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.

Tax Letter

Dear Guelph Resident:

Thank you very much for your note. I am so glad that  the council administrative assistant Ms Puthon corrected my email address so I could read your concern. Otherwise, it would not have got to me.

In the last election, I too voted for change and ran on that platform. I was also very honest in saying I could not guarantee that I would not raise taxes if I was elected. In contrast, I promised to be financially responsible. That was the proper thing to do and was part of a platform that was received very positively by all I met with the exception of one person.

The promise to not raise taxes is the very worst charlatanism one could imagine. No politician can promise to predict the future and if s/he does then s/he is being insincere or is displaying a reckless irresponsibility. I am proud that I did not do that.

I am proudly responsible for looking after your city’s well being as well as my taxes and yours. As you know that takes sound financial management – not hollow promises. Guelph is aging and that aging is not cheap. In fact, I compare Guelph to an aging person. As we age (I am a retiree), we cost more to maintain. I know only too well the aches and pains I once did not experience. I am thankful we have public health, social services and good roads upon which ambulances, busses, fire trucks and even mobility scooters can travel.  I am joyful we have good quality parks in which to play and wander. Sadly all of this costs money. Cities might not have aches and pains, but you and I know that they deteriorate if not attended.

If you wish, perhaps you and I can meet for a coffee sometime to review what is required for an growing city to operate? Sadly we have not recovered from the Harris and Harper governments downloading more on us. As you know what they downloaded they did so because they did not wish to fund those things themselves. Instead,  those governments preferred to trick people into thinking we could get something for nothing – a terribly reckless approach to public policy if ever there was.

Like other cities Guelph must seek the financial resources to bring our streets, parks and infrastructure up to standard. We are in a difficult situation. Like you. I want to keep taxes down. Like you, I want to live in a city in which it is worth living. You and I agree we don’t want to live in Flint Michigan or in Detroit with their dying centre’s and poisoned water. To ensure we don’t, we must use our taxes wisely and we must increase them when needed. As city councillors we are in a darned if we do, darned if we don’t situation mainly brought on by the reckless decision making of Mike Harris and Stephen Harper. In fact, cities right across Canada must fix the mess those two caused.

Why don’t we meet for a tea or a coffee? I would be very happy hear your ideas and hopefully you would like to hear mine too. I am generally available most days so I could meet at your convenience.

Happy New Year

Together we are stronger and our song resonates more fully. With thanks to Cathy Downer Councillor Leanne Piper, Mike Salisbury, James Gordon, June Hofland and Karl Wettstein. We might not always agree but we can find common ground amongst our differences. In Guelph, and elsewhere, may we all share a positive vision for the future and understand the underpinning of democracy is the right to agree to disagree with dignity and respect for each other. May 2016 be full of hope and cooperation so that all might thrive and join in a song of citizenship.

Niska Bridge

I have been asked many times why I voted as I did. Fair enough. In the following, I present my rationale for supporting what I think is the best option. Obviously, comments are welcome.

I supported the two lane option for the Niska Bridge. I did this after thinking about this issue for nearly a year. Simply put, I believe the neighbourhood integrity, the heritage elements of the area, and the environmental concerns can be addressed if due care is taken to construct a bridge and engineer traffic calming that is sensitive to the area, to heritage and of course to the neighbourhood.

I am very concerned about public safety. A two lane bridge is important for emergency vehicles to have safe and immediate access to the area from the East via Hanlon and the West via Highway 24. It would be irresponsible if we were to shut down one link that provides a rapid access and departure for emergency vehicles. Although I hope it never happens, it is possible that at some time, a person’s life can be at risk and s/he must be transported quickly to a regional hospital such at the Grand River Hospital or even Guelph’s General via Highway 24. Response time is something we are all concerned with. We cannot impair that.

Let us deal with the issue of the considerable traffic volume and truck traffic along this route.That is a quality of life issue with which I am very sympathetic. I believe that the quality of life for residents living therein can actually be improved through appropriate traffic calming measures, including stop signs, traffic signals, roundabouts, solid bridge design and limiting road widths.

