About the Blog:

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

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Don't Take the Law into Your Own Hands..."

"...you take them court."

Remeber that classic line from the end of the original People's Court. The one with Whapner. From the Facebook group SAVE OUR OLD GROWTH FOREST comes this message this evening.


Subject: City Files Injunction Against Land Defenders

July 31st, 2009: Today the City of Guelph has notified us that they are filing for an injunctionon Tuesday in the courts to remove us from the Hanlon Creek Old Growth site. This would mean they have a court order forcing the police to remove us from the site and could result in arrests and criminal charges from our actions to defend the land.

The city, its staff and this apparently “green” council continues to ignore our demands and push for an escalation of conflict by sending in the police to remove us. We wont just disappear into the court system or stop our opposition to the HCBP. This project can not go through, we will stop this.

To the city, we wont let you shove this injunction down our throats, you can’t ignore the problems with this development anymore.

We need your support, both on and off the site. If you are able to, we strongly encourage and support your decision to come join us on the site opposing this destructive development. If you do not feel comfortable coming up to the encampment and potentially facing a charge of trespassing or more, we encourage you to show your support by standing at the entranceway off of Downey and helping us spread the word. If you are unable to be on site, please show your support by calling the following people to express that you are opposed to the eviction of people who are defending this land and water that we all need. Please express that you disagree with any arrests that will be made.

As for city response to the goings on, I've collected a few links for you to check out at your leisure.

Response from Mayor Farbridge on her blog
City Release from July 30th
City Release from July 31st

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Arrested Development or Development Arrested?

This was the scene at 4 pm on the dot at the Downey St., home base of the grassroots occupation against the Hanlon Creek Business Park. As you'll recall from yesterday (and scroll down if you do not) the city gave protesters till 4 pm today to vacate the land, lest police be sent in to remove them. By 4:05 pm, there was still no police, just a long line of cars at the side of the road, a CTV satellite van and more than a dozen protesters at the mouth of the trail leading to their camp, keeping watch."On behalf of all mothers with children, please do it for me," said one passing motorist. Apparently this was one of several outcries of support for the HCBP occupiers as Day 4 was in full-blown "wait and see" mode. Apparently even "well-dressed people in luxury SUVs" stopped and offered words of encouragement as the day wore on. But as 4:30 rolled around, the 60-70 protesters on site held their ground, both literally and figuratively.

At around 4:35 an announcement was made to the camp: apparently one or two police cruisers had buzzed the entrance way on Downey Rd., not stopping mind you, but seemingly checking on the situation. Further, there was no communication from the city: no "April Fools" or "We're coming to evict you now," or anything like that.

By this point though, the protesters were entrenched, both in philosophical resolve and in the fact that they dug actual trenches at entrance ways into the site so that none but the hardiest construction vehicles could pass. Along the path, obstacles like the one in the above picture have been erected. Whatever else, the protesters are firm in their belief and in their position. It's 5 'o' clock and still no one's come.

With the deadline passed by more than 75 minutes, the large group breaks off into their own little pursuits, comfortable in the fact that it looks like nothing's going to happen today (before dark anyway). There's a rally in St. George's Square at 7 pm to look forward to, as well as ongoing considerations as to what will happen when and if the police do come. "Everybody's decided what their own response is going to be," is all "Keter Partwright" will say in terms of the groups plans in the event of forced eviction by police, mostly though, he says that growing group is trying to focus on the positive experiences.

"A lot of people came here Monday not knowing each other and they made all this happen," says one protester who wished to go unidentified. He indicates the rather elaborate encampment set up including a makeshift stone stove, a firewood area with protective tarp and a kitchenette area complete with table and chairs seeming fresh from a local thrift store with masking tape price tags still attached. "It's been amazing," he adds in summation, taking in the pleasant summer day.

