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, January 31, 2011

Reach for the Sky

It's sometimes a wonder how we ever move forward in this city. When the announcement came last fall that Guelph's waste collection faculties was going to be rigged for bins rather than bags, the people rallied. Where are we supposed to store these bins? Is it hygienic? What's wrong with a bag? If any of these arguments sound familiar, it was because they were the same arguments levied against Wet/Dry Plus when it was introduced over a decade ago. 
To this day, people still lament the fact that they can't put all their garbage in a big black and have it picked up by a garbage man to be taken to a place where it will never be seen again by human eyes again. The problem with that is that we are running out of space in the current landfills, and nobody wants a landfill in their backyard. Despite that though, people were dragged kicking and screaming into the Wet/Dry system. 
One can see the same logic being applied to the current debate over two proposed high-rise projects; one in downtown and one across the road from the University of Guelph. The City of Guelph has to consume about 50,000 more people in the next four decades, but it can only be done by using land inside our present city limits. So that means building up, not out. Hence where the idea of building accommodations in excess of 10 or 12 stories come in to play.
I have no bias either way. I've lived in houses and I've lived in apartment buildings; both have their advantages and disadvantages. But one thing's for sure, unless we want to dig up all our park land and transfer all our commercial land into residential, the construction of towers is a reality everyone in the city is going to have to live with, sooner rather than later. But the proposed student town towers at Gordon and Stone I can see making  viable argument against. Ever see south residence from Wyndham St as your driving out of downtown? Well, that's what those two towers are going to look like in the distance, only bigger. Aesthetically, I'm not sure how they will jive, but that's just part of my problem with the situation. 
First, the outrage about the proposed towers I would get, if there weren't pre-existing outrage about students living in neighbourhoods all over the south end. Neighbourhoods, if you've heard the complaints, that have been more or less ceded to students. Student ghettos, if you will. To my mind, you can't be mad about having students fanned out across the city, and then get mad(der) when someone offers to get them all in one place. But on the other hand, where's the demand for something like this? And who's going to push all the students to set up residence there? Aren't we always talking about engaging students more so that they'll take some pride and ownership in Guelph while they're here, and won't this ginormous tower just foster feelings of the exact opposite by putting them in, what is basically, another university residence?
In downtown though, a condominium tower feels right. Making downtown as much a place people live in as it is a place where people go for business and entertainment also feels right. The next step is amenities though. The city will need to foster a campaign to equal this accommodation for people's residence with accommodation for their needs.  Meaning more retail. Not art stores or boutiques, but stores where you can get the basics, and at an affordable price. In other words, a grocery store and maybe something in the way of a department store. There are a lot of shops downtown that I like, Market Fresh for instance, which is good for a nosh or some nice fresh produce. But can Market Fresh service hundreds looking to buy groceries within walking distance of where they live? Of course, grocery stores are a sore spot in some places in this city so I'll digress there. 
So yes, towers are inevitable in our fair city. They're going to happen, they will happen, people will fight them all the way there, but we'll all get used to it in the end. We knew watching "The Jetsons" this day would come, now only if we could get some of those funky flying cars...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You Though it Was Over, But It's Not Over...

