By Gerry Barker
September 10, 2018
Will that be regular or high test?
An estimated 250 people turned up at a Climate Change rally on Carden Street last Saturday. They heard the one and only MPP Mike Schreiner, proclaimed Ontario leader of the one-man Green Party in the Ontario Legislature, press the “right” environmentalist buttons to the assembled crowd.
Or was that the “left button?”
Here’s a trip down memory lane.
I remember the comment by former councillor Maggie Laidlaw 10 years ago and I’m paraphrasing: “In 20 years there won’t be any cars on Guelph streets.”
Well, Maggie, ten years later there are more cars, trucks and buses on our streets than ever, creating traffic congestion and lack of downtown core parking. Even the number of gas stations has been reduced.
Since the Maggie opinion, some 12,000 new residents have chosen Guelph as their home. In 10 years the city staff has increased by 650. Go figure.
At the time, Maggie was an ardent proponent of commuting to work, rain or shine, on her bicycle. She advocated that the bicycle was the precursor of active transportation in Guelph making some of us with well-muscled calves and thighs.
City council went along with this theory and in 2007 started spending millions on bike lanes, particularly on major streets. In 2009 alone more than $2 million was spent putting bike lanes on Stone Road. Each year since, the city has spent $300,000 developing bike lanes.
That project, along with a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre, was financed by a special infrastructure grant divided between the federal and provincial governments and the city. The city’s share was $26 million but it did not have the money. So, it called a note for $30 million owed by Guelph Hydro. Details of spending the money were never really disclosed. It is known that there was little left of the cash infusion.
To bolster their decision to reduce vehicle emissions, council agreed to repave a number of major roads with four lanes for vehicles, and remarking the finished product with two lanes disappearing, wider bike lanes and a left turn centre lane.
Are you starting to see the source of traffic congestion and inadequate parking? Truth to tell is that money went into environmental projects that were poorly planned and executed. The city now called it the District Energy plan that included supplying hot and cold water to five buildings adjacent to the Sleeman Centre using experimental thermal underground technology.
Guelph’s expensive war on vehicles
Bike lanes, solar panels on public buildings, street lane squeezing and plans to build large scale natural gas generating plants to make the city self sufficient in terms of electricity, contributed to millions being misspent. Inspired by former mayor, Karen Farbridge, the spending under under the Community Energy Innovation cost the city millions.
The trouble with these “climate change” developments was a lack of statistical information about the use of the bike lanes. Even more important was that many of these arbitrary changes resulted in a marked bike lane starting at one point and ending before the end of the street. Examples are Stevenson, Silver Creek, Downey and Woolwich.
Today, the city still has a $400 million under-funded infrastructure deficit that is being handled through a property tax levy of one per cent or $4.4 million each year. In the 2018 budget, half of that is coming from reserve funds and the remainder from property taxpayers.
At that rate, it will take 99.9 years to clear the deficit. But that’s not inflation adjusted or available reserves for catastrophic weather events.
If the University of Guelph just paid its share of property taxes based on that paid by property owners in the city, that is adjusted annually, that money would help restore fairness and make our city stronger financially and more livable.
Linamar, employing some 6,000 workers, pays its share of property taxes. Why is making auto parts any different than graduating students? Guelph residents subsidize the University but not Linamar.
The active transportation crowd or cyclists use city streets at no cost. Many do not pay taxes, and their numbers are unknown by city staff. There was one staff report of a count of traffic on Downey Road of cyclists and vehicles. It was an independent study that revealed in an eight-hour period there were some 900 cyclists using Downey Road and 4,700 vehicles.
The tail is wagging the dog
If this is any indication that the tail is wagging the dog, I don’t know what is.
Climate Change is caused by many factors as fossil fuel use is slowly diminishing. The carbon dioxide emissions of the 400 active volcanoes in the world plus excessive destruction of forested lands, heavy use of coal in many countries including India and China are major contributors of climate change.
Of course the growing world population and growth of the middle class in under-developed countries, places enormous pressure to generate power now leading into a new era of more responsible use of power generation sources.
Finally, the earth is going through a natural change over which we have no control.
Instead we should be concerned about how our city, our province and our country are being managed.
We have just experienced a major change in the provincial government. Next month we have the opportunity to elect a responsible civic government in Guelph. Next year we will elect a new government in Ottawa.
These are opportunities to express your desire by more democratic representation.
It’s now our turn to change.