- Justin Trudeau has officially entered the race to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and I’m already tired of news stories about him. There have been weeks of speculation, which translated into dozens of articles and columns. Now he’s thrown his hat in – only the second person to do so – and will spend the next few months leading up to the April convention campaigning for the job. Which means dozens more articles and columns. I’m hopeful there will be substantial coverage of the Quebec MP’s positions and policies, not just comparisons to his prime minister father or opinions on whether or not he’s the saviour the party needs.
- Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos is undergoing surgery this week for prostate cancer. I know most people outside South America won’t care, but after spending a year in the country – and watching live coverage of his election two years ago – this one definitely caught my attention. Thankfully, the cancer was found early enough that the president is expected to make a complete recovery.
Also in Colombia, the government is launching peace talks with the rebel group FARC this month. It’s a huge step after decades of fighting.
- Remember that massive amount of maple syrup that was siphoned out of a storage facility in Quebec? Well … police found it. They obtained search warrants for a warehouse in New Brunswick and uncovered the thousands of gallons of the sticky deliciousness. Good work.
- This video has gone viral and you’ve probably seen it already, but I thought it was worth posting. A news anchor in Wisconsinfired back against a bully on live television, taking the opportunity to challenge viewers to set a better example for their children. Anti-bullying initiatives are all the rage these days, but I appreciated that this woman asked adults to step up and watch their tongues – kids mimic behaviour they see from us, so really … the change starts here.
I’m a day late in recapping this week’s meeting … not going to lie, I kind of forgot I had this thing. There’s just too many other things going on lately, though sadly, none of them involve me keeping up my running schedule in any way.
So here’s what went down at Monday’s council gathering:
- They were told the provincial government won’t allow a joint city-counties initiative to put up signs with their total population count. Council didn’t take it without a fight; they’re talking about erecting giant billboards along the highway anyway, just not on government property.
- The 2013 budget process was officially kicked off. Council directed staff to start preparing their submissions, with increases of no more than 3%. With fewer dollars from the province and less revenue than expected, it’s going to be an extremely challenging year for the budget steering committee … which will now include all councillors. I can see the merit in having everyone involved in the discussions, but I’m also not excited about how much longer the process is going to take this year with double the number of opinions.
- A travel information centre on Brookdale Avenue was shuttered earlier this year, so Cornwall is looking into buying the property. They haven’t been given a price on it yet but councillors were already throwing out ideas like making it a new tourism bureau or transit depot.
- The Eastern Ontario Regional Network will have help from the city after all. Though council shot down a request for financial support last fall, a new report from their senior development officer convinced them to get on board.
- Council also discussed the pros and cons of a dedicated staff person to help with event coordination. They asked staff to report on the feasibility and necessity of such a position, which would support all the volunteer organizations that put on activities throughout the year.
There’s been some cool developments in my other “beat”: arts and entertainment. At a culture summit on Saturday, a 13-member arts council was voted into existence. Though a formal mandate and strategy for the group is yet to be determined, it’s exciting to see progress being made on the arts front.
It has caused a year-old culture committee to take a closer look at its own purposes, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There is probably room for both, as long as they keep lines of communication open and don’t end up trying to accomplish the same goals.
City hall is back to a fall schedule, which means council meets on the second and fourth Monday each month, and the planning advisory committee meets the week in between.
Last night councillors heard presentations on a local fundraiser and removing fluoride from municipal drinking water. They asked staff to investigate a petition to remove one of Dunkirk Street’s sidewalks, and opted to maintain the current tennis court rental fees despite requests from the public for a change.
One of the significant items was a proposal for a code of conduct. With one councillor absent, the debate ended in a tie vote, which defeated the motion. Some council members said the extra accountability was a good thing, while others said it would give the public the wrong idea.
Social and housing services manager Deborah Daigle had four reports on the agenda, which were all complex and sparked discussion. Here’s a quick summary:
- The department will begin work on a 10-year strategic plan to identify gaps in service and plans to meet those needs, as mandated by the province.
- They’re going to apply for some funding to purchase asset management software to better track all their units and necessary repairs.
- The province has rolled several programs together under a new name: the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative. Daigle said the amalgamation is a positive thing, but it came at the same time as cuts to a couple of the funding envelopes. Cornwall is expected to receive just 29% of previous grant totals next year.
- There have also been cuts to discretionary benefits for social assistance recipients, for things like dental care. Again, the city will fall short of what it was able to provide in the past, to the tune of $2 million.
During my Twitter-based coverage of the meeting last night, I shared my 5,000th tweet. For those keeners out there, you can read the entire feed here.
I take back every complaint I had about two hour council meetings.
Monday night was a marathon four hours – and that was on top of a two-hour closed meeting. Council went so long they were required to pass a special motion for discussion to continue past 11 p.m. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t meet for four or five weeks.
Here’s a quick recap of the major agenda items:
- The city is looking at a $658,000 deficit by the end of the year, thanks to less than expected tipping fee revenue and investment interest. A couple of councillors were quite worried and pushed managers to nip and tuck to ensure a balanced bottom line by December. Others expressed confidence in staff to make up the difference, and noted the shortfall isn’t much compared to the total $155 million budget.
