Rob Dunn-Dufault grew up in Hamilton, but he's made Guelph home for over 20 years now. After studying Chemistry at the University of Guelph, he stayed in town, married and is currently raising his three children in Ward 4. Working as an Automation Product Manager at ThermoFisher Scientific, Dunn-Dufault balances his professional life with volunteer commitments like sitting on the board of the Guelph Community Health Centre, acting as a Big Brother, and mentoring youth at the Guelph Karate Club. He's also a scout leader for the 6th Guelph. In running for city council, Dunn-Dufault says that his career as a scientist will help assist his deliberations as a city councillor by being "critical and inventive," he says. "Even complex problems can have simple solutions when explored from different points of view. I hope to bring this open minded reasoning to city planning." Will the voters of Ward 4 agree? Here are Dunn-Dufault's responses to the Guelph Politico Candidate Questionnaire.
1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
As I have said in various forums, I believe in the electoral process and I believe in people voting for something, not against. I have appreciated both our current councillors and how they have represented Ward 4. This year makes sense for me to run since both are leaving their positions and I would like to serve my community.
I also see a need for the kind of representation I will bring to council. I am an honest and cooperative person whose “big vision” is simply to serve the people well, protect their money, and to hopefully inspire them to engage in the local dialogue again. If I can help create a cooperative council in the process where the common good is the common goal, then I think the people of Guelph will be proud of their elected representatives.
I want to ensure Ward4 has a seat at the planning table, has its actual needs heard, and shares in the quality of life city council should be focused on.
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
There are two aspects of Ward4 that immediately come to mind, its people and its productive capacity.
Having lived in Ward 4 for so long, and in walking around and talking to people I have come to understand just how diverse our ward is. People live in a wide range of economic situations, stages of life, and levels of social involvement. We have blended families, young entrepreneurs, musicians, machine operators, and retired teachers all living on the same street. Talk about a wide range of views and needs? In many respects I think our ward is a microcosm for the whole city.
Ward 4 is also home to a diverse mix of small and large commerce and industrial sites. It drives a large part of the Guelph economy and should be acknowledged. I think both these aspects of Ward4 should be a major consideration for city policy and services.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
I would give the current council a B. There is a long term strategic vision (regardless of whether or not everyone shares it) and they have fairly consistently executed against it. They have recognized the need for more transparency and outreach and have put in place a modern website for communication. They have also chaperoned Guelph through a time of great economic prosperity. Theoretically they should probably be in a position to be acclaimed for another term, but they are not. I would say there are two related areas where they could have done better for the people of Guelph.
- Council needed to listen more to the needs of the people. People have some basic needs that are not being met and consequently believe (perhaps correctly) that their money is being spent on things they never see. Help them live better lives with all essential functions properly funded, and council would have done better.
- Council needed to get along better. They do not appear in the media to be cooperative and united. Fighting amongst themselves, and with the City. People have lost confidence (rightly or wrongly) that council is working for their best interest. This has allowed a “vote them out” sentiment to polarize people. Incited voters are not happy engaged citizens.
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?
What a politician I will make. I actually believe they are both right!
Again, in simply listening to people I have come to understand what they mean by overtaxed. For the most part over taxing means people are not getting the value out of the taxes taken from them. If you charge me more for something, beyond inflation I expect to get more. Since the city does not run as a for profit corporation, the only conclusion can be that there is more waste than last year, or my money is being spent on things I don’t want or need. Here we have two choices, either adjust what we spend taxes on, or build a caring informed culture where people actually know where there money is going and why it is a good thing.
The other meaning of overtaxed is the one that demonstrates how the calculation of an acceptable taxation rate fails both council and society. It is true that given the prosperity our city as a whole is experiencing, we are in line with other Canadian cities. I agree.
However the problem is that not everyone is seeing the economic benefit from which these increased taxes are intended to be paid. For example I have spoken with many seniors on fixed incomes, and they see the tax increases as a decline in their living standards. Lower wage earners are also not riding this wave of economic growth, but do pay more taxes as the rate increases.
The most sensible thing council could do would be to hasten the speed at which the rate of tax increase balances with inflation. Remove the special causes, and remove the inequity.
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?
I don’t want to take pot shots at the City for a few reasons, including the need to create a cooperative and productive climate after the elections are over, but I do believe our spending is not sustainable or in the best interest of the people of Guelph.
There are definitely capital spending projects I would not have supported (from the point of view of an outsider). I think spending $34M on upgrades to the police services building is a good example. From the outside people see so much of their money being spent on things outside of their control, while core infrastructure expenses show up as unexpected surprises. I like the Japanese model of the 100 year business plan, and who but a city can say for sure that they will be operational on that long a time scale?
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.
Different wards have different needs. I recommend asking the people.
Downtown needs a thriving business community with sufficient parking without traffic congestion. The East does need a large grocery store and commerce. The South needs a Rec centre. And then there is that whole waste water infrastructure problem looming. These are all pressing needs that may compete for city investment. I am in favour of the new council taking stock of the capital commitments, and re-prioritizing.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
In general there has been a gradual erosion of respect for collective bargaining and the incredible history of social advancement unions have made in our country. Every strike is perceived as a hostage crisis, rather than what it should be seen as, a last resort.
I see the only problem any relationship ever suffered from was a lack of mutual respect and a willingness to resolve differences (not withstanding, the occasional thrown plate). City transit is an essential service that enables people to get around without cars. Lets respect it, and pay for it.
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
I was reflecting on how inefficient my door to door campaign conversations have been at informing a large number of constituents that I exist, and hope to serve them on council.
It would have been much more efficient to pay for signs and door hanger delivery by a huge team of children (my son included) who deliver flyers and newspapers. But in the efficiency I would have missed out on the most fantastic part of this campaign so far. I have had a legitimate excuse to walk up to strangers doors just to find out what they were like. I am grateful for this inefficient opportunity.
The burden of collecting needs and requirements is on the elected politicians, not on the people. For the most part, people go about their lives, while the essential things they need either show up in their community or they grumble about it. Just because government does not hear about it, does not mean it is not a common need.
I would have answered your question that technology was the easiest way to create a portal from the people of Ward4 to their elected representative, and for the most part this is true. For example Cam Guthrie has had a great website where a large number of issues have been tracked and kept as a record of history, to the satisfaction of many ward 4 residents. I intend to continue this policy, however there is a still a large segment of the population that does not even have a computer.
I still recommend hitting the streets, so I suggest council adapt a policy of getting out into the community, where the people are, to get honest feedback. Community events in ward4 for me would be the perfect place to ask for input.
Disclosure of council and city business is more difficult. I would perhaps suggest a citywide newsletter.
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 definitely in favour of it. Even better if we advertised more publically for it. So many people I spoke with had no idea it was an option. Many people work afternoon shifts and adding voting to an already busy schedule does not help with voter turn out. I would recommend making people aware at libraries, as for some this is the only access to a computer they have.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
I think social minded housing development should be a priority. We need to consider the good of society when developing lands in Guelph. This could include ensuring public access to connected green spaces, or even just assessing and planning solutions to the fact that population growth affects existing residents. Quality of life has to be the goal, not just tax revenue.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
Restore confidence. Build policy on the strict understanding that it is the people’s money we are spending. Listen to the people and implement what they need above all else. Consider ways to foster social entrepreneurial spirit and make places for this spirit to serve the community. Connect our communities with safe bicycle paths where cyclists enjoy the respect of drivers.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?
The most important place is the Guelphvotes.ca website. Info on how to reach all candidates and what they stand for can be found there. All Guelph citizens should get informed, and then vote!
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