Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pride, Commuters and a Real River Runs

No such thing as a free meal (anymore)

Nearly two years after in was unceremoniously closed, the last vestiges of Change Now seem to have been swept away with the discontinuation of the Youth Supper program. The youth supper program, held at Norfolk United Church, is being closed down completely in June, even after is was already scaled back from seven nights to five. Between Monday and Friday, Norfolk has been providing the food, working with other churches to handle prep and using volunteer servers while Wyndham House has been providing the supervisors required by Norfolk. “United Way funding for the supervisors apparently ended in January and Wyndham House will not be providing supervisors once its new shelter opens in late June,” said activist Edward Pickersgill in a Facebook post. “I've been informed of this by Norfolk United Church and asked not to mention it until the official announcement is made.”

Come out for Pride Week

Guelph Pride is currently in full swing starting the past Sunday with a potluck dinner at Harcourt United Church and followed up on Monday with the raising of the rainbow flag over City Hall. Festivities continue tonight with "Pinch This Pride: An Eclectic Queer Circus," a fund-raiser for the AIDS Committee of Guelph and Wellington County at ebar. Friday there’s a "Sex Positivity" Workshop at Incarnate Clothing and on Saturday the Rainbow Chorus sings songs of "Peace Love, Rock n' Roll" back at Harcourt United Church. Pride Week wraps up Sunday with "Human Like Me" featuring trans speaker j wallace at the Guelph Unitarian Congregation and Guelph Pride Brunch at the Red Brick Café. "We want to bring together Guelph's community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning people - together with our friends, families and allies in a safe and welcoming environment," says Jerome Chang, a Guelph Pride organizer. "We have many exciting events planned during the week and we welcome everyone to join in our celebration." For more information go to http://

A River Runs through it

Holiday hangover had a whole new meaning for the staff of the River Run Centre following Victoria Day last week when the main stage took water damage after a flood. The main stage was closed for the week as RRC administrators feared for public and performers’ safety and wanted to take enough time to survey the damage and set a repair schedule. As a result, two big shows featuring Cynthia Dale and Jesse Stewart respectively had to be postponed. New dates for last week’s Main Stage shows should be announced shortly, if they haven’t already. The actual cause is still being investigated, but the facts are that on Monday morning, the building's fire suppression system dispersed between 6,000 and 8,000 gallons of water over the front of the Main Stage. Most of the water was removed on Monday by two tanker trucks.

Commuter Challenge accepted

Environment Week begins May 31st and part of the festivities is the Commuter Challenge, a national, annual event that promotes the benefits of sharing rides, taking transit, cycling, walking or working at home instead of driving to work alone. Once again this year, Guelph Transit is opening their doors on Clean Air Day, Wednesday June 3rd, to offer free rides to the people of Guelph in the hours between 5:30 am and 9:15 pm. “The Commuter Challenge encourages people to find and try different, more sustainable, ways to get to work for a week,” says Jennifer McDowell, Guelph’s Transportation Demand Management Coordinator. "Leaving the car at home helps people save money, reduce stress, get active and reduce air pollution in the city." The Commuter Challenge is a friendly competition between workplaces and communities across Canada for the highest participation percentage throughout the week. Individuals, employers and cities register online, and the Commuter Challenge website calculates the greenhouse gas emission reductions for each community. In 2008, 362 participants in Guelph collectively prevented 5.2 tonnes of CO2 gas emissions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Arts & Culture Issues

For this specially-themed edition of Guelph Beat, we (and by we, I mean me) will look at a few of the recent arts-related stories in the Royal City.

Red Shoes Tour arrives to help Women in Crisis

The New Red Shoes Tour pulls into Guelph this Sunday. The multi-Ontario city tour will benefit women's shelters/foundations across Ontario and promote positive up and coming female artists. The beneficiary of the show at the Albion is Guelph Women and Crisis and every single last penny in profit from ticket sales is going to the group according to tour organizer and headliner Lynzie Kent, a born and raised Guelphite and former lead singer of the band God Made Me Funky.

The name of the tour, Red Shoes, comes from a new single written by Kent specifically for the purpose of raising awareness of issues surround violence against women. Her goal with the song and the tour, she says, is help give women the encouragement and confidence that they can walk away from a bad situation and, with the help of resources like Women in Crisis, learn how to overcome it. “I want people to take with them an awareness of the issues of homelessness and abuse both verbal and physical, and I want women to take away a great feeling about themselves and their role in society, and mostly to have a great show.”

Other performers at the Guelph show will include Natasha Pasternak, Ambre McLean and Danielle Todd. Tickets will be $12 at the door. For more information on Kent and her music go to her website and for more information about Guelph Women In Crisis and the work that they do, you can go to their website at

Sandals raises the roof (and replaces it) for GLT

We don’t report much news with our MPP Liz Sandals, and since I’m the only one that works for me, I guess I’m to blame. But this piece of news fit my Arts & Culture idea nicely. Last week, Sandals was on hand at the Guelph Little Theatre to announce a $54,000 Trillium Grant bestowed upon the GLT with the intention that they get a new roof put on their 73-year-old building. As it stands now, the GLT has been spending between $4,000 and $5,000 yearly just to maintain the roof, so this money should be a load off, no pun intended. "These renovations will continue to present the wonderful live theatre that people have become accustomed to," said Catharine Collins of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Library going solo in east end

Instead of a fully-developed intersection including office and retail space, it seems that the corner of Watson Parkway and Starwood Drive will have to make due with a standalone library as the new 7,500 sq-foot branch is the only thing getting built for right now. Toronto-based developer Metrus Properties informed the city of the change to their plan last week. The new branch of the Guelph Library was meant to jumpstart development in the growing east end, which is under-serviced by retail options, including, but not limited to, grocery stores and other shopping amenities. "They still will (go ahead with other developments), but it's just a matter of timing," said City of Guelph senior development planner Chris DeVriendt. "Right now, the library can proceed with site planning only." Construction could start as early as this summer.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Green Bags, Tasers and Good Bad News

George Baker Weeps

The green bag will be no more as of 2011 when the new organic waste processing plant goes online. Now before all you complainers and sorting deniers rejoice in the return of the big black bag, you should know that the city intends to replace the green bag, though they do not know yet with what. "What we're intending to do is to not use non-compostable plastic bags going forward," said Janet Laird, Guelph's director of environmental services.

