Thursday, November 26, 2009

Woods Closes, Protest Remembered and Bike Lanes Info

Manufacturing Hit again as Woods Closes Down
After 75 years in operation, the W.C. Woods plant on Arthur Road in Guelph closed its doors and put 250 workers out of a job last week after a deal to sell the company fell through. To add insult to injury, those same workers received no official notice from the company and many showing up for work at the plant Monday morning business as usual. A former Woods’ employee told me that he learned about the plant’s closing by trading rumours on Facebook, and showed up early Monday to collect his things before the doors were locked. Other employees not so informed had to make an appointment to come in to the closed plant and collect their belongings.

Ultimately though, the closure of Woods came as no surprise to many of its former employees. The plant’s been on the proverbial bubble for much of the last year with employees having been part of a government work share program in order to compensate for lost hours at the plant. For frustrated workers, the loss of their job was exacerbated by a wall of silence from the company as to the status of their pensions, holiday pay and severance cheques. Before the employees can even get EI, their paper work on the work share program had to be finished, but it appears this at least will give workers some relief. As for the rest, Woods has been mum as to what the people that used to make their factory run can expect.

In an attempt to get some answers, about 75 employees and supporters gathered at the plant Thursday morning. The only one dolling out answers however was a representative of BDO Dunwoody, the firm that’s overseeing the liquidation of Woods’ assets. The business’ creditors will be the first to receive money from the sell-off, but how much that is and how much will be made from the sell-off is not yet known. In the meantime, the workers are getting more information from each other and third part sources then they are from the guys that used to sign their paycheques. For late breaking information head over to my blog at

Week of Events Remember HCBP opposition

Local activists have planned a whole week of activities to keep up awareness over the Hanlon Creek Business Park project. Hanlon Creek Celebration Week began this past Monday with HCBP protestor Kelly Pflug-Back serving the Guelph police department with a plaintiff's claim on behalf of herself and Julian Ichim. Pflug-Back and Ichim are claiming that police defamed them while investigating a supposed threatening letter that was dropped off at the home of one of the developers. Events continue today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) with a protest at Xterra Construction’s Kitchener office, and a lunch hour hootenanny at Guelph City Hall. For more information and a full schedule go to

City wants your notes about bike lanes

The City of Guelph is hosting a public information session to present plans for the construction of bike lanes on Stone Road from Scottsdale Drive to Victoria Road South, and on Gordon Street from Stone Road to Harts Lane. The session takes place between 5 pm and 7 pm Thursday November 26th at the Delta Hotel on the corner of Gordon and Stone. After a presentation at 5:30, attendees will be given the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback to city officials and planners. Construction is set to begin early next summer and will last at least seven months. This is another fine “shovel ready” project brought to you by Federal and Provincial Infrastructure Stimulus Funds.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Food Security, City Challenged and Downtown Traffic

When in Rome (attend the UN Food Security Summit)

Ever the world traveller since being elected last fall, our Member of Parliament, Frank Valeriote, is jet-setting again, this time accompanying Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda as part of the Canadian delegation to the World Summit on Food Security in Rome. The summit ran from November 16 to 18 and was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as part of the international community’s efforts to address the devastating effects of rising food prices in developing countries.

In a press release, Valeriote said that his previous experiences in international development and his efforts to help develop a comprehensive national strategy for Canada’s own food safety were amongst the reasons he want to be a part of this conference. “I know through consultations towards the creation of a national Canadian food policy that there are few areas of more critical importance in the lives of people everywhere,” said Valeriote. “I believe it is absolutely essential that the developed countries take real action to ensure that the world’s poorest regions have the tools they need to increase their own agricultural productivity. Food must be accessible, affordable and nutritional to all nations and helping developing countries create and maintain food security strategies is something to which Canada can make a significant contribution.”

