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MEET WARD 6 CANDIDATE ... Dominique O'Rourke

In their own words, candidates tell us a little bit about themselves and where they stand on the issues
Dominique O'Rourke

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:  Dominique O’Rourke

Occupation: City Councillor, public affairs consultant, PR instructor 

How long have you lived in Guelph? I moved to Guelph in 1997 to work as a PR specialist for The Co-operators. 

Do you reside in the ward you are running in? Absolutely. I’ve been a Ward 6 resident for 22 years.

Why are you running in this election? This next term of council is going to be very challenging with ongoing growth, inflation and many large projects on the horizon. I want to use my experience from the first term to help move critical projects forward while being focused and budget conscious. I voted against the last city budget because council refused to prioritize. 

I’ve been an effective voice for Ward 6 on infrastructure, road safety, transit in the Hanlon Business Park and on many development applications; but there’s more to do. I want to ensure council understands how decisions impact Ward 6 residents. For example, the zoning bylaw review wants to reduce parking minimums for new apartment buildings city-wide and more so in the intensification corridor. Given intensification along Gordon Street and existing overflow parking in neighbourhoods, I don’t support that. I want policies that serve our needs today and can be adapted in the future. 

It’s been an honour to represent Ward 6 residents, I’m asking them to re-elect me to tackle the important prioritization and policy work that’s ahead of us. 

What qualifies you to represent your ward? I’ve been a resident of Ward 6 for 22 years. I’ve worked in the private, public and non-profit organizations and volunteered extensively in Guelph. I have now served as a councillor of four years and was the chair of infrastructure, development and enterprise during for two years. I served on the board of trustees for the Elliott as well as their Finance and audit committee for four years. I’m also vice-chair of the board of a provincial agency, and chair of their finance and audit committee. I have an economics degree and an MA in leadership. 

I’m very familiar with Ward 6 and city issues and have been a fierce advocate for residents. I vastly improved communications with 50 monthly newsletters, a social media presence and more frequent town halls. As a former lobbyist, I’m an excellent advocate for Ward 6 and the city with other levels of government. I’ve shown that I work very hard to understand the issues and their impacts and to help the people in my ward. 

Why should people vote for you? I’m passionate about serving the residents of Ward 6 and developing good public policy for the city. Over the past four years, I greatly improved communication with residents, helped them navigate city services, brought their concerns to Council, and I am accountable. In fact, lists the goals I set in the last campaign and describes how I delivered. This next Council will have many new faces which is great. At the same time, we also need experienced and effective councillors. 

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward? Four major issues in my ward are: affordability, the challenges of intensification; traffic and road safety; and finally building the South End Community Centre. 

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Guelph on a broader scale? In terms of municipal issues, the overall cost of living is top of mind for most families. People are very concerned about the cost and supply of housing and, at the same time, about the impacts of growth. Business owners are concerned about recovery after two difficult years. Of course, there’s also widespread concern about climate change and adaptation.

Broader issues include the state of health care including the availability of family doctors, mental health and addictions, and homelessness.

What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Guelph? At city council, I’d like to see a greater focus on clear priorities, on efficiencies and on affordability. I’ve answered what I’d like to see changed in Guelph more broadly in the following questions.

What services need to be improved in Guelph? There are solid plans and budgets in place to greatly improve transit over the next ten years. The South End Community Centre is needed to meet the recreation needs of a growing city.

City administration needs to improve its systems to help residents contact the city, know they’re at the right place, identify a concern and track the resolution. We need a better interface as well as a more efficient “back end” that streamlines processes to deliver better service and to provide actionable data.

Also, although these are provincial responsibilities, Guelph desperately needs a hospital expansion and much more support for mental health and addictions. We also need a comprehensive response to homelessness. I am pleased the province has allocated 189 new long-term care beds in the city. It won’t be enough for the long-term needs of our growing city but these are the first new beds since 2008.

Is Guelph growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough? The fact is, speed of growth is not up to us. The province sets our population targets and the city is required to plan to accommodate that growth. Currently, Guelph’s average growth is higher than provincial and national averages. That’s driven by demand, not by provincial targets. If we tried to slow growth, housing prices would go up due to scarcity – which makes our housing affordability problems even worse. So, it’s not an option. Frankly, we benefit when new neighbours bring new talent and a growing assessment base to the city. 

Still, rapid growth presents major challenges. First, growth in the city is not equally balanced, so while many residents are feeling the brunt of intensification, traffic and overflow, others may barely notice a change. Second, development charges don’t fully cover the cost of infrastructure to serve a growing population so there are new costs, especially when there is a benefit to the existing community. Finally, a greater challenge is that the province sets the population targets but doesn’t increase key provincial services like health care to serve that growing population – in that sense growth is outpacing critical services which is troubling. 

What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing? Supply is part of the solution to address the rising cost of housing. We should start to see the impact of policy changes for additional residential units – basement apartments, coach houses and tiny homes, passed by this council. The next term of council will likely remove exclusionary zoning to allow triplexes where previously only single detached homes were allowed. This will increase infill with low impact to surrounding communities. Zoning bylaw changes will also increase maximum heights downtown. Council can consider incentives for truly affordable, purpose-built rental which is desperately needed. I’d also like to explore a vacancy tax on residential properties. 

Builders can conform to the existing zoning and not have to come to council at all. They can proceed faster once their application is approved. They can choose to include affordable – ideally accessible – units in larger developments. They can even work with Wellington County, the city’s affordable housing service provider, to access funding for new construction of affordable units.

I’d like to explore how we can help churches and other organizations with large properties add a few affordable smaller housing units or how we can better support co-op housing. 

What can be done locally about the homelessness issue? Homelessness needs a broad community response. This term of council approved three permanent supportive housing projects to reduce the by-name list by 50 per cent. More than $2.6M was allocated to these projects from the Affordable Housing Reserve and an additional $500,000 from that reserve was allocated to match community donations in the local Home for Good campaign. These are in addition to the annual transfer from the city to Wellington County, our provincially designated service provider for social services. In 2022, that transfer was $23.5 million. The city is working with the county to better understand and address homelessness. Together, we are also advocating to other levels of government capital and operational funding, and more support for mental health and addictions.

We know many businesses, organizations and individuals are also helping address homelessness. For example, Skyline donated the land for the new Kindle supportive housing project. That’s amazing. The United Way and the Guelph Community Foundation have also launched a $5M fundraising campaign to support permanent supportive housing. Please visit and donate if you can.

While these initiatives are wonderful, I’m also very concerned about all the people who are on the cusp of homelessness, who are precariously housed or who are on the waiting list for affordable housing. That’s the bigger question we haven’t begun to tackle.

How do we make Guelph an even better city to live in? Objectively we’re already a great place to live. We have a strong and diverse economy with very low unemployment. While we can always to more, we are a recognized leader in climate initiatives. We are leading in the circular food economy. We have an excellent trail system. We are often on lists of best places to live or invest. While it may sound too easy, one way to make Guelph an even better city to live in is simply to value and use more fully what we already have as a city: parks, trails, entertainment, restaurants, recreation, sporting events, markets, festivals, etc. and to celebrate all parts of the city. We can also ensure all those spaces are more inclusive and accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

We also need to focus on ongoing economic development. A thriving local economy attracts top talent and innovation. Local jobs increase the probability people will use transit or active transportation for at least some of their trips. Local businesses contribute to tax revenues, support community organizations and sponsor the teams, festivals and events we love so much.

Any link to an election website or social media account?
ElectOrourke on Twitter and FB
Orourkeward6 on Instagram, FB and Twitter


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