Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Our site has moved!

Hi everyone,

Our website has now moved to www.guelphcivicleague.org.

We will be incorporating the content on this site into those archives for your continued enjoyment.

Talk soon,

Andy Best
President, Guelph Civic League

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Going Dark...

The Guelph Civic League has some exciting news.

The GCL blog will be 'going dark' for the summer months to reboot and recharge.

When we relaunch in September, the GCL will have a vibrant new online presence. Our website will be a news-magazine style forum for community debate. Our goal is to provide a space that facilitates respectful conversations on the issues that affect us all. We believe this conversation space will contribute to a more engaged, informed and active local citizenry. Best of all, it will be written by Guelph citizens, for Guelph citizens. 

People of any political stripe interested in sharing their opinion on a local issue that matters to them are encouraged to get in touch with Andy at info@guelphcivicleague.ca to discuss.

We will still be in touch via our mailing list this summer with any pressing issues related to City Council or our other normal activities. 

In the meantime...

Countdown to relaunch: 3 months

The new GCL. Let's talk about Guelph!
 
 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Big changes at the Guelph Civic League!


New GCL President and Vice-President

The executive committee of the Guelph Civic League has announced that the organization has a new president - Andy Best, who previously served as vice-president. Dave Sills, GCL president since 2011, has resigned due to a work-related relocation. Former at-large member Kevin Bowman now fills the vice-president position. Judy Martin, Jeff Biegus and Derek Alton remain in their current executive positions.

“Serving as president has been both challenging and rewarding. I’m happy to be leaving the organization in such good hands, and look forward to seeing how the organization evolves under the new leadership,” said Dr. Sills.

“We’re sorry to lose Dave as he was an excellent president for the GCL,” added Mr. Best. “He has left a great legacy and I’m honoured to take on the role of president to continue to build on that. We all wish him the very best.”

As for GCL’s future, Mr. Best said, “We’ll be launching a new website in September as a news magazine-style forum for community debate and citizen opinion. The whole executive team is really excited about putting together this vibrant new online space for Guelph citizens. We’ll be providing updates on this throughout the summer on our current blog, and encourage any citizens wanting to be involved to contact us.” 

For more details, please email info@guelphcivicleague.ca or contact Andy Best at (519) 803 0187.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Nuisance Bylaw Part IV: Myths and Facts

From efficiencyvermont.com
OK, here's the exciting conclusion to GCL's multi-part blog post on the nuisance bylaw issue...

=====

Near the end of the Council debate over the proposed nuisance bylaw on March 25th, Mayor Farbridge commented that there seemed to be a lot of "misinformation" in the community, leaving the impression that the issue was not fully understood by those opposing the bylaw.

Was she right? Yes and no. As was mentioned in a previous blog post, City staff did not provide sufficient context information for a full public understanding of the issue, even at community input sessions. It was left for concerned citizens to try to make sense of the bylaw and its intent. Not many, of course, are experts in interpreting law, not to mention fully understanding the Municipal Act, the Provincial Offences Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It's actually quite impressive how ordinary citizens were able to bring themselves up to speed on these issues in order to form intelligent opinions about the nuisance bylaw proposal.

But councillors and staff are not off the hook. Some did not have a full understanding of the issue either, and made public statements during the process that were misleading or inaccurate.

So, let's have a look at some of the myths and facts that surrounded the City of Guelph's nuisance bylaw issue.

MYTH

The nuisance bylaw would restrict the distribution of handbills or notices.

FACT

There are already City bylaws on the books that restrict the distribution of handbills. According to Doug Godfrey, City manager of bylaw compliance and security, the Traffic Bylaw section 5 regulates handbills being attached to vehicles, the Municipal Lot Bylaw section 16 regulates handbills being distributed or attached to vehicles within City parking lots, and the Sign Bylaw identifies a handbill as a poster and sets regulations for their placement. However, he added that "it is the responsibility of each Officer when enforcing any Bylaw to review the circumstances and ensure that enforcement will not affect a person's Rights and Freedoms."

