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: Ken Yee Chew
Occupation: I am a municipal urban designer and an alumni of the University of Guelph. I graduated with a bachelor of landscape architecture and a certificate in public policy and administration. I am also an associate member of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects and a pre-candidate member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. On the side, I run my own private photography business and help consult my father’s residential build and design practice.
How long have you lived in Guelph? Born and raised in Richmond, BC, I came to Guelph on my own seven years ago to study at the university. I have since called Guelph home.
Do you reside in the ward you are running in? Yes. I am a proud resident of the Vaughan/Revell neighbourhood.
Why are you running in this election? I am running because Guelph’s growing Ward 6 needs a city councillor with the skills and expertise to address the priorities and concerns of today’s realities. I want people to recognize that Guelph is a thriving city with untapped potential and that it is possible to unite our communities on the issues through creative collaboration and strong consensus leadership.
In recent years, fewer people are identifying with the politicians and institutions that represent them. Just refer to the record-low voter turnout in the last Provincial Election. Municipal elections are not much better. In the last 2018 election, the turnout was at a meagre 35.8 per cent.
This election cycle presents us with an opportunity to fight voter apathy and draw in new voters that do not identify with the current political climate. Together, we will redefine how we move forward on the issues.
I have assembled a team of friends, neighbours, and professionals to develop a strong community-driven platform filled with practical ideas and initiatives for our communities. This election, I want to present Ward 6 with a strong option at the ballot box that voters can be confident with in October.
What qualifies you to represent your ward? Ward 6 needs a City Councillor that reflects the hopes and aspirations of our present time. My education in landscape architecture, experience in multi-disciplinary teams, and international philanthropy has shaped me into a well-rounded person that can represent the diversity of our communities.
Upon graduating, I have worked in various design firms and witnessed the power of the free-market when proactive people come together. My most memorable projects have been working on retail centres, a YMCA, and various elementary schools in Washington State. These experiences have taught me how to coordinate effectively with different stakeholders, preparing me well for public service.
As a municipal urban designer, I have had the privilege of playing a key role in brokering cooperation amongst city staff and departments. With tact and diplomacy, I have been able to forge strong working relationships with many of my colleagues and achieve great results. As a team, we have advanced many successful initiatives to help guide local decision-making, and secure wins, most notably an agreement for a joint school and community centre for the public as a direct beneficiary from development.
Could you imagine our South End Community Centre finally being built? With prudent and decisive action, I can.
Why should people vote for you? An overwhelming number of folks in Ward 6 are looking for a fresh approach to municipal affairs. I will draw in new voters and make city hall more accessible to regular people. By voting for Ken, you are not just checking off an option at the ballot box, rather you are voting for a strong community-driven leader ready to get the job done.
Under the Chew for Guelph Ward 6 campaign, I am motivated by my love for Guelph and the desire to work towards a common vision. I have a committed team that is building organizational capacity in the community to drive our bold initiatives and platform proposals beyond the scope and resources of a traditional Guelph city councillor.
My team and I are strongly guided by humility, integrity, ingenuity and excellence in all that we do. Together, we will work with our neighbourhoods and businesses as equal partners during my term in office.
The choice is clear, a vote for Chew is a vote for creativity that will break down barriers, collaboration that will improve decisions, partnerships that will impact the community, and hope in the future of Guelph.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward? There is an influx of development taking place across Ward 6 and people have rightful concerns. Guelph’s population is growing significantly faster than other Ontario municipalities and half of our city’s growth is taking place in Ward 6. As a design professional, I understand the stresses and concerns residents have with growth, and I want to be a voice for our community at the decision-making table. Since it is the mandate of the city to find ways to absorb gentle densification, we desperately need our businesses and neighbourhoods to come together as key partners during every step of the process.
After speaking with many residents, these are the top priorities in Ward 6:
● City transportation & infrastructure
● Safe neighbourhoods & urban development
● Environmental protection & quality of life
● Employment & affordability
Together, we will address these priorities through a three pillar approach:
● Stronger public representation
● Strategic economic development
● Creative city building and design
Please visit my website at chewforguelph.ca for more on my positions and platform approach.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Guelph on a broader scale? Inflation and Affordability: Property taxes are incessantly going up— 4.21 per cent in 2022 and 5.17 per cent in 2023. We need to ensure that every investment the city makes is sustainable for the long-term because in the end, it all affects the cost of living. Guelph is also no longer a small town but an emerging city with budgets that are becoming more complex. With all that is going on, it is important that we utilize effective tools like the city’s Asset Management program to its fullest potential to measure spending.
The More Homes for Everyone Act: Bill 109 is going to put direct pressure on the city to expedite housing and development. The City will need to evolve its planning practices to sustain public and private confidence. With the tighter timelines, we will need to ensure that the public is equipped to provide valuable feedback so proactive decisions can be made without wasting time.
