Dorothe Fair is one of five challengers trying to succeed Andy Van Hellemond (or perhaps replace James Gordon) on city council.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
I’m a Team Builder. I see the City of Guelph as a City of Opportunity for All Ages. I chose to move to Guelph from Toronto in 1973 because of its historical and agricultural heritage. I want to preserve these unique qualities while we face the challenges of the Province’s ‘Great Places to Live’ mandate, The Guelph and Guelph/Eramosa Tier 3 Water Budget Study and the Clair-Maltby plan that seems too focused on creating a tax base through over intensification.
I also believe I can address the needs and concerns shared by Ward 2 residents regarding crime, the environment (Speedvale Underpass, Homewood lands, Goldie Mill restoration), Transit (Mobility and Community buses), cycling routes and driveway by-law issues.
I’ve served on City Committees that have advised both staff and Council on projects such as the Baker Street redevelopment, the new Library and parking in the downtown area and I’ve delegated on behalf of the South End Community Centre. Because of these committee experiences I’m familiar with Council procedures and I believe I can build stronger communication links with stakeholders in the Community and with City staff and City Council.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
I have been a member of the Downtown Advisory Committee (D.A.C.) for the last 4 years. D.A.C.’s mandate is to ‘act as a strategic advisor to facilitate visioning, planning and coordination on projects/issues/plans within downtown Guelph’. During these 4 years I participated in collaborating with Committee and City staff to move the Baker Street Redevelopment vision forward to City Council.
The project proposal fit the City’s Secondary Plan and I’m pleased to say that as of July 17th the City of Guelph announced the partner to lead the planning, design and development for the Baker Street Project which also includes a state of the art Library. This decision by Council was a milestone, one major step forward for the downtown transformation that will attract more visitors and support thriving businesses.
With my 4 years of experience on this project, I can assist and monitor closely the future stages of revitalizing this underused urban space in the heart of our City.
3) What is “your” issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term?
I don’t have a focus on one single issue. But I do want to accomplish a better communication link with the Community. I will commit to improving the flow of information with the residents of Ward 2 by offering bi-monthly information meetings to update the residents of Ward 2 on Ward 2 issues and issues at City Hall. I am committed to ‘listening to the concerns of Ward 2 residents, find the answers to their questions, and report back’, The most efficient and effective way to report back is to let everyone hear the answers first hand at an open meeting. People may not always like what they hear but at least they will be informed.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
Wellington County oversees social services and coordinates Social Housing, specifically ‘rental’ housing on behalf of the province.
Affordable Housing is a term that is based on a specific income threshold. If the housing costs account for less than 30% of before tax income it is considered to be “Affordable Housing”.
In March 2017 I invited Habitat for Humanity staff to speak to seniors specifically about their proposed CityView Village Project in the east side of Guelph. The Habitat vision was to build 3 buildings with units for seniors, families and persons with disabilities. A true Village concept. The final stage of development is slated for 2019. I know many seniors were very excited and interested in this affordable home ownership concept. I feel gratified to know I was able to facilitate this Habitat build information.
Now in 2018 when I drive past the CityView development I feel proud that I assisted a few people in learning more the project before the shovels were in even in the ground.
While the Municipality directed 11.2% of its budget in 2018 to social services managed by the County of Wellington and though the City of Guelph sits on the Social Services Committee for Wellington County, the City does not have a decision-making role. But the City does have a ‘voice’ at the table and should be advocating loudly for recommendations that reflect the City’s Affordable Housing Strategy and the 2017 Financial Incentive Program. Also the pending by-law review is an opportune time to adjust zoning by-laws for accessory apartments and revisit the budget plan regarding financial housing incentive reserves.
5) Guelph is required by provincial mandate to accept thousands of new residents by the middle of the century. How is the City presently managing growth? What should we be doing differently?
The province is mandating and also managing population growth through their document Places to Grow. But even with the Province’s mandate I believe the City is managing growth in an almost accelerated manner. Specifically I question why the City feels the need or the urgency to move so quickly with the south end expansion and the Clair-Maltby development.
The City of Guelph has developed a very extensive plan for intensification corridors from Clair Rd to Maltby. Instead of rushing through all the decisions with the developers in this area, I would seek more input and engagement from the residents in Ward 6. I’m hearing from the Community they want City Council to slow down and listen to the people and their opinions on growth in the area and the potential impact it will have on the environment. The City has many other targeted projects to concentrate on besides the Clair-Maltby project. Projects that are already underway with varying stages of completion such as cleaning up the Brownfields, protecting and expanding green spaces and planning for the increase in traffic flow that population growth will bring.
If Council hits the pause button on the south end development they will be able to consult more with Staff and budget wisely to meet the costs and provide the infrastructure necessary to support all aspects of the growth including carefully preserving our Guelph heritage, historical buildings and protecting the natural water resources.
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?
Currently the City is conducting a full Transit Review to determine if existing transportation routes, times, schedules, and shelters meet the needs of the greater majority of users. I’m very hopeful the Review will include collaboration with Hanlon Park employers to synchronize bus and work schedules to accommodate prospective employees who might use transit as their primary method of transportation to get to their job.