- Rik Saaltink, GM of the Seaway International Bridge Corporation, laid out his case for keeping the toll booth in Cornwall once the new bridge is operational. Several councillors were pretty adamantly against the idea, though others apologized for putting Rik in the hotseat and said they understood his predicament. The company is mandated to be self-sustaining, and moving the toll to the U.S. side or removing it entirely doesn’t make fiscal sense.
- Chief building official Chris Rogers provided an update on the property standards department and the pressures from low staffing levels and high complaint volumes. He plans to ask for two positions to become full time next year during budget debate, and already council seems fully behind the idea.
- Coun. Maurice Dupelle successfully argued for a bylaw amendment that prohibits pigeon keeping in the city’s urban areas completely. Apparently both he and Coun. Gerald Samson have been hearing plenty of complaints about the birds, mainly around the health risks they pose.
- Council agreed to make the redevelopment of the Bob Turner their first priority when applying for a new federal grant. They’ll also put in a request for help to build soccer fields at the Benson Centre. The local curling club plans to submit an application as well, as they want to expand their lounge.
- The search for a new chief administrative officer has begun. Council approved a hiring committee made up of four members and the HR manager. The group will review the job description, analyze applications, and bring the top few candidates before the full council for interviews.
- It looks the secondary wastewater treatment project will hit its budget after all. The original bid was below the $55 million plan, but staff came back to council this week to ask for some additional work to be done. The extras will bring the total right up to the cap, but $2 million of that remains dedicated as contingency in case any unexpected issues arise.
And that’s just the big items. Council also agreed to buy new radio equipment for the fire department, shot down a request from the Terry Fox run to use the bandshell free of charge, approved some job positions and passed over a dozen bylaws.
Council meets next on September 10.
The 2012 Olympic Games wrapped up in London last night, with a three-hour closing ceremony of random guests showcasing British pop music. I was pumped to see Christine Sinclair – captain of our women’s soccer team – hoisting the maple leaf, with a huge grin on her face. She did a fantastic job and earned the honour of being our flag bearer.
Team Canada is heading home with 18 medals, only one of them goal. Though it might not be what some had hoped, I’m reminded of our incredible showing when we hosted the Olympics two years ago in Vancouver. Fourteen gold medals, the most of any country … ever. And there’s far fewer sports events (86 compared to 301), and therefore medals, in the winter Games.
So hey, we might not be quite as good at summer sports, but we can definitely hold our own. We finished 13th overall in the total medal count, well back of the three top finishers. The U.S. earned 104 medals; China had 88, and Great Britain won 65. I was pumped for them; what a great showing for the host nation. Cuba and Colombia – two of my other favourite countries in the world – finished with 14 and eight medals, respectively.
Here’s a breakdown of Canada’s hardware:
- Rosannagh MacLennan, women’s trampoline
- Adam van Koeverden, men’s kayak 1000m
- Team Canada, rowing men’s eight
- Team Canada, rowing women’s eight
- Ryan Cochrane, men’s 1500m freestyle swim
- Tonya Lynn Verbeek, women’s wrestling
- Team Canada, women’s soccer
- Derek Drouin, men’s high jump
- Mark de Jonge, men’s kayak 200m
- Mark Oldershaw, men’s canoe 1000m
- Team Canada, women’s cycling team pursuit
- Team Canada, women’s diving 3m springboard
- Team Canada, women’s diving 10m platform
- Antoine Valois-Fortier, men’s judo
- Brent Hayden, men’s 100m freestyle swim
- Richard Weinberger, men’s 10k swim
- Christine Girard, women’s weightlifting
- Carol Huynh, women’s wrestling
And that’s all … until the Games in Sochi, Russia, in two years.
I’m so proud of our soccer team. After a frustrating loss to the U.S., we played hard against France and won a bronze medal this morning. I think Christina Sinclair did a fantastic job leading the ladies – she did get all three goals in the semi-final – even if her comments after the game were less than Olympian. FIFA has still to rule if she’ll face disciplinary action for questioning the ref’s call.
Diana Matheson, who scored the game-winning and sole point today was a class act as she pointed to the Canadian crest on her jersey immediately after.
I’m just disappointed our very own Christine Julien was left off the roster at the last minute. As an alternate and member of Canada’s national team, she can at least be proud that she played a role in getting them where they are today. Shortly after the win, she tweeted:
Did we honestly just win a BRONZE FRIGGIN MEDAL???? This is not real life.. I WILL NVR FORGET THIS MOMENT!!!!!! THANK YOU CANADAAAAA
We’ve had plenty to celebrate so far at the 2012 Olympics. A silver and bronze in rowing, our first medal in weight-lifting, two in diving, two in wrestling, gold in trampoline, silver each in men’s and women’s rowing. In the overall medal count, we’re 12th in the world with a total of 16. Not anywhere close to sports superpowers China and the U.S., but not shabby at all.
