“I am running for mayor of Guelph because I believe that we can do better. This city has had enough of high taxes, unaffordable living, failing infrastructure, petty theft crime, and more. I want to make sure that the city is a place where everyone feels welcome and has an opportunity to succeed. I want us to be a city where people are proud of their community and feel connected with each other.”
Why are you running for mayor?
It has been my privilege to live, study, work and volunteer within the city of Guelph, my hometown, for the last decade and a half. My involvement in the community for many years has made me aware of the needs of our citizens. As a result of my volunteer efforts and work experiences, I have gained a better understanding of how democracy works, as well as how to be accountable, transparent, and ensure everyone has a voice in the process. Observing politics, I have seen some great and some questionable decisions. Furthermore, I have seen firsthand the progress and, unfortunately, the stagnation of our city in recent years.
I am running for mayor of Guelph because I believe that we can do better. This city has had enough of high taxes, unaffordable living, failing infrastructure, petty theft crime, and more. I want to make sure that the city is a place where everyone feels welcome and has an opportunity to succeed. I want us to be a city where people are proud of their community and feel connected with each other. That starts with making sure our streets are safe, our neighbourhoods are clean and green, and our infrastructure works for everyone. We need a mayor who will work hard every day to improve the quality of life in Guelph so it’s not just about what you earn but also what you have left over at the end of the day. It’s time for a set of new ideas, it’s time for evidence-based approach, it’s time for a change!
Lastly, those who know me personally are aware that I enjoy meeting new people, participating in intellectual discussions, and making a positive impact on any situation I am involved in. My skills are naturally suited to the job description of a mayor.
From your understanding about the role of mayor in the City of Guelph, please write a brief job description.
It is my firm belief that the role of a mayor is to ensure that the voices of citizens are heard, and that city decisions are made in the best interests of its residents. A mayor is also a leader – a leader in the community, and a leader during council debates and discussions. It is imperative for a leader to be critical thinker, charismatic, and capable of uniting citizens and council members. Mayors are also direct representatives of their city to other municipalities, provinces, and even countries; therefore, their values and beliefs should reflect those of their constituents.
A mayor in Ontario is also responsible for acting as Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation (city), presiding over council meetings and providing leadership to council, and representing the municipality at official events in accordance with the Municipal Act (2001, Section 225).
Tell us a bit about your background and experience, and how that will inform the way you work as the mayor?
I’ve been lucky and some may say unlucky to experience different facets of life. Growing up, my family and I moved quite a bit, forced by war and or discrimination. I’ve seen my family lose everything, not once, but twice – and rebuild from nothing. I’ve learnt that hard work and determination translates into success.
As a result of these experiences, along with my ultimate goal to make a positive contribution to society, I worked hard, and despite all odds, I got into the University of Guelph, thereby settling in the city of Guelph nearly 15 years ago. Through my university career, I’ve successfully completed an honours bachelor’s degree in human kinetics, a master’s degree in human health and nutritional sciences, and a doctorate in human anatomy, all of which enabled me to develop tools that improved life within the university and beyond.
Over the last 15 years, I’ve experienced Guelph from various perspectives, including as a student, a professor, a citizen, a renter, a homeowner, a neighbour, and more. I’ve been heavily engaged in various activities within the City of Guelph, including numerous volunteer roles, university politics, and several contractual positions. I have a proven record of mastering new roles and excelling in new environments.
I wear many hats, and absolutely enjoy learning new skills. In addition to being a critical thinker, I am also a scientist, an academic, an entrepreneur, a pilot, and more. Over the years, I have held a variety of positions, ranging from trades to management, from teaching assistant to advisory positions.
Over the course of my career, I have learned and mastered a variety of skills and trades while working in a variety of challenging environments with individuals from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life. All of the projects I have been involved in have been successful and have exceeded expectations, all of which have been completed on time and within budget. Because of my positive, enthusiastic attitude, I have been described as a strong leader who works well with others. It is my commitment to always act in the best interests of others, and to always put them before myself.
What do you think was the most consequential decision made by city council during the 2018-2022 term?
During a time when most people are struggling to maintain food on their tables, taxpayers’ money is being wasted and taxes are being raised. Do you remember 8 years ago when we were promised that the Urbacon fiasco and the waste of nearly $7 million of your hard-earned money would never happen again? Well, here we are again, being sued for $7.1 million, this time with Jasper Construction over the delayed/overbudget police station renovation/expansion project. How did that happen when the incumbent sat on the police board and was aware of the issues taking place nearly a year before the public were notified?
