with the City of Guelph. The plan's been vetted by the Ministry of the Environment and a third party, and now it's ready to go to the public.
Read on to get more details from the release:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

James Gordon Re-Ups For NDP Nom

'Tis not so much the season for political announcements, but in a fundraising e-mail today, James Gordon tells local NDP supporters that he'll be running again in the next provincial election.
"With a minority government, we are never sure when the election will be, but I will be running to win; I want to be your MPP," writes Gordon. "To do this, I’m setting an ambitious but achievable fundraising goal to match the PCs and Liberals dollar for dollar. This campaign, we proved we could do it, and over the coming months, I’d like to show that we can make change for the better in Guelph."
Gordon isn't the first candidate from the recently concluded Provincial election to declare his desire to run in the next election. After the campaign wrapped in a minority government for Dalton McGuinty, Progressive Conservative candidate Greg Schirk said that it was his intention to run again as well. 
The optics look good for Gordon, who added over 4,200 votes to the NDP's count, and came within 800 votes of tying Schirk for second place.
"For the first time, we were able to close in on the PCs and Liberals," the e-mail continues. "While voter turnout was at an all time low, creating challenges for all the parties, the NDP was the only party to increase its number of votes. [P]eople are hungry for our approach: a positive, practical and progressive way of doing things."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

An Overly Analytical Right-Wing Review of "Frosty Returns"

While decorating the Christmas tree last night, we watched the requisite Christmas specials on TV. First up was the classic Rankin-Bass Frosty the Snowman, still perfectly delightful after 42 years of repeated Christmas viewings and was once again enjoyed immensely.
But next was a Christmas special I had never seen before, and it was called Frosty Returns. It must have been relatively new because it featured the voice of John Goodman as Frosty, and Elisabeth Moss as Holly, Frosty's new school-aged friend, because presumably his original school-aged friend, Karen, would probably be a grandmother herself by now.

Friday, December 9, 2011

We Need to Talk About the Republican Party

I think by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, it's not hard to see that the current state of the U.S. Republican Party is one of extremism and limited vision. The perception that President Barack Obama is extraordinarily left wing, has forced many of the candidates to push harder to the right. Combined with the perception that Obama is weak, and that Americans are itching for another new direction, and the seven current contenders looking to be named the Republican nominee for President of the United States are in the midst of a bitter, incendiary and occasionally noxious contest that has already eclipsed the 2008 Democratic primary in terms of those qualities.
I bring it up because on Monday, in the next edition of Beyond the Ballot Box on CFRU, we'll be spending some time on the air discussing the state of American politics once again. To get my own thoughts in order, I thought I'd wax poetic on the various candidates with my impressions. Fasten your seat belt, this will most definitely be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Budget Passed with Survivors

In brief, as shared on the 59 Carden St Blog, here are some of the highlights from the 2012 Guelph Budget:
  • metered parking to increase 25 cents per hour ($130,000 revenue)
  • hire an internal auditor ($132,700 cost)
  • implement affordable bus pass program at mid-year at cost of $135,350
  • $100,000 into downtown renewal fund
  • remove $290,000 anticipated operational saving from sale of streetlight system (because staff doesn't think sale could be completed during 2012)
  • reduce anticipated savings related to energy conservation from $500,000 to $400,000
  • provide Guelph Police grant of up to $48,000 to pay for background checks for volunteers
  • turned down $20,600 capital request from Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
  • put $55,600 into library budget to fund development officer position
  • spend $18,000 to subsidize U of G ice rentals until end of current hockey season
  • spend $20,000 to design sidewalks for Woodlawn between Nicklin and Elmira
  • move comprehensive parking strategy forward in capital budget (no tax impact)
  • reinstate bus service on five remaining stat holidays at cost of $27,900
  • identify $3.8 million in 2012 capital budget to move Baker Street redevelopment forward (no tax impact)
All this and more for the low, low 3.52 per cent tax hike. You're welcome, Guelph. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

We've Got New Signage


 I guess we'll get our new bus routes in January after all. You might have seen these signs going up at a bus stop near you. It's all in prep for the new, linear transit system beginning in the new year. You'll notice a couple of different placements; the top is a sign at a present bus stop that's been replaced as it will remain a bus top in the new system, and the bottom is a covered sign at a new stop waiting to be revealed. Call me crazy, but I think this time, a new transit system might actually happen...


Hey, It's a Planning Meeting!

