“Guelph is an excellent city and I am very proud to call it my home. I wish to see our community benefit even more from the opportunities before us, and that is a significant driver to why I have put my name forward for city councillor of Ward 4. […] I’m running for council, because our city must leverage these opportunities to Move Guelph Forward for the benefit of the whole community.”
Why are you running for city council?
I’m running for council because I see that our city has a great deal of opportunity. Opportunity to make Guelph a more affordable, inclusive, and prosperous city. Guelph is an excellent city and I am very proud to call it my home. I wish to see our community benefit even more from the opportunities before us, and that is a significant driver to why I have put my name forward for city councillor of Ward 4.
Another reason I am running for Council is to address the challenges currently affecting our city. Substance abuse is on the rise, and we need to focus on addressing addiction, providing mental health supports, and focusing on creating pathways out of homelessness.
We also have gains to make in our transit system, which doesn’t meet the needs of many of our residents. Our transit must provide a dependable and accessible means for getting around our city. Our city services must also be modernised, and our services streamlined to make it as easy as possible for residents to find the information, or request the service they need.
I’m running for council, because our city must leverage these opportunities to Move Guelph Forward for the benefit of the whole community.
Tell us a bit about your background and experience, and how that will inform the way you work as a city councillor?
Originally, I came here to study at the University of Guelph to earn my Bachelor of Computing and a Certificate of Business, I decided to make Guelph my permanent home after being warmly welcomed into the community. My knowledge of economics and finance would benefit me as a councillor in reading and understanding budgets and financial reports. Additionally, my background in Computer Science is somewhat unique, and would do a great deal in supporting the city in modernising and making our services more efficient.
For many years, I’ve followed local politics closely here in Guelph. I’ve delegated on the ward boundary review, and other important issues that impact the community. I believe that it’s very important to focus on engagement with the community, and consensus building. Ensuring that all our stakeholders are considered.
In my professional life, I work as an IT Manager in the manufacturing sector, and I own a small business providing contract IT services. I’m a very achievement oriented person, and I have plenty of experience dealing with tough situations, especially around changing management.
What do you think was the most consequential decision made by city council during the 2018-2022 term?
The most consequential decision made by the council was the de-prioritization of affordability. There have been many opportunities for the current council to prioritize making our community more affordable and livable, and the new main library branch is one such example. The levy associated with the project has resulted in large property tax increases that are expected to continue for a couple decades.
However, this should not detract from the fact that the library program in Guelph provides an excellent service. Libraries promote social mobility and provide plenty of external benefits, and a Baker street revitalization is much needed. Notwithstanding, higher consideration should have been placed on the impacts and burdens that a project like this has on our residents. I’m committed to moving forward to get the most value for residents’ tax dollars from this project, focusing on reducing delays and keeping the budget in line.
Another example of council not prioritizing affordability is the heritage designation for parts of a building in an affordable housing complex at 50-60 Fife road. The not-for-profit that owns the property intends to redevelop, making four affordable housing units into eighteen, with the ground floor units being accessible. Residents living there have told me that they are supportive of this project, and the new development will offer units with improved accessibility and standards. The most important consideration with this property is the context. Particularly, the building is located within an affordable housing complex. The not-for-profit owner is currently appealing the designation as it adds significant cost, or may entirely halt the project.
Our next council must prioritize affordability for our residents, considering what costs are reasonable for our community and working with community organizations to create more affordable housing.
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?
For the City of Guelph to meet our growth mandate in a way that is sustainable, economical, and enjoyable for residents both new and old, we need to shift our development paradigm. Our attention should be focused on smart development, mixed-use developments, and promoting density where it makes sense to do so.
It’s clear that we can not build sustainably by sprawling out into farmland and valuable greenspace. Developments that use land more efficiently are necessary, and they are an important part of what our growth strategy must entail.
Our attention must be on the quality of our new developments, with considerations on how well they are supported by infrastructure. In the case of denser developments, we need to ensure that there are sufficient active transportation and public transit connections, and this will allow residents the access to alternative transportation options. Placing for new developments close to amenities and services is also key.
Consultation with all stakeholders is an essential part of the planning process, especially when working with a shift in the development paradigm. We need to ensure that valid concerns from residents are clearly heard and understood by developers when development applications are being consulted on.
I will focus on understanding the needs of all residents as we grow, so that we as a city focus on addressing those needs. While, also ensuring our growth strategy holds neighbourhood context, and development quality as important aspects.
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?
Homelessness, mental health, and addiction are all complicated multi-dimensional issues and also may be interrelated. We need to focus on addressing root causes of issues rather than attempting to apply band-aid solutions.
