Why 100% Renewables is right for Guelph

This week, Council voted unanimously (13-0) to strive towards meeting 100% of its energy needs using renewable sources by 2050.  It’s bold, it’s aspirational, and it’s doable.  This decision was set in motion through the great work of the Our Energy Guelph (OEG) Taskforce, a group of energy experts tasked with updating our award-winning Community Energy Initiative.  After 15 months of research and public consultation, the OEG recommended that we strive for “net zero” as a community. This includes our stakeholders: residents, business, institutions, and industries.

We – the Corporation of the City of Guelph – chose to go one step better by pledging towards 100% Renewables.  We will lead by example.


There will be those who say “that’s too much” or “what’s the cost?”  During the debate on this issue, one of the questions that circled around was “how can we set a goal without knowing how we will achieve it, or how much it will cost?”

But that’s the point of setting an aspirational goal.  We’ve done it before, with great success.  Over a decade ago we set an ambitious and bold goal “to have the lowest water use per capita than any other municipality in Canada”.  We set that goal because, as a fast-growing groundwater dependent community, we knew that our water supply would limit our quality of life and would inevitably lead to spending billions of dollars on a pipeline to Lake Erie.  When we set the goal, we didn’t know exactly how it would be achieved.  We knew that conservation, new infrastructure and new supply would be part of the solution.  We were successful — Guelph uses less water today than it did a decade ago, including new growth!  Today, we are at the same crossroads.

Today, the alternative energy economy is transforming rapidly.  The need for action on climate change mitigation is critical.  Our soon-to-be hydro utility Alectra Utilities is already talking about energy conservation and new supply generation, and they will be locating their new Green Research and Energy Technology Centre (GR&T) here in Guelph to test new innovations that will move us towards a 100% Renewables future.

The 100% Renewables movement has been embraced by over 1,000 communities worldwide and growing.  http://www.go100percent.org

Guelph is seen as an environmental leader.  The 100% Renewables pledge continues that legacy, but also moves us forward.  Being a 100% Renewables city also poises us for economic development opportunities.  We collectively spend over $500 million per year in energy costs that leave out community.  With renewables, the jobs and energy revenue stay right here.   By planning now for a future of 100% renewables, we can spend your tax dollars on infrastructure that will stand the test of time and keep us resilient when the effects of climate change mount.

The year 2050 is 32 years away.  Think back to where technology was 32 years ago.  The pace at which our world is changing is mind-boggling.  And inspiring.  One of the delegates at Council who came to speak about the 100% Renewables pledge —  Evan Ferrari of Emerge Guelph — has worked in the energy field for three decades.  In his words, “I have never been more hopeful for the future of the environment than now.”


NEWS RELEASE: Interim Solution Allows South End Rink to Continue

News Release from CAO Ann Pappert:

An update from the CAO on the skating rink in Pine Ridge

Guelph, ON, January 30, 2015 – We said yesterday that we’re interested in working with the residents of Pine Ridge on a mutually satisfactory solution with respect to what has become a well-used neighbourhood rink.

Our challenge is to work with residents to balance a number of competing interests. In this case we need to balance the desire for community recreation with the right to peaceful enjoyment of private property; liability issues and the safeguarding of the environment.

While the City works through these matters we will allow Pine Ridge residents to continue to use the rink they’ve built until a significant thaw. They can use the rink from sun-up to sun-down, without music, lights or electrical hook ups and at their own risk, thereby limiting the impact on some residents’ enjoyment of their adjoining property.

This interim solution doesn’t reflect a final decision, but it gives the City some short-term assurance while allowing residents of Pine Ridge to continue to enjoy their rink.

Next week, senior City staff will work with Pine Ridge residents to discuss this interim solution and longer-term options.

Outdoor rinks are wonderful neighbourhood assets. The City believes wholeheartedly in their benefits which is why we support neighbourhood groups working with the City, through a number of in-kind supports, in building their own rinks.

But rinks need to be safe. And they need to respect the rights of every resident in the neighbourhood. And, finally, they can’t compromise natural areas or the infrastructure built to protect those natural areas. That infrastructure, after all, is funded by every resident through their property taxes and the City is obliged to look after that investment.

