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, September 23, 2009

Save The Frogs

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction as this little press release rolled across my inbox last night around 10 pm.

Section of Laird Road will close at night for amphibian migration

GUELPH, ON, September 22, 2009 – The City is acting quickly to mitigate frog road mortality on a stretch of Laird Road after receiving reports from local environmentalists last night. The City has learned that more than 100 frogs may have been struck by cars on a stretch of Laird Road as they were migrating to their wintering grounds.

The City has been looking at the road closure option since the spring when significant amphibian mortalities were identified on Laird Road. Migration during the fall months is generally less concentrated than spring migration. However, given today’s findings, the City is proceeding with the closure of Laird Road between McWilliams Road and Downey Road from dusk until dawn to avoid further mortality this fall. (Night is when amphibian migration usually takes place.) Traffic volume on Laird Road is low at night.

City staff will consult with experts and undertake observations of amphibian movements and weather patterns to determine how long the road closure will continue.

Meanwhile, as a longer term measure, the City is planning to construct amphibian movement culverts with fencing on either side of Laird Road this fall to provide for safe passage.

The matter had prompted LIMITS, already in the amphibian saving business, (so to speak) to take action themselves. Apparently, they were the "local environmentalists" that the city press release spoke of.

"TONIGHT!!! There is a meeting at Laird Road (between the Hanlon and Downey Road) tonight - 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm - to try to save as many of the amphibians as possible. All are welcome, but make sure to wear reflective clothing, and bring a flashlight, bucket and gloves!!!"

That message went out to members of the LIMITS Facebook group around 3:30 pm, by 5 pm victory was declared by another message:

"The frogs that did not make it across Laird road last night were put on display in front of city hall, prompting Hans Loewig to come out and announce laird will be closed tonight and then the city will figure out what to do on a more long-term basis!"

The Mercury's got copy on it in today's issue, but apparently this has been an issue with area residents for some time now.

"Norah Chaloner said she and a few friends noticed last September while walking on Laird Road the large number of frogs and toads being killed by passing cars. Realizing conditions would be ideal for a migration Monday night – a wet, warm night following a dry spell – they headed out with flashlights in hand to help the amphibians with their treacherous journey."

So kudos to area residents for taking swift action, and kudos to the city for taking such a big step to close a road for wildlife.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Program gets low-income adults in motion

I've had this press release sitting in my e-mail for a while. I'd liek to think I was saving it for the right time, and I'm going to stick to that. The Downtown 5K run is this Saturday, anyone looking for more information on it can scroll below after the press release or go to the Community Health Centre website here.

Guelph, ON - Angel Carraro has just received a boost in her efforts to become physically active. She has been provided with the most basic of exercise equipment - a pair of running shoes. Carraro notes, “It is really helpful to get a good quality pair of shoes, especially when on a budget and when you want to get active. It’s a good foundation for activity.”

Ms. Carraro’s shoes were provided by Guelph CHC’s Running Shoe Recycle Program, operated in partnership with local running store, the Running Works. Guelph CHC Health Promoter and Guelph in motion co-chair Karrie Cumming, says, “Competitive runners typically buy new running shoes every few months. While these used running shoes are no longer suitable for training, they still have many miles of life left in them to benefit Guelph CHC clients for activities like walking”. The Running Shoe Recycle Program collects high quality, gently used running shoes to distribute to Guelph CHC clients who need a good pair of shoes to support their efforts to be physically active.

While working with low income adults at Guelph CHC, Cumming noted that many people face barriers to being physically active. “It’s a common misperception that it is simply a matter of motivation. However, there are many factors that can stop someone from participating in exercise, such as financial barriers.” Cumming reports. “When working with some of our diabetic clients I would frequently notice that clients would be interested in beginning our program to assist in managing their blood sugar, however, they would not have a proper pair of shoes. Running shoes are a basic tool for many forms of exercise, so not having a pair is can really be a major obstacle to becoming active. This is especially true for diabetic’s who often have compromised circulation in their feet.”

Guelph CHC collects shoes in all men’s and women’s adult sizes. Shoes are only recycled if they are good quality (ie. Saucony, New Balance, Asics, etc.) and in good condition (ie. no holes and not very dirty). Running shoes are washed and fitted with insoles prior to distribution.