The City agreed to remove the handbill clause from the nuisance bylaw, but as you can see from the above, that won't take handbill restrictions off the books.

MYTH

One could get up to a $10,000 fine for a first offence; for example, by obstructing a sidewalk.

FACT

Though the proposed nuisance bylaw only mentioned two sets of monetary figures related to fines - up to $10,000 for a first offence for individuals and up to $25,000 for any subsequest conviction ($50,000 and $100,000 for a corporation) - these fines are actually set by the province and could only be applied if the matter went to provincial court. City of Guelph bylaw officers would only be able to hand out fines based on a list of much smaller, provincially approved 'set fines' - typically ranging between $300 and $500 (see here).

Why the 'set fines' are not mentioned explicitly in the proposed nuisance bylaw is a bit of a mystery. Once GCL found out about them (only by asking the right people), we insisted that they be included in the text of the proposed bylaw to clear up any misconceptions. They weren't.

MYTH

The main target of the bylaw was nuisance parties.

FACT

The media seemed to buy into this initially (the Mercury wrote, "The impetus behind the bylaw was to give bylaw and police officers the authority to shut down parties that pose a public nuisance and safety risk" - see here), and several councillors still seem to believe this.

However, the bylaw as proposed clearly had three targets: nuisance parties, major protests, and - to a lesser extent - bringing scattered but related bylaws into one document. There is no mistaking that the initial bylaw took aim at major protests like the lengthy Occupy protest and the Hanlon Creek Business Park occupation with the following were included:

  • Host or participate in a public rally or protest that exceeds 24 consecutive hours
  • Place, install or erect any temporary or permanent structure, including any tent or booth
  • Distribute, display or discard any handbill, notice, circular, advertisement, promotional item or sample
  • Obstruct any sidewalk or pathway

See Part II and Part III for more details on this.

MYTH

The proposed bylaw did not infringe on the Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms (according to the legal team at City Hall)

FACT

Canada's preeminent Charter watchdog, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, wrote a letter to Mayor Farbridge saying that "significant portions of the proposed bylaw are contrary to the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly that are protected by the Canadian Charter." After staff revised the bylaw, removing all references to protests, rallies and handbills, the CCLA wrote a second letter to the mayor saying that even the revised version had the potential to limit constitutionally protected rights and freedoms and backed that up with detailed explanations of their concerns.

When it comes to interpreting constitutional law, which opinion carries more weight - a municipal legal team, or a team of legal experts dedicated to interpreting constitutional law?

AFTERMATH

Clearly, the debate around the nuisance bylaw has been a learning experience for all involved - citizens, councillors, staff and the media. When (if?) a third revision of the proposed nuisance bylaw (minus the nuisance party provisions already passed) arrives this summer for more public consultation, everyone involved should have a much greater understanding of the issue - and what is at stake.


Agendas for May 27th Council Meetings

Here are links to the agendas for the May 27th City Council meeting:




Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Want to address council? Better plan ahead

The title of this post is the front-page headline from the April 30th Mercury. The story? Guelph City Council has voted to change the rules for delegations so that citizens must sign up several days in advance of scheduled meetings instead of 12 noon on the day of the meeting.

So what is the back story here?

Back in November, the City announced that Council and committee meeting agendas and material would be available a full week earlier than had been the normal practice.

This was an important step forward - it gives councillors more time to read the agenda material, and it gives citizens extra time to figure out what will be discussed and what it means, and extra time to prepare a letter or presentation to Council if needed.

The Mayor on her blog wrote about this step forward for open government, saying that "the limitations that the short time frame places on the participation of members of the public in their local government" was a concern.

Last week, City staff advised that they are proposing to change the deadline to register as a delegate or submit written correspondence from the day of the meeting to the week prior to the meeting.

