Usha Arora is one of four ladies running running to join Mark MacKinnon as the Ward 6 city councillors, or replace him.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
As a recent retiree from a life long profession of Nursing. An opportunity came knocking for the next phase of my life and I decided to take on the challenge. I have enjoyed varied roles in Nursing. This eventually took my professional carrier beyond the bed side, placing me in a leadership role with the Ontario Nurses Association. As part of that job I have enjoyed the privilege to serve on the human rights and equity team at the provincial level, as well as several other committees including labour management, occupational health and safety, fiscal advisory, professional practice, negotiations and so on. Our city is expanding at unprecedented rate with this new growth we will be faced with a number of challenges which are from an affordable housing to the ward 6 safety and quality of life. To manage this, we need a councillor who will find community based solutions. I am certain that the skill set acquired from the long term leadership role will transfer to my work as a city councillor.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
In my opinion the most consequential decision by city council last term was its decision on a merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra. Many of the people were upset with the counsel and mayor at the time. The city did not think of the impact the negative impact the merger would have on the people of this city. The job losses that were caused by this merger will see the downsizing of 130 jobs. And that to me is a significant amount to be lost. Nine of the councillors and the Mayor voted in favour of this merger and three were against.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
One of the things I want to accomplish during my term as a city is setting up a better communication link between the citizens by having town hall meetings, monthly newsletters, information on websites and other forms of social readily accessible for residents. Setting up an open line of communication to listen to the needs of the residents is another priority that I would like to implement. I will apply my demonstrated leadership experiences and bring the same passion drive from my previous role to this. One of the issues that I would like to tackle is the rapid development and growth in the South end and how it fits in the long term vision of the city. Guelph has been experiencing growing pains, as its own small town features are now colliding with rapid development. Concern is, weather the development in the Gordon corridor is actually over development as well as the future of the Clair Maltby lands near the southern city limits. Some feel that development is happening too fast and new residences will put a further strain on the infrastructure. Others feel that growth is good while growth can strengthen our city in many ways but it needs to be done in a thoughtful and controlled manner. We all need to be planning the future of the city carefully by keeping in mind to preserve our green spaces, protecting local farm lands and encouraging the development is sustainable which uses green technology.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
Affordable housing is the type of housing that is available to households that does not cost more than a certain percentage of the household income. Social housing is managed by the municipalities/governments on the provincial and federal level that are subsidized and is geared to those with lower income. Guelph definitely needs to develop both, as house prices have skyrocketed in the past years. How can new families buy homes if the cost of the house/ mortgage and utilities makes up for 80% of their debt. What are people saving? How are people surviving? These are main issues that should be addressed at all levels of the government. Social housing is necessary because not all people in the community can afford homes if they are on one income or on government assistance. Both types of housing go hand in hand to help a city thrive. 100% of the residents of Guelph should be able to live in some kind of housing without stress and a better mental health being.
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 City to me appears to be managing the growth well. For future growth and development there should be public engagement and public forums to help with the strategic planning. Listening to the delegations will help provide a broader view and more specific ideas that the city council may not have examined. These types of development impact the city, what we should do differently is to involve the citizens and find a common ground to ensure we are achieving the best possible outcome at the end of the day.
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?
Transit is a necessity for everyone especially the students, seniors, people with limited income or others who choose not to use their cars. I have taken the city transit in the past when I lived near the bus stop, and I did use to enjoy the ride. But since moving away to the south end I find it has not been convenient for me any more due to the distance of my residence to the nearest bus stop. People say buses are not reliable, convenient, or timely, and that they get cancelled without notification. My feeling is that councillor do understand the issues. Service reviews are being done to ensure value for our monies and improve service efficiencies and effectiveness for all the citizens
People are looking for promises of safe, reliable and a more convenient service. Priority should be the public first over the finances. When buses get cancelled, there is a need to inform the people the best way possible so they are not waiting at the bus stops specially during the inclement weather.
7) What need to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
We must build a stronger relationship with other transit companies. During the lock out the trust was lost between the community and the transit companies and rebuilding trust is not easy. We need better intercity transit and this matter should be taken seriously. It takes two and a half hours by bus to go to Kitchener from Guelph for a medical appointments comparing to the drive is half hour or so. Advocate for more funding from the provincial and federal government. I support 2 ways all day go trains from Toronto to Kitchener/Waterloo with a stop at the major cities along the line especially a stop in Guelph. By forming this type of transportation will help us lessen the burden of traffic congestion on the high way, more people will travel, economy will grow and less pollution.
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?
Municipalities should have the power to make the decisions on how to manage their finances and grow the economy because they know the needs of the constituents better. Better allocations of the funds should be left for the municipalities to decide, when and how we use the funds is up to us. The province or the Federal government do not know our immediate needs they set up a long term goals on how the money should be spent.
9) How do you define tax payers? What is the responsibility of a councillor to when it comes to budgeting municipal council has the responsibility to manage the finances and grow the economy?
Anyone that has made a purchase is a basic taxpayer but those who pay property taxes should be the one demand responsibility from the Councillors on how that money should be spent. Councillors should be aware of the best methods on cost saving, one way of doing so is by reduce the personal spendings from tax payer money and manage the tax payers’ monies wisely. It would be prudent to have a meaning full discussion by engaging the citizens when time comes to do the budget because they may have ideas on how to use their tax dollars .
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 understand the challenges and the budgetary constraints. I do not think that there should be a cut in any of the services that the city provides to the tax payers. They should be doing more for the good of the citizens, instead of raising taxes. The city of Guelph has paid 94 Million dollars in debt just at the time of the last budget. If they had managed the monies of the Guelphites in a more responsible manner the debt of 94 million would not be so astronomically high. Taxes continue to rise and at the last budget, the city squeezed the levy in to the hydro bill. Which some of us do not know. If cuts need to be made it should be made in salaries of the staff in the upper management level and the freebees which comes along with it. It is so important for the councillor to review the existing budget. If there is a budget crunch it should be done in such a way so our existing services are not being affected. Our focus should be to maintain and improve the services not to cut them. While I am campaigning, trying to go to door to door to listen to the constituents needs. I am continuously making notes. Responding to them according to the best of my ability and knowledge. If elected these will be my priority to bring it forward for discussion for the good of the people of ward 6. I will inform them re decision made at the council level for better.
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)
It was the tough decision for me to submit the nominations papers to the city hall. I kept on waiting until the last hour. I was hesitant to make this decision because I have not seen representation of people colour in the Guelph council. However, there was a huge encouragement from my family, friends and neighbours to run for a position of a councillor. I decided to take on this challenge to run for a city council since I have the passion, the time, energy, the leadership and financial managements skills to be the best councillor in town
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
Guelph is known to be a compassionate and caring city and it is our civic responsibility to help residences who are in need. We need to provide the services that meet the needs of the community. Poverty is one of the biggest issue which needs an immediate attention. We do have issues of affordable housing, jobs and bus fair. Councillors need to look at Province of Calgary. Their seniors pay only $20 for a year for the bus pass so they can move around and visit the places they need to go. The
More ridership city has, the more funding city Will receive from the provincial government. If elected I plan to also look in to this .
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?
People can visit my website which is ushaforward6.ca
Email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
I am readily available to just for chat and meet for a coffee.
My phone number is 226 337 8472