Craig Chamberlain aims to fight an uphill battle, trying to unseat one of two incumbents in Ward 3. This isn't the first time that the husband, father, and property manager has run in his ward, but Chamberlain's running hard on the idea that his two councillors haven't been as representative as they should have to him and his fellow Ward 3-ians. He's advocated for the protection of our watershed, written about civic matters in the Guelph Mercury, and was named one of the paper's 40 Under 40. "Happiness is being impactful, making things better, now and into the future," Chamberlain says. "Accountability is important to me and it work hard to demonstrate it, beginning going on the record through blog comments and my past columns in the Guelph Mercury." Chamberlain hopes to demonstrate it again, by telling voters what he thinks on the issues in the Politico questionnaire.
1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
Ward 3 deserves better representation at City Hall, reflecting better the priorities of residents. We need more balance on council and a more respectful approach at City Hall. Change is required on council to achieve this.
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
We are a diverse ward demographically. It’s a complex ward, which is why Ward 3 needs a councillor who will be especially committed to engaging residents. I’m committed to doing that, and better engagement is more than a platform for me and I’m guessing you’d agree it’s who I am based on what I’ve demonstrated in the past.
Part of the need for that engagement is about asking better questions at council, because the best questions are coming from the doorsteps. So if that engagement isn’t happening well, if there continues to be a “this is how it’s going to go and we’re basically here to just to inform you of it” kind of approach, then City Hall isn’t going to get it right for Ward 3 or for the city as a whole. Staff can assist in this but the councillors are the ones who have to lead the charge, and that means going to where the people are. Having your ward meetings at City Hall is lazy and there are layers of barriers associated with it. So the other piece of better engagement for our complex ward is to be better represented.
We are home to:
- Roads in disrepair, and where many repairs are very short-term, stop-gap in nature
- Our share of orange paint on our sidewalks
- Neighbourhoods with narrow streets, especially in the winter
- On-street parking woes
- Trees in advanced decline
- Infill rather than new subdivisions
- Range of residential buildings, including larger multi-residential
- Boarding House Arts
- The Guelph Civic Museum
- Main/downtown branch of the Guelph Public Library
- Parks including Exhibition Park
- St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery and Woodlawn Memorial Park (Woodlawn Cemetery)
- St. Joseph’s Health Centre, The Residences at St Joseph
- Willow Place -- Guelph Independent Living
- Three neighbourhood groups: Exhibition Park, Junction, and Onward Willow
- Strong community hub at Shelldale
- Two large building DIY retailers – Home Depot and Rona, plus Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore
- Industry, including Linamar, Hitache, Blount, SkyJack
- We have four elementary schools and three high schools (GCVI, Lourdes and Don Bosco)
- Railyard areas and a number of railway level crossings
- Quick highway access
- Industry, and a lot of potential for a revitalized industrial base in Ward 3
- Commercial hubs on Silvercreek and Woodlawn and we connect into Downtown Guelph.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
Ward 3 Councillors: F
The score would have been “C” for the City had it not been for all of the spin that we’re seeing on issues.
4) Some people say that Guelph is over-taxed, others believe that our taxes are inline with a community our size; where do you stand on taxation in Guelph?
Residents are very concerned about affordability. They are my experts, and they have not been heard or engaged on this issue.
Look at what your paying in additional taxes from 12 months ago. Is your life that much better, are the services you received that much better? And those are taxes in addition to what you were already paying. It’s not as if we’re debating taxes or no taxes – we are paying a lot in taxes.
There’s some reaction to the notion of keeping taxes at the Consumer Price Index, but remember, these are increases on a budget we’ve been operating with. Bottom line: citizens want better government, and as taxpayers they’re tired of the mentality that we’ve seen vocalized by a Ward 3 incumbent that most of us can and should pay more in taxes. People want a new mentality and they’ve wanted it for a long time, actually. They want a mentality where council and staff work together to find ways to keep taxes lower, not higher. I know this from my extensive door knocking.
Tax increases need to reflect CPI, not the Municipal Price Index. It has to reflect the primary taxpayer’s ability to pay, many of whom don’t have year after year increases in their income -- if they do, it’s likely at CPI. So with tax increase on tax increase at rates above a household’s increase in income, it’s valid to ask how sustainable that is, and what kind of stress that it creates in those households. It’s also valid to ask how it contributes to the personal debt households take on in trying to make ends meet and doing their best for their children.
5) Do you believe that Guelph has a spending problem? If yes, then please cite specific examples of areas and/or programs that you would cut to save money?
Spending problem? Yes.