The Transit Hub took another step closer to fruition today with this press release announcing that an agreement had been reached between CN Rail and the City to but the land for the open-air terminal. One wonders how things might have proceeded if an agreement hadn't reached, but I guess now we'll never know...
GUELPH, ON, January 26, 2010 – An agreement between CN Rail and the City of Guelph closed this week allowing the City to proceed with its plans for a new inter-modal transit terminal on Carden Street. The $1.5 million purchase allows work to resume on-site in the next four to six weeks.
The City now owns the land it needs to build the open-air transit terminal. The City already purchased the existing Greyhound station and plans to remove the building to make room for the new transit platform.
A pending agreement with VIA Rail is expected to transfer ownership of the VIA Rail station to the City of Guelph this summer. An estimated one-million-dollar interior renovation project will preserve the building’s National heritage status, improve accessibility, and allow the station to accommodate all VIA, Greyhound, GO Transit and Guelph Transit users. Interior renovations at the station are separate from the construction of the inter-modal transit terminal, and are not supported by Provincial or Federal funds. The work inside the VIA station is scheduled to be complete in 2012 as part of the City’s capital budget.
When the interior renovations are complete, the building will include five washrooms; three public washrooms for all users of Guelph Transit, GO Transit, Greyhound and VIA Rail, and two for personnel working at the facility.
"We’re preparing for the possibility of additional public washrooms in the future," says Rick Henry. "Underground water and wastewater services are being installed near the intersection of Macdonell Street and Carden Street. The exact location, design, construction plans and operating hours for potential future public washrooms have not been determined." 
Access during construction
During construction, ticket sales and administration for Greyhound and GO bus service will be available in a temporary facility nearby.
Pedestrian access tunnels at Wyndham Street and Neeve Street will be closed during construction. Pedestrians will be directed to use Wilson Street, Wellington Street and Macdonell Street to travel between the north and south sides of the railway tracks during construction.
The Neeve Street tunnel will remain closed when the project is complete. The tunnel is considered part of the right-of-way governed by CN Rail and Goderich Exeter Railway, and the railways will not allow pedestrians to emerge from the tunnel on to the north rail platform. Also, as part of its agreement with CN Rail, the City was asked to install permanent fencing to prevent people from trespassing over the railway tracks. The fence will be installed when construction resumes in the next four to six weeks.
The eight-million dollar inter-modal transit terminal is one of 25 projects that make up the City’s Guelph Remastered infrastructure upgrade program which is funded in part by Provincial and Federal Infrastructure Stimulus Funds. The funding deadline for these projects was recently extended to October 31, 2011.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Sliding Scale of Standards

Happy Fifth Anniversary to Stephen Harper and this Conservative Minority Government. Honestly, who knew we'd make it this far?
Certainly not me. The fact that the Opposition has been met with resounding indifference despite Harper's numerous guffaws (proroguing, economic recession, climate change), is not a testament to Harper's skill as a politician as much as it is a sign of fatigue, with Canadians, about their political leaders. A skilled political campaign machine with resources and a streak of opportunism is what Paul Martin faced during his brief tenure as a minority PM; Stephen Harper hasn't had that problem.
As it stands now, in the next election Harper will only have to win 12 seats to secure a majority. Given the numbers from the last election, gaining that majority is perhaps a small matter of Harper staying the course, doing what's worked for him in past elections, and keeping fingers crossed that the opposition remains too scattered to pose as an effective alternative.
Still, there's a matter of concern for me and other progressives that the shiny Harper government-for-all will quickly disappear in the face of that majority. Let's look at an article in today's paper, about how the federal government took a pass on giving Toronto Pride Week federal stimulus money under the Marquee Tourism Events Program. It got about $400,000 in money for the 2009 festivities, but the request for 2010 funds was denied in spite of the fact that organizers were told that their petition "looked good" and that it met "eligibility requirements." So naturally, last year's Pride Week got no money. 
The argument from Industry Minister Tony Clement was that there are other events in Toronto and it was up to him to spread the wealth, as it were. Luminato and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair got $2.6 million and $1.9 million respectively. As everyone that's ever applied for an arts grant knows, you never get the full amount that you ask for, so what does it say that those two events got seven-figure cheques, while Toronto Pride was only asking for $630,000? 
Toronto Pride isn't just one of the biggest festival of its kind in the country, but easily one of the most well-known celebrations of Gay Pride the world over. Despite what Carl Paladino said, one simply doesn't "stumble upon" Toronto's Gay Pride Parade, it's all-encompassing cultural affair that can only be eclipsed by Caribana, or a Maple Leafs Stanley Cup victory, and one of those things is science fiction.  
The truth is that gays make some conservatives feel funny, again I quote Carl Paladino: "[T]here were men in Speedos grinding and doing things, okay, to each other on this tractor-trailer. And I just said that's not right." Was it a coincidence that after junior minister Diane Ablonczy gave Toronto Pride money that first year that the decision was taken out of her hands and given to her boss Clement for that second year? Maybe, but then again, it might a coincidence that I break my knuckles when I punch a brick wall. 
There's a constituency in Canada that expects the Conservatives to push the social agenda that they want, an agenda that the majority of Canadians would bulk at and make them think twice about putting their vote to the kinder, gentler Harper of the last five years. How do I know? Look at Saskatchewan, where all but one of the provinces 14 seats were won by Conservatives in the last election. 
Earlier this month, an Appeals Court in Saskatchewan said that marriage commissioners couldn't refuse to perform same sex marriages on religious grounds. These are government employees mind you, not religious figures, who refused to officiate marrigae ceremonies between same sex couples on the grounds of their personal religious objections. This is the kind of thing you usually hear about in the U.S. Bible belt where pharmacists refuse to sell contraception like birth control pills or "Plan B" based on personal religious bias.
 But in Canada, you say. Refusing to marry gay people because your religion says that's wrong? Sorry, that don't jive. And the high courts of Saskatchewan agreed. You took an oath to uphold the law and the law says that a couple made up of two adult men (or two adult woman if you like) can marry each other. You don't go deer hunting if you're a vegetarian, and you don't work as a hedge fund manager if you've taken a vow of poverty. 
There's been a lot of talk about elections lately, and though it flies in the face of everything that a modern political campaign is about, in the next parliamentary election, I want all the parties to be true to themselves. If it's the intention of the Conservatives to pursue a more "traditional" social policy, then say so. If you think that farm animals deserve more money that scantily-dressed, well chiseled gay men with water guns that's fine, but being sneaky about it is going to build more resentment than trust when it's all said and done.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Holly Weird