The City looks forward to next week’s conversations. We’ll keep you apprised of how they go.

For more information

Ann Pappert
Chief Administrative Officer
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2221

OPINION: Full-time or Part-Time Councillors?

The following article was recently published in the Guelph Mercury:  Opinions Differ on Ward Boundaries, Work Status of Councillors.   Guelph Citizen also recently weighed in with this article — Councillors deserves a raise.  A big raise. 

It’s an interesting and timely discussion on the heels of a recent election, especially as we head into another round of budget deliberations.

LEANNE’S OPINION:   Democracy Needs Diversity of Voices

I think we can all agree that the role of city councillor has morphed over the years as the complexity of leading a thriving twenty-first century city has evolved.  Let’s have a look at the history of elected representation in our city…

From 1851 (when the Town of Guelph was officially constituted) to 1856, Guelph consisted of four elected at-large councillors and one Reeve.  From 1856 until 1879, there were four wards (North, South, East and West) with three councillors per ward (12) and a Mayor.  After achieving “City of Guelph” status (population threshold of 10,000), the city was divided into six wards — St. Patrick (1), St. George (2), St. John (3), St. David (4), St. Andrew (5) and St. James (6) — with three councillors per ward.  Yes, that is 18 councillors!   This continued until well into the twentieth century.  Councillors way back then did not make planning decisions, battle climate change, and the city boundaries were much, much smaller.

Looking through the list of councillors over the last 100 years (from Leo Johnson’s book The History of Guelph) I recognize many of the names (not because I knew any of them personally of course) because so many of them were prominent local businessmen, developers, philanthropists, bankers and lawyers.  Self-interest drips from the list of names — Gow, Stevenson, Goldie, Sleeman, Macdonald, Mitchell and many more.

Fast forward to 2015.  It has been suggested that it is time for councillors to become full-time “career” positions.  I respectfully disagree.   Here’s why:

1.  Diversity:   Twelve part-time councillors represent a wide cross-section of our community demographic — age, gender, education, expertise — and provide a diversity of experiences and perspectives.  The professional background of each councillor strengthens the quality of decision-making.  The make-up of the current council means that decisions are evaluated through the collective lens of an artist, banker, referee, engineer, teacher, landscape architect, historian, environmental scientist, certified mediator, human resource professional, real estate agent and insurance broker.  Diversity of perspective makes for better decisions.   Reducing the councillor position to a “career” also reduces the diversity of the pool of potential candidates to those who are either retired, independently wealthy or unemployed. 

2.  Democracy:   Participatory democracy is healthier when our citizens have access to their elected representatives.  Having fewer councillors working full-time hours doesn’t address access to elected representatives.  The math is the same — six full-timers or 12 half-timers — which ever way you look at it.  Access is reduced to a smaller number of representatives.

3.  Function:   City councillor is not a ‘career’.  To treat it as such does not serve the interests of the individual councillor or the community.  A city councillor is a member of a Board of Directors, which changes every four years.  There is no objective performance appraisal process, and a career politician is at risk of losing their job every four years.   What would the qualifications of a “career councillor” be?  City planning and zoning, budgeting, arts, culture, heritage, law, water, wastewater, engingeering, recreation management, parks and forestry, infrastructure, human resources, public works, traffic, and so on?   Councillors should never micro-manage staff who have professional qualifications in their area of expertise.  The qualifications of a councillor should focus on leadership, decision-making, communication, policy analysis and citizen engagement. 

4.  Efficiency:   Full-time councillors can’t be everywhere.  Meetings are generally held in the evening so that the public can participate in local government.   The bulk of constituency work, events and neighbourhood outreach takes place outside standard office hours.  The reason for that is simple:  because that’s when our citizens are available outside their own work hours.  Twelve part-time councillors can balance workload and family needs by sharing constituency work in their respective wards.  Decisions would not be made any faster with a smaller full-time council.  Meeting schedules, agendas, staff reports, and passing of by-laws are not correlated to council size, but of work capacity within City Hall and due public process. 

