Guelph (/ɡwɛlf/ (listen); 2016 Canadian Census population 131,794)[2] is a city in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Known as "The Royal City", Guelph is roughly 28 km (17 mi) east of Kitchener and 100 km (62 mi) west of Downtown Toronto, at the intersection of Highway 6, Highway 7 and Wellington County Road 124. It is the seat of Wellington County, but is politically independent of it. The city is built on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.[4]

City of Guelph


Coat of arms

Faith, Fidelity and Progress
Location of Guelph in Ontario
Coordinates: 43°33′N 80°15′W
FoundedApril 23, 1827
IncorporatedApril 23, 1879
  MayorCam Guthrie
  Governing BodyGuelph City Council
  MPsLloyd Longfield (LPC)
  MPPsMike Schreiner (GPO)
  Land87.22 km2 (33.68 sq mi)
87.22 km2 (33.68 sq mi)
593.51 km2 (229.16 sq mi)
334 m (1,096 ft)
  City (single-tier)131,794
  Density1,511.1/km2 (3,914/sq mi)
  Urban density1,511.1/km2 (3,914/sq mi)
  Metro density256.1/km2 (663/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC−05:00 (EST)
  Summer (DST)UTC−04:00 (EDT)
Forward sortation area
N1C to N1H, N1K to N1L
Area code(s)519, 226 and 548

Guelph began as a settlement in the 1820s, established by Scotsman John Galt, who was in Upper Canada as the first Superintendent of the Canada Company. He based the headquarters, and his home, in the community. The area – much of which became Wellington County – had been part of the Halton Block, a Crown Reserve for the Six Nations Iroquois.[5][6] Galt would later be considered as the founder of Guelph.

Because of its relatively low crime rates, clean environment and generally high standard of living, Guelph is consistently rated as one of Canada's best places to live.[7][8] For many years, Guelph ranked at or near the bottom of Canada's crime severity list.[9] However, the 2017 Crime Severity Index showed a 15% increase from 2016.[10] Guelph has been noted as having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country throughout the Great Recession.[11] In late 2018, the Guelph Eramosa and Puslinch entity had an unemployment rate of 2.3 per cent, which decreased to 1.9 percent by January 2019, the lowest of all Canadian cities. The national unemployment rate at the time was 5.8 percent.[12] Much of this achievement was due to the great number of manufacturing facilities, including Linamar.[13]


Before colonization, the area was considered by the surrounding indigenous communities to be a "neutral" zone and was inhabited by the Neutral Nation. According to the University of Guelph, "the area was home to a First Nations community called the Attawandaron who lived in longhouses surrounded by fields of corn".[14] The majority of this nation, about 4,000 people, lived in a village near what is now the Badenoch area of Puslinch, near Morriston.[15]

John Galt, the first Superintendent of the Canada Company, was hired to help colonize Upper Canada.[16] He selected Guelph as the headquarters of this British development firm. Galt was a popular Scottish poet and novelist who also designed the town to attract settlers and farmers to the surrounding countryside.[17] His design intended the town to resemble a European city centre, complete with squares, broad main streets and narrow side streets, resulting in a variety of block sizes and shapes which are still in place today.[18] The street plan was laid out in a radial street and grid system that branches out from downtown,[19] a technique which was also employed in other planned towns of this era, such as Buffalo, New York.[17]

The initial founding was symbolized by Galt (with "Tiger" Dunlop,[20] who would be significant in the history of Goderich, Ontario,) felling a tree[21] on April 23, 1827. That was St. George's Day, the feast day of the patron saint of England. The name Guelph comes from the Italian Guelfo and the Bavarian-Germanic Welf. It is a reference to the reigning British monarch at the time Guelph was founded, King George IV, whose family was from the House of Hanover, a younger branch of the House of Welf sometimes spelled as Guelf or Gwelf.[18][22] The town was named to honour Britain's royal family, the Hanoverians, who were descended from the Guelfs, the ancestral family of George IV, the reigning British monarch; thus the nickname The Royal City.[19][23] The directors of the Canada Company had actually wanted the city to be named Goderich, because Lord Goderich had helped form the company, but reluctantly accepted that the village was called Guelph.[24]

Galt constructed what was one of the first buildings in the community to house early settlers and the Canada Company office; "The Priory" (built 1827–1828).[19] was located on the banks of the Speed River near the current River Run Centre for performing arts and could house up to 100 people.[19][25][26][27] The building eventually became the Canadian Pacific Railway Priory station on the Guelph Junction Railway before it was eventually torn down and removed.[28][29] A historical plaque commemorates John Galt's role with the Canada Company in populating Upper Canada's Huron Tract, calling it "the most important single attempt at settlement in Canadian history".[30] (Galt was responsible for finding settlers for the 42,000 acre Halton Block that would become Guelph and its townships but also for the one million acre Huron Tract that stretched to Goderich, Ontario.)[19]

By the fall of 1827, 70 houses had been built, though some were primitive.[19] In that year, the community had hired its first police constable; the first police station would be opened in 1856 at the town hall and it was moved in 1900 to the Annex building behind the court house.[31] Also in 1827, the first Guelph Farmers' Market was built; the Market House was located in the downtown area.[32] Founded in 1827, James Hodgert’s brewery was managed by John Sleeman until he bought a property and opened the Silver Creek Brewery in 1851. (In 1843, there were nine breweries serving the 700 people living in Guelph.)[33]

