When Steve Petric appears at council, it’s usually to speak about transit issues, but now he aims to be at council all the time as one of Ward 3’s councillors.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
I believe Guelph is an incredible community with so much to offer each & every one of us. It’s time that we all have a bigger voice in making that happen. We need more perspectives that accurately represent the population of our city, and I want to do that by listening to you. I’m running for city council because I care what happens in our city every day. I want to represent all people who live here, work together to find compromise, and to do what I can to make every voice count in our city government.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
There were many consequential decisions made by this term of council. Some big ones included the Infrastructure Levy, Service Reviews, and some movement on the South End Recreation Centre and a new Public Library in downtown Guelph.
The one issue that I have heard from the public on the most has been the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc. There seems to be many in the community who felt their voice was not heard, that all the options were not explored, and that the decision to merge with Alectra was already “a done deal”.
It is important that this next term of council does it’s best to make this merger work for the community and that the quality of service is upheld and improved upon.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
There has been a lot of negativity in politics lately. I don’t think it has to be that way. We are better than that. I want to encourage and facilitate positive conversations that produce meaningful results. We have a great city – people I speak too are generally happy living. That said, like me, many of us do think there are areas where improvements can be made to make Guelph better. We need to challenge the status quo in ways that are innovative, involving a more cooperative approach. We can work together and communicate with one another in positive, significant ways to produce outcomes that benefits us all – Business, neighbourhoods, and residents.
I want to improve upon citizen engagement, improve transparency in all areas of our local government, make sure elected officials and staff are held accountable for shortfalls as much as they are applauded for improvements, and work toward finding compromise to the issues we face as a community.
At the end of the day, I believe that searching for common ground and working together toward compromise is the right way to approach solving our problems.
Compromise isn’t a dirty word. In fact, it is the only way democracy can get things done.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
The term ‘affordable housing’ means very different things to different people. With Affordable housing, some people confuse it with social housing – two very different things.
Housing is considered “affordable” if it costs less than 30% of a household’s before-tax income.
“Social Housing” is currently managed by the County and funded in partnership with the provincial government to make housing available for those who are unable to get to the affordable housing threshold.
Like most communities in Ontario, the demand for affordable and social housing units is high.
We must all work together to actively advocate for more funding from all levels of government for building, maintaining, and expanding social housing units. We must look at adjusting our bylaws to allow more secondary housing units without the need for a parking spot, look at innovative ways to create new types of developments such as tiny homes and laneway housing. We must encourage the construction of more affordable units by utilizing through various tools in our Affordable Housing policies and continue to look and learn from different cities are addressing this issue.
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 Places to Grow Act has placed strict density and employment targets on us which we are seeing mix of results from so far. We need neighbourhoods that are walkable and transit-oriented, with mixed use developments, and connected to green spaces. We should work together to keep our various growth polices up to date and adjust as required our growth plans. We can also look at how other communities are dealing with growth and possibly take away ideas that might work for us.
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 do not drive. I use Guelph Transit each and everyday of the year to travel around Guelph. There have been many issues with transit, especially over this term of Council, which has led to probably the worst performance of any transit system in Ontario due to the many cancelled and dropped runs over the last 9 months. It has not be reliable for the citizens of Guelph.
The Transit Business Service Review will possibly yield some good results that will improve some functions of Guelph Transit, however, it will not fix everything overnight nor answer the real question – What kind of transit system do we want in Guelph?
It is time we all work together to learn about the trade-offs of transit planning and determine the right balance of frequency and coverage service for our city. We need to develop a clear 5 to 10-year business plan that spells out exactly how we want transit to grow with a timeline of what needs to be done, what the estimate spending will be, and when various improvements will happen.
The city will also be developing a new transportation master plan in the coming year. It should be fully integrated with all modes of transportation in our city and truly work to make it easier for everyone, no matter how they travel, get around the city more easily and end the “war” on different transportation methods.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
Regional Transit has been talked about by various councils for decades. We must continue to advocate for two-way, all-day GO Transit services as well as improved bus connections between Hamilton, Kitchener, and Wellington County.
We should also work more closely with our neighbouring communities to come up with short term solutions to fill in the missing gaps in out regional transportation network.
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 plan has put pressure on our city to grow faster which can lead to rushed choices that may/may not be right for our community. We should be able to determine our own growth as we as a community understand what Guelph needs not somebody from Queens Park.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
Everyone is a taxpayer. We all pay for programs and services we may or may not use because we understand as a community working to make our city a better place for everyone matters.
Understanding local government finance is not just about understanding where the money comes from, but also about understanding how we can make this money work for the local community and meet local needs
What is the councillor’s role in all of this? Put simply, it is to consider the city’s finance and funding as a central part of all decision making and to ensure that the City provides value for money, or best value, in all of its services. There is unlikely to be enough money to do everything City Council, Staff and the Public would like. Therefore, councillors need to consider working together with the entire community to establish the priorities and objectives for the city and ensure that these drive the budget process. In addition, it is essential that City Council consider how efficient it is in providing services and obtaining the appropriate service outcome for all its services.
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?
The race to the bottom doesn’t always mean services will be more efficient. I personally believe we would need to do a careful city-wide assessment of the entire organization to determine areas that could use a adjustment. I would suggest we look at alternative revenue tools and consult the community to find new, innovative ways to provide a program or service.
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)
One of toughest decisions in my life was declining a job opportunity that would have required me to relocate to another part of Ontario.
My family is here, many of my friends are here, and much of my community involvement has been here. I reached my decision by looking at how the population is involved in the community, how I could get involved in both communities and the cost of living in them.
After careful consideration, I felt my connection to my hometown was stronger than going to start from scratch somewhere.
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
I feel that tourism and youth services have fallen between the cracks.
We have an opportunity to make Guelph a truly youth friendly community. It is time we work together to develop a real youth strategy that gives young people a stronger voice at city hall and within the community at large.
Guelph is such a unique city with great places that it seems a bit hidden from the rest of the world. We must improve how we promote our city and make our city a destination for things like Art, Festivals, Music, Sports, Conferences, and beyond.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?