About the Blog:

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Person Arrested at Torch Relay

As you may have heard, there was something of an incident at the torch relay downtown this morning. An altercation apparently related to a protest by a Guelph group who, amongst other things, are arguing "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land." They're actually arguing on a number of issues including the gentrification of Vancouver, criminalization of the poor, commoditization of the games and the level of security involved in hosting the Olympics (which will likely be increased now thanks to a new gang of jackasses and the incident on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.)

First the press release, then what I've heard.

Olympic Torch Bearer Knocked to the Ground

On December 28th, 2009, The Olympic Torch Run entered the City of Guelph as it made its journey across Canada enroute to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic Games.

At approximately 7:50 a.m., the procession made its way up Wyndham Street North Guelph and as it approaching MacDonnell Street a group of protesters approached the Olympic Torch Run entourage and the 28 year old female torch bearer was knocked to A 19 year old female was immediately arrested on scene.

The Olympic Flame was not extinguished.

The 28 year old female Torch Carrier, a resident of Milton was treated on scene for her injuries by the Olympic Torch Run medical staff.

This incident occurred in front of approx. 1000 children and parents who attended the festivities to celebrate the Olympic Torch coming to Guelph on its journey to Vancouver

Brittney SIMPSON 19 years of Kitchener has been charged with Assault and will appear in court in February.

That's from the Guelph Police press release on the incident. I was not a witness, but I did speak to a few of the protesters after the flame left downtown.

According to protest spokesperson Drew Garvie, the tripping of the torch runner simply stemmed from a situation that got out of control fast. So many of the revelers were apparently trying to drown out the protesters that people began crowding around the torch route, and the runner was knocked to the ground. Garvie and his associate didn't seem to know what specifically happened, but they seemed to think it was nothing more than an accident. Information's at a premium, so I encourage anyone that saw something to e-mail me at adamadonaldson@gmail.com, or if you wish to stay anonymous, leave a comment below.

As for the protest itself, Garvie says that people have the wrong idea about what was trying to be said this morning. "I think a lot of the people booing us think we're just out to ruin their fun," he says. "It's too bad there was such hostility between the protesters and the community."

To wit, as a few other reporters and myself were talking to Garvie and his associate someone walked up behind us and sang "Oh, Canada" loudly. He then got into a verbal sparring match with Garvie saying, "It's bull$#!t what you guys are doing," he said before arguing that exactly the same people that protested the Hanlon Creek Business Park were protesting the Olympics. "It's great that Canadians have been coming together celebrating [the Olympics]. There's room for protest, but not angry protest."

As the man walked away, Gravie says to me, "That's the response to our criticism: 'Go Canada.' And that's not a compelling reason."

It's worth noting that this isn't the first time that the Olympic flame encounter protest. The flame was diverted from the Six Nations reserve near Caledonia last week when a group threatened to block the torch saying that it had no right to cross sovereign Six Nations land.

More information as it develops.

Photos provided by Greg Beneteau from thecannon.ca

Scenes from the Torch Relay

There's only one reason you would get up at six in the morning on your Christmas vacation: seeing the Olympic torch pass through your town. Below are some pictures that I took along the route near my 'hood at Paisley and Silvercreek.

I followed the torch downtown, but it was a little faster on it's feet than I was. I did, however, get this shot of the torch in the horsedrawn carage coming up through St. Georges Square.

I'll have a separate piece about the protest later today.

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Week Till the Torch

There's a lot of excitment about the Olympic Torch in town hear, if only because the darn thing seems to be circling the Royal City. On the weekend it was in Georgetown and Acton, and today its in Brantford.

Well, we'll finally get our turn a week today, as the Olympic flame will be run downtown via Paisley, stop breifly at City Hall and then head off up Eramosa, in part, by horse-drawn carriage. From here it'll head off to Erin, Alton and Orangeville.

Below, I've cut and paste the City's press release and the route maps. Two things to keep in mind though: get up early because the flame leaves Silvercreek Parkway at 7:30 AM, and remember too that the route and times may be subject to change, so check back to the site here for the latest information.

GUELPH, ON, December 14, 2009 – In just 14 days, the eyes of the world will be on Guelph as the Olympic Flame arrives as part of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.

“It is an honour for our city to be chosen to take part in the Olympic Torch Relay," said Mayor Karen Farbridge. "The excitement is building for the arrival of the Olympic Flame and everyone is invited to come out and cheer it on its journey to Vancouver.”

Residents of Guelph eager to catch the Olympic spirit will have the opportunity to see the Olympic Flame in person on December 28, as it passes through Guelph on its way to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The torch relay will pass through Guelph from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. as part of a convoy of vehicles, which will include torchbearer shuttles, media vehicles, relay support vehicles and police cruisers. Temporary rolling road closures will ensure the safety of the torchbearers and spectators lining the relay route. Join in the excitement and see the torchbearers carry the flame as it travels on its 45,000-kilometre-long journey across Canada — the longest domestic torch relay in Olympic history.

Here's a You Tube video of the torch's pass through my hometwon Georgetown Saturday morning. The picture above is a screen capture from this vid in case you were wondering.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Budget Reloaded

I got an e-mail from the City yesterday, telling me to cease and desist... Just kidding. Actually, they e-mailed me with revised budget numbers, "corrections" the e-mail said. Find the revised budget breakdown below, or find it online here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

We Got Budget

It what was a relatively easy process with such a great number of contentious issues, but the budget was passed at last night's council meeting. The end result wasn't as bad as people thought it was going to be. The 9.2 per cent shortfall was rounded down to about 3.66 per cent. Many of the more contentious potential cuts were avoided, but a number of councillors seem to have mixed feelings about what was kept and what was cut. From the Mercury blog here's the budget highlights at a glance:

  • 29 full-time positions to be eliminated
  • all staff to have five unpaid days during 2010
  • sidewalk snow plowing to continue
  • Guelph Transit passes to increase five per cent; 25 cents for cash customers
  • U of G bus pass will continue
  • statutory holiday bus service discontinued
  • Evergreen dining room to remain open
  • Free metered downtown parking to continue
  • no cuts to community or neighbourhood grants
  • east end library branch opening delayed until June
  • city will continue funding summer day camps

So another giant leap backwards for transit, which has numerous problems already, some of which I touched on in my recent Community Editorial in the Mercury. While it's nice to know that the U of G buss pass would continue, it would be nice if the city made such Herculean allowances for us poor souls who live and work in Guelph and use transit to go about our day. What's not listed above is that we're now getting "summer service hours" too. Which means that those of us that like the convenience of 20 minute service, having places to go and people to see - even in summer. So now with a 25 cent increase we'll be paying what Torontians pay for the TTC, but not for the same level of service, for lesser service. Makes sense to me.

Anyway, here's what the City office thinks of the budget. From last night's press release:

City Council approves 2010 budget

GUELPH, ON, December 15, 2009 – Guelph City Council approved the 2010 tax-supported operating and capital budget at $196,630,308, a 3.66 per cent increase over 2009. When the property tax rate is finalized in early 2010, the impact on an average household in Guelph assessed at $258,000 will be roughly $102.

The City was facing a revenue shortfall of $8.1 million as City Council began its deliberations on the 2010 operating budget earlier this month. Given the revenue shortfall, an increase of 9.2 per cent over 2009 would have been required in order to maintain current level of City services.

“This has been one of the most challenging budget years in recent memory. I want to thank the many community members and organizations who offered Council their input on the budget. I also want to thank City staff, particularly the Finance department, for their diligent work throughout this process,” said Mayor Karen Farbridge. “The result is a budget that balances the need to protect services with the need to protect taxpayers.”

In November, City staff presented the budget to City Council and identified a number of potential reductions that would lower the impact on Guelph taxpayers. City Council heard over 30 public delegations during this year’s budget process, and approved a number of the recommended service changes.

Winter control on city sidewalks will continue in 2010, as will free two-hour on-street parking downtown. The City’s operations department was directed to find further operational efficiencies to offset the cost of maintaining these services. Transit rates and holiday transit services will be affected. A complete list of service changes is available here.

City Councillors and staff will take the equivalent of five unpaid days off next year, and the City is eliminating the equivalent of twenty-nine full time positions for a savings of over $2 million next year.

The revenue shortfall in 2009 was largely caused by the global economic downturn: interest rates were at historically low levels and impacted the City’s investment income; markets for recycled commodities were weakened, and sales of recycled paper, plastic and aluminum were well below average; and the City’s court services issued and collected fewer tickets and fines.

Transit revenues also grew more slowly than expected in the first half of the year despite increased ridership since introducing 20-minute service.

The City has prioritized its long-term capital investments, and deferred a number of capital projects based on legislated requirements, capacity upgrades, repairs or improvements, environmental impacts and other strategic objectives. This priority listing will help the City manage growth pressures expected over the next two decades, while continuing to provide the services residents and businesses need and expect.

Budget Breakdown:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Take Time to Remember

Today is the 20th anniversary of one of the worst tragedies in our nation's history. On this day 20 years ago, sometime after 4 pm, Marc Lépine arrived at L'École Polytechnique, an engineering school affiliated with the Université de Montréal, armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife and killed 14 female students before turning the gun on himself.