This effectively takes back the extra time for public scrutiny that was made available just months ago - and heralded as a step forward.

Apparently, councillors had complained that they were receiving complex submissions (mainly from the development community it seems) on the day of meetings, and wanted more time to consider this material. So staff suggested the change. According to the City's own procedural documents, such an issue should go to the Governance Committee for discussion before going to Council. But the Mayor thought that, in this case, it wasn't worth the trouble (GCL strongly disagrees - this is a puzzling lapse for a mayor so focused on process).

When the issue did come before Council on Monday, Coun. Piper suggested a compromise: moving the deadline to the Friday morning before the meeting, ensuring at least a weekend for councillors to go over material. Coun. Laidlaw suggested that there was no reason to change the current deadline for verbal delegations, and Coun. Bell agreed - putting forward an amendment that would change the deadline for written delegations but keep the current deadline for verbal delegations. After some discussion, the vote resulted in a tie (therefore defeated). Councillors voting in favour were Bell, Findlay, Guthrie, Hofland, Laidlaw and Wettstein. With that amendment failing, the vote on the motion to change the deadline to 9 am Friday then passed 9-3. Councillors voting against were Bell, Guthrie and Laidlaw.

This effectively reduces the opportunity for citizen input at Council meetings. Citizens will truly have to 'plan ahead' to ensure their voice is heard. Here's the irony - Council saw fit to put up a new barrier to democratic participation on the very same night that it unanimously approved a new community engagement framework! It seems some councillors (and perhaps a mayor) are not seeing the forest for the trees when it comes to engagement.

So, in the end, a compromise solution was passed - due in part to concerns raised by GCL and Sierra Club. This solution attempts to balance the needs of councillors with those of the community. However, when it comes to encouraging democratic participation, GCL - and apparently six councillors - believe that the needs of citizens should come first.

And that Mercury article? It can be found here. The Mercury has also published an editorial - found here - calling the Council decision "one of those changes that sounds wise, but it’s a bureaucratic win, not a democratic one".

GCL's delegation to Council on this matter is found below.

GCL poll results for April

Here was April's GCL poll question:

"What types of public consultation would you like the City to undertake regarding changes to the nuisance bylaw? (you may choose more than one)"

The results are below:

None - they've heard enough
  0 (0%)
Public Information Centre
  2 (28%)
 
Town Hall Meeting
  4 (57%)
 
Telephone Townhall
  0 (0%)
Citizen Workshop
  5 (71%)
 
Telephone Opinion Polling
  0 (0%)
Online Survey
  4 (57%)
 
Other
  1 (14%)
 

Check the upper right part of the blog for the GCL poll question for May!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

GCL now on Twitter!

The Guelph Civic League has had a web site, a Facebook page, a blog (you're reading it) and now we're reaching even more Guelphites with a new Twitter account!

We can be found at http://twitter.com/@GCLonline and there has already been quite a bit of activity with 30 followers signed up. GCL vice-president Andy Best is doing a great job 'tweeting' - so get in on the fast-paced action. For those not familiar with Twitter, here's how our profile page looks:


One step forward, two steps back

Back in November, the City announced that Council and committee meeting agendas and material would be available a full week earlier than had been the normal practice. This was an important step forward - it gave councillors more time to read the material, and it gave citizens extra time to figure out what would be discussed and to prepare a letter or presentation to Council if needed. The Mayor on her blog wrote about this step forward for open government, saying that "the limitations that the short time frame places on the participation of members of the public in their local government" was a concern (see here).

This week, the City advised us of the following:

"The City ... hopes to provide a list of registered delegates as well as written correspondence farther in advance of upcoming meetings. In order to accomplish this, the City proposes to change the deadline to register as a delegate or submit written correspondence from the day the meeting is scheduled to the week prior (more specifically, the Wednesday prior by 2 pm). As agendas are now printed a week earlier than they have been previously, this process change will still afford the public approximately five to seven days to review materials prior to deciding to register as a delegate or submit written correspondence in relation to an item appearing on an agenda."

