Questions and Answers
Ask me anything!
This is the place to ask ... and get honest answers.
Questions are answered below in the order received.
Are you accepting donations from developers?
The answer is no. I do not accept donations from developers or their agents.
My donors are friends and supporters. In the spirit of transparency, they are listed here:
- Arni Mikelsons
- Jim and Anne Shute
- Anne Brett Hall
- Paul Benedetto
+ 6 donors under $100 (no developers or agents)
What have you done, and what will you do, to create solutions to address equity, accessibility, LGBTQ2IA+ rights, underserviced and marginalized citizens in Guelph?
Guelph is a city for everyone. When we lift up our most vulnerable and marginalized neighbours, we lift up everyone.
What I've done:
I enthusiasticly supported the hiring of our very first Senior Policy Advisor, Equity, Anti-Racism & Indigenous Initiatives. I look forward to more of her future recommendations. I have supported the use of technology to access city services, especially during the pandemic, to allow citizens to directly participate in civic government. I have been involved in the Municipal Campaign School for two elections, designed to encourage a more diverse pool of municipal candidates. I brought forward a motion to Council last term to include Indigenous consultation in our net zero planning, and I am committed to seek meaningful and sustained relationships with Indigenous communities and organizations, to work collaboratively towards equitable, accessible, and culturally relevant and responsive services for Indigenous children, youth, and families (TRC Call to Action 66). I have been a long-time and consistent supporter of neighbourhood-based programs through the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition to engage marginalized and low-income youth and families into the Guelph community.
I actively and visibly support organizations, business and individuals in our community who are members of marginalized communities, and/or those who celebrate and promote equity, accessiblity and diversity. I do this through participation in events, promotion on social media, decision-making as a city councillor and more.
What I'll do:
We’ve come a long way, but there is more work to do. Diversity is sometimes invisible — religion, gender and sexual orientation, ability, age, income, family status, education, etc. -- are not always obvious when we interact with others in our everyday lives. I will be working to add more diverse voices to our boards, committees and work force. We need to address hate crime and address the roots of disproportionate use of force in policing. This is not an anti-police statement - I 100% support our front line responders. I support adding mental health responders to their toolkit and more prevention programs for youth. I will champion an increase in community grant funding which provides stable resources to many programs and services that help marginalized communities - such as Action Read, Guelph Black Heritage Society, HIV/AIDS Research and Community Health. Link her for a full list of community grants recipients.
I am committed to accessibility improvements in our infrastructure funding for parks, roads, trails and other city amenities to reduce barriers for all. I will continue to lead and support the necessary actions for our local government to address the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Finally, I commit to listening and learning from the diverse voices in our community, hearing their stories without judgement, and making space for them to be heard.
Council just voted for a raise in their pay. Given there are many people struggling to get by, will you donate a portion of your council increase to the community?
The answer is yes! In fact, I already do, but I don't make a big fanfare about it. I have supported many local charities during my term on council, including the United Way, Guelph & Wellington Children's Foundation, Heart and Stroke, Michael House, Woodlawn Memorial Arbour Fund, Guelph Hiking Club, Cystic Fibrosis, Guelph Historical Society, and many others. This past year I have directed most of my charitable donations to the Sick Kids Foundation through the local Guelph Run For Emilia 5K Run event, which is near and dear to my heart.
I am very blessed and was taught from an early age that giving back to the community (time, funds, whatever) is essential to a caring and equitable society. In Guelph, we look after those less fortunate and marginalized as part of who we are as a community. Supporting local business -- especially independing Black, Indigenous or LGBTQ2S+ owned business -- is another way to give back in a meaningful way.
I realize it's not enough. Community benefits organizations are always struggling to do more with less. As your city councillor, I believe our Community Grants allocation should grow annually to reflect higher costs and local need. Yes - I am saying that I believe a portion of your tax dollars should be allocated to lift up and support the most vulnerable in our community. Last year $319,700 in grants were allocated to 54 different community benefit organizations (out of a $627 million budget). That's 1/5 of 1 cent for every dollar. A drop in the ocean.
