And now, a former colleague who had to be let go. Just kidding. Phil Allt left the Gang of Four voluntarily when he decided to run for city council earlier this year. Of course, Allt is no stranger to the campaign trail, he ran twice for the Federal NDP in the Royal City during the 2004 and 2006 elections. Allt is a born and bred Guelphite who just retired from teaching high school History, Philosophy and Political Science. He's the Former Chair Wellington and Guelph Housing Authority, Former Treasurer of Waterloo Ontario Secondary School Teacher's Federation, Former Treasurer of the Guelph Jazz Festival, and a volunteer at Onward Willow Better Beginnings. Along with his contributions to the Gang of Four on CFRU, he's also written articles for the Kitchener Record, Guelph Mercury, Toronto Star, and various other business and academic publications. In his spare time, Allt is also an avid Curler, Slopitch Player, Scuba Diver, and Skier. But on political matters, Allt recently turned his attention to answering the Guelph Politico Candidate Questionnaire.
1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
I have been asked by many people “why are you running?” It is a good question to which I have a simple response: if you believe in the community in which you live, sometimes you have to stand up and offer yourself in service to your neighbours.
There are so many things about Guelph that I love – the community, our river, our university, our schools, and our progressive vision. All of these need the support of those who believe in them in order that they continue to thrive.
Guelph’s local environment needs preserving. While our city and others are under provincial mandate to grow substantially in the future, we in Guelph must ensure we manage change effectively. Our city staff, the city’s residents, those who are concerned for the viability of our water supply, our local electricity supply and the utilities need to be sustained by a city council that is adept at making the right decisions for all.
Guelph’s downtown can be the envy of all of Canada. We have the potential to make our hub a place where residents and visitors want to come and spend some time. The foundation is already there – beautiful buildings, dynamic businesses – including our fabulous restaurants and a devoted Downtown Board of Management. As a councilor, I want to work with a City Council to continue enhancing our core. Thoughtfully planning the downtown library development and construction, considering and implementing traffic and transit improvement and examining how we can connect the University of Guelph in a meaningful way to the city centre must be paramount if we are to keep our city a dynamic and vibrant center.
Guelph’s working population needs city councilors committed to the local economy – to developing a strategy to attract well paying employers who are committed to the community, the environment and to adding value to Guelph.
We must acknowledge the efforts of our city’s workers. We must recognize that the cleanup of recent storms has largely been the responsibility of city workers. To them, we owe a debt of gratitude. We are also obligated to ensure that we negotiate fairly and appropriately with them in order to keep and attract the best possible public workers.
As our city population ages, Guelph must ensure that the city has the facilities to accommodate our active seniors. The Evergreen Centre, the Elliot Community, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, the General are the backbone of providing for our residents. Our parks and recreational facilities must be friendly to seniors and to youth whether engaging in sports, walking a dog or just enjoying the fresh air. City council has a role in ensuring that all our residents feel comfortable and safe living here regardless of age, income or gender.
Being a councilor will be challenging. As I am retiring from full time work, I know I can devote my energy to a new full time effort. It will be an effort that will be both demanding and rewarding. What better way to stay active in retirement than by working on behalf of a community that you love!
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
Ward 3 is unique because it is one of the oldest settled areas in Guelph. Very little new development can occur in what is currently identified as Ward 3. It is bounded by Waterloo Avenue, Woodlawn Road, Woolwich Street and Silvercreek Parkway. Ward 3 is home to Exhibition Park, the Church of our Lady, Guelph Collegiate and the Willow Road neighbourhoods.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city ouncil? Explain.
City Council can be ranked as earning a B. I am very happy with the vision of our city, but feel that the summer bus lockout and process for dealing with the Urbacon contract cancellation are evidence that some new representation on Council will improve it.
Communications can be enhanced and interaction between city administration and the community can be improved in many ways including how citizens interact with City Hall to get help on waste disposal, snow and ice issues, yard waste clean-up and sundry other concerns.
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?
Guelph’s taxes are generally in line with elsewhere in Ontario. Guelph like elsewhere needs tax revenue to continue to sustain and improve life in this city.
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 Guelph has a spending problem. Our credit rating is strong because the city has effectively worked well at establishing budgeting priorities, spending priorities is mindful of how sensitive the citizenry is to increased taxation.
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.
Infrastructure redevelopment is the greatest priority for Guelph. We must make improvements to our sewage/waste water disposal system if we wish Guelph to continue being a great place to live.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
Let’s deal with these questions separately: Relations can be “mended” by admitting that negotiations were hampered by a made in America (Wisconsin specifically) negotiations strategy. This is founded on inciting conflict. This approach should never be used again. Guelph must return to the kind of negotiations that characterized our community in the past: a belief that a contract, despite being negotiated by two sides with two different objectives, is beneficial to both sides and Guelph residents too. Ford, Chrysler, GM and its union CAW/UNIFOR have avoided long drawn out labour conflicts by understanding that cordial relations work for all. Since a good, properly working transit system is vital to Guelph’s residents, we should never be subject to such brinkmanship again.
Guelph must approach the future of public transit imaginatively. We must not be stuck on a system where all busses meet in the centre of town. This is fundamentally unworkable because the geographic centre of our community is actually much closer to the University of Guelph and we are no longer a city of 40,000. All citizens would benefit if we were to consider the benefit of a transit system that is founded upon a grid rather than a radial pattern.
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
Ward 3 is home to the largest number of seniors in Guelph. To keep in touch with them requires a willingness to go door to door to meet people. Old-fashioned newsletters – perhaps quarterly reports - can be distributed quite cheaply and efficiently. Furthermore, online Blogs, Webcasts and websites can also be of assistance. I might also add that my telephone number is available 24 hours per day should anyone wish to contact me.
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 online voting. Anything that makes it easier for residents to vote should conceivably raise voter turnout.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
Affordable housing is an absolute priority for me. Guelph has an aging population and a growing population of lower income earners. As a community we have to plan our future housing needs. Many people cannot live comfortably on their Canada Pension and Old Age Security and be adequately housed at the same time.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
Our government can be a source for good by being open and supportive of citizens. Whether a person is concerned about snow removal, yard waste, taxation or some other issue we must have a city hall that is welcoming and supportive. I would love to see the city hall become a more open facility. I also want to see all of our councillors and our mayor get out of the council chamber and engage residents where they live on a regular basis. We need to ask citizens their views on the city. This is the essence of citizen engagement.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?
Please visit philallt.ca to find out more about me.