The first Board of Commerce also started in 1827, to stimulate economic growth; in 1866, it would be renamed the Board of Trade, and in 1919, it became the Chamber of Commerce.[34] In order to eliminate the need for farmers to take their grain to Galt or Dundas for grinding, the Canada Company built the first grist mill; the Guelph Mill was sold to William Allen in 1832.[19] In 1829, the Canada Company fired Galt because of poor bookkeeping and not obeying company policies.[16] He returned to Great Britain penniless and was imprisoned because he was unable to pay his debts.[35] In 1831, Guelph had approximately 800 residents.[36] For several years, the economy of the village suffered and some residents moved away; relief came in the form of wealthy immigrants from England and Ireland who arrived in 1832.[37]

The Smith's Canadian Gazetteer of 1846 indicates that the town had a jail and court house made of cut stone, a weekly newspaper, five churches/chapels and a population of 1,240; most were from England and Scotland with a few from Ireland. In addition to many tradesmen, the community had 15 stores, seven taverns, and some industry, tanneries, breweries, distilleries and a starch factory. The Post Office was receiving mail daily.[38]

1855 to 1878

Guelph was incorporated as a town in 1855, with John Smith as the first mayor.[19] Despite optimism, the population growth was very slow until the Grand Trunk Railway reached it from Toronto, en route to Sarnia, in 1856; the town was also served soon thereafter by the Great Western Railway branch from Harrisburg.[39] In 1856, the village became a town.[40] Two years later, the population was estimated at 4,500, up from 2,000 in 1853.[41] The first city hall, now called the Old City Hall (Guelph), was built in 1856 of Guelph stone; the building contained a market house, offices and an assembly hall. Modifications were made in 1870, 1875 and 1961.[42] The new Guelph City Hall opened in 2009 beside the older building, which was declared a National Historic Site in 1984. The national document refers to the historic building as being "in the Italian Renaissance Revival style".[43]

The board of the Guelph General Hospital was incorporated in 1861, with James Massie as the chairman.[44] The building was completed in 1875, at the cost of $9,869, and opened on August 16, 1875, with 2 beds, a small infectious room and a dispensary.[45]

The Gothic Revival style Roman Catholic church on Norfolk St., called the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate since December 8, 2014, was built between 1876 and 1888.[46]

By 1869, the community's manufacturing companies were served by both the Grand Trunk Railway and the Great Western Railway.[47] The first section of the Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway, between Guelph and Elora, opened in 1870; the line would eventually run as far as Southampton, Ontario,[48] with stations in communities such as Palmerston, Harriston, Listowel and Wingham.[49] The company was not very successful, and never did reach Owen Sound as planned, partly because of stiff competition from the Northern Railway of Canada[50] as well as the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway. By the mid 1870s, the Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway was in financial trouble; it eventually became part of the Grand Trunk system, and later, the Canadian National Railway.[51][52]

By January 1871, some residents of the town had access to gas, provided by the Guelph Gas Company via pipes, initially to about 100 homes.[53] Electricity would not become commonly available until the early 1900s, from the Guelph Light and Heat Commission.[19]

An 1877 plan to start the Guelph Street Railway, using horse-drawn vehicles to deliver freight and passengers within Guelph, never came to fruition.[54][44]

A poor house with a farm, The Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, opened in December 1877 in a rural area near Guelph; many orphans from Guelph were admitted. The building still stands, as the Wellington County Museum and Archives.[55][56]

After 1878

Guelph was incorporated as a city in 1879 with a Special Act of the Ontario legislature.[57] At that time, the population was about 10,000. During the inauguration, Mayor George Howard first used the term "Royal City". The only "royals" to actually visit were John Campbell, the Marquis of Lorne, and his wife was Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, one of Queen Victoria's daughters.[58]

Construction of the Church of Our Lady Immaculate, known as the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate since late 2014, was already underway but would not be completed until 1883. (The twin towers were not added until 1926.)[59]

A few years later, George Sleeman Sr. founded an electric radial railway, the Guelph Railway Company, an important part of the history of Guelph Transit. Only five miles of track had been laid by 1895, but the line was extended in 1902; the radial railway eventually reached Toronto, as the Ontario Hydro Electric Railways - Guelph District (owned by Ontario Hydro).[60] In addition to carrying passengers, the cars carted coal to heat the Ontario Agricultural College.[61]

By 1886, telephones were quite common in the city. An April news article described the situation as follows. "Telephones are rapidly being introduced into private homes, where they prove a great convenience. Ladies order their groceries, consult their medical advisers, call their husbands home from the club and gossip with their friends by telephone."[62]

In 1903 the City purchased the Guelph Light & Power Company, and four years later created the Board of Light and Heat Commissioners. Guelph was one of 13 municipalities that helped to create the provincial entity that became Ontario Hydro.[63]

The Canadian Communist Party began as an illegal organization in a rural barn near Guelph on May 28 and 29, 1921.[64]

