CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Ken Yee Chew, Ward 6 Councillor

“I am running because Guelph’s growing Ward 6 needs a City Councillor with the relevant skills and expertises to address the priorities and concerns of today’s realities. As an urban designer and design professional, I want people to recognize that Guelph is a thriving city with untapped potential and we need creative collaboration and strong consensus leadership to unite our communities.”

Why are you running for city council?

First and foremost, it is a great privilege and honour to be running to represent Ward 6 in the next Term of Council.

I am running because Guelph’s growing Ward 6 needs a City Councillor with the relevant skills and expertises to address the priorities and concerns of today’s realities. As an urban designer and design professional, I want people to recognize that Guelph is a thriving city with untapped potential and we need creative collaboration and strong consensus leadership to unite our communities.

In recent years, fewer people are identifying with the politicians and institutions that represent them. Just refer to the record-low voter turnout in the last Provincial Election. Municipal elections are not much better. In the last 2018 election, the turnout was at a meager 35.8%.

This election cycle presents us with an opportunity to fight voter apathy and draw in new voters that do not identify with the current political climate. With your support, we will redefine how we move forward on the issues and present Ward 6 with a strong choice at the ballot box this October 24th.

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

I am a municipal Urban Designer and a proud alumni of the University of Guelph. I graduated with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and a Certificate in Public Policy and Administration. I am also an Associate Member of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects and a Pre-Candidate Member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. My professional training and years of experience in both the public and private sector will be instrumental in providing the next Council with a practical vision and perspective on the issues, especially when it comes to policy planning decisions.

As a design professional, I have worked on many different development applications from site plan approval, to lot severance submissions, and I have demonstrated how to coordinate effectively with different disciplines.

In the public sector, I work in the urban design section of the planning department at the City of Brampton. During my time in Brampton, I have had the privilege of playing a key role in brokering cooperation amongst City Staff and internal departments. With tact and diplomacy, I have been able to forge strong working relationships and achieve great results. As a team, we have advanced placemaking initiatives to help guide local decision-making and together we have been able to secure wins, most notably an agreement for a joint school and community hub for the public as a direct beneficiary from development.

Abroad, my volunteer experiences consist of teaching English in the mountainous countryside of Guangxi, China and building a classroom for a primary school in Sirkiar, Kenya. These experiences have helped broaden my perspectives and allowed me to witness firsthand how socioeconomic and geopolitical factors can vastly shape people, culture, and society. As a City Councillor, I will bring not only my experiences and perspectives, but most importantly my collaborative spirit and commitment to building quality relationships with City Council and municipal staff.

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

In my humble opinion, there are three consequential decisions with direct implications on affordability and capital project prioritization for Ward 6 residents and the greater Guelph community:

1. Approving the new $67 million dollar library for the Baker District Redevelopment
2. Delaying the South End Community Recreation Centre
3. Approving the Clair Maltby Secondary Plan.

Approving the new $67 million dollar library for the Baker District Redevelopment

The council approved library was a monumental decision that was made after years of lobbying and debate. Make no mistake, Baker Street is in desperate need of a retrofit to help revitalize the businesses and community in the downtown core, but the cumulative effects of this dragged out decision is a lesson to be learned for how we can better scope out capital projects as a City moving forward.

This was a chicken or egg situation. Whether Council approved the project or not, we would have lost out on time and monies due to years of delay and bottleneck discussions. Personally, I am disappointed that the City was not able to secure funding from the federal government through the Canada Infrastructure Program, which would have seen the cost for the library cut in half.

I am also not happy with the 20+ year tax levy that will be incurred with this project. This is going to have a direct impact on residents. While I understand the needs of having a central library (to help modernize our distribution of literature to the satellite branches), we need to be more creative with finding alternative funding mechanisms and be more prudent with our spending.

Approval of the Clair Maltby Secondary Plan

The Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan, which received Council approval in May, will be the framework for what can be built and developed from Clair to Maltby Rd in the years to come. This is the last major greenfield area in Guelph to be developed and it will be important that we ensure that the proper infrastructure in this area is built properly, concurrent to new development. We also need to make sure that major stakeholders are accountable for protecting natural heritage features like the Paris-Galt Moraine and ensure that proper affordable housing units are provided with private development.

