National Aboriginal Physical Activity Conference

VIP Reception
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Guelph Civic Museum

Miigwech, Bonjour, Welcome. I’m very pleased to offer greetings on behalf of the City of Guelph.

I’d like to begin with the City of Guelph’s Statement of Acknowledgement:
As we gather, we are reminded that Guelph is situated on treaty land that is steeped in rich indigenous history and home to many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people today.
As a City, we have a responsibility for the stewardship of the land on which we live and work.
Today we acknowledge the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation on whose traditional territory we are gathered.

This statement acknowledges that there is a rich history of Indigenous Peoples in the Guelph area.

• Archeological evidence indicates Indigenous Peoples were present in the area now known as Guelph as early as 11,000 years ago.

• Up until the 15th century, the Anishnaabe people lived, farmed, and hunted in the Guelph area.

• Local aboriginal population was once estimated to number 30,000.

As Much of our First Nations’  history was not written down anywhere we are grateful to those who are keeping that history alive even today.

But I am here to bring greetings at the start of the National Aboriginal Physical Activity conference. As I do, I want to digress into my appreciation of Aboriginal history, culture and what I consider to be a bit of a problem our dominant culture has acknowledging the richness of that culture from Coast to Coast to Coast.

I am sure that everyone is familiar with Norval Morriseau, Benjamin Chee Chee, the carvers and artists on the West Coast including Roy Henry Vickers in Tofino. I am sure we are familiar with Wab Kinew and of course my friend Tom King. Many of us are still appreciative of Pauline Johnson.

I am grateful for the contributions of Tom, Wab and Pauline to literature and in Wab’s case to political activism. I am also pleased that Canada embraces First Nations’ artists like Roy, Norval and Benjamin. We must take pride in these. Furthermore, we all appreciate the music of Buffy Sainte Marie and a Tribe called Red.

So it is a puzzle to me why we don’t seem to embrace First Nations’ athletes in the same way. Perhaps it is because the athletics that I and others are familiar with seem, with the exception of Lacrosse to be so foreign to us. Inuit sports I have witnessed in the Pan Polar Games are beyond me. Some of them even scare me. You can be assured that I will never participate in a blanket toss.

Yet, you know there was purpose to these feats. The athletics my grandmother and her brothers played when they settled Wabigoon Ontario over 135 years ago were those that helped them survive. Without hunting, fishing and the canoe skills taught to them by their Ojibway sisters and brothers I would not be here today. I confess to be in awe of my grandmother for having known how to skin a rabbit, hunt a partridge and fish for Pickerel and Pike.

I am more disturbed that when I taught history, my students knew nothing of Tom Longboat whom I argue is one Canada’s greatest athletes – if not our greatest. Tom’s running feats, his role in WWI should be the stuff of legend. Yet, he is largely ignored by our dominant culture. I always thought that the Skydome/ Rogers Centre should have been named after him. Skydome always sounded as if it should be in Montana. Rogers Centre sounds like a place to get my internet service.

The Tom Longboat Stadium, on the other hand, would have been a place all could have taken pride in as we remembered the greatest runner in Canada’s history and a figure largely forgotten by adults, kids and in the classrooms of Canada.

Yet, my political statement should not distract from why were are here. Thank you for promoting athletics amongst our First Nations as you do. My late friend Sherman was an Ojibway musician and baseball player.  During the summer he and I would play ball together, drink a few beers play guitar and share a few laughs. Sherman’s ball playing was legendary in Guelph. He could hit, he could catch – but his knees in later years did not let him run. Yet up to his death, he knew that athletics was an important part of a lifestyle kept him mentally and physically happy to the end. When he passed, I lost a friend. What I will never lose is the memory of him hitting the longest homer I have ever seen right over my head when we were on different teams. He didn’t need to run those bases, he could have hopped or crawled backwards and it would not have mattered. I know he would have embraced this conference and its goals.

