CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Morgan Dandie, Ward 2 Councillor

“Since moving here, I have become involved in many aspects of the community, and now I want to be a Councillor for Ward 2 in order to provide service to the greatest number of people at the level of government closest to their day-to-day life. I believe I have the ability to to understand nuances of issues to address these seemingly different groups and collaborate to create a greater sense of community connection.”

Why are you running for city council?

I love my chosen city of Guelph! I spent five years researching which parts of the city would work best for my life and chose Ward 2 in 2014.

Since moving here, I have become involved in many aspects of the community, and now I want to be a Councillor for Ward 2 in order to provide service to the greatest number of people at the level of government closest to their day-to-day life. As a former home owner and current renter in Ward 2, I believe I have the ability to to understand nuances of issues to address these seemingly different groups and collaborate to create a greater sense of community connection.

As an older worker, currently attempting to survive on Ontario Works and a patchwork of gig jobs, I know what it is to live on a fixed income, as do many renters, especially seniors. As an individual living with multiple mental health diagnoses, I know how difficult it is to navigate the system when you are seeking supports.

My privilege has provided me the opportunity to amplify the community efforts of local 2SLGBTQ+, Indigenous and Black community members and to bring true history to the fore. The relationships built through a genuine desire to understand and help are some of the strongest friendships I have had in my life.

I believe my lived experience will allow me to be a strong voice for groups who have not always felt welcome in “The Halls of Power” as well as those traditionally heard.

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

My background and experiences are extremely varied and diverse, with each contributing to how I have grown through the decades. I have used my transferable skills across many industries and being a life long learner has enhanced my ability to understand diverse and complex issues and ideas.

Growing up, while my friends were going to their cottages and on ski trips and vacations to Florida, I was going to day camp and hanging around the neighbourhood. At age ten, I began my first business caring for those friends animals, plants and homes while they were away. By my sixth year of business, I had to hire my brothers to help on occasion because I had more clients than I could service alone.

Throughout high school, in addition to my business and babysitting, I worked in as grocery cashier, fast food and full service restaurants, high end women’s fashion, a full service car wash and various telemarketing companies. I was often working three or four part time jobs while carrying a full course load at school.

My first career, as an Administrative Professional, began after graduating from business college with honours. I have worked in management, budgeting and forecasting, procurement and project coordination, project scheduling and expediting, vendor evaluations, human resources, payroll, collections, development and training, international logistics, import/export regulations and compliance. I was also a nanny, a delivery driver and worked temporary jobs on factory production lines as well as picking up loose garbage at the landfill site.

My second career was as a Medical Office Assistant. Working in local medical clinics, I became acquainted with many of the challenges faced by the marginalized populations in Guelph. Working at a local residential addiction treatment facility, I gained further knowledge of how difficult it is, regardless of privilege, to be healthy and whole when trauma informs your existence.

My experience as an Executive Member with Guelph Greens allowed me to discover that my heart lies with municipal governance. Having the opportunity to connect and work with Protect Our Moraine Coalition, Guelph and District Labour Council, Guelph Black Heritage Society, Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, North End Harvest Market, Hope House, Royal City Mission and so many other amazing groups, put me on the path to join the Breezy Breakfast Team as a co-organizer and host. Involvement with the Breezy Breakfast community furthered my desire to serve the City of Guelph.

I look forward to using everything life has taught me, in a full time capacity as City Councillor for Ward 2.

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

The 2018 – 2022 term of Council has been a time of review and progress in the City of Guelph. The provincial changes brought in have necessitated additional work for Staff during an historical time, dealing with the necessity to mitigate the climate emergency and a global pandemic, that turned the world in a way no one living today remembers experiencing.

I see moving to a multiyear budgeting process, with a ten year forecast as an integral component, as most impactful this term of Council.

A large part of why our infrastructure is in decline is that growth does not pay for growth. The other side of this is that the property tax structure cannot make up the shortfall, especially with the suburban single family detached home as the primary taxable property. Without upper levels of government providing funding, no municipality has the ability to sustain it’s infrastructure on its property tax base alone.

By moving to multiyear budgeting, and providing a yearly review of what is planned over the next decade, I believe future Councils have been given the tool needed to work to balance future needs with current realities as best they can.