The Running Shoe Recycle program has been so successful at inspiring people to become active that a team of Guelph CHC clients, including Carraro, will be participating as walkers in this year’s Meridian Guelph Downtown 5K Run on September 26th. For more information about donating quality used running shoes or the Downtown 5K Run please call 519-821-6638.

About Guelph CHC

Guelph CHC is committed to working with our community to provide access to health programs and services, and create opportunities for people to improve their well-being. We are particularly focused on assisting people who are new to Canada or who face challenges such as low income, unemployment, isolation, homelessness and physical or mental disabilities.

About in motion

WDG in motion is a community partnership working to improve the health of our region by encouraging 30 minutes of daily physical activity for all residents. In motion is aimed at mobilizing people in our region to become more physically active by:

* Building awareness about local physical activity opportunities and the benefits of being active
* Reducing barriers to physical activity in our communities
* Identifying the creative use of leisure facilities, parks and open spaces to support broader participation
* Utilizing community events to celebrate and encourage physical activity
* Stimulating community dialogue and action to enhance physical activity opportunities
* Inspiring and engaging local schools in physical activity opportunities for children and youth.

Guelph in motion’s mission is to “create a culture of physical activity” in the City of Guelph.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I refused to go in any case

If you didn't here, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in town today for a photo op at Linamar's new Teaching and Technology Centre at 700 Woodlawn Rd. A flurry of e-mails and messages went across the interweb last night as the proactively inclined tried to get their ducks in a row.

"Hey folks, There will be an emergency protest against the Harper government at 2pm on Monday. Harper plans on coming to Guelph to do a photo op at Linamar's new Technology and Teaching Centre - 700 Woodlawn rd. COME JOIN THE "WELCOMING" COMMITTEE!!! Bring your signs and noise makers! Let's show him that Guelph is not behind his attacks on workers, women, immigrants, peace, etc. etc."

That was one message I got. Several of my Facebook friends changed their status to a rallying cry and considering the Monday afternoon timing and the the relatively crappy weather, I wonder how successful they were.

Was I there? Nope. First of all, I'm busy trying to play catch up on all my Toronto Film Festival reviews, which I'm getting paid for and thus can't sacrifice a couple of hours to do a freebie, even if it is becasue the PM's in town. Secondly, the release on the PMO's own website didn't sound very inviting...

Public events for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Monday, September 21st are:

Guelph, Ontario
2:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will participate in a photo opportunity. He will be joined by Members of the Conservative Caucus.

700 Woodlawn Road

Guelph, Ontario
N1K 1G4

*Photo opportunity only (cameras and photographers only)

• Media are required to present proper identification for accreditation.
• Media should arrive no later than 1:45 p.m.

Guelph, Ontario
2:30 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make an announcement. He will be joined by Members of the Conservative Caucus.

700 Woodlawn Road

Guelph, Ontario
N1K 1G4

*Open to media
NOTE: • Media are required to present proper identification for accreditation.

Somehow, I didn't see me as a freelance journalist and blogger having the "proper identification" they'd want. Secondly, what am I going to get out of going there that I'm not going to get out of reading it in the paper tomorrow or seeing it on the news tonight. Probably nothing. The last several times when Harper's been here he's taken no media questions, done no interviews, particiapted in no scrums. I realize that being the leader of country is a busy job, but you can't scrum for 10 minutes? Well neither can I.

Considering the sneaky way this info, came out, I didn't exactly feel galvinized to put aside my day and trudge up to the Industrial area of town to listen to Harper talk. Sorry, that's not political, it's business. When a Federal leader comes to town, a rarity outside of an election call, I don't think it's too much to ask for some level of engagement with local press. I don't know if that changed today, if the PM pointed at Rob O'Flanagan or Scott Tracey from the Merc and took a question, but I have a feeling he didn't.

I have a feeling he shot in past however many protesters that were there, went in through the back, got his photo op, said his piece and was off to the next thing. Sleek, clean, well-rehearsed and polished to the hilt - that's how the Prime Minister rolls. Reporters are unpredictable, they ask imputent questions and if you give them 10 minutes in a scrum the next thing you know they'll be wanting one-on-one interviews. Nonsense! So yeah, not to sound selfish but I need something more than admittance. It's like goiong to Wonderland and getting into the park but only being allowed to look at the rides, and not go on them. So for that reason, I refused to go in any case.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yellow Alert for Water Levels

This a pretty big deal. So despite all the whining about how "this wasn't a real summer," it appears that there are some benefits to getting a decent amount of rainfall, like not having to worry about the water levels from dipping to far out of hand. Now I would never advocate that we have cause to celebrate because we didn't have to conserve, that would be just silly. But it's still nice to hear that the environment's not yet a total loss.

