Thursday, April 16, 2009

New City Hall Opened, and OPIRG Coup?

At Last…

The new City Hall finally, and officially, opened for business last Tuesday April 7; that is if you don’t count that big brown patch of land where the landscaping has yet to be done. Regardless of the aesthetics and the trim, the important thing is that all city services are now under one roof rather than spread out across five buildings downtown. "It’s the first stop for anyone visiting City Hall," says ServiceGuelph Supervisor, Markham Wismer. "People can purchase transit passes, sign up for recreation programs, buy dog licenses, pay parking tickets and property taxes and more." ServiceGuelph is now open Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

And along with convenience comes some impressive Green credentials for the new building: a green roof, living wall, eco-friendly building materials and fixtures that use 30 per cent less water than a typical office building. Guelph’s City Hall is built to the LEED Silver Standard set out by the Canadian Green Building Council. Also a first, the City Hall is the first building in Guelph to be bottled-water free. For a closer look visit the City of Guelph website at

No-PIRG, they didn’t. Did they?

Who would have guessed that a simple Board of Directors election for a small community activism group out of the University of Guelph would generate the kind of electoral fervour not seen since Bush V. Gore. Here’s the skinny: recently the Guelph-branch of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) held elections to fill vacancies on its Board of Directors. Controversy erupted after OPIRG extended the nomination deadline after it had passed. According to OPIRG, the deadline was extended because they had not received enough nominations to fill two community member seats on the Board. However, some are accusing of OPIRG of playing partisan politics in order to keep four members of Guelph Campus Conservatives from being elected.

Now why would OPIRG, granted a left-leaning organization, want to keep out four eager and community-minded youngsters from joining their esteemed group? Well, it apparently has something to do with a Conservative conspiracy and some audio recordings, photographs and documents that were leaked from a recent Conservative Party student workshop at the University of Waterloo. Among those present at the workshop were Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo, Peter Braid and his campaign manager, Aaron Lee-Wudrick. Reportedly Lee-Wudrick can be heard on the recording saying, "If it's possible if, in one fell swoop, to take over the Board of Directors [of OPIRG], I think that it would be pretty impressive, and you'd be a hero to the Conservative movement if you can pull that off."

Two executives of the Central Student Association, External Affairs Commissioner Cailey Campbell and Local Affairs Commissioner Arden Hagedorn, believed that the four members of GCC were taking those words to heart and sent out e-mails accusing them of trying to usurp OPIRG mandate. The four young men though say that there was no hanky-panky with their decision to run for OPIRG’s Board, and that they didn’t even know about the content of the U of W workshop; they simply wanted to make OPIRG-Guelph more transparent and less partisan.

Needless to say though, that’s not the end of it. On his blog, the Christian Conservative posted a letter received through his anonymous source of the Request for Discovery filled by the four Conservative to the OPIRG-Guelph Appeals Board. Amongst the papers being requested by the appeal are minutes and notes of all Board of Directors meetings from March 19th to 31st; all resolutions made by the BoD both in and outside Board meetings during the same time period; and e-mails between OPIRG staff, Board, Campbell and Hagedorn. The response to this appeal was not known by deadline. For more information as it develops head to my blog at

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