CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Justin Van Daele, Ward 4 Councillor

“Even during difficult financial times for most citizens, our council is out spending money like it’s never going to run out, especially if they keep taxing us as high as they are. It’s time for serious change and from what I’m hearing, Ward 4 is done being forgotten. I will make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Why are you running for city council?

I am running to enact change in the city and really represent the people of Ward 4. I love Guelph, I’ve lived here full time since 2009 and have no plans to leave! The people are great, the places are wonderful and it has everything a person could ever need. Although the time in Guelph has been great, it is getting awfully hard to live here with the rising cost of living in all aspects.

We are having serious issues managing our health system in Guelph and to top it off, with our mandate to grow it seems like every empty intersection is getting a highrise building without the proper infrastructure being added. It’s maddening. Even during difficult financial times for most citizens, our council is out spending money like it’s never going to run out, especially if they keep taxing us as high as they are.

It’s time for serious change and from what I’m hearing, Ward 4 is done being forgotten. I will make sure that doesn’t happen.

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

I grew up on a farm in the Long Point area and then was brought to Guelph later in life for University to study History, from there I attended Conestoga for Marketing, Advertising and Communications. From 2015-2020 I worked in the marketing field and learned some amazing things, but I knew it wasn’t enough. So in the hardest time of our known life, I started a successful business during the start of the pandemic and that couldn’t have been a better time to start and learn because it will never be as hard as it was then.

Starting a business during the COVID pandemic has taught me how to think fast, act faster and how to operate in difficult situations, making me have to think outside the box to be successful. These are all skills that I think will make me a great councilor.

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

One big decision by council in the last term is going to have the biggest impact on Guelph residents is the decision to approve the $70 million new library at the Baker Street location. The report came to council early that it only needed roughly $40 million to build a library that will more than suit our needs and align with our current growth, but council approved a bigger project that will have down the road have a real financial consequence for the residents. Infact, because of this choice, there will be a 20 year tax levy applied.

I am in full support of building and adding to our existing library services, but I don’t believe that council explored enough ways to build these services in a better and more cost effective way.

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?

Unfortunately municipalities don’t have much of a say around the growth mandates around how cities build and the speed of their growth. With these targets already set, it will be my responsibility as a council member to ensure we are building the right types of dwellings in the right areas and trying our best not to upset the current characteristics of existing neighborhoods the best we can. We also need to ensure that if we are building, we need to be building and planning the proper infrastructure around these structures at the same time to make sure we can handle the growth and not play the catch up game later.

We also need to be setting our sites on supporting our growing population with the pressure to have supportive health care services (especially mental health), like a bigger and better hospital, LTC homes and attracting more doctors and healthcare professionals to Guelph. One of the things I really want to pioneer in Guelph, would be to set up a Medical Professional Enticement program that will allow us to try and bring in more medical professionals to live and work in Guelph!

I also believe, Guelph will need to amend their greenspace allowances as we are only operating at the bare minimum park space. Not good. We can do better and we will.

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?

First thing council should do, is hold the province accountable to making sure that they fund more low income housing and add more money to the health services to ensure those with mental health and addiction issues can actually get the help they need, here at home.

One thing I would like to push, would be the approval of small homes and allowing them to exist possibly in areas that they wouldn’t have normally, for example, I would love to partner with different churches and community helpers in allowing small homes on their properties that would allow the city to place those in need in a safe and warm environment where they can receive help.

Another out of the box idea, would be allowing for residential tax rebates for individuals who can prove they are renting their rental properties for below market rent.

I would also like to change how we measure some of our success when it comes to helping our homeless, mentally ill and addiction residents and that would be setting up sustainable and achievable goals. Instead of just broad goals.

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

The no brainer answer is, yes. It has been getting better, but it can always be better. Guelph is smack dab in the middle of Wellington County, what we do and what they do will always effect each other. Recently they have allowed the mayor of Guelph a seat at the decision making table, but ensuring more transparency and combining certain aspect, especially the health services would allow for a more cost friendly and efficient service for everyone.

It would be a great time for the city and county to come together to help tackle the housing issues surrounding everyone.

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

I would migrate more services and communication to online. I think it would be great if we had a one stop portal that would allow residents to make payments, get information in regards to the city and even as localized as their neighborhood. Imagine one place that a resident could sign into and easily get all the information they would ever need down to their specific address. I know we a lot of this available online, but making it easier and being able to communicate with someone at city hall in a timely manner without constantly being moved to someone else.

What I would do personally is have social channels constantly updated – making an effort that residents are aware of big issues, like having information available offline available at major public spaces and finally I’d hold as regular “Talk to your Councilor” night by being physically accessible at the West End Rec center. I will not just be a name, but also a face you know.

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?

One thing I think that needs to be done in these regards and I know there are many, but one thing I would love to see is; talking with minorities and the under represented proactively instead of as a way to make amends. If we are serious about making a difference and being inclusive, then we need to it from the start and not as way to show we are sorry.

I personally will be an example of this by making sure I am always including these groups in Ward 4 in conversations and be accessible to them as much as I can!

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 will do this by supporting proposals that include the use of renewable resources in construction and regeneration of our energy platforms. I would love to see the use of more Nuclear power provincially and country wide. Imagine the world we could live in then!

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

More consistent and efficient bus routes to our surrounding areas, like KW and Cambridge, Fergus, Elora and Rockwood, preferably using electric or hybrid buses. These are not simple fixes, but this would make for a start to getting accessibility.

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 like to dedicate myself to affordable housing, working with developers and planners during every step to make sure we are doing things according to how the city and the residents need things to be done. It would also be a great way to get hands on experience dealing with some of the most difficult problems plaguing our city and province.

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?

I don’t think you can really break it down that way, if done correctly and with the correct information we could achieve all three of these goals.

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

What can we do at our level to address the health system. We are limited, but there are things that can be done at a municipal level to make things a lot better.

Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?
Facebook – Elect Justin Van Daele
Instagram – justinward4guelph

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