Thursday, February 25, 2010

Green Fleet, Clean-Up & War with Kitchener

City Fleet Going Green

All City of Guelph vehicles and equipment will now be subject to stringent guidelines aimed at reducing fleet operating costs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this coming out of the Emergency Services, Community Services & Operations Committee meeting last week. Mostly, these steps have to do with fuel efficiency: how to use vehicles, how to cut down on idling, and how to choose the right vehicle for the right job. “Lowering the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by our fleet is a win-win situation,” says Mayor Karen Farbridge in a city press release. “It supports the goals of our Community Energy Plan, while saving on fuel costs at the same time. I want to thank Operations staff for their commitment to this program." The new guidelines and accompanying training for city staff is in preparation for the city’s first E3 (Energy, Environment, Excellence) review. E3 is North America’s first green rating program for vehicle fleets, that evaluates, audits and recognizes fleets for their efforts in reducing smog and greenhouse gas emissions, fuel use and costs. The review is expected to be done this April.

Clean-Up Crew Looking for Feedback

The Ontario Public Interest Research Group is looking for feedback from the general public as to how they can improve community support for their annual Speed River Clean-Up program. “The spark has gone out of it,” said Alison Morrison, Speed River Project co-ordinator with OPIRG told the Tribune. “Our numbers are dwindling, and we’re not even sure of the impact of sending 200 people into the river on a Saturday morning.” The Clean-Up, which happens every June, recruits volunteers from the community to wade out into the Speed River, and along its banks, in order to clean-up garbage and debris. Among suggested improvements, Morrison offers the possibility of moving the Clean-Up’s base from Royal City Park to Riverside Park, but Morrison says that no changes will be made without public input. “The neat thing about a clean-up is that it’s so simple and it’s a gateway for anybody who has a little bit of an interest in environmental issues,” said Morrison. If you’re interested in giving OPIRG your feedback, then put this address into your web browser:

It’s War: Kitchener vs. Guelph

Who would have guessed that when a 19-year-old Kitchener woman was charged with mischief in a dust-up between Olympic torch security and anti-Olympic protestors in December, that it was a sign of things to come. That’s right, Guelphites, it’s war and the K-W has been hitting us pretty hard the last few weeks. First, a Kitchener man was charged with mischief after phoning Waterloo Regional Police over the Valentine’s Day weekend and telling them that he planted six pipe bombs inside Polycon Industries in Guelph after they fired him. Guelph Police evacuated the plant and searched it and presumably found nothing since the 51-year-old man was charged merely with mischief. Next there was the case of six Kitchener men charged with a string of electronic store break-ins across Guelph and Waterloo Region. Come on, citizens! I say let’s leave the inter-city rivalry where it belongs: on the ice at OHL hockey games with the Storm and the Rangers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Crimes, Misdemeanors and Google Steet View

New Developments in Torch Mess

Assault charges were dropped last week against a 19-year-old Kitchener woman for the altercation between torch security and protesters during the Olympic torch's run through Downtown Guelph on December 28th. As reported in the Mercury, a new charge of mischief was made against Brittney Simpson. The assault charge was dropped because there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction” according to Assistant Crown attorney Steve Hamilton. A second person arrested in relation to the incident is still facing an assault charge with an additional mischief charge filed against her in court last Monday. Both Simpson and Kelly Pflug-Back from Guelph will be back in court on March 5th.

In other Torch related news, Guelph Police said last week that there was no evidence to support Pflug-Back’s charge that she was assaulted by torch security during the protest. Guelph Police spokesperson Const. Michael Gatto said that the police have two videos of the incident provided to them. “They both had different angles of the scene,” Gatto said of the videos. “Neither video showed any evidence of an assault that took place to match up with what Kelly Pflug-Back was describing.” Pflug-Back, meanwhile, is sticking to her guns. “It’s ridiculous,” she said. “There is a hospital record of the contusion on my lip. I was punched.”

