“I am running for head of council so that I can help get us on a better path as a society: Where we all share the whole economic pie instead of giving most of it to a few corporations, leaving crumbs for the rest of us. One that leads to real environmental sustainability. To long overdue justice for indigenous peoples, as well as other people of colour.”
Why are you running for mayor?
I am running for head of council so that I can help get us on a better path as a society: Where we all share the whole economic pie instead of giving most of it to a few corporations, leaving crumbs for the rest of us. One that leads to real environmental sustainability. To long overdue justice for indigenous peoples, as well as other people of colour.
Efficiency is often used in a euphemistic way to imply cuts to social spending, but real efficiency is found in communities working together to meet their needs democratically and accountably. Growth is currently seen as a necessity that must be achieved at all costs -and despite appearances it has been made to cost us here in Guelph- but when it’s done smartly, growth can pay for growth.
From your understanding about the role of mayor in the City of Guelph, please write a brief job description.
To the council: Cat herder.
To the Municipality: Manager.
To other cities, regions, and levels of government: Ambassador.
To the people of Guelph: To make the city as good a place to live as possible for as many as possible.
Tell us a bit about your background and experience, and how that will inform the way you work as the mayor?
My education at the University of Guelph in mechanical engineering made me, more than anything else, an expert at learning. I’ve even done a bit of engineering work here and there for my trouble. Some of this work was at the Guelph Wastewater Treatment Facility as part of a pilot project for a new method of filtration. However, my work background is very broad, and having experience in so many different types of work -from farming, to road service tech, to kitchen work, to construction, I could go on- has given me a ton of perspectives and knowledge on how our society works at a material and human level. Put differently: How we’re connected and how things could work better.
I’ve also done a fair amount of political work over the years, though not as a ‘politician’ as people understand that commonly. I know well how to build organizations and operate in institutions among people one may or may not agree with or even like. To achieve collective goals and reach consensus through discussion and argument.
4) What do you think was the most consequential decision made by city council during the 2018-2022 term?
The decision not to buy the Turfgrass Institute land and Reformatory District land. It was incredibly foolish given that – at the risk of oversimplifying – the real estate market in Canada is Federally guaranteed. A state that has currency sovereignty, such as Canada, cannot run out of money. “Printing” money under these conditions doesn’t lead to significant inflation, and so the real estate market can only go up in value barring a catastrophic change in geopolitical conditions. The City of Guelph would’ve yielded a massive return on investment had council approved the decision to purchase these lands in 2019 as they had the opportunity and plan to, or had a large amount of land to work with for our own purposes, rather than for the benefit of developers at our expense.
Guelph has to make room for thousands of new people over the next three decades, but there’s some concern about whether that’s possible. How do you help Guelph achieve growth targets while assuring residents that we can grow responsibly?
Before I address the question as posed, I’d like to point out that it’s premised on exactly nothing changing about how our society is structured and how we relate to one another, the means of production, and the global ecology we’re a part of. Pardon the dramatic phrasing, but this is omnicidal. The focus on cancerous growth for profit’s sake can’t continue in the way it has since the development of capitalism.
That said, municipal governments in Ontario have very little power to change things, and so I would of course have to make compromises with developers on some matters. However, I would not once vote to allow another suburb to be developed in Guelph. They’re incredible wastes of money that in almost all cases yield a net revenue drain on infrastructure installation and maintenance. Beyond being a financial mistake, they create conditions that further alienate us from one another, and worsen any city’s environmental impact. Our focus for growing our housing supply should be building medium and high-density mixed use walk-able neighbourhoods incorporating modern green technology, which will make much more effective use of space, resources, and money thus facilitating accommodation for the population we expect in 2051, especially with regards to permitting the effective transit systems that are fundamental to an environmentally responsible city.
This and similar housing strategies will also make it easier for people to grow strong, close-knit communities, or strengthen those that already exist. On a final note, we have to stop hiding behind the phrase “affordable” housing. The way affordable is defined in this specific regard in Ontario makes it so “affordable” housing isn’t actually affordable for far too many people. In lieu of a vastly expanded, truly affordable housing development, rent-geared-to-income and other socialized housing programs can be expanded much more quickly as a first-aid measure.
