Coming to Guelph 15 years ago to attend university, William Albabish fell in love with the community and decided to make it his home. He extended his studies, graduating last year with a PhD in human anatomy, and is lecturing on that subject part-time at the University of Guelph-Humber (something he’s been doing for a few years now).
While he feels there are many great things about Guelph, it has become stagnant in recent years. It’s with that in mind that 33-year-old Albabish decided to throw his hat in the ring and run for mayor during the Oct. 24 municipal election.
“I’ve witnessed firsthand the progress and the stagnation of our city. We’re quite stagnant, I would say,” he told GuelphToday. “There’s just not a lot of projects going on to give back to the community.
“I know I want to contribute to the city,” he added.
Albabish moved to Canada with his family in 2001, after having lived on two other continents, including northern Africa. They settled in Mississauga, where he attended Grade 7 through high school, but he has now lived in Guelph for nearly half his life.
“I’ve never really had a place that I called home (until now), to be honest,” he explained. “I love this city so much, I love the people. … It was the green spaces, the small city charm, the gorgeous infrastructure that we had at the time, the OR (former Ontario Reformatory grounds) and all these beauties that made me want to stick around.
“Now I never want to leave, I like Guelph too much – it’s nice, it’s quaint, it’s quiet.”
Albabish is campaigning on a platform of “accountability, transparency, participation and inclusion,” noting his priorities include addressing the housing crisis, pushing the province for a second hospital, addressing “neglected” infrastructure and green space needs, while working to keep property taxes from growing higher.
“Everyone is really getting hit hard,” he said in reference to the rising cost of living, and pointing to increasing housing costs as a particular problem. “I don’t even know if I can continue living here and I want to.”
He questions the timing of large infrastructure projects, such as the new library, and whether it’s needed right now.
“I (virtually) live at the library at Clair and Gordon … and I hardly see anyone there,” he said. “Why are we right now raising taxes on everyone when we have infrastructure that’s not being used.”
As an educator, he sees the value in libraries and the community benefits.
Asked why he decided to seek the mayor’s chair in his first run for political office, Albabish said it’s something he’s been thinking about for a while but life, including his studies, kept him too busy.
“I’m at the right age, with the right opportunity, right now. I’ve got the time to invest toward the city,” he said, noting he’s been a part of various committees and involved with numerous events around the university and community. “These opportunities allowed me to understand the democratic process, how to be accountable, transparent and included everyone in the say of the matter.”
In addition, his studies have taught him to “critically analyze large amounts of data,” which he feels would be helpful as mayor when dealing with complicated situations and come up with solutions that are “efficient, effective and feasible.”
Also running for mayor are Danny Drew, Cam Guthrie, John Edward Krusky, Shelagh McFarlene and Nicholas A. Ross.