What'll happen next? Dang if I know, but stay tuned here for developments as they, well, develop.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eviction Notice

It appears things are coming to a head so far as the protest on the Hanlon Creek Business Park lands are concerned. I present the following communiqué from the HCBP Occupation e-mail:

Hey folks;

Today, Peter Cartwright came up to the HCBP occupation site to deliver a notice for our eviction. The notice states that we are to be off the site by *tomorrow, July 30th, at 4pm*. The eviction notice was delivered threatening charge of trespassing. We are committed to the protection of tributary A, the old growth forest, the blue heron, and this thriving and vital ecosystem that sustains us.

We are looking for support, both on and off the site. If you are able to, we strongly encourage and support your decision to come join us tomorrow at 4 pm. If you do not feel comfortable coming up to the encampment and potentially facing a charge of trespassing, we encourage you to show your support by standing at the entranceway off of Downey. If you are unable to be on site, please show your support by calling the following people to express that you are opposed to the eviction of people who are defending this land and water that we all need. Please express that you disagree with any arrests that will be made.

Not sure where this news leaves the planned rally in St. George's Square tomorrow night at 7 pm. The protesters were also planning a family fun day for Saturday, as well as nature walks tomorrow and Friday. I guess I'll be making another sojourn down to Guelph's southern end tomorrow.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

HCBP: Update from On Site

I got this this afternoon through the LIMITS e-mail address, although the e-mail stressed that it was forwarded to them from " the autonomous group of people who have shut down the HCBP construction." Anyway, I post it here now for your consideration:


Tuesday July 28, 3pm

Check out hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com for more information and photos.

Yesterday went off without a hitch. The first day of work was shut down & close to the end of the work day Drexler brought in a small crew to remove the heavy machinery from the site. Yesterday was one of the first hot and sunny days of the summer, but once the engine started on that machine, a massive rain fell and only ended once the machine was far from the site. Also as the machine left the site, a rainbow appeared to frame the machine. Soon after, the police presence was gone & we had a calm, quiet but celebratory night on site. At the end of the day we had a sighting of the blue heron, who calls the creek they are destroying it’s home, it flew
over our heads and into the wetlands for the night.

The city also came with police escorts to inform us that we are trespassing on their property sometime in the late afternoon.

At the same time we were on the site, 25 supporters gathered at city hall before Monday’s council meeting to let the city know that any eviction of the land defenders would be hotly contested.

This morning was good & there has been few sightings of police or workers. Folks have been getting acquainted with the site today, & working around the camp as well as taking walks through the old growth we have come out to defend.

We still need tons of support, you’re welcome to come out to the site and join us. We welcome anyone who can stop by and we really appreciate all the support, food & gifts and honks from the broader community. Come on out to the site to chat with us, the site entrance is just north of laird rd. & downey rd. in the south end of town.

You can get in touch with us by phone at:
519 820 6280 or 519 820 6239
or e-mail us at: hcbpoccupation@gmail.com

we are welcoming all donations & support & media coverage we can get.

The group is also asking people to get in touch with key members of City Hall, from Mayor Farbridge to Ward 6 councillors Ken Wettstein and Christine Billings to Peter Cartwright, General Manager of Economic Development and Tourism.

Stay tuned.

City Responds to Protester's Press Release

I found this on the Ward 2 blog this morning. It's basically a point-by-point response by city staff to the press release the Hanlon Creek Business Park protesters put out yesterday, and posted, in full, on this site. The staff response can be found here. If you're on either side of this debate, please feel free to post your comments, and stay tuned here for more news as it develops.

Quick Council Update

So last night was a highly contentious one at the Guelph City Council, and not just because the anti-sprawl protesters supporting the work stoppage at lands designated for the Hanlon Creek Business Park were expected to be there welcoming councillors. I'm not sure what went down on that front, but a couple of other pertinent issues were voted upon.

First, council overturned a committee decision that sought to end bus service on statutory holidays as a cost-cutting measure. Leanne Piper made a compelling argument that canceling the service starting this coming holiday Monday, better known as John Galt Day locally, made no sense with all the activities planned by the city. Considering that the point of events like this is to attract people to get out and enjoy the city, wouldn't it make sense to make it easy for people to do that with a transit option for the car-less. Basically, the timing sucked, if I may paraphrase Piper thusly.

