Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bell Not Green, Compliments Paid & Nudity

Bell No Longer the Green for Guelph

In a bit of surprise election news, though not in the election we expected, Bob Bell has officially stepped down as the Green Party candidate for Guelph in the next federal election. Bell's reason is that he believes that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will call a spring election, which will conflict with the busiest time in Bell's bicycle-trailer manufacturing company.

“My business is seasonal — busy in spring and slow in fall,” Bell told the Guelph Mercury. “Originally it appeared as though we’d have a fall election and I was ready for that. But now an election is likely in the spring, and that’s not good timing for me.”

Bell continued to say that while the responsibilities of being a federal candidate were minimum outside of an election period, the 40-60 hour per week commitment would be too much for him in the event of a spring election. As for Bell's other job, the one that he's got to run for again in a few months anyway, he's still not sure if he's going to have another go at city council. “Some days I’m going to run again; some days I’m not. I just don’t know right now,” he said.

In an interesting side note, Bell's runner-up for the Green Party nomination was Russell Ott, is now running for Ward 1 city councillor, one of two seats currently held by Bell. As for the Greens, Bell expects a new nominee to be named before year's end, probably in the fall.

Just Take the Compliment

An article in the Guelph Mercury last week examined an unusual bit of bipartisanship:

Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman suggested [Liz] Sandals missed getting a cabinet position in favour of less-experienced politicians during Wednesday’s cabinet shuffle. “Liz Sandals, who has been an MPP for seven years, was once again passed over for cabinet by MPPs elected less than one year ago,” the Thornhill MPP wrote in a press release.

Sandals holds the position of parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, but I suppose it's always nice to be affirmed by others, especially in the esteemed opposition, that you've got potential to be more than a parliamentary assistant.

That wasn't all Shurman had to say about the cabinet shuffle. On, Shurman is quoted as saying that instead of overhauling his cabinet, Premier Dalton McGuinty opted for "cosmetic changes that won't provide any relief for taxpayers" with the creation of new ministers. "What he's doing for Ontario is acting like a speeding train -- going in the wrong direction," Shurman said. "And the two new faces represent an additional opportunity to tax and spend."

Still, one appreciates Shurman's sentiment, but you have to wonder what the idea behind it was. I know it seems unusual in modern politics for people to do things out of the goodness of their own heart, but maybe Shurman's just looking out for a colleague. “Liz Sandals has been toiling away ... for a very long time,” Shurman said in a telephone interview with the Mercury last Thursday. “She can take the compliment. Maybe she would have been a better choice.”

Nothing like bipartisan support. Weird.

In Special Occasion News…

So we’re going into the last couple of weekends of summer, and you might be looking for something to do. I believe there was something this coming weekend, what was that again? Oh yes, I believe it was The Top Freedom Day. A pair of young ladies from Guelph, Lindsay Webb and Andrea Crinklaw, are picking up the baton thrown down by Gwen Jacob, who won legal recognition for a woman’s right to walk around topless after the landmark 1996 Ontario Court of Appeals case. Jacob was charged after walking down the streets of Guelph without her shirt in 1991.

As for the official celebration, organizers Webb and Crinklaw call it “a step towards making it acceptable for a woman to be top free in public” and a chance to continue the effort to “desensitize the masses to the female breast.” The festivities begin at 2:30 pm in St. George’s Square and runs until 10 pm with music, speeches and, of course, body painting. For more information, check out the day’s Facebook page at

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Solar Jobs and What About Bob?

Here comes the sun…

Big news last week in Guelph as a well-known and accomplished manufacturer of solar modules is moving to town to set up a shop. This is good news for the 300-500 jobs that will be put on the block for Guelphites, as well as fulfilling the promise of bring more green jobs to the city, which has been a heavily campaigned topic in recent elections. The company’s named Canadian Solar Inc and Guelph will be home to its first plant based outside of China. Canadian Solar is the world’s eighth largest solar module company and its new Guelph facility will be one of the largest on the continent.

"Today’s announcement by Canadian Solar Inc. means hundreds of good jobs for Guelph,” said Mayor Karen Farbridge at the announcement at 545 Speedvale Ave, the future home of Canadian Solar’s facility. “It shows early success of the City’s economic development plan, Prosperity 2020, and represents the number one objective of the Community Energy Initiative, which is to position Guelph as a place to invest.”