The State of our City is Challenging

Mayor Karen Farbridge delivered a “State of the City” address to the Guelph Chamber of Commerce last Thursday, and while it was positive overall, the Mayor noted that it was a good time to re-examine the way City Hall gets things done so far as budgeting in the midst of tough economic times. "The State of the City address is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the progress we’ve made throughout the year, and look ahead to the year to come. It’s particularly timely to reflect on this now, as we head into one of the most challenging Budget years in recent memory," said Mayor Farbridge.

The Mayor highlighted the city’s day-to-day commitments to the people of Guelph before tackling the delicate financial picture for the coming year. Facing an $8 million decline in revenue for 2010, the Mayor said that there were some tough decisions ahead. "Even in good economic times, it would be unacceptable to pass on an impact of this magnitude to City taxpayers. It would be unthinkable in the difficult economic times families are experiencing right now," she said. She added that through the 2010 Budget process, Council is prepared to make the tough decisions necessary to protect taxpayers, maintain the City’s excellent AA credit rating, and keep the City’s finances sustainable over the long term. You can see the presentation for yourself on the City of Guelph website at

Downtown is losing precious traffic

It was brought to the attention of Downtown stakeholders at a meeting last week that Wyndham St doesn’t attract nearly as many cars as it used to. A survey of the amount of traffic between 1990 and 2007 shows a significant drop in the amount of cars that pass through the core. Apparently this is a huge problem, not being able to drive through the downtown with limited interruptions from traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. So-called “barriers” like the all-way stop in St. George’s Square were to be addressed at the meeting. It’s interesting that we’d be talking about ways to increase traffic in the same week that a report was released saying that traffic jams cost Toronto $3.3 billion a year in lost productivity. Call me an iconoclast, but I think it’s nice that there’s one area in town where people can’t drive like maniacs. Already, there are times where crossing Douglas St is like taking your life in your own hands, but I guess that’s what some of us get for walking.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flu Shots, Trees and Signs

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

As Federal parties choose who’s going to represent them in the next Federal Election, there’s an important issue concerning the future campaign that needs action, at least according to Gloria Kovach: Too many election signs. The Ward 4 Councillor and former Federal Conservative candidate brought forth motion to city council last week to have city staff look into the possible implementation of additions to the signing by-law to reduce the number of signs that can be posted on public and private property. The move is to diminish visual pollution on the busy corners of the city where “signus eruptus” happens every elect, but Kovach also said that the move will help keep a lot of signs out of the landfills once elections are over. 

“This is not political. There is a gross amount that goes to landfill,” said Kovach, who added that while visiting other communities her time as President of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities she never witnessed a Guelph-like orgy of election signage everywhere (my words, not hers). At the meeting, Mayor Karen Farbridge said that the city has too many other, more important balls in the air to address the issue right at this moment, but Kovach found a seconder in Ward 3 Councillor Maggie Laidlaw. The motion was passed on a 7 to 6 vote. Laidlaaw said that she offered her support in order to “help level the playing field” so that new candidates can have the same shot as incumbents. We shall see what comes to pass, because there’s at least one election coming down the pipe in the next year: the 2010 Municipal election. 

Tree police make a bust (sort of) 

The City of Guelph laid 151 charges against three companies after an investigation into an incident this past summer where trees were being cut down in the Victory Rd. S. area, and no one at City Hall seemed to know about it. According to a press release, “Under the City of Guelph’s tree by-law, it is an offence to injure or destroy a tree, or cause or permit a tree to be injured or destroyed within the city,” and “If found guilty of such an offence, a person or an organization could be subject to a fine between $500 and $2,000 per offence.” The incident on June 11th, a neighbour reported that about 65 acres of trees, part of the Paris-Glat Moraine, had been cut down. So why the four month wait before charges? “We wanted to make sure we got all the evidence before we moved forward at all,” Doug Godfrey, the city’s supervisor of bylaw enforcement, told the Guelph Mercury. South Edge Ltd. And Williams and Associates Forestry and Environmental Consultants Ltd., each face 50 charges, while O.T.S. Contracting Ltd. faces 51 charges. 