This money could be spent elsewhere, like repairing are failing infrastructure (York Rd anyone? Rated one of the worst in Ontario by the CAA), library projects, green spaces, and much more!
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?
This topic is a pillar of this election. A polar argument exists on this issue – one arguing for more housing and better affordability through growth, urbanization, and densification. The other argues for green spaces, less urbanization, and reminds us that Guelph is a groundwater dependent community.
It is important to note that the water supply available to our citizens is limited, and a higher population may face a catastrophe if we suffer from a drought in the future. Furthermore, supplying all residents with a reliable water source in the future would require a multibillion dollar pipeline project that would bankrupt the tax payers.
Densification is a good idea in areas with adequate infrastructure. Granny suits, duplex, triplex, and more, should be allowed in locations that 1) have the means to accommodate water, wastewater, roads, and local transportation, and 2) in areas where the majority of the residents are ok with such densification.
In the end, I am a proponent of thinking outside the box. In this election, I have a solution that can address several topics: A personal issue that propelled me to this role was when my elderly neighbours, in their 90s, were neglected by the city they were born in and built with their bare hands. All inquiries were answered with “this is not a municipal issue”. If you follow my campaign website, you’ll find out how simply addressing this issue may resolve two others – housing affordability and preservation of green spaces.
You see, the city *CAN* pressure the provincial government and advocate for our citizens to have the province help in building high-density long-term care homes, which would free up a lot of multi-bedroom homes that are currently occupied by seniors who are eager to get out of them into a safe retirement home. Not will this free up homes in Guelph, directly contributing to more housing, affordability, and preservation of green spaces, but more importantly – seniors, like my neighbours, could be reunited with their loved one in a safe environment.
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?
Another complex issue we need to tackle is homelessness. Municipal governments play a big part in this and it’s important to use all of the tools available to us at the Mayor’s Office to make sure no one in our community gets left behind. There are excellent organizations in Guelph that are doing amazing work around the clock to address this.
Obviously, homelessness is a complex challenge and it takes a community of dedicated people to address it. We’re going to be working a lot more with organizations like the Downtown Community Health Centre, Stonehenge, and all of the grassroots organizations. We talk about affordable housing – and of course it’s important to prioritize this – but it’s way more than just that. Homelessness doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Addictions, mental health, past trauma, social supports, employment – they all play a big part in this. When we work together as a community to tackle all of it, we’ll see peoples’ lives really start to change. The Downtown CHC, Stonehenge, Homewood, the Family Health Team, all their partners – the folks on the ground – they know what they’re doing. We’re going to make sure they have the funding and staffing to bring hope back into peoples’ lives.
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?
See answer to question 4 – specifically, stop wasteful spending! As a green city, Guelph should strive to promote collaboration and innovation. With the University of Guelph and thousands of bright minds looking to exchange knowledge for experience, we have an advantage. Students can gain experience within their own cities through these symbiotic relationships. In addition, we must become an innovative city; many cities around the world are using technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), to solve problems that cost us excessive amounts of money, such as traffic congestion and road construction.
It has been my reputation as a “best deal” finder for friends and family members that has followed me into all of my various positions, and I have personally saved companies and institutions significant sums of money through critical thinking.
In these hard times, when many people are still recovering from COVID, and with the looming recession, the city MUST take drastic measures to keep its citizens warm and fed. I will re-evaluate all large capital projects and look for cost-saving measures, or in extreme instances, put them on hold until we can survive through what’s next to come.
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?
Our current legislation already has deficiencies that give incumbents an advantage, thereby compromising the democratic process. “Strong Mayor” powers are not a wise idea in my opinion. Councillors represent their constituents directly, and their voices must be heard. As mentioned earlier in the answer for question 2, a strong leader is one who can unite everyone, councillors and citizens alike. If I were Mayor, I would aspire to lead a city and council that is strong and united. An idea and an inspiration are all it takes to unite people.
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 a very special city, a green city, typically an innovative city. Guelphites’ unique way of thinking is reflected in having the only green MPP. There is a sense of community, concern for the environment, social issues, and a greater good among people in this city. As mentioned earlier, the mayor is a direct reflection of their city and its citizens to other municipalities, provinces, and even countries, so their values and beliefs should reflect those of their constituents.