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 Community Plan provides a vision for how Guelphites foresee our growth. Following this aspirational plan is our best opportunity to meet the requirements imposed upon Guelph by the current provincial government.

My delegations to council over the past few years represent my love the City and my desire to have Guelph be a world class city. I grew up in a very high density area, and didn’t realize it because there were amenities both onsite and close by. My wish is for every child growing up in high density to not realize it because they have green space and things to do in their neighbourhood.

In order for the mandated growth targets to be achieved, mid and high density projects will be the norm moving forward. With an approximate 50/50 split between greenfield development in Dolime, Clair-Maltby and the GID, and infill through the city, including brownfield development, the form of our neighbourhoods will change by necessity.

Connecting neighbours, current and future, is the way to achieve the balance needed to grow as required. Having developers meet neighbours, in advance of an application being before Council for approval, having true dialogue, will set Guelph on a path to doing what must be done, as the province dictates, while maintaining our sense of community in our neighbourhoods.

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?

I have been volunteering at Hope House since 2016 and have seen how much more difficult it has become for individuals, and the support organizations, especially over the past couple of years. I myself have had to access food supports and am grateful I can do so when required. Spending time downtown, joining the community at Royal City Mission and having conversations with individuals who are unhoused, or precariously housed, whether or not dealing with concurrent issues of mental health or addiction, has reaffirmed to me that this community is like any other in desiring a sense of safety and belonging.

Council providing additional funds to the three supportive housing projects, Grace Gardens, the Kindle project and the transitional housing on Delhi, is a good start in helping deal with these issues at the municipal level.

One piece that needs to be addressed is a permanent detox centre. Sitting with individuals experiencing the pain of withdrawal, I know the value of having safe medically supervised detox and that it is essential to have access when a person is ready; the window is very small.

Additionally, we need at least one person on City Staff who has expertise in social housing to advise Council when further projects come up for funding.

Finally, we need to provide more connection for our Youth. The recent Youth Mental Health Forum highlighted the great work happening with The Grove and Youth Wellness Hub Ontario. We need to be involved in supporting this work as much as possible. Healthy Youth become Healthy Adults; when one feels heard and valued, one is less likely to experience being unhoused or become addicted.

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

I believe a more collaborative relationship between Guelph City Council and the Social Services Committee of Wellington County is essential for us to have a better understanding of how the money we send to the County for them to provide our residents with all social services is actually used. Talking to people living in socially assisted housing, living on OW or ODSP, I have discovered there is little or no recognition that the City of Guelph does not provide these services directly.

I am grateful that the Mayor of Guelph now holds a voting seat on the Social Services Committee. I believe there should be at least one Guelph Councillor present in Committee meetings, whether as an observer or with a second seat. Since the highest number of supportive housing units in the City are in Ward 3 (approximately 1,000) and Ward 2 (approximately 600) respectively, and I am running in Ward 2, I commit to being present at Social Services Committee meetings, at least as an observer, so I can be more connected to the providers of Social Services in our City and provide a secondary view to Council.

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

The easiest way to increase accessibility to a Councillor is for the Councillor to go where the people can easily access them.

Being a City Councillor will be my full time role and I will go beyond regular emails, newsletters, maintaining an informational Ward 2 website and holding regular town hall meetings by creating regular office hours at local businesses and organizations so people can come and talk closer to where they are. This would also provide an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the amazing places in Ward 2.

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?

Working toward decolonizing myself has been a focus over the past few years. By quietly attending functions and events held by Guelph Black Heritage Society and Indigenous gatherings at the Sacred Fire site, as well as participating in the KAIROS Blanket Experience and actions to educate others of the abuses against BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ bodies, I have been acknowledged as an Ally by some within the marginalized communities in Guelph.

As a Councillor, I would continue to to use my privilege and access to support and amplify the efforts within communities I have already established relationships, as well as developing new relationships with communities I have not yet taken the opportunity to get to know.

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?

Give people the opportunity to make better choices for the environment. Electrifying our transit system will go a long way toward achieving our Next Zero and RE100% goals by 2050. Getting transit routes to a grid-like system using a combined model where both coverage and frequency are met with 15 and 30 minute schedules will enhance the service and increase ridership. Increased transit usage reduces the number of vehicles on the road, thereby reducing traffic congestion as well.