Flu Shots in reserve

Hey you! Perfect health person under the age of 65 that doesn’t have a chronic health, contact with a baby, work in the health profession, and or are currently pregnant. Get out of the line for the flu shot says Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health’s medical officer of health, Dr. Nicola Mercer. Those shots are for at-risk groups only. “I have confidence the (general) population is understanding that the reason they are being turned away is because they are in a low-risk group and we’re trying to put the vaccine in the arms of people who are high-risk.” I like your optimism Doctor, but haven’t you watched the news lately? We’re all doomed! Apparently the seasonal flu shot is still available to the general public at the local flu shot clinic, for all the good it’ll do you. 

And in case you can’t tell, I’m being sarcastic.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Protests at Hanlon as Bell Goes Green

Definitely not your father’s groundbreaking

Given the rather contentious nature of the issue, it was a bit surprising that the City would have so public an event in honour of the Hanlon Creek Business Park like a ground breaking. When the announcement was made Tuesday, you could practically smell trouble in the air. The proverbial ink was barely dry on the press release when LIMITS (Land Is More Important Than Sprawl) sent out a flyer calling for a peaceful demonstration at the Downey St entrance to the site. The flyer further declared that instruments and street theatre were welcome.

Well there was certainly theatre, but the calls for a peaceful demonstration seemed to fall on deaf ears. About 75 people were there for the rake out on the other side of the barricades at the groundbreaking as several city officials and other guests there by “invitation only” had to walk past shouting protesters, at least one grim reaper and “Barnie,” the purple Jefferson salamander dinosaur. As Mayor Karen Farbridge and others overturned the sod for the future business park, protestors dug an effigy grave for Barnie and his brethren.

But if getting in was rough, getting out was murder. Or at least there were shouts of it, anyway. “You will pay for this. Your life is on the line,” shouted a hooded protester according to the Mercury’s Rob O’Flanagan. Over on his Ward 2 blog, Councillor Ian Findlay said that while returning to the bus with a city staff member, “We were greeted by what could be described as a feral mob of protesters, dressed in Halloween costumes chanting ‘F**k You Scum! F**k You Scum!’” Buses were only able to leave the site once the police had cleared a path. In a City press release celebrating the groundbreaking, there was no mention of any troubles on the site.

Bell goes Fed for the Greens next election

After Mike Nagy’s three at bats for the Federal Green Party in Guelph, Ward 1 Councillor Bob Bell will step up to the plate for the team in the next federal election. Bell was acclaimed at a meeting of local Greens last week. The first-time federal candidate said that he was drawn to the idea of taking more action on the environment and feels that it’s the most important issue facing Guelph and Canada. “Climate change is an issue that I find is the biggest driver,” on other issues, Bell told me by phone on Saturday. “It trickles down to transportation planning, energy pricing, food security and international trade.”

Bell added that he thinks that the way environmental issues and how people see them is continuing to evolve. “Most people have thought of issues as independent but my perspective is that other issues all fit into the environment, but I think that’s typical of the Green Party.” The newly minted Green candidate also said that he thinks a federal election is far off, but in the mean time he’ll be learning the fine art of a federal campaign along with getting some helpful pointers from his predecessor Nagy.

Flu shots come to those who wait

Swine flu fever hit Guelph last week… Oh, wait. Poor choice of words. Okay, so swine flu vaccination fever hit Guelph last week as the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit began flu shot clinics last Friday, including the controversial H1N1 shot. The shot was recommended, as per usual, for pregnant women, children between the ages of six months and five years old, people with chronic health conditions and health care workers but because of the looming, media-hyped threat of pandemic, 2,000 people and a four hour wait were what people showing up at the former College Avenue Public School got. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has received two allotments of the vaccine. The first was 12,000 doses and the second was 14,500. For clinic times and locations go to or follow updated info on wait times on Twitter at