10 Questions About Guelph Politics in 2020?

We sure covered a lot of news in 2019, but 2020 is an all-new year with all new challenges and opportunities. Although the future is uncertain, and we’re technically not in the prediction business, we can make some educated guesses about what stories might make the Top 10 in the coming year, and here are some possible suggestions…

Will we ever get a pot shop?

Although the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has been drawing names for a year to get private cannabis retailers open in the province, the process has had a lot of hiccups. One of those hiccups is the fact that Guelph has been repeatedly passed over for a store, even though a Guelph entrepreneur has been drawn twice in the lottery. The Ontario government is changing the rules for who gets to open a pot shop, but when will we see one of our own here in Guelph?

What’s going to happen to Market Parkade?

Back in the fall, Downtown Guelph opened it’s first new parking facility in the last couple of decades, and it was feted in a tremendous celebration reserved for the specialist of occasions. After that, it seemed like Market Parkade was built as a tribute to irony with nary a person parking there at most times, and construction was still being done on the building after its official opening. The allure of two-hour free parking is just too great it seems, so does that make the vaunted new parkade a lemon?

What will the Community Benefit Charge look like?

It’s the start of a new year, but it’s still hard to say what the City will  be collecting exactly when it starts issuing building permits after the holiday. There’s been perhaps no greater effect on municipalities from the turmoil at Queen’s Park than the changes to development charges. All the best laid plans have been put on hold until cities can figure out what the effect is, and several months after the legislation has passed, it still seems like no one really knows what the effects of changing the rules on collecting DCs will be.

What surprises will be in the 2020 Ontario Budget?

Last March, the Progressive Conservative government under Doug Ford released its first budget, and the results were definitely mixed. While much attention was paid to the expansion of beer sales in the province, it turned out the devil was in the details. The outrage about retroactive cuts to municipal spending caused weeks of tumult between the Province and Ontario’s big city mayors, including Guelph’s Cam Guthrie, and in the end, Ford and company had no choice but to relent. So will the Province be more co-operative in 2020, or will they just be smarter with their communications’ plan?

Who’s going to buy the Guelph Innovation District lands?

After Clair-Maltby, this is the biggest piece of land to be developed in the City, and there are some pretty ambitious plans for it. After years of trying to buy it from the Province in order to resell it according to a secondary plan, the Province suggested they just cut out the middle man, the City of Guelph, and sell the G.I.D. lands directly to a buyer. It’s expected that the announcement of a sale is coming soon, but who will it be, and will they be beholden to the City’s plans for the site?

Will we see any supportive housing?

The grand debate about moving on the development of supportive housing at 106 Beaumont revealed that there’s a pent up frustration in this town with the need for housing. The debate still descended into an expected battle of us versus them, accusations about ignoring the needs of the community’s vulnerable because of the usual stereotypes, but it felt like the top came off the bottle. So where does the discussion go next? Can this stay on the front-burner for council, especially when the government body responsible for social housing in Guelph is actually the County of Wellington?

Can Guelph get over its NIMBY-ness?

The term “Not In My Back Yard,” of NIMBY, was used quite freely in the 106 Beaumont debate, but it’s hard to have any planning meeting at council these days that doesn’t have the smell of NIMBY on it. And yes, you’re still NIMBY if you start your delegation with, “I’m not against development, but…” Still, Guelph needs to add 50,000 more people in the next 21 years, and we can’t expand our borders in order to do it, so what will it take to get this town over the hump of NIMBYism? Do we even want to get over it?

Will there be labour disruption in Guelph?

The City of Guelph workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees will see their contract expire this year. The last time that there was labour disruption by a public union at the City was when the corporation locked out transit workers in 2014, and before that in 2010 we had “Karen Days,” five Wednesdays in August where workers were given the day off to save $1.2 million in the budget. Are we due for some labour strife in Guelph, or will workers and City managers see themselves as allies against the bigger adversary at Queen’s Park?

Is council ready for another budget crunch?

In case you missed it, this year’s budget process was a tough one. Between the grave uncertainty generated by the Province’s changes to development charges to the growing infrastructure gap, there were a lot of pressures on the City before you take into account the cost of maintaining services at present levels, or the surprise increase to the police budget. Council put on the back-burner a plan get extra funds to fill the infrastructure gap because of the nearly five per cent proposed budget increase, but what happens next year?

What will we be voting for 2022?

The 2018-2022 Council Composition and Employment Status Review will be in full swing this year as the clerks’ office starts its research and public consultation into how Guelph will be drawn, or redrawn, in advance of the 2022 Municipal Election. It could be an exciting opportunity to enhance Guelph democratically speaking, but this town is more than a little change-averse, so will it be willing to cease upon the opportunity, or will 2022 just mean more of the same?

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