Posts Tagged ‘Guelph Mercury’

The Guelph Mercury weighs in on Guelph’s water conservation strategy. Yes to more conservation, no to a pipeline to Lake Erie!

Candidates Need To Talk About Water
Guelph Mercury, Editorial
September 20, 2010

There’s a sobering chart in the just-issued annual report of the city’s water conservation and efficiency public advisory committee.

The line graph plots the city’s annual water production against its population growth. The population line is ever rising in the 1998-2010 statistical illustration. The water production is a much flatter line – trending down, with the final year tracked providing the lowest volume flow of water.

During the last civic election campaign, there was some talk of a previously floated remedy to this dilemma – the option of tapping Lake Erie via a pipeline.

So far, the issue of providing a sustainable water supply for the municipality has produced little campaign talk. That might change with the emergence of the water conservation report. It would be good if it did.

The city is set to launch a terrific-sounding pilot program related to this policy area.

This week, the community development and environmental services committee will review a proposed incentive plan to encourage new home builders to establish houses that make smarter use of water. The program would see builders be able to achieve rebates of up to $2,460 for installing such things as low-flow toilets and taps, greywater reuse systems, and/or rainwater harvesting systems.

It could be in place by Nov. 1. We hope it is. It appears a wonderful extension of water conservation measures already undertaken by the municipality such as its promotion of the use of rain barrels and encouragements to replace old inefficient toilets with water-conserving ones.

More can be done and needs to be in this area, however. The city is aiming to reduce average daily water use by 8.7 million litres of water, per day, by 2019. That’s an ambitious target and timeframe – before projected population growth during that period is factored into the thinking.

The pilot Blue Built Home Pilot Program is an example of the type of thinking that will be required to meet this goal. We look forward to council candidates adding to the brainstorming about else could be done. Just please, keep the Lake Erie solution bottled up.

For more on this issue listen to Municipal Election Radio, Tuesdays 7-9 a.m. on CFRU93.3fm in Guelph. Remember if you don’t catch Municipal Election Radio live, you can always pick it up later that day via the CFRU archive or here, on the blog, a day or so later.

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Salamandergate – Jim Bogart, Hanlon Creek And City Hall Spin
Jan Andrea Hall, Royal City Rag

Jan Andrea Hall

It turns out that Dr. Jim Bogart, Emeritus Professor at the University of Guelph may not be quite the Salamander expert we were led to believe.

Check out this affidavit from biologist Dean Fitzgerald used during the Ontario Municipal Board process for case PL071044, in particular #25.

View the affidavit (2.88 mb)

It seems that Dr. Bogart is an expert in identifying salamanders in the laboratory from genetic material NOT in terms of habitat used by salamanders during breeding migration.

Which raises the issue of whether he really should be commenting in the Guelph Mercury on the likelihood of finding a Jefferson Salamander at Hanlon Creek.

The rest of the affidavit document is worth reading because it reminds us that confirming the presence of the salamander may only be as good as the techniques used to find them. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It all depends how you look, how hard you look and who is doing the looking.

Jefferson salamander (photo: John White)

As to whether the City of Guelph is really worried about finding a Jefferson Salamander, or whether they have already found one, is not clear.

More likely they are just trying to surreptitiously protect themselves in case they do find one.

It is interesting that Jim Bogart should be commenting in the Guelph Mercury on the likelihood of finding a Jefferson Salamander on the same day that the city’s application for permission to harm Jefferson Salamanders and damage their habitat was uncovered by activists.

It also seems that the Guelph Mercury got it wrong in their April 22 editorial on the subject, Species Decision Backed By Law.

Turns out that the city have changed their position with respect to the salamander.

When they first found a Jefferson Salamander at Hanlon Creek in May 2009, the City of Guelph released this press release.

“This discovery is the result of our rigorous, ongoing monitoring program in this area. The City remains committed to protecting the habitat of endangered species, and we will work closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources,” said Mayor Karen Farbridge.


Which brings me to the April 23 column from Scott Tracey in the Mercury, City Looking The Other Way When Rules Get In The Way.

Glad to see that someone is still earning their crust the right way at the Merc!

Jan Andrea Hall

For more on this and other community issues, tune into Royal City Rag, Saturdays 7-9 a.m. on CFRU 93.3fm. Speaking Truth To Power.