GUELPH, ON, September 17, 2009 – The City has moved to Level 1 Yellow of its Outside Water Use Program after water managers from across the Grand River watershed moved to endorse Level I flow conditions of the Ontario Low Water Response Plan for the Eramosa watershed. During Level I conditions the Grand River Low Water Response Team (GRLWRT) asks communities in the Eramosa River Watershed to aim for a 10 per cent reduction in water consumption.

The decision comes in response to receding stream flows across the watershed. Despite a relatively wet summer, rainfall in the past month has concentrated on the northern and southern portions of the Grand River Watershed leaving the central portion, which includes the Eramosa River, significantly untouched. As a result, river flows in the Eramosa River have dropped to about half of what they would normally be at this time of the year. There is little precipitation expected over the next week and Environment Canada is predicting warmer temperatures and below normal precipitation over the next few months.

The decision by the GRLWRT requires Guelph to move from Level 0 Blue of the Outside Water Use Program to Level 1 Yellow. The change in Program level does not restrict activities associated with outside water use, rather it reminds residents to be aware of their water consumption and follow the City’s “reduce outside use” guidelines. Level 1 Yellow conditions still allow for alternate day lawn watering, and do not restrict garden, tree or shrub watering.

Although outside watering activities are not affected by the level change, compliance to the program guidelines becomes mandatory. With the change in program level, Waterworks staff and City By-law Officers will increase enforcement of the Outside Water Use Program. Residents who fail to comply with the City’s “reduce outside use” guidelines can face a fine of $110.

For information about the Grand River Conservation Authority, visit www.grandriver.ca. Information about the Province’s Low Water Response Plan and Guelph’s Outside Water Use Program can be obtained by Guelph Waterworks at 519-837-5627 or by visiting guelph.ca/water.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Horst is back!

To the disappointment of a lot of people, Guelph cartoonist and illustrator Gareth Lind pulled the plug on his long running comic strip Weltschmerz last year. Those of us who enjoyed the doom and gloom sobriety offered through perpetual glass-is-half-empty advocate Horst, the strips protagonist (or maybe antogonist), have missed Lind's spin on issues facing Canadians.

Well just when you thought you'd never hear (so to speak) Horst's naisally leftist whine ever again, he's making a triumphant comback, albeit in a new, leaner package.

Dear former Weltschmerz readers,

I have started a new comic strip called This Bright Future, appearing every week at The Canadian Charger. Think of it as distilled Weltschmerz. Tighter. Sharper. And I hope just as funny.

Horst and his friends return -- Frank, Cosmo, Raj, Donya and even maybe Celia. But the strip will be more focused on current affairs, less on personal foibles. Not surprisingly, Stephen Harper has put in an appearance more often than any of the above.

You can find This Bright Future on the front page of The Canadian Charger, a web magazine aiming to expand the range of discourse in our corporate-dominated media. The first panel of this week's cartoon is attached below. (There are a number of seed comics to check out as well.)

If enough readers request it, this new strip could appear on local newsprint (hint intended).

Please visit the Charger Thursdays to for your satire fix. You can become a fan at the TBF Facebook page. And please spread the word.

Thanks for reading,

And suddenly, all is right with the world again. Welcome back, Horst! (Gareth too!)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

HCBP: That's all folks... for now

It would seem that those rascally Hanlon Creek Business Park Occupiers got their wish after all and stopped construction on the HCBP lands, for this year anyway. After the City got Ministry of Natural Resources approval to proceed with the construction of a culvert last week, it seemed it was full speed ahead to wrap construction before we got too deep into fall.

Press Release from the City:

GUELPH, ON, September 3, 2009 – The City of Guelph has determined that it will not proceed with construction of a culvert on the Hanlon Creek Business Park site in 2009, and will instead undertake culvert construction in 2010 as part of the overall servicing work for Phase 1 of the Business Park.

The decision comes this afternoon at the conclusion of careful analysis on the part of the City as to the environmental and technical implications of undertaking the construction in the fall rather than in the summer. One month of critical summer work was lost between July 27 and August 27 as a result of a small group of protesters having occupied the site. The original work plan would have seen all in-stream work completed before August 31. That plan was thwarted when protesters halted work on the project in July.

