Fake News – Guelph Style

Fake News:

It’s the new mantra of Donald Trump and it has hit Guelph.

In a recent blog posting by an amateur blogger of some renown, it stated without equivocation, that I voted to sell Guelph Hydro.
Below I am quoting from his blog.

“Coun. Phil Allt voted to sell the utility but then hedged his decision by saying he wanted more alternatives. Some councillors, who voted not to sell Guelph Hydro, also said their vote depended on the SOC (Strategic Options Committee) phase two report in midyear.”

Nothing of the above could be further from the truth.

Why respond to things that are a complete fabrication? Are these bloggers like excited little puppies just barking up the wrong tree, like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, or worse, deliberately creating hysteria with Fox News like hyperbole? Do they have some influence? The answer to all these is “yes” as the US presidential election reveals.

Bloggers have followers. I felt compelled to correct the record with one follower of the blog from which that mistruth was extracted (note, that is the only place from which it could have come –  professional/working journalists have been accurate in their reporting).

My response:
Dear Mr. S, thanks for the email. I note your email is addressed to the mayor. However, as I voted to hear all options (not, I stress, to sell Hydro) I thought I would weigh in.

In considering all aspects of why I believe that selling is a bad option, I wanted to have all information. I cannot speak for others who voted that way but due diligence requires a thorough investigation. So far, my investigation has led me to conclude that there is no solid foundation for a sale of the utility.

As I said, I cannot speak for others who voted but I want it to be clear up that I voted for due diligence. In fact, a motion to merge or to keep status quo will NOT come to council before July (I suspect actually that will be autumn).

If you wish to talk about this I am available for a discussion. However, that will not be prior to next week as I am currently out of the country.
Sincerely,
Phil Allt

For me, due diligence is paramount. So too is the quadruple bottom line. This is succinctly summarized by columnist Edward E Lawler III at forbes.com

Organizations need to be held to quadruple, not triple, bottom line performance standards. They need to perform well financially, environmentally, socially, and in how they treat their employees. How they treat their employees often gets included in the triple bottom line definition of the social category, but it warrants a separate and distinct set of measures and a high level of accountability. It is an area where the impact of organizations is measurable, significant, and may be quite different than the impact on the communities in which they operate.

In the case of Guelph Hydro, let me add a 5th caveat – our assets must operate in the best interests of the city in the long term. In my mind, selling was never an option. We can ensure a commitment to the quadruple bottom line only if we continue to have a strong hand in the future of Hydro, be that in a merger or as a wholly owned asset of our City.

Remember, in the world of alt-right and fake news – the truth sometimes is hard to discern. I am glad I stated over and over, and that it was recorded that I am opposed the sale of Guelph Hydro. I want more information in order to perform due diligence. Is that not what people want in a councillor?

Friday Prayers

Greetings – I am very honoured and very humbled to speak at Friday prayers. I confess I am not very familiar with Islamic Theology. I wish I were more so and perhaps this is part of my journey. It is not my intention to focus exclusively upon the immediate past tragedies and horrors that have occurred in Canada and Quebec of late.

Religious intolerance, cultural bigotry and attacks on people because of their differences are without reason or understanding. I do not wish to sensationalise either these or the misuses of government that we witness south of our border for fear of fanning the flames of xenophobia. Suffice to say, I want to focus on our virtues, the blessings of multiculturalism, multi faiths, sisterhood and brotherhood. I believe I am my brother’s and my sister’s keeper in alignment with the 5th pillar of Islam and the Christian principle of charity. In both, we find our common community and humility.

It is so easy to be angry and to misplace our anger. I lament the actions of Alexandre Bissonnette. To have embraced values that made his actions acceptable to him stems, likely, from what we have witnessed South of the Border and in Canada. I don’t understand it. I cannot fathom what might have led to Bissonnette to feel such as path was righteous. That cannot be entertained by me and I am sure by anyone in this room.

Perhaps what occurred in Quebec City has something to do with what has recently transpired in the United States. These actions which seem to refute our common humanity are equally puzzling.

