Phil Allt won first place in the 2014 Municipal Election among Ward 3 voters, and he aims to keep is seat in the next term of council. Here are his responses to the 2018 Guelph Politico Candidate Questionnaire.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
When I retired, I wanted to continue being involved in community. Many people urged me to run feeling that I would be a good representative for Ward 3.
I believe my #1 priority is to connect with people and assist them building their lives and supporting their families in Guelph. My #2 priority is sustaining and improving Guelph which I believe can only be assured if there is active involvement and engagement by diverse individuals. I perform my duties at all hours of the day and 7 days a week and enjoy the challenges and the community
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
There were 3: the Guelph Hydro merger followed by the Baker Street/Library decision and then the decision to create an infrastructure levy. I voted against the Guelph Hydro merger and I still have nagging doubts about 2 or 3 issues. However, now that the decision is made, it is the duty of Council to stand behind it and ensure that it is successful for Guelph. On the Baker Street/Library decision, I believe that it the right move and has been years in the making for our downtown. I will ensure that proper oversight, excellent communications and project management will be in place for this key capital project. Safeguarding the community is a key responsibility and the infrastructure levy moves us forward together to ensure we have saved dollars to replace old roads, bridges, pipes and public buildings.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
I want to ensure we improve Guelph Transit both in the short and long term. It takes both strong vision, persistence and appropriate financing. I am supportive of increasing funding. If we get people out of their cars using an improved Transit system, we help the environment and our budgets’ bottom line since the wear and tear on roads is significantly reduced by lower car traffic.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
Affordable Housing(AH) is a blanket term that means many thing and often does not mean Affordable Housing. With rents in Guelph increasing, the AH definition used becomes irrelevant to many people. I think we need to focus on Social Housing, Cooperative Housing, Rent Geared to Income Housing and other housing initiatives that have been largely scrapped by the Federal and Provincial Governments. Those programs put over 500 units in the ground in Guelph in the mid 80’s to 90’s. We need more of these building projects. I feel that we also need to address the misconception of what Affordable Housing is: both the principle and the practice have limited impact on those needing a roof over their heads. So we can do better but need to engage the Federal and Provincial Governments to begin new builds under programmes that were largely abandoned in the mid 1990’s.
5) Guelph is required by provincial mandate to accept thousands of new residents by the middle of this century. How is the City presently managing growth? What should we be doing differently?
Guelph embraced the Provincial ‘Places to Grow’ targets and the Provincial Green Belt. We know that our ground water supply is precious to all. The limits of our water supply dictates what population Guelph can sustain. Infill buildings and our long term plan for areas like e Clair –Maltby help us plan for population growth but we need more infill in Guelph to ensure we can welcome new residents. We should note that at present Guelph is ahead of its population growth targets so I would say, we have worked well within the Places to Grow principles.
6) Transit. First, what is your experience using transit? Second, do you think council and staff presently understand issues with transit? And third, what is one specific thing you would suggest to improve Guelph Transit service?
I use transit on an irregular basis. 4 years ago, I embraced the one-month bus challenge and found it tricky to get around. I would use my bike too, putting it on the front of the bus and thereby used a hybrid Transit system. Council must do more to ensure our Transit system meets the current and future needs of our community. Staff are working well with the resources we provide yet we simply can’t ignore the fact that transit is a money issue and a public good. If we don’t provide the cash the Transit system and the riders suffer.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
Many things need to be done. First and foremost, two way, all day GO needs to be priority above high-speed rail. Fact: an electrified conventional rail system on an improved track bed can get commuters to Toronto in just a bit more than 7 minutes beyond what high speed rail promises and at substantially lower costs.
Regional Transit is tricky. We need to develop transit with the Region of Waterloo and with Hamilton but that requires provincial support and significant collaboration. We cannot do it alone but if we wish to assist to get people out of cars and develop the Technology Corridor, it is imperative that we replace the private buses that get workers to KW with publicly supported buses that get people to KW, Cambridge, Hamilton and as far away as Owen Sound.
