Terry O’Connor is a well-known figure to Guelph politicos, so it’s almost hard to believe that he’s never run for office before.
The former Labour Council president came to Guelph in 1968 and worked for Bell Canada as a service technician. Retiring in 2009, he became Labour Co-ordinator for the Guelph Wellington Dufferin United Way to increase the participation of local unions in United Way fund raising campaigns. O’Connor was also a founding member of the Guelph-Wellington Task Force for the Elimination of Poverty and has worked with several social justice organizations including the Guelph-Wellington Social Justice Coalition and the Guelph Well-Being Initiative.
But that’s work, when it comes to play, O’Connor has coached in the Guelph Minor Hockey Association and the Guelph Minor Baseball Association, and he was the first president of the Guelph Girls Hockey Association. “I believe one of my strengths is bringing people together to successfully work through opportunities and difficulties,” O’Connor says. “I take a hands-on approach to dealing with both.” And so it is with the candidate questionnaire, as O’Connor takes a hands on approach to talking about the issues.
1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
My experience with volunteering with the Guelph and District Labour Council as the chair of the municipal affairs committee. My work with the Guelph Wellington Social Justice coalition, member of the Guelph Wellington Poverty Elimination Task Force has prepared me to work with and bring people together to solve problems and issues. I also see a huge disconnect between Council and the citizens of Guelph. Want to bridge the gap and restore the faith in people that they are being heard at City Council.
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
Well let’s see. First of all, the make up of the ward. The downtown, the East end, the Grange Hill area and to old ward, All unique in themselves with different needs and wants. Also the diverse population of the ward offers a very culturally diverse part of the City.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
I would rank the present council as a B+. I think they are on the right track for this amazing City with an Energy plan that is Internationally known and recognized. Green space and urban forest that will continue to get better. A AA+ financial rating and a City that is environmentally sustainable.
4) Some people say that Guelph is over-taxed, others believe that our taxes are inline with a community our size; where do you stand on taxation in Guelph?
Certainly we are inline with other communities our size, however we always need to find ways of making sure we are getting fair value for our taxes paid. Also we must be sure that everyone is paying their fair share of taxes. I will also encourage our Council to continue to put pressure on other governments to restore transfer payments which robbed City’s of infrastructure money and funds towards Health care and Education.
5) Do you believe that Guelph has a spending problem? If yes, then please cite specific examples of areas and/or programs that you would cut to save money?
That is something that as an outsider we haven’t been privy to. As a councillor for ward 1 I will study and evaluate where are taxes are being spent and make suggestions at budget time to better spend our tax money.
6) What’s the biggest priority for Guelph in terms of services needed? This could be something that’s provided by the government, ie: a library or rec centre, or it could be a commercial need, ie: a new grocery store in the east end.
Guelph’s biggest priority I think is to start looking at developing our City in a new way and a way which incorporates good residential projects linked with commercial enterprises. Certainly in Ward 1 particularly the east end of the ward we have an opportunity to develop the land, thinking a little outside the box in terms of walkable and bike friendly neighbourhoods.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
The relationship is extremely volatile which has developed over a number of years. The first step would be for Guelph Transit to start addressing the issues around Health and Safety for the workers and ridership. Next, I would establish a committee made up of Guelph Transit, ATU 1189 and the ridership to study and re-evaluate the existing routes and service to make it more user friendly for the public.
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
In addition to answering e-mails, phone calls and letters. I would establish with my co-councillor regular ward meetings to discuss the issues in the ward. I would also move the meetings around to the different areas of the ward so that no one would be felt ignored.
9) Guelph is implementing online voting for the first time with this election, are you in favour of this development or against it? Explain.
I am sceptical and concerned about on-line fraud. We saw with the robo call investigation that some people feel it is ok to fool with the democratic process. Recent issues in New Brunswick also is a bit of concern for me when the systems get overloaded and crash.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
I would say the development of the Imico site is one that provides an opportunity to address a few things that are wanted and needed in the Ward. I would like to see this as three components made up of Residential and Commercial development, Community gardens and a skate board park for the kids in the neighbourhood.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
By listening to the concerns of people and always keeping that foremost in any decisions. The Well Being Initiative has shown that Guelphites want a safe and healthy community to live and raise their families in so we must listen to their concerns around growth, environment and sustainability.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?
Facebook – “ward1 terry”
Twitter – “ward1 terry”