Guelph was the home of North America's first cable TV system. Fredrick T. Metcalf created MacLean Hunter Television (now part of Rogers Communications) and their first broadcast was Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1953.[18] Other news-making items include the fact that the jockstrap was invented here, in 1922, by the Guelph Elastic Hosiery Company and that the man who invented five pin bowling in 1909, Tom Ryan, was originally from Guelph. Other noteworthy items: the city's covered bridge (now part of a walking trail), built by the Timber Framers' Guild in 1992, is one of only two of its type in Ontario, using wooden pins to hold it together. Note too that the Yukon Gold potato was first bred at the University of Guelph in 1966; it became available on the market in 1981.[65]

Guelph's police force had Canada's first municipal motorcycle patrol. Chief Ted Lamb brought back an army motorcycle he used during the First World War. Motorcycles were faster and more efficient than walking.[18]

Guelph has several buildings on the National Historic Sites of Canada register: the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate, McCrae House and Old City Hall.[66]. The city is home to the University of Guelph, established in 1964, and Sleeman Breweries Ltd.. The Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), the oldest part of the University of Guelph, began in 1874 as an associate agricultural college of the University of Toronto. According to Maclean's, the current University of Guelph, founded in 1964, "grew out of three founding colleges: the Ontario Agricultural College (1874), the Ontario Veterinary College (1862) and the Macdonald Institute (1903)".[67] Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute (GCVI), established in the 1840s, is one of the province's oldest high schools. The Former Canadian National Railways (VIA Rail/GO Transit) Station at 79 Carden Street was listed in 1992.[68]

In 2017, Scientology Canada announced it would move its Canadian headquarters to Guelph.[69] Some residents protested the plan.[70] The facility was opened in the autumn of the year at 40 Baker Street.[71]

A redevelopment plan for Downtown Guelph had been discussed by Council since 2007 [72] and was finalized as the 2018 Baker District redevelopment project. The intent is to transform the Baker St. parking lot and properties fronting Wyndham Street's north end into a mixed-use development, with urban intensification. Both residential and commercial buildings will be included.[73] The final cost was estimated at between $315 million and $369 million. When finished, this area will include a new library, commercial, institutional and office space as well as an underground parking lot. The private enterprise partner for the project is Ottawa-based Windmill Development Group; there was also discussion about an additional partnership with Conestoga College and the YMCA. Actual construction was not expected to start until 2023. Before that date, up to $7.5 million will be spent to acquire the rest of the land that will be required.[74]

In October 2018, the Ontario Energy Board approved the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities Corporation. After the merger was completed in January 2019, the City received a 4.63 per cent stake in Alectra and a one-time dividend of $18.5 million; afterwards, annual dividends would be received. The city has one permanent seat on the company's Board.[75]


Topography and water courses

Downtown Guelph is situated above the confluence of the Speed River and the Eramosa River, which have numerous tributaries. The Speed River enters from the north and the Eramosa River from the east; the two rivers meet below downtown and continue southwest, where they merge with the Grand River (Ontario). There are also many creeks and smaller rivers creating large tracts of densely forested ravines, and providing ideal sites for parks and recreational trails. The city is built on several drumlins and buried waterways, the most notable being an underground creek flowing below the Albion Hotel, once the source of water used to brew beer.


This region of Ontario has cold winters and warm, humid summers, falling into the Köppen climate classification Dfb zone, with moderately high rainfall and snowfall. It is generally a couple of degrees cooler than lower elevation regions on the Great Lakes shorelines, especially so in winter, the exception being on some spring afternoons when the lack of an onshore breeze boosts temperatures well above those found lakeside.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Guelph was 38.3 °C (100.9 °F) on 6 August 1918 and 13 July 1936.[76][77] The coldest temperature ever recorded was −37.2 °C (−35.0 °F) on 25 January 1884.[78]

Climate data for University of Guelph Arboretum, 1981−2010 normals, extremes 1881−present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.7
Average high °C (°F) −3
Daily mean °C (°F) −6.9
Average low °C (°F) −10.8
Record low °C (°F) −37.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 51.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 17.6
Average snowfall cm (inches) 38.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 16.2 12.8 12.7 13.7 13.3 11.8 11.7 13.5 14.1 14.6 16.0 16.8 167.0
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 4.0 3.9 7.9 12.3 13.3 11.8 11.7 13.5 14.1 14.5 13.4 6.9 127.4
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 12.7 9.6 5.9 1.6 0.07 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.43 3.4 11.0 44.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 80.4 96.7 146.3 172.5 230.7 256.5 277.9 236.7 172.2 140.6 82.1 55.4 1,947.9
Percent possible sunshine 27.8 32.8 39.7 42.9 50.6 55.7 59.5 54.7 45.8 41.0 28.1 19.8 41.5
Source: Environment Canada[76][77][78][79][80][81][82]


The city of Guelph's diversified economy helped Guelph obtain the country's lowest unemployment rate at 4.2 per cent in 2011[11] and at 3.9 per cent in February 2016.[13] The great diversity in the types of employers is a significant factor too; the city is not dependent on a single industry. The workforce participation rate of 72% was the best in Canada in December 2015 according to BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic. The job growth of more than 9 per cent at the same time was also of great value to the community.[83] At the time, the BMO economist also rated Guelph as the top city in Canada for those looking for work.[84] Over subsequent months, the rate increased steadily and the jobless rate was at a more typical 5.9% by October 2017, compared to 5.1% in Kitchener-Waterloo.[85] The rate in June 2018 had decreased to 4.5%.[86][87] By December 2018, StatsCan was indicating an unemployment rate of only 2.3%, down from 4% in November, and the lowest in Canada at that time.[88]

The overall economy of the Guelph "region" (including the city and the townships of Guelph/Eramosa and Puslinch, Ontario) grew at an average of 3.5% per year over the previous five years and was expected to be 2.1% in 2019 and also in 2020 according to the Conference Board of Canada's August 2019 report. Guelph's real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3.6% per cent in 2018, the highest among medium sized cities in Canada. "Although economic growth is poised to moderate in 2019, Guelph will maintain its place as one of Canada’s economic growth leaders," the report predicted.[89]

Manufacturing and education sectors

Manufacturing is the leading sector of the economy of the city with the most significant sector being auto parts manufacturing[13]. The Conference Board of Canada's August 2019 report stated that the Guelph region's manufacturing was experiencing significant growth, averaging 5.9% over the past five years and expected to be 4.2% in 2019. [90]

Linamar is the city's leader in this sector, with 22 manufacturing plants. The company has received government funding for expansion that would create additional jobs, most recently in 2015 ($101 million)[91] and in 2018 ($99 million).[92] The latter would create 1,500 additional jobs and maintain 8,000 others in the Canadian operation.[93]

According to research completed by the City of Guelph in 2010, fabricated metal product manufacturing accounted for 26.1% of the types of industries, followed by machinery manufacturing for 12.8% and miscellaneous manufacturing for 10.4%.[94] The City's Economic Development Strategy identified life science, agri-food and biotechnology firms, environmental management and technology companies as growth industries on which to focus economic development activities.[95]

The City also touts the importance of advanced manufacturing which is its largest employer. The roughly 360 businesses of this type employ approximately 14,755 people (roughly 25% of Guelph's labour force). The category includes "high precision manufacturing and auto parts assembly to plastic injection moulding machines manufacturing and automation devices. This enables advanced manufacturing to be a strong driver of the local economy."[96]

The second largest industry is Educational services, accounting for 11.3%.[94]

Other sectors

Guelph is very attractive to the agri-food and biotechnology market sector, according to the City. It was ranked as the top cluster in Ontario and one of the top two in Canada. This sector includes over 90 companies in Guelph-Wellington, employing approximately 6,500 people.[96]

The City encourages movie and television filming. Parts of several productions have been filmed here, including Agnes of God (1985), American Gods (released in 2017), 11.22.63 (2016) with James Franco, Total Recall (2012), Dream House (2011), The Heretics (2017), Dead Rush (2016) and episodes of Murdoch Mysteries (2013 and 2015).[97][98][99]

Guelph Innovation District

As part of the plan to increase development, City Council voted in late 2017 to buy 98 hectares (243 acres) south of York Street owned by the Provincial government, including part of the property of the former Wellington Detention Centre.[100] After the acquisition, the City would seek one or more developers to buy the property.[101][102] The land actually purchased was only 23% of the long term plan for development in the entire site bounded by Watson Parkway South, the south border of the city and Victoria Road South.[103][104]

As part of the plan to increase development, City Council voted in late 2017 to buy 98 hectares (243 acres) south of York Street owned by the Provincial government, including part of the property of the former Wellington Detention Centre.[100] The actual land purchased was only 23% of the area listed in the long term plan for development in the entire 436 hectare (1,000 acre) site bounded by Watson Parkway South.[105]

The city decided in late 2018 not to purchase the additional land for economic reasons.[106] In 2019, the remaining 362 acres of Ontario government land was listed for sale by the province.[107]

Employment data

According to the Bank of Montreal's fourth quarter 2018 report, Guelph was the leading city in Canada in terms of job growth and low unemployment.[88] In January 2019, the city had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada.[108][109]

The 2016 Census indicated a labour force of nearly 76,000, of which about 55% said they worked full-time all year. At the time the data was gathered, 4,610 persons indicated they were unemployed. The top five occupations in terms of the number so employed were Sales and service (16,195), Education, law and social, community and government services (10,205), Business, finance and administration (10,150), Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (9,170) and manufacturing and utilities (8,205).[110]

The City of Guelph's published 2016 data was sorting occupations in a different manner. In that report, Professional, Scientific and Technical jobs employed 39,141, Advanced Manufacturing employed 20,735, Retail and Service employed 11,345, Agri-Innovation employed 11,345, Culture and entertainment employed 7,711 and that Distribution, warehousing and wholesale employed 5,909.[111]

The largest private enterprise employers in Guelph (2016) included:[111]

  • Linamar Corporation
  • Cargill Meat Solutions
  • Polycon Industries
  • The Co-operators
  • Guelph Manufacturing Group Inc.
  • Blount Canada Ltd.