Getting the press release today, there was a bizarre sort of urgency in its receipt. It's almost like there's a seriously contentious issue on the plate during Monday's City Council Planning Meeting. And there is.
The description in the release was pretty dry: "The potential impact of the Environmental Review Tribunal Decision (Orgaworld Canada Ltd. v. Director, Ministry of Environment) on the conversion to a fully automated waste collection program will be a subject of the upcoming Guelph City Council Planning Meeting." But what it really means kids is the final decision on whether or not Guelph goes to a bin system for our garbage and recycling, or whether we get to keep our precious plastic bags.
For a big deal like this, Mayor Karen Farbridge and all available City Councillors will be there. Janet Laird, Executive Director, Planning & Building, Engineering and Environment will also be there, along with public delegations. There are other items on the agenda too, but obviously nothing as debatable as whether or not the City of Guelph should take the time and expense of switching our garbage collection system to a bin-based service. 
The planning meeting takes place on Monday December 5th at 7 pm in the Council Chamber of Guelph City Hall at 1 Carden St.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Curious Case of the U of G Prof Who Was Appointed to the Italian Government and then Wasn't

Everyone knows that the University of Guelph attracts some of the best in the world, so it might come as little surprise that a U of G professor could be brought in to an important position like the junior minister for agriculture in the Italian government.
But like a political satire in the vein of Canadian Bacon or Wag the Dog, the presence of Francesco Braga was not demanded in Rome, but rather it was Francesco Braga who was the new junior agricultural minister. Confused yet? So were a lot of people manning the offices of the fledgling Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
The story broke today in the Toronto Star. U of G's Braga, willfully talking to The Star unlike other public figures, about his whirlwind experience being a highly sought after member of the Italian government. Long story short, Italian Agriculture Minister Mario Catania told the Italian news agency ANSA that he didn't know his new junior minister personally, but knew he was a business professor at the U of G. Braga, in his Guelph home, started being pelted with calls from not just the Italian government, but the Italian media as well.
But soon the powers that be realized that the professors who's spent 28 years living and teaching in Canada may not be the guy they were referring to. Instead, Franco Braga, a civil engineer that specializes in earthquakes, was the man of the hour. He had been recommended for the infrastructure ministry, but ended up shuffled to agriculture instead. 
To make things even more screwy, apparently, the "real" Francesco Braga hasn't been seen and has yet to be sworn in to his new position. The U of G version of Francesco Braga, meanwhile, continues teaching and marking papers in his basement office at home during off hours.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garvie to Stage Sit-In for Student Space

Well, it didn't long for former Communist Party candidate Drew Garvie to start the rebel-rousing from his new position as Communications & Corporate Affairs Commissioner for the University of Guelph's Central Student Association. 
Tomorrow it begins with an old school protest, a sit-in, at the University Centre of the U of G to advocate for more student space. A worthy goal assuredly, and considering that the UC was built with student fundraising efforts and that they now only really control one floor of the six-story building, a little protest action is understandable. 
Below is Gravie's media release for the event:
On Thursday, December 1st , the CSA is organizing a “Student Space Sit-In”. This is a large-scale event to address study and student space needs on the University of Guelph campus. This is an invitation to all media sources to attend and talk to students and the organizers about the event and the space needs of students at the University of Guelph.
Who: The Central Student Association – the undergraduate student union at the University of Guelph - representing over twenty thousand undergraduate students.
What: Hundreds of students will participate in the “Student Space Sit-In” by showing up to the University Centre building and studying for exams which are next week. There is a serious shortage of study space available on campus and students quite often end up studying in hallways without proper lighting, furniture or electrical outlets. Student-controlled space is a growing problem as most student organizations are crammed into the second floor of the University Centre.
Tables, chairs and extension cords, snacks and “stress buster” activities will be provided, as well as allocated quiet study and group study spaces.
Where: The University Centre building. It is taking place in a building that has special historical significance and has been the epicenter of controversy surrounding student controlled space since it was built. Students paid to the majority of the building, and pay to maintain it, but are now limited to direct control over the second floor.
When: Thursday December 1st from 10am-5pm.
Why: The University of Guelph is currently updating its “Campus Master Plan” which deals with infrastructure and space issues. Due to a large amount of concerns raised with the limited amount of study space on campus, and concerns from student organizations about the lack of student controlled space, the CSA is organizing this event to clearly demonstrate these widely-held sentiments. The idea is to have a large visible presence, solicit feedback from students on how to improve space on campus and to have a symbolic reclamation of common space for a day. This is meant to be a reminder that universities are here to serve the needs of students.
Here is a link from the Ontarion (independent campus weekly) with more information: http://www.theontarion.com/2011/11/sitting-in-for-student-space/

Friday, November 25, 2011

Get on GO December 19th

So it was good news at the GO Transit announcement earlier this morning as  GO Transit President Gary McNeil, Guelph MPP Liz Sandals and Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge announced that GO trains are coming to Guelph starting on December 19th. The logic, I suppose, is that it'll be a softer run over the holidays, when most people get time off from work, so that all the kinks are worked out in time for when rush hour is back to full capacity in January. 
According to the GO website, two round trips daily will run from Kitchener to Toronto weekdays. The GO train will depart Guelph at 6:14 am and 7:53 am with arrival times at Toronto Union Station at 7:32 am and 9:08 am. In the afternoon, trains will leave Union at 4:45 pm and 6:18 pm to arrive in Guelph at 5:45 pm and 7:53 pm. A one-way ticket will cost $11.70.
The trip will take between an hour and one and a half hours, considering that the average drive on the Greyhound during rush hour has been pushing two hours the last year, this should offer some smoother sailing to Guelph commuters. I, for one, cannot wait.