This month, we kicked off the Guelph & Wellington United Way fundraising "Radical Recovery". One of the things I love most about the United Way is that my donations reaches so many different organizations in our community - including groups who support marginalized populations such as Anishnabeg Outreach, HIV/AIDS Resources, Aboriginal Health Access and the Guelph Black Heritage Society. Here is a full list of the organizations supported by our local United Way.
My taxes keep going up. What are you doing to control the rising cost of our local taxes?
The cost of servicing a growing municipality are an ongoing challenge. Fuel, labour, asphalt, commodoties, vehicles, services -- all the resources needed to keep our city operating -- are rising for all sectors across the country. Many people say we should "run the city like a business" or we must "live within our means" when they see their taxes rising. In a business, the bottom line is profit for the shareholder. There are four ways to control costs to keep the shareholder happy:
a) lower the cost of production of the product/service,
b) increase the price of the product/service to the customer, and
c) operate more efficiently.
This kind of business analogy is impossible for a city, because we provide services that people depend on evey day -- providing clean water, social services and police, fire and ambulance services, transit, plowing snow, traffic signals, maintaining parks and trails, and more. Most of what we do are regulated by the Province. We can't cut essential services (nor would we want to). We also don't control the cost of fuel, asphalt, aggregate, machinery, etc. We could increase user fees and the price of providing services (ie. taxes) to the end user, but there is a limit to how much our community can absorb and remain affordable.
So this leaves us focusing our energy on operating more efficiently. This is my priority as a councillor. Are we delivering services to our community in the most efficient way? What resources are we using? Are there best practices out there that we should be implementing? Can we change our fuel source to renewables? What is the long-term benefit and life cycle of a new piece equipment? How can our citizens participate in making our city more efficient to operate?
This approach is working. I have supported programs that have saved our city millions of dollars - such as energy retrofits of city buildings, water conservation programs, new wastewater technology, solid waste management innovations and new technology to track our infrastructure asset life cycles. These decisions are often invisble, but they contribute to lowering the city budget and keeping our city affordable. Guelph today has a AAA credit rating (the highest rating possible), and detached residential taxes fall into the "mid-range" when compared to other cities of the same size.
To see a breakdown of where your taxes go and how they are calculated, here is a link with lots of helpful facts, figures and a video about your taxes.
To see how we compare, check out the 2020 BMA study of Ontario municipalities.
Housing in Guelph is unaffordable. What are you doing about that?
The rising cost of housing is a wake up call for all of us. It's a problem that is not unique to Guelph and the contributing factors are complex. It's really easy to blame politicians when there are no easy solutions. The current housing affordability crisis is a perfect storm -- market demand is high, landlord rents are up, cost of labour and building supplies has skyrocketed, influx of GTA and investment buyers into Guelph, job uncertainty, CoVID, rising cost of energy, and more. Here's a great article that tries to shed light on what is happening in the current housing market in places like Guelph.
There are predictions that the market is stabilizing as interest rates rise. But it doesn't solve the problem.
When we talk about "affordable housing" in Guelph we tend to talk about the cost of home ownership or monthly rental rates. Market housing is subject to what is happening in the economy and local real estate market. It always has been, nothing new here. You will hear candidates say "build, build, build." Building more homes isn't the answer. It's too simple a solution and doesn’t factor in the cost of growth and long-term impact of ignoring sound planning principles.
We need to talk about the need for social, co-operative and supportive housing. Most homebuilders and developers are for-profit market housing providers and what we need is more social, co-operative and supportive housing, which is where government intervention (at all levels) is most needed. Locally, we subsidize growth through taxation. We should be creating stronger planning policy that requires a percentage of below-market housing included in every new development application.
Housing is only one part of a larger affordability crisis. The ongoing cost of utilities, food and transportation added to rents (and mortgages) contributes to the problem. All new housing built with public funds should be net zero and built with renewable energy generation and storage. This will lower the ongoing monthly carrying costs for residents.
