Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fighting Over Budgets and Climate Change

Budget fight begins

With all the deep cuts potentially on the table in regards to the 2010 city budget, it came as no surprise that council’s first look at the document would come with some apprehension. The major areas that got air last Monday night were transit and downtown parking, but considering the variety of cuts proposed, there isn’t a single area under city management that isn’t saved from belt-tightening. The debate should get much more interesting in the next week as public debate is opened up on the matter. It was expected that as many as 26 delegations had requested time to speak to council at the meeting this past Tuesday. But public forums are seeing their share of debates as well.

The Guelph Arts Council was quick to react to potential cuts, sending out a mass e-mail last week asking all its members to speak out in defense of arts funding in the City of Guelph. “We are not at the top of the list but we are on the list – in other word, we are threatened, and we do need to make our case,” said the e-mail. The GAC further asked its members to send letters and e-mails to Guelph city councillors and local media as part of a co-ordinated effort to make it known that the arts matter in the Royal City.

Meanwhile, University of Guelph students are rallying to save the universal bus pass, after it was suggested in the budget proposal that it be eliminated and replaced with a cost per month plan like the one high school students have to pay for. Comparatively, the U of G universal bus pass costs roughly the same per semester what it costs for a high school student to get one student pass for a month. The city feels that that there’s a pretty big gap there where a few extra dollars can be made. “It’s sad that a program that Guelph Transit has won awards for, for innovative ways of getting people out of cars and into buses, is being dismissed without any discussion,” said Brenda Whiteside, the university’s associate vice-president (students affairs) to the Guelph Tribune. The universal bus pass has been part of the student experience at the U of G since 1994, and it won’t go quietly. As of Sunday, the “Save the Bus Pass” Facebook group has over 6,400 members.

For up-to-date blow-by-blows go to my blog at

McKitrick feels “vindicated”

The recent “Climategate” mess where thousands of e-mails and documents from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England were hacked and then leaked has cultivated a Guelph connection. No, no one from Guelph was involved in either being hacked or doing the hacking, but a University of Guelph professor has gotten a shot of renewed notoriety out of the fallout. “My phone’s been absolutely ringing off the hook,” economics prof Ross McKitrick told the Guelph Mercury last week. McKitrick has for a long time been a climate change skeptic (or denier depending upon your slant), believing that all the talk about end of the world consequences from global warming was much ado about nothing. “There’s a sense of vindication there,” he added in response to the allegations that the e-mails prove climate change scientists were cooking the books to make the problem seem much worse than it is. But perhaps the real conspiracy here is that all this came out just days before the UN Climate Change conference began in Copenhagen.

Another hurdle for HCBP quietly leapt

Posted quietly on the City of Guelph website Friday was news that funding assistance from Industry Canada for the watermain and utility highway crossing construction for the Hanlon Creek Business Park project had been approved. The city submitted an Environmental Assessment to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and from that report and the “implementation of appropriate mitigation measures,” the Feds decided to grant the request for funding. According to the city press release, appropriate implementations of mitigation measures included in the Environmental Assessment include: fauna at risk; human health and safety; structure, site or thing of historic, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance; air quality; noise levels; soil quality; vegetation; and water quality. "We are pleased that this project has cleared this level of environmental review with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency," said Peter Cartwright, General Manager for Economic Development and Tourism.

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