Mike Salisbury is in a tight race in Ward 4, so he’s hoping that his experience will make the difference in this year’s election.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
My balanced perspective, open mindedness, experience, education, and formal training contribute meaningfully to decisions which make Guelph one of the best cities in Canada. I believe that public office is an opportunity to serve my community and help make a difference for the better. Creating a ‘sense of place’ not only makes Guelph a great place to live, work, and play, but also a community in which to invest. I feel strongly that Councillors need fiscal literacy and business experience to ensure the services we provide offer the best value for taxes paid and I bring these requisites to the table.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
Out of the many important and consequential decisions council made over the last term, I think one of the most significant achievements was finally making headway with the redevelopment of the Baker Street District and relocation of the Guelph Main Library branch after decades of indecision and missteps. This $300 million development opportunity will see the creation of additional housing in our downtown core, along with commercial, institutional, and green space all while maintaining and
protecting the character of our city. This redevelopment proposal is bold, visionary, and backed up by a strong business case.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
Housing affordability and fiscal management at City Hall while maintaining the quality of life that is unique to this city resonates deeply with me. My wife and I settled in Guelph 30 years ago in part because it had a thriving city centre and a unique culture with just the right combination of small town charm and big city resources. I believe that these vital qualities must be maintained as we face growth and development mandated by the Places to Grow legislation.
There are so many things I want to accomplish during the next term of council. In addition to addressing the housing crisis in our city (including the development of mechanisms to make home ownership a reality for more people), I would like to see transit improve, and the successful implementation of the Baker Street redevelopment and new main library as well as better connections between Ward 4 to the rest of Guelph with safe trail connections.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
Affordable housing includes a broad continuum ranging all the way from emergency shelters through supportive housing, social housing, market rentals, and home ownership. Affordability is a significant issue at every stage on the continuum.
Generally speaking, the City’s official plan and the Provincial Policy Statement define affordable housing as costing less than 30% of the gross annual household income.
Social housing is non‐market housing developed with government funding, including public, non‐profit cooperative housing. Social housing is implemented through the County of Wellington which administers provincial social housing and income programs. In 2015, the city contributed over $17 million for non‐market housing through the County of Wellington while the provincial and federal governments contributed almost $30 million.
I think what is important for municipal leaders to fully understand are what tools available to the municipality to encourage and support affordability throughout the affordable housing continuum.
These tools are limited to:
*regulatory responses such as lower tax rates for specific initiatives that can help stimulate the development of affordable housing
*policies and procedures such as modified application charges for accessory apartments
*financial incentives such as lowering or waving development charges for affordable housing developments
*and advocacy, for new tools that are reliant on actions of senior levels of government
The City of Guelph Affordable Housing Strategy outlines current and proposed actions across each of these tool sets.
Some of the initiatives I would like to see further developed in Guelph would be Rent Supplements to encourage landlords to make units available to people on our affordable housing waitlist, funding programs such as the Ontario Renovates to help people add affordable in‐law suites to their home, and the development of an R4 housing zone to permit “tiny houses” to address the housing crisis in Guelph.
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 of Guelph Official Plan integrates much of the forward thinking encapsulated in the provincial Places to Grow legislation. Notwithstanding that, I have been disappointed in the past with development proposals that meet the minimum requirement rather than pushing the upper limits of creative design of new urbanism. I would personally like to see the elimination of artificial second floor commercial development which give the illusion of density rather than the provision of affordable housing alternatives. I think we have a real opportunity to encourage and mandate a higher standard particularly in regards to mixed‐use developments within the commercial nodes.
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?
Over the years, I have personally used transit as a primary method of transportation, refused to give my children car rides when they could travel by bus and, for many years, my wife was a transit driver in Guelph. My perspective on transit issues and opportunities is fairly broad‐based. While I may have my own ideas about how transit could be improved I think it’s important to recognize that the role of council is to set policy (such as service levels) and authorize budgets to achieve these policies.
This past term, council approved the execution of a comprehensive service review for transit and I’m looking forward to all of the opportunities to improve Guelph transit service after this review’s completion.
Some of the service level policies I hope to explore following the service review:
*Expanding the capacity for service through increased efficiency, not through more of the same.
*Creating a service hierarchy to allow the creation of priority trunk lines that become the backbone of reliable fast service.
*Increase the speed of busses through express routes, signal priority, queue jumpers, and dedicated bus lanes in strategic areas.
*Implement an app for smart phones combined with a call‐in service that allows real time bus information for each line and every stop.
*Differentiated service types such as local bus, rapid bus, circulator or shuttle, and commuter buses.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two‐way all-day GO trains, and high‐speed rail?
The provision of and planning for regional transit, like so many issues outside of our border, lay in the hands of other levels of government such as the province. That doesn’t mean that we do not have a role to play, but it does mean we are not the only ones at the table.
The City of Guelph supported the development of and provided feedback on the 2041 Regional Transportation Plan which lays out the framework for a sustainable transportation system that is aligned with land use, and supports healthy and complete communities.
Implementing the 2041 Regional Transportation Plan is a shared responsibility that requires the participation of all municipal partners: the private sector, civic organizations, universities and colleges, the travelling public, and many others.
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 municipal government delivers and helps fund a significant number of provincial government programs. Rather than additional downloading I would like to see the province re‐assume responsibility for services that have been gradually downloaded to municipalities over the years.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
The term “taxpayer” and “citizen” are not synonymous. Rather than defining people as citizens who benefit from their governments, the term taxpayer has increasingly been used to redefine people as victims of governments.
For “taxpayers”, the value of municipal spending is based simply upon the monetary cost to the individual without reference to social benefit or community value. In contrast, “citizens” evaluate taxes paid from the perspective of contributing to the building and well‐being of the total community, their community. Referring to voters as taxpayers places more importance on individuals who pay a larger portion of taxes whereas referring to voters as citizens makes government accountable to everyone’s
need regardless of their tax bracket.
To that end, the responsibility of the councillor when it comes to budgeting is clear ‐ to ensure that the services we provide are as diverse as the citizens we represent and that taxes collected provide the best value for our community.
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 face this ‘hypothetical’ question with every budget deliberation, it is always a balance between what we want, what we need, and what we can afford.
The problem with answering this question is that budget decisions are not made in isolation but in context to the entirety of the budget, the input from citizens, the priorities of the day, and the opportunities as well as external challenges facing our community. To say that I would cut one service or another suggests I have a predetermined hierarchy of value on the services we provide. I do not.
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)
The Hydro merger will ensure Guelph will continue to prosper into the future in the face of rapid and profound changes within the energy sector. It was vital that we found ways to stabilize or reduce Hydro rates while protecting our city dividend and maintaining our leadership role in energy production and transmission innovation. It was the hardest decision I have had to make in my role as City Councillor and I believe it will have one of the greatest long term positive impacts on our community as well.
Behind the scenes this decision was preceded with countless hours of presentations, correspondence, meetings, and thousands of pages of reports. I went through all of it with a fine tooth comb and compiled an extensive list of questions (if I recall correctly, it was about 17 pages long), many challenging the assumptions used in the development of conclusions in the reports.
In addition to all of the city sponsored public consultation, I personally conducted extensive public outreach to almost every home in the West End seeking opinions, input, questions, and comments.
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 opioid epidemic is tearing at the fabric of our community. People are dying and parts of our city are beginning to feel like dangerous places. While many aspects of this issue fall under the mandate of the provincial government, both policy and funding, we must get creative and explore local community solutions to this complex issue. We must seek creative solutions to the contributing social issues, not simply more enforcement and larger police budgets.
13. Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?