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, December 28, 2011

Top 10 Local/Provincial Stories of 2011

 10. Get on the GO
An event years in the making, the GO train finally returned to Guelph on December 19th, but it was not without some controversy. Still, 2011 demonstrated a dramatic leap forward in public transit for the City of Guelph. Guelph Transit announced new routes and schedules that will take effect on January 1st, summer cuts to service were repelled in budget deliberations and stat holiday service was restored for many holidays in 2011, and for the entire year in 2012. If some real progress could be made on finishing the transit hub, and if council could resist the urge to not increase transit prices on a yearly basis, we might be the closest we've ever been to a transit utopia. But perhaps true perfection is being left that one, small thing to complain about.
9. The Struggle to Balance Budgets
If you're feeling mathematically exhausted, it might be because this year had two budget processes in them. Whether the 2011 budget deliberations last winter or the 2012 discussions last month, the City struggled with balancing spending, maintaining services and keep tax increases, if tax increases were necessary, as low as possible. In the process some odd sorts of financial arrangements have been made or attempted. Among them the approval of borrowing from the City's savings in order to cover operational costs for the 2011 budget and the proposal to sell the City's street lamps to Guelph Hydro to cut costs in the 2012 budget. For both years, some trimming here and some new spending there has meant a rather steady increase of three per cent per year, and all the while the debate rages: do we pay too much in tax as compared to our municipal neighbours, or too little? I guess we will see what wonders awaits when we hit the ledgers for 2013.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 National/International Stories of 2011

10. The End of the Iraq War
After nearly nine years, the Iraq War ended with a whimper last week with the last U.S. combat troops crossing back over the border to Kuwait. The violence that has erupted since was more or less prophesied, but really, what else could have possibly happened? Would staying another year, another two years, been enough to change the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? Doubtful. As for the American people, the majority of whom felt that war with Iraq was not just necessary, but the very right of the U.S. in aid of guarding their own security, they had more or less abandoned the support of the fight, especially in the wake of the ongoing economic crisis in America. In fact, the only chicken hawks still walking upright are most of the Republican nominees for President, the majority of whom feel that President Barack Obama was too premature in his withdrawal, and are now looking at a confrontation with Iran as inevitable. Hopefully, the appetite of the American people is for diplomacy over military conflict.
9. Quebec Enjoys an Orange Crush
There were numerous fascinating and surprising stories to come out of this spring's Federal Election, but few were more surprising, or fascinating, than Quebec's rejection of the Bloc Quebecois, and its nearly, wholehearted embrace of the NDP. In total, the Jack Layton-led NDP picked up 59 seats in the Province of Quebec, which was several times more than the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Bloc combined. As a side-story, the flip side of the "Orange Crush" was the decimation of the Bloc, who lost 43 seats in Parliament and losing official party status in the process. The real question going in to 2012 is will the NDP be able to hold on to its foothold in Quebec, and whether or not the NDP and its eventual new leader will be able to capitalize on their popularity with the Quebecois, and translate that support nationally.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friendly Thoughts

Recently, a strange thing happened. I started getting several new comments on a blog post I made just over a year ago. It was called "50 Reasons to Be Pretty Damn Euphoric You Live in Guelph," and I'd like to think that its now timeless appeal comes from a rejection of the bitterness and partisanship seen in comments on other blogs, but I'm not (yet) than optimistic.
But I think there might be a kernel of truth that despite the politics, we all are here in Guelph for a reason, and that reason, or reasons, makes us passionate about our community. So in the midst of this holiday season meant to promote peace and fellowship amongst our fellow men and women, let's all try to keep that in mind.
Thanks for reading. And Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture...?

If you said that, for a Christmas card, it doesn't highlight traditions like "family, faith and freedom," then you just might be Sarah Palin.
 The former Alaskan Governor and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, apparently in desperate need of some attention this holiday season, decided to pick on the First Family's choice of Christmas card cover art. Talking on Fox News radio, which seems to be the last place still open to Palin and her thoughtless meanderings, the polarizing politician said that everyday Americans prefer "American foundational values illustrated and displayed on Christmas cards and on a Christmas tree." This card though, she added, "It's just a different way of thinking coming out of the White House."
Good thing then that this tradition of the simple, secular Christmas card is a new phenomenon. Just look at all these cards. Of course, the Governor didn't outline what would constitute a proper representation of "family, faith and freedom" on a Christmas card, not that you really expect her to because this incident, like so many others, are about Barack Obama being black trying to find any little, ridiculous excuse to hide his opponents' overt racism behind. 
So whether you're ultra-religious or super-secular, Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Points in Between

