First Day of School for Guelph City Council

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

  • A reception at the River Run Monday Night brought out many to wlecome the new council.

    A reception at the River Run Monday Night brought out many to wlecome the new council.

Last night at the River Run Centre, the newly elected Mayor and City Council were welcomed to office with infectious enthusiasm as the 13 people who will lead Guelph into the next decade were sworn into office.

City Clerk Lois Giles issued the oath of office to Mayor Karen Farbridge and then the 12 city councilors were sworn in en masse. Kathleen Farrelly was sworn in as one of the two councilors for Ward 1 despite last week’s recount that saw Laura Baily get the seat after the tied ballot was resolved with a random draw. According to provincial law, Farrelly gets to sit as councilor until all legal matters concerning the recount are settled.

Once everyone was sworn in, the newly re-mayored Farbridge gave her inaugural address, which outlined an ambitious and progressive agenda that reflected a number of issues from her campaign. She began emphasizing the four principles of partnership, public involvement, trust and respect, saying that, “over the next term of council we must tackle or challenges with intelligence and innovation.”

Farbridge called for greater public consultation and greater communication between all levels from council to city staff to citizens. She also touched upon the diversity of experience in this new council and her hope to build a decision-making environment that is based on trust and cooperation. “Working together in an atmosphere of trust and respect, we can achieve our common vision for the future of Guelph,” she said.

Farbridge said that fiscal responsibility, industrial development, the new main library, the development of recreational facilities and engaging young people and newcomers are all areas she’d like to council tackle. Outside of those goals, Farbridge single out one councilor for a particular job, “We are extremely fortunate to have Gloria Kovach [President of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities] on our council,” Farbridge said. “We must not squander this opportunity to form partnerships with other government bodies that her insight affords us.”

“I very much appreciate her support,” Kovach told the Cannon at a reception after the swearing in. “We sat down and met prior to tonight’s inaugural to discuss my role and what I’d like to see happen and how we can make and how we can make positive things happen for Guelph.” Kovach added that she had already met with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty earlier that day about infrastructure and budget issues.

Farbridge went on to announce her intention to give infield and brownfield development approvals priority, promising to change Guelph’s reputation as a difficult place to do business in and do it in time for the opening of the Hanlon Business Park. “I want to be clear,” she emphasized, “this does not mean sacrificing community goals and objectives, it means removing the unnecessary road blocks and inefficiencies in our system that only frustrates development.”

A number of times throughout her address, Farbridge was met with the applause of the audience in regards to certain key policy proposals. The first was in regard to waste management and getting Wet/Dry Plus back on track. “It is not acceptable to truck our green bags to New York to be burned,” Farbridge said with enormous conviction.

Farbridge went on to say that she’s asked the CAO and the Director of Environmental Services to bring forth options for council’s consideration in January in order to address the safety and odour issues of the compost plant so that it can get back online quickly. According to Farbridge, Guelph MPP Liz Sandals has already given her support with help in regards to the necessary provincial approvals. Both these announcements were met with tremendous applause from the gathered crowd at River Run.

Farbridge’s desire to re-up Guelph’s commitment to responsible waste management was echoed by many of the councilors including Ward 3’s Maggie Laidlaw. Laidlaw had just returned from a weekend in Montreal where she sat as a delegate for new Federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion, mainly because of his dedication to environmental causes. “We really need to get that back on track because sending it down the highway somewhere is so against everything I believe in,” said Laidlaw emphatically.

Next on the agenda was water, as Farbridge outlined her desire to see council accept the full 50-year Master Plan for Water Management and asked council to work within the options presented with one exception. “A pipeline has no place in Guelph’s future,” she said, provoking another round of applause. “Let’s make it simple: our residents deserve a clear statement of council’s intent and not the prospect of revisiting this debate in 2010.”

Outside of those immediate issues Farbridge pledged to create a Mayor’s Community Health Advisory Council to make strategic recommendations for the future of Guelph’s Health needs. The idea behind the new council, according to Farbridge is put the same kind of long-term strategic planning into community health issues that go into matters like infrastructure. She then went on to promise a cultural awakening in the city with a new investment into the planning, funding and promotion support of the arts and culture in the Royal City. “A commitment to culture will be part of achieving our economic and community develop goals.” She said to the crowd prompting the third and final break for applause of the evening.

Part of that “commitment to culture” is building a new main branch for the Guelph Public Library and reinvestment in the downtown. Ward 4 councilor Mike Salisbury says that he plans to make these two things priorities during his term in office. “The library’s a big deal to me as a cultural resource and ensuring that our downtown core is vibrant as a cultural centre to our city; it’s one of the reasons why I moved here. It’s because of the quality of the city that attracts the entrepreneurs and business.”

After the address and the adjournment of the meeting, a number of councilors spoke enthusiastically about both the Mayor’s agenda and about getting down to the business of governing.

“It was the best inaugural address I’ve ever heard. It addressed all the big issues and it was very uplifting; I cannot wait to get started,” said Laidlaw adding that she was pleased that the Mayor included a few words about culture.

“Other than the fact that its one heck of a work load I thought is was super,” joked Ward 6 councilor Karl Wettstein. “I thought she hit all the right spots, she’s definitely challenged not only council, but the city and I think we’re going to have an opportunity over the next four years to really come together and make things happen. Karen has now set the bar pretty high for us.”

Ward 5 incumbent Leanne Piper feels that the new council was given a mandate during the campaign to move forward on composting, water quality, waste management and working with developers towards creating sustainable growth. “The Mayor’s agenda is very optimistic, very progressive. You can feel the anticipation amongst all the councilors that we want to get to work on making this agenda a reality. Her vision of where we’re going is right on track.”

Ward 1 councilor Bob Bell was also pleased, but with one caveat: “If I might add one thing, its that I hope we might do something to improve the transit in town; reduce travel times and things like that, but I’m sure we can slip that in.”

The closing remarks from the Mayor’s address may best represent what we can expect from the Guelph City Council over the next four years. “My mandate is to distinguish Guelph as a well-run, progressive and beautiful city with a reputation for tackling challenges with intelligence and innovation. Our job is to ensure that within another hundred years, the people of Guelph will look back and what we’ve done and say that we did a good job.”

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