The Cooperators was one of the Platinum Winners in Canada's Best Employers 2017 report; the company has been on this list for 14 years.[112]

The largest public sector employers (2016) included:

  • Upper Grand District School Board
  • University of Guelph
  • City of Guelph
  • Wellington Catholic District School Board
  • Guelph General Hospital
  • Homewood Health Centre

The University's staffing fell into three categories in 2015: there were 2,600 regular full-time faculty and staff, 1,890 temporary (full-time and part-time) and 3,690 student employees.[113] The University was among Canada's Best Employers in 2016 according to Forbes magazine, making the top 20 in the list.[114]

Two Guelph companies were among the 2018 winners of the Waterloo Area's Top Employers competition. According to the report, Reid's Heritage Group of Companies, a home builder with 212 full-time employees, "supports employees who are new mothers with maternity leave top-up payments .... [provides] flexible work hours, helps employees balance work and their personal commitments with up to 10 paid personal days ... and offers referral bonuses [for staff hires]."[115] Sleeman Breweries Limited, with 991 full-timers, offers "generous tuition subsidies ... opportunities for the next generation to gain meaningful experience through summer employment and co-op placements ... retirement planning assistance and phased-in work options" as well as bonuses for salaried staff and profit-sharing for those who are unionized.[116]


Historical populations

As of May 2016, the population of the actual city was 131,794 according to the 2016 Census, up from 121,688 in 2011.[118] The report also indicated a metropolitan area which does not necessarily conform to the official boundaries. The so-called metropolitan area - including Guelph, Guelph/Eramosa and Puslinch - had a population of 151,984, an increase of 7.7 per cent since 2011.[119] That made Guelph one of seven in Canada to experience accelerated growth in the previous five years according to Statistics Canada.[120]

Guelph is the third fastest-growing city in Ontario with a 5 year growth of 8.3% from 2011 to 2016. According to the Ontario Places to Grow plan, Guelph's population is projected to be about 144,500 by the year 2021 and 175,000 by 2031.[111] The actual number of residents varies throughout the year because of variations in the University of Guelph student population.[121]

The most common mother tongue in 2016 was English at 77.2% followed by Chinese Languages at 2.7%, Italian at 1.7% Vietnamese at 1.3% French at 1.3% Punjabi at 1.2%, Tagalog at 1.2%, Spanish at 1.1% and Polish at 1%. 1.5% claimed both English and a non-official language as their first language.[122]

Approximately 78.2% of residents were white in 2016, whereas 18.8% were visible minorities and 3% were aboriginal. The largest visible minority groups in Guelph were South Asian (5%), Chinese (3.2%), Black (2.2%), Filipino (2.2%), Southeast Asian (1.9%), West Asian (1.2%), and Latin American (1.0%).[122]

The 2016 Census indicated that 14,430 Italian Canadians lived in Guelph.[122] Many Italians from the south of that country, particularly from Monforte San Giorgio, had immigrated to the area in the early 1900s, and also in later years.[123] Historically however, Guelph's population has been principally British in origin, with 92% in 1880 and 87% in 1921.[17]

The city is mostly Christian (61.8%) according to the 2011 Census, almost evenly split among Protestants and Roman Catholics. The largest non-Christian religion is Islam (2.6%), followed by Buddhism (1.9%), Hinduism (1.5%) and Sikhism (1.0%).[124]


The national average for the crime severity index was 70.96 per 100,000 people in 2016 while Guelph's was much lower at 55 per 100,000 people according to a study published by Macleans.[125] In this report, Guelph was at about the middle of the statistics, with the worst community, North Battleford, Saskatchewan, at 353 per 100,000 people and nearby Kitchener-Waterloo at 61. More specific data was also provided:

  • Violent crime severity index: 49 per 100,000 people compared to 75.25 for the national index.
  • Homicide rate: The city had only one homicide in 2016 for a rate of 0.76 per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 1.68.
  • Assault rate: Guelph was at 181.87 versus the national average of 370
  • Sexual assault rate: This aspect was quite high with 64.22 per 100,000 people compared to the national rate of 56.6.
  • Robbery rate: Guelph had 21.91 per 100,000 people, much lower than the national average of 60.9.
  • Fraud: This aspect has increased notably since 1996; it was at 260.67 per 100,000 people in 2016, versus the national rate of 299.05.
  • Drug offences: The city is well below the national average in all categories.
  • Youth Criminal Justice Act offences: The rate was 8.31 per 100,000 in Guelph, substantially lower than the national average of 16.74.

