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MEET WARD 3 CANDIDATE ... Michele Richardson

In their own words, candidates tell us a little bit about themselves and where they stand on the issues
Michele Richardson.

In their own words, candidates tell us a little bit about themselves and where they stand on the issues. A different ward will be featured each evening this week.

Name: Michele Richardson

Occupation: Assistant director of human resources at the County of Wellington. I am also a registered nurse and worked at Joseph’s Hospital prior to working for the County of Wellington.       

How long have you lived in Guelph? 56 years.

Do you reside in the ward you are running in? I do not reside in Ward 3 anymore but I grew up on Robinson Avenue. I attended Torrance and Willow Road Public Schools. I still have friends and family who live in Ward 3. Ward 3 will always have a special place in my heart.

Why are you running in this election? I made the decision to run in this election as I believe this is a critical time for the City of Guelph. In this post-pandemic phase we need the City of Guelph to recover, revive and thrive. Guelph is a great city and I have the skills to help our community achieve incredible things. The City of Guelph has great potential. I want to continue to build on the great work of previous councils. I also want to ensure that we utilize all our resources to make our city the best it can be.

What qualifies you to represent your ward? I have 18 years of municipal government experience working at the County of Wellington. During the time at the county I have been exposed to all facets of municipal government including; public works, social services, long term care, safe communities, solid waste services, mental health, economic development, climate change and libraries, just to name a few. I am acutely aware of the issues facing municipalities today and will be educating myself further on these issues at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference this summer. I was raised in Guelph and have raised my own family here as well. I care about our city and I want to contribute in any way I can to ensure Guelph continues to grow in a healthy way and remains a great place to live, work and visit. I am an active member of the Patient and Family Advisory Committee at the Guelph General Hospital. I am also a registered nurse who worked on a surgical unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital for 13 years prior to joining the County of Wellington. I have dedicated my life to serving the residents of Guelph and as a member of city council I would continue to serve the residents of not only Ward 3 but all of Guelph.

Why should people vote for you? Our current council had done a great job during an extremely difficult few years, but I believe it’s time for a change and some new ideas. I have the municipal government experience and the skills to make thoughtful, sound decisions for our community.  I believe in honesty, integrity and transparency. I can bring a perspective to city council that will enhance what we can do for Guelph. I chose municipal politics as it is the level of government that is closest to the people, the level of government where I can make the most impact for the residents that live in our community.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward? I think everyone running for municipal government should take the time to speak to their local residents and hear directly from them what they feel are the main issues. Those are the issues I want to focus on. Throughout my campaign I will be knocking on doors and listening intently to issues our local residents need help with or would like addressed. I want to fully understand their concerns so I can bring those issues forward on their behalf in a professional and respectful manner.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Guelph on a broader scale? Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic will be front of mind. We need to help our local businesses RECOVER from the losses they suffered over the last couple of years. We need to help REVIVE our economy to ensure our city continues to THRIVE.  Homelessness, infrastructure, safe communities and taxes will also be significant issues for the coming term. I am ready to take on this challenge.

What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Guelph? Guelph has done some really amazing work. I believe we need to start planning for a new future.  As Guelph continues to grow we need to be a leading city that balances jobs, housing and critical resources such a mental health services. There are a lot of employment opportunities in Guelph which is evident by all the recruitment signs – yet employers still struggle to fill this positions. We need to continue to build a vibrant community where people want to live, visit and help businesses fill these vacant jobs so we can watch our community thrive.

What services need to be improved in Guelph? There is always room for improvement. My goal is to reach out to residents and see what their needs are move forward collaboratively. We’ll also need to continue to reach out to the provincial and federal governments for financial support to help improve many of our services.

Is Guelph growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough? The Government of Ontario allocates population growth so we don’t have too much to say on the amount, but we do get to say how to accommodate that growth for each 10 year period. That is, the where and how. The city has done some really great work on the Official Plan for Shaping Guelph. The purpose of this plan, “Promotes long-term community sustainability and embodies policies and actions that aim to simultaneously achieve social well-being, economic vitality, cultural conservation and enhancement, environmental integrity, and energy sustainability, and climate change resiliency.” Community engagement is key to successful growth. I would work to engage the residents of Ward 3 to ensure growth is meeting the needs of our community as well as the city as a whole.

What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing? Housing affordability is a challenge province-wide so advocacy to upper levels of government for more funding to support the development of new permanent affordable rental housing units is critical. Our community has low vacancy rates which drive prices up. We should be strongly advocating to upper levels of government to support creative solutions such as giving local municipalities the first right to obtain provincially or federally owned land, as it becomes available and this property should be donated to the municipality since the property was purchased and developed by taxpayers. This will allow for an increase in the supply and availability of affordable market housing for families. We need to continue to promote rent support programs like the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) and advocate for more funding as the current funding does not meet the needs of our community. The City of Guelph and the County of Wellington will continue to work collaboratively on the Affordable Housing Strategy to ensure we are doing everything we can to address this issue.

What can be done locally about the homelessness issue? Unfortunately,  homelessness continues to be a major issue in urban areas across the country. Guelph is not alone in addressing this concern. Our local politicians need to continue to lobby upper levels of government for funding and support. We are stronger together and we need to work  collaboratively with the County of Wellington to advocate and continue to lobby the Government of Ontario for more funding. I am hoping we will see a joint delegation on this issue at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference happening in Ottawa this month. This is one place we (city and county) can speak directly to the Government of Ontario. We (city and county) need to develop a strategic team to balance the needs of our local businesses and the needs of those who are homeless in our community. We need to work and support the community resources already in place and look to see how we can improve our local community resources.

How do we make Guelph an even better city to live in? Guelph is already a GREAT city but there is always room for improvement. It is critical for our local politicians to be available and connected to the residents they serve to ensure the improvement strategies they implement are what will truly make a difference to our residents. If I am lucky enough to be elected to serve the residents of Ward 3 I will look to engage as many people as I can by making myself available to listen to what is important to them. The last couple of years have been incredibly difficult so we need to listen to our residents and work together to ensure City of Guelph can recover, revive and thrive.