CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Chidi Nwene, Ward 1 Councillor

“My reason for running is very simple. Living in Guelph for many years, I have witnessed the demography of our city change and the population of its people diversify. Our city still produces homogeneous councils, this in some cases threatens the legitimacy of their decision making. I strongly see the need for diversity in our city council, in order to reflect the people of our community. “

Why are you running for city council?

My reason for running is very simple. Living in Guelph for many years, I have witnessed the demography of our city change and the population of its people diversify. Our city still produces homogeneous councils, this in some cases threatens the legitimacy of their decision making. I strongly see the need for diversity in our city council, in order to reflect the people of our community.

I am a career Community Engagement Specialist, I work with different groups and community projects. I am a visionary and I know how to bring our community together. My career has been steeped in domestic and international social and environmental justice serving communities, marginalized and oppressed groups. My lens allows me to see and hear voices that often get missed along the way.

Tell us a bit about your background and experience, and how that will inform the way you work as a city councillor?

I have been living in the City of Guelph for 12 years. I am a Community Engagement specialist, and Social Justice Advocate. I studied Science Education as well as Environmental Science. I have worked with government and non-governmental organizations. I was a University Lecturer at the Central University of Ecuador, I supported rural education, Indigenous communities, Afro-Ecuadorians, as well as the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Here in Guelph, I ran a local business for a period of 5 years and I have volunteered in numerous community based agencies. I sat on the City of Guelph committee, had board membership on a not for profit affordable housing organization and actively collaborate with many non-profits and local businesses. I was a Business Development Strategic Partner for sustainability companies in Southern Ontario.

● Former committee member – City of Guelph, Community Grant Allocation Panel.
● Coordinator – Community Social Justice Enterprise, Guelph
● Member – Guelph-Wellington Coalition of Social Justice
● Facilitator – Diversity and Cultural awareness, Guelph Police Service
● Former Board Member – Power from within clean energy society
● Founder / President – African Canadian Initiative
● Social Justice Advocate / community Organizer – On the streets of Guelph
● Diversity and Cultural Awareness Facilitator – Ward 1 & 2 Schools.
● Contributor – Guelph & District Multicultural Festival.

My wife and I are raising our three boys here in ward 1. The progress of the City of Guelph is paramount to us. I will always stand up for the interest of our residents. These are some of the issues that I support:

-Support complete overhaul of outdated by-laws that might not be relevant now.
-Support visionary smart city infrastructure plan, to prepare our city for the projected
population surge.
-Support community parks and family friendly amenities.
-Support innovative and sustainable projects for our community.
-Support summer time temporary speed limits/speed bumps on our dense neighborhood roads, for the safety of our kids.
-Support the county in the work of affordable housing and rentals.
-Support responsible and rational budgets.
-Support plans that protect and contribute to green spaces.

I believe in our community and I have a moral obligation to serve my community. I am not for special interest. I have done so much for my community without a mandate, imagine what I can do with a mandate. I have more volunteer hours than my paid day job most of the time. For me, it is better to serve than be served. I have a strong passion to represent my ward and to be a part of the decision making. I don’t believe in band-aid solutions, I believe in rational, equitable and sustainable long term solutions for our city and its people.

What do you think was the most consequential decision made by city council during the 2018-2022 term?

One of the most consequential decisions made by city council during the 2018-2022 term was the Councils approval of number of motions aimed at addressing homelessness, addiction and mental health in Guelph.

For me, it is very important to support vulnerable and at risk populations. We need to empower each other, show people a sense of belonging, create unity and close the gap between those that sit at the margins. We need to work towards a community that works for all !

Guelph has to make accommodation for 208,000 people and have 116,000 jobs ready by 2051. What’s your growth strategy, and how will you co-ordinate with developers, neighbourhoods and community groups to achieve it?

A local level solution to address the projected population surge, and growth strategy needs to include an urgent sustainable plan. But first, we need to pivot towards accessible housing. We need to review and change some of the building permits that continue to benefit exclusive builders that monopolize the market. These builders make it almost impossible for non for profit building developers to win any bidding to build affordable housing for hard working Guelph residents.

We need to be mindful not to make our city an exclusive city. We need to make it affordable, and safe. If the laws can be made in such a way that the city council has the authority to address community needs and shift away from costly luxury homes there will be a positive shift towards more affordable and accessible housing. I am talking about basic affordable housing with rules and regulations put in place against price gouging. I strongly believe the city needs to further collaborate with the county to deal with the housing crisis that is projected to increase.

All and all I will support a visionary plan for sustainable infrastructure with long term planning that stops monopoly building permits, attracts companies and investors to come and invest. Companies drawn to Guelph will bring jobs. I would also like to support our local businesses, modernize our transit system, decentralize government service centre, to strategic locations around our city. I believe we need to continue updating our water piping systems, sewage systems, and underground electrical systems.

Homelessness and the mental health and addiction crises are having a profound impact on Guelph, what can be done at a council level to address these issues, and what will you do as an individual councillor to address them?

We need to tackle some of the root causes that reinforce these issues by supporting local organizations and projects addressing:

-Domestic violence
-System failures
-Poverty and marginalization
-High cost of living
-Mental health and addictions barriers
-Personal circumstances and related problems.

Real action should be implemented at the grassroots level. Supporting programs and initiatives that deeply understand the issues. I believe working with community leaders, different community support groups, and providing funding for organizations already on the ground helps. We need to also work with the county to provide supportive housing. These issues are not a short term fix, we need to support these individuals in their journey.

Mental health and addiction, is a big social issue in our city and is projected to increase if definite measures are not taken. I will work with an appropriate agency that has a good action plan, propose adequate funding for their program.

