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, November 30, 2011

Garvie to Stage Sit-In for Student Space

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Get on GO December 19th

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

Christmas Cheer

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Valeriote Gets Petition Together Over Crime Bill

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

GO Transit Announcement Tomorrow

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guelph Royals Get a Five-Year Deal

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Guelph Ends Without Fanfare

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Parking Wars

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

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

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

Friday, November 4, 2011

University Students Prove to Be Good Influences Too

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

Layoffs at Guelph Solar Panel Plant

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

Michael Moore: You Are the One Per Cent

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

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is Resistance Futile?

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We've Got Budget Here!

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