Welcome to our city. Your visit here is a testament to how athletics among First Nations is important for all. To be an athlete in childhood is the start of a healthy lifestyle. I am sure that Tom Longboat and Sherman ran, played and competed early on in their earthly existence. Tom King, not so much, ask me to tell you about his pool playing and then, I encourage you to challenge him to a stakes game. Your money is safe.

Thank you, a la prochaine, miigwech, we are thrilled to have you here. I wish you all the very best for a wonderful conference.

Internet Voting – Letter to Guelph Residents

An Open Letter on Internet Voting to Guelph Voters

Dear Guelph Residents worried about Democracy:

Many thanks for your many emails expressing concerns about Guelph’s Council recommending a cessation to internet voting. I must admit I am one of the converted who now has concerns regarding Internet voting. In 2014, I supported online voting to get the vote out. Now, I am not certain that was an appropriate principle to embrace. I have had, I must say, my conversion on the road to Damascus (figuratively speaking)

In 2014, I did have concerns regarding security. However, I always believed it would improve not deteriorate over the years. We have however seen a regression in security as is apparent from Wiki Leaks, the Trump/Clinton feuds and the evidence of Russian hacking. Some people even point to allegations of voter fraud in Canada, in leadership races and even in our elections of the past. I don’t care to dwell on those. Rather,  I care to protect the future.

Of course, the Russians are not intending on hacking the Royal City. Still, the Ontario Ministry of Education EQAO was hacked by someone (not likely the Russians). This rendered the 2017/2018 EQAO online literacy test void.

If it can happen to a secure test, surely it can happen to our MPAC generated voters’ list – which is not, I am led to understand, any more secure. Similarly, as my brother, an Internet Expert working with Internet Security Issues each day stated, “There is no assurance that no one is standing beside a home computer offering 100 bucks to a person to vote a certain way. John A. Macdonald did it with beer, that’s why you are not allowed to go into a voting booth with another person today.”

I need to feel assured that voting is a level playing field and that only those who are entitled to vote actually do so. At this point, I am querying if the MPAC list identifies where a person actually lives and if that person is Canadian. If a person on the voters’ list is not, then MPAC inadvertently permits – or perhaps turns a blind eye – to the likelihood that offshore property owners can vote – something I did not think about until yesterday (Please note, I do differentiate this from non-Canadians residents voting as I do think an argument can be made for landed immigrants having the right to vote in our elections).

Re: accessibility and voting.

I have cut and pasted the following from information provided to me by another source:

“I wish to provide the following reassurances, as outlined in the Municipal Election Act, that the suspension of internet voting does not change the requirement of the City to meet the needs of electors through other avenues.”

As the clerk mentioned at the meeting, he has a statutory obligation under the MEA to provide voting options for electors with disabilities.

“Moreover, the MEA includes a requirement for polling stations to be situated in any institution with more than 20 beds and any retirement home with more than 50 beds. In addition, election officials are empowered both to attend to a disabled elector within their room at a retirement home or an institution or, to visit their private residence in order to allow them to vote.”

In closing, this was a very difficult decision and one in which I weighed populism versus principles and protecting democracy. A superficial response is to permit a voting system with the potential for significant error to remain and perhaps be expanded.

Note too that this is not about massive voter fraud being committed by an overwhelming number of residents. I do not believe our voters are extreme practitioners of fraud any more than I am a suppressor of votes, as has been alleged by some. (In fact, I believe in mandatory voting – such as occurs in Australia – which, I believe, renders the argument for internet voting null and void.)

This issue is not about who should vote, it is about how we should vote.
For the time being, I believe that paper is the best protection against bad voter lists and cyber threats.

Thank you for your email,

Phil Allt,
Ward 3 Councillor
City of Guelph


Celebrating The Canadian Masters Curling Championship

Remarks Celebrating the opening of the Canadian Masters Curling Championship, Guelph Curling Club, Sunday, April 2nd, 2017.

I am very pleased to represent Guelph at the  Canadian Masters Curling Championships.

Just 6 hours ago I was in Vancouver at a conference. Thankfully, Air Canada got me to the rink on time. Air Canada knows you cannot keep the Masters waiting and I am glad they do.

