Some thoughts on meeting our climate change crisis in our city

Hi to everyone in TwoVille. There’s an abbreviated version of this article in today’s Guelph Mercury. I’d love to get your thoughts on this issue! 



After an August break, city council is gearing up for what looks like a lively and challenging fall.

In a summer filled globally with extreme fires and floods, wild variances in temperature and violent storms, I became more aware of the impacts of climate change on our well-being, our environmental sustainability and our economy.

I ended my vacation by attending the Association of Municipalities of Ontario ( AMO ) conference in Niagara Falls. Comparing notes with other councillors and mayors I’ve come away with an even stronger sense that addressing our climate change crisis has to be an initiative shared by ALL levels of government and that this has to happen NOW.

What’s the rush?

It’s generally accepted that unless we can contain our average world-wide temperature rise to 2 degrees celsius we will have a calamitous rise in ocean levels, threatening much of our coastlines and a huge percentage of our population. It’s also generally accepted that we have already failed to ‘rise’ to that challenge. We now have to look ahead to just such a calamity and find ways to manage it. Like it or not, we ARE facing an emergency and we all have to share responsibility in addressing it.

How do we do that at a municipal level?

Lots of ways. Some of them will be difficult, some actually fun and rewarding, some expensive, and some as simple as changing our consumer habits to reflect our changing world.

It’s budget season at city hall, and I believe that our immediate task is to address our ‘infrastructure gap’, (the difference between the current conditions of our infrastructure and what we really need to function safely and efficiently), so that we are ready for the extreme conditions coming our way.  Exacerbated by climate-related events like ice storms and frozen pipes, our crumbling infrastructure has been too long under-funded and even ignored for years.  The trouble is that issues like upgrading and maintaining our sewers, our storm-water management, our water supply, are not very ‘sexy’ election issues. It’s just been too easy to promise to keep taxes low and pass the problem and the expense on to the NEXT council or provincial government

With all the recent stresses on our system, we cannot keep ‘passing the buck’.  It’s short-sighted, selfish, and unsustainable. At AMO I learned that eliminating that ‘gap’ in general would mean an average tax increase of 8.5%. We’d all get thrown out of office if we dared suggest that, and it would be a sudden burden on our citizens that would put THEIR sustainability at risk. We DO know that our  taxation WILL have to meet these challenges. It’s not going to be easy, and it WILL involve an educational component so that we as Guelphites understand that we need that long-term thinking to maintain a viable future. We have to accept that there are costs involved in planning for climate change impact.  The choices we make in our city cannot be based on what looks good in our wallets today, ( though in tough times that can be irresistible ): they must be based around what is best for our children and their children- we cannot be good stewards of our land, our environment, and our culture if we compromise THEIR well-being to save a few dollars now.

I believe that we can begin this ‘educational’ process by being realistic and transparent about what we need to thrive as a city. One way is that when we have to increase our investment in our infrastructure, the increase on our bills could be clearly labelled as ‘climate change’ issues. If we understand that our expenses are going up BECAUSE of global warming, then we’ll also understand the value of conservation and in redesigning our lifestyles so we can keep those expenses down.

And that’s where we can be creative.We CAN conserve. We CAN and MUST reduce our carbon emissions in ways that will not feel like a sacrifice but rather an improvement in our quality of life for generations to come.

We are already leaders in alternative energy initiatives here in the Royal City. Imagine if we got more involved with rebates, rewards and incentives that would encourage us to go further down that road to sustainability? Those incentives would offset the tax burden that we all have to share in the coming years.

Imagine getting a break if you only had one car in your driveway and you could show that you were riding your bike more, walking more and taking public transit more often? We COULD walk more if we encouraged developers with more rewards for bringing us more walkable and eco-friendly housing developments with an exciting diversity of residential, commercial, retail, manufacturing and recreational uses.

We could, as some communities are doing, encourage densification in affordable housing by giving grants to homeowners who would add legal apartments to their dwellings.

We could expand our trail and bike lane systems and make them safe and welcoming so that we would learn how much healthier and cheaper it is to leave that internal combustion engine in the garage or get rid of it altogether. The solution for traffic congestion is no longer building wider roads, it’s reducing the need to USE cars on those roads. It’s not a ‘war on cars’! If it’s a battle, it’s fought over what we need to survive and thrive as a society.

We could encourage more live/work space and change our building codes to allow ‘tiny homes’ with a smaller ecological footprint.

We could encourage the flourishing and the preservation of our mature tree canopy, which adds immeasurably to our shade, our regeneration, our property values and our enjoyment of our urban surroundings.