Christmas Cheer

I've accused recently of perhaps being bereft, to a degree, of the nominal cheeriness of the holiday season. But then I saw this tonight on a jaunt to the Red Brick Cafe downtown and thought to myself, "Well isn't this nice." I've often thought of the crane over the new and improved Gummer Building to be pretty much an eyesore, especially during those long years where nothing was being done with it. But on the other hand, it's nice that the construction crew decided to give it a bit of Christmas flare. Check it out next time you're downtown.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Valeriote Gets Petition Together Over Crime Bill

By far one of the most contentious moves by the Harper government, and let's be honest because that is really saying something, is the Safe Streets and Communities Act. The SSC is an aggressive new addendum to the Criminal Code that will replace pardons with "record suspensions," hand out mandatory minimums for some drug and sexual related offenses, increase prison terms for those charged with marijuana-related crimes and roll back the ability of judges to sentence offenders to house arrest.
The controversial act has been called out by many who believe that some of the bill's more draconian measures are taking us down a road of extreme crime and punishment more in line with the U.S., which I believe currently has over 7 million people under correctional supervision (in jail, on parole, or probation). The United States, as reported in a 2008 article in the New York Times, has five per cent of the world population, but 25 per cent of the world's prisoners. In fact, in 2008 the U.S. had 2.3 million people in prison, which was about 700,000 more people than China had incarcerated. China.
Needless to say, the building and administration of prisons in the U.S. is an industry, and that seems to be the idea the Harper government wants to bring to Canada. Perhaps between the combination of the jobs created and the people incarcerated unemployment rates will really go down. But I digress.
You know who else isn't a fan of The Safe Streets and Communities Act? Our own MP Frank Valeriote. Valeriote is putting together a petition for the consideration of the House of Commons and rallied some local support for the cause. Check out the press release from Valeriote's office below.

GO Transit Announcement Tomorrow

The Guelph Mercury reported this morning that there's going to be a big announcement concerning the topics of Guelph and GO Transit tomorrow. GO Transit President Gary McNeil will be in town, and he'll be joined by Guelph MPP Liz Sandals and Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge for the announcement at 10 am at the VIA Station downtown.
So it begs the question: what could the announcement possibly be about? The cynic in me says that they're going to announce a delay in the commencement of GO train service to Guelph, but they probably wouldn't send the President of GO all the way up here to deliver bad news. Of course, considering that the service is supposed to recommence in January, and there has yet to be yet a schedule announced or anything, so cynicism reigns.
The year 2011 hasn't treated transit in the city right. The transit terminal's been delayed and delayed, the new schedule for Guelph Tranist was pushed back to 2012 after a contracting snafu, and let's not forget the fare increases. A lot of commuters in the Royal City have been waiting on pins and needles to get on a GO train since the idea was first floated a couple of years ago, so let's hope Mr. McNeil is bringing good news tomorrow.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guelph Royals Get a Five-Year Deal

Inter-county baseball will be coming back to the Royal City next summer thanks to the official deal reached between Guelph and the Guelph Royals baseball club. The city put out a press release today, lauding the fact that they've reached an agreement. 
GUELPH, ON, November17, 2011 – The City has reached a mutually acceptable agreement with the Guelph Royals after a series of meetings.  
“We were brought together by a community partner who was very interested in seeing the Royals back in Guelph,” said Colleen Clack, Interim Executive Director, Community & Social Services. “The new agreement meets all the criteria set by City Council for a five-year lease of Hastings Stadium and the concession booth.” 
"This agreement is a new beginning for Guelph fans, players and sponsors" said Jim Rooney, the Royals’ managing partner. "We look forward to working with the community and to its commitment to support the Royals as they take to the field for the 2012 season and beyond." 
A key requirement—registration as a not-for-profit organization—was one of the stumbling blocks when discussions between the City and the Guelph Royals concluded in the summer. The City presented a draft contract in early June after extended negotiations with the team. At the time however, the Guelph Royals couldn’t reach agreement with the City on a number of clauses in the proposed agreement. 
City Council established criteria for an agreement with the Guelph Royals in May for the use of Hastings Stadium and the concession booth. The new five-year agreement will see the team use Hastings Stadium, run the concession booth and sell advertising in the stadium. The Guelph Royals have also agreed with the City on the amount owing from the 2010 season and will pay the City all outstanding fees as part of the agreement.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Guelph Ends Without Fanfare