The fear of a four lane truck route has also been raised. This, dare I say, is unfounded. There are perhaps 3 governments that have to be involved and be prepared to offer funding for that reality: Wellington, Guelph and the province. Such a route requires that the County agree at considerable cost to engage in this endeavour. It it entirely likely that the County and the Province have other projects that have greater priority than this.

I have wrestled with the concern for what was the Kortright Waterfowl Park. Wha we are addressing however, is not this formerly great facility in Guelph that has sadly fallen into neglect. The former waterfowl park can and should be enhanced regardless what happens on Niska Road. On this issue, I acknowledge Guelph leaders like Eileen Hamill who care to preserve the area for our children’s children. I want to do that too and believe that if we plan, design and build carefully this is entirely possible.

The historical designation of the bailey bridge is a bit problematic. However, if this bridge does have historical significance, this can be addressed in many ways. We know now that considerable funds must be spent to ensure the long term viability of the structure. This bridge is designed to be moved and can be preserved as a biking/walking bridge either standing aside a new bridge or elsewhere – would that not be a win-win?

Some people have said that a Stone Road link to Highway 24 should now be considered. With all due respect this is rife with problems similar to what we are currently addressing. A Stone Road Bridge requires the cooperation of at least two governments and likely more. The province will need to provide financial support and be willing to entertain a link to a road that is becoming increasingly substandard. We also know the area over which that suggested bridge will go is also considered to be environmentally sensitive. The County and the township will also need to be consulted and need to cooperate.

I have fond memories of the Kortright area. As a family, we took relatives who visited from overseas to the waterfowl park, we took my stepsons there when they were kids, I skied there, I even went on dates there. I miss that park a lot. I lament that it no longer exists for me to visit and find solitude. Yet, I cannot use that attachment to the past to make a reasoned decision on safety and what is most appropriate. I do not wish truck routes or a large volume of traffic to travel through this area and I will advocate strongly to reduce both traffic speed, type and volume. That, I believe is the real issue – neighbourhood quality of life and protecting the environment – and that is what we must charge City Council with continuing to address.

Global Cooling

When I was a child of 10, environmentalism was not a word many people used. Conservation was the mantra of those who believed we were doing something wrong. At that time,  my grandmother gave me some books, The Great Auk, Never Cry Wolf, People of the Deer and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring to read. It was heavy reading for a 10 year old, some of it was depressing. All of it left an impression on me.

Today, Guelph is leaving an impression on Canada. This city has been a leader when it comes to climate change reduction programmes. In Guelph we have taken it upon ourselves to do what is right . We’re not afraid to be bold and to be innovators. Remember when wet dry garbage collection was just an idea? Guelph residents understood a long time ago, that putting our waste into the ground or burning it was not an appropriate way to make our debris disappear. It was not out of sight/out of mind. Instead we embraced within our homes “reduce, reuse and recycle”. We took the principles of composting, of sorting and of using less to heart. It was not easy for everyone, but undeterred we carried on.

Early on we understood that our local water matters. Our city and our provincial government encouraged us to use less water in our toilets, on our garden, even in our showers. We embraced the mantra of the 1960’s “save water, shower with a friend” and today, Guelph residents use 30% less water per capita than the Canadian average. I’m not certain we still shower with our friends – we probably like a bit more privacy than we once did.

But let’s turn to the future. For that is where our energy must be directed. All of us here must support Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative. For those of you who don’t know, CEI has big goals:

50% less energy use and 60% fewer greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

• Less energy and water use per capita than any comparable Canadian City

• At least a quarter of total energy needs sourced from locally-created, renewable resources

If we are to intensify our inner city population, if we are to inspire downtown renewal, if we are to avoid the urban sprawl that characterizes so much of our province, we must act together to let our local leaders, our provincial representative, our Federal Member of Parliament, our Chamber of Commerce know that we support generating energy locally and from waste heat. We must convince those with the authority that Community Energy matters and makes economic sense.

