Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winegard Walks, Lafarge Talks & City Haggles

Winegard speaks out on Harper

By the time you read this, either St├ęphane Dion has seized power in a bloodless coup that undermines our democracy or Stephen Harper did the right, Canadian thing and ask the Governor General to put Parliament on hold till cooler heads prevail. Hopefully, whatever’s going down it’s not another election, but I can tell you one thing: Mr. Harper hasn’t made any friends after current events with at least one high profile Guelph Conservative. In an article for the Guelph Mercury, former Guelph Conservative MP (1984 – 1993) Bill Winegard told the paper that a coalition government is “a slap on the wrist” for Prime Minister Stephen Harper “and in my opinion one he deserves.”

Winegard, who’s still active in the local wing of the party, went on to say that the situation stems from people’s belief that Harper was going to put aside partisan politics for the good of the nation, out response to the global economic crisis. This did not happen though when Jim Flaherty gave his financial update to the House two weeks ago. “I think it's a most unfortunate situation, but regretfully Mr. Harper brought it on himself,” Winegard said. “People wanted assurances they would be protected financially … and what they got was a rather fighting document, which didn't address any of those things and instead addressed only party politics.”

Lafarge talks remain secret

Things might be moving forward on the Lafarge front, although to what extent we have no idea because there’s at present a media blackout on the top level negotiations between a number of players. Apparently talks resumed between the city, 6&7 Developments, Armel Corp., the Howitt Park Neighbourhood Group and the Lafarge developer last week in an attempt to resolve the development stand still through mediation. The hope is to have a deal in place before the Ontario Municipal Board hearing on January 12; if mediation fails, the OMB is the next hope to resolve the matter.

In case you can’t remember, the debate is as to whether or not a 400,000 square foot retail part will be built on the land at Silvercreek Parkway South. The city and the HPNG are against the current plan, but the debate is fairly open as to what sort of things could possibly be built there instead. The media blackout will continue through the mediation, although the HPNG will be holding a meeting tonight at Guelph Bible Chapel, 216 Silvercreek South, to discuss the outcome of mediation talks. Everyone is invited to come.

Council haggles over budget

After last Monday’s council meeting, the budget, as presented in its current form, calls for a 5.3 per cent tax increase for the 2009 fiscal year, but that might not be the end of it. The 5.3 per cent increase translates to about an extra $12 per month for the average taxpayer, but that might not be the end of it. Ward 2 Councillor Ian Findlay put forward a motion to direct city staff at seeing if that increased tax burden could be reduced to 3.75 per cent, in order to respond to his constituents’ concerns. The motion was passed unanimously, and options will be presented at the December 15 council meeting where the budget will hopefully be voted upon. Chief administrative officer Hans Loewig, while promising to look at options, stressed that given the turbulent economic waters, it’s important for council to pass a budget before the end of the year.

Amongst the items already modified from previous budget discussions is the deferment of the purchase of land for the new library and Baker Street redevelopment project until 2010 and the air quality monitoring project from the Hanlon will be spread over nine years rather than two. Basically, new and future services projects will be targeted for money saving initiatives. The city’s also looking at increased user fess, delaying capital projects and using reserve funds in order to make ends meet. The Guelph City Council - 2009 Operating & Capital Budgets Deliberation & Approval meeting takes place on Monday, December 15 at 7 pm in the main council chamber in City Hall.

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