Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stories to Watch for in 2011

1) Signs and Rumours of Dollar Signs.

Unless the City of Guelph discovered the lost city of gold while digging up every other road in town this past summer, then we’re likely facing a similar budget crunch as the deliberations for 2010. Budget packages won’t be prepared for council until January 31st, but delegations won’t be heard on matters of the budget until the February 22nd meeting and a final vote won’t be taken on the capital and operating budgets until March 2nd. But those are the stats, the real question is what’s going to happen? Dominate economic trends haven’t changed much in the last year, and since all the councillors, as candidates, campaigned on smart fiscal management, the balance of spending and taxes is more precarious than ever.

2) All Systems GO

Let the countdown begin because hopefully, by this time next year, when I have to go to Toronto on a weekday morning, I can sidestep the increasingly frequent two-and-a-half to three hour commute and take the GO Train. It’s been a long time in coming and as a bonus it was announced last week that the City is looking at discounted fares for GO riders taking city buses to their trains. I’ve taken a bat to the City of Guelph for its treatment of transit and transit users this year – repeatedly – but this is a brilliant move. I hope this is the start of good things for transit users in 2011.

3) Dark Ford of the Sith?

The most talked about local politics story of the year may not have anything to do with Guelph. The election of Rob Ford as the Toronto’s Top Politico came to extreme disappointment to a lot of Hogtown progressives, and in return Ford has yet to fail to disappoint their disappointment. Ford’s latest trick is to muse an abolition of the 5 cent plastic bag fee, a “tax” (as Ford’s people call it) that according to some sources has spared the globe the garbage created by about a billion little plastic shopping bags. In an interview with the Guelph Tribune, Mayor Karen Farbridge says that she and other mayors of Ontario municipalities will be watching the Ford revolution in Toronto carefully to see what works, and more importantly, to see what doesn’t work.

4) To Vote or Not to Vote…

The Prime Minister may be planning a cabinet shuffle, if he hasn’t implemented one already, but the real question is if we the voters are going to get the opportunity to shuffle the government this year as well. Certainly since the Fall 2008 Federal Election there have been rumblings and grumblings of votes of no-confidence and possible replacement coalitions, but in the last two years, a lot of those opportunities came to not. (Certainly, we all remember the big anti-proroguing protests this time last year.) And the opportunities don’t look too bright in the near future. The Liberals seem perpetually stuck in neutral and the by-election last month in three ridings didn’t prove much. Although there’s been some talk of a showdown over the Federal budget this spring, no one party has the heft or reason to force an election. But if they were, the spring would be a natural time to do so since the nation’s most populace province will have other concerns in the fall…

5) …Like An Actual Election That We Know Will Take Place

One election that we do know will happen for certain in the next calendar year is the Ontario General Election, which will not only determine whether or not our MPP Liz Sandals will keep her job, but will determine if her boss, Dalton McGuinty, does as well. A third re-election for the provincial Liberals is not a sure thing though, especially in a year that saw the implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and the announcement of higher hydro rates.

Having said that though, McGuinty’s government wasn’t as slammed over the HST as the B.C. government where referendums and court action have followed the HST turnover. In a recent Ipsos Reid poll in November, Tim Hudak’s Tories was up 41 per cent over the Liberals 32. But it’s worth noting that in an Angus Reid poll around the same time in 2009 had the Tories at 41 and the Liberals at 27. By mid-February, the Liberals were back up to 41, but it’s been a slow slide back down ever since. In other words, it’s still anyone’s ball game.

By the way, our local provincial and federal representatives will be holding a New Year’s levee on Sunday January 9th at the Italian Canadian Club from 2 pm till 4 pm. Who knows, it may be Sandals and Valeriote’s last levee together. Stay tuned.

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