CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Sam Elmslie, Ward 3 Councillor

I chose Guelph because it was the best of all the places I had been. I’ve made my most consequential relationships here, settled here, and can’t say enough about what the city has done for me personally. In return, I want to do my part to improve the lives of the people who live here. It’s already great. I just want to be part of the process of making it better.

 Why are you running for city council?

I want to improve Guelph. Guelph is great, and it can always be made better. I was born in Montreal, raised mostly around Toronto, eastern Ontario, and New Brunswick. I chose Guelph because it was the best of all the places I had been. I’ve made my most consequential relationships here, settled here, and can’t say enough about what the city has done for me personally. In return, I want to do my part to improve the lives of the people who live here. It’s already great. I just want to be part of the process of making it better. I will listen, and learn, and work to make this city for everyone else, what it has been for me.

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

I came to Guelph in my twenties to go to school, and ended up here for good. I have worked in hospitality, bar tending and serving. I owned a small business prior to COVID, so I understand the ups and downs of that world. I work in a career that requires relationship building, stress and teamwork and I live in a community where I feel both recognised and valued. My father is a four-time city councillor and mayoral candidate in his town, so municipal politics is general dinner time conversation and made me realise that I have both the drive and temperament to excel in this role. My work as a councillor will be informed by the fact that each person that speaks to me is an individual that I’m glad to see, hope to help, and hope to see again. I want to improve Guelph through kindness, listening and action.

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

I think the library decision is the one that I hear most from my door to door interactions, with varying responses. I like a good library and if properly executed it could be the community hub that is needed. To be honest, I’m always interested in previous decisions, but I will optimistically carry forward previous decisions, while attempting to forge new paths. Let’s do some cool new things, and work with the assets we have to improve wherever we 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?

Guelph is managing its growth pretty well. We have to build in a way that sees more density, but we can do that while retaining character. We can maintain our green spaces, and trails, and augment our bike lanes. More people also means more revenue, and if we can be thoughtful, patient, and methodical, we can do it in such a way, that works for all of Guelph. I want to collaborate with anyone who has a positive solution, and look to other communities who are able to negotiate growth in a successful, sustainable way. We need to make sure we can live comfortably in our city, and also make our way around it with relative ease.

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?

This is the issue that I feel funds need to be directed to the most. I also believe that we need to lobby the higher levels of government to provide more funding for this issue. If only based on my emails, Guelph is in a mental health crisis, and there is widespread addiction. Leaving people behind is not something I’m interested in, in any way. People need housing, food, and help. We’re one of the best cities in the world to live in, but only if we are that for everyone. I’d like to work with community groups, and individuals affected by homelessness to try and help however we can, including working with the subject of the following question in a more meaningful way.

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

I always support a more collaborative relationship, no matter what the scenario is. I don’t pretend to be an expert on any subject. I want to always be speaking to people who know more than me, and then make an informed decision on the issue. As to what it looks like, I’m not sure, but I would definitely like to work with people from the county, and it’s a mistake not to.

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

That’s an interesting question. Of course city hall has to adhere to the accessibility standards set by the provincial government, and I think that we should make sure that every effort is made to exceed those standards so everyone is included. The job of making the constituents feel well-informed and represented is completely mine. I think it’s my job to get the people of ward 3 excited to have my representation, and then further, my job to impart to them the decisions being made. People are busy. I may actually have to join Tiktok like a constituent suggested.

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?

Equity and inclusion should always be a priority. The only people who don’t support equity and inclusion are those who benefit from a lack of those things. I’m not one of those people. I think that the City of Guelph should place a strong emphasis on inclusion and equity. I don’t know how to perfect this, unfortunately, but I would definitely be willing to learn. There are many people who deserve more of a voice than I currently have. I would work very hard to amplify others who should be amplified.

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?

We can always improve. The city employees undoubtedly have solutions to problems and inefficiencies which will help. Transitioning city buildings to more energy efficient systems will aid renewable goals. I received a great survey discussing pollinators, which discussed the use of turf grass around businesses. I think if the city could pivot from some landscaping projects to more planting of pollinator-friendly plants, that would be great too. Building in a more efficient, sustainable way helps to reduce emissions also.

Personally I would support the city voting to abolish lawn signs for elections. The signs are wasteful, and really only help one person at the end of the day. I believe that if we asked the people of Guelph how the city could reach its renewable goals, that we probably could and should surpass renewable goals with their ideas alone.

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

This is largely a provincial issue but I would definitely support ideas to move people more quickly and efficiently from Guelph to K/W, Cambridge, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Georgetown, and Owen Sound. It’s possible businesses would be interested in helping to shuttle people to various cities depending on events etc. I would very much like to find out what the demand or interest in these services would be, and would also like to learn more about the willingness of businesses and organizations to fund transport that might increase their revenues.

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?

Service and responsiveness to the community. If the people of the city can see us working, answering them, and having the agility to change course to suit the needs of the city and constituents in a positive way, that affords the credibility to tackle all the other issues and obstacles. Earning the benefit of the doubt to solve problems in an efficient and common-sense manner. Acknowledging mistakes or missteps is also huge in establishing credibility, and I believe that should be the rule as well.

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?

My motion would be to modernise the key city service. Once that has been accomplished, we can propose the heritage building as a three year plan. The first year being nothing, The second year, we can fund half the redevelopment, and reduce the proposed budget by half a percentage point, and the third year, fund the other half of the redevelopment. That way the key service has been modernised, and over the next two years, the heritage building is redeveloped, and the proposed budget was still reduced by a full point over the three year period.

Being honest, due to inflation, or circumstance, that reduced budget point probably won’t exist, but it’s nice to have in there. Also, if for any reason the key city service were to fall under budget, the surplus could be used to further fund the redevelopment of the heritage building.

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

I think that most of the candidates are on the same page on most of the issues. So far in this survey I haven’t brought up responsible use and conservation of water based on estimated population growth, so I think that’s a good issue to make a priority. What a great election year when you can have eight people running for two positions, and there are so many fantastic people to choose from.

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

Thanks for this. My phone is (519) 731-2608.
Instagram: samelmslieward3
Twitter: sameward3 (I’ll tweet when I get elected)
Facebook: Sam Elmslie for ward 3

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