Delaying the South End Community Recreation Centre

As a Ward 6 resident, it is frustrating to see the South End Community Centre being perpetually delayed and pushed back. I understand that with the COVID-19 pandemic, costs of materials and construction have exceeded the initial cost estimate; however, it has been a long overdue promise by the Council to secure the recreation centre for 2022. Ward 6 needs a champion that will advocate for the needs of the South End and I will make sure that the rec centre project stays on track, to save the public time and money.

Results and experience also matter. During my time working in design firms, I have witnessed schools, commercial centres and community facilities break ground. I have done cost estimates for capital projects and I know what it takes to get a project off the ground.

With my experience, I am committed to working closely with staff and council colleagues to get this project off the ground by seeking additional revenue streams, in addition to the development charges, to help fund this project.

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?

As a City, we are mandated by the province to accommodate for growth. Guelph’s population is growing significantly faster than other Ontario municipalities and half of our City’s growth is taking place in Ward 6.

It will be very important, that as a City, we respond proactively to the Provincial Bill 109 and ensure that housing supply is affordable and adjusted to inflation. There is an influx of development activity taking place and people have rightful concerns regarding the quality of what is being built, as a result of the expedited approval timelines.

Growth is also not necessarily a bad problem to have. It just shows how desirable our city is for newcomers. In an ideal world, it would be great if our growth projections slowed down. But in the life of our city, we need to recognize the present realities and change our tune, in order to find creative ways to balance our current needs with external pressures from the Province.

I want to assure Ward 6 residents that with the right feedback being articulated to stakeholders, we can help facilitate more proactive and thought-provoking community engagement.

As a Councillor with a design background, engagement and consultation will be extremely valuable to me. I will engage with residents first and distill discussions and staff reports that are brought before council in an easier and digestible format. I will also make an effort to personally create a streamlined process for regular town halls and engagement sessions, in which constituents can communicate feedback to me directly in-person.

As development is taking place rapidly, like along the Gordon Street Corridor, I will also work with developers and planning staff to help expedite the consultation process, by communicating community concerns at the outset before any major design decisions are made. Find more on this on my website at https://chewforguelph.ca/the-platform/#public

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?

Recently I met up with Donny Hay, a long time mental health activist in Guelph, and we walked around downtown and discussed with individuals on the streets the real struggles of addictions on mental health and wellness.

Donny has a remarkable story and incredible lived-experiences. I would encourage everyone to search his story. It is always so heartbreaking to see so much talent and potential be put on the sidelines because those, especially youth, are not able to get the support they need. This may sound cliche but I believe our public representatives first need to demonstrate a heart of compassion and empathy for those that are in need. Mental health and addiction cannot be solved solely through a clinical or institutional lens.
Most people struggling with mental health also just want to be heard. As an elected official, it will be incredibly important for me to listen to first-hand stories, like the one of Donny’s, to ensure that those we serve get the help that they need.

In the next Term of Council, it will be very important that we collectively unite as a council and take concrete steps to fight the ongoing battle against homelessness. As a City Councillor, I will work to direct those in need to non-profit community groups, like Hope House and Royal City Mission– groups with the resources designed to help those in need. More on this can be found on my website for building partnerships with co-ops and non profit organizations: https://chewforguelph.ca/the-platform/#economic

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

Absolutely. As an extension to the last question, we need to take proactive steps to address mental health and addiction. I strongly believe in the power of creative intergovernmental partnerships and I want our City and elected officials to be more involved with the County of Wellington.

The County is also Guelph’s primary social services provider, as mandated by the Province, and currently only the Mayor sits at the table on the Social Services Committee. In the next Term of Council, I want to lobby for a seat at the table, improve collaboration with our upper tier government and find efficiencies for better service delivery, as per the City’s social services agreement with 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?