We are thrilled to have such tremendous curlers in Guelph from all over Canada. Like you, I am over 60. However, the only way I will ever be on a rink at the Canadian Masters is by participating in the opening ceremonies.

To give you an appreciation for our history you might wish to know that The Guelph Curling Club was established in 1838. Ours is this the second oldest curling club in Ontario.

In those days, the population of Guelph was around population 2,000; now we’re around 140,000 people. All this time, curling has been part of our heritage – from when we played on the Speed River, to when we curled on Baker Street to now.

But what is most important is Curling in the history of Canada. To some, it is a blasphemy that I will suggest that curling, not hockey – is our national sport. Here’s why: in curling, there is no age discrimination. Furthermore, it is fair to say we have 100 percent gender equity.

Our personal histories intertwine with Curling. Over 40 years ago I started curling right here. I met my future wife at this rink. She fell in love with me when she realized what a fine sweeper I was. How many of you met your future partners or spent time with your future spouse on a curling rink? I will hazard a guess that is most of you.

But, there is something more important about curling than our teenage romances. Why do I say suggest this is Canada’s national sport? Let’s look around. Many of us started to curl as teenagers. Many consider curling to be a fundamental part of our winter social season? How many of you travel to curl against friends and rivals? That’s the powerful, socially unifying nature of our game.

The jacket I wear is from the St. John’s Curling Club circa 1960. It belongs to my colleague, Councillor Leanne Piper’s father. He was stationed in Newfoundland with the Canadian Armed Forces and curled when off duty. Perhaps the jacket is out of date in this age of spandex and stretchy material. Yet, By its very design, it says that Curling unites us – coast to coast to coast.

In this Master’s Tournament, there is gender equity like there is every day on curling the rink. We play with our sweethearts, our husbands, our wives, even our lovers – as long as we don’t get caught.

Our children curl as our equals. It does not matter what age or gender you are, any of you can skip, lead or vice. That is the egalitarian nature of our game. And unlike hockey, we don’t have too many bench clearing brawls. Instead, we share a drink with our rivals at the end of each game.

Consider too the champions amongst you. Many of you excelled 30 or 40 years ago and rose to be champions locally, provincially and nationally. That’s a long career in any sport. Even Gordie Howe did not play hockey that long.

From coast to coast to coast Curling unites us on the rink and over a celebratory drink following the final end. This tournament unites us across 4000 miles.

Thank you to the tournament sponsors who helped make this event possible.

Thank you to everyone who assisted in organizing this tournament.

Most of all, thank you, competitors. Throw true, sweep hard and excel at our game.

We’re thrilled you are competing in Guelph. I hope you’ll have time to get to know Guelph a little better, to visit our historic and energetic downtown. If you need a spare, I’m always available.

Let the games begin.

Sherman Maness Eulogy

Liz and I are so sorry that we cannot be among friends to pay our respects to a great man and a great friend.

Sherman Maness was a friend of mine for nearly two decades. He would understand that this was not supposed to be a wake. This was supposed to be another Sunday when Sherman joined Alan, Barry, Ron, Karen and others to throw a few darts, drink a few pints and have a few laughs. None were supposed to be here today paying tribute and our respects to our dear friend.

In so many ways Sherman was larger than life. For me, in all my 5 feet 6-inch height, Sherman towered above me. When I first heard of Sherman, before I met him and he became a friend, he stood out in Slo Pitch as an awesome force. My teammates warned me to stand back, way back as Sherman was likely to hit over my head. He did and there was nothing for me to do but listen and feel the ground shake as he thundered around the bases yet again celebrating another home run.