5.  Cost:   I do not anticipate any cost savings if we move to a full-time career councillor position.  In fact, I predict higher costs.  Twelve part-time councillors (approx $33K per year), if reduced to 6-8 councillors at a much higher wage (to attract qualified candidates) would also need office space, administrative support, office budgets, and a higher level of benefits, such as paying into the OMERS pension plan.   Only three Ontario municipalities have full-time councillors — Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton — which are also the three largest cities in the province. 

One commentator in the Mercury article suggested that a part-time councillor cannot possibly do justice to both jobs when they hold down other employment.  I strongly disagree.   There are many citizens in our community who are members of service clubs (ie. Rotary), business organizations (ie. Chamber of Commerce), non-profits ((ie. Habitat for Humanity), youth organizations (ie. Scouts, Minor Hockey) who contribute significant hours to these organizations, and also hold down full-time jobs.  Excellent time management is essential to successfully balancing one’s life, whether you are a city councillor, a working mom or an active, engaged resident.   Part of my decision to run for elected office involved doing a ‘time audit’ to see whether I could manage the time commitment.  Giving up other commitments (school councils, neighbourhood association and other local boards) and having family support was part of my decision to commit to the city councillor role.  Each individual councillor is very different.

On a personal note, I believe working full-time makes me a better city councillor, and vice versa.  A significant part of Ward 5 encompasses the University of Guelph and OMAFRA/Research Park.  I interact with students, staff, faculty and neighbours regularly in both roles.  A well-rounded perspective helps me to be more inclusive and make better decisions in both positions.  This is not the same as a pecuniary conflict of interest.  If it was, every single councillor would be in conflict of interest if an agenda item were to overlap with their personal life, whether it be enhancement of our bicycle or trail  network, a local park improvement or downtown investment.

So what is the solution?

Based on my eight years experience as a city councillor, I estimate that one third to half of my workload is answering constituent calls and emails after City Hall has closed.  For the most part, to put it bluntly, the calls/emails are actually requests for service or information.    All I can (or should) do is to pass these requests over to the appropriate city staff or department for response.  This is not ‘passing the buck’ — it is following due process.  There is a perception that if you send your service request through a city councillor, you will get faster service.  This is false.  Once forwarded from a city councillor, a service request is processed as a work order with the same priority as a request that comes through Service Guelph or directly to the appropriate department.  In fact, in most cases, both city councillors are doing the same thing which further burdens city staff responding to the same issue twice.  The remaining emails/calls are from citizens passing along their input, information, ideas and experiences — good and bad — and I am happy to hear and respond to this input as part of my role as a city councillor.

In order to lighten the workload of city councillors, so that they can focus on their core responsibilities, there are three actions that I believe will have significant positive impact on supporting part-time councillors:

1.  Hire one full-time Council Constituency Assistant.   This individual could significantly reduce the workload of councillors by dealing with constituency inquiries, information requests, and scheduling of councillor schedules.   This would also save staff time in other departments responding to multiple service requests originating from the same source.  A Constituency Assistant could also track trends and identify gaps in communication, which could improve overall efficiency of City Hall customer service.  In addition, timeliness of response could be faster because inquiries would be handled during business hours.

2.  Improved communication and education:  City Hall has multiple routes for customer service – email, phone, social media.  The recent addition of the web portal How Can We Help You? was designed for residents to initiate their own work orders, and to receive immediate confirmation and follow up when the work is complete.  For direct contact, we have created email addresses — waste@guelph.ca, operations@guelph.ca, water@guelph.ca, bylaw@guelph.ca, parking@guelph.ca and so on — to make it easier for the public to reach the department they need.    We need to do a better job of getting this information out to the community.

3.   Balance ward boundaries and ward councillor roles:  Ward boundaries should be reviewed periodically to balance political representation by population.  This was last done in 2005 and will occur again during this term of council.   Rather than creating smaller wards (7 or 8) with one councillor each, another idea would be for each of the two elected councillors to divvy up the workload by acting as the ‘official’ liaison for different neighbourhoods (while always acting as back-up for each other).   I recall doing this when I was a school board trustee, where each of the two trustees for the same ward was assigned to act as liaison for a group of specific schools.

There may come a time when Guelph is ready for full-time councillors.  In my opinion, we are not there yet. Not even close.