In other words, they want any delegations to be signed up a full week before a meeting. The current practice is that a delegation can sign up by noon *the day of* a meeting. This effectively takes back the extra time for public scrutiny that was made available just months ago.

Why are they doing this?

The staff report says "there have been concerns expressed that lengthy addendums printed the same day of a meeting does [sic] not afford a sufficient opportunity for Members of Council, staff and the public to review the associated materials and prepare in advance of the meeting. The proposed changes provide 5 to 7 additional days for Council and the public to review agendas and addendums."

So it's not clear who has expressed these concerns. And what advantage is there for the public to be able to review agendas and addendums 5-7 days in advance of meetings if they are not able to then sign up to participate?

The issue will come to Council on this Monday, April 29th. Please contact the Clerk's office at 519-837-5603 or clerks@guleph.ca Monday before noon (while you can!) if you would like to write a letter or speak to Council on this issue. You can of course contact your councillors as well - contact information can be found here.

In another item related to citizen participation in our local democracy, the Mayor has been taking some heat lately for allowing no indications of support whatsoever from the audience during meetings in the Council chambers. In fact, one citizen effectively stopped a Council meeting recently to challenge the Mayor on this issue. You can read the Mayor's defence of this practice on her blog via the following post.

Council and committee agendas for Apr 29 - May 7

Here are links to the April 29th Council agenda and May 6-7 committee agendas:

April 29, 2013 Council Agenda consolidated as of April 25th:
 
 
May 6, 2013 Operations, Transit & Emergency Services Committee (OTES) Agenda:
 
 
May 6, 2013 Closed OTES agenda:
 
 
May 6 2013 Council Planning Agenda:
 
 
May 6 2013 Closed Council Planning Agenda:
 
 
May 7, 2013 Council Agenda:
 
 
 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In the news...


Relocation of Turfgrass Institute shouldn’t affect use of the Arboretum - Mercury article here

Guelph CAO moves to Guelph, gets new appreciation for decisions - Mercury article here

Council eyes locking in tax-hike targets for next four years - Tribune article here

Active transportation group holds first public meeting - Tribune article here

Future of Guelph Tourism up for debate in June - Tribune article here

Guelph councillors support bid to remove 170-year-old Hart’s barn - Tribune article here

 

Committee Meeting Agendas for Apr 22-26

Here are links to agendas for committee meetings the week of April 22 – 26, 2013.

April 22, 2013 Planning & Building, Engineering and Environment Committee:
http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/pbee_agenda_042213.pdf

April 23, 2013 Corporate Administration, Finance & Enterprise Committee:
http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/cafe_agenda_042313.pdf

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Nuisance Bylaw Part III: Activists and Councillors

A public nuisance? From sheknows.com
The following is a sort of 'play-by-play' from the discussion and Council vote on the proposed nuisance bylaw. How it unfolded shows the diversity of philosophies and approaches among the community 'activists' who stepped up to the microphone - and the councillors who had to make the big decision.

The first to speak to the issue was Coun. Findlay. It was the committee he chairs (Operations, Transit and Emergency Services) that unanimously voted to send the bylaw to Council for approval, and Findlay brought the issue forward to Council with enthusiasm.

Public delegations to Council were up next and James Gordon led the pack. This was fortuitous - James' address really set the tone for the discussion. His main messages were that the bylaw as written did not represent the kind of Guelph he knew, and that he expected better from this 'progressive' council that he had helped to elect.

Another stand-out presentation was that by Evelynne Sundholm. This was Ms. Sundholm's first time addressing Council but she handled it like a pro with her cautionary true tale of the impact that an 'executive director's' decisions can have on the lives of residents.

Keith Bellairs of the Council of Canadians, a former attorney, agreed with the Mayor's blog post that running a roadside lemonade stand would not be a public nuisance but argued that the bylaw as written did in fact make this an infraction.