We could actively encourage a ‘buy local’ campaign which pays for itself in the good jobs it creates and reduces our carbon footprint with lessened transportation distances for our goods.

We can expand our inter-city rapid transit and make our local system one that is easier, cheaper and more efficient than taking a car to work. We can look to Europe as leaders in this area.

We can learn to conserve our waste by charging by weight what we leave at the curb just like we pay for our water use.

We can return to our heritage as a ‘market town’ by rewarding and supporting both urban and rural agriculture.

We can elect leaders at all levels of government who have the kind of leadership and vision that it’s going to take to guide us through these challenging times, not ones who would rather cut programs and avoid investment just to help those who need help the LEAST!

Since so many of these possibilities create jobs and a healthier populace, these climate change initiatives help address poverty issues as well. Rethinking our housing planning away from the ‘large back yard single family home’ dream that has not been viable for a generation can be cheaper for families and it helps build community. Growth doesn’t pay for growth unless we radically change what the growth looks like. If we learn to enjoy shared spaces, we get to know our neighbours, and we tend to LOVE where we live more, which keeps our population stable and we tend to care for our neighbourhoods more, keeping up property values.

In becoming good stewards of our environment we can build an exciting city that enhances the enviable quality of life that we already have. It’s rewarding, it’s affordable, and it will ultimately be EASIER on our pocket books.

It’s going to take all of us to work together on this. I want to hear from you about YOUR ideas and concerns.

When it comes to climate change, I don’t really believe that we still have ‘climate change deniers” amongst us. We DO have ‘climate change avoiders”.. those who think that addressing the issues will disrupt their current lifestyles too much, so they oppose the change that we all know must come. We CAN and MUST convince those people that these changes won’t feel like a disruption, it will feel like an improvement!

I’m sure I’m like many of you: I’m intimidated and frightened by the looming crisis facing us with global warming, AND I’m also excited about finding effective, rewarding, innovative ways to face that crisis in a way that keeps us all thriving.

Let’s get started!


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Minor water interruptions mean fresher water for Guelph

Guelph, ON, September 10, 2015—The City will begin cleaning water mains in selected areas of Guelph on Friday, September 18. There are three parts to the cleaning program:

  • Water main flushing daily September 18 to 25 and October 26 to 30, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Water main cleaning nightly from September 27 to October 22, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Water main cleaning on October 25 between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The City aims to complete all cleaning and flushing by Friday, October 30.

What to expect

  • Homes and businesses where water mains are to be cleaned will receive a notice before cleaning starts on their street.
  • Tap water should not be used during cleaning times. Store tap water before cleaning starts or use bottled water.
  • Water pressure may be low during flushing periods, and water may appear discoloured.
  • No chemicals are used in cleaning and flushing. Special scrubbers and water pressure are used to clean water mains.

Drinking small amounts of discoloured water is unlikely to cause health issues. However, the City recommends waiting until water runs clear before drinking it. To clear discoloured water, run a cold water tap for five to fifteen minutes.

Why we clean water mains

Water main cleaning ensures customers receive the freshest water possible. Cleaning removes buildup of natural minerals such as iron and manganese. This reduces the chance that water will become discoloured.

For more information

For more information about water main cleaning or water quality contact Water Services at 519-837-5627 or visit

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Budget season approaches!

Hi ward Twovians! Hope you had a great summer. As you can see from the flurry of posts here I’m back from a good holiday and I’m ready for action. Lots coming in the fall at City Hall and I’m looking forward to getting your participation in the work ahead…

The City has a cool “Budget Simulator” at  It’s a great tool for looking at what might be in store for us as we balance our desire for affordability with our needs to keep our city functioning, accessible, and healthy. I urge you to check it out….

Here’s more from the city about it.

Talk to you soon


The City of Guelph’s 2016 budget kicks off today with the City’s first simulated budget exercise. The online tool is designed to help the City understand what services and projects are most important to the community, and help citizens understand some of the challenges involved in creating a municipal budget.

“Building a municipal budget is an exercise in balance. Our objective is to deliver services that are valued by our community, using a budget that is affordable and predictable for Guelph taxpayers,” says Mark Amorosi, deputy CAO, corporate services. “The budget simulator is the community’s opportunity to consider those same factors and explore the effects of accommodating various needs within a limited funding envelope.”

Explore the budget simulator

The City is exploring ways to increase community participation in budget decisions. The online budget simulator is a step toward opening up city budgeting and governance, and involving citizens in building an even stronger community together.