PD: A Wise Investment

I can’t think of a single profession that doesn’t benefit from professional development.  I want my doctor to learn the latest research on prescription medication or a new diagnostic tool.  Teachers need to be on top of new curriculum, and IT professionals should be able to troubleshoot new software and hardware systems.  An auto mechanic should know how to fix  the latest engineering under the hood of my car.

Investing in professional development is what leading organizations in both the public and private sector do if they want to recruit, retain and get the highest level of performance out of their employees.

Recently, the City of Guelph Information Technology Annual Report red-flagged PD as an area that we are sorely lacking.  During past budget cuts, PD was cut or eliminated in many departments, and we are now seeing a ripple effect.  Staff are expected to be up to date on best practices, latest research, legislative change and to establish networks with their colleagues to brainstorm, innovate and problem-solve.   Slowly, our PD budgets are being restored, thank goodness, and everyone in the city will benefit from the learning gained through keeping the best and brightest staff in Guelph.

But what about PD for members of Council?  Since they are expected to guide us forward  — on city-building, wellness, fiscal responsibility and economic development among many other things — shouldn’t councillors also be expected to know best practices, understand new regulations, share innovative ideas with colleagues, and develop their leadership and communication skills?  I think so.

Guelph city councillors receive a $3,250 limit to engage in professional development.    In the annual remuneration for Mayor and Council, it shows up as “Sundries”.  I use this line for professional development and choose wisely each year how best to enhance my skills and knowledge to serve the best interests of the citizens I represent.

Over the past years, I have used this allowance to attend workshops at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).  I have also attended training, conferences and workshops offered by the Centre for Civic Governance, Canadian Urban Institute and Project for Public Spaces.  I have learned about new community engagement models, using social media, watershed protection legislation, Greenbelt economic development, and much much more.

In 2014, I will be attending the Livable Cities Conference in Portland, OR, which is considered one of the North America’s model cities for active transportation, parkland restoration, family-friendly neighbourhoods, cultural districts, and lowering per capita energy use.   The program can be found here:  Livable Cities Conference Program.  I use the knowledge gained from PD to make better, more informed decisions on your behalf.  I am also better able to critically read and ask for a deeper level of detail in reports and recommendations that come to Council for approval.




Tips, Snitches or Ombuds?

Due to a previously scheduled commitment, I was not able to attend Monday’s Council meeting.  Chris from the Merc asked the next day how I would have voted on the subject of a city hall “tip line” for residents or staff to anonymously submit comments.  Here was my response ….

I see both sides, so my vote would have reflected the discussion on the floor.  For me, the issue is about how it is framed — is it a “tip line” or is it a “customer service” response line or is it an “ombudsperson”.? 

A “snitch line” so that residents can call and tell us they saw a city truck in the Tim’s drive-through is a waste of money.   A “tip line” where residents can write or call with suggestions, innovative ideas, constructive criticism, experiences, etc. has merit.   Some of the best ideas for improvements and potential efficiencies come through citizen feedback.  But do we need to spend thousands of dollars setting up, staffing and administrating a line so that we can duplicate what we already have?    I would like to think that any resident of Guelph can already do this, safely and securely, and with our enhanced IT strategy, there will be more opportunity for resident outreach and feedback.    There are already anonymous ways to contact city to provide feedback — email and blogs.

Now, an Ombudsperson is something I can support wholeheartedly.   Having an independent adjudicator role in place when a customer needs assistance navigating a policy, has a disagreement on how a policy is interpreted or implemented, or has a concern with city staff or level or service  — this position would be a valuable addition to our level of accountability.   If it gets through the Governance committee in this form, I think it has a much better chance of making it through to Council.

My two cents….


Change to Delegation Registration

Recently, Council approved a change to the registration deadline for oral and written delegations to Council from Monday at 12 noon to Friday at 9:00 am.

There has been some feedback from the community that this change might stifle public participation in matters of municipal government. Let me explain why this is simply not the case….

Historically, the Monday noon deadline to register to speak as a delegation has been for one very good reason — because reports for Council and committee meetings were released the week before on the Thursday afternoon.  This often meant that, by the time a member of the public became aware of an issue, it was already the weekend and they had very little time to read the report and then to prepare to speak at Council. The Monday noon timeline recognized this tight turnaround.  In fact, the lack of time between reports being released and a Council meeting has been highly criticized in the past as a barrier to public awareness and good governance.