Issues concerning metal health, addictions and homelessness are apparent in Guelph, especially in our downtown core, and we seem to have reached the limit of traditional sources of assistance. What are your ideas to help combat this growing crisis and how will you work to enact them?
Council is as usual a bit limited in what they can do. As an example: If we municipally fund certain forms of direct poverty relief too much, we lose more provincial funding than we could possibly redirect from other programs. If we were permitted to tax wealth, profit, or religious institutions, we’d be fine, but council can only levy property taxes.
Nonetheless, while I don’t have a staff of assistants to tell me what the actual limits on this are, I’m sure we aren’t maxed out given what other very similar municipalities in the region are able to do. Funding can be increased to existing institutions such as the CHC to alleviate the poverty and desperation produced as by-products of our society while we restructure it.
Indirectly managing the primary causes of most mental health and addiction issues – namely poverty and alienation – isn’t subject to the same financial limits and will, over time, reduce the amount of funding programs need by shutting the suffering valve a little bit. This isn’t an instant solution, but no lasting one will be. Expanding and improving transit while removing fares will go a long way in helping people, as will hampering developers in their push for ever more suburbs
Ensuring that the new central library location is finally built will not only provide a venue for the low-level passive relief of poverty and alienation in our community, but will quickly pay itself back and become a net positive on our bottom line.
I don’t expect most of council to permit the direct expropriation of hoarded, vacant housing, but in lieu of this I intend to push for a massive vacancy tax – as high as possible, no lower than 30%. This will either provide the city a huge revenue source to fund poverty relief and mental health programming, or suddenly increase the supply of housing. On the latter: A sudden increase in supply will reduce the price of housing locally, and the large size of the tax will incentivize lowering the price even further so that the hoarding parties can offload property that has suddenly switched from asset to liability.
There’s been discussion about a budget crunch coming, and if taxes are going up higher than what can be affordable for rate-payers. Will you be proposing cuts to the budget, and if so, what do you cut and why?
I will not be proposing cuts to the budget, nor will I be increasing taxes beyond inflation on owners of individual dwellings. I intend to use targeted taxation and to increase revenue from the people and corporations that can afford to pay. I also intend to stop using money so foolishly – to use it intelligently, even – such that our money goes further.
Unlike a library, a fancy new police headquarters provides no value, yet cost us millions in overspending and lawsuits on top of its 34 million dollar price tag. You don’t see budget-hawks complaining about that, or about the fact that we spend nearly 20% of our yearly budget on police services.
Guelph keeps approving suburb-style housing developments, and while I could again harp on about environmental and societal ills that this causes I’ll just reiterate that low density housing costs the tax-payers directly. $10000 for every single detached home that’s put up. I will not stand for this, as mayor. Nor will I make life harder for the ordinary person.
The Government of Ontario has proposed so-called “Strong Mayor” powers as a way to accelerate housing development. From your understanding, is this a promising strategy, and would you take advantage of such powers if extended to Guelph?
Bill 3 is a promising strategy for accelerating housing development, to be sure, but not in a good way. It will allow developers to make an absolute killing at the cost of all the citizens in Guelph if it’s either enacted here or forced on us, giving them free rein to infect every open space in Guelph with a sprawl of cheap-to-build, profitable-to-them, suburbs. I asked Cam Guthrie as part of a council delegation to promise then and there not to use these powers if he was endowed with them. He did not respond.
I can say clearly and without hedging that I will not use the undemocratic veto powers over council that this Bill would give mayors. Some of the changes, as I understand them, are not as distinctly powers as they are structural alterations that we would have to navigate around. For example: Would it be legal under provincial law to proceed with the current way the budget is determined by council and staff when the Bill overtly makes this a direct mayoral responsibility? To be seen, but I’d prefer to maintain or expand democratic input on such a process, rather than have it focused into me or any mayor.
The mayor is sometimes called upon to represent Guelph at the table with upper levels of government and other groups, how is Guelph a leader among cities in Canada, and what kind of assistance do we need from upper levels of government?
Guelph is no longer a leader among cities in Canada, but it could be again. A long time ago, we had claims to fame such as pioneering green waste programs or expanded recycling programs, and it was once a cultural nexus through which people from all over the country and world flowed. Now we’re known for doing next to nothing to seriously address homelessness. For a dead downtown upon which cannabis stores pop up like mushrooms on a rotting log. For some of the highest rent in the country. It’s been permitted to be drained of life and self-respect, siphoned off by capital for the benefit of a few.