Taking a role in the “Link the Watershed” initiative would further increase the ridership of Guelph Transit, because people could live and work anywhere in the region and get around without needing a personal vehicle, further reducing the number of cars on the road.

We need our physical infrastructure in top shape. Uneven sidewalks and rough streets, these need to be appropriately maintained and replaced to ensure their most efficient use. We need separated bike lanes and more publicly accessible EV charging stations to encourage people to shift their personal transportation patterns. Having 15 minute walkable neighbourhoods is essential, and why I chose to live where I live.

I gave up personal car ownership and joined the local car share (which just added another car to the locally available fleet) and would encourage people to explore the idea of maybe having one less car, if that fits their needs.

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

There are two things I would like to explore; joining “Link the Watershed” and adding passenger service on Guelph Junction Railway.

We have been invited to join an “Inter-municipal Transit Working Group to discuss ways to better link the watershed cities and towns with local transit” which includes Waterloo Region, Brantford and surrounding rural areas; I would like to be part of this conversation. Anyone who prefers to use transit knows how difficult that is within the region, this initiative is a project already underway, let’s be at the table.

Guelph Junction Railway is mandated to provide freight services to local businesses and is connected to the rail systems surrounding the City. Metrolinx has put forth the idea of connecting Cambridge and Guelph with their service. I would love to explore what it would take to add passenger service on Guelph Junction Railway and connect to the surrounding area. I believe we could also look at incorporating this idea in our Tourism plan, both for Guelph and the region.

While the process of investigating these two option is underway, advocating to the province to fund regional transit will be key.

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 dedicate my time to Housing; I believe in Housing First.

In my twenties, I was homeless for a few very scary months. I was fortunate that I never had to sleep rough, I always managed to find a couch to surf. The stress of not being 100% sure where you will be able to rest and be safe at night is all consuming. Knowing you and your belongings are safe, all of the time, not only when your stuff is with you, opens up the chance of being able to think again.

Implementing a vacancy tax would be my first motion as “Minister of Housing”.

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?

After following the budget approval process the last two years, I appreciate the ten year look ahead with the multiyear budget and realize I have much still to learn. Before I could imagine a motion in this scenario, I would need much more information.

My role of Project Expeditor/Coordinator with Siemens Water Technologies gave me the responsibility of ensuring the on-time and on-budget completion of every deliverable, from drawings to commission, for multi-billion dollar international industrial wastewater treatment facility projects. When the tsunami and subsequent nuclear incident occurred in Japan, I had a few vendors in Asia who were impacted by these events. Gathering all available information was essential to meeting the division targets in mitigating the expected delays through developing a recovery plan as part of an international team and was the most challenging success I have ever had.

I am confident these same skills will serve me well in crafting an appropriate motion after all available information has been considered.

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

The importance of completing the Baker District, in its entirety, as approved.

I love libraries. Each time I have moved to a new city, a top priority is getting my library card. As a child in Hamilton, going to the Terry Berry Library or visiting the Bookmobile when it came to the neighbourhood were some of my favourite things to do. Having the Burlington Central Library as my local branch as a teenager gave me a safe place to escape when things were rough. In 2001 when I moved to Milton, where there was only the Central Library and it was about the size of Bullfrog Branch: when I left in 2014, there were multiple branches and a spectacular Central Library. In December 2019, my Mom had me to her place in Calgary and the only thing I really wanted to do was go to the new Calgary Central Library; the experience was amazing.

I delegated for the Guelph Central Library after taking a tour of both public areas and staff areas and was satisfied with the outcome of the vote. For our City to provide library services to the population we are required to have, we need an adequate space to administer the growing needs of the population, which includes sufficient power to expand servers when necessary. I really don’t understand why an amazing city like Guelph has had so much contention for so many years about having an adequate library system.

I keep seeing candidates calling for a reduction to the barely adequate plan for our new Central Library and have to wonder if they have any understanding of the importance of a well functioning library system, especially for low-income residents and newcomers to the city. Well functioning library systems are an asset to any city and we deserve to have the Central Library we have approved.

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

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