Those of us in the know, know that Guelph is a very film-centric little berg. Which is why this piece in The Hollywood Reporter made me take notice this morning. It talks about how Darren Aronofsky's film Black Swan is becoming a $100 million blockbuster, despite having opened in limited release early in December, and it's thanks to small markets, like Guelph, who are packing the movie house after the expanded release. 
I checked the movies currently in release at the Guelph Galaxy, along with Black Swan there's also other Oscar bait movies like Country Song and the new Canadian film Barney's Vision for which Paul Giamatti won the Golden Globe last weekend. Along with ongoing releases like The Fighter and True Grit about half the Galaxy is filled with examples of top tier filmmaking. (Of course the other half has Yogi Bear and Tron Legacy, but I digress.)
I was reading the 59 Carden St blog this week and saw a comment by someone waxing about Guelph's yester-years in the face of two proposed high-rises to be built in the city. Well, I wax about Guelph's movie patronage. When I moved here there were three film houses, and then when Galaxy opened there were four. And then there were two. The Cineplex at Stone Road Mall closed and then the Three Star folded. And while the Galaxy and the Bookshelf have their benefits, to my mind, there was always something better about seeing a film like Aeon Flux at the Three Star for half the price of seeing that same movie at the Galaxy. 
It's a curious thing that Waterloo now has four movie theatres inside it's city limits, with another three in Kitchener. Granted the combined population of K-W is more than twice what it is for Guelph, but you can't tell me that people from Guelph are not attracted to art house movies that come to the Princess Cinema before the Bookshelf, or might enjoy seeing a movie that's been in release a few weeks and is still in a K-W cinema, though it has long since be removed from rotation at the Guelph Galaxy. Or maybe it's just me, and I'm way too into movies. Tough call.
It surprises me that since the theatre in Stone Road Mall closed over five years ago, that people in the south end of Guelph haven't pushed for film screening amenities for their neck of the woods. It's not a pleasant drive I imagine, coming from the Claire Road area and heading to Woodlawn Road at Imperial for a night at the movies, especially when your dinner options are Turtle Jacks, Wendy's, A&W and Subway. Shall we start the petition to the Ward 6 councillors together? 
Oh, and what to make of Black Swan, is it worth your money or not? Well this guy thought it was pretty good.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Transit Contract (Seemingly) Set

It appears that we won't be looking at any kind of labour disruption on transit for the foreseeable  future, as it was announced today that City has reached an agreement with the transit workers' union. Here's the press release from City Hall:
GUELPH, ON, January 21, 2011 – The City of Guelph and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189 announce that a tentative agreement has been reached for a three year collective agreement, effective July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013.
Details of the agreement will be released after Guelph City Council has the opportunity to ratify the contract agreement, scheduled for the evening of Monday, February 7, and ATU members have had the opportunity to vote on the agreement.
ATU Local 1189 represents a total of 183 Guelph Transit employees—169 full-time and 14 part-time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Eternal Struggle