The city officials and Canadian Solar executives in attendance attributed the choice of Guelph, over other areas in manufacturing-centric Southwestern Ontario, was due in large part to Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative. The initiative outlines measures to use less energy in 25 years than the city does today, to consume less energy per capita than comparable Canadian cities, and to produce less greenhouse gas per capita than the current global average.

“We chose Ontario and Guelph because of the province’s and city’s strong research and development, and the local and provincial governments’ commitment to investing in a low carbon economy,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman, President and CEO of Canadian Solar Inc. “The site selection for the new facility spread across Ontario, but in the end Guelph was chosen over several major cities as a result of its commitment to making sustainability the hallmark of the community through the Community Energy Initiative.”

Canadian Solar’s new Guelph facility is valued at about $24 million and the first phase of operations is expected to begin later this year. Once at full capacity the facility’s total output will generate enough solar power greater than the entire current electrical demand of the Guelph community, according to the press release. It certainly sounds pretty impressive anyway. One can only hope that this may be the start of a trend in terms of local green power.

In other jobs news, the Organic Meadow and Steen’s Dairy opened a new facility in Guelph on the same day as the Canadian Solar announcement. Carol Mitchell, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs was in attendance along with many of the farmers who supply the dairy. Steen's Dairy says the new 20,000 square foot facility will allow the company to double production and keep up with modern efficiencies, while being able to process conventional and organic products.

What About Bob?

So it happened last Monday. Ward 6 Councillor Christine Billings joined ward-mate Karl Wettstein in the race to get re-elected to her seat on the horseshoe. So that means that all the incumbents on council, save one, have declared one way or the other, with only Kathleen Farrelly refraining from running again.

But what of Farrelly's fellow Ward 1 councillor Bob Bell? In the most competitive race in the whole darn election, he's the only incumbent to not say either way whether he's in or not (at least by deadline), and time is running out. Of course, the flip side is that Wards 3 through 6 are running challenge-less so far. Time is running out for people to throw their hats in the ring. Can a flood of last minute candidates be in the offing?

Nominations for mayor, city council, and school boards close on September 10th.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Election News and GCL Re-Ups

Birtwistle Takes Up Space

Upping the game to the next level, mayoral hopeful David Birtwistle has officially opened his campaign office. The space is in a former dollar store in the plaza at Victoria and Grange Roads, the same one that’s home to Guelph’s famous Hockey Sushi. It’s another sign that Birtwistle, a former two-term city councillor (2000-2006) means business in the race to depose Karen Farbridge for the City’s highest office. Sign spotters may recall that Birtwistle was also the first off the bench with election signage after the Canada Day long weekend. As for our current Mayor, she’ll be setting up shop in the former Alma Gallery downtown later this month. To keep up with the mayoral race, visit the candidates’ websites at for David Birtwistle and for Karen Farbridge.

The Rest of the Race…

The second half of July brought a proverbial flurry of new activity to the various races. Ward 1 remains, by far, the most competitive with a total of eight announced candidates running so far. Further, as of press time, I have it on good authority that there may be a ninth sometime soon. That's almost the total number of candidates running in all the other wards combined, and the remaining incumbent, Bob Bell, has still yet to announce. Meanwhile, over in Ward 2, Andrew Colwill threw his hat back into the ring. Colwill also ran in the last municipal election finishing sixth at seven per cent of the vote. Now he is the fourth person to join the race in this ward behind incumbents Vicki Beard and Ian Findley, as well as former Ward 2 councillor Ray Ferraro.

The story in the rest of the wards is mostly a tale of out with the old, back in with the old. The races in Wards 3 and 6 have remained unchanged since April, with incumbents Maggie Laidlaw and June Hofland re-upping for re-election in Ward 3 and Karl Wettstein doing the same in Ward 6. His ward mate, Christine Billings, told me earlier this summer that she usually waits until late summer/early fall to announce. Ward 4 finally joined the board with Gloria Kovach announcing her intention to run again on July 15th, and Mike Salisbury following suit on July 26th. Finally, in Ward 5, both Leanne Piper and Lise Burcher are now officially in the race.