It was when I played ball with Sherman in two leagues – with A to Z Dragons – the orthodox team, and in the men’s Slo Pitch league on many teams that I got to know him. I picked him up many times from the bus station when he worked in Toronto in order that he might make our games. I asked him questions about indigenous life which he answered honestly and with candor. When I wanted to know about the “two-spirited” status some indigenous people ascribed to gay members of the community, Sherman thought, took a drag on a cigarette and said without blinking: “it means you are queer” – nothing more, nothing less, nothing mystical, purely respectful of others. In fact, For him, people were people regardless of their background or lifestyle. If they could play ball, throw darts, strum a guitar or hammer out a bass line all the better. For Sherman, being human and being respectful and accepting of all people mattered.

I once talked to him about young people whom I was teaching trying to figure out how to deal with confused kids. I told him of the troubles one boy was in – at that time in a lock up in Goderich for participating in a stupid, juvenile attempt at trying to hold up a variety store. I said to Sherman, “Kids are so messed up, what would ever make a kid want to try to do a heist of a corner store?”

Sherman laughed, “You want to see messed up? Try growing up on a Res.” I supposed I got a bit close to Sherman’s past. I had forgotten that Sherman had grown up Ojibway in Sarnia – something he never made much about but was with him all his life.

Sherman joined our darts team about 10 years ago. He loved to throw those things. I often wondered what was he throwing at. If you ask Karen, Chuck or even Ron, Sherman was not throwing darts. He was launching them with a ferocity that threatened to send them through the board, the wall and possibly around the world. I believe it was Bob Desautels, who suggested that if Sherman did not ease off a bit, they would have to reinforce the walls where the Wooly Boards hung. Sherman did not play to impress. He played for fun, for camaraderie and to be part of the idle chatting and banter that came with darts and beer.

That was the way Sherman played guitar and bass as well. It was both a pleasure and an honour to play with him. I was in awe of his ancient Martin Guitar which sadly he sold a couple years ago. I wanted to buy it but could not afford to pay what it was worth – at least $3,000.00. I was relieved when I heard that Mark at Folkways apparently assured Sherman he would get a good price. I am happy to say that I am the owner of his Traynor Bassmate amplifier – a 1960’s amp that I purchased from him at the time he sold his Martin. I still have his name inscribed on tape fixed to the back of the amp – if the glue dries up, I will glue it back on.

Those sales of guitars and amps are part of Sherman’s legacy to me. They reveal that he was tight for cash. Previous to buying it, Sherman had told me I could have his amp as he had left it at my place years ago. It was a very generous gift and one I could not accept.

I knew that Sherman loved his Martin. If he was selling it, he was in need of cash. I worried that he was going to need more cash as his pensions would only go so far. 200 bucks was a fair price for the amp and one I was happy to pay – Sherman was happy to get it. I think that he was not alone in this predicament. In a sense, Sherman became symbolic not just of our Canadian Native brothers and sisters but also our retirees – tight for cash and worried about making ends meet. If there is anything we can do for Sherman’s memory perhaps it is to help others who are in his situation today. Poverty sucks, being tight for cash in old age sucks even more.

When I think of Sherman, I think of a friend whom I had for years – a man of quiet strength who had his demons and kept them to himself – most of the time. Sherman liked a beer, a cigarette and to smoke pot. He confided in me that he used pot to self-medicate preferring it to the prescriptions that made him sometimes feel out of his mind. Perhaps he is the poster boy for medical marijuana, for the elderly on fixed incomes for the boy who leaves the Res to conquer a hostile world.

While all that might be true or is perhaps me romanticizing, this I know: Sherman is best remembered as a friend. A smile as big as a house, a ponytail worn to the end. A friend inquiring to me often about my stepson Caleb, wondering if Liz’s March on Washington was a success – wanting to talk to Liz about it but succumbing to illness too soon.

I’ll miss him. I’ll miss playing ball with him, guitar with him (him laughing and criticizing me for being lazy playing C9 when a song calls for a C). I’ll miss his voice, driving him home, sharing a beer or two. I will shed tears as I think how much I’ll miss my friend and his deep unforgettable voice.

So today, toast Sherman, play darts, play music, play ball this summer. Remember a man whom we called friend, who was truly larger than life and whom none of us can believe is gone.

Migwitch Sherman, keep slamming them homers on the other side.

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.
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

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.