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MEET WARD 4 CANDIDATE ... Christine Billings

In their own words, candidates tell us a little bit about themselves and where they stand on the issues
Christine Billings is running for re-election as a councillor in Ward 4 in Guelph.

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: Christine Billings

Occupation: Ward 4 councillor

How long have you lived in Guelph? I've lived in Guelph for 37 years.

Do you reside in the ward you are running in? I lived in Ward 4 for many years, currently reside just south of the boundary and have rentals in Ward 3 and Ward 4.

Why are you running in this election? I’ve always enjoyed helping constituents with their issues and concerns. I believe that the citizens of Ward 4 would continue to benefit from having a councillor who has the knowledge and experience to effectively represent their needs and to continue supporting fiscal responsibility.

What qualifies you to represent your ward? I’ve been elected to council for five terms, and have represented and served the residents of Ward 4 for the past eight years, raising issues, resolving constituent concerns, listening to and welcoming public input, and making fully informed decisions. I have been effective on many Boards and Committees, and gained a wealth of knowledge being a member of: Public Health (vice-chair), Guelph Police Services & chair of finance, Guelph General Hospital, Grand River Conservation Authority, committee of management for The Elliott Long Term Care and have chaired the city’s audit committee. 

My educational background is in business management, psychology and conflict resolution. 

I’m the past owner of paramedical and health food distribution companies. 

I’m able to bring this broad-based experience to council.

Why should people vote for you? Because I care and enjoy serving my Ward 4 constituents, I’ll always be there for you with no hidden agenda. A good example of this is the Margaret Greene Park – Metrolinx issue. With my past experience and dedication, I was able to help residents save the park from a massive power substation! 

As your councillor, I will continue my efforts to spend wisely, emphasizing essential services and focus on affordability.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward? Affordability remains an ongoing struggle as many costs continue to soar. Both home ownership and rentals are becoming unattainable for many people and high taxes are a huge element contributing to unaffordability. Given the inflationary pressures, council needs to re-prioritize and reduce the spending.   

Snow removal, sidewalk clearing and speeding. Snow removal needs to be improved upon and speeding continues to be problematic. Traffic calming measures continue to be implemented. 

With of my efforts, the trail connectivity under the Hanlon is now in the master plan as a high priority and will move forward as the issue with the Dolime property has now been resolved. 

High density development with a lack of adequate parking continues to put pressure on the surrounding neighbourhoods.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Guelph on a broader scale? The city’s foreseeable future tax increases are unaffordable. Over and above this, as construction costs increased significantly, the many large capital spending plans that the city is chasing are unrealistic and these inflationary costs are not contained within the budget. Council desperately needs to re-prioritize in order to be financially sustainable and reduce the tax impact.   

With high density growth and an increasing population, our roads are becoming more congested and the lack of parking spaces is becoming increasingly problematic.

What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Guelph? A council that focuses on rational spending for basic and essential services instead of massive capital projects. City hall needs to do a better job finding good solutions to what matters most to its citizens.

What services need to be improved in Guelph? We need to provide the basic and essential services that people rightfully expect their tax dollars to pay for. 

Traffic calming and road safety. The city has invested in these initiatives, and will continue to do so, and this year we posted speed reductions in many areas across the city. 

Our parks and sports fields require increased maintenance and grass cutting, meanwhile in the winter, I’ve heard from many Ward 4 constituents that snow plowing and sidewalk clearing needs to be improved, and I concur. 

Concerns were also raised about the enormous snowbanks (windrows) left at the end of driveways by the snowplow, and if anything could be done about this?  Doing research, I learned that another southern Ontario municipality did have a solution. Their snowplows have an extra gate that can be raised or lowered to mitigate some of the snowbanks. Using this feature would be a great service enhancement helping our residents with this painful chore without impacting the budget.

Is Guelph growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough? I feel we’re growing too fast and losing some of the beautiful character of our city. However, Guelph is mandated by the province to grow and by how much we will grow. The one thing that could slow our rate of growth would be our water and wastewater capacity.

What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing? Much of this cost is market driven. Increasing the supply, including more affordable housing, would reduce the cost of housing. Also, council needs to keep tax increases in line because higher taxes contribute significantly to housing unaffordability.

What can be done locally about the homelessness issue? The city continues to work with the County of Wellington, which is Guelph’s service manager, and the province on this difficult and important issue. Societies are judged by how they treat their most vulnerable individuals. During this term of council, a number of supportive housing projects have been approved which will help.

How do we make Guelph an even better city to live in? Being environmentally and financially sustainable so we can afford to proudly call Guelph our home. 

Through volunteering or just getting involved with community initiatives and/or neighbourhood groups, we build a better Guelph. If we all work and play together, it’s amazing what we can accomplish!

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