Let your mayor know that renewable energy matters to you. Let your councillors know that you want them to think about the environment in virtually everything they do. Let your neighbours know that renewable energy is not trendy, it’s not crunchy granola, it’s not pie in the sky, it’s not a passing Kum Bah Yah – hold our hands together and sing in unison fad. It is our future, our children’s future and our planet’s future.

So, how do we prove that? Well, it is simple. In Guelph there is the equivalence of 1000 solar rooftops in our city generating energy from the sun. In our home today, my wife and I are generating electricity that offsets what we use. Those of you who do likewise are the proof that it can be done. You are the future and you are just the beginning.

In Guelph, just a short distance from here we have a district energy system in the ground. Elsewhere we have the first Net Zero home in Canada to be built on a community-level scale. This is not a demonstration home – it’s a real home in a real neighbourhood.

But what about those who say this will hurt the economy? What about those who say we need dirty fuel employers? Ask yourself and them this: has our commitment to sustainability hurt our local economy?

The answer is a clear and a definitive “no”. Ask the 500 people working at Canadian Solar. Ask the people who work at many other businesses – big and small – that consciously chose to locate in Guelph precisely because of our leadership in sustainability. Ask the solar panel installers, ask those who actively work to reclaim grey water, ask those who live believing that they can make a difference and make a living too.

Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative has put us on the map in Ontario, across the country, and beyond. Guelph City Council must remain committed to this. But we need your help. I know that the people of Guelph remain committed to a greener, healthier city. Your elected officials need to hear that. They need to know that you care about your kids, your neighbours’ kids, the mayor’s kids, your councillor’s kids and all the future generations that come after us.

Councillor James Gordon and I need to clearly hear you say to us that “Our community energy initiative matters. Guelph must show leadership by building on our beginnings and taking them to a new level.” If we do, we can work to make good things happen. Furthermore, James just might write a song about our dedication to cooling the planet which I will sing while the mayor provides rhythm on the drums.  A more beautiful song would never have been heard in Guelph.

Global Warming is not going to stop because we will it. Global Cooling will not occur overnight. These transformations will occur only if we have the courage to make them happen. Guelph is showing that as a community, we CAN take action – we don’t have to wait for someone else. Students came to City Council and demanded we become a Blue Dot community dedicated to environment rights. Your council agreed to their demands.  Those students showed we don’t need to wait for anyone else. Change begins at home, in your city hall and with intent to change.

Exhibition Park

For me, this playground is special. You see, I grew up just over there. I played in the sandboxes that were over there and up the hill. We hid under the bandstand that stood at the bottom of the hill. We enjoyed the swings, the slide, the roundabout and when we were teenagers we played tennis and flirted – quite unsuccessfully – in this park. In other words, this park is an old friend.

I like to say I was born with Exhibition Park as my front yard. We looked forward to summer when we went on 20 mile hikes that started at Tipperary Place and ended where the Guelph Royals play.

This particular playground is just the latest development in the history of a park that changes and yet, stays the same. This is our Exhibition Park, this is our neighbourhood, this is our friend.

Where else do you see teenagers and pre-schoolers playing alongside each other?

At all times of the year, you can experience something in this park. In the great ice storm of Christmas 2013, my wife Liz, her daughters and I walked through the ruin of frozen trees. We ran when we heard cracking above our heads and like sensible adults we ran even faster when we realized that it was not exactly the smartest thing to be walking amongst 100 year old trees that were straining under the weight of all that ice. Mind you, I did briefly entertain the notion that all that fallen wood would make good fuel for my wood stove – which became very popular with the neighbours while their power was out.