Yet, I forgive America. I understand that most Americans do not embrace the anger and divisiveness we witness within the halls of their government today. I embrace the passion of the Million Women March that was inspired by inclusiveness and values of community. I embrace the spirit of the American Civil Rights movement. My America includes all people regardless of race, creed or colour. I much prefer to focus on the words inscribed on a plaque that lies at the base of the Statue of Liberty. These are words by which America lived and grew and by which the United States will do so again:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I thank Emma Lazarus for coining those immortal words – they remind us how this continent – for I include Canada in this incantation – was built and populated. Neither Canada, nor the United States, were built by billionaires with power and arrogance. Rather, they were imagined and made manifest by desperate people seeking sanctuary from poverty, famine, racism, religious bigotry and war. In time, we shall awaken from this current of intellectual and emotional darkness under which we toil. When we do, we will continue to build a better world –  a New Jerusalem with those huddled masses as the anchors of that paradise.

I think too of the province of Quebec. While I mourn their recent tragedy and others before it – the Montreal Massacre, the FLQ crisis, the riots of WWI, the antisemitism and persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses – I celebrate a province that is marvellous in its history and culture. I look fondly to a province that in many ways are more socially progressive than any part of Canada, that provides affordable day care to all, that first embraced gender equity. I marvel at a province that celebrates winter as its heritage – the words “mon pays c’est hiver, c’est hiver mon pays” (My country is the winter, the winter is my country) echo a culture that embraces the grandeur of God’s/Allah’s creation in the warmth of summer and also the cold frigid air of winter.

And we as Canadians, as residents of Guelph, as neighbours must embrace this frigid political climate in which we currently exist. We must find strength in each other. We understand we have our common heritage – the heritage that makes Jerusalem a pillar of three faiths  – Muslim, Christian and Jew – a common culture sharing Abraham, and the prophets of old. We understand that while there seems to be a poverty of political will to embrace our differences and create beauty, we, the people, can do it regardless of governments that seek to divide and rule. We can come together as we did on Monday in a thousandfold or million fold. We can hug, cry, share each other’s pain and understand first and foremost, we are neighbours.

Each of us here has a different background, a different upbringing. My background in nominally Christian. I was baptised Presbyterian, attended Catholic College, studied Mennonite theology and was raised by a Jewish grandmother.

None of you has my background. Yet, you share my love of community and of Guelph. I know that you and I embrace, peace and social justice. We come together in community. We want to build something new and better – we want that New Jerusalem.

On these Friday prayers – at which I am honoured to attend – I wish to share the words of God/Allah found in The Book of Isaiah. They are perhaps appropriate for us now as we contemplate our next steps. These words focus upon the purpose of fasting. Why do some of us fast? What is its spiritual purpose? Perhaps The Book of Isaiah put it most appropriately – we fast for others, we fast for social justice:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
We can be the Repairer of Broken Walls, we can raise up age-old foundations, we can restore streets and dwellings. We can be the opposite of the anger and fear we see around us in Canada, the United States and Europe – dare I say world wide.

It has been said by Him whom some call The Christ and others call Prophet: “My Father’s house has many rooms”. Nothing could be more true. We are here together with so many faiths, so many cultures – figuratively living in so many rooms. Yet we abide in the same mansion of humanity.

It is right and proper to stand together, to live together, to embrace Zakat, Charity and social justice. Let us hold fast to higher values than those that might divide us. Let us do as Toronto, Hamilton and London Ontario have recently committed. Let us make Guelph a Sanctuary City for refugees and for those who are fleeing tyranny, oppression and war.

Shalom, Nameste, As-salāmu ʿalaykum, Peace be unto us all.

Walk for the Alzheimer Society

Comments celebrating the fundraising walk for the Alzheimer Society.

I’m very pleased to be here to offer greetings on behalf of the City of Guelph and our City Council. I want to acknowledge Councillor James Gordon who is here as well.

Thank you very much to the – walkers and fundraisers, the donors, the sponsors and of course The Alzheimer Society of Waterloo-Wellington – for all the wonderful work they do.