Stop wasting staff time, city resources, and tax dollars on bad legal battles.
Stop wasting staff time, city resources, and tax dollars on directions or priorities that residents don’t want. It’s their money and that isn’t being respected.
In all of my door knocking I’ve heard only one comment in favour of the proposed circle road downtown. We have to renew/ upgrade buried infrastructure, and residents understand that, but the circle road is emerging as a symbol of spending on something no one asked for, and in the least does not rank on where Ward 3 wants their tax dollars to go. It doesn’t rank with them when their own neighbourhood streets and sidewalks are badly in need of a repair.
Patch on patch and orange paint just doesn’t cut it anymore, so let’s get going on a plan on how we will get the work done.
We need to find efficiencies and staff and council must always be asking if what we’re doing still makes sense. Guelph is not some kind of static thing. City services must be responsive to that. Needs evolve.
The core issue at City Hall is there is a lack of respect. It’s a culture at City Hall that must be changed and council has a unique role in that regard. It must lead by example. That includes a more respectful approach to staff. We have to put the delivery of services first and to figure out what matters and how to do it affordability and that can’t happen if staff are told to be more accountable and respectful towards taxpayers but council and certain council members don’t demonstrate accountability themselves. It’s not conducive to the buy-in that you need for gains to be made in efficiencies, a process which can be a positive thing.
It doesn’t move the organization is a positive direction when the council as a body is unable to demonstrate accountability for something that hasn’t gone well, especially for something like Urbacon.
6) What’s the biggest priority for Guelph in terms of services needed? This could be something that’s provided by the government, ie: a library or rec centre, or it could be a commercial need, ie: a new grocery store in the east end.
Rebuilding aging infrastructure: roads, buried infrastructure. This is key to sustainability and affordability in Guelph.
Branch libraries make for more livable communities. A branch library should be built at Shelldale. One incumbent has stated that they wanted a new downtown library a way to equalize opportunities for lower income people, but some are asking about why our Ward 3 councillors haven’t been a champion on council for a branch library at Shelldale. People are unwinding what is being said at election time, they’re evaluating the validity of the messaging from the incumbents and are calling bull-crap.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
I don’t support lockouts. The case for it has to be very compelling. I don’t support labour negotiations impacting on service delivery. If a membership goes on strike, it is for it to decide to do, and then of course explain that decision to the public.
Council has a responsibility to protect City assets, and ensure public safety and a safe workplace for its staff. If a situation arises where this is actually at risk, then council does have to take action, and I think most would understand and expect that from council. This is my caveat on not supporting a lock out, but the real thrust of my energy isn’t in gamesmanship but it having respectful relations and a team approach to delivering services.
Stop locations need to be improved. The routes need to make sense for the ridership. Our seniors and young families would especially benefit from stops at curbside in our commercial nodes, instead of walking through the cold, the heat and the snow of parking lots. And are the routes helping the ridership get to and from work efficiently?
8) What will you do to ensure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
Monthly What’s On Your Mind meetings, informal drop-in hours at locations in the ward, newsletters, online blog.
9) Guelph is implementing online voting for the first time with this election, are you in favour of this development or against it? Explain.
I am in favour of it -- to make voting more accessible. I am trusting in staff to ensure it is secure. We’ll know soon enough.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
Our “green infrastructure”, improving our urban tree canopy needs to be priority, and action on brownfield remediation.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
It needs to engage residents more. The response may well be: “We’re not actually looking for the City to be a force for good in our lives -- unless by that you mean ensuring the kind of services you should be focused on are done well and are affordable.
As it is we’re trying to keep up with all of the costs of how you want to help.” Residents are tired of the messaging from City Hall on how great everything is. They want action on real issues on their street. They want City Hall and council to adopt a more respectful approach towards finding efficiencies, keeping taxes down, and attracting investment, with the jobs and taxes and development fees that it creates.
They want a responsible approach to addressing the Guelph Factor, which as you and City staff know, was identified in a leaked draft report. We are now seeing individuals trying to confuse the public on what the Guelph Factor is, instead of acknowledging it and speaking to whatever progress they think has been made on addressing it -- and that is a disservice to everyone. Staff know where the term “Guelph Factor” came from and now they’re seeing an active effort to confuse the public, so I ask you how would that impact on the organization when they see that happening. It undermines integrity and credibility, both of which you need if you’re in a key leadership position.
I’m about doing what matters to Ward 3 and Guelph and doing it well. I’m not about chasing awards. We do what we need to do and if an organization wants to promote itself by giving us an award, that’s its business. It can’t be our motivation.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?