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Students show level of civic engagement at Mayor's town hall

Mayor holding town halls at a number of city high schools as part of Youth Week activities

They may be young and a little naive, but when it comes to being aware of city issues, it appears the kids are alright.

Mayor Cam Guthrie was at John F. Ross CVI on Tuesday, holding a town hall with students from a variety of grades.

After some fun and games, he spent much of an hour answering questions that showed students are well aware of what is going on in their city.

"I see a lot of subdivisions being built taking up valuable farmland and forests, is that a common concern? Are we growing too rapidly or in the wrong places?" asked one young man.

Guthrie explained that the province has dictated that Guelph grow in population, up to 175,000 people by 2031, and that there aren't a lot of places to grow. Mostly the south end and, in future, on the York Road jail lands.

"The province is forcing the City of Guelph to grow as part of the Places To Grow Act," Guthrie said.

"We are legislated by the province to grow. A lot of the pressure is from the province forcing us to have all these people here."

That led to another question from a student who said he and his family had been forced to move to Fergus because his parents could no longer afford their home in Guelph.

Guthrie sympathized, saying he wonders if his own children will ever be able to afford their own homes in Guelph.

He said it's a result of the "drive 'til you qualify" trend that sees people from Toronto priced out of the housing market there and into the areas surrounding the GTA.

Guthrie said he hopes that bringing more land on line for development, such as the aforementioned York Road jail lands, will help ease the demand.

Guthrie's visit to Ross was part of Youth Week activities.

It was followed by a visit to Bishop Macdonell high school later on Tuesday. On Wednesday he visits a civics class at Centennial high school and Thursday he will hold a town hall at College Heights.

Another student asked what was happening with the Niska bridge, where Guthrie told students that "because of second guessing by a few people" two construction seasons were lost and it will now by 2019 before there is a new bridge in place.

There was actually a neighbourhood group that questioned the validity of the process involved in getting a new bridge in place.

Other questions included when Guelph would get all-day Go train service and if and when a new south end recreation centre would get built and how the provincial deficit affects municipalities.

One student asked for a "weird story" from Guthrie's time as Mayor and got one about a bag of dead flies someone mailed to him.