Thursday, March 25, 2010

Earth Hour and Air Pollution

Guelph’s Going Dark, Again

If you notice the lights on your block going out for an hour on Saturday night, then fear not because it just means that your neighbours are supporting the 2010 edition of Earth Hour, as is the City of Guelph. Guelph will be one of 172 Canadian municipalities that will be participating in the annual observance/awareness campaign in support of promoting energy conservation and combating climate change. “Turning out the lights for Earth Hour is a symbolic gesture, but it is a good opportunity for us to reflect on how our quality of life is impacted by our use of energy and the importance of using energy wisely,” says Mayor Karen Farbridge. In every city facility, all but essential lighting will be turned off from 8:30 pm till 9:30 pm, and the city is encouraging residents to do the same and register their conservation efforts at

Stop Coughing, it’s not air pollution (says study)

But why waste your time with Earth Hour, some may ask. Especially now that one University of Guelph professor has co-authored a study finding that previously held assertions about the correlation between air pollution and respiratory disease may not be as solid as previously though. U of G economics professor Ross McKitrick, long known as one of the ubiquitous fifth dentists when it comes to global climate change, analyzed a database of 11 Canadian cities over a 20 year period with the assistance of Gary Koop of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and Lise Tole of the University of Edinburgh. Their results, published in the journal Environmental Modelling and Software, showed that there was no evidence that air pollution affected hospital admission rate or time spent in the hospital, at least not as much as smoking and income levels. It’s worth pointing out though that Tole and Koop, like McKitrick, are economists, and that this is one study versus hundreds that have found, and continue to find, a link between the crummy air we breathe and the incidents of respiratory-related conditions like asthma. Meanwhile advanced researchers in the field of insultology, contend that air pollution is a prime factor in “that Hamilton smell.”

Bits and Bites

Looks like the lights at St. George’s Square won’t be altered anytime soon as per a vote by members of the city’s emergency services, community services and operations committee. As per a council vote last December, subtle changes were made to the lights in the square in an effort to make things more convenient for motorists. The initial request came from the Downtown Business Association who noted that traffic downtown had dropped in the last 20 years, and suggested a change to the stop lights might be an enticement. However, traffic and parking manager Alister McIlveen told council that there had been no comments, either for or against the changes, and thus the lights will stay the same for now. He added that when the transit hub opens on Carden St. in a few years, the city may want to revisit the issue.

In campaign news, it seems that Ward 1 Councillor Kathleen Farrelly will not be seeking re-election, however Ward 1 need not necessarily be left Farrelly-less come October. Instead, Kathleen’s son Sean Farrelly, himself a former city councillor that represented Ward 2 for nine years, will be running for his mother’s council seat in the fall. The current Councillor Farrelly, meanwhile, will settle down after she gets remarried this June. She intends to spend a lot of time travelling to visit her new husband’s relations on East Coast. Have you caught election fever yet? Then click on to stay up to date and call me in the morning. (That was a joke, please don’t call me.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Run Cam, Run? And Water Day

Cam’s Thinking about Running, Not there yet though

An internet movement’s begun over the last few weeks to push a certain well know Guelphite and politico into the recently initiated mayoral race, but Cam Guthrie says that no final decisions have been made yet. “It’s weighing heavily on me right now because of all the phone calls and e-mails and people stopping me on the street,” Guthrie told me by phone last week. “Whatever decision it is it will be in the best interest of my city and my family.”

The buzz comes from a Facebook group called “Cam Guthrie for the Mayor of Guelph”, which was started barely a week after the city’s present mayor, Karen Farbridge, announced her intention to run for re-election in this fall’s municipal contest. Guthrie calls it an encouragement page, but one that he had nothing to do with. Instead, credit for the group can be given to Karl Morant. “The first time I ever met him was in the [2006] municipal election,” Guthrie recalls. “I’ve probably had four conversations with him on passing over the last four years.”

As of last Wednesday, Morant and his group have collected 239 members and counting. Guthrie admits that he’s recognized a few of the names that joined the group, but there’s also a great many he doesn’t. “I am very humbled by the encouragement and support that’s sprung on this thing in the last couple of days,” he says. “It’s just amazing.”

