CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Jonathan Knowles for Ward 2 Councillor

Jonathan Knowles hopes to provide some new energy to council if elected for Ward 2.

1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?

During the 15 months working on the Community Energy Plan I attended several city council meetings.  For the first time I saw how some decisions were being made around the horse shoe.  There are several strong councillors working for great outcomes however several others on council making decisions that are very poor use of city funds. My entire career has been based on my ability to fairly assess situations and make quality decisions. I was frustrated and felt I had to get involved to affect a better outcome moving forward for our great city!

2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?

I would say the top two were the vote to merge Guelph Hydro as well as online voting.  Both have immediate and long-term impacts.

To eliminate something that increased voter participation last election from 34% to 43% because of the increased risk of hacking risks is net loss in our democratic involvement.

I share the sentiment of many; that it would have been ideal to maintain an independent electricity utility. I have a very sound understanding of the details from the work I did on the Community Energy Task Force.  Many factors, over time, put the utility and the city in a position where the merger was the best available option unfortunately. As an Advisory Board member on the Guelph Hydro/Alectra GRE&T transition board I am committed to keeping my finger on the pulse of how the merger is affecting our energy efficiency & generation initiatives, electricity distribution rates, and doing everything in my power to ensure a balanced and fair transition.

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 three things.  Further investment & completion of Eastview Community Park including water feature/splash pad, resurfacing of Victoria and Speedvale Road, and to connect the city’s various trails into one network we can all enjoy for walking, running, and cycling.

4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?

My understanding of affordable housing is that although there is a wide spectrum it is comprised of 2 basic categories; market-based housing that includes in-law suite/accessory apartments or slightly below market and the second main type is non-market where majority of costs are subsidized such as geared-to-income/social housing, shelters, etc.  We can review the associated development plans, bylaws, and growth initiatives and ensure that the new developments can accommodate everything from an unemployed person to an affluent executive.

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?

Although the city is managing the growth it has limited influence over how much it grows due to the Place to Grow Act (see answer to question 8 as well).  With that in mind, we need to get a better handle on where and how to develop higher density residential. We also need to do a better job reviewing developments (see answer to Question 12).

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 have used transit a handful of times and the experience was mixed.  A couple of times had a very reasonable transit time, low cost, and got to where I needed to go with relative ease. On two other occasions the service was late or cancelled and had to make alternate arrangements which was frustrating and more costly.  I think council and staff understand transit quite well the issue is being in a position to consistently make the right choices about where to allocate funding.  I have only been to three council meetings where transit was discussed so I need a lot more information before I can start making recommendations for improvement. This is a complex issue where significant dollars are involved.

7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?

Through a regional transportation consortium all parties need to get on the same page on what to do.

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 Act mandates cities to grow to a certain population over time.  I would like to see that be a choice by the city rather than a mandate.

How we manage our city owned assets is of paramount impact to our tax base requirements. We have the skills and expertise within the city to manage this. Again I will bring up lowest-total-cost-of-ownership approach decisions and prioritization of projects can be looking at long term value as it aligns with the Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul schedule.  There are too many broad stroke regulations from Federal and Provincial Governments that cannot possibly take into account the unique requirements of our city.  Therefore I believe we should have higher degree of autonomy when it comes to asset management.

9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?

Everyone who pays to live in our great city is a taxpayer. The responsibility of a councillor is to understand what all the different stakeholders in our city needs and wants are and balance that out for mutually beneficial outcomes everyone can live with. I believe my duty will be to end up with a budget that; I understand, can reasonably defend, and have the ability to hold people accountable to achieving the desired outcome.

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?

I don’t know of many cities who are NOT in a budget crunch, Guelph is no exception with infrastructure gap looming.  Many services have been improved under the service review initiative of our current Mayor but there are still many opportunities for better spending.  There are also very few governments that are delivering service with maximum efficiency so I’m very confident we can find savings. We are just going to have to do things differently and make some changes to policy.

First I will dig deep into procurement policy. This is deeply flawed across the province buying on lowest bid versus lowest-total-cost-ownership (lifecycle cost or Net Present Value of Investment).  There have to be changes made there which would result in several million dollars of savings.

As a first-time candidate I am committed to taking the time to learn the history of various files so I have the right context to identify and advocate for further savings.  Pay for use on many city programs is another opportunity for savings.

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)

I served for 10 years as North American Director of Operations for a 70-location, 5,000-employee company and faced many tough decisions.  The way I typically approach decision making is to gather different perspectives from different stakeholders (ie. The people who do the work, the people who manage, the people who receive the service) then I gather the data like how much the initiative costs, how much it saves, and how valuable the outcome is.  Then I look for examples of others who have done a similar initiative to sanity-check my own findings.  From this you can usually make a very informed decision that consistently achieves the result you need for mutually beneficial outcomes.

12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?

Addressing the growing concern with traffic and struggles of parking from our homes right to downtown parking to enjoy our restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions. I have worked very hard along with Councilor Dan Gibson to help raise awareness, gather people’s stories, and delegate to council for suspension of enforcement until the proper review and update.  This will help with congestion on streets however the other major issue is how we design and build our city with respect to lot sizes, street widths, on-street parking, and downtown parking.

13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?

Interact with me in person, by phone, email, or online Facebook, Twitter, Instagram!
@jonknowlesward2 (Twitter)
@JonathanForWard2 (on Facebook)

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