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Karen Farbridge, Guelph’s Iron Lady –  Re-election And Punitive SLAPP suits
Jan Andrea Hall, Royal City Rag

Jan Andrea Hall

Its interesting that Karen Farbridge, the current Mayor of Guelph, should decide to announce her bid for re-election on the same day that the City of Guelph legal department reaffirms its desire to seek damages from the individuals who occupied the Hanlon Creek Business Park last summer.

It seems that despite the efforts of the site occupants to peacefully protest the proposed development at the environmentally sensitive Hanlon Creek, the City of Guelph and their co-developer Belmont Equity are seeking up to $5 million in damages from the occupants.

One wonders at the timing of such a lawsuit? A coincidence or is this supposed to send a message to the business and development community that Farbridge is tough and that there will be no opposition of any kind to whatever they want to do in Guelph?

Its interesting that the City and Belmont Equity claim that they are not seeking punitive damages as part of the claim, yet use a $5 million dollar figure, which is outlandishly large if it is just to ‘recover the actual cost of damages, including damages to the site, resulting from protestor activities, and costs relating to the loss of monitoring equipment’.

They would likely claim otherwise, but it appears that this is a good old SLAPP suit.

To quote good old Wikipedia, “a SLAPP suit or a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.”

“The plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat.”


Am I the only one that finds it embarassing that Mayor Farbridge, who I presume okayed this lawsuit, is the same Karen Farbridge who was co-ordinator of the Guelph Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) for over a decade and advocated for non-violent direct action and protest when it was required?

Perhaps we should all re-read Bob Gordon’s excellent Guelph Mercury article about Karen Farbridge’s time at OPIRG. Find it here.

It would seem that the real Karen Farbridge is now standing up.

Its going to be a very interesting municipal election campaign. Rest assured we’ll be following it all very closely.

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Worth Repeating… if you are wondering why we need better protection for Guelph’s trees.

Developer’s Motives Questioned At Forum
Greg Layson, Guelph Mercury
November 12, 2009

A local developer recently and knowingly broke municipal law in an act of protest, City of Guelph environmental planner Suzanne Young told a delegation at the Ontario Urban Forest Council annual conference Thursday.

“Recently, we had a developer who wasn’t happy with our Natural Heritage Strategy, so he went in and did a bit of his own clearing up,” Young said, in a keynote presentation at the annual conference, staged this year at The Arboretum on the campus of the University of Guelph.

During an interview after her session, when specifically asked if she meant the developer cut trees on in an effort to intentionally break the city’s tree bylaw in an act of defiance, Young chose her words carefully.

During the interview she said she felt the cutting was done as a “pre-emptive” measure to the city’s pending Natural Heritage Strategy coming into effect.

The heritage strategy takes a tree inventory and protects environmentally significant lands from development and unnatural disturbance. Currently, it’s in the consultation stage. Young predicted its implementation could take effect by the end of next year.

“The sense was they weren’t happy with our Natural Heritage Strategy and this was done pre-emptive of it coming into effect,” Young said during the interview.

Young’s comments came 10 days after the city announced it had laid 151 charges in response to a tree-cutting this spring on land owned by developer Carson Reid, in the municipality’s southeast corner, at 2007 Victoria Rd. S.

The city evenly split the charges of “injuring or destroying a live tree in the City of Guelph without the written approval of the city engineer” among three companies. South Edge Ltd., allegedly owned and operated by Carson Reid, and Williams and Associates Forestry and Environmental Consultants Ltd., a Rockwood company owned by Pete Williams, each face 50 charges. O.T.S. Contracting Ltd. faces 51 charges.

City documents show Reid owns the land on which the cutting occurred at 2007 Victoria Road S.

A call for comment to Reid about Young’s comments Thursday afternoon was not returned Thursday. On Nov. 2, after the charges were announced, Reid said the trees were legally harvested according the terms of the city’s bylaws.

“We don’t have a protective tree bylaw,” Norah Chaloner of Guelph Urban Forest Friends told the audience. “We can’t do anything without a better bylaw and an urban forest department.

“I hope I live to see a bylaw that offers some better protection.”

During her presentation, Young readily admitted the city’s bylaw is inadequate.

“Unfortunately, there is a long list of exemptions,” she told the audience.

She also called having the city’s green infrastructure under the direction of the city’s engineering department “counterintuitive because (the city engineer) is not an arborist.”

“We definitely need an arborist and urban forest department,” Young said during a question-and-answer period.

“I get the feeling that Guelph is one clear-cut away from a new tree bylaw,” said Todd Irvine, during the question-and-answer session.

Young, Chaloner, Karen McKeown of the city’s environmental services department and Phillip van Wassenaer, a consulting arborist and president of Urban Forest Innovations, together presented a case study of Guelph.

