CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Kevin Bowman, Ward 3 Councillor

“The city faces many very significant and urgent challenges and I don’t feel the city is taking urgent or significant action to meet these challenges.”

Why are you running for city council?

The city faces many very significant and urgent challenges and I don’t feel the city is taking urgent or significant action to meet these challenges.

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

I have a wide diversity of experience: U of Guelph grad, millennial, renter, one of 5 elected executives for a student union with a multi-million dollar budget, several for-profit and not-for-profit boards of directors including a student co-op that owns 10s of millions of dollars in affordable rental real estate, chaired a citizens’ committee for the city, transit bus driver, HR professional, community volunteer and advocate, etc., etc. I believe these experiences have prepared me well for the responsibilities of Councillor. If elected I will treat this position as a full-time job.

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

It is difficult to choose one but I think the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw Review was a big step in the right direction. Land use and planning is something that the City has a lot of control and influence over and it directly impacts many other critical things such as housing affordability, transportation infrastructure, road safety, transit, parks, property taxes, etc.

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?

First we need to confirm that the groundwater system can sustain that number of residents indefinitely as there seems to be a lack of consensus about that. If we can grow to that extent, we cannot do it the way we have been growing the last few decades. It is not ecologically or financially sustainable. I think Guelph should be focused on improving existing neighbourhoods and increasing density. This will result in more taxpayers using the existing infrastructure which lowers the tax burden on each household. It also decreases our ecological and carbon footprint.

If most people can get to work and run daily errands without using a car this will have many positive impacts: greater sense of community, less air pollution, safer streets, less time driving/parking and more time living, lower ecological/carbon footprint, better health and well-being, less taxes spent on roads/parking, etc.

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?

Step one is stop treating the situation as a “law and order” problem and start treating it as a failure of public policy and a public health problem. Living without reliable access to safe shelter will make even the most resilient people unwell/desperate and it literally kills some people. Not getting treatment for mental illness and/or addiction will cause people to lose the ability to keep themselves housed and it literally kills some people.

We need to stop criminalizing those who are suffering and vulnerable and instead offer any help we can. Not only is it the humane thing to do it is fiscally responsible. Helping is cheaper than policing and it actually attempts to resolve the real problem. The City also needs to join with other municipalities to lobby the provincial and federal governments to correct the systemic failures that allowed this situation in the first place. Mental health and addictions needs to be properly funded and covered by OHIP. Affordable housing needs to be properly funded and social assistance needs to be increased to be in line with the actual cost of living.

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

Absolutely! I support it because I think it is required and necessary. It could look like many different things but one option I want to explore is the City/County facilitating renters buying out the buildings they live in. Another option is gifting (or selling cheaply) land to the County to build affordable housing on.

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

I think the best way to make city hall accessible is to bring city hall to where the people are whenever feasible. I am not sure what exactly that would look like but the current approach of expecting the people to come to city hall doesn’t seem to be working very well. If elected I plan to maintain a Ward 3 website/blog with a monthly newsletter and a Facebook page in addition to my Councillor email and phone number. I would also be interested in holding semi-regular town-hall style meetings with some time dedicated to issues brought up by constituents.

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 think marginalized communities don’t trust existing institutions. They have learned the hard way that these structures are not for them and do not serve their needs. Sometimes they are actually barriers or worse, the source of harm. This must change. We need to earn that trust and I think the best way to do that is to put our trust in them. Give them resources and allow them to decide how to use them in their own interests because they know best what they need. What exactly that looks like will be different for each group/community.

Another way to earn trust is to be accountable. When the city or a service funded by the city – like the police – are told they are causing harm we need to listen and take action to compensate those harmed. Even more importantly we need to makes changes to prevent that harm from happening again. Mere lip service and apologies are not good enough.

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 would advocate the electrification of transit and improve it to the point that a significant portion of the population (including city staff) will use it in preference to using a car or a fleet vehicle. I would also push to transition existing building heating systems off natural gas to heat pumps, geothermal, passive solar, district energy, etc.

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

I would advocate for collaboration with Grand River Transit and Brantford Transit to “Link the Watershed”. Google it! 🙂

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?

Cost of living – incomes have not kept up with the cost of living meaning a larger and larger portion of the population are “poor” or getting poorer. The city needs to be a “living wage employer” and do all it can to encourage local employers to do this as well. The city also needs to do all it can to reduce the cost of living. This means making better use of land and infrastructure, more affordable housing, better public transit, lowering the per household tax burden by increasing density, etc.

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?

I would have many questions I need answered before making a choice but my first inclination would be: whichever option will reduce the cost of living for the most vulnerable in the long term.

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

Reducing the police budget and re-directing that money to affordable housing and addictions/mental health treatment.

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

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