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  2. Next steps
  3. On what electoral reform reforms
  4. 2019 Fall campaign newsletter / infolettre campagne d'automne 2019
  5. 2019 Summer newsletter / infolettre été 2019
  6. 2019-07-15 SECU 171
  7. 2019-06-20 RNNR 140
  8. 2019-06-17 14:14 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  9. 2019-06-17 SECU 169
  10. 2019-06-13 PROC 162
  11. 2019-06-10 SECU 167
  12. 2019-06-06 PROC 160
  13. 2019-06-06 INDU 167
  14. 2019-06-05 23:27 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  15. 2019-06-05 15:11 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  16. older entries...

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Michael D on Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all
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fellow guelphite on Keeping Track - Rethinking the commute

Links of interest

  1. 2009-03-27: The Mother of All Rejection Letters
  2. 2009-02: Road Worriers
  3. 2008-12-29: Who should go to university?
  4. 2008-12-24: Tory aide tried to scuttle Hanukah event, school says
  5. 2008-11-07: You might not like Obama's promises
  6. 2008-09-19: Harper a threat to democracy: independent
  7. 2008-09-16: Tory dissenters 'idiots, turds'
  8. 2008-09-02: Canadians willing to ride bus, but transit systems are letting them down: survey
  9. 2008-08-19: Guelph transit riders happy with 20-minute bus service changes
  10. 2008=08-06: More people riding Edmonton buses, LRT
  11. 2008-08-01: U.S. border agents given power to seize travellers' laptops, cellphones
  12. 2008-07-14: Planning for new roads with a green blueprint
  13. 2008-07-12: Disappointed by Layton, former MPP likes `pretty solid' Dion
  14. 2008-07-11: Riders on the GO
  15. 2008-07-09: MPs took donations from firm in RCMP deal
  16. older links...

All stories filed under guelph...

  1. 2006-06-09: A ten-lane 401?
  2. 2006-10-05: Bring GO train service to K-W/Guelph/Cambridge!
  3. 2006-11-01: GOKW.org gets excellent response from the community
  4. 2006-11-10: Public transit dominates municipal election debates
  5. 2006-12-19: The future is rail
  6. 2007-03-14: Let's get Guelph back on the GO
  7. 2007-09-12: Dalton McGuinty responsible for 7200 deaths, says tory candidate
  8. 2007-11-28: We're band-aiding our highways again
  9. 2008-01-15: Highway 6 improvements a waste of money
  10. 2008-01-20: Guelph's former LaFarge property an opportunity not to be wasted
  11. 2008-02-04: Guelph official plan city council presentation
  12. 2008-03-02: New Highway 7 a total misallocation of funds
  13. 2008-03-03: Guelph city council presentation on the former Lafarge Lands planning application
  14. 2008-03-07: Stop paving over my generation!
  15. 2008-03-20: Evidence mounts in favour of Silvercreek Junction Park-and-Ride in Guelph
  16. 2008-03-24: Guelph Blogs
  17. 2008-03-25: Guelph's Imico property -- our other major transit opportunity
  18. 2008-03-26: On Guelph's Wilson St Parking Garage
  19. 2008-03-28: How I came to believe in better public transit
  20. 2008-04-12: $15 million parking lot a curious approach to planning for the future
  21. 2008-04-15: Free bus service, and a transportation forum
  22. 2008-04-18: More broken thinking on parking
  23. 2008-04-21: Conservative party does not want Guelph represented
  24. 2008-04-25: Guelph to rail using industry in 1974: can you move to trucks?
  25. 2008-04-29: Guelph throws another $126,000 at free parking
  26. 2008-05-01: South-end Guelph finally getting a firehall
  27. 2008-05-02: The March of the Hanlon Freeway
  28. 2008-05-04: MTO/Guelph Hanlon workshops show divisions, unity
  29. 2008-05-12: GO notices Guelph
  30. 2008-05-13: Guelph Transportation forum
  31. 2008-05-14: Final Hanlon workshop and related thoughts
  32. 2008-05-26: Every day should be Clean Air Day
  33. 2008-05-28: Thoughts on meeting Elizabeth May
  34. 2008-05-28: GO official announcement of service to Guelph
  35. 2008-06-03: Letter to Guelph City Council re: Lafarge property
  36. 2008-07-02: Thanks and Congratulations
  37. 2008-07-09: Municipal tax revenue issue has been very badly framed
  38. 2008-07-21: Guelph-Horizon Hydro merger debate
  39. 2008-07-25: Guelph by-election called
  40. 2008-07-30: Gloria Kovach's love-hate relationship with deficits
  41. 2008-08-20: What the ....
  42. 2008-08-23: Community service like no other
  43. 2008-08-29: Vandals threaten the lives of Liberal supporters in Guelph
  44. 2008-09-07: 45 days down, 37 to go
  45. 2008-09-24: GO trains to run to Guelph and Kitchener by 2011
  46. 2008-10-06: There is no morning-after pill for federal elections
  47. 2008-10-24: Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways
  48. 2008-11-30: Frank Valeriote off to a good start in the House of Commons
  49. 2008-12-12: GO train service not to reach Kitchener?
  50. 2009-02-01: Lafarge-Howitt deal an improvement, but still hampers transit future
  51. 2009-03-26: Disrespect won't win you any points
  52. 2009-03-30: Celebrating our heritage
  53. 2009-04-28: City Council decision on the Hanlon upgrades
  54. 2009-05-11: Police Week
  55. 2009-11-01: Transportation planning leaves a lot to be desired
  56. 2010-05-15: Keeping Track - The Rails of the Royal City

Displaying the most recent stories under guelph...

Keeping Track - The Rails of the Royal City

On May 2nd, I led one of the many Jane's Walks in Guelph on a route I called "The Rails of the Royal City". Not everyone wants to do a seven kilometer wet-weather walk, so my column for this month is the written version of the same tour. I hope you enjoy this little taste of Guelph's rich rail history.

History haunts Guelph's railways

Thunderstorms and miserable weather were predicted for that first Sunday in May. Still, a small group of dedicated people showed up for the Jane's Walk that morning.

It was my task to lead the walking tour of Guelph's rail network - and how great it would be, I thought, if I could show everyone this poorly understood bit of our city.

As we gathered at the Guelph railway station, the Via train pulled out of the platform on its way to Toronto. The station, once part of the Grand Trunk system, was once serviced by the streetcars of the Guelph Radial Railway. It served as a transit hub, and retains its strong heritage and functional value.

Via Rail train No. 85 departs for Sarnia in this March 16, 2008 photo. CN Locomotive 6167 is visible in the top right corner of the image.

Via Rail train No. 85 departs for Sarnia in this March 16, 2008 photo. CN Locomotive 6167 is visible in the top right corner of the image.

Across the tracks from the station, we looked at the soon-to-be-demolished cotton mill. Removed from the city's register of historic buildings, the site will instead serve an essential heritage and functional role in Guelph's restored transit hub.

We walked along Carden Street to the pedestrian overpass at Norfolk and along Kent Street, straddling the Guelph subdivision - better known as the north mainline - just west of downtown. We may never see another street quite like Kent, with its lane-rail-rail-lane configuration.

When we got to Edinburgh, we took Crimea to Alma Street. Just Alma Street - not Alma North or Alma South, because it is the tracks that are the north-south divider for street names.

There, the tracks leave the intersection of Alma and Crimea in four directions - to Cambridge, Kitchener, Georgetown and toward Fergus.

The tracks to Cambridge once led to a point near Brantford known as Lynden Junction, allowing Guelph residents a north-south connection to Brantford on the Great Western Railway.

Today, the same track in the direction of Fergus goes only as far as Woodlawn Road to the north, but once continued to Palmerston, which was a major passenger rail junction connecting much of the Bruce Peninsula and giving Guelph rail riders access to Owen Sound and many other communities.

The tracks to Kitchener and Georgetown still carry six passenger trains per day.

As we continued our walk, to the west lay Howitt Park and the Lafarge property.

We followed the tracks along Edinburgh northward as far as London Road.

Called the Guelph north spur, these tracks allow the Goderich-Exeter Railway to reach the industrial railway tracks in the Edinburgh-Speedvale-Elmira-Woodlawn roads block, which are shared with the Guelph Junction Railway. We hung a right and got on CN Spurline Park at London Road, walking along what used to be a connecting track between the Guelph Junction Railway and the Canadian National network.

This park, one of two former rail lines that now serve as walking trails in the city, runs from London Road along the south side of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School, across the northern tip of Exhibition Park, and curves sharply back to the Guelph Junction Railway at Clarence and Dufferin. The tracks along this alignment were pulled up nearly half a century ago, but the right of way remains clearly visible, a silent testimonial to the durability of rail.