This park has always been a central focus in Guelph. I remember the parades that started here – the Labour Day parades, the Orange Parade from a time long ago. I remember the Guelph C-Joys winning the Inter County Baseball Championship. I don’t remember, but it is true, that this park was home to the world Champions of Baseball about 125 years ago. Again, in  winter, the  Park lights told us the skating rinks were open – at that time we had two – a hockey ring and a skating rink and my dad ran the concession stands where people could buy hot chocolate and other things.

And for me, the school was across the park – 10 minutes walk and maybe longer if  a fight with Peter Forsythe or Kevin Conlin or one of kids from Lyon Avenue broke out. If you were in it, it was scary. If you were a spectator it was better than Ultimate Fighting.

And look around you. Where else do you get so many haunted houses – the Ryan’s Mansion on London and Park, the Barber’s mansion on Barber the big, big houses?

This park is indeed our anchor and our friend. From when it was the home to the Agricultural Fair where horses raced the Park Road until now, this park has seen everything – troop drills in WWI, Parachutists in the 1970’s even fireworks that all accidentally exploded at once in Centennial year – to family picnics- this park seems to want to shout out “Enjoy your time here – I was made to make you happy”

Thank you all for being here, now let’s have fun in the rain! The park commands us!

Town Hall Meeting Plans

In September, June Hofland and I will be hosting a unique town hall meeting. For that meeting we will be having a “guest host” facilitate. On Twitter, I was asked by Danmo “@PhilAlltWard3 ” ward 3 meeting why guest host?should be adout ward 3 with you and June”. Now, this is a direct quote lifted straight from Twitter so I apologize for the syntax. However, it is a good question that deserves an answer that helps to make sense of why have we have ward meetings.

Traditionally, ward meetings have been held in such a manner that Councillors impart information about the city to ward residents. We are always telling you – instead of finding out from you what concerns you. This is a format that I don’t entirely like.

I want to hear from Ward 3 residents. I want to understand the concerns of those I represent. It is important that people feel engaged. A guest host who facilitates dialogue allows for that level of engagement to take place.

In the ward meeting that June and I are holding, we will be interactive. We are planning on being informed on issues within Ward 3. In other words, we are putting people to work for themselves. Although the format is just in its formative stages, here is what we envisage.

Having a guest host – ideally CBC host and Ward 3 resident Craig Norris – frees us to talk more openly to more people. Craig will introduce us, June and I will each speak about our past few months. Craig, or another host from Guelph, will have people express their views via questions and comments. We want to know what you think and want. Each area of Ward 3 is different and the residents are the experts on what affects them.

Following this, there will be a workshop. At workshop tables, residents will join with others to identify concerns they have. For example – how do you feel about the services you receive? What facilities do believe Ward 3 should have and what current facilities need improving? How are our roads? What is the relationship between property taxes and city services and facilities? How do we improve your neighbourhood? These are just examples of what we want to find out.

In this meeting we also hope to have a guest or two who can address issues of concern for residents, such as our Chief of Police, Jeff DeRuyters, or perhaps our Transit General Manager, Phil Meagre. At all times, June and I will be available for public and private questions.

Another good question people might have is: “Why wait until September?”

Well this has a pretty simple answer too. June and I have led busy schedules and the format we wish to use is pretty unique, and summer has crept up on us.

We debated holding a meeting in early July or August and those whom we asked said, “No, wait until September. Everybody is busy right now with summer plans.”

Fair enough, it seems that the best way to interact with people is when they are around. If however you wish to deal with either of us directly right now, we will be at the following public events in the next little while:

* The Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group – grand opening of the new playground on Sunday at 1 pm;

* The Better Beginnings, Better Futures AGM – 20 Shelldale Crescent on Wednesday June 24 at 9:30 am.;

and many, many others.

If you have ideas you want to express to us regarding the Ward 3 meeting, feel free to contact me at 519 827 6579 or email me at phil.allt@guelph.ca. I am always happy to discuss issues either by phone or over a coffee and I am sure that June is too.
Phil Allt
Ward 3 Councillor
City of Guelph
519 827 6579