My thoughts on ‘rider satisfaction’ is high marks for the professional and considerate manner these very skilled Transit Drivers extend to all users. I’m very familiar with the Mobility and Community buses that serve the seniors in Ward 2. I’ve ‘delegated’ with seniors to raise awareness on issues such as ‘booking, scheduling, frequency and destination’ for seniors to get around the City in a timely fashion. Transit is imperative to the quality of living for all ages to do their grocery shopping, attend medical appointments and get to work.
The City of Guelph currently uses the Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO) to determine eligibility for subsidy programs including the affordable bus pass program. Using the Low-Income Measure (LIM) would allow over 2,000 more community members to access these City’s subsidized programs including the affordable bus pass.
In 2017 the City of Guelph reviewed changing the eligibility threshold from LICO to LIM but ultimately chose to continue using LICO. As Councillor I would ask for a review of this decision and determine why that recommendation didn’t pass. Transit is a necessity for everyone especially low income individuals who rely on it to move around the City.
One of my interests is the ‘Bike Share’ program currently operating in Toronto and London and other urban centres. Guelph has more than 62 kilometers of trails within the City and with a Bike Share program cycling can become a regular mode of transportation that is simple, fun, and gets people to and from school and work.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
I’m an advocate for Two Way- All Day high speed GO trains to support students attending post-secondary programs in neighbouring regions like Waterloo and Hamilton, and accommodate employers and employees who work within or outside the City. In April an announcement from the Liberal government indicated a commitment of 11 billion to support Phase One of the transit plan. As we know, the Government has changed and the Municipalities will have to wait and see if this budget still exists. Hopefully Guelph can still plan for a new and improved way to commute and travel around the region without too much delay from this new Government.
8) If there’s one power that’s currently the jurisdiction of the province or the federal government but should be transferred to municipalities what would it be and why?
Greater autonomy and independence for the Municipality to manage their assets and determine the direction for the City that best reflects the growth and needs of its citizens. My example is after spending half a day on tour at Nestle Waters Canada in Puslinch I believe the Municipality should make the decision to grant or reject water-taking permits. The City of Guelph Councillors know the potential irreversible consequences of jeopardizing our ground water aquifers. The granting of the permits should be a local decision.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
Everyone is a taxpayer in some capacity. Whether the tax is federal or provincial there is taxation on income, HST on consumer goods, property taxes, education, health and some would say there are many hidden taxes. Regardless, we all pay taxes.
Having said that, we fundamentally accept that paying taxes is the major source of income for all levels of government. The government(s) then return a portion to the Municipalities through services, grants, government programs, schools, health care to name a few.
Municipal Councillors have the responsibility to manage the City’s finances, grow the economy and increase productivity. But to be good managers Council must receive clear and accurate reports from Staff on costs associated with projects, direct staff to conduct follow up service reviews at critical stages of the projects and have a healthy reserve and contingency plans in case there are unexpected economic project costs.
Councillors should be aware of any cost savings opportunities as well as the City’s investment plan, strive to reduce spending and engage the residents in meaningful budget discussions.
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 would think City Council would look at all the projects where there is some flexibility in the capital budget and determine if one of the strategies might be to delay the project. The Service Reviews have recently shown sources where costs can be reduced so Council would have to revisit the reviews to find additional cost saving measures.
I understand the Council will be moving to a four year Operating Budget cycle and a fully funded ten year Capital Budget in the next term of council. This should provide greater clarity for Staff, Councillors and the citizens to plan and budget for future projects and avoid financial short falls.
11) Describe a time you had to make a tough decision and the thought process you went through in order to reach that decision?
Deciding to run for City Council was a major decision for me. I’ve been a volunteer at the GWSA (Guelph Wellington Seniors Association) for 6 years. I’m currently the President of the GWSA and I’m accountable to 2,680 GWSA members and 450 volunteers. After speaking with different people I eventually decided since I have the time and energy I would take my skills and strengths to City Council and be a voice for the people.
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
One of the most impactful documents that a local Municipal government creates to run the day-to-day operations are the Bylaws.
I’m pleased the City is conducting a full Bylaw review. I assume there are Councillors who are members of this review committee because most of the citizen’s complaints and criticism of City staff and Council emanate from the Bylaws. The average citizen finds it difficult to find the appropriate Bylaw pertaining to the topic and then be able to clearly understand the written intent of it. Here are a few examples of Bylaws that residents dislike: tree cutting, noise, parking, signs, animal control, fences, fees for all permits, waste disposal and pick up, licensing and many, many more.
Bylaws govern the running of any business or an organization and in this case it’s City Hall. But I feel the community is not adequately or sufficiently engaged by Staff and Councillors when it comes to establishing, amending or cancelling Bylaws. I would like to give the importance of Bylaws more attention and offer many opportunities for the residents to respond and engage in the Bylaw review.
Strong logical Bylaws provide a stronger, safer community for All Ages.
13) Where can people learn more about you or your campaign and how can they get in touch with you?
During the Campaign I can be reached at: