John Galt portrait by Charles Grey
In October 2006, City Council enacted a bylaw creating John Galt Day, becoming the 7th municipality in Ontario since 1969 (when the Civic Holiday was created) to give a name to the civic holiday.
The impetus to name the civic holiday after our founding father, John Galt, came from citizens Peter Anderson and Gil Stelter, longtime advocates for recognizing Galt’s contribution to the thriving City of Guelph. Anderson was involved in the commissioning of the John Galt statue in front of old City Hall, and Stelter is a renowned scholar in Canadian urban history with an extensive knowledge of Galt’s legacy.
In the written history of Galt, he is called many things – writer, poet, entrepreneur, debtor, adventurer, land developer, etc. But my favourite moniker for our Founding Father was offered by his close associate, Dr.”Tiger” Dunlop, who called him “the woodland sovereign”.
Galt’s vision for Guelph was ambitious. He planned a radial design, with terminating vistas that led to the Church of Our Lady, St. George’s Square and Market Square. He carefully planned and executed a land settlement process that was not based solely on profit — he insisted on the inclusion of public works to attract settlement (roads, a school, a market) and gave shelter to the destitute La Guayra settlers when the British government had abandoned them. He dreamt of a centre of agriculture, culture and economic prosperity.
In 2009, Guelph was ranked the Most Caring community in Canada, the Safest Community in Canada, and the 4th Smartest City in Canada. We are home to Canada’s finest agricultural and veterinary university, an agri-food and biotechnology centre of excellence and home to world class musicians, writers, poets and musical festivals.
So yes, I think Galt’s vision has become reality. That’s worth celebrating! Happy John Galt Day!