In the end, bus service on stat holiday was spared... for now. The issue will be revisited during budget deliberations in the new year.

Second order of business, the pissoirs (AKA: the outdoor toidies). The Night Life Task Force came back to committee last week with the recommendation that the city spend three-times as much cash to make the pilot project permanent and get some better public urinals. The same questions about enforcing current laws, the responsibility of downtown establishments, and spreading the cost around were raised, but in the end council approved a two-month pilot project for a grand total of $8,400.

Monday, July 27, 2009

HCBP Protest Update

So I just got back from my venture to the Hanlon Creek Business Park site, as well as a brief layover to change clothes after getting caught in today's torrential downpour.

Anyway it seemed deceptively quiet at first as I approached the site. A few protesters were greeting people in front of a path on Downey that led into the site where they have set up camp. Ominously, two police cars stand as sentries about 25 metres apart on the other side of the road, one of the guys I walked to the site with remarked that he believed they were there to watch in case of trouble.

Before I got to the protesters campsite I was greeted by two people who identified themselves as the protest's media spokespeople. They said their names were "Faren Carbridge" and "Keter Partwright." As slow as I occasionally am sometimes, it wasn't until later that I realized that these were code names, references to Mayor Karen Farbridge and Peter Cartwright, the City's Manager of Economic Development Services.

I talked to "Faren" and "Keter" for about 15 minutes, what was clear was their passion and their disappointment in the city. Apparently, earlier today a city representative had visited the site and warned the protesters that they were trespassing, though it seems that no other action other than the delivery of the warning was taken.

"Faren" articulated that she was "disgusted by city hall" for promoting their environmental friendliness through the building's green roof while apparently overlooking the protection of greenspace by letting the HCBP to go forward. She also said that she's been following the "bureaucratic process," including the recent push by LIMITS, to reach some kind of accord concerning the HCBP site, though she's unsurprised that it's led to a dead end.

Currently on the site there are between 30-40 people, said "Faren" and "Keter," they add though that they're part of a network of people across the city who are actively opposed to the HCBP. A "welcoming committee" was supposed to greet people attending the council meeting tonight made up of anti-HCBP supporters. "Faren" said that the group intends to stay on site until September 15th, the last possible day construction crews can begin work, although she added that the group gathered at the HCBP is ready to talk to city representatives.

More news as it develops.

Protesters Stop Work at HCBP

So I was minding my own business (sleeping) at 6:30 this morning and I get a phone call from one of the leaders of a group of protesters intending to stop work on the Hanlon Creek Business Park site. If you've been reading this blog, you know the story. Anyway, being only half awake when they called, they were smart enough to follow

Press Release: Save Our Old Growth Forest!

On July 27th, 2009, at approximately 7 am, over 50 people gathered at the site of the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP) to protest the environmental destruction inflicted by Drexler Construction, as approved by the City of Guelph.

To date, Drexler has begun the process of building a 4-lane wide culvert over Tributary A of the Hanlon Creek, which is the first construction project for the HCBP. This has involved:

• The bulldozing of a 4-lane road,
• construction of silt fences surrounding Tributary A,
• the cutting of trees and destruction of wildlife habitat along Tributary A.

Drexler is also contracted to dig up the gas lines that run parallel to Downey Rd., dam and divert Tributary A, and build a culvert crossing to facilitate the construction of the 74-acre road network in preparation for Phase 1 of the Hanlon Creek Business Park.

There has been mounting opposition to the HCBP since its instigation in 1993, which has greatly accelerated in the past 8 months. Numerous organizations have concerns regarding the proposed development, including its effects on both the human and non-human inhabitants of the site and surroundings.

The land that is currently being destroyed has not always been the property of the City of Guelph. Before it was purchased from the township of Puslinch, this land was hunting and gathering grounds for the Neutral Nation and other Indigenous nations for over 11,000 years.