To mark the anniversary, Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis is hosting a vigil at City Hall tonight at 6 pm. Details are below:

December 6th Vigil - 20th Anniversary
Sunday, December 6th
6 pm
Guelph City Hall, Galleria (indoors)
1 Carden Street, Guelph
Wheelchair accessible/barrier free location.
for more information please call 519 836 1110 or visit www.gwwomenincrisis.org

Presented by Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis and Guelph City Youth Council.
In association with the University of Guelph Central Student's Human Rights Office, Edward Johnson Public School, University of Guelph French Club, and CUPE 1334 Women's Council.

The community vigil will feature special speakers, performances, and art work by children about their vision for a peaceful, violence-free community. Join us to celebrate the lives of all the women and children killed in cases where male intimate partners have been charged in 2009.
Join us to reflect on the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre in 1989. 20 years on, we continue to work to end violence against women and children in our community.

Whether you can make it or not, please take time today to remember 14 women who were shot for no other reason then they were women at an engineering school.

* Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
* Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

* Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
* Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

* Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student

* Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student

* Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the finance department
* Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student

* Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

* Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student

* Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student

* Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

* Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student

* Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Transit takes another Hit

As Guelph City Council debates the merits of making cuts to Transit as part of a multifaceted play to rein in the deficit, we get more pleasant transit cut news from Greyhound Canada. Why is it in tough economic times, the first move is to cut transit rather than adding to it. Especially given the expense of a personal car and the ongoing demand for more greener alternatives in transportation?

Anyway, here's the full piece from Newswire.

Greyhound Canada announces service reductions in Ontario


TORONTO, Dec. 2 /CNW/ - Greyhound Canada today announced a series of service reductions to its passenger bus service in Ontario while also confirming that service along the TransCanada highway will be preserved with frequency reductions.

All changes will take effect as of January 17, 2010.

These measures will ensure there is no outright halt to service along the TransCanada Highway pending the outcome of the federal-provincial-territorial Working Group which is due to report in September, 2010.

"Greyhound Canada has indicated for months that it could no longer sustain current financial losses without making adjustments to our existing operations," said Senior Vice President Stuart Kendrick. "The route frequency reductions we are announcing today are designed to relieve some of that financial pressure."

Greyhound Canada emphasized that these service adjustments are effective only on an interim basis subject to the final recommendations of the Working Group.

"The long-term future of Greyhound Canada's cross-country operations will rely upon the outcome of the federal-provincial-territorial Working Group that is due to recommend regulatory and policy changes to Ministers in September 2010," concluded Kendrick.


-------------------- ------- --- ---------
----------------- ------- ------- ----

Sudbury - Espanola - Massey
- Spanish - Blind River -
Sault Ste Marie 3 trips daily 2 trips daily Jan 17 2010
Sault Ste Marie -
Blind River - Spanish -
Massey - Espanola - Sudbury 3 trips daily 2 trips daily Jan 17 2010

Sault Ste Marie - Wawa -
Marathon - Terrace Bay -
Nipigon - Thunder Bay 2 trips daily 1 trip daily Jan 17 2010
Thunder Bay - Nipigon -
Terrace Bay - Marathon -
Wawa - Sault Ste Marie 2 trips daily 1 trip daily Jan 17 2010

Toronto - Grimsby - 8 trips daily,
St. Catharines - 1 trip
Niagara Falls (Mon to Fri),
1 trip
(Fri, Sat, Sun) 7 trips daily Jan 17 2010
Niagara Falls - 9 trips daily,
St. Catharines - 1 trip
Grimsby - Toronto (Mon to Fri) 8 trips daily Jan 17 2010

Guelph - Elora -
Mount Forest - Durham -
Chatsworth - Owen Sound
(retains service via
Toronto-Guelph-Owen Sound) 1 trip (Sunday) none Jan 17 2010
Owen Sound - Chatsworth -
Durham - Mount Forest -
Elora - Guelph
(retains service via
Owen Sound-Guelph-Toronto) 1 trip (Sunday) none Jan 17 2010
Toronto - Brampton - 1 trip (Sunday),
Orangeville - Shelburne - 1 trip 1 trip
Chatsworth - Owen Sound (Tue, Thu, Fri) (Friday) Jan 17 2010
Owen Sound - Chatsworth - 1 trip
Shelburne - Orangeville - (Tue, Thu, Sat), 1 trip
Brampton - Toronto 1 trip (Sunday) (Sunday) Jan 17 2010
Toronto - Guelph -
Mount Forest - 1 trip 1 trip
Williamsford - Owen Sound (Wed, Fri) (Friday) Jan 17 2010
Owen Sound - Williamsford -
Mount Forest - Guelph 1 trip 1 trip
- Toronto (Wed, Fri) (Sunday) Jan 17 2010