Thanks also to, Tom Lammer, and the management of Old Quebec Street mall for providing a warm place to walk!

More than anyone, I want to thank the families, the friends and those that support those afflicted with Alzheimer’s, people who on a daily basis offer love and support to those in their lives that require more care and attention than they might have needed just a short time ago.

I also wish to thank all the volunteers who take time out to enhance the lives of those with Alzheimer’s by visiting and performing what seem to be very ordinary tasks but often are extraordinary for those for whom they support.

I am reminded of my friend Alan Pickersgill, who played Scrabble with an elderly gentleman with whom he volunteered. This act of volunteerism clearly improved the life of that person.

Similarly, the volunteers at St Joseph’s Health Care centre are deeply appreciated. Those who provide daily activities including teas and other social events are invaluable for improving people’s lives. For me, it is personal, as my mother is supported at St Joseph’s by warm caring individuals who go the extra mile. They are literally our parents’, brothers’, sisters’ and neighbours’ keepers.

Guelph is one of many communities across Canada raising funds this weekend for the Alzheimer Society. This financial support will make a difference for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia – and their families and caregivers.

As you walk this morning, you are clearly showing that community matters in Guelph. We care about our residents. We are committed to supporting them regardless of their circumstances. We understand that love, compassion and caring are important priceless symbols of who we are as a city. People in Guelph always chip in; your personal efforts are exemplary of our wonderful city spirit of giving.

Once again thank you.

Budget Comments

Dear Members of Council:

In absentia, would have loved to rise on point of personal privilege and thank whoever might have read this for me. Procedurally, however, that would be awkward; hence, I have written to you all with this missive.

Unfortunately, I cannot be there to deliberate a budget that is in the best interests of Guelph. I urge that common sense and sound minds will prevail.

A budget is not to be framed on personal political ambition, on thinking of one’s own self-interest, on considering “what is in it for me”. It is framed in the common good. Of course, we all have ideas and many of these differ. From these, we need to seek common understanding

Creating a budget is part of a social contract engaged in by our citizens wherein we acknowledge a duty to support our community – the young, the old, the better off, the less fortunate – metaphorically we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. In this way we make Guelph work into the future.

Tonight, I wish I could make determinations on bussing, on playgrounds, on roads, bridges, services and support for all of Guelph. I wish I could say: “I want to pay for a library so others might enjoy its benefits and when I need it, it is there for me”. I wish I could vote in favour of Councillor Mackinnon’s proposal for a 1% levy. I wish I could also vote for a City Building levy to help build a Rec. Centre in the South End and a new, modern, state of the art library in our core.

I wish I could pronounce from my seat at the Horseshoe, “let’s restore busing to 2015 levels and let’s find a way to make 2017 service better than it has ever been.”

I wish that those that come after us, will never be burdened with 60 to over 100 years of decaying sewers, water pipes, roads and valuable, needed engineering. We must guarantee that the good life remains exactly that – the good life in the best city in Canada – Guelph – Our Royal City.

Colleagues: please support a budget that is “Guelph Positive”. Please support a budget that is “Proudly Guelph”.

Please support a budget founded upon the principles of reason, that is principled and that is forward looking. We must develop a budget that is right for all our citizens.

For 2017 we must create, a dynamic, healthy budget that considers seniors, kids, newlyweds, all who choose Guelph, raise families, celebrate our diversity and exercise our right to willingly contribute to the public good via taxes. Living in Guelph is the best experience we will ever share. It is worth it to plan and pay for the best.

Let’s do Guelph right, let’s be “Proudly, Progressively Guelph”. We cannot succumb to populism nor cost saving because it seems to be the lowest common denominator. We have a responsibility to be better than that. We have a duty to build our city.

Tonight, what I wish most is to return to Guelph and rejoin my colleagues.

Unfortunately, I have to eat hospital food (mainly Jello) and suffer the certainty I will have a catheter removed soon. If you wish to trade me places, I’m happy to let you substitute.