Guelph’s budget simulator is based on last year’s figures and lets people use their property assessment value to see how their taxes are used to pay for City services like fire and emergency services, waste collection, parks and recreation etc. Using the simulator, citizens can adjust how taxes are allocated to each service, and how their decisions affect their own taxes, and Guelph’s overall tax rate.

Simulated citizen budgets submitted by September 21 will be shared with Guelph City Council as part of the 2016 proposed budget, and people can share their version of the City budget on a variety of social networks.

The budget simulator includes elements of the City’s tax-supported operating and capital budgets, as well as the City’s water and wastewater budgets.

While the results of the exercise are not considered statistically significant, the budget simulator is one way for people to learn more about the budget process, and provide City Council with comments on how tax dollars and fees are used to provide City programs and services.

Citizens are also encouraged to bring budget concerns to Ward Councillors throughout the year, or attend budget meetings in the fall. Throughout the process, information will be posted to help inform citizens about the proposed budget and opportunities to participate.

2016 budget meeting schedule

  • October 21 – Non-tax-supported budget presentation to Council and public delegations
  • October 28 – Council approval of non-tax-supported budget
  • October 28 – Capital budget presentation to Council and public delegations
  • November 10 – Operating budget presentation to Council
  • November 16 – Local boards and shared services presentation to Council
  • November 30 – Public delegation (tax-supported budget)
  • December 9/10 – Council deliberations and approval

To learn more about the City’s budget and to have your say, visit

For budget updates or to join the conversation, follow the City of Guelph on Facebook ( or Twitter (@cityofguelph). #GuelphBudget

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‘Safe Semester’ starts September 11 downtown

Guelph, ON, September 3, 2015 – The annual Safe Semester program, designed to create a safe and enjoyable environment in Guelph’s downtown for all patrons including students, starts September 11.

The program will run every Friday and Saturday night until October 3. New this year, it will also run on the busy Halloween weekend—October 30 and 31.

“Downtown Guelph is a major destination within our city and Safe Semester helps ensure a vibrant and safe downtown experience for residents, visitors and students,” says Ian Panabaker, corporate manager of Downtown Renewal, City of Guelph.

“As the new school year approaches, we have again teamed up with many partners on our Safe Semester plan in anticipation of an increase in demand for our services,” says Chief of Police, Jeff DeRuyter. “It’s our goal to continue to make Guelph an excellent and safe community.”

The Downtown Late Night Task Force leads the Safe Semester program and works to reduce conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and drivers getting in and out of the downtown, and to prevent littering, public urination and other nuisances.  It includes representatives from the City of Guelph, Guelph Transit, Guelph Police Service, Downtown Guelph Business Association, University of Guelph, the Downtown Residents’ Neighbourhood Association and several downtown businesses.

What to expect downtown on weekends

September 11 to October 3, and October 30 and 31

On Fridays and Saturdays between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.:

  • Macdonell Street will be closed to traffic from the Macdonell parking lot to about six parking spaces west of the West Parkade.
  • Wyndham Street will be closed to traffic between Carden Street and Cork Street.
  • One accessibleportable washroom will be placed at Guelph Central Station.
  • One taxi stand will be located onthe north side of Carden Street across from Guelph Central Station.
  • All parking lots will remain open and accessible.

Cars parked on the closed sections of Macdonell Street and Wyndham Street after 10 p.m. will be towed and impounded at the owner’s expense.

Late night bus service

Guelph Transit offers late night bus service, funded by the undergraduate and graduate student associations at the University of Guelph. The service starts on Saturday, September 5, with buses traveling from Guelph Central Station to the University of Guelph and surrounding area. Late night service will run from 12:30 a.m., until the last bus leaves the University Centre at 3:30 a.m.

For more information

About the Safe Semester project

Constable Mike Gatto

Guelph Police Service

519-824-1212 extension 7253

About road closures and parking

Rob Barr

Supervisor, Traffic Engineering

Transportation Services

City of Guelph

519-822-1260 extension 2044

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Goods Exchange Weekend starts September 4!

Guelph, ON, September 1, 2015 – The City’s fall Goods Exchange Weekend takes place this weekend, September 4 to 7.

Whether you are searching for that special something or looking to get rid of a household item, the Goods Exchange Weekend is a great opportunity to exchange re-usable household items such as furniture, appliances, and toys.

To participate in this free community re-use event, residents are asked to follow these simple tips:

  • Clearly label items you wish to give away as “FREE” and place them at the curb after 5 p.m. on Friday, September 4.
  • Prevent misunderstandings by ensuring items such as children’s bikes, toys, and gardening tools are not accidentally left near the curb.
  • Over the weekend, tour your neighbourhood to see what great finds are at the curb.
  • At the end of the weekend, remove items that were not picked up from your curb by 7 p.m. on Monday, September 7. Items left at the curb may be subject to a fine or cleanup fee under the Waste Management By-law.