While other tracks connected Guelph to Brantford and Owen Sound, the Guelph Junction Railway once continued north-west through Elmira all the way to Goderich.

We followed Dufferin and Cardigan streets along the Guelph Junction Railway as far as Eramosa Road. There, we were able to join the walking trail at John Galt Park along the side of the tracks, by the site of the old CPR station, now an apartment complex, and the Priory, the predecessor station. Along the way, we found a milepost: 32. I asked those along for the walk if they had any idea what we were 32 miles from. Nobody was quite sure. Hamilton, I told them, is 32 miles away. Railways still use miles

Hamilton, a city from which it is virtually impossible to visit Guelph without a car, has a direct rail line to our wonderful little community, but no service.

As we approached the River Run Centre, we noted the tourist trains. The Guelph Junction Express operates tourist and dinner trains along the Guelph Junction Railway. Waterloo, Tottenham, Orangeville, and several other communities in the area have similar services. Why has passenger rail been largely relegated to the status of a tourist attraction?

We approached the intersection of Macdonell and Wellington streets. There, the North main line has a large viaduct passing over the Guelph Junction Railway and the Speed River. The viaduct was built wide enough to support two tracks, showing excellent advance planning - far more than the 20 years we plan ahead for now.

The transit hub will have a platform that comes nearly all the way to this intersection. Why not build it just a bit longer to connect it to a platform along the Guelph Junction Railway? That would be planning for the future.

The last stop on our journey took us to CN 6167, the steam locomotive nestled in next to the Greyhound station. The locomotive will be moved to make way for the restored transit hub. Like the cotton mill, 6167 stands as a silent witness to our past successes - and will need to be removed in order for us to repeat them.

columns guelph transit 972 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 11:33 on May 15, 2010

Transportation planning leaves a lot to be desired

Tuesday's column appears in yesterday's on-line edition, so here goes. It's an expession of my annoyance that we have become so obsessed with a downtown railway station for outbound Guelph commuters that we will now risk entering GO service in two years without having one single parking space for those commuters in the entire city. Somehow, tying up our remaining already overcrowded city lots with commuters' cars is considered good for our downtown businesses. The lack of clarity in our vision for how to build our infrastructure if it isn't a simple road is truly mind-boggling.

Anyway, here it is...

Stimulus opportunity fails to hit the rails

Transportation planning leaves a lot to be desired

With two years to go before leaving the hatchery, our chickens are already on their way home to roost.

The proposed Wilson Street civic parkade, Guelph's answer to a proper commuter rail station, will be deferred years past the arrival of the trains it was meant to serve, and, for the second time in as many decades, GO trains will visit Guelph without providing a realistic option for its passengers to park and ride.

The decision to defer the lot may be the right one, if made for the wrong reason. Its main purpose, by design or otherwise, would have been to service the train station, drawing more cars into downtown outside of business hours and contributing only parking fare to the local economy. But by requesting only a single station in our downtown, and by settling with a particular set of developers whose vast, vacant land lies between two railway lines and three highways, Guelph has effectively cut off its nose to spite its face. When GO trains arrive two years from now, we will have neither a proper station downtown, nor an alternative location conducive to getting drivers out of their cars.

Once again, we will be encouraging our commuters to use the ever-expanding highway network while pondering why our GO trains are leaving Guelph with almost only Waterloo region passengers aboard.

The 401 is among the busiest highways on earth. Stretching 16 lanes across at its widest, it is also among the slowest. With all that, you would think that the GTA is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. But it only makes the top 50 if you stretch it to include Hamilton.

Our solution to our never-ending congestion problems is inevitably to pass up golden transit opportunities, build another highway, and enlarge the freeways we have until there remains no room to grow.

We have an extensive network of buses and trains of various descriptions, speeds, and routes. And if you don't mind going through downtown Toronto, you can get pretty well anywhere in under a day. Guelph to Hamilton, with the end of direct CoachCanada service, is a mere four hours by bus, and we can even make Brantford on overnight service.

Among the many studies taking place in the area is one called "GTA West." It looks at transportation problems from the Hanlon in the west to the 400 in the east, from the 401 in the south to a fuzzy line north of the GTA. Every few months, the GTA West study's Community Advisory Group meets to hear about the latest developments and offer input to the planning team. The fifth such meeting will take place in Mississauga on Thursday.

GO has already run an environmental assessment from inception to completion, albeit largely based on city parking plans that won't come to fruition, since the GTA West study got under way for much of the same territory. GTA West, delimited by highway rather than developed boundaries, remains focused on all modes of transportation, with a likely outcome of a new super-corridor stemming off the interchange of the Hanlon and the as-yet unbuilt new Highway 7 to an unclear easterly terminus.

Coupled with the grade separation of the Hanlon and the pending expansion of the four-lane Highway 6 south from the 401 toward Freelton, such a highway would make a clear means of coming up from the Niagara Peninsula and bypassing Toronto to get straight onto the 400, via Guelph. However the planners have acknowledged the loud and clear message from the community advisory group is that a new highway, at least on its own, is not an acceptable solution to our transportation woes.

For the past year, we have been in recession. In an attempt to jump-start the economy, roads across the country are being rebuilt at a frenetic pace. And while our governments at all levels are borrowing heavily to pay for it, one has to ask what we are actually achieving.

There is no better time than a deep recession to rapidly and comprehensively rethink national infrastructure. Labour is cheaper and more abundant than during a boom, and the work can create jobs. We have figured it out to an extent, with the largest pothole-filling project in history, but what we are lacking is the vision required to turn this economic bust into a true infrastructure boon.

Now is the time we should be mapping our country and drawing a new transportation infrastructure on it that does not focus around our insatiable demand for highways. We need to be building new railway lines and stations and improving existing ones. We need to make our different means of transportation interconnect. And we need to provide a place for people to put their cars to ride into the future. Projects such as GTA West provide us an opportunity, at least in our little corner of the country, to push for transportation strategies that offer meaningful alternatives where only another highway and a parkingless commuter station are envisioned.

columns guelph transit 961 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 08:24 on November 01, 2009

Police Week

With Police Week under way today and tomorrow, I thought it would be a good opportunity for my column to leave the usual track of pushing for rational transit solutions in a land where such concepts sound wonderful but are truely completely foreign to all of us, and focus on the people who enforce our laws for a few moments. While policing addresses crime head on, it doesn't make any effort to address the root causes of crime in the structure of our society, but that's a different column. So here's this one.

Police Week a chance to show our appreciation and get involved

Today marks the start of Ontario's annual Police Week. What better time to stop and really appreciate the contribution that our police department makes to the peace and well-being of our community?

Our media outlets are usually looking for problems -- scandals, disasters, or epidemics -- to catch our attention. As the saying goes, "If it bleeds, it leads." National news coverage sometimes sounds like a soap opera, reporting murders and crimes until we become inured to them and no longer even notice, except to wish they would announce good news more often.

Even so, we rarely take the time to notice when something is working properly. The fridge, the hot water tank, the car -- all are taken for granted until they break. In the same way, for most of us, the Guelph Police only come to mind when we realize we have been speeding, or have just made an illegal left turn.

The rest of the time, though, they are performing their real tasks.

Policing is among the most thankless tasks in any community, yet year after year, crime rates are substantially lower in Guelph than in other comparable cities in Ontario in every category except traffic violations.

There, we rate as the second highest, arguably a sign of the zeal of our men and women in uniform who monitor and patrol our roads.

"This year's theme is Policing Possibilities: Inspiration for the Future. This theme focuses on heightening community awareness and promoting collaboration between young people to keep our communities safe, through crime prevention, preparedness and social development," The Guelph Police Service said in a statement.

Policing services are not all performed by the active members of the force.

There are also groups of volunteers that strengthen links with the greater community.

One of these groups is the Community Volunteer Patrol (www.guelphcvp.ca). The volunteer patrol was started by residents of Guelph's west end in the mid-1990s. It grew quickly and serves the entire city, feeding information back to the police service's dispatcher as warranted, and helping to keep Guelph's crime rate down. Many similar volunteer services exist in other Ontario communities such as Kingston, Belleville, and Halton region.

Some forces, such as the OPP, have a more hard-core group of volunteers in their auxiliary units. All of these groups share one thing in common: they are all ways for the community to volunteer with the police services and contribute to our collective well-being.

The Guelph volunteer patrol is an eyes-and-ears extension of the Guelph Police Service. Usually at night, its members patrol parks, schoolyards, churches, and other neighbourhoods, institutions and businesses that request their presence.

They report directly to the police dispatcher while on duty and record everything that happens. You may also have seen them in their red shirts helping out at events such as Canada Day.