Chaloner said Guelph’s current situation —with an outdated tree bylaw and no urban forest department — is a clear case of what cities ought not to do.

Since 1991, the city has commissioned or reviewed the Park Naturalization Policy, the Green Plan, the Tree Protection Report, the Urban Forest Plan, the Strategic Urban Forest Management Plan and the Natural Heritage Strategy.

Chaloner calls it “the timeline of inaction.”

“As it’s presented, not a lot has happened,” she said after her presentation. “Why isn’t anything happening?”

Young said high staff turnover and fallout from the Hanlon Creek Business Park protests have slowed the pace of updating the tree bylaw.

“I’m not saying it doesn’t need to be revamped. It definitely needs to be revamped,” Young said of the current tree bylaw during the interview.

“Hopefully, we’ll see that happen by the end of next year.”

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Hanlon_Downstream Web

Hanlon Creek Downstream In The Spring (Photo: Bob Gordon)

This editorial from the Guelph Mercury really needs repeating and circulating widely. It really says it all. Bravo to them for pointing out how unnecessary this is.

There’s no need for sod-turning ceremony
Guelph Mercury, October 29, 2009

The City of Guelph is inviting a response it might not like through its decision to stage what it is terming a sod turning “to celebrate the start of construction for the Hanlon Creek Business Park on Thursday.”

Sod turnings are by their nature unnecessary affairs. They’re redundant and ceremonial acts of pageantry along the lines of ceremonial ribbon cuttings. And that’s when they’re politically benign or even universally regarded as positive things. This late afternoon event is being regarded as a controversial move. That’s no surprise to its organizers who have billed it as an “invitation only” affair – a unique designation for a something otherwise described as a cause for civic celebration.

The city and other supporters of the park have already made it abundantly clear that they need, want and eagerly anticipate this proposed development – even as it has met stiff and varied opposition. So, why a late fall affair to assert the same thing once more? Why is there a need to kick off construction that is at least months away from starting in earnest and which several opponents assert will be challenged before that really proceeds?

The city is awaiting word from the Ministry of Natural Resources on how it may proceed on the park – pending still unknown results of scientific work to try to determine whether land within the park is home to an endangered species. Shouldn’t there be clarity on that point before most intelligently and sensitively putting gold-plated shovels to the ground?

Likely, organizers want to demonstrate a confident and united front on this civic priority. That’s clear in the role call of anticipated participants, among them: Guelph’s mayor, its member of Parliament, the head of its chamber of commerce and representatives from the Grand River Conservation Authority, the University of Guelph and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

This event will be interpreted as such by project supporters and by many in the community as a show of force against contrary voices.

This a hot button development issue. Why push this now and in this way?

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Bob Gordon Web

Bob Gordon

Farbridge Past And Present
Bob Gordon, Freelance Journalist/Royal City Rag Contributor
Guelph Mercury, September 21 2009

Mayor Karen Farbridge’s credentials as an environmentalist are impeccable. She has an MSc and PhD in biology from the University of Guelph. She was an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph and taught courses in environmental policy.

Most importantly, in terms of environmental activism she was the Director of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at U of Guelph for a decade. OPIRG Guelph’s website identifies its mandate as recognizing “that there are many ways to initiate and support grassroots radical change, and that our strength as an organization lies in the diversity of our experiences, approaches and tactics…. we operate without hierarchy and uphold the core values of anti-oppression and consensus. We mobilize through a wide variety of methods such as research, creating awareness, lobbying, media, training, protest, and direct action.”

As director of OPIRG Guelph, Karen Farbridge defended that approach articulately and frequently. In the summer issue of Alternatives Journal in 1998 she spoke glowing of the importance of the consensus approach to decision making and environmental activism: “consensus decision making is synonymous with the PIRG experience.”

(Take a look at “PIRG Power, Public Interest Research Groups in Canada celebrate 25 years of student activism by: Karen Farbridge and Peter Cameron” here)

Describing a PIRG organized occuption of a nuclear facility she wrote approvingly of the practical importance of consensus decision making, “When the police tried to arrest the ‘leaders’, hoping to undermine the occupation, they found that it did not dissolve in confusion because everyone was a ‘leader’.”

In a OPIRG Guelph newsletter she authored an article announcing the launch of the Speed River Land Trust Association stating, “Natural areas in the watershed provide habitat and nourishment…. These rivers, their riverlands and the wider watershed define our local communities and are our tangible link to the global environment.”