Goods Exchange Weekends take place in the spring (May) and again in the fall (September) each year.

Bulky Item Collection Program

Large items, such as furniture and appliances, are not collected as part of regular weekly curbside collection. Residents who miss the Goods Exchange weekend can make arrangements to have large items picked up at the curb through the City’s user-pay Bulky Item Collection Program.

For more information

Heather Connell, Manager, Integrated Services

Environmental services, Solid Waste Resources

519-822-1260 extension 2082


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Jane Graham Memorial Award

Guelph Arts Council Announces Deadline for Jane Graham Memorial Award


Guelph, ON – August 24, 2015 – In memory of Guelph visual artist Jane Graham, the Guelph Arts Council offers an annual award to a regional visual artist(s) to pursue professional development opportunities. The 2015 application deadline is Friday, September 25 at 4 pm. Any visual artist residing and actively practicing in Guelph or Wellington County is encouraged to apply for opportunities that will be pursued after November 15, 2015. The award’s terms of reference and application instructions are posted at The award(s) will be announced in late fall 2015.

Jane Graham was a much loved and respected visual artist who lived and worked in the Guelph area for many years prior to her untimely death early in 2005. Working closely with the Graham family, later the same year the Guelph Arts Council established a fund with donations made in Jane’s memory. The fund is now managed by The Guelph Community Foundation. With annual fund revenue, the Guelph Arts Council offers this award, now in its tenth year, to support artists who wish to pursue opportunities that will contribute to personal artistic growth.

Annually, Guelph Arts Council appoints a volunteer award jury with representatives from the local visual arts community, Guelph Arts Council, the Graham family, and The Guelph Community Foundation. The jury reviews the applications and selects the award recipient(s).

Ceramic artist and photographer Bunny Safari was the 2014 recipient of the Jane Graham Memorial Award. The award allowed her to attend a workshop on historical photography techniques, with the goal of combining those processes with her ceramic work. Over the years, other award recipients have included an artist blacksmith, printmaker, multidisciplinary artist, bead artist, art quilter, and painters utilizing several different approaches. All of these individuals have indicated that the award helped them take their artistic work to the next level.

For forty years, Guelph Arts Council has been dedicated to supporting, stimulating and promoting arts and culture in Guelph. Guelph Arts Council is funded in part by The Guelph Community Foundation and City of Guelph. We also acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), an agency of the Government of Ontario, which last year funded 1,737 individual artists and 1,095 organizations in 223 communities across Ontario for a total of $52.1 million.


For more information contact:
Patti Broughton

Executive Director

Guelph Arts Council

519-836-3280 (office)

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Lowering Speed River Water Levels

City lowering Speed River water levels on September 8 to install water pipes

Gow’s Bridge closure to continue into fall

Guelph, ON, August 31, 2015—The City of Guelph will be opening the Wellington Street Dam on September 8 to reduce water levels in the Speed River at Gordon Street. Lower water levels are needed  to safely install 180 metres of water pipes as part of the York Trunk Sewer Paisley-Clythe Feedermain project.

“The dam will remain open for the rest of the year while crews install the pipes,” said Majde Qaqish, a City project engineer. “Affected businesses have been advised of the water level change and we’ll complete the work as quickly as possible.”

To minimize the disruption to businesses using the Speed River, this portion of work has been delayed until after the Labour Day long weekend. As a result, Gow’s Bridge remains closed until this water pipe installation and subsequent Guelph Hydro work, can be completed. Gow’s bridge is expected to re-open by late fall.

“We’ve had a few challenges along the way,” noted Qaqish. “The unusually cold winter, the discovery of the drums and the difficulties experienced with drilling and tunnelling under Gordon Street changed the original plans for this complex project. This caused delays and we greatly appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete these important improvements to essential City services.”

The York Trunk Sewer Paisley-Clythe Feedermain is a $30 million, multi-year infrastructure project. It is the City’s largest watermain and wastewater sewer infrastructure project. The City’s 2009 Water and Wastewater Servicing Master Plan identified the projects as priorities in order to meet Guelph’s existing and future water and wastewater servicing needs.

Construction of the first phase began in 2014 and is still underway. This phase involves the installation of 2,200 metres of water and sewer pipes. To date the City has installed 90 per cent of the water pipes and 90 per cent of the sewer pipes planned for the first phase.

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