Guelph is a city rightly proud of its strong volunteerism, as seen during the recent National Volunteer Week.

If you want to get involved and help out with policing in Guelph, but the volunteer patrol is not your cup of tea, there are other opportunities to volunteer, with organizations such as Guelph Neighbourhood Watch or Block Parents.

If you want to learn more about these local opportunities, about the police service in general, or just want to show your appreciation to our Police service, Police Week is your big chance.

Today and tomorrow, you are invited to an open house at the Guelph Police Station any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to meet the people of our police service, and the volunteer community groups attached to the police that help to make Guelph a better place.

Guelph works because people like you take an interest and show their appreciation. Successful policing requires community involvement.

columns guelph 733 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 20:50 on May 11, 2009

City Council decision on the Hanlon upgrades

It was a long night in Council's new chambers last night. The session lasted a full six hours, which I suspect gave most people the impression by the end that thy had always met in that room, even though it was the first meeting there since new City Hall opened. On the agenda was the construction of a new organic waste processing facility, upgrades to the Hanlon, approval of budgeting for money under a $135.5 million Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, and other topics that were ultimately deferred.

On the organic waste plant, also known as the 'wet plant,' several impassioned local residents rose to demand a full environmental assessment be done of the $26 million facility's construction. The small rural neighbourhood nearby the facility on the outskirts of town reported that the last, rather unsuccessful, such plant resulted in the deaths of four of the local residents from aneurisms as air and water quality were allegedly tainted by the facility.

Ultimately the new plant was approved by council without an EA and that project will be going forward over the next few years. I found it interesting in the lengthly discussion on this item that the City currently sends 8 trucks per week of organic waste to a Niagara Falls, New York incinerator to be burned. It perplexes me that so much of our waste leaves by truck when waste is by no means a high priority commodity, and the so-called "Waste Resource Innovation Centre", or our trash collection facility, is right next to the city-owned Guelph Junction Railway, albeit separated by a narrow river. Eight truckloads of trash is around two freight car loads of trash. Part of the plans for the new wet facility also include importing wet waste from nearby municipalities to process, which will also be done by truck. Were we to build a small rail spur into the Waste Resource Innovation Centre, we could both import and export our trash by rail at minimal environmental and economical impact rather than moving all the trash by truck, a vehicle designed for priority.

On the agenda, there was also another curious item: Guelph's distribution of money from the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. It breaks down like this:

  1. Organics Waste Processing Facility - $26.5 million
  2. Guelph Transit Terminal, Bridge Rehabilitation and Related Road works - $16.4 million
  3. Eastview Community Park and Pollinator Initiative - $7 million
  4. Civic Square Skating Rink/Water feature - $2 million
  5. Municipal Facility Rehabilitation, Energy Conservation Upgrades and Accessibility Improvements - $10.3 million
  6. Major and Minor Road Reconstruction - $17.1 million
  7. Norfolk: Norwich to Quebec Road Reconstruction - $5.4 million
  8. Sidewalk Rehabilitation - $3 million
  9. Parks Rehabilitation - $3.8 million
  10. Road Reconstruction Projects - $24.9 million
  11. Road Pavement Deficit - $5 million
  12. City Bridge and Structure Upgrades - $2.1 million
  13. New Sidewalk and Bicycle Lane Construction - $2.5 million
  14. Intersection Improvements - $6.2 million
  15. Storm Water Infrastructure - $2.3 million
  16. Railway Crossings - $1 million.

Road investment (6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14) $60.7 million
Walking/cycling investment (8, 13): $5.5 million
Transit/rail investment (2, 16): $17.4 million

That is $17.4 million for transit and rail projects, and $60.7 million for roads -- and that's counting rail/road crossing upgrades for rail. The $16.4 million for a Guelph Transit Terminal raises another whole host of issues, not least of which is that there is no evidence yet that Via Rail has actually agreed to have its station parking lot ripped out and turned into a bus/train interchange terminal. Even if it is, because Council elected not to save the Lafarge property as a park-and-ride, the project will devastate downtown parking no matter how many $30-$50,000/stall parking lots we build.

Anyway, in the context of all that happening, Council's other major decision last night was weather or not to support the Ministry of Transport of Ontario's recommendation to upgrade the Hanlon between Maltby Rd and Wellington.

Here is the text of my comments to Council on the topic:

Madam mayor, members of council,

What is our global vision for transportation?

While the Hanlon was being built in the early 1970s, the prevailing attitude was that any problem could be solved with another hunk of pavement. In 1974, while the Hanlon was under construction, a survey conducted by the City of Guelph asked industries, essentially: can you move away from trains and switch to trucks so that we can abandon most of the profitable Guelph Junction Railway? Surely our attitude has improved since that time.

The Hanlon was built to allow Guelph residents to bypass the downtown. Before the last section was even finished, Guelph had a save-the-downtown committee. This lesson is one we are continuing to fail to learn. The Hanlon already allows motorists to bypass Guelph's commercial centre, but its main purpose is to connect the different parts of Guelph to each other. Chopping out College and Claire, and making Kortright's Guelph-side access a residential service road, turns the Hanlon from an intra-Guelph highway to a Guelph bypass.

As importantly, we don't even know what the MTO has in store for the other half of the Hanlon, but we do know the highway is eventually intended to connect to Highway 6 south of Morriston, new Highway 7 north of Guelph, and we can safely assume it will connect to the GTA West project which still pretends to be something other than a highway project. These upgrades are not a project by, about, or for Guelph, but about finding a way around Guelph.

While the proposal before you went through extensive public consultation, the question asked was always: how should we upgrade the Hanlon. It was never: should we upgrade the Hanlon. It was never: where do we want to be in 20 years? We have no global vision for transportation.

If we go ahead and upgrade the Hanlon, we will see increased traffic volumes with better flow, pat ourselves on the back, and congratulate ourselves for planning for the future. If we do not, we will see increased congestion, and we will regret not doing the work. Why? Because that is the shallow view of the world we take, where highways are the answer but nobody knows the question.

There are four major highway projects currently ongoing in the vicinity of Guelph, of which the resolution before you covers only one quarter of one. If we divert the hundreds of millions of dollars of our money these highway projects will cost to mass transit, and give people a useful way to get around, we may start making headway.

Most of us probably drove to this meeting tonight. I, frankly, would rather not have. But parking downtown is free. Taking the bus, round trip, is $5, and takes approximately five times as long as driving, plus waiting. In all likelihood, the last bus will have left before I leave this meeting tonight. Counting generously, one out of every twenty trips in this city is done on a bus, and we are proud of the "five percent modal share" busses enjoy. We call it our goal, and we sleep well at night knowing that only ninety percent of people use their cars exclusively.

This evening's resolution includes a request to study further transit opportunities, but it does not go far enough. These have been studied over and over; what we need is actual investment in improved mass transportation opportunities for both passenger and freight, as part of a global vision for transportation that sets out how, not whether, we will move toward mass transit over the next decades.

While passenger trains have been largely relegated to the status of quaint tourist attraction, railway tracks parallel the Hanlon and Highway 6 from Guelph to Hamilton, where they continue parallel to the QEW all the way to the US border. Abandoned railway lines parallel Highway 6 north of Guelph all the way to Owen Sound. There is no reason for us not to invest in moving our people and goods on these economical, environmental railway lines, rather than once again upgrading our highways. These are just some of the options we can evaluate, but applying more band-aids to our highways should not be among them.

The auto industry does not have the money to fight transit projects at the moment. This is the time, as US President Barack Obama has figured out, to invest in mass transit, rather than highways. The Hanlon's time to upgrade has come and gone. Now is not the time to build bigger better overpasses at taxpayer expense, it is the time to come up with alternatives so that all of us can come to council meetings by public transit if we choose, with a reasonable expectation of being able to get home after, for less than the cost of driving.

Madam mayor and members of council, while the Hanlon was built forty years ago, the decision of whether to think like forty years ago or think about forty years from now rests in your hands for this small corner of the world. Do not approve this highway project until we have planned what we are really doing with transportation, not only to get us to the year 2031, but for the indefinite future, as time will not stop when our highways and our city reach their planned capacity.

I appeal to you to show the leadership that is needed in these times to formulate and implement our part of a true global vision for transportation.

Thank you.

Following my presentation, Councillor Piper asked me to expand on the construction cost difference between road and rail. I pointed out that Highway 7 will cost in the order of $30 million per kilometre to build, while rebuilding an abandoned railway line costs approximately $1M/km in each of parts and labour.