Guelph Goes Google Street View

Guelph can now count itself among the lucky few, one of 150 Canadian cities, that can see itself in full detail on Google Street View. “I am so pleased that we are on the map, so to speak,” said Christine Chapman, program and partnership co-ordinator with Guelph Tourism Services at the City of Guelph. Canada just became a part of the Google app early last year despite the occasionally controversial nature of the program due to its highly detailed photography. Cars equipped with special cameras took the images of Guelph last spring and summer, which explains why when you look at different areas of the city some trees have no leaves and others are lush and green. To check out Street View for yourself, just go to, type in an address, drag the little orange man on to the area of the map you want to see the street view of and enjoy.

Perfect Attendance Goes To…

The numbers on attendance for city council from 2009 are in, and the winner of the perfect attendance award is Mayor Karen Farbridge. The Mayor’s stats include face time at 38 council meetings, 27 closed meetings and 46 committee meetings. Ward 5 Councillor Leanne Piper also had an impressive finish with 38 council meetings, 27 closed meetings and every meeting of the CDES and land ambulance committees. Not included in the count however were meetings missed while councillors were representing the City at meetings or conferences. As well, it should be pointed out that aside from the Mayor, city councillors have to, you know, work a job and make a living since being a city councillor is only a part time gig.

Crime Beat

In follow-up to an item in The Beat last month, the mysterious case of an 83-year-old man charged with several incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti, saw our octogenarian tagger plead guilty in court last week. Max Mahr of Guelph was arrested and charged on September 30, 2009, with five counts of mischief under $5,000, with an additional charge of wilful promotion of hate being laid following a further police investigation. No word on sentencing, although all parties are due back in court on March 8 for a pre-sentencing report.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Negotiations and Special Guests

Union to City: No dice.

The city’s unionized workers have said forget-about-it to taking five unpaid days off in 2010 and instead temporary lay-offs may be implemented in order to save $1.2 million from this year’s budget. Both the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189 and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 241, which represent the city’s transit and outsider workers respectively, voted against the budget proposal by a “very clear majority,” according to CUPE 241 President Brad Kelloway. The result, according to director of human resources Mark Amorosi, is that some city services could be outright closed for five days, and that might include Guelph Transit. Exact details weren’t given, but chances are good that the disruption to city services isn’t going to be nearly as invisible to citizens as city hall had hoped. CUPE Local 973, which represents the city’s inside workers, have yet to vote on the proposal. For updates, see my blog at

Cool Deal for Family Thrift Store

Milan Lesic is undoubtedly a happy man. The businessman landed a cool $1.25 million in selling the Wyndham Street storefront that he owns that was most recently the home of Ray Mitchell’s Family Thrift Store. The final figure Lesic’s receiving for the sale was revealed last week after the deal to buy the property was officially closed. Next items up for bids are the buildings on either side of the old Family Thrift Store including the former Wyndham Arts location, which has a closure date set a few months hence. But if you were ever a patron of the Family Thrift Store and that amount seems exorbitant to you, Mitchell himself agrees. “It's funny, because the standard formula to estimate the value of a building is to multiply by ten the yearly gross rent,” said Mitchell in an online post. “In this case, the three businesses fully rented paid about $85,000 a year, so we should have paid at most less than a million. And, in this case, since two of the three stores had no working furnaces and therefore no tenants the amount should have been even less.”

City Wants you to name stuff

For your information, today’s the last day for you to be able to submit your suggestions to name new city properties. As part of a new Commemorative Naming Policy, the city wants your suggestions for what the name of six new city assets should be. These sites include the Northern Heights, Morningcrest, Conservation Estates and Westminster Woods subdivisions; a park on the former Eastview Landfill site; and the Civic Square in front of City Hall and the new Provincial Offences Court.

“Names will be reviewed by the City’s naming committee,” said a City of Guelph press release. “First consideration will be given to those names that have geographic, civic or historic significance of the neighbourhood where the asset is located. Second consideration will be given to names of individuals who have achieved at least one of the following: excellence, courage or exceptional service to the citizens of Guelph, Ontario or Canada; worked to foster equality and reduce discrimination; or risked or given his or her life to save or protect others.”