With a progressive council make-up alone, we could start or advance programs such as inter-regional transit or “district energy” to catch up with other municipalities that have far outstripped us, and with the help of higher levels of government helping us fund various green-city and green-energy programs we could even become a leader once again. I imagine us taking our heavily polluted Eramosa and Speed rivers and showing the world that they can be made clean and life-giving again, helping advance, say, microplastic or “forever chemical” removal.
I imagine us not shutting down the recycling plant as is now planned, but expanding it to be able to manage every type of material that modern science and technology permit as well as taking the profit motive out of recycled material processing so we can put Ontario’s ~70% recycling bin-to-landfill conversion rate to shame.
Inflationary pressures, aging, and city growth are all putting pressure on the City’s infrastructure. How do we balance cost and need while still making sure that Guelph residents have access to great amenities?
There are a number of revenue generating options which our city currently does not have access to. In addition to lobbying the provincial and federal governments on the issue of possible revenue streams currently closed to our city, I would seek to facilitate collaboration between public and private institutions to eliminate duplicate work and wasteful officing practices. There are surprising savings to be found if we can first find the political will to engage in such a large task.
As made apparent at a council meeting last year, the community is deeply concerned about the effects of climate change. How would you advise City staff on the best ways Guelph can be a climate leader in the next four years?
With previous professional experience in environmental and municipal technologies, I could lead the way in terms of rationalizing and greening our city infrastructure and services to ensure that Guelph becomes Canada’s most energy efficient city, a global leader on municipal climate change action.
Given that the City of Guelph wants to move more people onto other modes of transportation, especially transit, should the mayor lead by example by actively using Guelph Transit whenever possible?
Yes. If it’s not meeting the needs of the mayor, how could it be needing the needs of most of the citizenry? It shouldn’t be a punishment to either need to or choose to use transit, for whatever reason. The city and its transit system are integral to one another in any place where reason rules and they should be designed around one another such that transit is the choice that makes the most sense for transport.
If a given mayor is able to do so, they should also walk or bike when possible.
13) How can the mayor promote openness and transparency at city hall, especially considering the rise in mistrust of institutions in Canada?
Do away with closed council sessions.
Beyond that, I’d like the City to publish and distribute weekly newsletter summarizing clearly and in plain language what council has done or deliberated. This would hopefully be a transitional measure to bring more people into regularly accessing the website or following official social media accounts that could disseminate information in a more environmentally friendly manner.
Whether it’s that they don’t know about it or don’t care, no-one watches the mayoral video updates or reads the mayoral blog, and while information can be found about city matters, it’s known about and accessible only to a relative handful of policy wonks. Most people are completely detached from municipal politics even though it’s where they have the most ability to influence things within this system of government, so this may help with folks’ engagement.
Increasing in one way or another the number of journalists that aren’t forced to work for NordStar Capital subsidiaries would, I think, be crucial to holding politicians accountable as well.
How can the mayor promote a diversity of thought and experiences in the council chambers outside of the make-up of the elected council?
Much of what I will do will be to actively listen to underrepresented and disenfranchised groups. Asking what people want, opening up space for them, instead of just tone deaf performance.
I believe the City should be in regular dialogue not just with organizations and institutions that represent minority groups, but with unaffiliated individuals of these groups as well. I’ll give a small example as to why this is: The mural showing a fawn alongside John Galt near City Hall on Wilson Street is interpreted by some of Guelph’s indigenous citizens to be an infantilizing depiction of their ancestors as a helpless fawn – a manifestation of the “noble savage” trope – next to the civilizing European. If any indigenous group was consulted, it wasn’t enough.
In general, reaching out and listening to minorities is something the council should do more often, more actively, and more extensively to see what they themselves want. Otherwise we’re just treating people as tokens of the idea of diversity instead of actually trying to celebrate and support diversity.
Finish this sentence: I would be very disappointed if we got the end of this election without debating…?
The role of outside capital in distorting our local real estate market, and whether local politicians should be reasonably expected to protect the interests of their local constituents against these forces, or if it is appropriate for candidates to fund their campaigns with donations from individuals with direct professional connections to the entities distorting our real estate market.
Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?
FB: Danny For Mayor 2022