As reported in the Guelph Mercury last week, city clerk Lois Gilles returned a report to city council with all the good news/bad news of the recently held municipal election. The good news is that Guelph can hold an election for the price of about $5 a head. The bad news is that only a third of those heads showed up at the ballot box to take advantage of the investment.
In the report, Gilles offers a couple of possible solutions. The first is the rather odious notion of voting online, the second involves putting polling stations in more well-travelled places than local schools and churches (which would make at least one person happy).
On the one hand there's online voting. Ever been hacked? Your computer ever caught a virus? Ever had your identity stolen? All valid reasons to not lay the fate of our democracy on the same technology that determines which American Idol we think should be voted off this week. Apparently it's been tested in a couple of towns in Ontario and British Columbia, and in typical technological fashion, voting in Arnprior, ON had to be extended 24 hours after the servers crashed due to high volume. Nice to know that they used the same servers as Twitter and Tumblr.
Then, on the other hand, there's this whole "shop-and-vote" idea. Come on, we're not getting our taxes done here. Seriously, why must the mall become the epicentre for all human activity? Didn't Dawn of the Dead teach us anything?
But putting that aside, here's why I'm dead set against online voting and "shop-and-vote": If voting's a chore for you, it's because it is a chore. My favourite line from Rob Reiner's The American President is during the press conference at the end when President Shepherd (as played by Michael Douglas) says that "America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad." He says 'America' but I think 'democracy' could be substituted easily enough and the meaning of the line isn't changed. You've got to want to vote, and if you don't want to vote, then the location and method by which you vote isn't going to make much of a difference. 
The point is that you want to have a say in the way YOUR government is run. You have to want to make an effort. You may even have to leave your house, or visit someplace you don't normally go to. How much stuff are we bombarded with everyday on the internet that we don't engage with? How many stores at the mall do we walk past, and never go into? That's what voting will become. Another annoyance that get's between you and where you're going, both online and in real life. 
And while we're at it, why is it that people in places where going to the polling station can literally get you killed, have higher voter turnouts than we do? Recent coverage of the Sudanese vote for separation showed voters leaving the voting booth dancing. Nobody dances at our polling places, although I do see a lot of smiles and active engagement. Still, those are the people that come out. 
I will never understand people that don't engage in the democratic process, a process that requires so little, but means so much. Read the newspaper, watch the news, look over pamphlets, visit websites, talk to your neighbours, friends and family about issues? Guess what? You're 90 per cent of the way there. In most elections, polling places are open for 12 hours a day or more. They're usually located within a short walk or drive in your neighbourhood, mostly in churches and schools. You're not required to fill out some kind of reading comprehension test before you begin, all you need is your i.d. and an idea who you're casting your ballot for. If this were any easier... Well, I guess that's what we're talking about. 
The idea of making voting "easier" in the ways discussed above is personally offensive to me. Frankly, if the current system of voting is too inconvenient for you, I'd rather you didn't vote. I'd never advocate taking away someone's right to vote, but I think that if you sit out three elections in a row, you should be forced to make some kind of brief presentation about why you want to vote now, and why you didn't before. I was going to say essay, but I'd open it up to some kind of audio/visual format like performance art or a podcast as well. 
Yes, more people should vote, but until it's something people seriously want they're not going to chase it. Whether it comes with a free gift or not.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Many Reasons, But One Gun

How quickly the political landscape changes in the days following the acts of a madman. Hard to believe that just a week ago, what was probably about to be the most divisive session of the U.S. Congress was about to get underway. But now, in the shadow of Jarod Lee Loughner's shooting of 20 people including the cold-blooded killing of six, it seems that vitriolic political discourse now has a terrible price attached. That is if it didn't before.
I've tried to hold my tongue on this matter for the last couple of days, feeling that emotion was overwhelming a more logical appraisal of the situation. From all appearances it seems that Gabrielle Giffords was an enthusiastic and dedicated member of Congress, and the people at Saturday's townhall were all friends, well-wishers and constituents who gathered to meet her outside a Safeway in Tuscon, AZ. In the mind of Loughner, a young man whose name will now go down in history next to Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski, there could have been a myriad of reasons why he attacked.
But let's look at the obvious: Not only is the political climate in the United States at its most bitter and divided since the days of Reconstruction, not only is the acquisition of firearms as easy as it ever was (and highly encouraged), but it seems as if the politicians themselves have been encouraging violence. How else do explain this:

