Thursday, June 25, 2009

Public Peeing and Farmers Market Issues

Urine for a treat: Peeing in Public
To combat the frequent and persistent problem of public urination in the downtown core, the City is experimenting with making it cool for you to pee publicly with the installation of open-air urinals. The proposal submitted to City Council last Monday calls for the urinals to be installed downtown for a test drive on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The urinals will be removed the following morning, cleaned, sanitized and replaced the next afternoon for that evening’s bar patrons. Similar urinals have been used throughout Europe, but are a novelty in North America. The idea could be used as part of the Night Life Task Force’s three-part campaign to address public urination.

No matter what you think of the proposal, at least the pilot project won’t be wasting money. The report says that the cost for and maintenance of the urinals comes out to between $700 and $1,200 for the summer. By comparison, Guelph Police say that they’ve issued 131, $240 tickets under the anti-fowling (read: no going to bathroom in public) by-law in the last 12 months. That’s $31,440 put into the city’s money pot by those who can’t save it for the chamber pot.

Naturally, Downtown business are pleased because this might mean they’ll have to spend less time hosing down the stoops, walkways and culverts around their businesses after a busy night at the bars. Of course with the prospect of the city more-or-less sanctioning peeing in public, not everyone is coming out happy with this plan. “It sounds like we're trying to customize the downtown to the bad behaviour,” said Ward 1 Councillour Bob Bell, who’s been a frequent critic of what goes on downtown, which is a part of his ward. "I think we're going completely down the wrong path here."

As to whether or not the project will be a success, I think Greg Mercer made a rather astute observation in his Mercury column “[T]he city could also afford to put out disposal units for all the late-night takeout food that gets dumped on the sidewalks. We could even call them ‘garbage cans’ and ask people to put their trash in them rather than on the ground.”

Mo Rules, Mo Problems for Farmers Market

New rules for the Guelph Farmers Market went into effect this past Monday, and much to the dismay of many market-goers it could mean that their favourite vendor isn’t allowed to sell there anymore. It has to do with new liability insurance rules requiring $2 million in general commercial liability. Many vendors already have their own plans that cover them and meet the new requirements, but this will affect vendors who are at the market on a less frequent or transient basis. Staff apparently looked for low cost solutions for casual vendors, but no good options were found. So now staff can “anticipate some resistance and strained relationships as vendors are impacted” by the new rules and regulations, said a report submitted to the emergency services, community services and operations committee. One bright spot is that many vendors that have operated at the market prior to October 9th, 2008 will be grandfathered in.

Opening Postponed

The City’s grand opening for the New City Hall was postponed last Wednesday in the wake of the death of a grade 9 student killed after a partial wall in a public washroom in the Southend Community Park collapsed last Tuesday. The Grand Opening was supposed to take place this past Saturday. For up-to-date information, head over to my blog at

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Washington Bound, Commuters Bronzed, and City Hall Party

Mr. Valeriote Goes to Washington

If you’re anything like me then you were sitting around last week wondering just where the heck our Member of Parliament had gotten away to. The answer was Washington D.C., of course. Valeriote was in the US capital with colleagues on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to participate in meetings on issues facing the agriculture industry on both sides of the border. He and the other members of the committee met with a number of Congressional leaders including Collin Peterson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

“It is basically a fact-finding mission to review the United States’ new Country of Origin Labelling regulations which require the segregation of Canadian and American livestock and meat,” said Valeriote in a press release.

The crux is that American processors are passing the cost of separating Canadian and American hogs and cattle on to Canadian farmers. The press release cited that Canadian farm families are disappearing at the rate of approximately 3,600 per year and that such additional costs, no matter how small could hasten that rate combined with already high production costs and low prices. “Clearly, such protectionist efforts hamper Canada-U.S. trade relations in the agriculture industry,” said Valeriote.

Among Valeriote’s stops were the National Meat Association, the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Food Marketing Institute. The Guelph MP added that he was keeping in mind what he considered the three “S”s of agriculture and agri-food, Sovereignty, Safety and Security. He also said that he wants to help ensure the viability of agriculture, not just in and around Guelph, but throughout Canada.

“President Barack Obama’s successful visit to Ottawa demonstrates the importance of in-person meetings,” said Valeriote. “They help to create the foundations for a successful working relationship vital to tackling the biggest challenges facing our two countries and the world. “They also underscore a key theme to Mr. Obama's presidency – multilateralism – working together.”

Guelph gets bronze in commuter challenge

In Guelph, 230 participants used carpools, transit, bicycles or their own two feet to travel during Environment Week May 31 to June 6 and compared to other communities of the same size, the city took third place in the National Commuter Challenge. Commuter Challenge participants in Guelph travelled more than 20,000 kilometres using more sustainable transportation methods, and prevented 3,391 kilograms of carbon emissions by choosing not to drive to work that week. Employers that saved the biggest included Compusense Inc. with 186 kg of carbon emissions spared, Neil Consumer Healthcare with 1,045 kg and the City of Guelph with 547 kg of carbon spared from the air.

Party Hard at City Hall

This Saturday marks the official grand opening of the New City Hall at 1 Carden Street. The celebration will include local artists, performers and community groups and everybody coming out will be able to take a tour of the building, enjoy a barbecue lunch and listen to some great music featuring Funky Mamas, the Suzuki String School, the Royal City Ambassadors and The Over Tones. Activities will include Paint the blue boards in front of old City Hall; sidewalk chalk drawing on Carden and a Guelph Photography Guild exhibition called "What makes Guelph, Guelph." For more information log on to

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Clean-Up On, No Grocery, and Senior Centre is Silver

OPIRG cleans up again

For 30 years now, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) has been leading the charge to keep our local water ways clear of litter, discarded bicycles and the occasional Guelph Mercury newspaper box. “It started out of a general concern for environmental issues locally,” Marnie Eves, OPIRG’s Organizational and Research Co-ordinator explained to me in an interview last year. “At the time, clean-ups were just starting to be one of the things that could bring communities together on environment issues.”

