Leanne Piper has been a city coucillor for Ward 5 since 2006, and is the only incumbent from that ward running for re-election. Starting her political career as a Trustee on the Upper Grand District School Board, Piper splits her time working on council, working as the Manager in Admissions and Marketing in the department of Student Housing Services at the University of Guelph, and being a masters student at the U of G pursuing her MA Leadership. Among her committee and board work, Piper has worked with several including the Guelph Junction Railway, Guelph Police Services, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Board of Health, Guelph Historical Society, Family and Children’s Services, Career Education Council, and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. She's currently the chair of the Planning, Building, Engineering and Environment committee and sits as a member on the Operations, Transit and Emergency Services committee. And if all that isn't already enough, she also owns her own book publishing business called Log Cabin Press, which has published books on local history including Fingerprints Through Time: History of Guelph Police (authors Bob Rutter, John D’Alton and Leanne Piper), and Barns and Coach Houses of Guelph (by Evelyn Bird). Piper certainly hopes that Ward 5 voters won't be closing the book on her time on council, and has taken the time to answer Politico's candidate questionnaire.1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
It’s been an honour and privilege to serve the residents of Ward 5 for the past two terms, mostly due to the importance of constituency work. I became involved in local politics at the neighbourhood association level, where community engagement is at its strongest. Being a member of Council in a city that welcomes public participation is a motivating factor, because it could so easily turn the other way. I am running for Council again because we have a lot of other key initiatives in progress, and I would like to see them through – such as the Guelph Innovation District and new planning policies. The mood of the electorate is changing, and I see other candidates running one-issue campaigns about lower taxes and fear. We’ve seen the lowest tax rate increases in over a decade during the last term and I want to see this continue.
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
Ward 5 is home to the University of Guelph, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the city’s largest commercial node and Research Park. We are also characterized by strong neighbourhood communities, including Village by the Arboretum, Old University Neighbourhood and many more. In addition, we have incredible natural spaces with the Speed River, the Arboretum, wetlands, the Hanlon Creek tributary and parks and trails. Finally, our rich heritage is unique, stretching from Guelph’s first residential district (Essex, Nottingham, Fountain) to Brooklyn, College Hill, McCrae House, Gow’s Bridge and the Boathouse, as well as newer neighbourhoods that have incorporated former farmhouses, such as Campus Estates. Ward 5 stretches to Kortright Road connected by the Royal Recreation Trail.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
A-. We’ve accomplished significant advancements this term of Council. Over the past term, the untapped potential of Guelph’s strategic investment began to take off. Projects like the Community Energy Initiative are a good example of long-term planning and execution. Sound financial management has : a) improved our credit rating, b) increased our reserves, and c) is decreasing our reliance on debt. We created an Internal Auditor function that has already resulted in over $3 million in process efficiencies.
New industry has, and is coming, to town, and existing business are expanding. We have weathered major storms and a global economic recession better than most cities in Canada and that is no accident. Are we perfect? No, there are many areas of improvement. And let’s face it, the Urbacon lawsuit, was ill-advised and lowers the grade.
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?
Taxes pay for services that residents of Guelph value. Most of the services (public works, social services, public health, fire, police, waste collection, etc.) are not discretionary – they are regulated by the province and represent the majority of the property tax bill. Discretionary services such as libraries, parks and culture are what make Guelph livable. Taxes are in line with other municipalities – I encourage everyone to review the independent provincial study (aka the BMA Report) to see that we are at the mid-range level. Access report at http://guelph.ca/city-hall/budget-and-finance/property-taxes/.
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 do not believe we have a spending problem. As noted above, the majority of the services a city provides are core services that are mandatory and regulated. Efficiency of delivery is another matter, but cutting services is not an option. Closing the infrastructure gap means continuing to invest in public works. If there was one service that I would cut it would be sidewalk snow ploughing, not because I don’t value the service, but because it is not effective in its current form. Guelph is one of a handful of cities in Ontario who continue to offer this service, and I have observed that those who have residents clear their walks (with assistance to those who cannot) have better winter sidewalk conditions that Guelph.
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.
Without getting into funding or timing issues, the following capital projects are important to our city: a) new downtown library, b) South End Rec Centre, c) commercial development in East End (already zoned), and d) IMICO development.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
Riding transit is a first step. I ride the bus, on average, several times a week. Attitude, respect, friendliness, and approachability go a long way. When our front line services feel their work is valued, relationships can heal and we can move towards an improved culture of partnership.
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
I am one of only a few councillors who has opened multiple lines of communication – social media and online blog/website being just one aspect. I attend community meetings, host town halls, community events and respond to emails and phone calls. Moving into the next term, I would like to take advantage of more interactive technology – online town halls and surveys – as part of our new investment in open government.
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 voted in favour, with some skepticism. I am trusting in the integrity and security of the system, and will be monitoring that aspect closely. For me, the bottom line is bringing democracy to voters to make it easier for more people to access the electoral process.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
We are a growing city. Keeping our unique identity is a priority to me, because so many people consciously choose to live here because our quality of life and community vibe is highly valued. We can do that through neighbourhood groups, heritage conservation, protecting our natural spaces, and cultural events that build community.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
That is the definition of government – to provide services and programs for community benefit. That doesn’t mean everyone uses every service, but that Guelph is for everyone. Those who love sports have quality, accessible sports fields and recreation opportunities. Those who love culture have creative spaces for arts, music and heritage.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?