6) Would you support a more collaborative relationship between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington? What would that look like?

A collaborative relationship between the City of Guelph and the County is important, especially in areas like housing, and social services, which are now some of the main concerns of community members. This collaboration will help cut the bureaucracy in half and get things done in a timely fashion. The collaboration won’t interfere with the existing structure, in fact it will help to strengthen our community and provide more effective services.

How would you increase accessibility at city hall? How will you make sure that your constituents feel well-informed and well-represented in council?

To increase accessibility at City Hall, we need to first have diversify with our elected officials. By making room for an equitable representation of diverse groups in decision making, to serve our diverse community better. By actually practicing inclusivity we help build trust and support.

Accessibility means making sure city hall is for the people and not for special interest. If I am elected I will make sure that every decision I make is with thoughtful judgement of the group as a whole. I will make sure that my constituents feel well-represented, regardless of labels.

Movements like Black Lives Matter and the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools have made the creation of more equity and inclusion at city hall a top priority. How will you help promote greater representation and work to create more equity and inclusion at the City of Guelph?

I belong to a marginalized group in our community, I also happen to be a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advocate. I have championed diversity equity and inclusion initiatives in the city of Guelph for a while now. If the city of Guelph prioritizing equity and inclusion, this is an extremely positive step in the right direction. Unfortunately it is mostly on paper right now.

I am a passionate DEI community leader. If elected, I will continue my advocacy in city hall to ensure plans are put into practice. I am involved in many initiatives in our community. Currently, I facilitate training for new recruits in Guelph Police Service in diversity, equity, inclusion and educate on the harms of racial profiling.

I have collaborated as a DEI Educator with some schools in the Upper Grand district school board. I have been involved in some community radio programs to educate the general public on cultural differences. With the goal of bringing awareness to some inequalities and barriers that the marginalized groups are facing in our community.

I have done numerous community projects with the Indigenous communities in the area. Some of which have involved helping connect sustainable food system, and affordable, sustainable housing planning. I belong to numerous equity deserving groups in our community that incorporate canvassing, advocating, and educating the general public. I helped develop some action plans for some social issues in our community.

Advocating for equality and social justice is what I have been doing for over 20 years. I know how to unite our community. It is very important that we engage in meaningful dialog, with various groups. Conciliation and reconciliation need to continue taking place, for us to heal from our terrible history.

Diversity, equity and inclusion is my area of specialty, I can bring a transformative change in the city hall with my experience and ability to unite and build relationships with other groups in our community. I have proven track record of doing just that.

The City of Guelph, as a corporation, is responsible for three per cent of emissions locally. What will you do to encourage and assist the Royal City to reach it’s net zero and 100 per cent renewable goals?

I was originally connected to Our Energy Guelph, an organization that is focused on making the city of Guelph a Net Zero carbon community by 2050. I studied Environmental Science and I bring a great passion in this area. I have done workshops on smart city initiatives and have reviewed many case studies on how other cities reduce emission.

My goal is to support initiatives that collaborate with professionals in the field to lead us in a science based action plan and strategy. I strongly believe we can achieve our goal of net zero by 2050 and achieve 100 per cent renewable goals.

Excluding 2-way/all-day GO Train service, how would you work to expand regional transit options to and from Guelph?

Public transit is the way to go. I advocate for public transit and alternative transportation. in order for us to combat climate crisis. I support the expansion of Go train service and regional transit options to and from Guelph. Based on the projections, the regional transit usage will increase, I like how our city is upgrading our road ways, modernizing our central transit hub. We still have a lot to do, in order to accommodate an expansion of regional transit. I will support sustainable upgrades to our road network, in order to avoid traffic congestion, especially coming into Guelph and the downtown core.

If you could dedicate your time on city council to one issue over the next four years, like you were a federal or provincial cabinet minister, what would that be, and why?

The one issue that I will focus on is strategic infrastructure and city planning, that will accommodate the projected population surge. Right now affordable rentals are scarce, and the housing market in general is not affordable. This impacts individuals and families trying to leave domestic violence and increases homelessness. These stressors have negative mental health and addiction outcomes. Furthermore, these issues will get even worse if we don’t act proactively.

To address this issue I will summon a team of professionals and city staff, to do a comprehensive analysis of the projected population surge. Then we will single out areas of urgent importance, I will recommend the start of an action plan for immediate implementation.

The projected population surge, might be one of the biggest challenges to face in the city of Guelph. Urgency is required to start a robust action plan.

It’s budget time: You have a heritage building redevelopment project, the modernization of a key city service, or you can reduce the proposed budget increase by a full percentage point. You can either fund one of these endeavours in their entirety, or you can assign each option a portion of funding. What’s your motion?

Thank you for this question. City Councilors are faced with complex issues that require well experienced, thoughtful, rational people with proven Leadership skills.

Before any decision making, I have to take these factors into consideration:
How does each of these align with the City’s strategic objectives ?
Which initiatives serve the greatest number of people ?
How does this affect the people in my ward and what they want ?
What are the short–term and long-term implications of the decision ?
I represent a diverse perspective, and that will always bring that to my decision making.

Since I don’t know the details of the heritage building redevelopment or the budget content, it is not a rational decision to make. The “key” city service stands out as being of utmost importance.

Finish this sentence: I would be very disappointed if we got the end of this election without debating…?

I would be disappointed if we didn’t get to talk about the projected population surge which is going to further stress the current housing crisis we are facing.

Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?

Thank you Guelph Politico for this chance to answer these important questions, and thank you for informing our community on the political landscape of our city for many years.

To learn more about my campaign, go to www.chidiforguelph.ca and @chidinwene for all other social media platform. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn)

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