After hearing delegations for more than two hours, some in favour, more opposed, all with one problem or another with the plan, it was approved in a disappointing 12-1 vote, paving the way for one more albatross around the City of Guelph's neck and leaving me and many others scratching our heads about the vision our leadership claims to have.

guelph presentations transit 1697 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 09:20 on April 28, 2009

Celebrating our heritage

Today's column ties Guelph's rail history to Guelph's rail future through Guelph's rail present. The message in it applies to communities all over, though. Waterloo residents can drop in Waterloo Central where Guelph Junction Express is mentioned, Orangeville and Brampton residents can look toward the Credit Valley Explorer, and the further away you go, the more of these tourist railways you find viably running on railway lines that could be hosting real passenger service.

Rail transport is not just a thing of the past

On Election Day, last Oct. 14, a teenager playing with fire destroyed the restored historic railway station in the Quebec town where I grew up. A few short years ago, Strathroy's station, too, was torched. The River Run Centre was built on the site of the original Guelph Canadian Pacific station, which was the Priory. Our Great Western station, once near the former Lafarge property, has been gone for generations. The Grand Trunk station remains in service as the city's Via Rail station, soon to be joined by GO transit and the city's bus system. This is the sole survivor of at least seven train stations built in Guelph since 1827.

It used to be that the Guelph Junction Railway was part of the Canadian Pacific network as a passenger and freight line, connecting Goderich to Hamilton through Guelph. The line was abandoned from Guelph to Goderich some years ago, and passenger trains have not run on the balance with any regularity for over four decades.

Now that has changed. Last year, a local business person started the Guelph Junction Express, a tourist railway running between downtown Guelph and Guelph Junction, which is just west of Campbellville, on weekends.

Guelph residents have an opportunity to see this passenger train as it goes by the site of the old CPR station at the River Run Centre. The symbolism cannot be overstated.

The Guelph Historical Railway Association, which has been an active participant in the Guelph Junction Express project and has provided volunteer labour for many aspects of its preparation and operation, is putting on a special trip on April 25, running the Guelph Junction Express passenger train over most of Guelph's railway tracks. It will cover all of the tracks from Guelph Junction to north of Woodlawn Road, and into the industrial tracks that cross the Hanlon Expressway between Speedvale Avenue and Woodlawn Road, off of Edinburgh Road. This is an opportunity to experience Guelph's existing, and still active, rail network.

The tracks on which the Guelph Junction Express operates represent a huge opportunity for Guelph, if we have the courage to rise to the challenge. While studies looking at transportation in the region see tracks that run from Guelph to nowhere, and studies in the region south of us see tracks that run from Hamilton to nowhere, we must see that these tracks do not go nowhere, but connect Guelph to Hamilton.

Imagine a direct train from here to Hamilton. When Guelph had 20,000 people, passenger trains regularly ran that route. Now, with over 120,000 people, we have settled for a tourist train, celebrating rail transit as an exotic form of transportation that only our grandparents used.

While we treat passenger trains as a tourist attraction rather than as a practical way to get around, a ride on the Guelph Junction Express will challenge that assumption. Short-, medium- and long-distance travel are all possible by rail. All we lack is the imagination and courage to invest and restore our service to the level it was a century ago when taking the train got you some place other than Front Street.

Could we run a light-rail transit system south from Guelph's downtown to Hamilton's? Could we run one from downtown Guelph to our northwest industrial park? The Guelph Historical Railway Association excursion train will operate on one of the two potential routes for that service, which exist today as freight lines.

Integrating a Guelph light-rail system with a Waterloo Region light-rail system can be accomplished along two existing, serviceable routes, one that goes from Guelph to Cambridge (that appears as a desired route on Guelph's walking-trail master plan, in spite of being an active railway line) and the other, which goes from Guelph to Kitchener. But even if we do not connect to Waterloo, we can provide meaningful service within Guelph city limits, connecting some of Guelph's residential areas to its industrial ones by rail.

While our train stations continue to be burned or torn down, whether through malice or planning, the opportunities along the railway lines that pass those stations remain untapped and unexplored. Take a moment out of your weekend, take the Guelph Historical Railway Association's excursion, and imagine the possibilities as you ride a passenger train around Guelph.

Now is the time, with more and more of us looking for work, to invest in improving the underused rail infrastructure that we already have, an approach that could truly make us stronger for when times improve.

columns guelph transit 834 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 09:49 on March 30, 2009

Disrespect won't win you any points

I attended the Guelph Civic League's Hanlon Creek Business Park community discussion this evening and have a little to say on the matter. There were six panelists, though five of them didn't really need to be there. Peter Cartwright, the City's General Manager: Economic Development and Tourism, fielded nearly all of the ninety minutes of questions from the floor.

The Hanlon Creek Business Park is something I do not fully grok. I understand the need for employment lands as long as we subscribe to the theory of sustainable growth. While I believe "sustainable growth" is a total oxymoron -- something can either be sustained, or it can be grown, but to sustain growth requires infinite resources, itself an oxymoron -- growth is coming to this area and some accommodation needs to be made for it.

Not to belittle the environmental concerns, my objections to the plan are less environmental than they are pragmatic. I think it is crazy to be tearing down one of our few remaining virgin growth forests and paving it over, but I also think that if we are going to develop the land, it needs to be done in a way that minimises environmental impact on a wider scale, well beyond the 500 acre plot. It is imperative, therefore, that any such development be designed to maximise employment per acre, and be set up around public transit for commuters, and around rail for freight.

At the moment, the development is at the outskirts of town, where busses would be seriously stretching their legs to reach. The entire development is centrally located three to five miles between three different railway lines, two of which connect back to downtown Guelph and could be used for LRT as well as freight, and all of which connect to Canadian National and Canadian Pacific's national networks. No plans are even being contemplated to make any of those lines reach this industrial park, meaning all the heavy industry planned for the south end of the park will have to move by truck, further increasing the environmental impact to that part of town, to our road system, and our environment in general.

The points made by some panelists and those speaking from the floor were generally valid and important: namely that paving over wetlands isn't generally good environmental policy. But I have serious issues with the people who attend these events to disrupt them and argue their point in an unhelpful manner.

In their efforts to make their point, activists applauded questions and ignored answers, some swearing at the panelists and heckling. One questioner even went so far as to accuse Cartwright of conflict of interest for doing his job. Matt Soltys of Land is More Important than Sprawl sat on the panel and insisted that his views are not radical. Indeed, the ideas are not, but the disrespect shown by supporters in the room for those with whom they did not agree is radical, uncalled for, and completely counterproductive.

More information is needed for the community on the Hanlon Creek Business Park, that is evident. The City has promised that a website with up to date information on the project is forthcoming. But if the opponents of the project would rather shout down the planners than listen to them, what, really, is the point?

Showing such blatant disrespect won't win you any points. If anything, it will only serve to alienate people who would otherwise agree.

guelph 580 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 22:18 on March 26, 2009

Lafarge-Howitt deal an improvement, but still hampers transit future

Howitt Park Neighbourhood Residents Association, the city, and the developer of the Lafarge lands have come to an agreement on use for the lands that sees the retail space nearly halved and the addition of high density residential. This is an improvement from my point of view, because it allows the potential for my future dream of having the land used for walk-to-work out-of-town commuters as GO service progresses toward Guelph.

As I face the prospect of commuting to Kitchener myself, a new development in my life, the idea of having a station there that allows me to take the train westward to work is ever-more important to me.

The city has asked for only the downtown station to be used, but necessity will eventually require the Lafarge site to host a parking area for a station, even though the city government has acknowledged that westward commuting is as important as eastward commuting and a downtown-only station does nothing to help that. Having 340 residential units on the property should reduce the number of spaces needed. With trains, transit, and residential, the number of cars needed by such commuters should also be reduced.

It isn't an ideal situation, but it is a vast improvement over a nothing-but-commercial development as had been proposed. Armel's continued objection to the project and continuation of the OMB process is a plus, allowing GO Transit's environmental assessment to get out ahead of the development on the property and assert whether or not GO intends to use a portion of the land for a station, something I have long believed is essential to the future intercity transit system that Guelph is currently making no realistic plans for.

With the worst recession in three generations upon us, the province is in a hurry to shovel money at ready-to-go transit and infrastructure projects. With that in mind, GO's next Environmental Assessment Public Information Centre for Guelph service is coming up:

Kitchener:
Thursday, Feb 5, 2009
18:00-21:00
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
54 Queen St N

Guelph:
Thursday, Feb 12, 2009
18:00-21:00
Evergreen Seniors Centre, Room 4
683 Woolwich St N

Georgetown:
Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009
18:00-21:00
Halton Hills Cultural Centre
9 Church St

Interestingly, the Kitchener meeting directly conflicts with the next GTA West Community Advisory Group meeting (which is open to the public). It will be Thursday, Feb 5, 2009 at:

Four Points by Sheraton
2501 Argentia Rd
Mississauga

Anyone interested in the future of transportation in southwestern Ontario should go to this meeting. Visitors can observe the proceedings and do have time at the start and end (if I recall correctly) to comment. GTA West is, in my estimation, a project to build a highway between Guelph and Brampton connecting new highway 7 to the 407, but is disguised as a holistic analysis of transportation problems in the region. If there is enough community interest in solving our transportation problems with something other than steamrollers and asphalt, then it may actually become that holistic analysis that really is needed.

guelph transit 511 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 11:07 on February 01, 2009

GO train service not to reach Kitchener?

