“I plan to live here for a long time, and for this reason, I feel compelled to serve my community and put my vision and experience in civic duties to use. I believe that I can bring a refreshing comparative aspect to what might otherwise seem standard or basic. I see that Guelph has the potential to become an even more wonderful city than it currently is.”
Why are you running for city council?
I have a unique international experience living in many countries, and working for different government and international agencies including the United Nations. I set my sights on Guelph as a city where I felt I could belong, both because I share the city’s values and because it fits my vision for my family’s future.
I moved to Guelph in 2013 and started a company that provides financial and business consultation, which now owns different local businesses. With the future of the younger generation in mind, one of these businesses is a unique mental math program. My wife serves the fast-growing community of Guelph by providing interpretation to the Canadian Immigrant Services and the County of Wellington, and my children attend schools in Guelph.
I plan to live here for a long time, and for this reason, I feel compelled to serve my community and put my vision and experience in civic duties to use. I believe that I can bring a refreshing comparative aspect to what might otherwise seem standard or basic. I see that Guelph has the potential to become an even more wonderful city than it currently is.
Tell us a bit about your background and experience, and how that will inform the way you work as a city councillor?
The job of a local councilor is not to be the council’s advocate in the community, but to be the community’s advocate in the council. A good councilor’s responsibilities go much beyond simply advocating. To effectively engage the community in local government, representation needs to establish connections with people, groups, and entities in the area to educate, consult, and empower citizens to give them more influence over their own lives. As a Law Professor, Financial and Business Adviser, and Political Analyst, I possess the education, work, and life experience as well as the passion to represent Ward 5 residents, their growing needs, and their innovative ideas to solve the problems they face on a daily basis. My background in law and political science makes me a strong candidate to represent Ward 5.
What do you think was the most consequential decision made by city council during the 2018-2022 term?
The approval of the net zero by 2050 initiative! I am proud of such a decision by the current council, which shows the long-term vision and care for the future of our city and our children. The International Energy Agency said it is possible to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5 °C. But it will require a wholesale makeover of the world’s energy system starting today.
My ideas about the applications of smart city technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as the tiny houses initiative, will go along with the city plan to achieve net zero by 2050. A consistent effort throughout the coming years and decades must be made in addition to making the transition to a cleaner, more affluent economy a top priority right away. To achieve this long-term objective, Guelph must continue to innovate while enhancing and expanding upon current policies that combat climate change and alter the economy.
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?
Making adjustments for the predicted rapid population growth requires a balanced strategy. While attempting to enhance and expand current neighborhoods and switching to a higher-density vision when considering new developments, it is crucial to protect things that are significant to Guelph, such as its heritage and parks. The best way to accommodate growth will be to make the city more densely populated and more dependent on effective public transportation, walking, cycling, and smartly planned to ensure that a car is not required to get groceries or to go to work. The effectiveness and benefits of such a strategy can be seen in many Western European cities. Why not have this in Guelph?
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?
At the council level, we should collaborate with the provincial government to push for increased funding for social support programs like the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which will help combat homelessness as well as the mental health and addiction crisis brought on by financial hardship. Additionally, more provincial funding for mental health will help with this, therefore the council should fervently campaign for it when speaking with the provincial government. Also, I believe my tiny houses initiative will help to reduce homelessness and consequently help with the mental health crisis.
In order to combat homelessness in Guelph, as a councillor, I will also support motions for more low-income housing initiatives. Finally, I will back resolutions and work to persuade the provincial government to approach addiction as a public health and policy issue rather than a criminal one. This will open the way for our most vulnerable Guelph residents that are suffering from addiction to get the help they need.
Would you support a more collaborative relationship between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington? What would that look like?
Yes, I wholeheartedly support greater cooperation between the County of Wellington and the City of Guelph. Such cooperation is essential to addressing many of Guelph’s issues, including housing. Increased communication between the two groups (since two heads are better than one!), updated governance agreements that clearly define mutually beneficial boundaries and responsibilities, and cooperative economic development initiatives are all examples of an effective and efficient collaborative effort between the City and the County.
How would you increase accessibility at city hall? How will you make sure that your constituents feel well-informed and well-represented in council?
By utilizing accessible technology and working with the appropriate committees to find and eliminate obstacles that prevent Guelph citizens from accessing City Hall and other municipal services, I am dedicated to enhancing accessibility. Additionally, I pledge to always be reachable to Ward 5 residents, whether it be through social media, my website, a face-to-face coffee meeting, emailing or calling me, etc.
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?
A city has a greater opportunity to connect with its community when management levels are diverse. Workplaces with a variety of cultures might aid city leaders in contextualizing problems that could be particular to their region. According to various studies, diverse workplaces tend to be more successful than ones that aren’t. A more diversified city council will result in a more diverse set of abilities. By working with people who have various experiences, viewpoints, and backgrounds from our own, we can all learn something new. I am not only bringing fresh blood to the city council but also a unique point of view based on my international exposure and my background in law and business, which equips me with a sense of what works in a growing city and what doesn’t. I am proud to be the first candidate of Middle Eastern descent to run for Guelph’s city council.
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 fight for concentrated efforts to electrify the Guelph Transit fleet among other City of Guelph fleets. In order to further encourage residents to give up damaging internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, I will also call for increased investment in EV charging infrastructure. Additionally, I will support proposals that impose restrictions on new construction projects using renewable resources and being more environmentally friendly, such as encouraging the installation of solar panels.
Excluding 2-way/all-day GO Train service, how would you work to expand regional transit options to and from Guelph?
I have a specific plan using Artificial Intelligence technology and collaboration with the private sector to offer more efficient and accessible public transportation inside and outside Guelph to all major cities around us.
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 believe housing affordability is the cornerstone to solving many other issues, like homelessness and the mental health crisis. I have a specific plan for housing affordability using the tiny houses initiative and by collaborating with the city, the provincial and federal governments, the University of Guelph and other educational institutions, and the private sector, I believe we can offer some affordable options to many people.
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?
Budget planning is a difficult, intricate topic that cannot be understood on the surface, unlike the scenario suggested in this question. Council members who don’t spend enough time studying, analyzing, and obtaining all the information necessary to make well-informed, well-thought-out decisions can result in poor budgets. For this reason, I would need to talk to the residents of Ward 5, perform research, look at reports on the potential effects in the future, etc.
Finish this sentence: I would be very disappointed if we got the end of this election without debating…?
If this election ended without addressing how Guelph will tackle the housing affordability crisis and what we will do to pressure the provincial and federal governments into taking action, I would be very disappointed.
Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?
Here is my website: www.guelph5.ca.