This exceptionally environmentally-sensitive area is also home to the Paris-Galt moraine, which has been identified by Mayor Karen Farbridge and MPP Liz Sandals as extremely important for the recharge and filtration of Guelph’s drinking water. Tributary A, a stream that feeds into the Hanlon Creek, which in turn feeds into the Speed and Grand Rivers, is being devastated by the construction of the culvert. These waterways provide drinking water for several communities downstream of Guelph, including Brantford, Six Nations, and Cambridge. The impact of this development is not confined to Guelph, and any development of the site risks the contamination of these communities’ drinking water. The Grand River is already on the verge of collapse due to a combination of human impacts, and as stewards of these rivers we need to protect them from any further possible risk.

We believe that the continuation of this development is unlawful, as it is failing to abide by the laws of the Provincial Policy Statement, the Federal Species at Risk Act, and the Provincial Endangered Species Act. We believe the City of Guelph has deceived the public and evaded adequate wildlife protection measures by declaring that the construction of the HCBP will have no negative impact on the Provincially Significant Wetland and the habitats of two threatened species on the site, the Jefferson Salamander and Western Chorus Frog. The 15-30m buffer of adjacent lands are extremely inadequate and defy scientific studies that state that a range of 120-500m adjacent lands are needed. Further, section 2.1 of the Provincial Policy Statement mandates protection of lands within 120m adjacent to the Provincially Significant Wetland, which includes the site of the culvert.

Continued development of the HCBP is causing great harm to the plant and animal inhabitants of the land. This site is a rich and thriving ecosystem. It is home to over 112 species of birds, 16 species of mammals, 270 species of plants and trees, and 20 species of reptiles and amphibians. Of the species identified, both the Western Chorus Frog and the Jefferson Salamander are Federally protected, with the Jefferson Salamander also being Provincially protected. Though the City’s own environmental consultants confirmed the presence of the Jefferson Salamander, the fact that the destruction of this area has proceeded is a testament that the City’s concerns lie not with the adequate protection of the Jefferson Salamander or the environment in general, but with the continuation of an expensive, unlawful, and ill-thought-out development. When Mayor Karen Farbridge says that the finding of the Jefferson Salamander proves “The City remains committed to protecting the habitat of endangered species,” it is obviously a lie if the City proceeds with any development of the site.

There is also the question of why this land is being developed. With the current economic situation, it is financially irresponsible for the City of Guelph to dedicate tens of millions of dollars, nearly it’s entire capital budget, to the creation of an industrial development that has no proposed buyers and very little future. Countless industrial lots within city limits have sat vacant for years, The city has no guarantee that the public funds allotted to the HCBP will ever be recuperated.

For the above reasons, we have taken it upon ourselves to prevent the destruction of this vital land. Our demands to the City of Guelph are:
• To listen to public outcry and respect the intrinsic importance of this land by immediately ending this development and terminating their contract with Drexler.
• To compensate the skilled labourers of Drexler Construction for lost wages, including those who choose to stand with us.
• To publicly apologize to the people of Guelph for disregarding their opposition to this development..

Concurrent to this action, others who feel similarly will be gathering at City Hall at 6 pm on Monday, July 27th. Please come and voice your opposition to the Hanlon Creek Business Park to the mayor and city councillors, who will be entering City Hall for the council meeting at 7 pm.

Please note: though we recognize the work of LIMITS, we are in no way affiliated with or organized through them.

My next stop is to go down there and see what's what. I'll update when I have more.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Because if its one thing Canada needs, it's more bigotry

In a move to appease those that see the culture wars in the States and think it's be rather corking to bring that crap up here, the Conservatives appear to be saying 'thanks, but no thanks' to anymore offers of funds to Toronto Pride.

According to both The Star and CTV, Federal Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy appears to have been stripped of any power concerning the hand out of any portion of the $190 million Marquee Tourism Events Program. That responsibility has been turned over to her boss, Industry Minister Tony Clement.

The Marquee program is a two-year fund designed to help the growth of Canada's tourism industry during these difficult economic times. Big events like Pride Toronto, which attracts 1 and a half million people to the city, are going to be a no brainer for extra funds. And surprise, it wouldn't be the first time that Pride got Federal money.