GO has released its 2020 plan, and according to the 65MB document, Guelph is to get rush hour train service, but Kitchener, Cambridge, Brantford, Niagara region, and Peterborough are only being considered for possible future expansion. Such a move makes the need for a site like Lafarge for parking and route origination much more urgent for Guelph's service, as it would be the nearest GO train access for the entire Waterloo region market. At the junction of 6, 7, and 24, Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo commuters would need a place to park in Guelph to park and ride. Refer to page 20 of the linked PDF for the GO 2020 rail service map.

The whole document is rather interesting. Page 24 of the PDF outlines operating ratios for comparable commuter services across North America. In the text, the document states "GO Transit will maintain a sustainable cost-recovery ratio of 75%." According to the chart on the same page, GO's current ratio is in the area of 90%, well ahead of second-place MTA Metro-North, New York City's system, which operates at about 62%. Page 34 outlines the plans for each of the lines on the GO system. Among the interesting tidbits, this chart shows GO considering the electrification of the Guelph line, and outlines the expected service for Guelph.

See GO's press release on the topic.

guelph transit 232 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 14:02 on December 12, 2008

Frank Valeriote off to a good start in the House of Commons

While all hell breaks lose in Ottawa as the Prime Minister acts too clever by half, and rumour spreads (by tories) that he is planning on sending Canada toward its constitutional minimum of one Parliamentary sitting day per year, new Guelph MP Frank Valeriote has been settling in to the House of Commons. Here are Hansard transcripts from his first interventions in the two weeks since being sworn in. Valeriote, the rookie Liberal MP for Guelph, is the Associate Critic for Industry (Automotive).

Question period, November 20th:

Mr. Francis Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, the auto sector has greatly suffered from the government's poor management of the economy and chronic neglect.

Guelph's economy is dependent upon the good jobs that come from a prosperous automotive and auto parts industry. Under the Conservatives, tens of thousands of good jobs have been lost, a situation that could have been avoided if they had a plan.

While the minister is on the road without a plan, auto workers are on the streets without a job. When will we see some real action?

Mr. Mike Lake (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that the global auto industry is facing unprecedented circumstances and the North American integrated automotive industry is no different.

The situation is changing daily. The minister is down in the U.S. right now talking to stakeholders. He has met with stakeholders here in Canada over the past couple of weeks.

The solution here needs to be a carefully considered one with a long-term view to the interests of Canadian consumers, Canadian workers, Canadian businesses and Canadian taxpayers. Any decision taken will be carefully considered in that regard.

Question period, November 26th:

Mr. Francis Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, what our auto industry needs is a coordinated, concurrent effort with the United States. Anything less than that will result in the protection of U.S. jobs at the expense of Canadian jobs. Anything less than that is only going to worsen the new Conservative deficit.

Will the Conservative Minister of Industry tell us exactly with whom in the Bush administration and in the new Obama economic team he has met to ensure that Canadian jobs are protected and not siphoned across the border?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I would remind members of the House that the president-elect, the premier of Ontario and the Prime Minister of this country are all saying the same thing. We need long-term sustainability. We do not need back of the envelope plans. We need a business plan and a business model that will work for the future. Barack Obama is saying that. Dalton McGuinty is saying that. The Prime Minister is saying that, and we are proud of our Prime Minister.

Mr. Francis Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, the Conference Board of Canada stated that Canada will lose up to 15,000 more auto assembly jobs, which means 100,000 lost jobs in total by the end of 2009, 100,000 Canadian jobs. The U.S. Congress on its own will not protect Canadian jobs. That is the responsibility of the Conservatives, but all we hear from that minister is empty rhetoric.

How much longer will workers and their families have to wait before that ineffective Conservative minister finally acts to protect the auto jobs in this country?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House are serious about our auto sector and indeed the entire economy. We are not part of the ready-fire-aim gang over there. We are methodically working on the best economic strategy for this country. We are working with our stakeholders. We are working with the auto sector. Members on that side of the House have no plans, no promises, except a car tax and a carbon tax which people in Canada could not afford to pay. That is not good enough anymore.

And later on the 26th, during the debate on the throne speech:

Mr. Francis Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga--Streetsville.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to highlight some of my thoughts on the government's agenda outlined in the Speech from the Throne entitled, "Protecting Canada's Future".

It is indeed a distinct honour and privilege to have a seat in Canada's Parliament. I am profoundly grateful for the confidence that has been placed in me by the citizens of Guelph, a city in which one could not be more proud to live. It is a tremendous opportunity and privilege to serve one's own community in public office.

I want to take a moment to extend my appreciation to those individuals who devoted their time, resources and energy during my extensive 82 day election campaign. I am humbled by their contribution and inspired by their conviction.

My family has always been a source of love, guidance and support for me, and I am grateful for, and often feel undeserving of, their continued support. In particular, I want to thank my wife, Catherine, and our children, Olivia and Dominic, for their steadfast love and support as my young family continues along this journey into public life and public service.

In meeting my new colleagues from all parties, I am mindful that while we are divided geographically and politically, we are bound by a desire to serve the citizens of our constituencies and contribute to a better quality of life for those we are entrusted to represent. It is an ambitious goal, one that is essential for all of us to achieve in co-operation together.

I respect that Canadians want a Parliament that will work together to overcome the challenges that are on our doorstep. I have been successfully serving Guelph for 27 years as a lawyer, assisting people through the best and worst times of their lives. I have also had an opportunity to serve my community through many community boards and foundations. The people I have met and the organizations I have worked with along the way in Guelph have always had the foresight and commitment to face challenges, accept responsibility and plan a strategy to move towards a brighter future.

The people of Guelph and I are concerned about, even disapproving of, the Conservatives' lack of vision. In response to calls for economic prudence, we saw the Prime Minister irresponsibly eliminate the $3 billion contingency fund. In less than three years the Conservative government has become the highest spending government in Canadian history, after squandering the $13 billion surplus left to them by the previous Liberal government.

The Conservative minority government increased federal spending by more than $40 billion a year and, despite all respected economists' opinions to the contrary, cut its own vital source of revenue. In doing so, the Conservatives failed to stimulate meaningful economic growth and failed to be prepared for the slowdown they saw coming.

This economic crisis is an opportunity to embrace and invest in bold ideas and strategies that are going to translate into the jobs of tomorrow. I invite the Conservative government to take a look at Guelph for inspiration.

Maclean's magazine consistently rates the University of Guelph as Canada's foremost research university. The university is dedicated to maintaining this reputation through its intensive research-based programs, such as making plastic from non-food agricultural products, plastic that becomes car parts or packaging. Imagine farmers around Guelph feeding cities and feeding raw materials to industry in Guelph and elsewhere. Imagine the benefit for the economy and for the environment.

Innovation is exciting and full of economic opportunity. We need to make more meaningful investments and create strategic partners with those engaged in innovation and research in order to contribute to the kind of growth that will have our economy thriving. Governments need to play a more meaningful role in sponsoring university research and helping turn that research into jobs in Guelph and throughout Canada. There is little doubt that investments in university research yield significant social and economic returns. For example, Canadian economist Fernand Martin estimates that the cumulative dynamic impact of universities' contributions to the economy through research and development was at least $60 billion in 2007. We need to invest in talent, knowledge and innovation to continue to fully participate in today's competitive global and greening economy.

When I think about the next generation, a clean sustainable environment stands side by side with a prosperous economy. We have a responsibility to be mindful of our environment.

Again, I turn to Guelph for a stunning example of environmental sustainability. Last year, Guelph became a North American leader on energy management with its commitment to a 25-year community energy plan. Through the plan's challenging but realistic targets, Guelph could use less energy in 25 years than it does today, even with expected population growth of 53,000 people, and cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by nine tonnes per person. This will put Guelph among the top energy performers in the world, reduce our environmental footprint and make my riding one of the most competitive and attractive communities in which to invest.

Liberals have been saying it for years, and I repeat the message at the risk it falls on deaf ears: Sound environmental policy delivers economic prosperity.