The 2017 Index showed a 15% increase to 64 per 100,000 people, still well below the national index. Much of the increase was in property crime and sexual assaults. Reporting of the latter type of crimes was up by up 42.7%. This may not indicate the actual increase in the number of sexual assault incidents, as theorized by Chief of Police Jeff DeRuyter. He told a reporter that "We are seeing an increase in sexual assault reporting, and that’s a positive, because we’ve always believed the reporting of sexual assault was under-reported."[126]

As of January 2019, the Chief of Police is former RCMP inspector Gordon Cobey, who replaced Jeff DeRuyter who retired after 35 years of service with the Guelph Police Service.[127] DeRuyter had been Chief since 2015, when he replaced Bryan Larkin who went on to head the Waterloo Regional Police Service.[128]

Facilities for incarceration

The Wellington County Jail (in Late Gothic Revival Style) and the Governor's Residence (in Georgian style) at 74 Woolwich Street were built in 1911; they were designated by the city for "historic and architectural value" and as a National Historic Site in 1983. The property is now an Ontario Court of Justice.[129]

Guelph was home to a major correctional institution from 1911 until 2001,[130] originally the Ontario Reformatory with subsequent names including Wellington Detention Centre and, after 1972, Guelph Correctional Centre. The first inmates had been transferred to the Guelph reformatory from Toronto's Central Prison when it closed in 1915. By 1910 however, a prison farm beside the Eramosa River had begun receiving prisoners. The farm inmates constructed a concrete bridge, a spur line to the CPR and a wooden trestle bridge. The official opening of the farm was 25 September 1911. By 1912, the various buildings on the site housed 300; the correctional operations on the site were fully operational by 1914. Between 1911 and 1915, prisoners had built the Administration building, the cell blocks, ponds and waterways, dry stone walls, stairs, gates, bridges and terraced gardens. By 1916, this was the largest correctional facility in Ontario, housing 660.[131][132]

During World War I, the property served as the Guelph Military Convalescent Hospital a convalescent hospital for over 900 veterans, from 1917. The prisoners returned in January 1921.[133][130]

The farm and Reformatory were used to teach inmates useful skills, including agriculture, dry cleaning, metalworking, and other trades. By the late 1940s the facility produced food for all of Ontario's prisons, and also made blankets, wood and metal products; there was a stone quarry stone on site. By 1962 the prison farm accommodated a dairy, piggery, horses, cattle and vegetable farming.[131][134] The farm area eventually included barns, a woolen mill, abattoir, tailor shop, laundry, bakery, metal shop, broom shop and other facilities. The prison abattoir was eventually sold off and became the privately-owned company, later known as Better Beef (purchased by Cargill Canada in 2005), a massive meat processing plant.[135]

In 2001, the Ministry of Correctional Services closed the entire facility; the remaining inmates were transferred to larger jails.[136] Afterwards, the property was used for some film shoots and for training emergency personnel. In December 2017, City Council voted to buy 98 hectares (243 acres) for subsequent sale to developers, including the area that was then the Turf Grass research building and the jail farm, the so-called York District Land.[135] The actual penal buildings and the land around them were not included in the plan.[101][102]

In June 2019, 328.6 acres of the land, including 100 acres of natural area, still owned by the province, went on sale. The City of Guelph had not bought the site for the planned Guelph Innovation District, as it had initially considered doing, because of the potential financial risk. A rough estimate in 2017 by the City had suggested that the value of the Detention Centre site was roughly $60 million. The property for sale included the Wellington Detention Centre lands and the nearby Turfgrass Institute but not the buildings or land immediately around the former penal institution. [137]


Four school boards operate in the city. The Upper Grand District School Board administers all of Wellington County, as well as adjacent Dufferin County, while the Wellington Catholic District School Board administers Catholic education in Wellington County, including Guelph. The Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud offers French First language education for students with parents who had elementary and secondary education in French at École Saint-René-Goupil. The Conseil scolaire Viamonde, with similar entrance requirements, operates the École élémentaire L'Odyssée. Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir operates the École élémentaire catholique Saint-René-Goupil.

There are also numerous private schools in Guelph: Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Christian School, Resurrection Christian Academy, Guelph Community Christian School, Guelph Montessori School, Trillium Waldorf School, Wellington Hall Academy, and Wellington Montessori School, Echo Montessori. An International Baccalaureate Program is available at Guelph C.V.I.

Secondary schools

Due to the presence of two different English school boards, Guelph has numerous elementary and secondary schools. The secondary schools are as follows:



Post-secondary institutions

Public library system

Although a private library, run by the Farmers and Mechanics Institute, existed since 1832, a public library did not open in Guelph until 1882, when the Free Libraries Act allowed municipalities to operate libraries. After occupying premises near City Hall, it moved into an Andrew Carnegie-funded building in 1905.[140] The neo-classical (Beaux Art) structure, had been designed in 1902 by W. Frye Colwill.[141] The collection of the Farmers and Mechanics Institute library was contributed to the new library.[142]

The current main library building of the Guelph Public Library, on Norfolk St. was opened in 1965.[140] Guelph is served by a growing library system composed of a main library located in the downtown core, five branches and a Bookmobile.[143] With a membership of over 85,000, the Guelph Public Library system's goals include preserving and indexing public materials relating to the history of Guelph. Although no formal program has been developed, the library acquires municipal records of archival value from the City of Guelph.[144]

A new library location is planned for a site near the Baker St. parking lot,[145] which is to be redeveloped as the Baker District, starting in 2018.[146][74]


The City of Guelph operates Guelph Museums, including the Guelph Civic Museum which showcases the city's history with exhibits, an interactive gallery and special events; this facility has some 30,000 artifacts. Since 1983 when the city took over this facility, the Civic Museum has also operated McCrae House, the birthplace of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918), author of In Flanders Fields.[147] The Museum also arranged for the restoration and placement of Locomotive 6167, a 1940s steam engine, which is located at the Guelph Central Station.[148]