A little less than a week after transferring their flag from St. George's Square to Royal City Park, Occupy Guelph is over. As reported in the Guelph Mercury this morning, it appears that all the protesters have vanished from the park along with their encampment. Like good campers they packed up their trash, and left no trace behind that they were ever there, which I can only imagine is not the impression they wanted to leave when the Occupy Protests started in Guelph last month.
When talking about the Occupy Movement on the Beyond the Ballot Box radio show on CFRU 93.3, there was consensus that if the movement was going to go to the next level, beyond mere occupying, it would have to organize properly, come up with a concise and pointed message, and realize that settling in civic space wasn't the endgame, but merely the beginning. I suppose that time has come sooner rather than later than organizors might have planned, but it seems that a few are already ahead of the curve.
I draw your attention to an event happening at 10 Carden Street this Friday. It's called "Beyond Occupy - What's Next?" and it's being hosted by James Gordon and Kevin Sutton. The point of the meeting, if you can't infer it from the name of the event, is to discuss the next step in the Occupy Movement "An invitation to share a meaningful dialogue about the 'Occupy Movement' - both local and global. How can we nurture this new catalyst for change?" If you want to be part of the conversation, be at the 10 Carden Street space at 7 pm on Friday.
Finally, to add a bit of four-colour commentary, legendary graphic novelist Frank Miller had some harsh words about the root protest and protesters at Occupy Wall Street. As a comic book fan, Miller's opinion obviously peaked my interest, but in a weird twist of fate, it seems that Miller's sympathies lie with the type of corrupt, criminal fat cats that make up the villains in his well-known book, and movie of the same name, Sin City. Here's what Miller had to say:
The “Occupy” movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.
[...]
Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy.
Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you’ve been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you’ve heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism. And this enemy of mine — not of yours, apparently - must be getting a dark chuckle, if not an outright horselaugh - out of your vain, childish, self-destructive spectacle
[...]
In the name of decency, go home to your parents, you losers. Go back to your mommas’ basements and play with your Lords Of Warcraft.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Parking Wars

Déjà vu. It was a case of déjà vu today when along Westwood, people trying to get the bus, or perhaps otherwise just trying to get around or enjoy their neighbourhood, had to deal with the traffic nightmare illustrated in the slideshow below. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

One of the things that has always perplexed me about how this city runs its transit system is why I never seen any advertisements in the advertisement space running along either side of the bus, inside, near the roof. Well, no ads outside those by the Ontario government, City Hall and the University of Guelph's Central Student Association, that is.
Well recently, someone new has taken out an ad on Guelph Transit, and depending on your music taste, it may disappoint you verily to see this poster staring back at you from the roof of the bus. 


Careful what you ask for, I guess is the lesson of the day. Or not.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Case You Missed It: Read the Mayor's "State of the City" Address

It may not have as much fanfare as other State of the Unions, but Mayor Karen Farbridge delivered her version for the City of Guelph this morning. At a breakfast speech sponsored by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, Farbridge talked about the positive developments in the city, our solid planning, our low unemployment, and the bright and shiny developments coming down the pipe. In other words, the state of our city is strong.
You can read the entire text of Farbridge's speech after the jump.

Friday, November 4, 2011

University Students Prove to Be Good Influences Too

It's not been a good fall for the students at the University of Guelph, as a few bad eggs keep spoiling their rap with the local townies. Shoot, even just yesterday a letter in the Guelph Tribune highlighted again the alleged drunk and rowdy behaviour of the undergrads at the U of G. 
 But the university students of Guelph also do a lot of good in the community, as once again evidenced by the food and donations collected in the annual Trick or Eat campaign. According to The Ontarion, U of G students collected $70, 498 in food donations on Halloween night, with an additional $6,000 in online donations. Guelph's nearest competition in total donations, at least in Ontario, were Western and Carlton with $12,000 each. 
The U of G's efforts on Halloween comes out to over 35,000 lbs of food. That's a lot for a couple of hours of work, and while others might rest on their laurels, Gryphons, being a different breed, can't let it slide that this year's total was down slightly over last year. To make up the difference, bins have been placed at local Zehrs and No Frills stores for donations. Of course, if there was one accomplishment that separated this year's Trick or Eat above others in the past is that volunteers made their way to my front door for the first time in years.
So in the midst of a heavy fall, where the majority of university students are getting tarred by the actions of an above average rowdy few, it's important to remember the good works of the silent majority. And that in the cold days to come, several less privileged people in the Royal City will enjoy something to eat courtesy of a University of Guelph student. 
 Just something to keep in mind the next time you see someone under 21 and you go to grab your pitchfork and torch.

Layoffs at Guelph Solar Panel Plant

It's a tough time for the solar panel industry. In the United States, the Obama administration is getting static for giving government loans to solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, which went bankrupt earlier this year. And now, all the eager appreciation for Canadian Solar in Guelph seems to amount to none as the company announced layoffs yesterday. On the other hand, it's not for the reasons you think.
Lloyd Longfield, President of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce told the Guelph Mercury that there's “an enormous backlog” in the Ontario government’s microFIT and FIT (feed-in tariff) programs. For the uninitiated, the government’s microFIT program was started in 2009 to allow small-scale producers of solar energy to receive a set amount for each kilowatt hour of power produced and fed back into the provincial power grid.
The backlog exists because demand for panels is so high right now. “You have a huge supply to meet that demand and then you’ve got papers sitting on desks waiting for approvals, so the whole thing grinds to a halt,” said Longfield, who added that the Provincial election and the potential ambiguous fate of the Green Energy Act can account, in part, for the backlog. 
But at the same time, 300 people were hired at a job fair this past spring, and all the people getting pick slips were hired this year. The controversy of the situation in this case, as in the case south of the border with Solyndra, is that the notion of burgeoning economic resolve of green energy is severely tested when jobs are cut and companies go bankrupt. Hopefully, for the workers, this is a short term situation.