In an article published in The Guelph Tribune in the early nineties she noted, “our wetlands still face the pressure of urban sprawl—tragically with less protection now than a year ago.”

In her January 2008 Annual Address to Council she continued to speak of vision and high ideals, of doing things differently, “I feel fortunate to be Mayor of a City where the Council, City staff, and community at large have embraced the idea of making a difference. When we included this vision in our Strategic Plan, we knew we were setting the bar high. We did so deliberately, because there was a feeling in the community that if you don’t strive for great things, you have no hope of achieving them.”

Madame Mayor, where has this vision gone?

Bulldozing the Hanlon Creek Business Park forward is not ‘radical change’. Charging seven individuals and ‘Jane and John Doe’ (the community-at-large?) for events surrounding occupation of the site flies in the face of your own assertion that ‘everyone is a leader.’

Have you forgotten “Natural areas in the watershed provide habitat and nourishment…. These rivers, their riverlands and the wider watershed define our local communities and are our tangible link to the global environment”?

Have you forgotten “our wetlands still face the pressure of urban sprawl” and that sprawl is sprawl whether it occurs within or beyond municipal boundaries?

I remind you Madame Mayor of a document you authored in 1993, entitled Overview of the Hanlon Creek Watershed Study. In it you wrote, “The City has shown intent to develop industrial land in the watershed…. If cold-water trout streams are damaged both the City as a corporation and individual councillors will be liable under the Fisheries Act.”

Madame Mayor in 1999 you e-mailed city staffer Andrew Goldie stating, “If I can find enough money I would love to put a solar powered composting toilet in one of the parks.”

What we have is embarassingly ugly, dysfunctional pissoirs in downtown parking lots.

Madame Mayor, you spoke glowingly of the importance of wetlands and what we have is the Hanlon Creek Business Park.

Bob Gordon

For more on this and other community issues, tune into Royal City Rag, Saturdays 7-9 a.m. on CFRU 93.3fm.

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Royal City Rag made it into the Guelph Mercury this past weekend. Thanks to Christie Zimmer for a great interview.

Radio Host Trying To Inspire, Make A Difference
Guelph Mercury, May 1, 2009

Jan Andrea Hall said the best volunteer opportunities are those that allow you to give back and grow at the same time. Hall is passionate about community involvement. She’s also host of the weekly radio show Royal City Rag, on CFRU 93.3 FM, Guelph’s campus and community radio station.

Royal City Rag is a show about Guelph, pure and simple. It’s a mosaic of people, places, issues and events that Hall hopes will engage her listeners’ interests and stir their inner activists.

“With the show, I try to find out what’s important to people,” she said.

“I try to find ways to inspire people with the stories of others. Making a difference is what it’s all about; trying to inspire others to make a difference.”

Take a peek at the Rag’s recent archives and blog at http://www.royalcityrag.ca and you’ll get a taste of the breadth of material Hall covers, including the proposed changes to the Hanlon Expressway, management of our urban forest, the third annual Jane’s Walk, the launch of a songbook devoted to the songs of James Gordon, and an interview with Guelph MP Frank Valeriote.

As a volunteer at CFRU, Hall is a one-woman production team acting as the show’s researcher, engineer, writer, host and DJ. And, she loves every minute of it.It sustains her – now more than ever before.

Back in 2005, when Royal City Rag aired on Tuesday mornings, Hall began her day with a walk to the radio station.

She spent the remainder of the work week at the Ontario Veterinary College, where she balanced her roles as a veterinarian and faculty member. Three or four evenings a week, she could be found at local events and on Saturdays she took her turn behind the table at the Big Umbrella community information booth located at the Guelph Farmer’s Market.

Things are drastically different these days and what you might not hear in that powerful voice every Wednesday evening are the devastating effects of myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, which have left Hall unable to work for the past 18 months.

“I became a vet because I wanted to help out,” Hall said. “I still feel I have a lot to give. My story is not completely written.”

While the future of Hall’s career is frustratingly uncertain, her drive to remain an active part of her community and to communicate her passion for local engagement is fierce.

“I surround myself with activist people,” she said.

“There’s something very exciting about talking to people who are activists or volunteers or both. The key is giving of yourself because there’s a tremendous amount of well-being to get back.

“I think it would be really cool to still be doing this in 10 years,” she said, looking over my shoulder, to the future perhaps.

“Because there’s a lot to talk about.”

Christie Zimmer lives and writes in Guelph. Her column appears on alternate Fridays.


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