For more information, visit the city’s website at

Valeriote bring in Trudeau

With Parliament prorogued and nowhere to go it seems, our local MP Frank Valeriote is welcoming Member of Parliament for Papineau, PQ (and son of a former Prime Minister that needs no introduction) Justin Trudeau to the Royal City. Trudeau’s coming into town Friday to be part of Our Lady of Lourdes high school’s annual Flag Day festivities where the school will give the Liberal MP their National Leadership Award. The award’s ceremony will take place in the morning, and will be followed by an open house at the Italian Canadian Club where members of the public can meet and greet with Valeriote and Trudeau from 1:30 to 3 pm.  For more information contact Valeriote’s office at 519-837-8276 or

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Protesting Proroguing and Haiti Relief

Guelph Rocked the Prorogue Protest

As one of numerous communities across the country that participated in the call to get MPs back to work, Guelph made its voice heard as loud as anyone on January 23. About 300 people came out on a sunny Saturday to rally in protest of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue parliament for the second time in as many years. Many of the speakers demanded that rules regarding prorogation be examined by the opposition parties, while others called Harper out for his "complete distaste for democratic processes", in the words of one speaker. A panel discussion at Knox Church on Quebec St was well attended as thoughts and ideas were shared and homemade perogies were eaten. For pictures, head over to my blog at

Transit hike in effect

In case you didn’t notice, you just paid $4 more for your monthly bus pass for February than you did for January. Smoothly and quietly, Guelph Transit has enacted the approved fare increase from this year’s budget starting as of this past Monday. For cash fares this means paying an extra quarter for your trip at $2.75. To get 10-ride tickets will now set you back $23 for adults, $19.50 for seniors and $18.50 for students. For the city’s other students, those that get the universal bus pass through the University of Guelph, negotiations between the city and the university are continuing in good faith. Transit wants to make up a budget shortfall of $70,000 by renegotiating the bus pass, which is currently a mandatory fee for all U of G students at $61.51 per semester. On the bright side though Guelph, you can take pride in the fact that there was no selfish hording of pre-fare hike tickets like our Toronto friends engaged in before the TTC fare hike.

Sandals assists Transportation Minister

Congrats to our local MPP Liz Sandals who was named parliamentary assistant to provincial Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne last week. Among her new duties, Sandals will be helping Wynne move forward on the MoveOntario 2020 plan and the goal to improve transportation infrastructure, like highways, bridges and mass transit service. “Guelph residents are keenly interested in the extension of GO train service to Guelph and the upgrading of local highways,” said a press release. Yes, now let’s make it happen. Especially the GO Train.

Mark Your Calendar

There a couple of pretty big deal events coming up this week that I wanted to highlight. First and foremost is the Haiti fundraiser at the River Run Centre on Sunday. Called “Help Haiti: A Guelph Benefit for Earthquake Relief,” the show will be headlined by jazz musician Jane Bunnett, who’s an extremely well-known face around here because of her multiple appearances at the Guelph Jazz Festival. Additionally the show will feature the University of Guelph Choirs as well as the Guelph Music Revue, which is made up of several noted Guelph musicians like Craig Norris, Tannis Slimmon and Ambre McLean. The goal is to raise $20,000 for earthquake relief in Haiti, will all proceeds going to the Canadian Red Cross. Tickets are $30 each, and for more information you can go to the website

The second event to note this week is a lecture by Dr. Ned Franks, Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University, at War Memorial Hall on the U of G campus Monday February 8. Franks’ career spans numerous teaching positions, nearly 100 articles and 13 books that he’s either written or edited. The topic of Franks’ talk will be the need for reform of parliamentary procedures, and he’ll share his ideas on the topic in a lecture entitled “The State of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada.” The lecture is being co-sponsored by the Council of Canadians – Guelph Chapter, the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph and the Central Students Association.