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.