Construction of the tributary "A" culvert is considered to have lower environmental risks in the summer when groundwater levels and stream flows are low. Construction in the fall creates the potential for greater environmental impacts when groundwater and surface water levels are generally higher. To perform the work this fall would require extensive de-watering (a process whereby the shallow water table is manually lowered) and an elaborate diversion of the stream, the first of which would require a permit to take water and both of which would be subject to a potentially lengthy approval process.

City officials have decided that deferral until 2010 is the environmentally responsible and generally more prudent route. "A handful of protesters have held our City hostage and ignored democratic processes. Regrettably, the result is a significant delay, which will ultimately cost city taxpayers," says Guelph's mayor Karen Farbridge.

The City's contractor will be on site over the next few days to remove equipment and stabilize the site.

All construction planned for 2010 will move forward without delay. The City will work with Industry Canada to secure the use of more than $621,000 in federal funding, announced today, when it resumes its work in 2010. This funding was announced as part of the country's economic stimulus package to get Canadians working, create jobs and provide a legacy of longer-term economic benefits.

It's kind of odd to hear the Mayor talk about the City being held "hostage" and the cost to taxpayers, especially given that many involved with protesting are involved in the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, also known as her old digs.

But what do the protesters themselves have to say:

We just learned from a City press release that the City is cancelling the HCBP for this year, due to losing a “critical month” of summer work. In other words, the main goal of the occupation – stopping the HCBP for this year – has been achieved! The larger goal of stopping the HCBP as a whole, has yet to be accomplished. But we have a hell of a lot more time and energy to work towards that.

Check out this article from the Mercury: Farbridge says city held ‘hostage’

Also see the City’s press release, which is basically the same: City delays culvert construction until spring (As quoted above)

Mayor Karen Farbridge also says that, “A handful of protesters have held our City hostage and ignored democratic processes.” If the Mayor had visited the site even once during the occupation, she would know that literally hundreds of people of all ages participated in the occupation, with thousands more in support.

The Mayor herself should ask how many times people must be ignored through their ‘democratic process,’ until they realize that sometimes the most effective way to create change is to take action.

Thank you so much to everyone for every single way you have helped. Let’s keep it going, and stay tuned for updates.

Good news!

This message was sent over both the "Save our Old Growth Forests" Facebook group and the "Land Is More Important Than Sprawl" group.

So there you have it, a small group of so-called radicals can really make a difference after all. My hope is that over the next couple of months, there is a serious reconsideration of proceeding with work on this site. It's plans were drawn years ago in a completely different economy. And I have yet to receive a decent counter argument as to why hundreds of acres of empty industrial space in the north end can't be converted to a new business park as opposed to digging up and paving over pristine green space.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's September 1st, and you know what that means...

...Fall election talk, partner! Yee-Haw!

I think that this headline from an article on the Globe and Mail's website says it all: "Ignatieff to Harper: ‘Your time is up'"

So it seems that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has it in his mind to topple the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. “After four years of drifting, of denial, of divisiveness and discord ... Stephen Harper’s time is up,” Ignatieff said Tuesday to party members and national media during a campaign-style rally in Sudbury.

Party on, Iggy! Surely you will find support to bring down Harper in the other opposition parties. All they ever want to do is end the Conservative reign and get another election going, and good thing because you're going to need all three to bring this House of Cards down.

“If the government wants to start acting in the interests of Canadians, then perhaps we can avoid [Ottawa] foisting an election” on voters, NDP finance critic Tom Mulcair said.

Snap! Where's the NDP that will vote against anything Harper puts on the table? Even before they know what it is. But what of Giles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois? From Reuters, "Gilles Duceppe, leader of the federal party that advocates separation for the French-speaking province of Quebec, will speak at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) in Laval, Quebec, on Wednesday, a Bloc spokesman said."

And Mr. Harper, what do you have to say? “The one thing that could screw this all up is political instability. We have a couple of parties in Parliament, the Bloc Québécois in particular, the NDP as well, they vote for an election every day of the week every time, they've got nothing to do other than fight election campaigns. There is a risk that at some point in the future, as we saw last year, that one of the major parties will try to appease those parties and do bad things to this country as a way of trying to get into office.”