The question now is whether or not that encouragement is going to translate into a bid for the City’s highest elected post, Guthrie’s still mulling the possibilities and gauging his support. Guthrie says he’s seeking “wise council” in order to make the right decision for himself, the city and his family.

As for a timetable, Guthrie told me that his decision will be coming soon, if only out of practical consideration in running a mayoral race. “Unfortunately, these types of campaigns require money to run, and, of course, the sooner you declare yourself the sooner your able to start bringing in money for the campaign. So I can’t let it go too long.”

You can check out the Facebook group by searching “Cam Guthrie for the Mayor of Guelph.” And for late-breaking news, you can visit my Guelph Politico blog at

Celebrate World Water Day with Wellington Water Watchers

Do you like water? Do you think the ubiquitous clear liquid should be celebrated and protected throughout the land? Then you’ll definitely want to take note of the Wellington Water Watchers’ festivities for World Water Day on Monday.

The events unfold at the E.L. Fox Auditorium at J.F. Ross on 21 Meyer Dr starting at 7 pm. On the docket is a youth submission project, some spoken word performances and the party-hardy music of Royal City’s own Dancehall Free For All. The main attraction though, entertainment-wise speaking, is a screening of the as-yet-unreleased documentary Tapped. Tapped, made by the producers of the popular Who Killed the Electric Car doc, is a behind-the-scenes look into the unregulated and unseen world of an industry that aims to privatize water resources. You can learn more about it at

The WWW will also be unveiling a pilot project called Blue W. Blue W is a not-for-profit program dedicated to promoting municipal tap water as a healthy and waste-conscious alternative to bottled drinks, according to a press release. The project will include a web site and smartphone app that people can use to locate places in the community where you can fill your reusable bottle with tap water. Participating establishments will have the Blue W decal at their entrance. For more on Blue W check out their website at

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Death, Taxes and Temple

Farwell Bev

The City of Guelph lost a passionate and intrepid voice in local politics last week when Bev Izzillo-Ustation passed away after a lengthy fight against cancer at the age of 74. Before five gos at the Mayor’s chair and twice running for city council, Izzillo-Ustation as an advocate for the group Persons United for Self Help (PUSH), an organization that focused on taking down barriers and meeting the needs of those with visual and hidden disabilities. She pressed for accessibility in all areas of public space and was instrumental in improving access by pressing for curb cuts, automatic doors and ramps. To many Politicos though, Izzillo-Ustation was most known for her fiery, grassroots campaigning. She was usually the candidate for open and honest government and in what would be her last election, up against incumbents Kate Quarrie and Karen Farbridge, she enthusiastically declared that “It’s my turn now.” Bev Izzillo-Ustation is survived by four grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. As expressions of sympathy, donations to Marianne's Place and/or the Salvation Army would be appreciated.

Temple debate packs house

It was standing room only in the council chamber gallery last Monday as an update on the proposal for a Sikh temple to be built in the south end came back to city council. Mayor Karen Farbridge laid down the law up front that there would no tolerance for racially-charged language or outbursts from the floor. Over a dozen delegations got up to speak during the evening, many in support of the Sikhs and their efforts to get out of the old beer store on Stevenson, but there were several people speaking on behalf of the Westminster Woods neighbourhood and were opposed to the move. A few others said that they were open to the temple’s construction with concessions, and as the meeting ended there were words of support from other members of Guelph’s faith-based community. To get the full scoop, head over to Guelph Politico at

NDP enters the race

Although election talk has been on the QT lately, the local NDP has officially acclaimed a nominee to lead them to a possible Guelph victory in the next federal election. Last Thursday, at the CAW Hall on Silvercreek, Guelph NDP members voted for Bobbi Stewart to run as their nominee. Stewart brings with her a wealth of experience as a social worker, especially in 20 years of work for Family & Children’s Services of Guelph & Wellington County.