The next, best alternative will be to use some kind of compostable paper bag or a reusable plastic container à la the ones they use in Toronto. The final decision will lie with city council as to what direction to go in. Guelph set itself apart in the mid-90s when it established the Wet/Dry system to great fanfare and equally great controversy. It became a model for waste collection for municipalities nation-wide, and Councillor June Hofland wants to see the city stay ahead of the curve by phasing out plastic bags "It was a great idea originally… but it seems more realistic to have organics in a cart rather than a plastic bag," Hofland said adding that her concern is that there may be additional costs in retrofitting the city’s fleet of garbage trucks to adjust to new plastic containers.

Taser critique to be vetted

Concerns in a letter addressed to Guelph Police by anti-taser activist Patti Gillman will be addressed later this month at a meeting of the Guelph Police Board. Regardless though, Dave Clark, chair of the Guelph Police Services Board, says he doesn't share the concerns raised in the letter. In the letter, Gillman floats the possibility of a conflict of interest between Canadian Centre for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths Inc. and Taser International, maker of the electro-shock devices, given that the US-based Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths has links with Taser. Gillman implied that there’s a “striking resemblance” between the Canadian Centre and American Institute. Police Chief Rob Davis assured the board at last month’s meeting that there was no conflict and the matter seemed dropped until the receipt of Gillman’s letter.

Bad News is Good News

Guelph based-Linamar Corp announced a net loss of $12.6 million for the first quarter of this year last week, which naturally sent stocks in the company up 39 per cent. No, you did not read that wrong. Linamar lost money and the price of its stock went up. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s simply because the engine parts manufacture didn’t lose as much money as they thought they were going to. In these difficult economic times, this was excellent news for the embattled auto sector. Analysts credit Linamar’s smaller than expected loss to the company’s efforts to conserve cash, while growing through takeover of contracts as car makers look for a sable supplier. "I think people felt like the plan is working," said Linda Hasenfratz, Linamar's chief executive in an interview with the Financial Times. "We're delivering on some key issues. They're not as worried about liquidity. They're not as worried about the debt. And as a result, they felt comfortable getting back into the stock." But with US car manufactures in the midst of efforts of pure survival, it’s still a bumpy road ahead.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Driving and Taxes

Improved Hanlon gets approved

Despite continued public dissension over the proposed plan to upgrade the Hanlon Expressway between Wellington Street and Maltby Road, City Council voted in favour of the province’s preferred plan at last Monday’s meeting. The marathon session went until 1 am with councillors voting twice to extend the meeting so that the issue could be dealt with till its conclusion.

The timetable for the completion of the project is still to be determined, but project manager Rob Bakalarczyk of the Ministry of Transportation confirmed to council that some of the interchange upgrades on the $60 million project may take a decade to complete. Top priority will be given to the Laird Road intersection so that greater access to the future site of the Hanlon Creek Business Park can be offered. Money for this part of the project, budgeted for $17 million, will likely come out of development charges.

The Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) will complete and publish the Hanlon Expressway Transportation Environmental Study Report make it available on for a 30-day public review period in May. You’ll be able to view the details for yourself at

Guelphites taxed a little less

It looks like the tax increase for home owners in the city is going to be a little less than predicted thanks to “changes in Guelph’s property value assessments, a decrease in the Province’s education tax rate, and adjustments to the City’s multi-residential tax ratio and its operating budget,” according to a city press release.

“Despite the current economic challenges facing municipalities, Guelph’s financial position remains strong,” says the City’s Treasurer, Margaret Neubauer. “The City continues to provide high quality public services and ensure good value for people’s tax dollars.”

When the budget was passed in December, it called for a 3.74 per cent increase to cover the costs associated with protecting services and responding to changing community needs. Now the increase will stand at 3.41 per cent over 2008 rates. At the same time, the Province reduced Ontario's residential education tax rate by 4.76 per cent, which made property value assessments higher than expected. Finally, the City is changing the way it taxes multi-residential properties in order to spread the tax burden more fairly across property categories and as a result is lowering the multi-residential tax ratio from 2.74 to 2.5965 this year.

So what does the tab come to? Well, for the 2009 tax year, if you consider the average residential property value is $257,000, then you will have a tax bill of $3,433, which amounts to an increase of $113. "We have approved the lowest tax increase of the past six years, while investing in priority services and infrastructure," says Mayor Karen Farbridge. "I want to thank our City management team for its diligence and hard work throughout this year’s budget process."
This ain’t over

Since the beginning of the year, Guelph Beat has covered the renewed activism to block the development of the Hanlon Creek Business Park in the City’s south end, and now a new voice has joined the call to stop development in this area. Residences and businesses in Guelph may have received a pamphlet from the Victoria, BC-based Wilderness Committee calling for action to “Save Guelph’s last old-growth forest.” The Wilderness Committee is working with Land Is More Important Than Sprawl (LIMITS), who is continuing to hold meetings, events and nature walks in the affected area to raise awareness. Visit there new website at