2022 in Guelph? Only a bunch of stuff that occurred

This week’s Market Squared is the inevitable end of the year walk through memories of the last 12 months

On this Christmas Eve, the task falls to me to recap this political year in Guelph in 1,000 words or less.

Let’s start by asking if I need to say anything more about the election? Either of them? The most shocking story from both of these elections was the incredibly low voter turnout. Despite nearly three years of pandemic issues and the anger they created, there seemed to be a collective “meh” about even the simple act of voting.

As the old saying goes though, “Elections have consequences,” and boy have we become familiar with those implications in the last several months. Writing this the week before Christmas, I can’t say what the complete consequences of Bill 23, Bill 39, et al are going to be, but that’s the point. No one knows what the long-term consequences of undermining municipal oversight on planning will be.

Speaking of planning, Guelph police headquarters was finally completed this year… Three years late. Why and how much it’s going to cost are still nebulous questions with no apparent answers, and there’s still a lawsuit brought by the original contractor to think about. The project is done, but this is not the end of the story.

There’s also another police issue to consider. Earlier this year, a disciplinary hearing said that Const. Corey McArthur shouldn’t be a Guelph police officer anymore, but he disagrees. After nearly seven years, and a big conversation about the role of policing, there’s something not very self-aware in asking the community to trusting a cop who’s confessed to hitting a kid cuffed to a hospital bed.

And since the first time I wrote about McArthur in the fall, I’ve had more than a couple of people talk to me about whether or not McArthur was stalling so he can get enough time in to be eligible for his pension. Keep in mind, though he’s not walked a beat since 2016, McArthur’s still drawing a Sunshine List eligible paycheque, so in the golden age of the grift, how could we not think about this possibility?

Speaking of grifts, how many times did we hear about grandparent scams in 2022? Or crypto scams? Joke all you want about a certain Florida dotard’s digital training cards, but a lot of bad people are sending nana to the Bitcoin machine to deposit her life savings and get her beloved grandchild out of jail only to find out that you can’t trust people because they have your phone number.

But if your phone number isn’t safe, then your computer is almost definitely not safe. This year we’ve seen cyber attacks on the Waterloo School Board, the Durham School Board, and even our own University of Guelph. Not only were these institutions reticent to call out these incidents by name as “cyber attacks,” they’ve also been less than transparent about the extent of the impact.

To put it another way, cyber crime, and the vulnerability of our institutions to such an attack, should be top of mind going into the new year.

Our computers though were not the only thing vulnerable to crime in 2022, and some crimes were pretty old fashioned. From the repeated acts of vandalism on Heritage Hall, to select candidate signs being repeatedly targeted in the election, and someone taking a selfie in front of all the Hitler stickers they put on the front door of a synagogue, there’s a lot of hate in Guelph .

Like a lot of places, it seems like something’s snapped in our city that makes racist people think that they can be as bigoted as they want to be without repercussion. We’ve seen Guelph’s goodness many times this year, supporting refugees or friends fighting for equality in Iran, but the racist undercurrent some people of color have experienced here has become easier to see for those of us who are white.

In terms of equality, we saw one University of Guelph student go viral after speaking up about her school’s seeming disinterest in helping people with disabilities have a better school experience. Looking on social media, this was not the only area where there seems to be a growing rift between the U of G’s aspirations and its actions, so that’s something to keep an eye on in the new year.

What else should we be keeping an eye on rift-wise speaking? The rocky relationship between some committees and city staff is worth a look as they start feeling the pressure from things like Bill 23. Indeed, the apparatus of local boards and committees, and their relationship to the rest of city hall, will be put under the microscope as the clerks’ office review their terms of reference.

Perhaps the big theme of the year was change. To bring this back to the election, we did keep the same MPP, the same mayor, the same Catholic school board members and eight of the same city councillors in 2022, but on the other hand we saw a lot of turnover and not just in elected office.

This year we saw Guelph General Hospital CEO Marianne Walker announce her retirement while Sheila Markle left her role as the head of Family and Children’s Services. Patti Broughton moved on from the Guelph Arts Council, and Marty Williams will move on from the Downtown Guelph Business Association in January. Kween, executive director of Guelph Black Heritage, also recently announced that she’s taking a much-deserved break after three very busy years for the organization.

Good luck and best wishes to you, and the same to our departing members of city council who I’m sure will miss their occasional mentions in these digital pages. It was a year of great change in our city, and big change awaits us when the calendar turns over next week, but as Heraclitus once said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”

Or to put it another way, “God bless us, every one.”

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