Michael Moore: You Are the One Per Cent

This should teach Michael Moore a lesson, because he has some nerve walking into a signing for his own book and refusing to answer the impertinent question posed to him by the local Denver reporter on the scene.



I know Moore has his detractors, to be honest I'm not sure where I stand on this as a Moore fan. I don't want to cry "gotcha journalism" because I think it's one of those terms that's gotten so watered down by politicians unwilling to answer simple questions and instead try and find a way to vilify reporters whose responsibility is to hold them accountable.
It seems to me though that KCNC reporter Evrod Cassimy was trying to make a name for himself by taking a bite out of Moore, and in return he got a mouthful. Moore doesn't look so great in this clip either, but there's this insane kind of urgency from Cassimy as he's trying to ask Moore how he, as one of the "one per cent," helps those that are less fortunate, it reminds me of all those TV shows were they're taking the accused criminal into the police station as reporters yell, "Did you do it? Did you do it?"
Which raises an interesting question: when did Michael Moore become the villain here? Does Cassimy know that in this one minute sound bit, he goes after Moore in a more vicious way than his national colleagues went after the actual power-brokers that the Occupy Protesters are marching and squatting against? Probably not.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is Resistance Futile?

I'm a big fan of Councillor Can Guthrie, and I appreciate his outside the box approach to civic engagement, but when yesterday he called for an end to the Occupy Guelph movement, I couldn't have disagreed more.
Leaving aside the fact that yesterday a lot of the tents in St. George's Square were already packed up, but the statement from Guthrie quoted by the Mercury seems to align him, on the issue of the Occupy Wall Street protests, with politicians like Rob Ford and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. The point, they seem to think, is to get the protesters out of sight and only then can we properly focus on the issues they're concerned with.
But as Rachel Maddow pointed out on Real Time with Bill Maher a couple of weeks ago, the point of a demonstration is to be inconvenient. The point is to get in the way of people, slow down the wheels of progress, take up people's time, get them to stop, make them think, make them talk... It's the same theory behind strikes and other worker action, make things inconvenient for the management, show solidarity - a united front - and they'll have to give into your demands.
At least that's how it's supposed to work. If there's a criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement it's that maybe its scope exceeds its grasp. If the goal is to convince corporations, financial institutions and wealthy individuals to work to equalize the growing income gap, that's easier said than done. Even in the wake of accepting massive government bailouts, it wasn't six months later that news about executives getting huge bonuses started making headlines. It's no coincidence that the first rumblings from the then nascent Tea Party began to make waves shortly thereafter.
Interestingly, there are some comparisons between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, at least until the Tea Party became the pre-eminent voice in the Republican Party. They're both grassroots movements started to oppose corporate greed and government collusion in making that greed possible. But at some point, the Tea Party became purely anti-government; the fault of the bailouts lies not with corporate mismanagement, but with the government signing over the loans to cover it.
But in those early days, the Tea Party was just as ramshackle, disorganized and unfocused as people accuse the Occupy Movement of being now. Of course, Guthrie is one of those people claiming that the Occupy movement, at least in the case of the Guelph wing, is that they have no coherent message. “It was about a five-minute ramble and not one coherent message at all,” Guthrie said about talking to one of the protesters. “If you can’t even give me a coherent reason why you’re there … you’ve turned from being protesters into being campers.”
I can't say who Guthrie talked to or what they said to him, but in any movement that's gathered steam, it is naturally going to attract anyone with a message. As much as we talk about the internet age and it's million pipelines, there's still a lot of difficulty in trying to get your message heard by the masses. But I think the key to getting the Occupy movement is to understand that it's about the general message, not the specifics. The fact that one per cent of the people controls 40 per cent of the wealth is galling. The fact that the divide between what CEOs make and what the average worker makes is exactly the same now as it was before the Great Depression is unacceptable. And the fact that lobbies representing the interests of the wealthy have managed to convince middle class people for so long that raising taxes on the rich is an attack on people of all incomes may be the greatest long con of all time. 
But here's the thing: in Canada we fared the economic troubled waters far better than anywhere else in the developed world. In terms of the near-Depression, Canada was financially akin to that place in all the zombie movies that the survivors are trying to get it: an untouched paradise where the evils of the world can't reach. The financial deregulation that happened in the United States didn't happen here, and the Bank of Canada never put the seal of approval on sub-prime mortgages. That resilient economy that the Harper government likes to talk about, exists because of Paul Martin. Of course, many Conservatives were calling for Canada to follow suit with U.S. deregulation,and in 2008, just months before the crash, the Conservative government was still projecting huge surpluses for the foreseeable future. Hindsight is 20/20, true, but it shows that the current stewards of our economy may not be everything they think they're cracked up to be.
But back to the protest downtown, which, I'll admit, was a little lackluster. Certainly, I've seen more energetic protests downtown, but a point that Alan Pickersgill made in his Guelph Tribune column intrigues me. Pickersgill suggested that the Occupy Guelph protesters should have set up shop in the Wal-Mart parking lot. "The protest would be a lot more meaningful, although a lot riskier, if the tents were set up in the Wal-Mart parking lot," Pickersgill wrote. "If any one thing has materially hurt Guelph, it is that store. The entire eastern section of town has no commercial outlets bigger than Big Bear because of Wal-Mart. The symbolism would be perfect. You can park and sleep in your RV on a Wal-Mart parking lot, but would they tolerate a tent village? For how long? It is a lot safer to protest downtown."
That's the thing about this recent hate-on for Occupy Guelph, it really was a safe protest, it terms of both the physical safety of protesters and passersby, as well as the choice of protest venue. We don't have a "financial district" in Guelph, but if one business in our town is emblematic of  "too big to fail" it's Wal-Mart. Suppose for a minute that something happened and all Wal-Mart stores nationwide closed. In many places, the only store with a wide variety of affordable goods is Wal-Mart, and if the local Wal-Mart were to suddenly shut its doors where would people go then? 
The thing about a monopoly is that once you have it, it all depends on you. In a way, being "too big to fail" should force a higher degree of social responsibility from these companies, but the need for bailouts prove this is not the case. Perhaps paradoxically, that as Guthrie and his fellow councillors face the harsh realities of the new budget, and with a legion of taxpayers demanding fiscal prudence with viscous tongues, the Occupy Guelph protesters are merely demanding the same thing of corporations.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We've Got Budget Here!