Public Confidence in our Institutions: As the political landscape evolves, we are challenged with defining the role of local government in the community. As less people engage with current affairs, we need to fight voter apathy and sincerely encourage more citizen participation in municipal affairs.
What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Guelph? We need to fundamentally change the way we see and talk about the issues, especially when it comes to development. Guelph is an amazing city and in Ward 6, we have thriving neighbourhood commercial centres, a large employment area and healthy communities, where children and people of all ages can feel safe on the streets.
It is essential we de-politicize the development process. Residents are not NIMBYs and developers are not evil. We are all equal stakeholders that need to work together. This may sound cliché and idealistic, but we need to sincerely evaluate the ways in which we have conversations.
It will be vital for us to change the public discourse in the next Term of Council in order for council to produce tangible results that benefit the community. This all starts with our elected representatives modelling a willingness to listen, learn and provide next steps.
What services need to be improved in Guelph? Open Government: We need to improve access to city hall and make it easier for people to engage on the issues. Council meeting minutes are long and tedious to review, and public representatives need to be the first to inform constituents on key issues that directly impact the community.
The Development Review Process: The development review has strict timelines mandated under the Planning Act. These timelines are set in place, in part, to expedite the decision-making process for private development. Residents over the years have grown disillusioned by the process and engage when it is too late. This results in unnecessary delays, costs and escalations to the Ontario Land Tribunal. To cut costs, address community concerns and ease the pressure off city staff, I am committed to:
- Working with stakeholders to actively inform the public early on in the review process
- Promoting context sensitive design through planning pre-consultations
- Facilitating meetings with city planners, constituents and developers
Business Improvement Associations (BIA): Currently, Guelph only has one BIA located in the downtown core. Introducing a BIA in Ward 6 will be a foundational first step to help local businesses build partnerships with the community at the grassroots level.
Is Guelph growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough? Guelph, particularly Ward 6, is growing fast. Our city is very attractive to new first-home buyers, students, immigrants and retirees. In Ward 6, the rate of growth has increased over the years, but it can be managed through strategic planning of our resources and city services.
It is the city’s duty to manage growth in a way that respects the community fabric and way of life. It is also important to understand that growth is inevitable, and that nothing ever stays the same as it once was.
The city is a living ecosystem, and we must work together to plan it in a way that allows for new, temporary and long-term residents to thrive.
What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing? While there are external factors that play a key role in the rising cost of housing, at the city, we can better coordinate our zoning in relation to the property tax rates. It is vital that we find creative ways to boost our housing supply, in a smaller footprint, without sprawling outwards.
We need to build properties in the “missing middle," between single-family dwellings and high-rises and make them more affordable. Concurrently, I believe in a context-sensitive approach to development, where we encourage density but also ensure it respects the neighbourhood context. For example, it is not appropriate to build more than six storeys right next to an existing low-lying residential home. However, in areas like Arkell and Gordon, we can be creative when introducing density.
External factors, like the cost of building materials also play a key role in the ultimate listing price of homes for renters and home buyers. As an elected official, I will draw on my design expertise and build relationships with builders to lobby for creative cost savings, where appropriate, without compromising quality. Through pre-consultation with stakeholders, I will work with planning staff and offer support to help expedite the process.
What can be done locally about the homelessness issue? In Guelph and Ward 6, we are fortunate to live in a compassionate community that cares. A practical first step to elevate homelessness is to improve relations with Wellington County on affordable housing and regularly engage the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The city must work more collaboratively with the County on affordable housing and as City Councillor, I want to help decrease wait times for housing.
I am also an advocate for non-profit support for our social services, and I want to improve access and awareness to co-ops, religious institutions and non-profit organizations where we can. Together, we will build organizational capacity in our non-profits and establish strong partnerships for those in need.
How do we make Guelph an even better city to live in? We first need to acknowledge how great it is to live and call Guelph home. This city is a hidden gem in southern Ontario with central access to the Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and the GTA. Guelph also has a rich history and distinct identity that is waiting to be cultivated into a greater story.
We also have a role to play in how we shape Guelph, and it starts by taking environmental protection more seriously. The city inherits a rich network of trails, parks and open spaces that make up the ecological and recreational network. It is a rare privilege to see deer frequent the meadows so close to our urban environment and we must do everything we can to conserve this precious ecosystem for the next generation.
This can be achieved through cost-effective capital improvements, educational programs and intergovernmental regulatory partnerships. Together, we can make Guelph the best place to live for years to come.
Any link to an election website or social media account?
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn: @chewforguelph / @kenyeechew Youtube: @kenyee28