Two conflicting stories are being told about development in Guelph. The City of Guelph pays lip service to the idea of “community consultation” and “civic engagement” as a token gesture to their narrative that the city is built with our consent and participation. But when we read between the lines, there is another narrative at play: there are those who maintain a monopoly on the power to shape the businesses, resources, and physical landscapes of our city, and those of us who don’t. Gentrification is the process by which poorer urban spaces are “cleaned up” and redeveloped to welcome upscale businesses and residences and the wealthier people who use them. A quick look at the City of Guelph’s longterm plans for the downtown and other areas undergoing development demonstrates that gentrification is underway in our city, and that although this gentrification is a complex process, its driving forces can be traced back to specific people and organizations.
This issue of The Peak was written by and for the rest of us: those of us who aren’t millionaires or City of Guelph technocrats. The factory workers, the people pouring coffee, the computer programmers, the construction workers that frame the new subdivisions on the city’s peripheries, and the students on the block-- those of us who are left out of decision making under the pretense that city planning requires the technical skills of specialists. We are formally removed from the ability to control the services that are offered or de-funded because we vote away our power to politicians to make decisions for us (who then give it away to staff and “specialists” we don’t even vote for).
“The rest of us” may not have a clearly defined agenda, goals or strategies, but we do have several things in common. The majority of us live paycheck to paycheck, and are in some form of (usually massive) debt. We share the experience of watching bosses, landlords, and corporations profiting off of our labour, utility bills, rent, mortgage payments, cell phone bills, credit card payments and taxes. Our shared experience is exclusion. Our common feeling is powerlessness.
Within these pages, you can find analysis that deconstructs our interactions with this clustering of people and buildings called a city. From summer music festivals to the proposed public nuisance bylaw, this issue of The Peak casts a critical eye on the people, organizations and businesses that are shaping Guelph and the tensions that are present within our daily lives. The popular narrative around development and business is that everything is already in motion, that outcomes are fixed and that everyone consents. Here are some of the stories, experiences and viewpoints from “the rest of us”: we hope they can be a catalyst for collective resistance to gentrification.
The Peak Collective