Laurie Garbutt has taught in the public school system for 28 years, serving as a Staff Officer and on the Executive of the Upper Grand Local of the Ontario Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) since 2011. Through her work with the ETFO, Garbutt helped to develop the CURB KIT (Common Use Resources for Bullying: A Prevention Toolkit for all Classrooms) for all schools in the Upper Grand District School Board, which was supported and endorsed by the Human Rights Commission of Ontario. Outside of school, Garbutt is heavily involved in the arts working with theatre groups, performing, musically directing, or working with various production teams and baords in the Royal City’s artistic community. Garbutt says she, “strives to give endless volunteer hours and expertise to our growing city,” and now she wants to include city council in that capacity. Her responses to the candidate questionnaire are below:
1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
It was the right time to step forward and provide Ward 4 with experienced leadership. I met with the transit workers during their labour dispute and this was the tipping point. My experience in labour relations, community involvement and parliamentary procedure would have made me an asset to City Council at this time. I want to ensure that disputes of this sort are remedied long before service disruption happens.
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
We are a community of families. Ward 4 is largely residential and it is a desired home location for many newcomers to Guelph. We are a very multicultural neighbourhood with voices that are not always represented at City Hall.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
I am not comfortable assigning a grade to a group of caring, involved representatives. It is a very difficult job that can only be held by people willing to step up to the plate and represent a large body with insight, intelligence and collegiality. In many ways, our Council has performed in an outstanding way. Guelph is recognized as a destination of choice, one of the safest cities in the country, and celebrated for our green initiatives. I am proud that Council has recently adopted the ‘Open Government’ initiative.
Yes, there have been several contentious and costly situations arise (e.g., Urbacon). However, I am impressed that Mayor Farbridge took responsibility for an issue that was caused by the City Hall staff (see the judge’s ruling). I do not hold council responsible. I do want to see changes to the level of responsibility given to staff that could result in a waste of taxpayer’s money. I do not believe that staff should have the ability to cancel contracts or enter into litigation without Council’s consult. The Council, as the elected body, must be involved in such decisions that affect ourelectorate and the tax dollar.
4) Some people say that Guelph is overtaxed, others believe that our taxes are inline with a community our size; where do you stand on taxation in Guelph?
Among the province’s municipalities, property taxes for detached bungalows in Guelph are under the average of $3500. For senior Executive homes, we are under the average of $6200. For multiresidential high rises, there are only 9 of 27 municipalities lower than Guelph’s average of $1650. If the trend of the last 4 years continues, tax increases will match CPI within 1-2 years. Therefore, when I say that striving to keep taxes in line with the cost of living increase, this is achievable.
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?
I don’t believe Guelph has a spending problem. I think Guelph has excellent vision for the future, but it is also tempered with realistic targets and prudent consideration of initiatives and capital spending. I will ensure that we do not spend beyond our means.
For example, the rejuvenation of the Baker Street area will only be started when the research, planning and finances provide evidence for the ability to break ground.
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.
We need to address the issues of poverty, food equity and affordable housing. I am an advocate for municipally funded recreational activities for all, regardless of income. Health and wellness is vital.
7) How would you proposed to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
We need to provide a forum for open communication. Councillors need to talk with the workers, ride the buses, hear the concerns and respect the need for good working conditions. I heard from many that the washroom and lunchroom were their main concerns. I’m not sure many people would want to be employed by anyone who did not respect those basic rights. Let’s work together to ensure both sides are heard and remove the barriers to successful collective bargaining.
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
I will be retiring from teaching within this term of office. I am eligible to retire now, actually. I am already responding promptly to electorate emails, phone calls, tweets, facebook posts, blog replies, and knocks on the door. I have received confirmation that I have what it takes to be available to the community, based on my quick response time. I would also look into regular town halls and a digital message board. With our Open Guelph initiative, we will have even more opportunities to hear from the community.
9) Guelph is implementing online voting for the first time with this election, are you in favourof this development or against it? Explain.
That’s a tough one. In principle, I see online voting as a way to increase voter turnout. Given the number of citizens who have already contacted me about multiple election notices, notices sent to deceased partners, and name variations, I am somewhat concerned. I would like to reserve judgement until after the election. Let’s hope it works and the growing pains do not skew the results!
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
This campaign period has been eye opening. I am concerned about personal agendas and partisan politics interfering with municipal autonomy. We need to work together, at the city level, to continue our growth of the best city in Canada. When provincial and federal agendas drive a wedge between councillors, consensus will be difficult.
There are some interest groups that feel it is their right to portray Guelph as a difficult place to do business. We need to get this issue on the table, invite all stakeholders into the conversation, plan together and put the ugly connotations of ‘Guelph Factor’ to rest once and for all.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
Great question! I have had this conversation on many doorsteps. The reasons for being interested in municipal politics:
We can address the issues that affect you right where you live
We can provide the services that matter to you and enhance your quality of life
We can ensure that you have adequate accessibility to the services important to your family
We can form this city into the place you and others will be proud to call home
We can listen to your ideas and connect you with other groups to strengthen your voice as we lobby provincially and federally for assistance
We are your neighbours and we have the same values.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?