Darren Cunningham, a spokesman for Clement, confirmed yesterday to The Star that future financial help for Pride Week was "under review," but so was Federal funding for other, similar cultural events like the Calgary Stampede and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Hm, sounds like some of the shrewd, fiscal management policy that the Conservatives have run on, but some have wondered if Ablonczy's demotion has more to do with this picture:

Or let's let Brad Trost, a Saskatchewan Conservative MP, explain: "The pro-life and the pro-family community should know and understand that the tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by – I think it's safe to say by a large majority – of the MPs."

Trost told that little nugget in an interview with LifeSiteNews.com, a website founded by the Campaign Life organization. But let's go back to Cunningham, maybe he can clear up the air a bit and tell us that this wasn't a bigoted decision on the part of the government: "I know that certainly there's going to be folks who have their concerns and they've raised those concerns with us about the program. We're listening."

Wow, that's ominous. So what about it Diane Ablonczy, if that is your real name. What kind of maverick are you to be throwing money at a slipshod, fly by night operation like Toronto Pride?

From The Star: "Ablonczy, the MP for Calgary-Nose Hill who famously introduced Harper to his wife, Laureen, was reportedly so impressed by Pride's 'polished and professional' application that she insisted on coming to Toronto to present the cheque in person."

She was impressed with their bookkeeping? Now that's Conservative acumens. The feisty Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett spared no words in a surprising defense of Ablonczy and took a shot at Trost saying that his "boasting . . . one of his colleagues has had a file removed from her because she had the audacity to support a celebration of human rights."

Further, "If this indeed has happened . . . the prime minister needs to tell Canadians, did he indeed punish a minister for doing her job?"

So what about it Mr. Harper? Was one of your own ministers chastised for showing open and financial support for a festival that violates Conservative ideals and moral values?

From the London Free Press: "NDP MP Libby Davies said the incident is more evidence the Conservatives are pursuing a 'narrow-minded agenda.' She called on Harper to give Canadians a clear explanation for why the tourism file was transferred, but the PMO referred calls to Clement's office."

Well, Trost did say that "'almost the entire Conservative caucus' and the Prime Minister's Office were caught off guard." And because of what this phrase entails as an indictment of Conservative policy in how it regards Canada's Queer community, then Harper, or his cronies, need to respond immediately.

And to be frank, isn't this the kind of neo-con BS we all suspect Harper and supports really want to get around to but can't since they persistently lack a majority? This this does seem like some of Harper's patented fence-straddling: trying to appease his base, while making himself look fair and balanced to the other side. Even Jeff Gunnerson of the Campaign Life Coalition seems unsure of where the Prime Minister sits. "I think it clears the air a little bit . . . the federal government doesn't support the pride event," he told CTV.

I'd hate to think that the Conservatives are aiming for us to work backwards on Human Rights, especially during this, the 40th anniversary of the end of homosexuality being criminalized by Canadian Law. Also, this is pretty crappy timing given that this comes mere weeks after John Baird, in his infinitely tactful manner, told an aid that Toronto can F-off as he entered a room full of reporters. Hey Toronto, give us your votes or your funding dries up. Yeah, don't the Conservatives kind of need to breakthrough in Toronto if they're going to win a majority.

If that's not bad enough, some of the comments on the message boards have been really beyond the pale. I won't repeat them here, but if you're at all interested you can read them for yourself.

Basically, this is the unfortunate continuation of our Conservatives full-blown attempt to cut and paste the methodology and promotion instigated by the US neo-cons that culminated in the election and administration of George W. Bush. It's a philosophy that most Americans have rejected completely, so it begs the question: why is Harper and gang trying to spin it here: a country that's socially liberal in ways that make Pat Robertson and Sean Hannity wake up in cold sweats.

But with another election on the horizon, could it end up being that the axiom will be proven once again: Pride goeth before the fall? Possibly.

Oh, and the cash Ablonczy spent on Pride that caused this kerfuffle? $397,500 that "went to items such as improved access for disabled people, infrastructure spending and 'top-calibre' entertainment." Which comes out to about 27 cents per Pride attendant.