“I love Guelph and wish to continue playing a role in improving life here for all.”
Why are you running for city council?
I love Guelph and wish to continue playing a role in improving life here for all.
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 a teacher of politics, history and philosophy, worked on Social and Cooperative Housing as chair of Wellington and Guelph Housing Authority, was Speaker of the House for Ontario’s Secondary Teachers (OSSTF), chaired the city’s audit committee for the past four years, become strongly familiar with rules of order and governance, worked with the Shelldale Community and other neighbourhood and anti poverty groups. I am a supporter of public transit improvements and the long term goal of attaining 100% renewable energy for Guelph. I am also a member of the Evergreen Centre, and the Guelph Wellington Men’s Club.
What do you think was the most consequential decision made by city council during the 2018-2022 term?
Sorry but there are two.
One concrete decision was to go ahead with downtown revitalization by moving the Baker Street Project ahead. This will have a massive impact on the quality of life for people in the core. It will a revenue generator and helps to fulfill our requirement to build more housing in the City’s core.
The other – which is equally important – was guiding Guelph during the dark days of the COVID pandemic by regularizing video meetings to ensure democracy was properly served. It was also imperative to ensure that Guelph maintained business as usual while providing for more people living, shopping and entertaining out of doors. Kudos to city staff, our medical professionals, our educational staff for working tirelessly during this time. Guelph is better for our collaboration. Our successful efforts to vaccinate our population has led to Guelph being a leader in vaccinations and harm reduction during the pandemic.
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?
I am very concerned about this. My concern stems from worries about our water supply. I believe we need to be even more vigilant than we have been in the past. This summer confirms that drought conditions will stress our water system even more. I wish to limit growth and focus on intensification. We can have single family dwellings, apartments and townhouse but must ensure that lots are smaller and greenspace preserved.
We must engage, developers, neighbourhoods and community groups to achieve this through planning town halls and honest appraisals of what is needed. Please note that we must ensure the more greenspace is assured as we move forward. This can only be achieved if we honestly limit lot sizes for single family dwelling and begin to alter our roadways reducing their width, and rediscovering the grid model of city development rather than the crescent and winding boulevard model.
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?
Mental Health and Addiction challenges are rife across Canada. They interact with poverty, homelessness and inadequate housing.
The most important thing Guelph can do is be an advocate to the federal and provincial governments to immediately improve health care and housing funding.
While Guelph can commit to some funding for small housing projects and can address such things as substance abuse and needle exchange by offering support for Welcoming Streets initiatives, we cannot solve this issue. We do not have the deep pockets of the other levels of government.
The province and the federal governments have a constitutional duty to address housing and health care in all forms. No amount of policing on Guelph’s streets will address on street addictions and the poverty experienced by those afflicted with addiction issues. Money matters and it must go to the right places.
Would you support a more collaborative relationship between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington? What would that look like?
Regrettably, the best form of collaboration is regional government. This would settle the ongoing issues associated with ambulance service, social housing and social services provision. This will not occur however.
What we as a city must do is ensure that we are open to an honest and transparent relationship with the County. Right now, we are legally required to give 8% of our operating budget to the County for housing and social services support. That’s between 15 and 25 million dollars each year. It is not enough to build more housing or to support those in need. The City knows and the County knows it.
The County and the City should and must work with our MPP’s and MP’s to ensure that funding for health care and housing are increased and freed up to allow for the huge number of housing units needed and for improvements to the ambulance service and health care we need in Guelph and Wellington County. Currently mandated housing and health care initiatives are substandard.
How would you increase accessibility at city hall? How will you make sure that your constituents feel well-informed and well-represented in council?
Currently I am available to my constituents at a text, phone call or email’s notice. Normally I will get back to people within 24 hours. I have made it my mission to work collaboratively with the public putting them in touch with the appropriate staff to address their concerns regardless what these are.
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 have been working on this for some time. I advocate for a broader spectrum of interests on City Council. I am engaged with various cultural groups in Guelph and am 100% supportive of LGBTQ rights. I will continue to work to ensure we elect people of different cultural backgrounds to Council and we ensure that our committee member selection is guided by issues of inclusion, equity and fairness.
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 will support proposals that lead to new construction and refits being required to be 100% renewable. Guelph must take a leadership role in renewable energy including solar wind and even geo thermal. This is not an overnight solution; it will take time to wean us off fossil fuels.
Excluding 2-way/all-day GO Train service, how would you work to expand regional transit options to and from Guelph?
I would like to see Guelph work with other regional transit providers to determine how to address the lack of good public transit to the Region of Waterloo, within the County of Wellington and the Cities of Cambridge and Hamilton. There is no silver bullet on this. This kind of expansion is not cheap and requires provincial support including legislation and funding. Toronto is not the centre of the universe. Metrolinx must address regional connectivity. This makes business sense and is imperative to connect people needing health care and other supports who must travel to KW, Cambridge and Hamilton and don’t have cars.
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 devote myself to either Housing or Public Transit. My experience building Guelph’s first housing Coop and serving as the chair of the defunct Wellington and Guelph Housing Authority provides me with an understanding of how complex and expensive public housing is. As a sometime user of Guelph Transit, I fully support improvements that will enhance public transit over the next 50 years.
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 don’t take these issues as separate items. Budget preparation is a complex exercise. All three priorities are important and must be weighed upon their merit.
Finish this sentence: I would be very disappointed if we got the end of this election without debating…?
Guelph’s role in providing for supportive housing in an open and transparent fashion- we must ensure Guelph does the right thing and that includes demanding more from the Province and the Federal governments.
Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?
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