Anshu Khurana is one of five challengers hoping to snag the open council seat in Ward 6, and/or defeat the one incumbent.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
Guelph is a beautiful city and its political climate is changing with the change of time, innovation and new developments. It is not easy for any individual to step out of their comfort zone and commit to a responsibility where not only are you representing an issue but are also committed to active engagement for a better, fairer and more inclusive city. To do this, I had to understand the values of the city, the preferences of its inhabitants and above all the issues they face every day. I relate myself and my family very well with the community while raising our 12 years old son and my daughter who is going to University. There are several issues and service limitations that affect the everyday life of the residents. I am committed to working on and fostering consensus and a team approach to community building. Make me your voice and support me to become a successful member of the City Council of Guelph.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
I think the most consequential decision on council last term was about Niska Bridge. The Niska bridge was a Bailey bridge – a type of bridge used for military training during the Second World War- which was then donated to communities across Canada in need of bridges. It was a historical structure and was also an attraction for the city eventually taken apart due to the structural stability. The new bridge however has created more safety concerns for the residents living in that neighbourhood as they worry about street safety for their children and as a pedestrian given that it’s a popular route for the drivers looking to travel to and from Highway 6 and Highway 24.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
My biggest issue for ward 6 is lack of recreation facilities. City of Guelph is currently focused on economic and social growth however there is no sports and recreation or leisure activity program currently available in ward 6. The South End Recreation Center to only be available for residents starting 2021 given there are no delays in the construction, however it has been in the works since 2014. Lack of facilities compromises the active lifestyle of many residents every day. I feel that incorporating physical activities in our everyday life, is an ideal way to address our mental wellness, manage stress and combat depression. Let me share some statistics which can shed some light on the importance of active lifestyle. It was found that 23% of WDG residents report experiencing high levels of life stress and 26% report high levels of work related stress. 44% of grade 7 and 10 students reported sometimes, often or always feeling as if they had too many problems. Rates were higher among females for all three measures of stress.
It will be nice to have a HUB Center or a common place in the South End that can be used as common activity center for the residents. School facilities or party rooms in the condominium buildings can be used for sports and recreation activities while residents wait for the Recreation Center. I advocate for team effort between the different stakeholders running programs city wide , residents and the city council to bring together resources for the South End. The needs of our community will not wait 2 years, they are here and they effect them now.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
Where you live impacts how you live. Having an appropriate, safe and affordable place to call home contributes to all aspects of individual development. It promotes positive health outcomes, supports strong educational and economic achievement, encourages social inclusion and helps to reduce poverty and homelessness. These are all essential in maintaining community health and wellbeing. Traditionally within the housing industry and according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), housing is affordable for a given household if it costs less than 30% of gross (before-tax) household income. The City recognizes the importance of housing, including affordable housing, in meeting the needs of the City’s existing and future residents. This is a very sensitive issue for the residents as due to the population growth and changing economic infrastructure, housing is becoming less affordable for many in the city. The provision of affordable housing is an on-going challenge which the City plans to address through the creation and implementation of an Affordable Housing Strategy. The involvement and coordination of all stakeholders, including the federal, provincial and municipal governments, Wellington County, not-for-profit sector, development community and Guelph residents is needed to ensure that affordable housing is available for all.
Guelph is already in the process of intense development and with a strategy to stream a percentage towards low income residents, there will increase the number of affordable units. Zoning is another issue affecting housing and if it were inclusionary, it would further aid in keeping the rental prices under check. Inclusionary housing programs are municipal programs that use the development regulations and approval process to oblige private developers to provide a portion of affordable housing within their new market projects.
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’s local growth management strategy was developed over a period of years as the city’s way of dealing with the province’s Places to Grow Act of 2005. An amendment in 2013 of the province’s growth plan set a new population target for Guelph at 177,000 people by 2031 and 191,000 by 2041, to match job targets. The density targets introduced by the proposed growth plan will create an unrealistic growth scenario for the city. The proposed higher intensification target of 60% would mean that an average of about 700 residential units a year need to be constructed in built-up areas to meet both the increased intensification target and the growth plan’s population forecasts. Asset management helps protect and enhance the quality of life in Guelph by making the best possible decisions about our assets—pipes, buildings, roads and parks—in a way that provides targeted levels of service and manages risk in a cost-effective manner. Guelph’s asset management plan gives us a clear, detailed picture of our assets, needs and priorities. This plan is our roadmap to getting the best value and addressing the highest-priority needs with your tax and rate dollars. Asset management is how we plan for and prioritize our infrastructure needs to achieve the greatest benefit to our community. It is also important to involve the community while making new development plans and introducing new projects to ensure that the quality of life is not compromised at any cost.
6) 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?
My children consistently use the transit and the discussions are not too pleasing when they talk about the wait time in certain parts of the city. Guelph is facing transit issue for sure and for several routes bus service is very limited. It’s been seen that there are no transit shelters in most parts of Guelph which is a disadvantage to many commuters during different weather conditions. This summer has had record breaking temperatures and many have stood under the sweltering sun for 20 minutes waiting on a bus without any shade nearby from a bus shelter or even trees which can be harmful to people’s health.
