Jason Dodge has been a community advocate for a while, and he’s trying again to take his advocacy to the next level as the city councillor for his Ward, Ward 3.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
Ward 3 needs balanced representation. I believe there is a critical element missing in our Ward representation at City Council: The daily realities facing families, seniors, and young professionals in Guelph.
Ward 3 housing affordability has changed. The average family home has changed. Dual incomes have become the norm because the pressures of raising a family, paying a mortgage, and keeping up with the cost of living has never been more challenging. It’s this critical element of our community that I believe our representatives have lost touch with.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
There were a number of decisions that could be considered “the most consequential” last term. Service reviews, infrastructure levy, Guelph Hydro merger, GMHI, and transit issues have had a direct impact on the residents. Whether they yield positive or negative consequences long term remain to be seen.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
Bettering the liveability for all residents in Guelph is my goal. Focusing on our community’s needs is priority. We live, work, and play here. Decisions made by council directly impacts the quality of life for every single resident, and balanced representation will allow us to succeed in delivering an overall increase in the quality of liveability for our residents.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
Affordable Housing: Housing that is considered affordable to those with low to middle household income. (Income rate is determined by the government/municipality by a recognized affordability index)
Social Housing: Public housing and mixed income housing. Non-profit rentals or co-operative housing funded by a government, or community sponsored (by the municipality, local faith groups, service clubs, etc.) Most commonly referred to as Geared-To-Income rentals.
Regardless of personal political views, we need to work cooperatively with every government in power to leverage as many dollars as possible towards bettering the affordable housing crisis in Guelph. Wherever available, we need to re-zone and dedicate developments for accessible and affordable housing in Guelph. Work with developers to increase the number of affordable units. And explore new incentive programs to encourage the building of accessible and affordable housing and rentals (i.e. look at areas where we can combine brownfield incentives with affordable housing incentives).
Dual incomes have become the norm in most households in Guelph. Our residents should not have to choose between shelter or food. Our current representation may talk the talk on this file, but their decisions around the horseshoe tell a different story. It’s time for some consistency and positive progress on the affordable housing crisis in our community.
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?
Managing the expected growth will continue to be a major challenge in our city. It is important to protect our green lands and open spaces, but we are hesitant to infill and build up. Many believe it will compromise the small time feel of our community. Yet a city such as Halifax has shown that it is possible to build up and infill with modern buildings without compromising the overall charm and historic value of their city. We should look to other cities to see how they are managing growth to find what aspects and ideas can be adopted here.
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?
Admittedly, I use local transit less frequently than I used to in the past, but even just listening to the drivers, riders, and residents instantly tells me that our transit system is failing the population in Guelph. I believe many of the transit staff have a good understanding of the issues, but do not have the support from council to correct it. Some of council’s attempts to fix specific routes have been short-sighted and have proven detrimental to the overall system and reliability. Upon completion of the service review, we need to take that information and create a new transit vision for our city. The vision must include the population and development increases expected in the next few years. Collaboratively, we must work with the drivers, riders, staff, and all planning departments to develop a reliable and sustainable business case for our transit system. Most importantly, we need a council that is willing to support the effort.
Our citizens rely heavily on Guelph Transit services to get to work and school. We need to provide reliability and consistency. We can not allow our citizens to be standing at the bus stops worried about whether or not the bus will actually arrive that day.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
First and foremost, listen to the needs of the citizens in Guelph. Parking at these transit stations has been a huge issue and has impacted people’s decisions to take the trains or bus. If you have ever had to pick someone up at the train station, you know exactly how user un-friendly it is. The reality is, not everyone can walk downtown and with the unpredictability of our city transit, many people are reluctant to use regional transit.
One solution would be to work with the Lafarge Lands developer to invest in a plan change that includes a mini train/bus station with parking on the property. This alone would create substantial increases in ridership.
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?
The Places to Grow initiative. The provincial expectations coupled with the time constraints creates the potential to make rushed decisions that are not financially or socially sustainable for our unique city now or for the future.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
A taxpayer to me is anyone and everyone who lives, visits, works, and/or plays in our city. Taxpayer should be an all inclusive term instead of a polarizing and divisive one.
The responsibility of every councillor at budget time is to treat every single dollar as if it were their last. What is the best value for your last dollar? What is the priority for your last dollar?
Councillors have the responsibility to show the residents of Guelph that their money is being spent wisely and not disregarded as ‘drops in the bucket’.
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?
We must stop assuming that it’s our services that need compromised during a budget crunch. There are other routes and options to implement during the real (and hypothetical) cuts that do not affect our 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)
Every decision is as tough as we choose to make it. It is important to not let emotions be the key driver when making difficult choices. All information must be considered, especially when the decision affects other people. Rash decisions will often lead to mistakes and regret. Every decision has an end goal and a consequence, so be open to advice and ideas and know the facts. Tunnel vision is a very dangerous method of making important decisions. Sure, you may get you to that end goal, but you’ve missed all of the people outside the tunnel who were trying to show you a better route.
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
Parks and Recreation.
Guelph is long overdue for a short term investment plan to upgrade many of our sports fields, courts, rinks, and diamonds. We are missing out on many opportunities to generate larger and sustainable revenues for our city, simply by investing in where we play.
Sports and Recreation in Guelph have always had a huge impact on our youth, so it’s time for our city to support it. By investing in where we play, we will attract many more tournaments and opportunities to increase tourism and boost our local businesses and community.
Let’s give our citizens sports venues they can be proud of, and fields that are safer to play on.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?