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The goals for Clair-Maltby only get harder to achieve from here

This week's Market Squared considers why the fight for a balanced Clair-Maltby didn't end on Monday, it began.
new clair road
Proposed plans for the Clair-Maltby area at one point over previous four years.

The Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan was finally passed on Monday, and I think it’s safe to say that no one is happy. Community members are concerned that there aren’t enough environmental protections for this sensitive land while developers are likely going to the Ontario Land Tribunal, ironically, because the city’s environmental protections will get in the way of their profits.

The voices of developers were noticeably absent from Monday’s meeting, which is why I think that they’re saving their powder for the OLT. Clair-Maltby is the final frontier, and the case will be made that the beautiful concept designs are getting in the way of maximum profits, and who are the OLT to tell them differently?

The real fight for Clair-Maltby is about to begin, and it will be at a venue largely inaccessible to members of the general public, and that’s why it’s disappointing that this final meeting fell into the same ridiculous Guelph political tropes.

There were a couple of delegates who suggested that council should send the plan back to staff for more development. Apparently, seven years isn’t enough, and it’s so typical in Guelph politics that after years of work on a project, and getting within a few strides of the finish line, there’s someone who proposes that we go right back to the beginning of the race.

That suggestion was wholly impractical because staff is not going to throw out a plan it's spent thousands of hours developing. You may have donated a couple of hours here and there to offer your insight into the project, but some staff members at the city have lived it and breathed it for the better part of a decade. They’re not going to rip it up and start again.

Let’s also pause to appreciate that after seven years City of Guelph staff actually completed a project. The next night at Cambridge council they approved the latest design for the Cambridge Recreation Complex, a project that has gone back to the drawing board so many times there’s barely any pencil to sharpen anymore.

When it was Guelph council’s turn to put their stamp on the proposal, there was a motion to turn portions of “Street A” into active transportation only routes in places where it intersects the moraine ribbon. I’m forced again to ask what world do members of city council live in? You’re going to build a road, and tell people that there are parts of it that they can’t drive on? Who would enforce that?

Fortunately, the majority of council shot down that malarky pretty quickly, and I call it “malarky” because the mutual reticence in understanding that if you’re sitting in a car, you’re part of the traffic problem.

City leadership is filled with people who applaud the notion of going car-free, and then leave in their single-occupant vehicles and go home. They all concede that Guelph Transit doesn’t service their needs, but it’s supposed to service ours, and then we have to hear from community members that complain about that empty bus that goes past their house while never once considering using it themselves.

Now I tiptoe into this next part out of fear of being misunderstood. Parkland. I am not against parks, I like parks, and I’ve used parks, but what I’m against is virtue signalling. If you’re standing on your environmental laurels by demanding more parkland while bopping around town in your gas guzzling vehicle you may be missing the thread.

And let’s be clear, getting to the proposed site of the community park in Clair-Maltby on Guelph Transit, as it’s currently laid out, is a 90-minute crosstown ride. Transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario, so what point is parkland if it can never be enjoyed on a broiling Earth. I’d be more receptive to the parkland lobby if I saw some parks with empty parking lots.

I’m also against one lobby taking all the oxygen out of an issue just because they’re louder than everyone else, and if you think there’s a dearth of parkland and greenspace in Clair-Maltby now, wait till the developers go to the OLT with their knives out. They’re coming for the moraine, they're coming for Halls Pond, and their coming for the community park that was hard won at council last year.

The silence of developers and landowners at this, the final public meeting of the plan, was deafening, and if the parkland advocates want to sweat about something, start sweating about that.

While you’re tilting at windmills, pushing for more parkland than what’s in the original plan, the developers who don’t want to give up the most valuable commodity in the province are planning their next move to a body that’s much more difficult to delegate to. Talking to the OLT is not as easy as sending an email to the city clerk.

In a perfect world, maybe we might have left the Paris Galt Moraine alone, but this is far from a perfect world. So perhaps the Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan is as perfectly unperfect is it can be. As always, it can, and probably will, get worse.