In his campaign for Ward 1, Dan Gibson is making it clear that he thinks his ward is being ignored, and he's not going to take it anymore! A senior environmental scientist with over 15 years experience working in both the private and public sector, Gibson has focused on sustainable development and seeking innovative ways to resolve complex issues. He's been a guest lecturer, a published author, contributed to federal and provincial socio/economic impact studies, and has been a part of over 50 environmental assessments for land use planning/development across Canada. Personally, Gibson and his wife volunteer for International Children’s Aid Organization and are committed financial partners of Lakeside Hope House in Downtown Guelph. Gibson has also served as a volunteer at a Salvation Army men’s shelter in downtown Toronto. Now, he hopes to represent Ward 1 in the very contentious race in Guelph's original ward.1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
I’m running because I believe Ward 1, and in particular East Guelph is being ignored. Ignored by an administration which continues to demonstrate a willingness to raise taxes and service fees on Guelph families, single incomes, and fixed income households rather than adopting measures of spending restraint and financial accountability. An administration that is ignoring the need for a new strategy in East Guelph when it comes to commercial growth and business opportunities; and an administration that is failing to facilitate effective two way communication between City Hall and residents. I’m running because I believe in a collective voice on Oct 27th.
Ward 1 – No Longer Ignored
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
I am convinced that we are the most diverse Ward in Guelph. Geographically we represent the downtown all the way out to the east end of the City. Demographically we cross all spectrums from the truly privileged to the most needy. Politically we are a melting pot of ideals and conviction. A perfect place for democracy to be practiced!
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
(C-) Currently, I believe there is an imbalance on council which is not representative of the majority City view. I believe there are areas of our City that are being focussed on intently while other are being ignored. Municipal politics should not resemble political party affiliation yet ideology seems to permeate through many council decisions. To this point, I believe council (as it stands) is dysfunctional; and I don’t believe it is focused on all of Guelph’s needs/interests.
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?
Despite proximity to major Can/US markets and our available employment lands, over the past 7 years Guelph's inability to attract new businesses and create jobs has resulted in above average unemployment and a systematic shift in our tax base from corporate/industrial to residential. A shift which is borne out in higher taxes, water/electricity rates, user fees and development charges. In today’s age of competing municipalities we need to work harder at these core measures in order to become more attractive for people and businesses. Specific to the past two years Guelph City taxes have increased 4.3% (2013) and 4.0% (2014) respectively. User fees have also increased 7.7% (2013) and 6.4% (2014) and continue to strain Guelph households. A key factor in this is the current cost of financing Guelph's debt of approximately $120 million. This cost totaled $12.3 million in 2014. My goal will be to reduce this burden on Guelph households and bring taxes back in line with inflation (or below). Debt reduction, economic development, fiscal restraint and maximizing revenue from existing assets like the Sleeman Center and River Run Center are tools to achieve this.
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?
In order to continually balance budgets one must be diligent with expenses while continually looking to grow revenues. To this end my strategy for balancing revenues and expenses will start with a focus on effective/efficient core services followed by debt reduction. Debt charges accounted for $12.3M of the City's overall expenditures in 2014.
Based on this I contend one of the greatest investments Guelph can make in growing revenues is to alleviate the financing charges associate with our debt.
With a fraction of the investment required for St. Georges Square or Baker Street, one strategy for achieving debt reduction involves the Sleeman Center become the iconic, downtown destination this administration continues to espouse the need for. A summer concert series, annual conferences/trade shows or fair would not only contribute significant revenue to the City but would also equate to millions in indirect economic activity for downtown businesses. This model has been proven in other municipalities like London and Oshawa. Guelph’s potential is no different.
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.
Respecting the fact that there are other projects such as the south end recreation center that need prioritizing, I will limit my response to Ward 1, and to services Guelph has the ability to provide (i.e. Guelph cannot build the grocery store). Big ticket capital projects that I believe should be started in the next term of council include;
- Stormwater improvements within the Downtown Core
- Victoria Road Recreation Center Upgrades
- York Road upgrades to support density and signal confidence for commercial/industrial investment in East Guelph. The Class EA has been completed since 2007 and is waiting on Council to approve funding.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
By respecting the collective bargaining process (while at times difficult) and committing to confidential negotiations (i.e. not using the media to influence public opinion from either side). I believe the relationships can/will be mended between the City and its partners over time. The focus however, must always be on delivering high quality, efficient, and cost effective service to the residents of Guelph. Further, I believe that if/when fiscal restraint is required; it must be modeled from top down throughout an organization. Top heavy organizations that force cost cutting measures down on front line workers leads to resentment, breach of trust and a breakdown in labor relations.
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
In addition to the traditional communication tools (email, phone), my commitment to building and maintaining the relationships between City Hall and residents will include all forms of social media such as Twitter (@dangibsonward1 and @Ward1Guelph), Facebook (Dan Gibson/Guelph) and a Ward 1 website (www.ward1guelph.ca). The website will be used to update Ward residents on important City issues, announce meeting dates for town halls, and inform residents of Council decisions. To this end, I’m also committed to hosting bi-annual Town Hall meetings at two separate locations in the Ward. I have already sought out venues with one location identified near the Downtown and the other in East Guelph.
9) Guelph is implementing online voting for the first time with this election, are you in favour of this development or against it? Explain.
If secure yes, I am in favor of on-line voting. Secure strategies aimed at increasing voter turnout improve government representation.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
The City owned International Malleable Iron Company (IMICO) site off Beverley St has sat vacant, underutilized and contaminated for over two decades. I believe the residents surrounding this site deserve better. In spite of ministerial recommendations and court orders to investigate, the City continues to conduct, minimalistic annual monitoring with no firm commitment to cleanup. This form of environmental partisanship is wrong and I’m committed to pushing forward on this agenda to get results for the residents living in Guelph’s original Ward.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
Since the economic crisis of 2008/2009, Guelph’s industrial based was exposed to one of the hardest hit sectors in Southern Ontario. Due in part to shifts in global economies but also because of domestic factors, Guelph has slipped in comparables to other southern Ontario municipalities as a place to live, raise a family and start a business. In today’s age of competing municipalities these are differentiators for people and businesses.
The solutions are never simple. Economic development and the social multipliers of job creation however, are proven mechanisms for supporting social wellbeing. From a purely economic perspective, job and income growth can be directly attributable to increases in community commerce and spending. From a wellbeing perspective however, the more impactful benefits of employment are the social multipliers. These are the direct benefits to individuals, families and neighborhoods and are demonstrated through decreased crime rates, substance abuse and family disruptions; as well as increases in education security, health care, elderly care and environmental protection. We need a mayor and council that support the social multipliers of job creation, and are committed to competing for and supporting local employment.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?