Rest assured, my discomfort is nothing compared to the enormous responsibility you face tonight. Please consider: will the budget upon which you are about to vote to make Guelph better? It can only be one way. Our duty is to the future.

In the principles of Christian duty, Islamic Zakat, humanist responsibility to the community, I wish you great wisdom as you deliberate. Namaste, Shalom, As-salamu Alaykum, may peace be in your hearts.

Christmas Kettle Campaign 2016

I am very humbled to have been asked by Major Chris Pilgrim to help celebrate the advent of the Salvation Army Christmas 2016 Kettle Campaign.

The Salvation Army has been an institution in Guelph since 1884. I remember even as a kid donating to the campaign in downtown Guelph while awaiting a bus to take me home upon the completion of my Christmas Shopping. I saw this annual campaign through the eyes of a child sharing Christmas and honestly, I confess, not truly understanding what was being done.

For my family, however, the Salvation Army was personal and traditional. Over 100 years ago, my grandmother recollected that my great grandfather would play in the Salvation Army band in the Northern Ontario town of Dryden. My grandmother recited how, when she was a little girl, her father would walk along the tracks from Wabigoon into Dryden – about 15 miles – to join in what must have been a very small band. This was part of his and his family’s community and their social life. It shows how much the Salvation Army united people even in our hinterlands.

Today, many Guelph families are supported by this Kettle drive we celebrate tonight. To state that the drive is run with Salvation Army like precision is an understatement. Many people donate annually to its success. Yet, it is the efforts of staff and volunteers which ensure that Christmas is a joyful time for all. In the past, I have lifted a few boxes, driven a couple of hampers and attempted in a very, very small way to assist your efforts. It is nothing however to that which is done on a daily basis by your community,

I have witnessed many of you working overtime to ensure that the lonely, the less able, those on fixed incomes might enjoy a Christmas meal, that a child might experience the thrill of a gift and that Christmas will be a meaningful time of giving, reflecting and community. Your work is legion and dare I say, an institution in Guelph that is deeply appreciated.

It is important to me that the foundation of your mission be framed in Biblical verse. Hence I would be remiss if I did not refer to some meaningful words of Scripture. For me, the book of Isaiah is particularly poignant.

I will only cite one short passage from Isaiah 58 verses 10 and 11. These words succinctly anchor your work:

And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

This, I believe, is the mission and fulfillment of the Salvation Army here in Guelph, in the streets of London England 150 years ago, and throughout the world.

Thank your for sharing your love for others, for those with less, for those in crisis, for those, who, for a moment, are without hope.

The Salvation Army’s kettle and it’s chiming bells are not a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal as is cautioned against in Corinthians. They are a symbol of faith, hope, and love. They are a clarion call intoning that when we see a wrong or despair, it is a duty to ease suffering and improve life.

Thank you for being an important part of Guelph and for also being an important part of Canada and everywhere, 365 days a year. Thank you, William Booth. Yours are big boots to fill – here in Guelph, your spiritual heirs are doing marvelously.

Where Civic Pride and Responsibility Meet

Mr. Mayor, Councillors, I am speaking in favour of the motion to refer Councillor Gordon’s and my resolution to Committee.

I must express some disappointment that delegates are not permitted to speak today. Yet I understand and accept that our rules do not permit it. There are arguably hundreds of people who wish their voices to be heard. Sadly our rules do not permit this.

There was a quick fix that we might have used. Just under a year ago, our mayor suspended the rules so we might continue to work on our budget – which we did – and then successfully approved. That draconian practice could have been used again today. I might have supported it had we alerted people to their opportunity to speak. Sadly, this would have given people very little time to prepare.  Furthermore, by not having time to announce this to the broader community, such a procedural maneuver would not have been appropriate.

At committee of the whole we currently provide people with a voice so they can express their concerns about taxes and other issues. We must also permit the public to express their feelings on broader principles including ground water protection.

We are a Blue Dot Community – a city that takes its environmental responsibilities seriously. This designation first came to Committee. We overwhelmingly supported this principle because the public, through delegation, convinced us it is right.  We are proud of that designation and more proud of the students who bravely lobbied us and convinced Council that this matters.