Or this:

Frankly, if Sarah Palin were a Muslim Imam, she'd be in chains by now. Palin has since come out to say that she "hates violence," which are pretty hollow words coming from a woman that hunted, killed and skinned an animal on national television, but she can't obviously hate violence too much considering the above graphic and her past rhetoric encouraging supporters to "Reload" against Congressional Democrats in last fall's midterm elections.
It's necessary to point out that no connection has been made between Loughner and the Tea Party. By all accounts, Loughner was a disturbed man sinking deeper into anti-social tendencies to the point where fellow classmates at Pima Community College had trepidations about sitting next to him in class, and the school administrators had placed him on suspension pending a mental health evaluation.
Still, I refer to the above graphic from SarahPAC, a political action committee formed by Palin that's "dedicated to building America's future" (or at least Palin's vision of it). Gifford's district was one of 20 literally targeted by SarahPAC last year as districts won by McCain/Palin in '08, but represented by Congressmen and women that voted in favour of President Obama's healthcare reform bill. While I'm sure that Palin's intent wasn't to have supporters literally go out and shoot these politicians, there can be only one meaning for the gun site/cross-hairs graphic. It's a symbol used in targeting an object in order to shoot it.
Does free speech protect Palin's right to publish such a graphic? Of course. And it might be easier to overlook if this had been the first example of violence motivated towards Giffords since it's posting:

And by comparison, Palin's insults are mild. Allen West, freshman congressman from Florida's 22nd congressional district, campaigned against incumbent Rob Klein by telling supporters to make Klein "scared to come out his house" and to "get your musket, fix your bayonet". It kind of makes George Allen's whole "macaca" schtik seem downright quaint.
But West isn't alone. The Tea Party's own philosophical grandpappy Glenn Beck once said on-air that he's like to kill Michael Moore with his bare hands, that hoped Ohio Congreeeman Dennis Kucinich would burn to death, and he once did a little skit where he poisons former House Leader Nancy Pelosi. And before you write off Beck as a kook or, in his words, a "rodeo clown", it should be noted that Beck's innocent postulating about FEMA death camps once caught the eye of a white supremacist who was later arrested for killing three police officers in Pittsburgh.
But the toxic politics are just part of the equation. The other is the long held sacrosanct right of each American to own gun. Every time something like this happens - Columbine, Virgina Tech, Tucson townhall - I hope that it opens the door for Americans to talk about mitigating their love affair with guns. The shooting of 20 people in Arizona was done with a gun bought legally. And with ammunition bought legally. Given the number of firearms worn openly at various political rallies these days, it's almost a wonder that no one's been shot thus far, even just by accident.
But it's true, the American fascination with guns has seemed to exploded since the election of Obama and the beginning of the economic downturn. And while pro-gun advocates have never needed a reason to further expand even the most perfectly understandable restrictions on firearms (guns in bars, for example), it seems to be getting worse all the time. The beginning of 2011 meant for Iowa a new law where you're allowed to carry a gun openly, unless of course, you have a criminal record. That's the only caveat that's keeping Iowa from devolving completely into the Old West, because even known criminals were allowed to carried guns back then.
For this reason, I'm more likely to side with easy access to firearms rather than rancorous political fervour as the cause of Saturday's tragedy. The mentally disturbed can live anywhere, but only one country in the developed world makes it ridiculously easy for them to get weapons of such bloody efficiency. While the jury's still out as to whether or not Loughner was a dyed in the wool Tea Party member, or for that matter any reason that motivated him into taking such violent action, one thing is clear: he wanted a gun, he got one easily, and he used it to tragic effect. While American politicians may want to take a wait-and-see approach to if hot-tempered politics is to blame, don't let that stop you from going after the guns now.
But having said that, I know you won't.
A moment of silence was held for the victims across the U.S. today. Whatever madness drove Jarod Lee Loughner, it's important to not forget his victims:
  • Christina Taylor-Green, 9, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001. Her family says she went to Saturday's event because the third-grader had just been elected to the student council at her school, and was excited to learn more about the political process in Arizona.
  • U.S. District Judge John Roll, 64. He was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 and had been the chief judge in Arizona since 2006.
  • Gabe Zimmerman, 30. He was Giffords's community outreach director and helped organize the meet-and-greet outside the Safeway in Tucson. Zimmerman was reportedly engaged.
  • Retired construction worker Dorwin Stoddard, 76. He was shot in the head as he tried to shield his wife. She survived with bullet wounds to her legs.
  • Dorothy Morris, 76. Originally from Reno, Nev., Morris was married for more than 50 years. Her husband is among the wounded and is still in hospital.
  • Phyllis Schneck, 79. A retired widow and great-grandmother from New Jersey, Scheck spent her winters in Tucson.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Here We Go Again (Again)

