Thursday, September 13, 2012

Blog Guelph: Guelph - Home, Bank, Or Bedroom?

(Day 55) Looking at the skyline, behind the fence. by Aidan M.D. Ware

So which is it? 

I’ll go first. Guelph is my home.

That means a few things. It’s the place where I work and live. Where I know my neighbours, watch out for my friends, enjoy the city. It means that I care about this community and have a responsibility to look out for it. As do all who call it home.

But there are those who don’t see it that way. For some people Guelph is their bank. And by this I mean they are using this community to earn money and that’s all they care about. These people often don’t even live here but have jobs in Guelph. Others live here but plan to retire somewhere else so they don’t care what happens to the city in the meantime. They’ll be out of here in a few years anyway.

And then there are those for whom Guelph is neither home nor bank, but for whom it is the bedroom. They sleep here but work elsewhere for various reasons. There is an increasing trend around this type of citizen as you may have noticed – “minutes from the Go Train” is a popular statement being thrown around by developers. 

As you know, I was a vocal dissenter when it came to the high rise question, and I remain very concerned by the direction Guelph is being lead in. The marketing of this city is being driven by those last two types of people – the Bank and Bedroom people. What about the people who call it Home; the people who do not stand to gain by high rises and an influx of an additional 40,000 people in less than a decade? In fact we, the people who call it Home, lose don’t we?

Less jobs, less skyline, less space, less uniqueness. In fact the only things that there will be more of are crowds and taxes. That is our reality. 

And more McCorporations.

The Places to Grow Strategy is really about homogenization. In the end, it’s an overt demonstration of capitalism in the throws of failure. It’s a short-term answer to a very long-term problem. But it will fail. Why is this?  Because capitalism relies on innovation and creativity. You can not make everything the same or you will ultimately lose your retention, your integrity, and your survival. It’s physics really. It comes down to the science of nature – diversity ensures survival and prosperity.

Overnight Guelph is being marketed as yet another bedroom community for Toronto. The 18-storey Tricar condominium is supposed to herald in the golden age for retailers and restore our downtown to glory as all the middle class Toronto-employed condo dwellers are going to be herded into the streets for eating and shopping. 

But did anyone walk down Macdonell last Saturday morning? I’d never seen it so filthy and it was 9:30am in the morning on Market day. Is this the experience they're expected to pay upwards of half a million dollars for?

What is wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with it is that there is no creative plan for Guelph’s long-term survival.

I asked a city representative why we did not ask for creative compromise before adopting the Places to Grow Plan. I also asked them why we had to go along with it in the first place. Their answer was that they did not know.

There is a presumption somewhere that we would be penalized financially. But I’m not sure anyone bothered to check. 

And don’t you think if we went to the government with our own plan, with a creative vision for ourselves they would have to listen? Would they not then recognize that we have a special community – one that appreciates its history, respects the feelings of its citizens, acts like a family, and one that values ingenuity and diversification?

It was an opportunity to blaze a new trail, to set an example for innovative leadership. But it did not happen.

Home. A fragile word. 

~ Aidan M.D. Ware

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