The Guelph Factor

By Randy Norris

Posted October 1, 2015

The scene has the author glimpsing, just at the edge of his vision, a wisp of smoke. Dark trails wafting in the air, suggesting some sort of insidious presence with ominous power.

Some don’t want to call it by its name. Just saying it somehow gives it power.

Let’s just leap into the darkness. Let’s call it for what it is, “The Guelph Factor”.

Over the years, many the occupants of City Hall have told us that if it exists at all, it was only because of red tape at City Hall or that it only started yesterday.

In 2011, the Manager of Development Planning resigned citing the dysfunctional nature of the red tape at City Hall.

The Guelph Mercury quotes former city staffer, Robert Walters, as saying it’s “due to a lack of leadership and action. In 27 years, I have seen nothing like it.”

His analysis was emphasized by consultants who stated in their report that council “lacks a clear, coherent and cohesive vision.”

The consultant even went so far as to comment on the eating habits of our citizens. “Guelph prides itself on being perceived as the granola capital of the world.”

Good and bad, it would seem

I like granola and I’m concerned about the environment.

We are accused and convicted of not playing well with others, despite our protestations to the contrary.

The City has launched what it calls an “Integrated Operational Review” to slice and dice red tape.

The Guelph Factor will be caged and controlled

I look forward to spending time snuggled up to the review with a bowl of granola and soy milk. A copy of “The Sheep Look Up” by John Brunner at my side.

Red tape. I don’t disagree but there’s so much, much more going on here than meets the eye.

Neither I nor the “Guelph Factor” were born yesterday.

Thirty years ago, I was offered a job as a Senior Development Planner with a Kitchener Planning Firm. One of the reasons I was hired was simply because I was from Guelph.

“We just can’t break through in that town. It’s the attitude. You’ll be ok since you live in Guelph.”

Soon after, I worked for a local development firm who proposed to the City that a large multi-use recreational complex with ice rink be build on the vacant lands north of Wellington and south of Paisley abutting on the east side of the “Hanlon Expressway with Traffic Lights”.

The City’s answer at the time was only, “Oh, we couldn’t do that.”

Fifteen years later while presenting Ex-Mayor Kate Quarrie with the plans for a much smaller recreation facility in Guelph, she was quite pessimistic about its journey through City Hall.

“If this was anywhere else in the Province, it would get approved but not in Guelph”.

Against all odds, it was eventually approved but only after a long and tortuous process that involved the self-righteous indignation of counsellors.

One was long-time City Councilor and current conservative candidate for the federal election, Gloria Kovach.

Huffing and puffing political platitudes, they couldn’t tell the difference between a large corporate sports facilities manager, Nustadia, and a group of Guelph citizens and sports volunteers looking for cooperation.

For decades, controversy has surrounded large projects like a waste recycling plant, a hockey arena in a shopping mall and the new City Hall.

Like monsters out of control, all have gorged on our tax dollars.

Recently HIP Developments, builders of the bloated Solstice 3 housing proposal, appealed to the OMB that the City’s approval process took too long. This appeal occurred even before the review was completed.

Are all examples of the Guelph Factor?

It’s been here for decades and it’s obviously more than just red tape. It’s more than just granola.

It’s an attitude that expects us to settle for less. There’s nothing too difficult that we can’t screw up.

Our grasp has been much less than our reach.

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