So we're a couple of days into the new year... Are you sick of 2011 yet? Should we just skip the whole thing and get ready for the Ride of Doom in 2012? You know what I mean.
Kidding aside, new year's always means reflection for me: what did I get done last year, what didn't I get done, what's worth trying to do this year and what new projects should I tackle. This time last year, my goal was to make more of Guelph Politico after a less than attentive '09, and I think for the most part it was mission: accomplished. 
But I didn't get everything I want to get done. I was one ward shy of completing the "Better Know A Ward" sextet (although it was my own ward and I felt kind of conflicted about it), I ranted and raved about transit, and the number of posts were up by about 120 per cent. I think there was some good work done, and some of you, I gathered from the occasional comments, agreed. Cool. Thanks for reading. 
So what's doing in 2011? Well, I don't think we're going to change the format a whole lot. The big budget debates will begin in a couple of weeks, and that should provide ample fodder. There's a provincial election in the fall, and elections are always interesting (at least to me). There's also the possibility of a Federal Election sometime down the line, although I kind of hope the Globe's interpretation of events doesn't come to pass. I'm also still in the process of getting my new podcast up and going, which will hopefully begin soon. It's called The Wyndham Street Podcast and it will be available through In Magazine.
So I guess what I'm saying is that I'll be staying the course this year. Please keep reading and if the mood should strike you, post your feedback. Have a good 2011 everyone. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Wish This Guy Was Our New Envirnoment Minister

 Sun Media Reporter David Akin poster this on his Twitter feed a little while ago.

It's on Peter Kent's You Tube channel, so he must endorse it and stand by it. I guess a lot can change in 25 years.

Do the Cabinet Shuffle

In a move to... I don't know - spice things up a little - Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that he was moving around the chairs in the cabinet room a little. It's nothing special, unless you consider that two high-profile Conservative MPs were elevated to high-profile cabinet positions in what could be seen as a cynical attempt to bolster support in a region that the Conservatives had yet to enjoy much success in as preparation for a potential spring election. But like I said, no big deal. 
In a political game of musical chairs, Peter Kent has been moved to the Environmental portfolio, replacing the retired Calgary MP Jim Prentice. Replacing Kent as Minister of State of Foreign Affairs is another Calgary MP Diane Ablonczy. Then, replacing Ablonczy as Minister of State for Seniors is newly elected MP Julian Fantino, who many people thought would get the Minister of Public Safety slot, which didn't turn out to be the case. Additionally, Alberta MP Ted Menzies gets to leave the back-bench behind to serve as Minister of State for Finance. 
And that's about it. A lot of hype for not a lot of movement. It feels like Harper's put Fantino upfront in a temp cabinet position until something better opens up. Kent, meanwhile, has the unenviable task of defending the government's pro-oil sands/questioning global warming stand on the environment, but I doubt he'll bring anything to the job that would separate him from his predecessors. (He is, after all, the fifth Conservative Environment Minister in five years.)
So is that new election smell in the air? I don't think so, but I guess we'll see when Parliament's back.