As mayor, I will find the right stakeholder and petition the province to fund a new hospital and long-term care homes. Considering the aging population in our city of Guelph, that is a necessity right now. It is not right for us to neglect the people who built this city – we are nothing more than guests in their house. As mentioned earlier, by tapping into the amazing resources we have within our city, our citizens, businesses, University, and more, we can do great things.
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 has been complete neglect of certain infrastructure within this city. A prime example is York Rd, a major artery into the city. Visitors to our city are greeted with one of the worst roads in Ontario, a road that is always lined up with new signs stating “rough road” and as of recent, a brand new beautiful “Welcome to the City of Guelph” sign. Enough is enough, the damage this road alone causes to your vehicles, wallets, and – believe it or not – to the climate is beyond comprehension. We should have learnt by now from the south end that once the city moves and installs new roads, new businesses will rush in and pay for these roads and infrastructures through taxation.
To date, I haven’t seen any results from this “city masterplan”, only higher taxes. Using innovative technologies and artificial intelligence, we can reduce wasteful spending, focus resources on projects that will bring income to our city, and fund the remaining projects. And no – we do not need to spend more time “studying” options, many cities are already implementing these innovative tools, and ample data is already published.
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?
Guelphites, along with the City and University of Guelph, are true leaders in green initiatives, which is why I am so proud to be a Guelphite. Meanwhile, digging a little deeper reveals quite a bit of hypocrisy.
Consider this municipal election – there are THOUSANDS of non-recyclable election signs littering our streets. While we ban plastic straws and replace them with paper straws, we allow this eye-sore that equates to millions if not billions of plastic straws? I was told no one has ever won an election without a sign campaign – I wanted to make a point and lead this city by example – I do not have a single election sign and don’t intend to!
Let’s be innovative! It’s 2022 – the only signs littering our streets should be a few by the City of Guelph indicating a QR code/website that people can visit to find all the information they need on the candidates, upcoming debates, and more – a user friendly graphical website. In fact, if I win this election, I will push for our bylaws to change and will personally volunteer my time to design this website for our next elections. What if those thousands of dollars could be donated to our local foodbank instead of going outside the city’s economy to print these signs? Wouldn’t that make a positive difference?
I have many more points to add to this discussion, many of which have already been addressed in my platform. While we push for a green city, our roads are extremely dangerous to bike on – in some cases, the city ignores green alternative transportation methods by blocking bike lanes without any notice (more on my website).
We should stop wasting our time and resources trying to reinvent the wheel, just look at neighbouring cities! Shareable bikes, electric scooters, and other methods of transportation are already being used safely in many local municipalities and for a while now around the world.
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?
An excellent leader leads by example. Most often you can find me biking or riding my electric boosted board through the streets of our city! During my years as a student, I also used our transit system extensively and completely appreciate what it offers. Transit still remains one of my favorite modes of transportation to this day. After all, it allows you to do other things rather than paying attention to the road during rush hour!
How can the mayor promote openness and transparency at city hall, especially considering the rise in mistrust of institutions in Canada?
Transparency is one of the pillars of my platform. Despite being a “techy”, I wasn’t able to voice my concerns in most city decisions made in the last 15 years – mainly due to 1) closed doors, 2) inaccessible locations and times, 3) utilizing outdated technologies and websites.
Should I be elected, I will ensure that EVERY decision I make where your voice can be heard is communicated to you. I will not force you to use archaic websites to vote- instead, I will use a tool we are all familiar with- social media, to share what is going on at city hall, maintain transparency, and be your voice.
How can the mayor promote a diversity of thought and experiences in the council chambers outside of the make-up of the elected council?
My experience living in several countries and experiencing wars and discrimination firsthand taught me how dangerous misinformation can be when there is no diversity of thought. One of my strongest assets is that I have lived many roles in the past, and I am always exploring new ideas and thoughts. As mentioned earlier, moving forward, every citizen of this city will have the ability to easily voice their concerns on matters that affect them, thereby their collective thoughts and experiences can then be shared within chambers. Additionally, councillors are a direct representation of their constituents, and hopefully by leading through example, councillors will also offer their constituents the ability to vote on subjects that affect them with ease.
Finish this sentence: I would be very disappointed if we got the end of this election without debating…?
Sadly, there has been very little public conversation. And the ones that have occurred to date have occurred during business hours, when only individuals well off without a job or already in office are able to attend. We must hold debates on weeknights and weekends, and we must hold debates online. I look forward to discussing our housing crisis, our healthcare crisis, our opioid crisis, our crime rate, green initiatives, infrastructure maintenance, and more! Give me a public platform and I’ll be there!
Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?