The proposed 2012 Operating Budget will come to council for the first time Wednesday night, and to answer your first question, yes there is a proposed tax increase. The magic number is three per cent. That's the increase in taxes that city staff is asking for in this coming fiscal year. 
“In order to achieve the three per cent guideline,” the report reads, “this budget does not meet the demands of growth, nor new services. However, the executive team has prioritized these needs for council’s consideration, should council wish to build those allowances back into this budget.”
Apparently, the total tax increase came to about 5.6 per cent, but to cut down on costs, the budget has a number of contingency measures, including a three percent increase on transit tickets and passes, the sale of the city's system of street lights to Guelph Hydro, and initiating a "gapping period" where all city job vacancies are purposefully left open for three months.
Those are just the highlights. The City of Guelph released the whole thing in detail in a press release. Read the release below and follow the links.
GUELPH, ON, November 1, 2011 – City of Guelph staff have released the proposed 2012 municipal Operating Budget. The proposed budget will be presented to City Council Wednesday evening. 
The proposed budget meets a three per cent guideline Council prescribed in July as part of the budget process. In meeting that guideline, staff have built a budget that focuses on affordability, and is respectful of Council’s desire to deliver public services at a cost that is affordable for taxpayers. 
"Council gave staff a mandate to build a budget that does not exceed a three per cent increase over 2011," says Guelph’s Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert. "Staff have spent months putting together a budget submission that endeavours to balance affordability with residents’ expectations about quality service. To achieve that, we’ve had to explore new approaches to familiar questions and make some difficult decisions." 
Pappert explains that part of doing business differently—a theme that surfaced in the City’s 2012 Capital and Enterprise Budgets—means exploring shared funding arrangements, leveraging partnerships, and seeking opportunities to acquire additional support and funding from other sources where possible. As an example, this budget includes the sale of the City’s street lights to Guelph Hydro, and an aggressive reduction in energy use in City-owned buildings. 
Among the significant influences on the proposed budget is annualization costs associated with the many new facilities Guelph is about to bring on stream, including Market Square, a new civic museum, and the intermodal transit terminal, to name a few. Annualization accounts for a full one per cent of the proposed three per cent increase. Contractual obligations and external cost drivers for items such as fuel and electricity also bear a significant impact on the budget. 
The proposed budget accounts for neither growth, nor new services. To meet the three per cent guideline, the City’s Executive Team did not approve any new positions needed to address growth. Those positions have however been prioritized, should Council wish to consider and/or add them. 
Council will consider the budget submission over the next few weeks before final deliberations on December 7, 2011. A meeting at which members of the public can address Council is scheduled to take place on November 23. Anyone who wishes to delegate at that meeting is invited to e-mail the City Clerk’s Office at clerks@guelph.ca.

