CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Christine Billings, Ward 4 Councillor

“I’ve always enjoyed helping constituents with their issues and concerns. I believe that the citizens of Ward 4 would continue to benefit from having a Councillor who has the knowledge and experience to effectively represent their needs and to continue supporting fiscal responsibility.”

Why are you running for city council?

I’ve always enjoyed helping constituents with their issues and concerns. I believe that the citizens of Ward 4 would continue to benefit from having a Councillor who has the knowledge and experience to effectively represent their needs and to continue supporting fiscal responsibility.

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

I’ve been elected to Council for 5 terms and have represented and served the residents of Ward 4 for the past 8 years, raising issues, resolving constituent concerns, listening to & welcoming public input, and making fully informed decisions. I have been effective on many Boards and Committees and gained a wealth of knowledge being a member of: Public Health (Vice Chair), Guelph Police Services & Chair of Finance, Guelph General Hospital, Grand River Conservation Authority, Committee of Management for The Elliott Long Term Care and have chaired the City’s Audit Committee.

My educational background is in Business Management, Psychology and Conflict Resolution. I’m the past owner of paramedical and health food distribution companies.
I’m able to bring this broad-based experience to Council.

I also have extensive experience in finance, governance, policy, planning and jurisdictional matters. I understand how government works and prefer a collaborative approach. I consider relevant information, obtain stakeholder/constituent input and make prudent decisions for the betterment of the City.

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

The most consequential decision was to build an oversized library that will create yet another tax levy for decades. The library project including parking will cost well over 100 million dollars. This coupled with Council’s excessive spending forced an almost 10% tax increase for 2022-23 and 5-6% annual tax increases for the foreseeable future.

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 personally feel we’re growing too fast and losing some of the beautiful character of our City. However, the Province is dictating our growth.

The City’s Growth Management Strategy directs how and where we grow and included in that strategy, has always been, and will continue to include public consultation.

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?

The City continues to work with the County of Wellington which is Guelph’s Service Manager, and the Province, on this difficult and important issue. Societies are judged by how they treat their most vulnerable individuals. During this term of Council, a number of supportive housing projects have been approved and these initiatives will help our homeless population.

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

We used to have a very collaborative relationship with the County, and today we are making progress with our Mayor once again sitting on the County’s Social Services Committee, and using the County’s expertise and resources to facilitate where the City’s affordable housing funding is directed. The next term of Council should go back to having regular meetings/workshops 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?

The City has improved their customer service processes to be more responsive to the public, and we have spent considerable effort and money on surveys/polls to garner public input.

Over the last two years, we have moved to virtual meetings and virtual delegations that increases ease of participation. On top of all the phone calls and emails, we can now have more virtual townhall meetings for public input.

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?

The City has been very progressive in this regard and Council supported hiring staff to address these matters. Reports and policies coming to Council will go through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusivity. As a Councillor, I will ensure this is followed through and adhere to these principles.

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’ve supported the Net Zero, Community Energy Initiative, and our 100% renewable goals. The City’s fleet including transit is a large part of that 3% and I’ve supported the electrification that will go a long way to reduce these emissions. The Community Energy Initiative addresses how we can reduce emissions for the entire city.

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

We do need to recognize that this would be a substantial cost and should be a function of the private sector and/or Council working with the province/federal governments for funding. The Guelph-Owen Sound Transit is a great example of this.

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 be the Finance Minister. The most critical issue facing Council is to get spending under control. I would continue my efforts to spend wisely, emphasizing basic services that includes helping our homeless population, achieving value for your tax dollars and reduce the proposed massive increases.

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?

For the new term of Council, we need to reprioritize spending on the operating and capital projects, and fully assess each of the endeavours in their entirety including analysis with NPV. Only then can an answer be appropriate.

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

Affordability versus the current financial outlook at City Hall.

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


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