Month: October 2016

How is Guelph managing risks to our municipal water supply?

On Friday October 28th, 2016 Water Services released a report which outlines Guelph’s strategy for managing risks to the sustainability of our drinking water supply.  In particular, the report reiterates the City’s long standing positions on commercial water takings in our region and the risks they may pose to Guelph’s future needs.  I’m proud of staffs ability to prepare such a thorough and well articulated report on short notice (Council motion was only passed in late September).  Further, I’m proud of the mitigation measures already being established to address these risks through a comprehensive Tier 3 Risk Assessment (currently ongoing) for Guelph and surrounding townships under the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

guelph-water-budgetThrough this process (Tier 3 Risk Assessment), I’m confident our staff will continue providing council with expert advice and recommendations grounded in evidence based science, with a focus on implementing sustainable water resource use in our region.  To this end, I’m hopeful council will share a unanimous voice in calling for a science based review of the water taking permit process in Ontario.  A message similar to the one delivered on September 23, 2016 by Premiere Wynne when she called on the environment minister to “explor[e] ways to ensure sustainability remains the top priority for the use of our surface and groundwater. Your work will acknowledge that immediate improvements are needed when it comes to water bottling practices, particularly in the face of climate change, the increasing demand on water resources by a growing population, and concerns about water security”. 

Below are some pertinent sections of the Staff report that I believe all residents should be aware of.

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Speaking notes from October 24th, 2016

I take great pride in making the personal decision early on in this file to take ownership and immerse myself in it’s history in order to better understand and determine how we’ve arrived at today’s outcome (suspending operations at Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc indefinitely).

So to the beginning, the creation of GMHI and pursuit of District Energy for that matter go back almost 9 years in Guelph. On November 24, 2008 council at the time struck a design team shortly after approving the original Community Energy Initiative in 2007. They appointed a sub-committee to build a business case detailing objectives, mandate, guiding principles and a proposed structure for HOLDCO (later termed GMHI).  On that design team were former mayor Karen Farbridge, former councillor Ian Findlay, and current councillor’s Mike Salisbury, Bob Bell and Leanne Piper.

Now, fast forward to June 28, 2010 (I’ve referenced this date many times in the past), Council endorses a design (founded on this subcommittees work) for GMHI that includes 5 of 8 voting members of the board being elected officials. I’ll acknowledge Councilor Bell was the only member of the design team to vote against the proposed structure of GMHI. Appointed to the original GMHI board were Karen Farbridge (chair), Todd Dennis, Lise Burcher, and current councillors June Hoffland and Karl Wettstein. 5-8 voting members were politicians (a controlling interest) by design. Politicians that now maintained governance and oversight of Guelph Hydro and its subsidiary companies. Companies that, as we’ve heard Mr. Sardana state in the past, were subjected to “pressure” and “moral suasion” to get on with pursuing District Energy in the Hanlon Creek and Downtown. Initiatives that ultimately lead to $14M dollars being invested in District Energy, of which, $8.7M has already been written off in losses.

This was a well crafted sell to the residents of Guelph. I know because as a resident before being elected I voiced support for the concept of GMHI and District Energy, and today my trust has been broken over what I’ve come to know. This is a personal issue for me because I know what it means to government’s social license when environmental initiatives (shrouded in a lack of transparency), fail.  One only has to look provincially, at the erosion of public trust in government’s ability to implement renewable energy as proof of how important social licence is in these pursuits. GMHI and District Energy is no different.

So, now residents know, just like we (councillors) know the history and I fully support Mayors Guthrie efforts to bring transparency to this file.  Those who designed, created and ultimately governed over these pursuits should no longer be allowed to distance themselves from it or shift blame. I hope that in the coming months we can continue cleaning it up, and start rebuilding the trust that has been lost in our city.

My thoughts from Monday’s meeting are attached.

Update: Traffic Study at Watson Pkwy & Eastview determines traffic lights are warranted

Some exciting news for east end Guelph.  A recent traffic study completed at the Watson/Eastview intersection on September 20th demonstrates new signalized traffic lights are warranted .  Please see below correspondence received from staff today (Oct 7, 2016).

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