Farnmer's Market Update

The Mayor updated the situation with the Farmers' Market today on her blog

I had an e-mail from a patron of the Farmers’ Market this morning asking about the timeline for the structural repairs. Here is the most recent information:
The tender was awarded the week of December 20th, 2010. A purchase order has been issued to RusCan General Contracting Inc. of Concord, Ontario. 
At this time, the completion date will be the end of February at best, however, staff are working with the general contractor to find ways of improving on this date.
The completion date relies heavily on the delivery of the steel channels which need to be cut to length and pre-drilled in the shop before they arrive on site. The general contractor is working with the steel fabricator to nail down this date. Once we have this information, I will provide another update.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Politically Speaking, He Won't Be Back

Hard to believe that once upon a time, everyone from Robert Novak to the makers of Demolition Man, believed that the political fortunes of Arnold Schwarzenegger would take him right to the White House. This despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution would have to be amended to make it happen. But today, "The Governator" left the office and residence of California Governor, leaving the state in worse economic condition than he inherited it in, and with lower approval numbers than the man he replaced in a recall election in 2003.
For some strange reason, the thought of many people on the right in the U.S. was that Schwarzenegger was going to be their new golden boy. Of course, he didn't agree with most conservatives on guns, gays and the environment, three huge wedge issues on the right, but who cares? Ah-nuld had name cache. No experience, no problem, because when people hear the name "Schwarzenegger" they know he means business. They've seen the films that prove it. Which is why Schwarzenegger's "In with a Bang, Out with a Whimper" tenure as California's Governor could almost have been scripted by the same Hollywood hacks who penned such Schwarzenegger epics as Collateral Damage and The Sixth Day.
Like the Hollywood star that he was (is), Schwarzenegger made a huge splash when he entered the California Governor's race during the 2003 recall election, and he handily won nearly 50 per cent of the popular vote, standing out high above the veritable gong show-like list of candidates. Schwarzenegger was ushered in on the promise that his fiscally conservative ideals might somehow help California weather the financial storm brought on by "Spendocrat" Gray Davis. 
This, however, did not turn out to the case, and in a ballot measure just two years after he was elected, Schwarzenegger targeted who, in his opinion, were the real causes of California's woes: teachers and unions. Before this, the Governor's biggest move against the budget was to cancel an unpopular hike in the vehicle license fee, which cost the State of California $4 billion right off the bat. (Is there a lesson here for a certain new Mayor in Canada who ran on canceling a "car tax"?) As for those ballot initiatives, items like stemming the amount of money that unions can spend on political campaigns and putting caps on school budgets, were resoundingly defeated. There was a chink in the Governator's armour, and it was a vulnerability further exploited by both Republicans feeling betrayed and by Democrats smelling blood in the water.
On the other hand, Schwarzenegger's been light years ahead of almost every other American politician on both sides of the aisle (and some politicians her in Canada) on battling global climate change. Amongst Schwarzenegger's accomplishments on his environmental record is the U.S.' first cap on greenhouse gas  emissions, imposing tighter restrictions on polluters, issuing an executive order to reduce greenhouse gases to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050 and reducing CO2 emissions by putting a cap on the number of carbon credits the state's power plants could buy. Of course, these measures further alienated Schwarzenegger from his base who called his pro-environmental measures "job killing", even though those same measures actually helped to resolve the energy crisis that began under Davis' watch.
But it's the economy that matters, and it was the reason that Schwarzenegger was elected in the first place. Leaving office with a 22-23 per cent approval rating, there's no longer a throng of supporters petitioning for constitutional amendments so that California's now former-governor can take his ambitions further. Nope, Schwarzenegger leaves office quietly, replaced in Sacramento by Democrat Jerry Brown, a man previously elected to two terms as California Governor and was once called by The American Conservative "much more of a fiscal conservative than Governor [Ronald] Regan." Brown's record as Governor from 1975 to 1983 is impressive, so he's certainly qualified to meet the current challenges in California, but he also has to overcome the lingering effects of one of last year's most expensive and combative races. 
The governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger will be remembered any number of ways in the years to come. There was his meteoric rise, the unprecedented recall election, his tremendous victory, the stumbles, the quiet successes and the lingering shadow of a worldwide recession that hit his state as hard as any other. There were mistakes, but there were also great accomplishments too. But most of all, perhaps more so than any of his Hollywood blockbusters, the Governor's position humanized Schwarzenegger in a way most had never seen. He was not a robot, or an Olympian god, or a super cop, or an alien fighter, or anything else; he was a man trying to do the best job he could do. No one could defeat Arnold the Action Hero, but it seems that reality has crushed the legend of Arnold the Political Hero.