Medical facilities

The city currently has one hospital, Guelph General, which is rated as one of the safest in Canada in terms of the hospital standardized mortality ratio; the lower the better. Guelph's facility had a score of 78 in 2017, notably better than the national average of 91. By comparison, Cambridge Memorial Hospital had a score of 95.[149] St. Joseph's Health Centre was previously a hospital, but is now a 240-bed long-term care home with a 91-bed specialty unit for complex continuing, rehabilitation and palliative care. Various outpatient services are also provided at this facility.[150]

Another major facility, Homewood Health Centre offers treatment for mental health and addiction issues.[151] The facility was founded in 1883 by the Homewood Retreat Association of Guelph as "a private asylum for the Insane and an Asylum for Inebriates" on a 19-acre property which included the Donald Guthrie house. The first patients were admitted in December of that year.[152]

Homewood grew to a 312-bed mental and behavioural health facility and also formed a partnership with R.B. Schlegel Holdings operate Oakwood Retirement Communities Inc., a long-term care facility.[153]



Guelph Transit provides local transportation around the city. On June 20, 2007, Guelph Transit launched a web-based system known as Next Bus.[154] Global positioning satellites (GPS) technology and advanced computer modelling provide riders via the Internet, handheld devices (including Palms, Blackberries, and Web-capable cellular phones), or their telephones to receive accurate, real-time arrival and departure information. Intercity connections by GO Transit and Greyhound Canada are made at the Guelph Central Station and University of Guelph.


Guelph was the first municipality in Canada to have its own federally chartered railway, the Guelph Junction Railway. This 25 kilometre (16 miles) link to the CPR is still municipally owned.[155]

Built in 1911, the Guelph Central Station (still in use), was constructed by the Grand Trunk Railway which had arrived in Guelph in 1856;[156] years later, it was taken over by the Canadian National Railway. It is a classic example of early 20th Century Canadian railway station design and has been designated as a heritage structure under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.[157][158] The Romanesque Revival building, with its Italianate tower, has been listed on the Canadian Register since 2006 and was formally recognized as one of Canada's Historic Places in November 1992.[159] A renovation project in 2016-2017 provided various benefits, including repairs to maintain and restore heritage aspects.[156]

There had also been passenger stations in Guelph that were built by the Canadian Pacific Railway.[160] The first CPR station, from the 1800s, was the Priory House station, converted from the first house in Guelph. It stood opposite the current Priory Square and was eventually dismantled.[25] Its replacement, located between Cardigan Street and the Speed River, was a brick building erected in 1911.[28][161][25][28] After this brick building was no longer used as a rail station, it was converted for other purposes; eventually it was moved to the Galt area of Cambridge, Ontario.[160]

The Central station is currently an Intermodal Transit Terminal that includes bus and railway services in one facility. The following is a summary of its purpose from an April 2017 report:

"Guelph Central Train Station is a busy transit hub that accommodates Guelph Transit, GO Transit, Via Rail and Greyhound Canada operations. Each weekday, more than 5,000 passengers board Guelph Transit, to travel on one of the 15 different routes that operate out of the bus bays adjacent to the train station."[157]




The city is a single-tier municipality governed by a mayor-council system. The structure of the municipal government is stipulated by the Ontario Municipal Act of 2001. There are currently 12 councillors and a mayor, with two councillors representing each of the six wards.

The mayor and members of the city council serve four-year terms without term limits, with the next election in October 2022. Prior to the 2006 election, the mayor and city councillors served three-year terms.

Guelph City Council is responsible for policy and decision making, monitoring the operation and performance of the city, analyzing and approving budgets and determining spending priorities.

In 2018, incumbent Mayor Cam Guthrie was re-elected with 66.6% of the vote.


As of the 2018 election, Guelph occupies a single provincial riding of the same name, and is currently represented in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario by Mike Schreiner, the current leader of Ontario Green Party.


Guelph also occupies a federal riding of the same name. The member of Parliament is Lloyd Longfield of the Liberal Party of Canada.