Andrew Eisen hit the nail on the head when he said "That’s the tricky thing about law - one day you won’t be here to tell us what you meant and we’ll only have what you wrote down."

Richard Chaloner addressing Council
Other delegations speaking against the bylaw included Tom Higson, Ron Foley, Hugh Whiteley, Norah Chaloner, Richard Chaloner, Devin Foley, James Reinhart and yours truly, Dave Sills, on behalf of the Guelph Civic League (the text of the GCL delegation is attached below).

Barry Milner was the only delegation to argue in favour of the bylaw. At committee, he had focused on the real need for the 'nuisance parties' provision of the bylaw in his neighbourhood, but at this meeting he decided to advocate for permits when multi-day protests are planned, likening them to the Santa Claus parade and Rib Fest.

After delegation presentations ended, it was Council's turn to discuss the issue.

Coun. Laidlaw wasted no time in introducing a motion to refer the issue back to staff, suggesting that staff take into account all that had been said by delegations and revise the bylaw accordingly. The discussion then turned to the motion on the floor.

Coun. Piper agreed with the intent of the motion to refer but suggested that, since nuisance parties are still a problem needing attention, the section of the bylaw relating to nuisance parties should be separated out. Coun. Laidlaw agreed to amend her motion to include keeping the nuisance party provisions.

Councillors Van Hellemond, Burcher and Hofland all stated their support for the motion to refer as amended.

Coun. Wettstein appeared to reluctantly agree with the amended motion, but stated that there might have been more vocal support for the bylaw had proponents not been intimidated by the 'activists' lined up against it (whose average age was likely 50!). Coun. Dennis took a similar tack and, while supporting the motion, lauded the "bravery" of Mr. Milner in being the lone supporter of the bylaw among 'activists' in the room.

Coun. Guthrie cited all of the delegations for their 'bravery' in speaking to Council on this issue. He also said that he had been on the fence on this issue but his libertarian beliefs led him to support the referral despite his disagreement with some of the protests - presumably including Occupy Guelph - that the bylaw aimed to outlaw.

Coun. Furfaro had little to say except that he supported Coun. Laidlaw's motion. Couns. Findlay and Bell remained conspicuously silent.

In another round of discussion, some interesting remarks were made. Coun. Laidlaw said she was shocked that this bylaw came forward as written, and wanted to have a one-year review of the nuisance parties provision of the bylaw. Coun. Wettstein said he was "insulted" by insinuations that outlawing Occupy-type protests was a motivation behind the bylaw. Not at all the case, he said. Coun. Piper said that she doesn't want to lose the language in the bylaw that would help young people avoid criminal charges, and that such language may actually encourage peaceful protests.

Mayor Farbridge discusses the nuisance bylaw
Mayor Farbridge typically likes to have the final word in such debates, and this was no exception. She said she supported Coun. Laidlaw's motion, but tempered her support with a claim that there is a lot of misinformation in the community related to this issue - seeming to imply that if the community only knew the real facts, there might actually be support for the bylaw.

When it finally came to a vote, Coun. Laidlaw's amended motion - to refer all sections of the bylaw back to staff except the one dealing with nuisance parties - passed unanimously. As was mentioned in Part I, this has to be viewed as a stunning turn of events given that the full bylaw had just passed unanimously at the committee level.

And for the first time in a long time, 'activists' felt that citizen input had not only been heard by Council, but it actually had a significant influence on the final Council decision.

Stay tuned for Part IV of this multi-part blog post: "Myths and Facts".

And if you missed Part I or Part II, you can find them here and here.

Many thanks to the Guelph Chapter of the Council of Canadians for providing video for a number of the delegation presentations linked to above.


In the news...

