Stacy Cooper is one of five candidates running to represent Guelph’s southern most ward in this municipal election.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
I am running for Council because we are at a crucial stage of planning in Ward 6 with the City and I am able to lend my expertise of business development, research, and project management in this area when it is needed most. Council is responsible for governance and setting strategic direction, and part of my role in my business has been helping my clients understand proper governance and to set goals or create strategic plans. This is a perfect next step for me to help in this area. So many big projects are in the works all over Guelph and I want to ensure the city has the best representation on Council. I also work, live, play, and volunteer in this great city and it’s a chance to give back even more to my community.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
GMHI with District Energy and the infrastructure levy stand out for me. Having these losses or deficits on the books for the City is frustrating; and having to then put more tax on the residents because previous Councils before even this last one couldn’t manage the budgets properly to allocate funding for infrastructure seems unfathomable.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
An Affordable Housing Strategy is my issue because if we get this right, everything else falls in line for a lot of our other issues.
I want to show it is possible that Council, staff, citizens, and stakeholders can work together to build a smart, inclusive community.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
When we talk about social housing, we are really talking about providing housing for people who MAY never be able to afford to own or rent, so we as a city need to understand that we
help these people, with the core idea being that if we provide shelter and we give them a safe place to live, that in that safe place they can find a life path that gives them a chance for a productive life.
Affordable housing is about creating a framework where the market can supply enough housing supply and choice at a price/rent that people with good paying jobs can afford. Making housing affordable is about understanding the population pressure, the family formation trend, and saying we need xxx number of new homes on the market to keep things affordable, and as a municipal council, we have a role in that because we set official plan policy. We need to understand the needs of our community today, but understand that change and opportunity is coming, and we need to lead that change and turn that opportunity into prosperity but building with smart and compatible growth in mind.
The push back we witness in any city is council doesn’t want to add “8 storeys” of ‘poor people’ in an existing community where the existing residents will say, yes we need more affordable housing or yes, we support social housing for those people but not HERE. We need to be more creative and inclusive with our housing strategy for all income levels in the community around affordable housing.
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?
I am concerned with the numbers. I’ve seen the housing start data which came out for Jan-June, showing 497 units (made up of singles, rows, condos), a 1% increase from 2017. The Planning Dpt says we’re on target for our 177,000 target by 2031. Based on these starts, I’m not sure that’s possible without only building high density, and that’s great for taxes, but not so great for quality of life for all. We need to get a housing strategy in place that provides financial incentive programs, brings more purpose-built units online, and works on the intensification mandated by Places to Grow more smartly.
Our city is Ground Zero for Net Zero I like to say, meaning we are the original guinea pigs for this technology. We know how to create imaginative, energy-efficient, dynamic spaces. We need the Planning to work with builders to accomplish this vision.
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 limited experience using transit except when I make a point of showing my daughters how to use it. I work from home, and when I need to go short distances I will bike or walk. I made a Transit video as part of my campaign #neverstoplearning to understand how transit impacts the drivers and users. It was an eye opener. I hope the Transit Review will bring forward some sound recommendations that will finally alleviate the dysfunctional process currently in place. Communication between supervisors and drivers could be vastly improved so the drivers feel valued and informed when speaking with the riders. I would like to see a south to north visit to, say the Medical Centre, in under 90 mins and movement east/west to employment areas.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
Working with the province is key to getting any improvement with regional transit. K/W, Cambridge, and Guelph have many people moving between them daily for work and education. We need to work together on good regional transit that supports people. We have a need, for example, for a travel route from Guelph to Conestoga Waterloo that would offer a much-needed route since Waterloo is the only school that offers residential skilled trades, which in turn could aid in increasing numbers we so desperately need in skilled trades. Two-way all day GO trains would fill that need to get people there who don’t have vehicles and since there is no residence option offered there in the program. As well, many ward 6 residents work in the GTA, and this will give them flexibility to make it home for children’s events or appointments—a general improved quality of life.
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?
Places to Grow Act is at the top of my list. As a community, we know what we can handle in terms of growth, water protection, infrastructure, etc. and applying the residential and employment ratio as if we are the GTA makes no sense to me. Each municipality is different, yet we are not treated differently and that’s a big problem. PTG was implemented to create live/work neighbourhoods, to protect the Greenbelt, and to end sprawl. It’s not meant to just create condos to help with tax dollars.
What would be something to change as well is the province giving municipalities revenue tools beyond the property tax, so they can do proper transportation and transit planning, build social housing and encourage affordable housing.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
A taxpayer is someone who pays into the community through taxes, be that federal, provincial or municipal government. Budgeting is a huge responsibility, balancing the needs to the wants in the City. It is our responsibility as councillors in setting a budget to keep municipal programs and services affordable through balancing needs and being vigilant about keeping wasteful spending down.
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?
As a business owner, the first place to look is always at, “Where do we have waste, redundancy or existing areas that could have a reduction in items that don’t need to be part of the operations.”
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 received my degree from U of G, and thought that I would work in the healthcare field indefinitely. Realizing that I had to make a change that was healthier for me and making the switch to an entrepreneur was a scary process. In the end, it needed to happen or I wouldn’t have the family I have today. Sometimes, you have to take that leap of faith, not knowing where you’ll land. Fear is a good driver and is not easy for everyone to stomach because often the unknown is much scarier than the reality.
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
Review of Services, and by extension, the policies that come under each department is what is needed to continue and I’m glad to see we have been keeping up with Service Reviews. Each department needs to do their part at being cost-effective. Often little efforts like these produce big results and can’t be overlooked.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?