Historically, delegation to our Council was immensely important. We have supported issues that have ramifications far beyond our borders.

Decades ago, Guelph residents voted to become a nuclear free zone. Council also raised flags for Amnesty International and to support Prisoners of Conscience. 15 years ago, we mourned the victims of the World Trade Centre attack.

We cannot and should not look back to the good old days where merely being concerned with roads, parking, parks and policing were the topics of debate. People in Guelph want more from us as a Council – as guardians of the public trust. They want to speak on issues that matter deeply. They want to be heard, they want to be informed. They want to be engaged whenever a matter impinges on our quality of life.

Our residents understand we are at Ground Zero for national and international concerns such as water security. If we worry about Great Lakes water being exported to the American Mid West, surely we must be equally concerned about bottled water being mined locally and sold internationally.

People must be permitted to share their concerns about ground water regardless of their views. This is not about Nestle – this issue should not be considered as a criticism of one corporation: this is about a sustainable future.

Referring this to Committee is about considering our situation within the principles of “Places to Grow” and Guelph’s increasing population. It is, in the words of Citizen David De Weerdt “about collaborative leadership”.

As I express this, there are over 600 applications before the province asking for exemptions from Greenbelt protection. This reinforces why the public must speak at Committee. Let’s give people a platform to speak on ground water protection. Let’s foster further public debate.  This is a vital part and parcel of a much greater concern: the health and vitality of Southern Ontario for generations to come.

People speaking and working together help solve problems like our ground water crisis. They provide Guelph’s Council with much food for thought as we debate water security and community livability for generations to come. Please, I urge Council to  support continuing the public debate of bottling and exporting water from local aquifers.

It’s for our grandkids.

Poverty Sucks

Poverty sucks which is why the 2 to 3 vote at Guelph’s Corporate Services Committee which rejected a “Living Wage” is so galling.

Let’s do some number crunching.

There are 27 employees at the city of Guelph who earn less than a living wage as calculated by anti poverty groups;
These employees earn 8 cents an hour less than the living wage.
The total cost to bring these employees up to a living wage is $4,930.00 per year to the City.
That translates to .038 cents per person in Guelph for a living wage– but let’s round it up to .5 cents to be on the safe side.

The Living Wage campaign for some is symbolic. For me, it is personal and principled: I grew up in poverty and know how it hurts.

In “the wealthiest country in the world” poverty is still chronic both nationally and locally. It is considered by many to be a contagious disease cured by hard work and a free market – even the great economist Adam Smith disagrees. He knew the limits of a “free market.

For those below the living wage, much of what Guelph residents take for granted – the option of shopping for new clothes instead of browsing used clothing shops or relying upon donations, the option of eating fresh vegetables, the option of substituting whole foods for processed foods does not exist. Hell, for many, over 50 percent of a family’s earnings can and often do go for paying the rent!

For Guelph to support a living wage is an ethical stance. In cold hard cash, it is a penny on our tax bill – actually it is far less. Symbolically it states that our bottom line goes beyond cold hard cash to doing the right thing for the least among us.

For those who live in poverty, who cannot afford new clothes (ie don’t shop in St. Vincent de Paul’s as a choice but shop there out of necessity), who cannot wear the best clothes to a job interview, who do not eat nutritious food, denying a living wage is a slap in the face. Guelph has the highest employment rate in the best country in the world. We can and should do better.

Thanks to Councillor June Hofland for relentlessly promoting and supporting the motion to enact a Living Wage in Guelph. Thanks to the Guelph Downtown Board’s Marty Williams et al for supporting a living wage by advocating for it. Thanks to Councillors James Gordon, Cathy Downer, Karl Wettstein, Bob Bell for being supportive of our efforts.

When we defeated the Living Wage, Guelph’s Corporate Services Committee were “.038 of a penny wise” and a “dollar foolish”. Some would say that’s “looney-tick”. When we could have led by example we chose to lead with parsimony and ideology.

Ignoring poverty or relying upon the free market is not the answer. If it were, we would embrace child labour as a virtue and let the market decide whom it is that is employed, how much s/he is paid and whether health and safety measures matter. Thankfully the days of the workhouse, of Oliver Twist and Charles Dickens are behind us. The duty of City Councillors in a civilized community is to ensure that all benefit from prosperity. It’s not that hard nor that expensive.
Poverty sucks.

Point of View

Firstly, I thank our Council that the rules of order permit me to speak without interruption on a matter of personal significance. I believe this to be the most significant political controversy in Guelph since the Michael Sona/RoboCalls scandal.

On Friday April 15, 2016, I was surprised to learn I was the subject of an Integrity Commissioner investigation. I was alleged to have breached closed session by responding to an email from Ms. Rena Ackerman stating I had acted without due regard for the city of Guelph by leaving a closed meeting.

I wrote to Ms. Ackerman the following: “As you are aware, I cannot reveal what occurred. You will have to trust this simple message is of importance to all Guelph residents: By denying quorum we were defending the integrity of the City as a corporation and staff.”

This email ultimately ended up on the blog of amateur blogger Mr. Gerry Barker. It is from that Blog which “The Complaint” (ultimately dismissed) arose.

I have recently discovered that Ms. Ackerman and Mr. Barker were executive members of Grassroots Guelph. This municipal activist group endorsed and helped finance the following candidates:

Ward One: Bob Bell and Dan Gibson
Ward Two:   Andy Van Hellemond and Ray Ferraro
Ward Three: Craig Chamberlain and Jason Dodge
Ward Four: Christine Billings and Greg Schirk
Ward Five: Bob Senechal and Jim Galatianos
Ward Six: Glen Tolhurst and Mark Mackinnon
Mayor: Cam Guthrie

Was there a political motivation to the complaint levelled at me and five members of council who left the meeting of January 25th? Who knows?

I can state without equivocation that I never spoke nor wrote to Mr. Barker as was alleged by the anonymous complainant. I do not respond to bloggers. I consider most to be of the calibre of the National Enquirer or Mad Magazine – entertainment for a very limited, narrow scope of readers.

I believe a political play was orchestrated. Two councillors integral to understanding what we were to discuss were unable to attend that particular meeting.

More importantly, I can point to correspondence that I had with all of Council and members of the Executive from January 21st. It outlines why I believe that meeting should have been rescheduled. The following  moots the foundation of the remaining complaint levelled:

Mayor Guthrie: . . . “I feel it is imperative for Council to know why you believe it important that the CAO and Executive be excluded from Monday’s meeting. This action appears to be very draconian, arbitrary and ultimately a decision that can be perceived as both undemocratic and threatening open informed and transparent government.”

This email was in no way confidential. It was sent 4 days prior to the closed meeting. Hence, we appear to have a false narrative arising from the complainant’s charges.

To hold a special closed session meeting with the minimum notice, it is imperative that we await a full compliment of Council. We should have awaited Councillors Hofland and Wettstein’s return from their vacations.

Already, this meeting had been postponed from January 14 – when we had several absences and quorum initially failed. The three days until Councillor Wettstein and Councillor Hofland returned were all that was necessary for us to have had a different meeting than this unfortunate affair. Both Councillors were, I might add, integral to understanding the issues being presented.

My final point is simple: I challenge anyone to state without equivocation what was leaked from closed session. Was it an anonymous open correspondence we were to discuss – Item C2016-2 on the agenda — an item that has been lost in the hubbub? Was it the decision to exclude the City’s Executive Staff – already a publicly discussed issue? Was it Guelph Municipal Holdings?

Was it other discussion which occurred within closed session? We have no written record for this. We could rely upon hearsay and remembrances. Yet, we know these are restricted by closed meeting rules and protocol. We do have a report of closed session that was presented in open. For that, one of the accused councillors – James Gordon was in attendance.

What really needs attention is this: “How do we make the elected City of Guelph Council work effectively? Furthermore, how do we stop the myriad of leaks from other closed sessions?

We must find a way to work collaboratively for Guelph. Clearly, things are not working now. Clearly, some wish to rerun the past municipal election.

That’s not going to happen. We must make Guelph work by cooperating, finding common ground and ending toxic game playing. It has reached its zenith with this complaint to the Integrity Commissioner.

I could ask who pays for this? This was recently posited of a dismissed complaint by Ms. Susan Watson to our elections’ commission. I won’t ask that – for it is the right of any citizen to seek redress if she/he feels a wrong doing has occurred. That right should not however be used frivolously as it was on January 25th 2016.

I will not put this city at financial risk – ever. Nor will I expose it to civil legal action that could cost it in diminished reputation or in monies owed. That, is a serious breach of public trust.

The bottom line – had we waited 3 days to allow full council membership to be present, a different outcome would have been witnessed.

Blue Dot Resolution

Last fall we were very proud to have Guelph adopt the Blue Dot Resolution, a nation-wide initiative meant to ensure our right as citizens to live in a healthy environment. Introduced to council by Guelph High School students, this resolution was embraced enthusiastically by the city.

One clause in the resolution is of immediate importance:

“The city of Guelph is proud to be a leader in environmental stewardship. We are continuously striving to improve in a wide range of areas, including water and energy conservation and efficiency; food security; waste reduction; transit and active transportation; and sustainable planning.”

Guelph’s award-winning Community Energy Initiative is being updated and revitalized to ensure it will continue to be relevant in the future. The CEI is our commitment to use energy more wisely and to fight climate change.

Our forward looking plan has now been emulated by dozens of other Canadian municipalities. Citizens, businesses and all levels of government are working together to improve the environment for our kids and grandkids. Even Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, visited Guelph last week to see what a leading-edge community and its industries are doing to bring jobs and energy innovation to our city.

So what is Community Energy?
Here’s a brief summary from the city website:
The Community Energy Initiative is Guelph’s commitment to use and manage energy different and better, than we have in the past. The initiative will also attract quality investment to the city. After all, experts agree that a reliable, sustainable energy supply is and will continue to be a key ingredient in the long-term competitiveness and prosperity of cities.

Guelph’s goals under the plan are to:
Use less energy in 25 years than we do today
Consume less energy per capita than comparable Canadian cities
Produce less greenhouse gas per capita than the current global average

Our community is not unanimous in its commitment to the CEI, some see it as a fantasy. They also see Global Warming as a conspiracy that has been popularized by tree hungers, hippies and idealist visionaries searching for rainbows and unicorns.

Actually CEI is common sense home economics. For example: local industry and our power utility Guelph Hydro recognize that Solar Panels, insulating and updating our housing are all part of the solution – not the problem.

We must build for the future. In Guelph today, there are only about 35 electric cars. Yet, we can plan and design for when these are common place if we start to act now and locate electric chargers that rely on conventional electricity and maybe wind and solar too.

We can move forward with Community Energy for the future with a robust business plan. CEI can help give us energy sustainability while addressing climate change. We need to consider the quadruple bottom line. The social, environmental and health benefits of this plan are incalculable and every bit as important as the economic.

Guelph’s leading community energy advocacy group, eMerge has this to say about the CEI:

“Rarely do we get a chance to have a profound impact on the future of our city’s economy – and at the same time – improve our environment. The CEI provides all of us with the opportunity to transform our local economy for the better – an economy that will focus on putting our neighbours and families to work by investing in using less energy, using energy more wisely and producing more clean energy alternatives locally. It’s about creating more energy security within our city.”

To know where your are going requires you look ahead. Building for the future requires a far sighted vision. Through planning wisely, we can move towards a clean energy economy that makes our community healthier and more prosperous. That’s what we did 100 years ago when Ontario harnessed the awesome power of Niagara Falls. It’s time to plan and prepare for our future right here in Guelph – sensibly and sustainably.

Let your councillors, your mayor, and your neighbours know that you support updating and improving your Community Energy Initiative and creating jobs and prosperity locally.

Join us at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 25th at City Hall.