City of Guelph CAO outlines her performance goals (Mercury) - here

Future of Guelph Tourism up for debate (Tribune) - here

Guelph’s population projections off (Tribune) - here

Growth impacts city legal services (Tribune) - here

Public meeting eyes road closing for public works yard (Tribune) - here


Call to Action on Poverty in Guelph


The following is a 'call to action' from the Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination. Given that GCL advocates for a high quality of life for Guelph citizens regardless of income and supports affordable housing in our community (see here), we ask that you read the following recommendations and consider signing the petition found here before April 19th.

For the following, ODSP is the Ontario Disability Support Program and OW is Ontario Works.

===========

Based on community feedback on the final recommendations from the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, we are calling on the provincial government to take immediate action and do the following:


Immediately increase the Basic Needs Allowance by $100/month for OW and ODSP recipients as the first step twoard adequate social assistance rates.


Index OW and ODSP rates immediately to keep up with the annual inflation rate.


Ensure that the proposed integration of OW and ODSP does not result in any rate reductions or cuts to benefits such as the Special Diet Allowance.


Introduce an earnings exemption for social assistance recipients with work hours so that a 50% clawback on earnings does not apply on at least the first $200/month earned.


Introduce an Ontario Housing Benefit to all people with low-incomes, not exclusively to social assistance recipients.


Immediately provide OW recipients with the same access to prescription drug and dental benefits as ODSP recipients currently receive. Longer-term, extend access to all low-income Ontarians, outside the social assistance system.

More information is available at www.gwpoverty.ca 

Friday, April 05, 2013

Interactive Features on the GCL Blog

from schmooz.me
The Guelph Civic League blog has been up since the fall of 2011, and with over 35,000 page views and a growing readership, it appears to be successfully serving as a hub for community information.

However, there was hope that the blog would also serve as a hub for community discussion of the important issues of the day. To date, that aspect of the blog has not had as much success.

One reason may be the odd way in which Google's 'Blogger' handles comments on posts. We have heard from some people that they couldn't figure out how to comment when they had something to say. And we suspect that many more didn't see an easy way to comment so just never tried.

There are also other interactive features that appear to be rarely used, including 'reactions' and social media buttons.

So, here's a quick primer on how to use the GCL blog's interactive features.

COMMENTS:  At the bottom of each new blog post, you'll see the words 'No Comments:". This is telling you that no comments have been posted yet, but it is actually a link to the comment form as well - a bit confusing. To post a comment, just click on the 'No Comments:" link and you will see a comment box appear. Enter your comment in the text box and then click on the 'Comment as:' button. You will see a list of options for identifying yourself. Most people choose 'Anonymous', but we'd prefer you choose 'Name/URL' and at least provide a first name. From there you have the option to 'Preview' your comment, and then you may finally click on the 'Publish' button to submit your comment. That's it - easy! Since comments are moderated, it may take a little while for your comment to show up. And note that if a comment has already been published, the link at the bottom of the post will show up as '1 comment:', for example, instead of 'No Comments:'.

REACTIONS:  This is an even quicker way of providing some interactive feedback on a GCL blog post. The options here are: 'Agree', 'Disagree' and 'Useful!'. Just click in the box to register your reaction and provide feedback. The boxes are located at the bottom of each blog post.

SOCIAL MEDIA:  There are various buttons near the bottom of each post for sharing the post via email, 'BlogThis!', 'Twitter', 'Facebook' and 'Google +1'. Feel free to share posts with friends and colleagues!

POLLS:  And of course, there are the popular monthly GCL polls. These are found at top right. Most polls provide a list of responses from which you may choose one. But in some cases (such as the current poll for April), you can choose multiple responses.

We'd love to see more interaction among the readers of the GCL blog, so we hope this primer will help. All comments and reactions are welcomed - both positive and negative, and everything in between! We only ask that you keep it 'family friendly' and respectful.


Upcoming Council and Committee Meetings

Below are links for Council and committee agendas for the Week of April 8-12, 2013.