Monday, October 31, 2011

One Week Later, the CFO Quits

I know it's Halloween, but this is a weird bit of news to have received on All Hallow's Eve. The City of Guelph discretely sent around a press release this morning saying that after a week on the job, new Chief Financial Officer Dan Chapman was handing in his resignation. The following is the total amount of information offered in the release:
GUELPH, ON, October 31, 2011 – Dan Chapman, recently hired by the City of Guelph to fill the role of Chief Financial Officer, has resigned for personal reasons.
The City learned of Mr. Chapman's resignation Friday afternoon when he shared his decision with Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert.
Mr. Chapman plans to return to the City of Kitchener where, until recently, he served as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer with the Finance & Corporate Services Department.
Chapman himself replaced Margaret Neubauer, the former CFO who left City Hall under a shroud of mystery back in May. As for the circumstances of Chapman's departure, Guelph Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert told the Guelph Mercury that his departure was a surprise and that, “He left for personal reasons.” Pappert added that the process to replace Chapman has begun, and that they expect to have someone in place by Christmas. 
Still, it is another unusual personnel move in a year that's seen a lot of top execs at City Hall depart. Some of the wags posting on the Mercury website are having a field day with the news, and while I'm not sure there's any conspiracy theory here, it is an interesting series of events just the same.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

911 Is A Joke

Mel Lastman, the first mayor of the "mega city" of Toronto, "jumped the shark" (or "nuked the fridge," as it were) when following the SARS outbreak in 2003, when in a series of interviews with international media, Mel Lastman drew the attention of Jon Stewart and the writers of The Daily Show, who had a field day with such Lastman nuggets of gold like, "Who the hell are these W.H.O. people? I've never heard of them! Apparently, they come from somewhere in Geneva! they must be getting all their information from reading the newspaper."
Leaving aside the fact that whole SARS situation was more Good-Time Slim, Uncle Doobie, and the Great 'Frisco Freak-Out' than legitimate pandemic apocalypse, the best face Torontonians could put on the Lastman punchline was an election in October. No bright spot for not-fans of current Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. With over a year of gaffs in his pocket already, the only people looking forward to the next three years are comedians.
By now, Ford's recent encounter with Mary Walsh and a camera crew from This Hour Has 22 Minutes has become legendary. Ford's assertion was that he was "accosted" by a camera crew that "didn't identify themselves" and the he and "his daughter" were "scared" because it was "dark." Well he was hardly accosted, his daughter wasn't there, it clearly wasn't dark, and the if the crew didn't identify themselves, which they did, Mary Walsh has been playing Marg Delahunty so long she should be on the five dollar bill.



And just like that, Doug became the better brother. I don't like having to pay Doug Ford any tribute, but in this video he did come off better than Rob, if only because he didn't call the police after retreating into City Hall.
But if being seen running from Mary Walsh wasn't bad enough for the Mayor, insult was added to injury when the CBC reported that Ford allegedly abused 911 operators when police action wasn't enacted fast enough for his taste. "You . . . bitches! Don't you f---ing know? I'm Rob f---ing Ford, the mayor of this city!” Ford is quoted as reportedly saying.
Of course, no one's going to confuse Rob Ford with Robert Frost, and such gaffing is hardly outside the ken of Ford, whose list of public faux-pas was recounted in a post on The Grid TO. But the first lesson of PR spin is mess up, fess up and dress up; you screw up, admit the mistake and work to rectify it. Or in this case, you make a mistaken statement about your embarrassing appearance on a comedy show, admit your embarrassment, and then, perhaps, invite to meet the comedienne again and eat some bitter humble pie. But instead, it took the better part of a week to get Ford to admit that he  - might have - exaggerated the offense of the 22 Minutes crew, and that he - might have - swore (like once) at the 911 dispatchers.
Sadly, Ford demonstrates a prime character failing in many politicians: he can't admit his own mistakes. Admitting you did something wrong is weakness, and the millions of stings from media flies is just the liberal media out to get you. But in our media savvy society appearance is everything. And when you say things you know are contradictory, like saying it was dark when it was clearly light, it looks bad enough, to say nothing of the sight of a grown man, chief executive of the largest city in the country, running from a 59-year-old comedienne with a funny accent. Isn't Ford's reputation built, to a degree, on toughness?
Now to bring this thing full circle, Ford had the dubious distinction of being named "Worst Person in the World" on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Friday. Joining such luminaries as Glenn Beck, Sean Hanity, Bill O'Reilly, and other all stars of the American Right, Ford has landed his city back on the radar of political satire at a time when both the public's patience, and the proverbial fiscal gravy train, has run out for the Ford Brothers. A little PR rejuvenation is now needed, and perhaps, a sense of humour.

Friday, October 21, 2011

PR Friday #3: Enterprise Budget Passed for 2012

For our final press release post on this PR Friday, comes news that the City of Guelph's Enterprise Budget for 2012 was passed by city council. The biggest impact on you (as in you the people) is that water rates will go up an extra $1 per week, which so far as inflation goes isn't half bad. Scroll down to get more details and there's a link at the bottom where you can check out the full budget. 
GUELPH, ON, October 20, 2011 – Guelph City Council has approved the 2012 operating budgets for water, wastewater, court services and Ontario Building Code (OBC) Administration at $53,127,284. Water and wastewater rate increases will have an impact of 8.5% on the average residential bill, which translates to an approximate increase of $1 per week.
Water conservation efforts and careful budgeting has resulted in a lower than expected increase. Based on higher presumed consumption levels, original long-term rate forecasts in the City’s Water Supply Master Plan (2006) projected a 10% increase to the average household bill for 2012.
Guelph’s water use has decreased 20% in 10 years despite the addition of about 20,000 households. Conservation efforts are also delaying the need for very expensive infrastructure projects that would be a significant burden on rate payers.
Janet Laird, Guelph’s Executive Director of Planning & Building, Engineering and Environment, reminds residents that users pay for water by volume, which means conserving water keeps household costs down. “For the first time, forecasting household water costs is based on actual local use rather than national industry standard usage because Guelph’s actual use is much lower. Our efforts help Guelph remain an international example of environmental stewardship.”
Increases to water and wastewater rates fund the replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure; operating cost increases for energy and materials; maintaining environmental and regulatory compliance; and increasing contractual costs for qualified Water and Wastewater professionals. The approved budget ensures the high quality water and wastewater services that Guelph residents rely on are delivered.