I agree. Three days is not enough time for any member of the public to get up to speed and prepare to address Council. It is also not enough time for Councillors to read reports, ask questions of staff and receive meaningful feedback from their constituents.

We’ve changed all that. Reports and agendas are now available a minimum of 11 days prior to a meeting. The public can access reports a week earlier than ever before, leaving eight days to register as a delegation (four days longer than our previous practice). This new practice has another benefit; it means councillors now have time to receive public input, read letters and emails and receive phone calls from constituents who want to comment on a report. This enables us adequate time to more thoroughly consider input, clarify information, ask for additional details from staff — in other words, we come to meetings better informed prior to making decisions. A report is less likely to be deferred or referred back to staff for additional information, which speeds the pace of city hall business.

But that’s not all we have done to open up the public input process. Our new Community Engagement Framework (CEF) is a major step forward towards enabling greater community participation in decision making.

The CEF report states that the Framework “has been developed in response to both external and  internal demands from community members and City of Guelph employees, for greater clarity, transparency and support for engaging community members in decisions made at the municipal  level. The Community Engagement Framework ….  helps all stakeholders to understand the full scope and implications of
municipal decisions. It builds trust with community members, partner organizations and

In other words, if we are successful with our CEF, any issue of relevance to the community will already have been fully vetted through the robust public process before it ever gets to Council.  A meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders will be embedded into the final report.  An oral delegation to Council would be the last step, and the public will know well in advance when it was coming to the horseshoe for a decision.

Given these two giant leaps forward in public engagement, a Monday noon deadline to register an oral delegation is unecessary and contrary to responsible decision making.  I would even go so far as saying it is disrespectful to Council to allow last minute delegations or written submissions on the day of a meeting, because the input is heard minutes before we begin our deliberations and debate on a recommendation.  This does not allow members of Council to carefully consider the arguments, for or against, in the larger context of the report at hand.

Note:  Please keep in mind that the Friday 9 am deadline applies to  register as an oral delegation or to submit a written submission through the Clerks office.   The public can email or phone individual councillors after Friday 9 am and up to the start of the meeting.  As well, the chair of any meeting (committee or Council) can add a delegation with consent of the majority, in cases where a member of the public was not able to register by the deadline.

Two big steps forward — let’s hope this new process helps to provide the community with the information needed to get more involved in local issues.  Early and often.  🙂  LP

I Love By-Laws – Part 2

Part One click here.

The 1850 – 1880s must have been an interesting time in Guelph.  The transformation from a town of 3,000 to a city of over 10,000 came with significant financial, social and cultural change.   Guelph was given the power to enact by-laws  in 1851, the railroad arrived in 1856, major industry was booming (Raymonds Sewing Machines, Bell Organs, Guelph Wire and Spring, Colonial Dresses, Sleeman Breweries to name a few).  Agriculture was central to everything and the Ontario Agricultural College was founded in 1874.   Growth was rampant and the need to invest in infrastructure was critical.  Demand for macadamized roads, sidewalks, storm sewers, water works infrastructure, firefighting, and policing had never been greater.  Macdonell Street was nicknamed “whiskey alley” and commerce was brisk.

The by-laws enacted between 1850 – 1880 reflect this reality.  I sympathize with the Council of the day, because the only way to pay for this level of rapid growth would have been taxes and debt.  Taxes paid for annual operating expenses and debt was used to invest in capital growth-related projects.   Glancing through the book of Consolidated By-laws of the City of Guelph, it is startling how many by-laws were enacted for the purpose of issuing debentures to pay for growth.

By-law No. 14 (1851):   “for the assessment of taxes.”

By-law No. 30 (1853):   “to raise a loan of £375, repayabe in equal installments extending over three years.”

By-law No. 32 (1853):   “to authorize the raising of a loan for £1,000, redeemable in ten years.”