Kitchener - Stratford -
St. Mary's - London 2 trips daily 1 trip daily Jan 17 2010
London - St. Mary's -
Stratford - Kitchener 2 trips daily 1 trip daily Jan 17 2010

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Guelph Arts gearing up for Budget Fight

This came across my desk today from the Guelph Arts Council. News about possible cuts to the arts sector git buried beneath the big ticket items I reported on last week, but there's some pretty substantial cuts earmarked for the arts in Guelph should city council decide to enact them. Here's the letter from GAC:

Well, folks, this missive feels a bit like déjà vu!! Back in 2005 – after the community rallied and successfully defeated a City budget proposal to cut all community / voluntary sector grants – we did say that “it could happen again”!! And, if you’ve been reading the newspapers, you’ll know that such cuts are indeed on the table for the 2010 City budget. I heard it all during last night’s four-hour staff budget presentation / Council question period.

It’s no secret that the City has recently been dealing with some very significant financial challenges. For 2010, these look to be even greater! In fact, even the base budget increase (after consideration of revenues losses and increases as a result of contractual obligations) looks to be $8.1 million which would translate into a 9.2 % tax hike.

Recognizing that such an increase would be completely unacceptable to Guelph citizens in these tough economic times, City staff have prepared two scenarios for City Council to consider:

List A - cuts to bring the increase down to 4.48 %
List B – cuts to bring the increase down about 2.5 %

The good news is that staff is recommending List A; the bad news is that List B, although not recommended, does include elimination of all community / voluntary support.

More specifically, List B includes:

Guelph Arts Council and United Way $ 57 500
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre 168 700

Community Arts & Culture Grants 70 000

Community Health & Social Service Grants 53 600

Community Events 91 000

Civic Celebrations and Special Projects 100 000

Neighbourhood Support Coalition Grant 150 000

Total $690 800

At the Council presentation last night (November 30), Council members made it pretty clear that they had no appetite for most of the cuts identified on List B. But, at the same time, some councillors also had problems with some of the items on List A (e.g. hike in transit fares). They further indicated that they were hearing from members of the public who want virtually no tax increase!

So, where are we with the arts / voluntary sector cuts? We are not at the top of the list but we are on the list – in other word, we are threatened, and we do need to make our case.

We don’t have a lot of time to do so. Council will hear delegations from the community ONLY next Tuesday, December 8, starting at 6 p.m. Then, they will debate the budget and make a decision on Tuesday, December 15 (and Wednesday, December 16, if more time is needed).

Remembering back to the February 2005 Council meeting (which had so many delegations that by 11 p.m. one could see that Council members were tuning out), we are recommending a fairly targeted approach to avoid too much repetition at the December 8 meeting.

Guelph Arts Council has registered as a delegation for that meeting, and will speak specifically to its own city allocation (without which, our organization’s future would be in serious jeopardy) PLUS the community arts grants (which we have just finished reviewing and recommending on) PLUS some community events such as Doors Open (which could not proceed without City funding), Hillside Inside, Multicultural Festival. We know that there will also be presentations from others (Neighbour Support Coalition, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Seniors Centre) and expect possibly others from the voluntary sector generally and possibly Civic Celebrations.

But there is a role for each and every one of you. You can communicate with Mayor / councillors:
- as an individual or as a representative of a specific group;

- specifically to your Ward councillor and/or all councillors;

- by phone, email, or letter delivered / mailed to City Hall;
- any time between now and December 15, although likely the sooner the better.

Click here to get contact information for councillors -
You could also consider sending a letter to the editor of either the Tribune or the Mercury.

Experience would show that we should be as positive as possible in any communications, not being overly critical or confrontational, and acknowledging the challenges faced by Council this year and the efforts they are making to responsibly deal with their financial shortfalls. At the same time, we need to point out how the not-for-profit voluntary sector, especially in the arts, has been similarly affected by cuts in support form other levels of government (no infrastructure $$ for us!) as well as a decline in fundraised dollars and, in many cases, a decrease in ticket sales / entry fees. For organizations already operating close to the line, for many of us it has meant going into a deficit position.

We would also be grateful if those of you who are members of Guelph Arts Council and/or work closely with us or appreciate the role we play as “the voice of the arts” in this community could put in a good word for maintaining our funding intact.

In return, as we did in 2005, Guelph Arts Council is prepared to take on the role of co-ordinating this “campaign” and keeping you posted on anything that develops between now and December 15. To that end, we would ask that each of you send us a copy of any correspondence to/from councillors.

Together, we can win this battle yet again – and live to fight another day!!