GO train service started up again this week, in a move that's been greeted by the vast majority as a tremendous next step in securing better intra-city transit options for the City and People of Guelph. My jubilation was somewhat elated though when local media pointed to the one or two dark clouds in an otherwise cloudless sky.
To begin with, the CTV station in Kitchener talked with a transit advocate that said that the new Monday to Friday commuter service would do nothing to help out students, not that it's really supposed to. But he said that one train could do the job of the extra buses GO puts on Friday to ferry university and college students from K-W to Toronto. That's a bit like getting chocolate cake for you birthday, but complaining because it wasn't chocolate fudge, because as a transit advocate, anything that improves transit in your area should be lauded for its existence, not derided for what it doesn't offer.
The other news item was from our own Guelph Mercury, who in covering the first day of GO service, mentioned in the first sentence of the article that the train was three minutes late. In the numerous problems with transit this year, such a statement throws in a problem with the way public transportation is viewed and covered in this city: most people, be it the people in power, city hall, or the mainstream media in Guelph, are people who don't take public transit very often. If they had, they'd realize that a three minute late train is nothing to sneeze at. I don't think I've ever boarded a train at the exact time it was meant to depart. Or put it this way, last week it was announced that American Eagle Airlines will start running flights into the Waterloo Region Airport. Can you imagine the mainstream media reporting that the first plane arrived three minutes late? At least as the lead of the report? Have ever been on a plane that's arrived at its destination at the exact time that was printed on your ticket?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Was It All For?

It was announced today on the TV news website TV Line that Jane Fonda has joined the cast for Aaron Sorkin's new program, which is currently titled Newsroom. (No relation to the classic Canadian show of the same name.) Within moments, a website that reports on casting news, ratings, and spoilers for American TV shows was spam bombed by angry objectors calling for Fonda's hanging, her trial for treason, the elimination of HBO and more than a few times, the term "Hanoi Jane" was thrown around.
Nearly 40 years after the fact, some people still carry a bitter, frothing resentment for Fonda and her 1972 excursion to North Vietnam where she was famously photographed laughing and clapping while posing on an anti-aircraft gun with a group of VC soldiers. This capped a week where she renounced American war policy on the radio, and visited with American POWs in Vietcong custody. On this latter point, it's been a persistent rumour for decades that Fonda was given messages by POWs for their families back in the States and she never delivered, a rumour that's as patently untrue as the notion that they filmed the moon landing on a soundstage in Burbank. 
It's interesting that this should come up today, because if the TV Line junk pile on Hanoi Jane four decades later is a reminder of anything, it's that America doesn't lose wars well. To put the failure of American foreign policy in Southeast Asia across three different presidencies at the feet of Fonda is disingenuous and simplistic; Fonda did her country no favours, and she has acknowledged as much in print interviews, TV sit-downs and even two books by her own pen in the years since. It makes me wonder though, on whose fault will responsibility lie for the failure of the Iraq War: the administration of George W. Bush, or Michael Moore and the Dixie Chicks?

Sniffing Out Some Solutions

If something smells strange in your naeighbourhood, and you think it might be the new Organic Waste Plant on the next block, then an event on Monday might interest you. 
According to the below press release from the city, there is a plan in motion to deal with the smell coming from the plant that was discovered last month. The release mentions that there are several potential solutions on the table, all developed by Maple Reinders, the company that build the plant in partnership with the City of Guelph. The plan's been vetted by the Ministry of the Environment and a third party, and now it's ready to go to the public.
Read on to get more details from the release:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

James Gordon Re-Ups For NDP Nom

'Tis not so much the season for political announcements, but in a fundraising e-mail today, James Gordon tells local NDP supporters that he'll be running again in the next provincial election.
"With a minority government, we are never sure when the election will be, but I will be running to win; I want to be your MPP," writes Gordon. "To do this, I’m setting an ambitious but achievable fundraising goal to match the PCs and Liberals dollar for dollar. This campaign, we proved we could do it, and over the coming months, I’d like to show that we can make change for the better in Guelph."
Gordon isn't the first candidate from the recently concluded Provincial election to declare his desire to run in the next election. After the campaign wrapped in a minority government for Dalton McGuinty, Progressive Conservative candidate Greg Schirk said that it was his intention to run again as well. 
The optics look good for Gordon, who added over 4,200 votes to the NDP's count, and came within 800 votes of tying Schirk for second place.
"For the first time, we were able to close in on the PCs and Liberals," the e-mail continues. "While voter turnout was at an all time low, creating challenges for all the parties, the NDP was the only party to increase its number of votes. [P]eople are hungry for our approach: a positive, practical and progressive way of doing things."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

An Overly Analytical Right-Wing Review of "Frosty Returns"

While decorating the Christmas tree last night, we watched the requisite Christmas specials on TV. First up was the classic Rankin-Bass Frosty the Snowman, still perfectly delightful after 42 years of repeated Christmas viewings and was once again enjoyed immensely.
But next was a Christmas special I had never seen before, and it was called Frosty Returns. It must have been relatively new because it featured the voice of John Goodman as Frosty, and Elisabeth Moss as Holly, Frosty's new school-aged friend, because presumably his original school-aged friend, Karen, would probably be a grandmother herself by now.