In a media statement, Stewart says that if elected she will continue to fight for the party’s core beliefs including medicare, labour and social justice. “We are the Party most in-tuned to the needs of average Canadians and we have bright, passionate leaders,” she said. “I agreed to seek this nomination because of my strong belief in our Party and to stand up against Harper’s arrogance, black and white thinking and the erosion of our democracy. I will also speak out against the Liberal corporate agenda as their approach will never solve our economic crisis,” she added.

Valeriote offers tax help

Need tax help? Well our local MP Frank Valeriote is happy to oblige with a series of free Tax Preparation Clinics host by the Community Volunteer Tax Program, in cooperation with the Canada Revenue Agency. The Holy Rosary Parish will host Drop-in sessions on March, 20, 23 and April 6. Another tax Drop-in clinic will take place at the Italian Canadian Club on March 16, while a session at Onward Willow – Better Beginnings will be taking appointments for its April 14 clinic. Recent immigrants to Canada, meanwhile, will be able to take part in special sessions at Immigrant Services – Guelph Wellington on March 12, 19, 23 and April 9 and 16. For more information you can contact Valeriote’s constituency office at (519) 837-8276 or

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Temple Debate, Farbridge 3-Peat & Valeriote's Guests

Temple debate gets more heated

Even before the city council planning meeting this past Monday, the heat was already turned up on the proposed construction of a Sikh temple in the southend of the city. The proposal to develop a four acre site along Claire Rd between Victoria Rd and Tolton Dr has been highly controversial with neighbourhood residents due to potential increases in noise and traffic to the area, as well as the temple’s planned size and height. Initial community feedback at a meeting in December highlighted these concerns especially, but in that time a new element has emerged in the debate: The Race Card.

A website called Stop The Temple went online last month as a way for people against the construction of a Sikh temple to organize. However, if you go the site (found at and register, it’s not just the power of community organizing you’ll be struck by. Charges of racism and, indeed, hate crimes have been levied against some of the people posting on Stop The Temple. Here’s a sample:

“So any middle eastern minority wants something, they’d better get it! If we oppose we are all racist, and discriminating! God forbid we offend these people. Last I checked, they are suicide bombers, child molesters, they kill their kids because they go out after dark, rapists, Con artists, Scammers. Sorry no offence I don’t want to take the risk of hundreds more moving to this community, and opening hundreds of corner stores, pizza pizza's and subways. Enough is enough. You have Brampton. Move there, stay there, and leave our city alone.”

And then there’s the next comment entitled “Next a mosque”

“First it’s a Sikh Temple. Next it will be a Mosque. Both are violent cults and next it will be a memorial to martyrs aka terrorists. We must stop this eastern influence.”

In 1964, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain the definition of "hardcore" pornography and obscenity. I think his words, in relation to the two quotes above, should be considered in our discussion today about what racism is: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it…"

Head over to Guelph Politico at for an update on the debate.

Farbridge set to run for third term

Mayor Karen Farbridge announced to a small group of supporters and the media last Wednesday that she was indeed embarking on a bid to win the City’s top job for a third term. “I am excited at the opportunity to serve my community as mayor,” said Farbridge in a City press release. “Our city requires experienced leadership to meet the challenges that are ahead of us, build on successes, and continue the good work we have begun.” Farbridge was first elected as mayor in 2000, but lost to Kate Quarrie in her 2003 re-election bid by 4,000 votes. She then defeated Quarrie by over 5,000 votes in the 2006 election. The Municipal Election will take place on Monday October 25, 2010. To hear Farbridge’s announcement speech head over to Politico.

More Special Guests Courtesy of Valeriote

Our local MP Frank Valeriote has been going out of his way in the bringing of special guest to town in the last couple of weeks. First there was Liberal leader Michael “Iggy” Ignatieff and the week after that it was Justin “You Know My Name” Trudeau. Coming up on Saturday, Guelph will welcome MP for York West Judy Sgro for a townhall on seniors and veterans issues at the Evergreen Seniors Centre. Sgro is the former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the current Liberal critic for Seniors and Pensions. She’ll be taking audience questions and discussing your concerns starting at 10 am. For more information, get in touch with Valeriote’s constituency office at 519-837-8276 or