We are seeing more open drug use and addiction throughout the city. More and more people are struggling with mental health & addiction. What can you do to address it?
Mental health, addiction and homelessness are symptoms of systemic failure to provide adequate social services and prevention initiatives to our most vulnerable citizens. I strongly believe that no one chooses a life of mental health challenges, addiction, trauma or poverty. It could be any one of us. Our family members and neighbours. Those who who experience addication and homelessness daily have complex human stories. The solutions are equally complex. And I openly admit that I don't have all the answers.
Council cannot solve the root causes of homelessness and mental health/addiction. Nor can we turn a blind eye and hope that other levels of government will step up.
We know that stable, safe housing is foundational. "Housing first" as a policy framework has solid data behind it. This past term of Council has made significant progress by supporting four new projects specifically targeted for our citizens experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges. Here's what we can do at a local level:
a) fund outreach workers in the downtown to direct access to services,
b) incentivize and provide grants to supportive housing projects, such as Stepping Stones, Homes for Good and Kindle Communities,
c) support early intervention and community-based programs directly to neighbourhoods in need (through the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, Onward Willow, etc.),
d) encourage more alternative-to-policing community safety programs and resources, such as Welcoming Streets, and the Community Paramedicine program
e) strong advocacy with other levels of government for increasing ODSP, co-op and social housing funding, and mental health prevention and treatment.
As an individual councillor, I will continue to do all of the above, as I have throughout my previous terms.
You brought the Net Zero by 2050 motion to Council. Is 2050 too late? How are we going to pay for the investments that are needed to get to net zero?
The impact climate change will transform our city. Our efforts to become a net zero city isn't simply a moral obligation - it is essential to our economic prosperity and quality of life here in Guelph. Every household and business is affected by rising fossil-fuel energy costs. These costs are putting pressure on transportation, food and city services.
I am proud to have been one of the movers of the Net Zero and 100% Renewables motions passed by this past term of Council. Our decision to endorse the United Nations Race to Zero initiative has so many far-reaching interconnected impacts. It will guide our infrastructure replacement, lower our energy costs, spark economic investment, improve air and water quality and leave a livable city for our next generation. It was a strategic move intended to kick-start our Community Energy Initiative (CEI) update. The CEI update provides a realistic (and bold) pathway to reach our net zero goals. The investment over 30 years is 3.2 billion, but will result in savings and revenue of 4.9 billion by 2050. Every year we stall, costs continue to rise.
The plan requires significant investment in retrofitting buildings, electric vehicles, net zero transit, power generation through renewables (ie. solar rooftops) and better urban design to provide carbon sequestration and groundwater recharge. I also support incentivizing developers and all new publicly-supported housing to build net zero at time of construction. It is proven technology and the cost is dropping. The faster we reach 100% renewables targets, the faster we start to benefit from annual savings (and cleaner environment) that will pay dividends for decades beyond 2050. We are fortunate to have supportive organizations who share our energy goals, such as the Chamber of Commerce, eMerge, Innovation Guelph, and the Green Energy &Technology Centre.
Is 2050 too late? Probably. Catastrophic impacts are already being felt in other parts of the world. We need to speed up our efforts. When I hear that it's too much, too soon, I strongly disagree. Look at how quickly we adapted to using cell phones, computers, online banking, and adaptation to CoVID! Humans are a very innovative and adaptable species. We've done it before - wood to coal, coal to oil, oil to gas, gas to renewables. We cannot let politics get in the way.
Local energy adaptation, generation and storage is core to our future economic prosperity. We are supposed to enable change, not build walls. The future is already here. The by-product of transforming our local energy grid is a healthier planet. Win-win.
Transit is an essential service for many residents and is growing. Are you a transit user and what will you do to improve transit service in Guelph and beyond?
Great question! Yes, I use transit, cycle, walk and I have a car. Frequency and reliability are foundational to growing transit ridership.
I have answered in-depth questions about transit through the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph (TAAG).