HGCL Ready for another Go

Although extremely active in the last municipal election, not much has been heard from the Guelph Civic League in the build up to this year’s contest. Recently though, the GCL undertook a process to reinvigorate themselves, and it started with the election of a new executive. Kevin Ferraro and Sharon Lewis, both new to the Guelph Civic League, have agreed to act as co-presidents of the organization, while Annie O'Donoghue will continue to act as past president. The rest of the exec is made up of Anne Gardner as Treasurer, Clare Irwin as Secretary, Kathie Lamie as Membership / Outreach Co-ordinator, Susan Ratcliffe as Events Co-ordinator, Dave Sills as Communications Co-ordinator, and Anastasia Zavarella, Local Affairs Commissioner of the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association, as Campus Outreach Co-ordinator. “The members of the executive committee are excited about their new roles and anxious to build on the work of past executive committee members,” said a message to members of the GCL’s Facebook group. Founded in 2004, the Guelph Civic League is committed to keeping citizens informed and working towards a local democracy that is inclusive, participatory, transparent and accountable. Check out what the GCL’s got cooking by going to their website at

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Let’s start this one by saying “Happy Anniversary.” This time last year, the attentions of our sorted little berg were focused on the southern most end of the city, on a little parcel of land which will eventually house the Hanlon Creek Business Park. A group of well-meaning and devoted activists took to the land and settled there in an effort to stymie construction, and to everyone’s surprised, it worked. For a while anyway.

Many thought that the spring thaw would not only mean the beginning of shovels in the ground for the HCBP, but a welcome back for the protestors after the winter break. Yet this has not come to pass. On the HCBP there are signs and security, but aside from a bizarre attempt to grow illicit substances, there’s been neither hide nor hare of disruptive activity. So what’s the deal? Was hating on the HCBP a passing fancy, or have protestors merely admitted defeat in the wake of construction going full speed ahead?

Or is it neither? For those on the left that admire themselves as more active, there was another once in a lifetime attraction that drew their attention this past June. If you have read the papers then you know that the arrests made during the G20 in Toronto rounded up the usual suspects in terms of direct action in Guelph. Trapped in the midst of various states of legality, it’s probably hard to plot further grassroots action when you’re sitting in jail for weeks. Understandable, but the question’s been asked: does Guelph breed troublemakers?

As the Reverend Lovejoy once observed “Short answer ‘yes’ with an ‘if’; long answer ‘no’ with a ‘but.’” So yes if you count aggressive activism as a sign you’re a troublemaker. However, the answer can also be no considering that a small group doesn’t indicate a wide-spread pattern and the fact that all the big names in activism locally come from hometown’s not named Guelph. But the Royal City does seem to be some kind of rally point for these like minded people.

Now normally, finding a community where you can be yourself amongst people who believe as you do is considered a good thing, but some of people in Guelph, it seems, have had enough. A recent post on the subject of Guelph-based political activists on the Mercury’s 59 Carden St blog elicited nearly 100 responses, nearly all of which were of the “down with protestors” variety.

On the one hand you can hardly blame people for the reaction because aside from the disruptive nature of these protestors, is their penchant for using illegal or borderline illegal action to get their point across. Fair enough, but the tenor of some of the discussions goes deeper than a “don’t-be-a-menace” type scolding. The inference instead being that if you can’t work within the system, then you should sit down, shut up and accept the world for how it is. Outstanding advice. They said the same thing to all those people that protested the Iraq War when they said it would be costly and wasteful and not yield a single WMD.

For some reason, we consider our democracy as an entity that’s passive and inactive. Aside from the once in a while sojourn to voting booth, if you could limit your participation to the council chamber or a neighbourhood meeting behind close doors, that would be great. Just so long as we don’t have to see it.

A special on MSNBC last weekend called “Politics Gone Wild” showed debates in parliaments from India to South Korea where matters are settled more with melees than points of order. Say what you want about the practice of chair throwing to silence an opposition member, or eating a bill to stop its passing, but you can’t say that these people aren’t passionate about the government. And I have to tell you, going into election season, I hope that we the people of Guelph are even half that passionate.

Just keep the throwing of office furniture to a minimum.