CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Luc Cousineau, Ward 3 Councillor

“I was born in Guelph, and after a few years away I returned 10 years ago. The city has changed a lot in that time, and so have I. Through my work at a major not-for-profit in the city, followed by my work in graduate school and as a university teacher and researcher I have discovered how absolutely essential working toward a socially just world is for everyone.”

Why are you running for city council?

I believe that Guelph deserves representation that isn’t about business or connections, but governance for people, grounded in good education and social justice. If we are serious about making responsible decisions for Guelph that listen to science, forefront social justice, and always consider our own humanity and the humanity of others, then that must be the mission of those we elect.

I want to live in a world that is as good as it can be, and for people to live as well as they can. Local government has an important role to play in making that happen, and I want to be a part of that work.

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

I was born in Guelph, and after a few years away I returned 10 years ago. The city has changed a lot in that time, and so have I. Through my work at a major not-for-profit in the city, followed by my work in graduate school and as a university teacher and researcher I have discovered how absolutely essential working toward a socially just world is for everyone.

My PhD, as well as my experience in recreation and leisure management, place me in a unique position to understand and work with municipal planning in a variety of ways from equitable parks and rec planning, to efficient and equitable transit and people moving policy, and provision of effective social services. I can understand the science that should inform our decision-making and plan to leverage that ability to build a better city.

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

‘Consequential’ is a term that is deeply relativistic and so many decisions are made and forgotten, so I will choose to talk about something left undone. The impact of not moving to acknowledge and recognize an important part of our community through the implementation of a rainbow crosswalk in the city is deeply disappointing.

Although this feels like a small or even inconsequential item, failing to act before the death of Mattea Sommerville (nor in the immediate wake of her death, or since) signals that this is not a priority for the city. It matters because visibility is an essential part of breaking down stereotype and prejudice and while the absence of crosswalks like this may say little on its own, their absence in a landscape of acknowledged need but consistent delays is troublesome.

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 role of city council is to make decisions that best reflect the needs and desires of the city and its inhabitants. If Guelph is going to grow, then it will grow, but are we making decisions that can effectively and equitably address the need to house, move, and feed people in the city? We need to continue to build on the strategy of allowing urban infill in the city, as well as middle-rise and other types of further density units in all parts of the city, not just those who have less capacity to push back against change in their spaces. People want to live here and developers want to build here, and council’s role is to ensure that development happens appropriately.

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?

Individual councillors don’t take action in the way that is presented in this question. We are part of a governing body, charged with working with and for our constituents, staff, and other representatives to take action together. Together, Guelph’s officials, staff, and inhabitants are in a position that we can make Guelph a leader in community action for the support of mental health and addiction services, but we have to choose to devote the resources to this process.

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

Collaboration is how we get things done, and so of course I support collaborative relationships between the city and the county. I would need to better review the current official and unofficial partnership and projects between the city and the county before giving a more specific answer to that question.

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 city hall does a good job of adhering to all AODA requirements for accessibility and go above the minimum requirements in many areas. I also believe that the city does a good job of making sure that information about what is happening with council and committees is available to constituents if they are interested in the information.

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?

Why did it take this long? We have known about the horrors of residential schools for quite a lot longer than the most recent, important discoveries of graves. We have also known about the marginalization of people in our city for a long time. Agitational voices for justice have always been present, and always been right, and it is about time we listened.

If the city is serious about equity and inclusion, it has to acknowledge how inequitable our representation, services, and methods of control continue to be, and how exclusionary many of our practices are, especially those involved in exerting control over others. Perhaps some time spent with social justice and social movement scholars would do council and city staff some good in understanding the nature of exclusionary practices and coercive power, like that held by councils, police, and neoliberal fiscal policies.

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?

This is actually a better question for city corporate staff than it is for councillors, but I think that councillors have a responsibility to be vetting city projects with these goals in mind, especially city construction and development projects. This needed to become a decision-making priority 15 years ago, so now we are scrambling. Realistically, these decisions are going to hurt sometimes.

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

As we’ve seen with the decisions that Metrolinx and other provincial government organizations, there is little that council can do. However, I do believe that better connections between the city and regional councils of Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Hamilton, Milton and the GTA, and our smaller neighbours to the north including Fergus, Elora, and regional councils in the area might present a way to build a more effective transit network using shared resources. A move toward a less car-centric focus in planning will be a must if any regional transit is to succeed.

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?

Helping to make the city, its representation (like council, staff, committees), and spaces more representative and socially just.

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?

Modernization of a key city service. There is real potential that, done correctly, this modernization process could pay for itself in relatively short order (depending on the service of course) and the direct benefits to the largest number of Guelphites is my goal here.

Without knowledge of the nature of the redevelopment, my inclination is to compel the developer, and therefore the entity that is expected to make money on redevelopment, to field the expenses for that project.

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

I would be very disappointed if we got to the end of this election without debating why the city has not moved to fulfill its promise of rainbow crosswalks. Seems trivial to some, but acts of recognition and representation matter, and the city dragging its heels only raises questions about the roots of those delays. Even in the face of accusations of tokenism in relation to actions like this, it sends a signal that the city values members of the community that have been historically marginalized.

Also, we spend 2.5x on police what we spend on all social services in the city. What does this say about our priorities?

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

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