By-law No. 56 (1856):   “to authorize the issuing of debentures to the amount of £6,000 for the purpose of building a market house”  (Town/City Hall at 59 Carden Street)

By-law No. 59 (1856):   “to authorize the issuing of debentures to the amount of £1,750 for the purpose of purchasing a site for a market house.” (and Town Hall)

By-law No. 67 (1857):   “to authorize the issuing of debentures to the amount of £5,000 for completing the market house.” (and Town Hall)

Issuing debentures for large projects continued through the 1870-80s:

Central School:  $20,000 (1874)

Improvements to streets and highways: $30,000 (1877)

New School House: $18,000 (1878)

Guelph High School: $7,000 (1878)

Water Works: $75,000 (1878)

New Public School: $15,000 (1879)

Completion of Water Works: $25,000 (1879)

Random by-laws authorizing the issuance of debentures of $10,000 each appear throughout the 1880s without a specific project attached.

Stay tuned for the next instalment — a day in the life of the Police Chief!  


I Love By-laws!

But not the way you think!

By-laws are simply functional rules by which citizens of a municipality govern themselves and behave as a community. They are wide-ranging and in most cases cover everyday governance matters, such as street names, sidewalk widths, plans of subdivision and appointment of by-law officers.

What I love about by-laws is how they reflect the community and the time period in which they were enacted. By-laws tell the story of Guelph.

I happened to borrow an old book of by-laws from City Hall over the holidays, and will share a few humourous tidbits over the next few days.

As background, the Ontario Municipal Act came into effect in 1849. In 1850, the Town of Guelph became officially recognized in Schedule D of the Act as a corporate municipal entity. Once recognized, Guelph now had the right to enact by-laws.

Enacting a by-law speaks volumes about Guelph at the time. Since by-laws are for the governance of the town, what kind of by-laws were needed to regulate a community with a population of less than 3,000 people? This is where the interesting part starts…..

First things first, By-law No. 1, enacted of January 31, 1851, was “for carrying into effect the Assessment Act.” In other words, giving ourselves the right to levy taxes. It makes perfect sense that this was the first order of business.  Afterall, that is what a municipal government does.  It is our primary purpose — tax and spend — to provide services and programs for the benefit of the community. Today, we may agree or disagree on how to spend tax money, but when it comes right down to the basics, levying taxes and using them for the operation of the town was as relevant in 1851 as it is today.

Which brings us to By-law No. 2. Enacted February 10, 1851, By-law No. 2 was for “regulating the keeping of dogs.” That’s rather curious from a modern perspective. With sweeping power to enact new laws, Guelph’s second act of governance was to regulate dogs. It turns out that feral and unleashed dogs were a huge problem in 1851, because they killed and injured livestock and ran loose in the streets. By-law No. 8, forbidding animals from running at large” was passed in March 25, 1851.

Now that the dog problem was dealt with, what next? By-law No. 3 should come as no surprise — “for the granting of tavern licences.” In fact, several by-laws followed relating to the appointment of tavern inspectors, amendments to the original tavern by-law and licencing storekeepers selling liquor. The consumption, and therefore the regulation, of alcohol, was an issue that fell to the local authorities in most early Upper Canadian towns. Community safety, security of persons and property and public order continues today as an issue of prime importance in policing.

The next few by-laws are more routine, such as rules of governance, appointment of officers, fines, etc.

Stay tuned — I will post more in the next few days! Some of the funnier by-laws passed by Town/City Council over the years still to come….


Carden Street Response

Like most residents of Guelph, including downtown merchants, I am very much looking forward to the opening of Market Square and the new transit hub.    The long term vision for this new civic space will benefit the community for generations to come.

Let’s face it, no one likes construction (except perhaps construction workers!).   Add hot weather and unforeseen delays, and it’s easy for emotions to boil over.    I have been following the commentary that has flowed from a recent email by a downtown merchant naming a city staff member, and the subsequent response that erupted from my response asking him to apologize.

The exchange of email is often an ineffective means of communication — to express humour, response, and for ongoing dialogue.   Recognizing this, I spoke to Mr. Black last week in person.  The two of us came away agreeing on a number of key points, including the need for ongoing communication and a speedy conclusion to the construction and a grand re-opening of the street.     He’s a nice guy and we had a pleasant conversation.

As far as I am concerned, the matter was concluded.