Friday, December 9, 2011

We Need to Talk About the Republican Party

I think by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, it's not hard to see that the current state of the U.S. Republican Party is one of extremism and limited vision. The perception that President Barack Obama is extraordinarily left wing, has forced many of the candidates to push harder to the right. Combined with the perception that Obama is weak, and that Americans are itching for another new direction, and the seven current contenders looking to be named the Republican nominee for President of the United States are in the midst of a bitter, incendiary and occasionally noxious contest that has already eclipsed the 2008 Democratic primary in terms of those qualities.
I bring it up because on Monday, in the next edition of Beyond the Ballot Box on CFRU, we'll be spending some time on the air discussing the state of American politics once again. To get my own thoughts in order, I thought I'd wax poetic on the various candidates with my impressions. Fasten your seat belt, this will most definitely be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Budget Passed with Survivors

In brief, as shared on the 59 Carden St Blog, here are some of the highlights from the 2012 Guelph Budget:
  • metered parking to increase 25 cents per hour ($130,000 revenue)
  • hire an internal auditor ($132,700 cost)
  • implement affordable bus pass program at mid-year at cost of $135,350
  • $100,000 into downtown renewal fund
  • remove $290,000 anticipated operational saving from sale of streetlight system (because staff doesn't think sale could be completed during 2012)
  • reduce anticipated savings related to energy conservation from $500,000 to $400,000
  • provide Guelph Police grant of up to $48,000 to pay for background checks for volunteers
  • turned down $20,600 capital request from Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
  • put $55,600 into library budget to fund development officer position
  • spend $18,000 to subsidize U of G ice rentals until end of current hockey season
  • spend $20,000 to design sidewalks for Woodlawn between Nicklin and Elmira
  • move comprehensive parking strategy forward in capital budget (no tax impact)
  • reinstate bus service on five remaining stat holidays at cost of $27,900
  • identify $3.8 million in 2012 capital budget to move Baker Street redevelopment forward (no tax impact)
All this and more for the low, low 3.52 per cent tax hike. You're welcome, Guelph. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

We've Got New Signage

 I guess we'll get our new bus routes in January after all. You might have seen these signs going up at a bus stop near you. It's all in prep for the new, linear transit system beginning in the new year. You'll notice a couple of different placements; the top is a sign at a present bus stop that's been replaced as it will remain a bus top in the new system, and the bottom is a covered sign at a new stop waiting to be revealed. Call me crazy, but I think this time, a new transit system might actually happen...

Hey, It's a Planning Meeting!

Getting the press release today, there was a bizarre sort of urgency in its receipt. It's almost like there's a seriously contentious issue on the plate during Monday's City Council Planning Meeting. And there is.
The description in the release was pretty dry: "The potential impact of the Environmental Review Tribunal Decision (Orgaworld Canada Ltd. v. Director, Ministry of Environment) on the conversion to a fully automated waste collection program will be a subject of the upcoming Guelph City Council Planning Meeting." But what it really means kids is the final decision on whether or not Guelph goes to a bin system for our garbage and recycling, or whether we get to keep our precious plastic bags.
For a big deal like this, Mayor Karen Farbridge and all available City Councillors will be there. Janet Laird, Executive Director, Planning & Building, Engineering and Environment will also be there, along with public delegations. There are other items on the agenda too, but obviously nothing as debatable as whether or not the City of Guelph should take the time and expense of switching our garbage collection system to a bin-based service. 
The planning meeting takes place on Monday December 5th at 7 pm in the Council Chamber of Guelph City Hall at 1 Carden St.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Curious Case of the U of G Prof Who Was Appointed to the Italian Government and then Wasn't

Everyone knows that the University of Guelph attracts some of the best in the world, so it might come as little surprise that a U of G professor could be brought in to an important position like the junior minister for agriculture in the Italian government.
But like a political satire in the vein of Canadian Bacon or Wag the Dog, the presence of Francesco Braga was not demanded in Rome, but rather it was Francesco Braga who was the new junior agricultural minister. Confused yet? So were a lot of people manning the offices of the fledgling Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
The story broke today in the Toronto Star. U of G's Braga, willfully talking to The Star unlike other public figures, about his whirlwind experience being a highly sought after member of the Italian government. Long story short, Italian Agriculture Minister Mario Catania told the Italian news agency ANSA that he didn't know his new junior minister personally, but knew he was a business professor at the U of G. Braga, in his Guelph home, started being pelted with calls from not just the Italian government, but the Italian media as well.
But soon the powers that be realized that the professors who's spent 28 years living and teaching in Canada may not be the guy they were referring to. Instead, Franco Braga, a civil engineer that specializes in earthquakes, was the man of the hour. He had been recommended for the infrastructure ministry, but ended up shuffled to agriculture instead. 
To make things even more screwy, apparently, the "real" Francesco Braga hasn't been seen and has yet to be sworn in to his new position. The U of G version of Francesco Braga, meanwhile, continues teaching and marking papers in his basement office at home during off hours.