Puslinch councillors baffled by letter from MPP Liz Sandals

Puslinch councillors are baffled by a recent letter to Mayor Brad Whitcombe from Guelph MPP Liz Sandals that suggests the township has changed its position on Highway 6 improvements in Guelph and Puslinch.
“It’s quite disconcerting,” Whitcombe said last week, adding he has no idea what prompted Sandals to write the letter.
Dated March 13, the letter states that after reading an article in the Feb. 1 edition of The Wellington Advertiser, Sandals was “confused” by the position taken by Puslinch councillors on Hanlon Expressway upgrades planned by the Ministry of Transportation.
As a result, Sandals requested that Whitcombe clarify the township’s position because the article led her to believe “that Puslinch council … is no longer in agreement with the proposed Highway 6 route.”
But the article to which Sandals refers in fact says nothing about Puslinch councillors changing their minds about the improvements, which they have supported all along.
“I have carefully read the Newspaper article and I am unable to find any reference that would suggest [that],” Whitcombe said in a letter of reply to Sandals, dated March 20.
The article in question outlined the concerns of Puslinch Fire Chief Dan Quinnell, in­cluding a possible increase to his department’s response times – particularly to Highway 401 – as a result of the MTO plans.
It also summarized the con­cerns raised by residents in both Guelph and Pus­linch, such as increased traffic and noise and air pollution, as well as the project’s possible impacts on local water supplies, nearby septic systems, the Mill Creek watershed, and the Paris moraine.
Whitcombe said in his reply that dialogue “was initiated to ensure that the local road pattern in relation to the Hanlon interchange will be thoughtfully designed to function properly as the city and township develop around the expressway.”
The mayor told Sandals he is concerned her letter “may cast some doubt as to council’s resolve in this matter as it was [copied] to the decision makers that are empowered to move the Highway 6 project forward.” Sandals had forwarded her letter to Jim Bradley and John Gerretsen, the respective heads of the provincial ministries of transportation and the environment.
At the March 19 meeting, Puslinch councillor Matthew Bulmer said the Advertiser article did not, in any way, give the impression council had chang­ed its mind about the Highway 6 upgrades.
Councillor Susan Fielding, who has lobbied the MTO for some time for improvements near Morriston and was the first to request a meeting with Gerretsen to help speed up the project’s environmental assessment, also agreed.
She said with all due re­spect to the Advertiser reporter, no one should ever take what’s written in a Newspaper “as gospel” anyhow, especially an elected official. She added that it was “not very professional” of Sandals to forward the letter to the MTO and MOE without first contacting a member of council.
Whitcombe agreed, and said, “It would have been nice to get a phone call.”
Councillor Dick Visser call­ed the letter from Sandals “very unfortunate,” and suggest­ed the MPP’s confusion is the result of her own failure to keep informed as to what’s going on regarding the High­way 6 project.
In the mayor’s response, which he also sent to the township’s current MPP, Ted Arnott, Whitcombe requested that Sandals correspond with the MTO and MOE to “remove any confusion” regarding the position of Puslinch council.
“I can certainly say we haven’t changed our position at all,” Whitcombe said at last week’s meeting.