Well, he's on the money about the NDP and the Bloc. I've always said that they have that luxury of opposing every confidence motion because they know their votes alone won't get the job done, and the Liberals are always gun shy about going to the polls prematurely. Plus it always gives the NDP and the Bloc the high ground by saying that there's no difference between a vote for the Liberals or the Conservatives since the one props up the other.

Is Ignatieff baiting the other parties, by preemptively issuing an ultimatum to the Conservatives? Is he daring them to call his bluff, or is he deadly serious about moving full speed ahead with a Fall election? Whatever it is, it's smart politics. Ignatieff has put both the Conservatives and the NDP on the defensive and forced them to maybe look at each other in order to save them both. Jack Layton has to choose whether he's going to follow Ignatieff's lead or risk looking the hypocrite by propping up Harper. The Bloc, meanwhile, face a similar conundrum as the NDP, but that's by no means the same kind of compromise required of the Conservatives should they decide to movie forward and try to and pursuade the Bloc to give them the assist.

Could the Bloc and the Conservatives reach an argeement? Probably not becuase the Conservatives would risk losing a lot of face with their western base. And as for the NDP, their requested concessions - usually more money for healthcare, education and other social programs - is sure not to go over very well with the Conservative caucus, especially in a recession economy. So it begs the question: has Ignatieff put his opponents in checkmate? Well, the first chance they'll get to bring the government down doesn't come until the end of September. An eternity in political life.

Someone goes Bronson on the HCBP site

... As in "This ain't over." I suppose it was inevitable when the Ministry of Natural Resources said everything was cool for construction at the Hanlon Creek Business Park that someone would take significantly greater action against the construction plans for the site. This press release just came over the wire a little while ago, and it ain't pretty.

GUELPH, ON, September 1, 2009 – The City of Guelph has just learned that work completed yesterday to repair damage done during the Hanlon Creek Business Park occupation was sabotaged overnight – the time of day when salamanders, particularly juveniles, are most vulnerable. (I enjoy the upfront reference to the salamander, making it sound as if the person or persons that dug the trench were out to harm the salamander.)

Drexler Construction, the construction firm hired by the City to install a culvert at Road “A” on the Hanlon Creek Business Park site, discovered that trenches – filled yesterday to allow vehicles access to the site – had been freshly dug overnight.

As part of its Salamander Protection Measures Plan, developed with input from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Dr. Jim Bogart, Chair of the Jefferson Salamander Recovery Team, the City has deliberately isolated the construction area from 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise when Jefferson salamander juveniles would be most likely to be moving from breeding ponds, if any are on site.

As the per the Minister of Natural Resources’ decision last week, the City plans to proceed with the work to rectify damage to the property, while continuing to adhere to the mitigation steps outlined in its Salamander Protection Measures Plan.

And this is not the first bit of mud slung following the successful injunction calling for work on the HCBP site to cease while the MNR did a further assessment in the interest of protecting the Jefferson Salamander. This came out a couple of days ago:

GUELPH, ON, August 28, 2009 – The City of Guelph has modified its claim to reflect its primary interest in recovering costs associated with equipment stolen from the Hanlon Creek Business Park site and damage to property.

As part of the City’s ongoing legal action relating to the Hanlon Creek Business Park occupation, it is required to file a statement of claim by end of day today – 30 days from its statement of action, filed July 30.

The City has no plans to seek punitive damages as part of its claim.

“We have modified our claim for damages sought, to protect our injunction, and to recover costs for stolen equipment and damage to property,” says Guelph’s Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig. “While the City has no plans to seek punitive damages, it does have an obligation to protect its injunction so that this project can move forward without further cost to taxpayers and unnecessary delays.”

The City may also look to recover costs associated with the present appeal, which it considers unnecessary in light of the Minister of Natural Resources' decision.

Then there was this article in the Guelph Mercury a couple of weeks ago, about how there was a mess left behind on the site by protesters. By "mess," the city meant the various traps and trenches dug by the protesters to stop vehicles from entering the site. It would seem that somewhere though, someone, though more likely someones, decided to take things to the next level. I appreciate their frustration, but this kind of action just gives the city leverage to not take future protesters seriously.

Having said that though, I do find it galling that the city is trying to position themselves as defender of the Jefferson Salamander against the carelessness of hardline, eco-saboteurs. In the political business, I believe this is called "managing the story."