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: Justin Van Daele
Occupation: Small business owner
How long have you lived in Guelph? 16 years.
Do you reside in the ward you are running in? Yes I do, the Willow West area.
Why are you running in this election? I’m running, as I think I have finally spent enough time living and working in Guelph to fully understand what it is like to live as a resident in Guelph, and make mature decisions that could positively impact my community.
During the pandemic, I saw a lot of residents of Guelph struggle and wasn’t overly happy with the amount of support we received both at all levels of government, that would help the people of Guelph successfully overcome what we had to endure.
With that, I don’t believe the current council and leadership of Guelph have adjusted to our new reality, and continue on business as normal without really taking stock of how we as a community are doing.
I also believe I’ve yet to meet a candidate that will represent my needs or the needs of my generation at the municipal level.
What qualifies you to represent your ward? Since the start of the pandemic, I have been running my own business. During when most businesses had it the toughest, I was able to create and make thrive in the most hostile conditions.
But not only that, I was able to travel around our community and really get to see and hear from people as to what they need the most and can help provide a clear plan forward as to how we can start to make those differences.
I am also adaptable and quick thinking, which will allow for a new, fresh and pragmatic approach to city council.
Why should people vote for you? People should vote for me because I would bring a fresh outlook to current issues plaguing our city, instead of the same in-the-box and council-approved year-over-year ideas that haven’t worked yet.
I have an ability to think outside the box, read situations logically and see the whole picture, whether it be long term or short term outcomes.
I will use this to help Guelph plan not just for tomorrow, but five, 10 or 20 years from now.
I also believe we work for those who have elected us, not the other way around and know how to listen to everyone. Too many of our elected officials at all levels of government forget that, and act in accordance to their own needs versus the people they were elected to represent.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward? In Ward 4, we have a few every day issues we deal with. We have seen a lot of high occupancy buildings go up around the Paisley and Elmira area, which has brought much needed housing to the area, but not much in the way of expanding infrastructure surrounding those areas to deal with the increase of residents.
Residents have been expected to commute using the same roads and transportation from 10 years ago, even though the amount of residents using these resources have almost doubled.
From this, we have an area that is being constantly stressed with high rental and housing prices, with no plans from the current council to address this in our area. We have more residents in need, and less resources available to them.
Another big issue in Ward 4 is the lack of health services being available locally. We don’t have any walk-in clinics, mental health facilities or any other long term support for health.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Guelph on a broader scale? Affordability. In all areas of life, the residents of Guelph are suffering from food insecurity from the rising prices of groceries, to transit costs going up, while at the same time being less efficient and housing costs making it impossible for some to live.
Too often are families having to choose between keeping a roof over their head, and what meal(s) they can afford to skip for the day.
Finally, this isn’t just a Guelph problem, but a provincial and even national problem, but the lack of access to health care.
One in five people in Ontario don’t have a family doctor and those who do, often have to wait weeks to get an appointment or are being told to go wait at the already stressed ER. Our current healthcare workers are overworked, with doctors having more patients than they can possibly see, and nurses working more hours than their bodies can handle.
All this without proper mental health accessibility for most of our residents.
What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Guelph? The three things I listed as the main issues, affordability in housing and living, transportation costs and efficiency and finally, our failing healthcare system.
What services need to be improved in Guelph?
Transportation infrastructure, everything from bus routes to bike lanes, and as far as our roadways.
We are growing as a city, whether we like it or not, therefore we need to adequately plan for our transportation infrastructure to grow right along with it, not 10 years later.
We also need to do more as a city to provide the right amount of healthcare resources instead of the inadequate amount we have now.
Is Guelph growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough? I would certainly say as a city, we are not growing our infrastructure to match the pace we are growing in terms of population.
In 2011, Guelph’s population was around the 120,000 mark. In 2016, Guelph’s population was about 131,000, which is roughly a jump of 10,000 residents.
In 2022, some sources are putting us at the 150,000 mark, which means we have grown about 20,000 residents in roughly the same time span. But it often feels like we haven’t done enough to accommodate this growth in our cities infrastructure.
So I don’t know if we are growing too fast, but we certainly aren’t growing our city’s resources fast enough.
What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing? Unfortunately, the main changes need to come from the province. But some of the things we can do here is fast track certain developments, by assigning a city representative to work with major developers to walk them through the clerical processes faster, while at the same time doing away with redundant procedures that don’t line up with our city today, while at the same time making sure all the proper safety and building codes are followed.
Other out of the box ideas we can explore are: property tax incentive cuts that will apply to property used as a rental, where if they can show they are charging at, or below what the city deems is market rent, they can apply for the tax rebate.
Not allowing corporations to own residential homes, and recognizing any individual with more than two rental properties as a corporation.
Guelph can rezone areas for residential use and allow for tiny home development clusters, where the land is priced and taxed in accordance to the size of a tiny home lot.
Finally, if we want to get real ambitious, develop our own land, using local companies and builders instead of selling the land or allowing the province to sell the land at below market value to a developer who will in turn make a massive profit off the homes sold.
What can be done locally about the homelessness issue? This is a question unfortunately all cities across North America seem to struggle with.
One major change I would love to see would be our measurement of success.
Instead of measuring how many people we have in our community who are homeless, we measure how many people we have successfully re-homed and got back into a path of living happily. This doesn’t just mean how many people we have stuffed into a place with heat and a roof, but have helped start the road to recovery for addictions, how many we have successfully started and continue to treat for mental health issues and finally, measuring how many have fallen off this path and we were able to get back on in a timely manner.
This is unfortunately another sector of our city that is overworked and understaffed. We need to do more in providing for our homeless and having more compassion, but not with just words and with actions.
Finally, we need to push the province to come up with a plan to help deal, on a case by case nature, with the individuals who don’t want to enter into one of our systems to help them, because we can’t just keep arresting them or leaving them outside to live.
How do we make Guelph an even better city to live in? I think by addressing these issues, and as residents, realizing that we can’t be perfect overnight, but being incrementally better every week, month and year.
We as residents need to be more active and vocal about the things that matter to them and get involved at every level of opportunity. I’ve seen it on Guelph Facebook pages, where people have come together to help strangers during their times of need and we just need to apply that same focus to our city.
Finally, we just need to be more kind, understanding and patient with each other. At the end of the day, we all want the best Guelph possible.
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