We cannot talk about the economy of tomorrow without paying heed to Canada's struggling auto sector. Communities right across this great country were built on the back of a thriving automotive industry. Today, with the industry in crisis, we see communities rightfully distressed about the loss of the good jobs provided through automotive assembly and parts manufacturing plants and the hundreds of thousands of spinoff jobs, from office cleaners to accountants and restaurateurs, to mention a few. It will negatively affect even the charitable contributions made in our communities.

Government has a role to partner with the industry to enable this sector to survive its credit limitations and emerge an industry that is committed to transition to greener and more efficient technologies.

Guelph is an auto town. Canada is an auto country. I call on the government to send a clear message to the industry and Canadians that the Government of Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with our auto industry to protect Canadian jobs.

The people of Guelph are disappointed that the funding promised to Canada's cities and communities has been delayed. Sound infrastructure is the link between healthy cities, productivity and competitiveness. I implore the government to move forward with vital and more meaningful infrastructure investments to create jobs and address the infrastructure deficit.

It is simply unacceptable for Canada to have an infrastructure deficit that exceeds $123 billion at a time when we are depending on our cities and communities for business growth and development and jobs. Guelph needs more meaningful help to repair its infrastructure, invest in public transit and for affordable housing.

My friends across the floor have asked us for ideas. I invite my Conservative colleagues to meet with me in Guelph and talk to those in the child care and early learning profession. The experience of 35 other industrialized countries, more committed than the Conservative government to early learning and child care, tells us that early learning is designed to take an entire generation out of poverty and into prosperity, better prepare them for the knowledge based economy, help children be better adjusted and less likely to be involved in crime and allows their parents to return to work or pursue their education. The Conservatives' $100 a month has left Guelph's early childhood education and child care in crisis.

Our children deserve more. I would have thought that my Conservative peers would care more about our children.

I respect the choice that Canadians made on October 14. I look forward to working in opposition to hold the government to account for the commitments it has made.

We need a bold vision that will lead us to a larger, greener economy that will restore Canada's place in the global economy.

We live in a complex, demanding, diverse nation. We govern not only for today, but for tomorrow and beyond.

Mr. Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member opposite for his comments and intervention this afternoon.

I want to go back to his earlier remarks with regard to the surplus and so-called lack of capacity. I wonder if the member might comment on the fact that Canada, of all the G-7 countries, has the greatest fiscal position and the greatest capacity to deal with this, partly because the government over the past two and a half years has reduced debt by some $38 billion.

The $13 billion surplus that keeps being heralded here by the other side has been reduced to put in the pockets of Canadians and help put Canada's fiscal position in a better light. I wonder if the member would not agree that this has improved Canada's position to address the very situation that confronts us.

Mr. Francis Valeriote:

Mr. Speaker, the member is right. I do not agree that it puts us in a better position.

If he has seen the reports from the OECD, he will know that Canada is headed for a deeper recession than we predicted and a far deeper recession than was denied by the Conservative government.

Had the Conservatives not squandered that surplus, had they paid attention to where we were headed and had they acknowledged what was clearly in their vision, which was a deficit and a recession, they would not have reduced the GST and we would have been in a better position right now to respond to the needs of all Canadians and respond specifically to those industries that need our help right now.

Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East--Stoney Creek, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am little confused when I hear the member opposite talking about fiscal capacity when it was his leader who spoke to the Canadian Club and demanded that the government lower corporate taxes even further than it was planning on in the last budget.

Which side are you on?

The Deputy Speaker:

I would just remind the hon. member for Hamilton East--Stoney Creek to address comments through the chair and not directly to the opposite member.

Mr. Francis Valeriote:

Mr. Speaker, I am not at all against lowering corporate taxes to spark industry but lowering taxes alone is not enough. Lowering taxes for an ailing industry, all the ailing industries that are suffering right now, would be like refusing to throw a life jacket to someone who is drowning but telling them that if they get to shore they will be treated to a good meal.

I agree with lowering taxes but it is not enough. More must be done and more could have been done had the Conservative government prepared better for this deficit and for what is looming on the horizon.

Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton--Canso, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his maiden speech. I want to assure the people back in Guelph that the member has made an impact not only in a very tough situation in his own riding but an impact already not just in our caucus and as a member of our auto caucus, but in the House as well. He has brought some important issues to the House so early in his career.

We stand in this place and we talk about issues and we debate legislation and bold ideas but it is important that, as members of Parliament, we have an understanding of how these issues impact on the real lives of those back home.

As the member's community continues to wrestle with those challenges within the auto industry, how is the inactivity on the part of the government impacting on those back in his riding of Guelph?

Mr. Francis Valeriote:

Mr. Speaker, today and yesterday I have been in communication with those who are being severely impacted. Linamar Corporation has already lost 800 jobs. It has had to freeze wages and benefits. I have received letters from dealerships in Guelph that have indicated that the wheels have stopped rolling.

We are getting absolutely no response from the Conservative government. It is not coming at all to the table with a meaningful effort.

guelph politics 2731 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 11:25 on November 30, 2008

Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways

Today is the 79th anniversary of Black Thursday, the first of three miserable days on the stock market that signalled the start of the Great Depression. With that, rules for the Liberal leadership race about to come forward, and new developments on the highway construction front, there's lots to talk about these days.

First off, let me say that, given the choice, I want this man to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

With that out of the way, down to business.

This week, Ontario posted a deficit of $500 million for the first time in a few years. I have never made any secret of my disdain for deficits, and when I see a provincial government spending more billions on building new highways than you can shake a stick at go into deficit, I really have to scratch my head.

As I have noted many times before, Guelph is currently subject of, or is close to, four major highway projects: new Highway 24 (Cambridge-Brantford), new Highway 7 (Guelph-Kitchener), new GTA West corridor (Guelph-Brampton), and realignment and upgrades to Highway 6, in four separate sections each with its own EA, from south of the 401 to north of Guelph city limits.

Last night was the 4th Public Information Centre for the first of the four sections of Highway 6 to be upgraded. I am disappointed to, again, see no consideration whatsoever for the need to connect the Hanlon industrial park to the nearby rail network, which would involve crossing the Hanlon near one of the interchanges being proposed and therefore would need at least some level of planning or preparation within this environmental assessment. The changes proposed in PIC #4 for the Hanlon in their latest "preferred plan" call for a two-way service road to run between Stone and Downey Rd on the west side of the Hanlon, connecting up to Woodland Glen Dr., and the associated construction of a large retaining wall through several back yards along Old Colony Trail.

From a traffic flow perspective, it's definitely an improvement over previous plans, but from an environmental and social perspective for that area, it's a definite setback. This never-ending balancing act is frustrating to me.

I maintain that the investment in highways is a colossal waste of money if we are not also investing to at least the same level in transit infrastructure, which here and now necessarily means rail. If the as-yet unbuilt Hanlon industrial park were to connect to rail, which could be accomplished for the cost of one or two interchanges on the highway, the highway improvements would have a net long term benefit. The rail access would allow businesses to come to this industrial park to get material out of their trucks and onto the tracks, not just move it between trucks. I am all for road infrastructure improvements that help people and businesses get off the roads, but against highways for the sake of highways. Similarly, if passenger service were restored to the line between Guelph and Hamilton, some of the car pressures on Highway 6, which runs parallel to the nearly unused tracks for the entire affected area, would be reduced.

I found out just yesterday that there is an environmental assessment public information centre on Tuesday the 28th from 5-8pm at the Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon discussing upgrades to Maltby Rd, which would be an ideal right of way to connect the Guelph Junction Railway to the Hanlon industrial parks with minimal cost or disruption. Tracks could easily run on the edge of the road within its right of way.

With the recession coming very much as I predicted a couple of years ago, dead-end highway projects like the Halon may finally be put on hold. Given half a moment of reflection, if we are going to go into deficit to finance infrastructure and create jobs, then we should be doing so in such a way as to have high capacity, low environmental impact, low cost transportation solutions running at the other end of the recession. It remains my belief that our existing road system would be adequate if we invested properly in rail transportation rather than heavily subsidising roads while leaving rail to fend for itself.

The reality is, though, that we will continue to rip up rails in Canada and build highways nearby. This week, work began in ripping out the Kinghorn subdivision, a 195-mile railway line that was abandoned in 2005 connecting Longlac to Thunder Bay. The track itself was primarily used as a detour route in the event of problems in northern Ontario, but its removal demonstrates that we, collectively, have still not learned our lesson in rail removal. While difficult to prove, I believe Canada remains one of the few countries, if not the only one, left in the entire world still ripping out more railway lines than we are putting in.

Earlier this week, the first federal leader of a party to meaningfully recognise this reality and put it in a platform, was pushed out of the leadership of his party in a victory of politics over policy. The Liberal platform this past election included huge sums for infrastructure, and a plan to ban the removal of railway lines like the Kinghorn sub. While this horse has largely left the barn, the Kinghorn sub demonstrates that it is never too late to close this barn door.