I think the City Council understands this issue and the transportation service is under service review that will soon be shared with the public. The review team aims to gather public input, employee feedback and research on Guelph’s current transit services as well as benchmarking from other municipalities to develop recommendations for consideration. The final business service review report will be presented to City Council in January 2019.
To improve Guelph Transit Service, I will advocate for the expansion of bus service based on surveys recently conducted by the City Council. I will not only advocate for more frequent service but also addition for new routes, especially in industrial areas, in coordination with the rotating shifts of the commuters to reduce the waiting time. Further, increased frequency in bus service during school start and end times will benefit the community. It ensures that both school bound individuals and other traveling on the bus are not subjected to over-crowding. It also ensures that our children get home at a safe time and can enjoy the rest of the evening with their families.
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 government touts its funding for transit, but those in rural and northern areas are being left behind. The update of the transportation master plan is intended to set a direction for sustainable transportation planning by integrating policies, with a focus on walking, cycling and transit use, as well as considering the “impact of emerging transportation technologies such as ride hailing, ride sharing, connected autonomous electric shared vehicles and other emerging transportation opportunities.”
Cuts to intercity bus service are affecting rural resident’s access to jobs, health care and education opportunities. Hundreds of weekly bus trips and dozens of routes have been cut in the last 30 years. Guelph and Hamilton are only 45 kilometres apart and both though they both contain a major university campus, they have been disconnected by Aboutown’s demise since 2009. Anyone looking to travel between Hamilton and Guelph either has to travel through Kitchener, transferring between Mega bus and Greyhound, or take a GO Transit bus to Mississauga and then transfer to another bus to Hamilton.
I think there should be more consideration given to intercity bussing and two ways Go Transit service keeping in mind the influx of travellers to Guelph and neighbouring cities for education and employment. With the city hosting 1000’s of University student as well as a significant proportion of the population commuting to and from work everyday it will also be beneficial to introduce a co-fair between GO Transit and Guelph Transit. This will not only decrease the transportation cost for many but also encourage more 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?
Canada is a parliamentary democracy and there are three levels of government in Canada: federal, provincial, and municipal. Each level of government sets certain types of laws and is responsible for certain types of issues. I do not think the city should interfere in the management of the different levels of Government and their responsibilities but should work collaboratively and consistently with them to best serve the residents with strong Provincial and Federal support through different programs.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
A taxpayer is an individual or business entity that is obligated to pay taxes to a federal, state, or municipal government body. The term taxpayer often refers to the workforce of a country who pays for government projects through taxation. Taxes exist in many forms, including income taxes required by federal and state governments, sales taxes imposed by provincial governments and property taxes collected from owners of real property (such as homes and vehicles) by local governments. Guelph’s annual budget is just one part of the property tax bill. Property taxes are calculated based on the value of a property, Provincial taxes, (to fund education) and Municipal taxes (to fund Police, Fire and Ambulance Service, Roads, Sidewalks, Transit, Parks, Trails, Museums, Recreation Centres, Libraries, and all City programs and services). Budgeting allows the city Council to create a spending plan for the money; it ensures that city will have enough money for services considered important to the residents by prioritizing them. It is important to keep the financial integrity of the city and be accountable to the taxpayers. It should be a budget that is affordable and delivers programs and services that matter to our city residents.
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?
Budget decisions have a profound impact on our daily lives, from garbage collection to public transit or even to the safety of our neighbourhoods. Budgets sit at the heart of community development. A budget process has the capacity to identify and address health and social inequalities. Four main areas emerge when examining these cities: resident engagement, accountability through oversight, fiscal prudence, and transparency through third-party intermediation.
Service cut may not be a good idea during budget crunch. I think it is important to review the existing budget and the administration should engage in budget dialogue with the councillors, consult the city staff and involving resident’s viewpoint through surveys and focus groups. Budget crunch should be managed in a way such that the existing service level can be maintained. The focus of the city council should be on improving the city and level of lifestyle for its residents.
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 am a social worker by profession and many times, while serving clients, I have to consider the ethics of my decision. I maintain a client centered approach and there are times when I have to keep the preamble of Social Services high and abiding with them while serving clients. In one instance, I was not able to support a family who were looking to enrol their 5 years old child, with limited mobility, in a summer program. The child was not admitted to the program as the budget did not allow for the organization to hire an extra staff or a respite support staff could engage the child into the program. It was a tough situation for me but through research and connections, I found and arranged respite support through Social Services to take the child to YMCA for an art program once a week. This probably was not enough but the only solution for the child at that time.
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 municipal issue which I think which is not given enough attention is the safety in residential areas during peak hours of the day. There should be more all-way stop signs at intersections in residential areas, zebra crossings at stop signals as well as on roads where trails connect for the safety of pedestrians (all ages). Increase speed bumps and speedometers will also help with speeding as they remind the drivers to check their speed limit. This issue has come up at various community meeting and many have raised a concern about street safety.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?
To know more about me, please visit the website: www.anshu4city.com
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And the most efficient way is to call me at 226-500-0479