CEI is part of Guelph’s commitment to our grandchildren.
They’re worth it – are they not?

International Women’s Day

Speech delivered to Zonta
International Women’s Day breakfast
Thursday, March 10, 2016, 7 – 9 a.m.
Italian Canadian Club, Guelph

I’m very pleased to be here to offer greetings on behalf of the City of Guelph. I want to thank the Zonta Club of Guelph for organizing this event. Thank you for all you do – not just on International Women’s Day, but all year long.

I’m proud to give a warm Guelph welcome to our guest speaker, Sharmila Setarnam, President of the Board of Amnesty International. We’re thrilled to have you here.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that it is indeed a wonderful coincidence that Sharmila is with us today. My late mother in law, Elizabeth Boyle was actively involved in the early days of Amnesty International Canada. At that time, AI had evolved from being mainly concerned with Portuguese prisoners who had been arrested and detained by the Fascist Salazar government to focusing on human rights in general.

Elizabeth was characteristic of the feminist activist. She well understood what it was to be a woman who was fated to live a life of economic and social subordination to males and she rejected it. When she was to be presented to the King and Queen of England in the 1930’s, Elizabeth refused on the grounds that it was a disservice to women who were campaigning against England’s appeasement of the Franco fascists in Spain.

Elizabeth, educated at the feminist Girton College of Cambridge, continued all her life to advocate for women. Even in Guelph she advocated on behalf of domestics here in order that they might earn a living wage.

There are many among us today and also those who have passed from our company that deserve accolades. How many of you know which woman first sat in the seat of mayor in Guelph? It was not Karen Farbridge. Rather it was was Elsie Lowell – admittedly as the mayor of the day. Yet, in the 1960’s that was important accomplishment and my grade six teacher Mrs. Tawse insisted we know that.

And we should remember others too – Adelaide Hoodless, The women of the Women’s Institute, Barsa Kelly of Match International – who sadly passed when Air India was bombed in the 1980’s, Chris Margetson of Onward Willow and the Fetal Alcohol activist group FASAT.

We should acknowledge Lenna Bradburn – Canada’s first female chief of police, Ann Pappert our city’s first female Chief Administrative Officer and yes, we should acknowledge our women mayors: Karen Farbridge and Kate Quarrie.
Let us also pay homage to former MP Brenda Chamberlain, MPP Brenda Elliot, our current MPP Liz Sandals and all the others who have enriched our political culture.

Within business, we must pay tribute to CEOs like Linda Hassenfratz. Equally, we must recognize the work of Janice Folk Dawson President of the Guelph and District Labour Council and all women who work daily in Guelph.

I could go on and on about how women in Guelph have helped make life better. However, I want to end with a tribute to the past and the present. As we acknowledge those Activists who tirelessly campaign on issues of reproductive choice including birth control and unfettered access to safe therapeutic abortion, who demand that we eradicate violence against women including such practices as date rape and female circumcision, we should also pay tribute to the modern pioneers of reproductive medicine: the midwives.

It is they who confirm that all that is old is new again. Today, we have amongst us women devoted to bringing new life into the world in the warm confines of the house where women are actively involved in the birthing process. Most of us here I suspect were born in hospitals with fine male doctors attending. Yet, it bugs me that for nearly 100 years, midwifery and home birthing was put on a back burner in Canada. Over 100 years ago my grandmother, at the age of 15, was a midwife along with her mother among the European settlers and the Ojibway of the Dryden area. Then, the practice all but disappeared until women – not men -realized that we must resurrect the notion that women assisting in the birth of children was not a novelty. Midwifery arose out of a knowledge  that when it came to birthing and women’s reproductive health, women know best. Today, Women can finally, once again, reassure the expectant mother, and can assist with nurturing the newborn child.

There will always be new opportunities for pioneering in health care, politics, and  business. But please, never forget the campaigns and the struggles of women in Guelph, in Canada and throughout our world. Remember the struggle for the vote, for equality, for inheritance rights, for reproductive rights. Our collective foremothers demand we, both males and females, never break faith with them.