For homelessness, an abundance of recent research demonstrates that one of the largest predictors of homelessness in a city is housing market conditions. It’s been shown that once median rental costs exceed 30% of median income, homelessness rises sharply. In Guelph, we are precariously close – or perhaps already past – that point. There is no doubt that the city must focus on increasing both the availability and relative affordability of housing as part of any competent homelessness strategy.
For working to address addiction, and from speaking to many residents, I believe that there is a need for more public drug treatment options. When a drug user makes the decision to seek treatment, significant wait times for programs provide a long window in which relapse is unfortunately likely to occur. I am committed to collaborating with our partners at the County, Provincial, and Federal levels to provide more of these treatment services in Guelph.
Another area deserving focus is the stigma faced by drug users, the homeless, and other disenfranchised groups that negatively impacts their mental health. We as a community must work to advocate for de-stigmatizing addiction and mental health issues, and we must lift up members of the community and give them a hand up.
Would you support a more collaborative relationship between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington? What would that look like?
I absolutely support a good collaborative relationship between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington. Given that the County of Wellington is the Consolidated Municipal Services Manager for Guelph, it’s paramount that we build and maintain an excellent working relationship. Without a close partnership, delivering effective and efficient services would be a significant challenge. The 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan led by the County is one such collaboration that’s benefited our community, and I’d like to explore other areas where we may work with the County for the well-being of our community.
How would you increase accessibility at city hall? How will you make sure that your constituents feel well-informed and well-represented in council?
Accessibility to local governance is extremely important. I’m committed to ensuring that city hall is accessible to all residents. Supporting different methods to access services, information, and to engage with debate are all vital for ensuring we have a healthy democracy. For accessibility regarding city services, council, and governance material, I’ll promote dialogue with the Accessibility Advisory Committee on how we can improve.
To ensure my constituents feel well represented, I will continue to focus on the direct community outreach that’s been an essential part of my campaign. I’ve emphasized making myself accessible to all residents of Ward 4, in the ways that work best for them. My campaign has produced materials in large fonts and with high contrast, ensured that our website works with accessibility software, and focused on producing material in other languages. For any resident of Guelph, I’m also just a phone call away at 226-770-3880.
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?
Good representation is underpinned by communication and engagement. Our leadership must focus on creating a productive dialogue with community groups to understand and champion their needs. I will ensure that this dialogue occurs between the city and marginalized groups, and that they are included in vital conversations.
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 am supportive of our net zero and corporate emissions targets, and I believe that we must take a holistic approach to reducing emissions in our community. The City of Guelph should be a leader in promoting sustainable building practices, leveraging renewables in our buildings, and supporting new efficiency technologies.
It is important to make considerations for the city’s effect on the emissions of our whole community too. Conceivably, actions like increasing transit frequency might increase the corporate emissions of the city, whilst reducing overall emissions in Guelph if residents are opting for transit over driving. We must account for these accompanying factors when considering our city’s emission targets, so we can do the most to help the environment.
Excluding 2-way/all-day GO Train service, how would you work to expand regional transit options to and from Guelph?
Working to improve our integration with our regional transit provider would be the first step. I would like to explore the feasibility of integrating our payment solutions as other municipalities have done. Though we currently offer transfers between GO Trains or Buses, many residents have informed me that they were not aware of this. A single payment solution would make transferring to and from our regional transit system more convenient.
Given that our geography has our built up areas far away from that of our neighbouring cities, transferring between their transit and ours is likely not practicable. However, I would encourage this conversation if a route or area of demand were identified.
Ultimately, I will work with our partners at the provincial government to expand and better connect our regional transit with our neighbouring cities, and Ontario more broadly.
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 devote my time to housing attainability and affordability. These issues affect many of our residents, and this is an area where the municipality’s policy can have a significant impact. Lack of housing supply has been identified as a major contributor to homelessness, so ensuring that steps are being taken to make Guelph more affordable is the way that I see the most positive change occurring in order to improve the lives of our residents.
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?
Context is key, without looking at the ROI of the modernization project, without engaging with the community on the heritage project, and without considering the broader implications of the budget increase, it is not possible to make an informed decision.
As this is budget time, these issues would have been presented prior. I would engage with my constituents and weigh the options, basing my vote on what’s most important to the members of our community.
Finish this sentence: I would be very disappointed if we got the end of this election without debating…?
I would be very disappointed if we got to the end of this election without debating: addiction and mental health support.
Support for addictions and mental health are very complex issues in our community. Issues that require cooperation with both our County and Provincial partners. I’m glad to see that recently there has been more attention directed towards these topics, however, there is more work to be done.
We must keep up the dialogue on these important issues, and I will continue to champion this conversation.
Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?