Dan Gibson has become a well-known and outspoken presence around the council chamber in his first term as city councillor. Can he convince Ward 1 voters to give an encore in October?
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
Municipal government is intensely local and I believe strong, transparent and independent councillors are needed at City Hall.
The realities of housing affordability, raising a family and retiring in Guelph have changed over the past 20 years and I believe these realities need to be reflected on Council. To speak on behalf of all residents who are proud to call Guelph home and who, like my family, are paying a mortgage/rent, are paying property taxes, have children in daycare, sports, programs or University, are supporting aging parents or are on fixed incomes. This will continue to be my priority on council.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
There are many, but one of the most consequential decision of this past term was the decision to remove secure and accessible online voting in the 2018 Municipal election. The 2014 Guelph Municipal Election (the first to include on line voting) saw the highest voter turnout in 20 years (43%, up from only 34% in 2010).
Further, over 12,800 votes (33%) were securely cast on line and a recent survey in Guelph showed that hundreds, if not thousands of new voters intended to cast their ballot this way in 2018. In addition, a recent Association of Municipalities in Ontario study found that a full 10% of non-voters cite accessibility or travel (work/vacation) as barriers to casting a paper ballot in person. These accessibility concerns were also echoed by Guelph’s Accessibility Advisory Committee when advocating for the continued use of online voting and aligned well with our own professional city staff who worked hard to articulate the many security measures put in place to address concerns. Despite this, councillors (on a 7-6 vote) decided to remove it. Consequently, this decision has the potential to significantly depress voter participation in 2018; and with lower voter turnout, the risk of special interests determining the outcome of our election increases, thus compromising our local democratic process.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
During the next term of council I’d like to accomplish four things in Ward 1. I’d like to see the plans for Baker Street and the New Downtown Library become a reality. I’d like to see an increase in public safety and police presence in our downtown as part of a proactive approach to addressing our city’s substance use and mental health concerns. I’d like to see the ground breaking on the IMICO lands redevelopment and I’d like to finally see a grocery store built East of Victoria Road.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
“Affordable Housing” includes a wide spectrum of housing types but includes only two broad categories. There is “non-market” based housing which is largely government supported (i.e. shelters, transitional housing, supportive housing, social housing and subsidized housing), and there is “market” based affordable housing which includes private market rentals and private ownership. Municipalities have varying roles to play in all aspects of the housing continuum through our social services budget as well as our market based incentives program.
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?
The City is presently managing growth to the best of our abilities given the strict density and employment targets placed on us through the Places to Grow Act. Further, I believe Guelph is incorporating many aspects of smart, innovative and sustainable development (including on Baker Street) to support “infill” projects within our built up areas.
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?
From time to time I take transit from my home in the East End to Downtown for council meetings in order to gain an understanding of our rider’s experiences. I believe our staff have a firm grasp on the challenges facing our system and am confident the ongoing service review of the entire transit service will bare positive results in the future.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
With support from Provincial and Federal Governments, all of the above (intercity transit, two-way all-day Go Trains to Toronto and High Speed Rail in the future).
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?
Greater autonomy for municipalities to manage their assets as they see fit. The previous provincial government required Municipalities to spend millions of dollars in recent years to develop and maintain corporate asset management plans. These asset management plans however, are continually being undermined by changing government priorities on infrastructure. Priorities that do not always align with our City’s critical needs. My preference would be for senior levels of government to provide stable and proportional infrastructure funding to municipalities and allow local government’s greater independence to maintain and restore their existing infrastructure assets.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
In my opinion, municipal “taxpayers” have traditionally been known to as the property owners, builders and business owners who are funding City programs through property taxes and development charges. While it could be argued that all residents contribute revenues to the city through user fees (i.e. transit fees, parking, rec centers fees and licenses), these services are usually heavily subsidized by the tax base.
Regardless, “taxpayer” is an increasingly complex term that I try my best to stay away from.
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?
Similar to my previous answer, while all residents contribute revenues to the city through user fees (i.e. transit fees, parking fees and tickets, rec centers fees, tickets to Guelph Museum, River Run and business licenses), these services are usually heavily subsidized by the tax base. One way for the city to mitigate increases to the tax rate, would therefore be to review (and reduce) the rate of subsidization to these programs and services, and move closer to a full cost recovery model.
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)
Putting my name forward to run for council was a big decision in 2014. With a young family and a career, we took our time evaluating whether it was the right time for us. Ultimately we decided to pursue this together and with my family’s support (they come first), it has been an enjoyable and rewarding role to serve in.
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
The City’s Zoning Bylaws related to driveway widths. I believe it should be reviewed to reflect the changing realities of housing affordability and availability in Guelph.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?