Historic sites

  • Downtown Guelph: Several downtown streets are lined with Victorian era buildings, which are now well over a century old.[163] Many of Guelph's historically designated properties are in or near the downtown area.[164] The old City Hall on Carden St., built between 1856 and 1857, is a National Historic Site of Canada; this structure is an example of mid-19th century Renaissance Revival architecture.[165] This building, as well as its Annex built circa 1865, are also historically designated by the province. Other historically designated buildings in the area include the Winter Fair Building, the County Jail and Governor's Residence[166] and the Guelph Armoury. The Old Quebec Street Mall was a street built in the 1800s that was enclosed and covered; that work was completed in 1984 and the street has become an indoor shopping mall.[167]
  • The Guelph Civic Museum has been located on "Catholic Hill" (Norfolk St. and Cork St.) adjacent to the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate since 2012, moving to this location from a nationally designated historic site at 6 Dublin St. South.[168][169] The museum has a collection of pictures, films and other antique materials related to the historical development of the City of Guelph.
  • Among the oldest of the city's neighbourhoods, settled by affluent citizens, the St. George's Park area features heritage homes and mansions in the highest part of Guelph. Much of the city's elite lived on the hill running up Grange Street and many of the homes have been renovated.[170]
  • The Exhibition Park neighbourhood, containing the oldest park in Guelph, is an area that was settled in the 1870s and still contains many Victorian style heritage homes.[171]
  • The Brooklyn and College Hill area south of the Speed River[172] is the city's only district that was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.[173][174]
  • St. Patrick's Ward (The Ward) with many old buildings, originally contained both manufacturing facilities and modest homes.[175] Many newcomers from Europe, particularly Italy, settled here after 1850.[176]
  • Allan's Mill
  • Heffernan Street Footbridge: Spanning the Speed River behind St. George’s Anglican Church, this structure was built in 1913, and replaced an earlier steel bridge. The footbridge was designated a heritage site and was restored/reconstructed in 1991 to more closely resemble the original design[177]
  • Goldie Mill ruins: Once owned by the Goldie family, an important name in the early Waterloo Region, the mill was operated from 1866 until 1953 when a fire destroyed it.[178] For some years, it served as a venue for outdoor public and private events but the area around the buildings was closed to the public in June 2017 due to soil contamination and sinkholes.[179]

National Historic Sites

Nationally designated sites in the city include:

Outdoor attractions

Most of the natural attractions of Guelph are located beside the two rivers which pass inside the city, Speed River and Eramosa River.

  • Guelph Lake
  • University of Guelph Arboretum
  • Riverside Park, located beside the Speed River at the north of Guelph
  • York Road Park
  • Hanlon Creek Park (Preservation Park)
  • Royal City Park and Wellington Street nature sites


Arts facilities


The earliest newspaper published in Guelph was the Guelph Herald, which lasted for nine months after it was started in 1842 by Charles McDonnell. The Wellingtonian also lasted for only a short time in 1843. The next one to be published was The Advertiser in 1845. In 1847, the new Guelph Herald was established as a weekly.[186]

Both of those publications disappeared but the city was served by a daily newspaper for 149 years until the Guelph Mercury ceased operations in January 2016 due to declining subscriptions and revenues.[187] At the time, it was owned by Metroland Media Group which also owned the Guelph Tribune, a twice weekly publication with limited news coverage. The latter increased its reporting of local news, assumed publication of the Guelph and District Homes section and, in April 2016, took over operation of the Mercury website.[188] At the same time, the newspaper re-branded with a new title, Guelph Mercury Tribune.[189]

Village Media publishes a website called Guelph Today, which provides news and other information about special events and local businesses.[190]

The city is served by two radio stations:

Both stations have been owned by Corus Entertainment since 2000. The University of Guelph station 93.3 CFRU-FM, Campus and Community Radio, has been broadcasting since 1980, currently at 250 watts.[191]

Radio stations from Kitchener-Waterloo and CTV Kitchener, CKCO-DT television, also provide some coverage of Guelph news.[192][193] Since 2011, CKCO has not been identified by its call letters.[194][195]


The Sleeman Centre is a sports and entertainment venue in Guelph. The large, modern facility allows for a variety of events such as concerts, sporting and family events, trade shows and conferences, and it is home to the local hockey team, the Guelph Storm.[196]


From a Bell Organ factory to the opera singer Edward Johnson, Guelph has been a source of musical contribution. Today, Guelph has a thriving indie rock scene, which has spawned some of Canada's more well-known indie bands, many of which are highlighted in the annual Kazoo Festival.[197] Guelph is also home to the Hillside Festival, a hugely popular music festival held at nearby Guelph Lake during the summer, as well as the Guelph Jazz Festival.[198]

Guelph is also home to the Guelph Symphony Orchestra,[199] and two yearly classical music festivals. The Kiwanis Music Festival of Guelph showcases students from Guelph and surrounding areas,[200] while the Guelph Musicfest offers performances by local professional classical musicians.[201]

Sports teams

Club League Sport Venue Established Championships
Guelph Storm Ontario Hockey League Hockey Sleeman Centre 1991
Guelph Royals Intercounty Baseball League Baseball David E. Hastings Stadium at Exhibition Park 1919 8
Guelph Gryphons Canadian Interuniversity Sport University W.F. Mitchell Centre and Alumni Stadium 1874 0
Guelph Regals Ontario Lacrosse Association Lacrosse Victoria Road Recreation Centre 1992 1
Guelph Gryphons FC Ontario Soccer League, Kitchener and District Soccer League, South West Region Soccer League Soccer Centennial Park and Guelph Lake Sports Fields circa 1985 3
Guelph Nighthawks Canadian Elite Basketball League Basketball Sleeman Centre 2017 0
Guelph Jr. Gryphons Ontario Football Conference Football University of Guelph's Alumni Stadium 1997 0
Guelph Gargoyles Ontario Australian Football League Australian Football Margaret Green Park 2001 0
Royal City Roller Derby Women's Flat Track Derby Association[202] Roller Derby Arenas in Guelph (Victoria Road Rec Centre, Exhibition Park, West End Rec Centre) 2010 0
Speed River Track and Field Club Athletics Canada Athletics Alumni Stadium 1997 10

Notable people

Twin cities


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