This leads me to my next point, which is about the leadership of the Liberal party.

We should have rules handed down soon about the structure and length of the third Liberal leadership race in recent years within a few days. While pithy, Jamie's assessment is bang on and I hope some of the suggestions in his post are reflected in the rules.

Personally, I would like to see 50% of all donations to each leadership campaign be handed over to the party in lieu of a deposit, and no spending cap coupled with a ban on coming out with any debt whatsoever. We need a leader capable of fundraising as much as any other skill, and that is one way to weed out poor fundraisers. The debt lesson is a hard learned one as some of the last round of leadership candidates still have not finished paying theirs off, and I would suggest that to enforce such a no debt requirement, any candidate who still has outstanding leadership debt by the time they reach the convention be excluded from the ballot.

And on the topic of enforcement, you can read my latest presentation, this one to the Guelph Police Services Board on Thursday the 16th on behalf of the Community Volunteer Patrol, an organisation you should get involved with.

And by the way, why do so many drivers not normally get winter tires that requiring them in one province could cause such a massive shortage?

elections environment guelph highways leadership money musings politics transit 1155 words - permanent link - comments: 3. Posted at 10:35 on October 24, 2008

There is no morning-after pill for federal elections

In the five days since I submitted my latest column for today's Mercury, a lot has changed. Stephane Dion owned the French debate, Harper has been accused of plagiarising no fewer than three speeches, Liberal supporters in two Toronto ridings have had their homes vandalised and their lives endangered through damage to their cars exactly as happened in Guelph six weeks ago. But one key thing hasn't changed: Harper and the Conservatives, in spite of all evidence that they are permanently unfit to govern, still lead in the polls.

While Vote for Environment, a website dedicated to helping people reconcile split votes into a non-Conservative MP, warns that Guelph is one of the hottest ridings in the country, some people in Guelph point to an obviously bogus poll released by the Green party during the by-election showing themselves a distant second as evidence that this is not the case.

During the leaders' debate last week, Elizabeth May stated that her top priority for the country is electoral reform. We need proportional representation, she asserted, preempting any policy issues like the economy or the environment. I can understand the sentiment, but not the priority. Under single-member plurality, the proper name for what we have today, we have this problem with vote splitting. But it is the system we have, and the system that we will have on voting day next week. I am in favour of electoral reform, although against proportional "representation," and look forward to that national debate, but it is not the number one priority of this country.

While I am generally sympathetic to the Green Party and believe they have a major role to play in our democracy, their push for proportional representation irks me greatly. The notion was soundly defeated with nearly identical margins in referenda in PEI and Ontario and will be nationally if presented nationally. The electoral system we should be turning to is the one used by the lower house in Australia known there as Alternate Vote, or Instant Run-Off vote. It is, or is similar to, the system all parties use to select their candidates and leaders, and benefits the voter first, the party second. It gives constituents the right to choose their MP without worrying about vote splitting, without giving MPs the right to choose their constituents as proportional representation does. I also believe in other reforms, such as the banning of candidates from running in ridings in which they do not live, and the elimination of much of the role of the Party Whip.

My latest article to the Mercury bears this disclaimer: Editor's note: Community Editorial Board columnist David Graham is a member and supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada. He has volunteered with the Frank Valeriote campaign in this federal election.

It is true. I am a Liberal, and I put my money where my mouth is. I have never made a secret of that. I joined the Liberal party and volunteer for it because I believe it is the party best suited and most capable of governing this country, and I believe by being a member of it, and serving on its policy committees and in elections, I can help steer it toward the most productive policies, something I cannot do from the outside or by working against it.

Anyway, my column...

We can't afford another Conservative government

There is no morning-after pill for federal elections.

With the very real threat that we will wake up Oct. 15 to find ourselves tied to Stephen Harper, we have to ask ourselves: do we want this man who violates his own laws, while denigrating his opponents, to be in charge of our country and our economy?

Aside from the disdain he has shown for the rule of law by suing Elections Canada, the world-renowned organization responsible for ensuring our democracy, he is the leader of the first governing party in Canadian history to have its headquarters raided by the RCMP and has called this election in violation of his own fixed election date law.

Under that law, we were not scheduled to go to the polls until October 2009. As we know here in Guelph, our byelection was cancelled the day before we were to go to the polls, as Mr. Harper evidently feared losing here.

There are few countries in the world where elections are cancelled when the leader fears the result. Canada now counts itself among the members of this exclusive club.

Harper inherited a booming Canadian economy and a well-balanced federal budget from the Liberals less than three years ago. At the time, our economy was stronger than that of our neighbour to the south, and was the strongest of the G8.

Now, as the United States prepares to bail out an economy on the verge of collapse, we find ourselves with no more budget surplus in Canada and an economy no stronger than theirs.

This Conservative government has raised billions of dollars through the wireless spectrum auction and by selling off government assets to lease them back. The effect of this is to put extra money in the budget now, from the sale of our assets, and increase our expenses later by having to pay to lease them back.

It is a budgetary time bomb.

The claim that our federal budget is actually balanced is highly dubious. If we count the assets the Harper government has quietly sold, we are likely already in a substantial deficit.

Harper's actions are the equivalent of selling your house to pay off your mortgage.

This fits the pattern of federal Conservatives through this country's history.

By the end of Brian Mulroney's government, Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio had achieved its worst peacetime level since the Great Depression, something Jean Chrtien's Liberals had to remedy in their first term in office.

Before this current Conservative government squandered the healthy budgetary surplus left to them, the last time a Conservative government balanced a budget was in 1912, the year the Titanic sank.

Since then, not a single economic boom has taken place in Canada under a Conservative government, and that trend is set to continue under Harper.

We have seen this movie before.

The job losses in Ontario since Harper came to power in 2006 add up to more people than there are working in Guelph, after a decade of unprecedented growth under the Liberals.

We cannot afford Harper for the next four years. The last time we made the mistake of giving the Conservatives power, the result was a $40-billion deficit and a strong separatist movement in Quebec.

We sent a clear message and soundly rejected this approach to managing Canada then by leaving only two lonely Progressive Conservative MPs in the House. We should learn from our mistakes.

In Guelph, our choice is clear. We have a city councillor who claims she will take our voice to Ottawa, but she has already demonstrated that instead she will be Harper's voice here in Guelph.

Asked by this paper for her opinion on Guelph resident Steven Truscott's compensation for his wrongful murder conviction, she referred the matter to Stephen Harper's office to answer for her.

As a long-time member of council, one would expect her leadership on council to bring about the support of her colleagues, but at this time not one sitting member of council has endorsed her candidacy.

Voting for the Green candidate in Guelph, who does not live in our riding, does nothing to push Green values forward. As Elizabeth May herself said recently, she would "rather have no Green seats and Stephen Harper lose, than a full caucus that stares across the floor at Stephen Harper as prime minister, because his policies are too dangerous."

The reality in Guelph is that this riding is a swing riding, not the safe Liberal seat that some seem to believe. Voting for the Green candidate only helps ensure that the Conservatives carry this riding on the split environmental vote, and that the cause of environmentalism and good government is set back for years to come.

When you cast your ballot next week, consider the true ramifications of your vote.

You cannot take it back if you do not like the result.

columns elections guelph politics 1377 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 10:26 on October 06, 2008

GO trains to run to Guelph and Kitchener by 2011

Last night I, along with at least 75 other interested citizens, attended GO Transit's public information centre for its proposed expansion to Guelph and Kitchener. It is an accelerated EA and trains will be here under the plan at least 4 years earlier than I predicted just this January. There are a number of comments to be made about this plan.

The good news is that GO is willing to consider two stations in Guelph, and as many in Kitchener. The proposed station locations are (not all will be used, these are just possibilities):

Layover facility (no passengers) at Petersburg, a few miles west of Kitchener
Layover facility and station at Ira Needles, immediately west of Kitchener
Kitchener downtown VIA station
Layover facility and station at Breslau, just east of Kitchener
Guelph former Lafarge property (park-and-ride), at the Hanlon
Guelph downtown VIA station
Guelph Watson Road
Acton downtown
Acton East (Hide House)

My position on which stations should be used in Guelph is well documented. I believe the Lafarge property, which is readily accessible from highway 6 with minimal surface street driving, is the ideal location for Guelph's park-and-ride. Guelph downtown's invaluable connection to downtown residents, city busses, Via trains, and inter-city busses is also a necessary stop. Connecting to cars at Lafarge and busses at the downtown station would be ideal, given the lack of any sensible or economical parking options in the downtown core.