8) If there’s one power that’s currently the jurisdiction of the province or the federal governments, but should be transferred to municipalities, what would it be and why?
Good question: I truly believe that municipalities (local government) is the most responsive and accountable level of government because we work every day in person with those who elected us. If you look at the division of power between all three levels of government here in Canada, I don’t believe we’d be equipped with taking national or provincial issues. I DO however, believe that municipalities must be equal partners with the Federal and Provincial government – and we are not. While we may be consulted on some matters, we are often simply given a responsibility and told how to deliver it to our community. That must change.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councilor when it comes to budgeting?
A taxpayer is anyone who pays taxes. Income Tax, HST, Property Taxes are all important. That is why we need to explore how to tax differently.
With regard to budgeting, a Councillors responsibility is to make decisions that consider both the current and future wellbeing of all members of our community. We must really listen to a wide range of opinions from across the city when considering what public goods and services will be delivered in Guelph. And we need to be open to reviewing what and how we are spending tax dollars. I also believe that budgeting must be strongly connected to our community plans and that these must be plans that our residents have been actively engaged in and support.
10) Hypothetical: The City’s in a budget crunch, and a substantial tax increase is cost prohibitive for the average Guelphite, so a cut *has* to be made. What City of Guelph service do you look at and why?
Our budget is tight. Looking over budget files for the last 12 years, there has been a steady stream of efficiencies found which have helped City Hall to keep tax increases within reason. We also have gained the ability to undertake internal audits to ensure ‘how’ we are spending dollars is efficient and effective. While there may still be some gains in reducing expenditure, I believe a greater focus needs to be on exploring alternative sources of revenue that would permit us to sustain or improve services. Simply taking from the right hand and giving to the left is not forward thinking and is often regressive. I also would like to see management continuing their focus on involving our front line staff in how we deliver services. We have such great skills in our front line teams and they have shown time and time again that they might be the best envoys for making changes that continually improve citizen services.
11) Describe a time you had to make a tough decision, and the thought process you went through in order to reach that decision? (Doesn’t have to be political)
Tough question: I recently had to decide if I should donate one of my kidneys to my brother. I admit I was squeamish but I have a brother who without a transplant could likely have died. 10 years ago the decision to donate to him would have been simpler but fast forward to 2016, I discovered I have an enlarged aorta. It was a danger to my health – one we had not expected.
So… my wife Liz and I had to sit down in one night and calmly make this decision because we were given less than 24 hours. Life, death and potential danger all entered into it. I consulted with heart, kidney and other specialists; I talked to my doctor and I thanked my brother for letting me off the hook. But…Liz and I realized that I while I could die, it was unlikely and it was worth the risk. When it came time for the operation, I was calm but I won’t say fearless. When I awoke I did have a serious complication from a collapsed lung and I had to face my maker. But it turned out well and I’m here now. I know that I made the right decision.
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
Yes, recreational facilities and their development. I am very proud of what we are doing to revive parks like Exhibition. I am very proud of moving forward on the South End Rec Centre and completing the Victor Davis Pool refurbishment. I am also proud of our decision on the library and our continued support for its services. I think much more can be done to plan for areas like the Shelldale Centre and Willow Road.
A good example of this, done with the support of staff, was me being able to find a surplus skateboard park in the city’s portfolio. By working with the Kindle Foundation, we were able to install it and provide area kids with another recreational opportunity. Why that skate park was stored in a warehouse for so long is beyond me but I’ll keep working with staff and Council to unearth more opportunities.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?
I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
My campaign phone number is 226.486.2436 while my number for city issues not related to the campaign is 519 827 6579
People can always meet me for a coffee at the coffee shop of their choice. I have enjoyed meeting with a multitude of people over the past 4 years. If a person is incapacitated or has mobility issues, I am only too happy to meet at her or his home.
I can be followed on social media:
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Re-Elect-Phil-Allt-Councillor-Ward-3-Guelph-1423513607918883/
I can be followed on Twitter too but I will not engage in debate. 280 characters in not enough to develop complex issues.