Closed Council Agenda – April 8, 2013
http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/council_closed-agenda_040813.pdf

Corporate Administration, Finance and Enterprise Committee – April 15, 2013
http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/cafe_agenda_041513.pdf

Audit Committee – April 17, 2013
http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/audit_agenda_041713.pdf


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Results of March GCL poll

March's GCL poll question was 'Do you agree with Coun. Guthrie that the City of Guelph "is being run very, very well"?'

Here is how you responded:

Yes
  7 (17%)
No
  10 (25%)
For the most part yes
  18 (46%)
For the most part no
  3 (7%)
Not sure
  1 (2%)  

So it seems 63% of us look favourably on how the City of Guelph is run. However, 'No' votes beat 'Yes' votes by 8%. Looks like there is still quite a bit of room for improvement!

Make sure to check out the new GCL poll for April at top left.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Nuisance Bylaw Part II: Origins and Intent

So just what was the intent of the proposed Public Nuisance Bylaw anyhow?

Photo by Tom Finlay
That question has been posed to City staff, both in the past and more recently (see the Mercury article on this topic here).

And the answer given is that City staff need better tools to address parties that get out of control, downtown issues like the late-night bar crowds, and the absence of a bylaw for City parks.

Some councillors at the Monday night Council meeting said they understood that the intent of the bylaw was to address nuisance parties and were surprised when all of these other measures were lumped in (see the above Mercury article).

Neither group seems to say that a large part of the intent of the bylaw was to control certain types of protests. But the facts, from City documents and media quotes, tell a different story.

First, let's look back at the origin of the nuisance bylaw. It appears that staff initiated the bylaw process in a request to the Operations, Transit and Emergency Services Committee back in September. They produced a report with the following purpose: "To request consideration of the creation of a Public Nuisance Bylaw to regulate through by-law control unwanted or undesirable activity within the City of Guelph". The report's recommendation was: "That the [staff report] be received, that Council approve the need for a Public Nuisance By-law in principle, and that staff be directed to solicit public input on the draft Public Nuisance Bylaw."

Now back to intent. In the 'Background' section of the report, the following appears: "...the City has experienced a number of incidents and undesirable gatherings both on public and private lands over the past few years that demonstrated staff do not have sufficient tools at their disposal to act in an effective and timely manner to protect the interests of Guelph."

The report contained a draft bylaw that had been worked on collaboratively by "staff from various departments and the Guelph Police Service." The bylaw covered a vast array of potential infractions, and included such things as:
  • Obstruct any sidewalk or pathway
  • Distribute, display or discard any handbill, notice, circular, advertisement, promotional item or sample
  • Host or participate in a public rally or protest that exceeds 24 consecutive hours
  • Place, install or erect any temporary or permanent structure, including any tent or booth

So, the intent of the original draft bylaw clearly included the restriction of certain types of protests such as the Occupy protest. In fact, one councillor was quoted in the September 17th Mercury as saying, "The purpose of this bylaw seems to be to constrain public demonstration to a particular format and I think that that’s a good idea.” That article can be found here.

The nuisance bylaw issue came before Council on September 24th, 2012 - the agenda and addendum can be found here and here, the minutes here, and the video here. While the full intent of the bylaw should have been quite obvious to all councillors by that time, they voted unanimously and without discussion in favour of approving "the need for a Public Nuisance Bylaw in principle" and for staff to conduct public consultations. This was after it passed through the committee level with a unanimous vote.

Given the growing public awareness and concern over this issue, it appears that both staff and Council are now eager to forget the reasons that the original bylaw came about, and how the original intent was unanimously supported - 'in principle'.

Stay tuned for "Part III - Councillors and Activists".

And if you missed Part I, you can find it here.


Council and Committee Agenda Links for April 8-9

Attached below are links to the council and committee agendas for the week of April 8-12th:

April 8 2013 Council Planning Agenda:
http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/council_agenda_040813.pdf

April 9 2013 Community & Social Services Agenda:
http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/css_agenda_040913.pdf