I am told that the Guelph downtown business association does not agree with my assessment, and I can understand their concern that the Lafarge station would be built at the expense of a downtown station. I strongly believe both are needed and that it is not an either/or scenario.

There is talk of building as many as three parking garages downtown. Wilson and Baker street lots would be 500 stalls each, a net gain of only 700-800 stalls, and for the first time I heard last night reference to a possible third lot of comparable size on the south side of the tracks in Guelph specifically to accommodate commuter train service. I do not personally believe this solution makes sense. GO wants at least 800 to 1000 stalls to start out with. That volume would eat $30 million of parking garage space off the bat, when a 1000-spot lot could be made at either Lafarge or Watson Rd for a fraction of that price, and it would deprive downtown business of nearly all of the freshly built parking. Commuters parking to take the train to leave the city will get there well before commuters arriving in Guelph by car, using up all of that downtown parking. Let us not forget the lessons of Barrie, whose 480 spot lot was full within two months of the start of service, massively exceeding projections, or the Lakeshore line whose 2000+ stall lots are so full that GO is preparing to build parking garages at several stations.

I prefer the Lafarge option over the Watson Rd option for a number of reasons.

While Watson Rd will serve the new developments around Grange Rd, the bulk of commuters in the city live in the south end off Downey and Kortright, and Claire roads. The Hanlon is the fastest way downtown for most of the city, and for our dramatically under-serviced neighbours like Cambridge. The sensible thing to do is build a station as close to the major highway as humanly possible so that drivers are not sent down surface streets. Having the station at Watson Rd means that the bulk of commuters will either go down the Hanlon, through downtown and across York Rd, or across Stone and up Watson.

The Lafarge property is also approximately geographically central to the city of Guelph, while the Watson Rd site is not even within city limits and is outside of our development territory as Guelph tries to conform with Places to Grow. Lafarge property also exists at the junction of two tracks, one which connects Kitchener and Guelph, and the other which connects Cambridge and Guelph. I see long-term opportunity in preserving Lafarge property as the major park-and-ride station for Guelph-Cambridge and Guelph-Kitchener commuters. Such LRT service could stop there and at the Guelph downtown station, but stretching its legs another 4 miles out to Watson Rd to connect to parking is not sensible.

That all said, while Lafarge property has most of the advantages, Watson Rd does have a couple. First, commuters who do live in the east end of the city would not be backtracking through town to get on the train (though they could proceed eastward to Acton, which would be faster anyway), and second: the proposed station parking lot off Watson Rd is at the end of the runway of Guelph airfield. If that were to be used, Guelph's airfield would be the first airport in Canada to have its own train station, beating Pearson with the 16 passenger trains per day that pass it without stopping. Dorval airport in Montreal does have a Via station, but you have to be taking the train from the Toronto side, not the Montreal side, to make use of it, so I don't count it.

The proposed plans call for GO trains to be running to Guelph by 2011, with the Guelph subdivision -- the name of the track that runs from Georgetown to London -- to be double-tracked within the study limits no later than the year 2031, with immediate upgrades to CTC (centralised traffic control) and welded rail to get us started. I suspect that the double tracking will take place far sooner than that, as traffic builds on the line.

One thing that struck me was a chart weighing relative values of road expansion versus rail expansion. As this project is run by GO, rail is recommended, in contrast to the MTO's various studies on road expansion which say that roads are better. It will be interesting to see if GTA West's study takes the same values on the same chart for the same corridor and gives "new roads" strong recommendation when GO's study gave that option the least possible preference.

While a copy of GO's 10-year plan I acquired last year did not even mention Guelph as a site to expand rail service, this EA which has come out of nowhere recently is great news for this region. I am very encouraged by the proposed plans, the timeline, the dedication of all the members of the EA from Burnside and GO who were in attendance last night, and by the number of people who came out from the community to see it all. I am looking forward to seeing progress as this environmental assessment moves forward. Transit is the future and our region is finally leading that charge.

guelph transit 1142 words - permanent link - comments: 2. Posted at 11:11 on September 24, 2008

45 days down, 37 to go

Well, as everyone who doesn't live under a rock by now knows, Harper has seen fit to cancel four byelections whose results he was afraid of in violation of his own fixed election date law. Here in Guelph, that means we're 45 days down, 37 to go. Tomorrow was meant to be election day. How symbolic for Mr. Harper to take a fleet of SUVs across the street to Rideau Hall to run over us all.

elections guelph politics 82 words - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 22:24 on September 07, 2008

Vandals threaten the lives of Liberal supporters in Guelph

The escalation in Guelph is dramatic. Last night, over night, someone, or some group, went to all parts of the city vandalising homes with Liberal party by-election signs out front. Houses were spraypainted with slogans on the brickwork, garage, doors, and windows. But worse, much worse, is the fact that these cowards keyed the cars in the driveways with 'L' and cut the brake lines in the cars in the driveways. At least six cars are known to have had their brake lines cut. This is wreckless endangerment. Disabling the brakes on cars is a direct threat to life and limb and is way beyond the realm of acceptibility.

graffiti1 brakeline1

This is completely beyond the pale. The night of my post last week about my lawn sign walking off in front of my nose, my own car was tagged with whipped cream. The intimidation level in Guelph is getting to an incomprehensible point.

Tagging homes and cars with an 'L' is clearly an attempt to label people in a deragatory way, reminiscent of many an oppressive rgime.

graffiti2

elections guelph politics 185 words - permanent link - comments: 60. Posted at 22:33 on August 29, 2008

Community service like no other

Here's my column in today's Mercury on the Guelph by-election.

We need a strong advocate for transit

London North Centre MP Glen Pearson was once described by Maclean's magazine as the last decent man in Ottawa.

His years of tireless work on issues he cares about, and his humble mission to accomplish rather than to take credit, looking for accomplishment rather than attention, has earned him this respect and reputation.

Frank Valeriote, the candidate for the Liberal party in Guelph's federal byelection, is another man cut from the same cloth.

Decades of community service, both at home and abroad, have earned him an enviable list of accomplishments and enormous respect. He has served the public in Guelph since the early 1980s.

With a budget comparable to the city government and equally difficult decisions, Valeriote sat on -- and for several years chaired --the local Catholic school board, forging unprecedented co-operation with the public school board. His list of volunteer commitments, overseas mission work, and unheralded contributions to Guelph is extensive enough to fill its own page of a paper.

Valeriote has never worried about his profile or his image in the city. He just does what needs doing without fanfare, and feels no need to brag about it outside of the context of an election.

He is not asking to go to Ottawa for himself. He is not looking for glory, and as a long-practising and successful lawyer, he is not going for job stability. He is asking to go to Ottawa very simply to represent Guelph, Guelph's needs, Guelph's issues, and Guelph's residents, not himself.

Valeriote is all about principle, not about power for the sake of power.

As I have made clear many times, my number 1 issue for the future of this region is transit.

When considering the land-use demands, energy requirements, tax-dollar strain, and general economics of cars and trucks as compared to buses and trains, it is hard to see how our current path is really sustainable. Shifting our way of thinking about our way of moving will take serious, long-term leadership and the placement of principle ahead of politics.

While none of the candidates is making a point of sending his or her sign crews out on city buses, all claim to support transit.

The NDP, the party whose provincial wing cancelled GO train service to Guelph 15 years ago, even brought Leader Jack Layton here specifically to tell us how they would fund city transit. Their solution is simple: tie transit funding to car use through gas-tax based funding.

If we drive bigger cars more, we will burn more gas, pay more gas tax, and fund transit better. If we drive enough to fund transit properly, we will no longer need to drive, and transit will lose its funding. It's not quite how I envision the future of transit.

The Conservative candidate here also made a point of saying she supports transit, but it does not take much digging to find evidence directly contradicting that. Apparently Gloria Kovach believes 40-minute bus service is preferable, as earlier this year she voted against instituting 20-minute service in the city as a member of city council.

So the question for me is pretty straightforward. If I want a candidate who will be in a position to support transit, who can I look to?

Valeriote fits that bill, too. As a candidate for the only party that has a serious and immediate plan for the environment, that recognizes that environmentalism is primarily an economic argument, Valeriote, who has stated his own support for the future of transit, will be in a position in Parliament to push, and push hard, for increased transit planning and funding.

If you are trying to decide who to vote for on Sept. 8, and like me you believe that the country needs to move forward with real, honest new policy and not power for the sake of power, Frank Valeriote is your man.

I want a member of Parliament who cares about Guelph, cares about the environment, and will be in a position to do something about both. Only one candidate fits that bill.

Why settle for anything less? I recommend a strong show of support for this man of character, accomplishment, principle, and vision on Sept. 8. We owe it to ourselves.

columns elections environment guelph politics transit 726 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 10:35 on August 23, 2008

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