This year’s Clean-Up takes place this Saturday beginning at 8:45 am in Royal City Park. Once the river is clean, volunteers are invited to a celebratory barbeque complete with Interactive Children's Water Activities from the Children's Water Education Council, community displays, a walk down memory lane featuring The Clean Up over 30 years and the presentation of the Bonnie McCallum Award for Unsung Environmental Hero. There’ll also be music by the Funky Mamas and some opening remarks from Mayor Karen Farbridge.

“It’s not the end product,” said Eves about the one-day event. “We really see that one day as a chance to energize people and reconnect them with the river, not to think that this is the only thing that they have to do to take care of our water system.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can do so individually or as a group. It’s recommended that you bring gloves, sun gear, water and a pair of either old shoes, boots or hip waders, although OPIRG will have some supplies available. For more information on The Speed River Clean-Up visit OPIRG’s website at, e-mail them at, or call their office at 519-824-2091.

East end grocery: Not yet.

City Council heard from Loblaws last week that they want to go ahead and build a larger store than previously allowed at Watson Road and Starwood Drive, but they’re going to be cool about it and not rush things said a company representative. Loblaws will be "putting off projects across Ontario while they focus on refurbishing existing stores," explained Jonathan Rodger, a representative of Zelinka Priamo planning consultants. "They want to ensure everything is good to go once they're ready to push the button."

But certain members of city council weren’t as cool with having to wait longer for Loblaws to act in the east end. "We're certainly looking forward to seeing some building as soon as possible," said Councillor Mike Salisbury. Meanwhile, Ward 1 Councillor Kathleen Farrelly, under whom the east end is represented, said the proposed store cannot come fast enough. "We are avidly waiting for this to happen and hoping you can work with the city to get this going as quickly as possible," Farrelly told the consultant.

Seniors Centre turns 25

Guelph’s Evergreen Seniors Centre is celebrating its 25th year of operation this month with a series of celebrations coinciding with the observance of Seniors Month throughout the province of Ontario. Evergreen will be hosting over 30 activities throughout the month of June. Amongst those activities are an afternoon of music and entertainment featuring Derek Bryne on June 16 at 1 pm and a picnic barbecue at Riverside Park on June 25 at 11:30 am. The Evergreen Seniors Centre will cover the majority of the costs for both these events but a donation of $2 would be appreciated. For more information, go to the City’s website at or call 519-823-1291.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Water Related News

They do exist

Throwing salt in the game of developers anxious to break ground on the Hanlon Creek Business Park was the announcement that a salamander collected near Laird Road is part Jefferson Salamander. The endangered salamander has long been believed to have a habitant within the borders of the proposed development, but evidence, aside from odd sightings and conjecture, has been rather scarce. But the DNA analysis done on this salamander proves that a full-blooded Jefferson male has been in the area and recently.

"This discovery is the result of our rigorous, ongoing monitoring program in this area. The City remains committed to protecting the habitat of endangered species, and we will work closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources," said Mayor Karen Farbridge in a press release.

The City's been monitoring the area using the services of Natural Resource Solutions Inc. The release went on to say that no salamanders were observed in the Hanlon Creek Business Park area during surveys conducted this spring, but one salamander was found while crews were monitoring amphibian movement on the other side of Laird Road. Under the presumption that salamanders don’t recognize man-made borders, DNA extraction and analysis was performed on a tissue sample by Dr. Jim Bogart from the University of Guelph. Bogart confirmed that the individual salamander was a hybrid. However, genetics indicate that a pure Jefferson salamander is present.

So what happens next? Well, the City of Guelph and Ministry of Natural Resources has yet to formulate a plan. Bogart told the Guelph Mercury that decisions can’t really be made until the salamander’s breeding ground is discovered. "We don't know where the breeding ponds are," Bogart said. "It's pretty hard to protect an area if you don't know the general habits and the habitat."

Bogart added that according to the Jefferson Salamander Recovery Strategy, which he actually helped write thank you, if a Jefferson salamander is on site, then a 300-metre buffer from development must be built and vernal ponds, or temporary pools of water created by the seasons, must be preserved. All this for a salamander? You bet, last summer construction on a $57 million road project was halted in Kitchener when Jefferson salamanders were discovered.

Keeping water water everywhere

Guelph City Council voted to adopt the policy recommendations of Water Conservation and Efficiency Strategy Update (WCESU) at last week’s Council meeting. The policy recommends formally endorsing the three water reduction goals of the City’s Water Supply Master Plan (WSMP), the formation of a Water Conservation and Efficiency Advisory Committee to provide ongoing public consultation throughout strategy implementation, and an enhanced public education program. One of the effects will be further rebates for the installation of water-efficient toilets, washing machines, humidifiers, outdoor water timers, rain barrels, as well as grey water reuse systems snd the like. “Local residents and businesses do an excellent job of conserving water, and the recommendations in this strategy will help support those efforts even more,” said Mayor Farbridge.

Curtain rises on main stage again

All but one of June’s performances on the main stage of the River Run Centre will go forward as temporary accommodations have been made for safety following the Victoria Day long weekend’s mysterious flood. A full restoration and any necessary equipment replacements will happen in July and August when there are no events scheduled. The flood, which unleashed between 6 to 8,000 gallons of water in the vicinity of the stage, forced the cancellation, postponement or relocation of the entire remaining slate of performances for the Centre’s mains stage for May. An exact cause is still not known, but the safe bet is an equipment malfunction, rather than a human cause.