The 2012 Summer Olympics officially kick off tonight in London. I’m pretty pumped. I love watching all the sporting events and cheering on my favourite athletes. It brings out patriotism in us all but also gathers the world together.
Canada didn’t get off to a great start, though. Our first contest was a soccer game against Japan, which we lost 2-1. I was already bummed about this team, since Christine Julien was cut a few weeks ago – she’s from Williamstown, and this region’s only athlete who was in the race to compete for our country this year.
We have 281 representatives, with Simon Whitfield carrying the Maple Leaf in the opening ceremony tonight. I’ll be rooting for all of them … but I’ll also be supporting a couple other countries that I’m rather partial to. Colombia, for example. My home for almost a full year, I’m hoping their athletes take back some hardware.
Canada pulled in 18 medals in the last summer Olympics, held in Beijing in 2008. The most we’ve ever won was 44, when the Games were hosted by Los Angeles in 1984; our second place tally is half that, from 1996 in Atlanta. We earned a record amount in the winter Olympics held in our very own Vancouver two years ago: 26 medals, and 14 of them gold. The goal is a fourth place overall finish this year.
I’m really looking forward to the water sports … canoeing, diving, rowing. The cycling events are pretty entertaining as well. I want to catch some soccer, volleyball and running contests. There’s a blind archer from South Korea I’d like to see, and some of the gymnastics events are seriously impressive.
Ahh, I love the Olympics. GO CANADA!!
Cornwall finally has a new human resources manager. It’s been seven months since their last one was dismissed from city hall, and in the meantime both the chief administrative officer and the clerk have announced their pending retirements. So, more changes are to come.
But Councillor Andre Rivette seems to think some things haven’t changed at all. He heard the topic of an interview come up in a closed council meeting last week and walked out, assuming it would be a repeat of a discussion that dissolved into a personal attack against him. He had that meeting investigated, but is now claiming the mayor and colleagues haven’t followed the resulting recommendations.
There was another in-camera meeting on Monday, prior to a 20-minute council gathering that launched the first phase of the redevelopment of the Bob Turner and construction of soccer fields at the Benson Centre. There was a planning advisory committee meeting after that, covering a new Centretown study, brownfield applications, and ways to deal with vacant gas stations.
Council’s regular meeting had an interesting start last night. First of all, Cogeco was not filming live from inside city hall, so the in-camera portion went longer than usual. We didn’t get rolling on the public agenda until around 7:15 p.m. One of the first items was, as always, adoption of previous minutes. Coun. Andre Rivette didn’t agree with the report from the last closed-door gathering, but said it didn’t accurately reflect what happened. That’s the first I’ve seen someone vote against that type of motion.
Representatives from the Eastern Ontario Regional Network were back in front of council, making another plea for a financial contribution to the internet project. Staff will consider all of the new material and bring a recommendation back, probably at the next meeting. The pressure to participate has been kicked up a notch, as coordinators are now planning to expand the network into business parks – but they’ll give priority to cities that support them.
In the nearly two-hour meeting, council also:
- approved changes to their procedural bylaw that would allow delegations/presentations to happen first. Councillors nearly always vote to bump them ahead on the agenda anyway, so it makes sense to have that happen automatically.
- agreed to send a surplus zamboni to a small community in Nunavut.
- changed the terms of the Glen Stor Dun Lodge management committee. The chair will now serve for two years, rather than one, to give him/her more time to understand operations and build relationships.
- approved a noise bylaw exemption for Aecon, the company building the new low-level bridge. They were asking for permission to pour concrete at night later this month, since it’s too hot during the day.
- planned to create a War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration committee, to better promote Cornwall’s role in the conflict. Members of the community will be asked to join and partner with some agencies that already have ideas for the anniversary.
I have a few other notes from recent goings-on at city hall that I’ll post later.
As for council, they’re down to one meeting per month for the summer. I’m already bracing myself for the August meeting – it looks like it’ll be a very full agenda.
It was a shorter meeting this week, and I’m not complaining.
One of the items on the agenda was an update on possibly providing South Glengarry lands with Cornwall’s water and sewer services. The township’s council was there, along with several staff members. But city councillors had no discussion on the report, approving it with no questions asked.
They also approved PAC’s recommendations for zoning changes to expand the business park and allow new development on the Si Miller lands. They shot down a request from a national broomball tournament for subsidized ice time, called for the Seaway International Bridge Corporation’s general manager to attend a future meeting and explain his position on the toll booth relocation, and agreed to a contract to put up new netting at Reg Campbell Park.
There were several presentations that kicked off the meeting, including one that honoured three city employees for saving a man’s life. Council also heard from the Youth Advisory Committee on their recent initiatives, and awarded scholarships to a couple of local students.
Terry Landon brought an update on the economic development strategic plan advisory committee (that’s a mouthful), noting they hope to launch a survey this year to determine true unemployment numbers across the city, and possibly the counties as well. It’s a smart move as they work to attract even more new businesses – they need to know if the labour force is here to fill the job opportunities.
The next meeting is in July, when council goes down to one meeting per month for the summer.