CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Michele Richardson, Ward 3 Councillor

“I made the decision to run in this election as I believe this is a critical time for the City of Guelph. In this post pandemic phase we need the City of Guelph to Recover, Revive and Thrive. Guelph is a great City and I have the skills to help our community achieve incredible things. The City of Guelph has great potential and I want to ensure we utilize all our resources to make it the best it can be.”

Why are you running for city council?

I made the decision to run in this election as I believe this is a critical time for the City of Guelph. In this post pandemic phase we need the City of Guelph to Recover, Revive and Thrive. Guelph is a great City and I have the skills to help our community achieve incredible things. The City of Guelph has great potential and I want to ensure we utilize all our resources to make it the best it can be.

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

I have 18 years of municipal government experience working at the County of Wellington and this has given me exposure to all facets of municipal government including, public works, social services, long term care, safe communities, solid waste services, economic development and libraries just to name a few. I am acutely aware of the issues facing municipalities today and will be educating myself further on these issues at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference.

I am a long time Guelph resident who cares about our City and wants to contribute in any way I can to ensure Guelph continues to grow in a healthy way and remains a great place to live. I am an active member of the Patient and Family Advisory Committee at the Guelph General Hospital. I am also a Registered Nurse who worked on a surgical unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital for 13 years prior to joining the County of Wellington. I have dedicated my life to serving the residents of Guelph and as a member of City Council I would continue to serve the residents of not only Ward 3 but all City of Guelph residents.

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

This is a really difficult question given the unprecedented term City Council had in 2018-2022. The pandemic required City Council to make a number of very difficult decisions very quickly including declaring a state of emergency and working through this for 2 years. I believe the most consequential decision made by City Council this term was not one decision but many decisions such as redeployment of staff, working with public health to set up vaccine clinics and swiftly changing how services were provided that allowed limited disruption to our residents during this time.

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?

The province allocates population growth so we don’t have too much to say on the amount, but we do get to say how to accommodate that growth for that 10 year period. That is, the where and how. The City has done some really great work on the Official Plan for Shaping Guelph. The purpose of this plan “Promotes long-term community sustainability and embodies policies and actions that aim to simultaneously achieve social well-being, economic vitality, cultural conservation and enhancement, environmental integrity, and energy sustainability, and climate change resiliency.” Community engagement is key to successful growth. I would work to engage the residents of Ward 3 to ensure growth is meeting the needs of our community as well as the City as a whole.

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?

Our local politicians need to pressure upper levels of government for funding. We are stronger together and we need to work collaboratively with the County of Wellington to advocate and pressure the province for funding. I am hoping we will see a joint delegation on this issue at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference happening in Ottawa this month. This is one place we can get the ear of the provincial government.

We (City and County) need to develop a strategic team to balance the needs of our local businesses and the needs of those who are homeless in our community. We need to work to support the community resources already in place and look to see how we can assist in supporting our local community resources such as the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination. My background as a Registered Nurse allows me to better understand mental health and addiction issues. This deeper understanding enables me to ensure the best decisions are being made.

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

The City of Guelph and The County of Wellington already work very closely together. All social services are shared between the two municipalities and both work very hard to ensure we are providing the best services we can to meet the needs of our clients. I would always support a collaborative approach. We are stronger together.

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

Certainly the pandemic has created new options for alternate ways to attend meetings/events at City Hall whether the option is needed to assist a person with a disability or not. Virtual attendance definitely makes it easier for anyone to attend a council meeting as a spectator or delegate. I was on the committee that developed the first Facilities Accessibility Design Manual back in 2004 to improve accessibility in all municipal buildings. If elected to represent Ward 3 I would work with residents to ensure they feel comfortable to connect with me on any issue or concern they have.

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?

The City of Guelph is a member of the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities as a member of City Council I would continue to support the work of this coalition to promote diversity and human rights. It is important for our policies and procedures reflect and promote a culture of acceptance and belonging. We must lead by example.

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?

The City of Guelph has taken on this ambitious and admirable goal but this is a team effort. If I am elected to represent the residents of Ward 3 I would work with staff, the listen to the subject experts and engage input from my residents to make sound informed decisions to help us achieve this goal.

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

I will be speaking to the residents of Ward 3 to see what they identify the as the biggest need for regional transit to and from Guelph. I will take that information back to City of Guelph staff to ensure they have all the right information before bringing forward a strategy. The City of Guelph has an amazing staff who are experts in this area and as long as they receive accurate information I am confident they will develop a solid plan to expand regional transit. If we want people to take transit it has to be convenient and affordable.

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?

I would pick Community Safety. Ultimately if your community is not safe for people to live in everything else will fall apart. A safe community is the core from which we build every other initiative. Think for a minute. If a community is not safe, no one will want to live there, if no one lives in that community, no one is working, spending money or buying homes in that community. The City of Guelph is one of the safest cities in Canada. I am extremely proud to be able to say that and I would be honoured to dedicate my time to ensuring Guelph remains a safe community.

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?

There are so many variables in this question. I would be looking for guidance from the Ward 3 residents and looking for a full understanding of each of these endeavours. My first instinct would be to reduce the budget by a full percentage point because that has a direct financial impact on resident taxes which I would want to keep at or below the rate of inflation.

But that being said, what key service would this mean would be cut and the fall out of this reduction in service or what are the implications of delaying a heritage redevelopment? For the sake of this question my instinct would be to try and see if I could assign each a portion of the funding. However, I would be looking at all options and seeking input from Ward 3 residents, staff and subject experts to make the best decision.

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

Should pizza be eaten hot or cold. 🙂

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

My website is under construction. I will be happy to let you know when it is up and running. Twitter: @michelerichardson2022

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