Strong verbal, written and graphic communication is very important to me. Visit my website and take a look for yourself: https://chewforguelph.ca/media-kit/

As a designer, I understand that strong communication is integral to building clear consensus and I will ensure that my constituents get the most high quality information at the outset. We now live in a fast-paced world where information needs to be clear and concise. Unless you are a City Councillor, community activist, or member of staff, the vast majority of working people simply do not have the time to read council and staff reports. Visit my website to learn more about the practical ways in which I will keep constituents well informed: https://chewforguelph.ca/the-platform/

Relatability, accessibility and humility are also intrinsic character traits of an effective Councillor that make constituents feel more represented at City Hall. As a Councillor and neighbour, I am committed to being responsive and approachable to everyone. Just give me a call or send me a text at 519-831-1514! 🙂

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 strongly believe it is important for the public to understand the heart and intentions of our elected officials. On my website, I have made it an effort to share with the community my values and guiding principles for approaching the position of Ward 6 City Councillor. It is through mutual trust and understanding, we are able to foster true equity and inclusion. I encourage you to read through my values and guiding principles on the front page of my website: https://chewforguelph.ca

To shed light on representation from another perspective, I am a young Chinese Canadian, born and raised in Canada. My overseas and cultural experiences have allowed me to connect and reach out to different people. Throughout the course of my campaign, my team is continuing to draw in new voters and raising awareness for initiatives the City is promoting, like the Guelph Community Plan.

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?

Since we are in the business of planning and design at the City, I believe that promoting design excellence will directly help our City reach net zero in the coming years to come. As a Councillor, I will encourage LEED building initiatives and work with staff to integrate green standards in our existing design guidelines. In addition, I fully support Council and staff efforts on the Community Energy Initiatives, Net Zero initiatives and our 100% Renewable corporate energy goals.

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

First I just want to say that I used to take the Go-Train from Guelph Central Station to Union Station and Brampton Go everyday. Like many residents in Guelph and Ward 6, this vital connection has allowed me to live in Guelph without having to rely on my car (and it was fantastic!) We should really focus our efforts on strengthening this vital connection, by increasing the frequency of the train services and working with Metrolinx, to find ways to mitigate cancellations and disruptions.

I would also like to strengthen our connections to Elora, Fergus, Rockwood, Aberfoyle, Hamilton, Cambridge and K-W, by linking regional transit with existing local transit routes. Guelph is a strategic anchor for our neighbouring cities and towns within the County of Wellington and I will make regional transit a priority topic when meeting with any of our regional and municipal counterparts.

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?

While there is no single issue I would be solely focused on, my greatest priority and strength would be to provide our city with a new perspective on planning and development.

Part of why I decided to run for Council in this election is because I strongly believe that Ward 6 could benefit from a City Councillor with a planning and design background. Right now, we need a champion at City Hall to address the influx of growth and development that is pressuring our communities and existing social fabric.

We also need to find a way to respond as a City to the Province’s Bill 109. The way we move forward on planning and development will have a direct impact on the state of affordability, environmental protection, transit and quality of life.

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?

While this is purely a hypothetical question with no external factors to consider, I will take this opportunity to stress the importance of improving the City’s Asset Management Program. This relatively new program is a key service that is integral for ensuring critical infrastructure is being maintained. As Guelph continues to grow, it is important that we evolve our strategic planning methods. The City must invest time into this program to ensure that costs towards the City’s physical and digital infrastructure are organized and allocated wisely. You can visit my website to learn more: https://chewforguelph.ca/the-platform/#public

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

Intergovernmental partnerships. Another reason why I decided to run for City Councillor was because I believe we can foster stronger cooperation with our higher levels of government. While the City is “a creature of the Province” with set responsibilities, it is still up to us as local elected officials to proactively advocate for better outcomes at the decision making table. The way we exercise our influence has a greater impact on the quality of life for our children and residents across the city than any other level of government.

In the next Term of Council, we must be bold, creative and ingenious when tackling key issues. We must stand up for Guelph and foster a united council free from internal divisions and partisan rhetoric. With a strong mandate from you at the ballot box, I am committed to doing just that.

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

Facebook: Campaign and Ken Yee Chew
Instagram: @chewforguelph / @kenyeechew
Twitter: @chewforguelph / @kenyeechew
LinkedIn
Website: chewforguelph.ca

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