Guelph is one of the largest cities in Canada to rely solely on groundwater. Guelph’s drinking water undergoes more than 20,000 health related tests each year to ensure it meets or exceeds Provincial and Federal Drinking Water Quality Standards.
The City’s wastewater treatment system is often referred to as a model for other communities as it protects local rivers and aquatic ecosystems. The wastewater treatment facility’s optimization program has been provincially and federally recognized for best practices in management, efficiency, and cost savings as a result of deferred capital investments and improved wastewater treatment.
Click here to see the proposed 2012 Enterprise Funded Budget.

PR Friday #2 - Members of Cultural Committee Named

Along similar lines to that first release, the City of Guelph announced today the make up of its new Cultural Advisory Committee. The press release came out earlier today naming nine people who will advise the city and council on matters concerning the arts, culture and all the cross tracks with heritage and business interests in Guelph. Read on to learn more: 
GUELPH, ON, October 17, 2011 – The City of Guelph is pleased to announce the community members named to its newly created 2011 Cultural Advisory Committee.
“Council has appointed a talented and dedicated group of citizens who will provide invaluable advice to staff and Council as we work together to foster a vibrant Guelph filled with arts, culture, heritage and creativity-driven businesses,” said Mayor Farbridge.
Committee members were selected through the City’s Citizen Appointment process and are named to one-year terms. The selected community members include:
  • Greg Pinks (Chair)
  • Nancy Sullivan (Vice-Chair)
  • Catherine Alexander
  • Lynn Broughton
  • Ronald East
  • Reinhard Kypke
  • Anuradha Saxena
  • Elsa Stolfi
  • Sally Wismer
Representative of the business, arts and social sectors, the members bring a well balanced range of skills and experience to the committee.
“I am very excited to work with this strong and diverse group,” said Greg Pinks, Cultural Advisory Committee Chair. “This is a great opportunity for community members to help develop, nurture, and promote arts and culture in Guelph.”
About the Cultural Advisory Committee
The Cultural Advisory Committee will support the work of the City’s new Arts, Culture and Entertainment department and will act as a bridge between the local cultural sector, the community at large, and City Council. Over the next twelve months, the Committee will play a key role in the development of a Public Art program and a comprehensive inventory of Guelph’s cultural resources. As community champions, committee members will work to increase awareness and appreciation of the local cultural sector. The Cultural Advisory Committee will meet will meet at least quarterly, and will establish subcommittees to work on various projects as they arise.

PR Friday #1: MacKay Resigns from Arts Council

So the press releases have been kind of rolling in like waves this Friday - and indeed all week - so I'm going to start moving them out by having a "Press Release (PR) Friday."  First there's this kind of surprising news that Anne MacKay is stepping down as executive director of the Guelph Arts Council after one year on the job. It's been a pretty important year for arts in the city with the promotion of Fab 5, and a seeming resurgence in the perception of Guelph as a music scene. Check out the press release below:
Guelph, ON (October 21, 2011) – Guelph Arts Council (GAC) announces that Anne MacKay will be stepping down as Executive Director.
Mary Calarco, Board President, says “Anne made many positive contributions to both the organization and the community. Her enthusiasm for the arts and unwavering optimism will truly be missed. ”
Over the last year, the Board of Directors worked with MacKay as they expanded GAC's focus on creative collaborations, community outreach and local partnerships. GAC is committed to maintaining this positive momentum as the organization looks forward. MacKay departs on October 28, 2011.
“It has been an amazing year” says MacKay “full of valued opportunities to see deeper into this community’s truly dazzling breadth of arts and culture activities”. MacKay plans to return to her private consulting practice, working with groups in the charitable sector. “As I shared with the Board, I came to GAC as a fan and I certainly leave as one. And I know that the long-time and new volunteers will continue to bring their new perspectives, knowledge and excitement together to beautifully serve the arts and culture life of this community.”
Guelph Arts Council Board of Directors will begin their search for a new Executive Director next week, and a hiring committee will be established to ensure a suitable candidate is hired to fill the position.
About Guelph Arts Council
Established in 1975, Guelph Arts Council (GAC) is a coordinating/resource organization dedicated to encouraging the development of the visual, literary, performing and heritage arts. GAC strives to enrich the cultural life of the community and to encourage widespread involvement in the arts.