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MEET WARD 6 CANDIDATE ... Mark MacKinnon

In their own words, candidates tell us a little bit about themselves and where they stand on the issues
markmackinnon
Mark MacKinnon

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:  Mark MacKinnon

Occupation: Small business owner and entrepreneur

How long have you lived in Guelph? 31 years

Do you reside in the ward you are running in? Yes, of course, for more than 20 years.

Why are you running in this election? I’d welcome the opportunity to continue serving the residents of Guelph once again because the vital effort governing and guiding the city that I began eight years ago is not yet finished. Yes, the city’s finances are solid (even recently upgraded by the S&P credit agency to the highest AAA rating!) and we are well on the path to sustainable infrastructure management after decades of neglect and underfunding by previous councils.

But experience matters as the city pivots to face new inflationary challenges and issues touching upon community inclusion and social well-being. Working closely with council and staff, my years of guidance as the city’s chair of corporate services and chair of public services has contributed to our community’s stability and success – but there is still much work to be done. I remain confident that the skills, passion, and unique perspectives that I bring to council will continue to be a valuable asset over these next four years.

What qualifies you to represent your ward? My scientific and business education and background ensures evidence-based decision making that prioritizes reason and facts over emotion and rhetoric. Furthermore, my 30+ year history in Guelph covers a wide perspective of elements that informs my council governance: I’m a U of G alumnus, I’ve raised two children from birth to adulthood in south Guelph, I’ve served on numerous committees and boards in the community and beyond – and indeed still serve on the Westminster Woods Mutual Use Committee in Ward 6 – and I’ve owned a popular storefront business in the heart of downtown Guelph (The Boardroom game cafe). I am intimately familiar with both the benefits and challenges living in south Guelph and believe I’m the right choice to continue representing and advocating for Ward 6 residents.

Why should people vote for you? With a guaranteed turnover of at least four councillors this term, my eight years of governance experience and foundational knowledge will be more important than ever to the community. I extend my work as a councillor well beyond mere monthly meetings to engage with the community. I maintain an active social media presence with ready availability to connect residents to the city resources and answers. I extensively research issues facing council prior to making decisions, advocate for strong fiscal oversight as our city grows rapidly, focus on municipal issues under Guelph’s control rather than foolishly stumbling into matters overseen by the provincial or federal governments, and champion community initiatives (such as our new more affordable bus pass pilot program) that help those in our city who need assistance.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward? Densification and growth in Ward 6 has long presented challenges to south Guelph residents, especially along the Gordon Street corridor and Clair/Gordon node. This leads to capacity, traffic, and safety concerns that jeopardizes the unity of our community. Growing our city in a responsible way to minimize inconvenience while maximizing availability of housing units – because we all know how difficult and expensive it has become to find a home in Guelph – must be shared amongst all parts of the city and not just in Ward 6. Additionally, constructing Ward 6’s long-awaited South End Community Centre must remain a council priority. City staff is currently working through a new construction management approach to help offset the inflationary pressures of building the SECC, and it’s critical that I continue my advocacy work to ensure the facility gets back on its building schedule as quickly as possible. This important facility must be constructed and opened during this next council term.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Guelph on a broader scale? Undoubtedly, the current inflationary constraints that are impacting all of Canada and much of the world represents the biggest challenge to Guelph’s immediate and long-term future. Although council has made tremendous strides returning the city’s finances to responsible and sustainable levels over these past two terms, maintaining existing and backlogged infrastructure and building new parks, trails, roads, and facilities is becoming increasingly more costly. Council and staff will be faced with difficult choices and will need to re-prioritize where critical capital and operating tax dollars are spent. After all, city residents cannot absorb massive tax increases to offset the anticipated inflationary cost overruns of projects across the city. It’s time to rethink how Guelph is going to thrive and grow under this new inflation.

What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Guelph? Looking at our amazing city from the outside, Guelph is considered an ideal place to live, work, and raise a family; it regularly appears on and tops many “best of" lists across the country and is a significant player in Ontario that “punches above its weight.” But there is much room for improvement, too. Guelph needs to re-engage with those who need the most assistance within community, but the city must exclusively focus on programs and initiatives within the municipal mandate – no more wading into provincial and federal matters. This includes partnering with local non-profits and developers to ensure we encourage affordable and supportive housing options, but also narrowing in on municipal responses to addiction, mental health and homelessness. The city should create even more community opportunities for those experiencing poverty by expanding services and programs to make Guelph a more equitable and inclusive place to live.

What services need to be improved in Guelph? As a Councillor, I’ve heard from numerous Ward 6 residents about what service improvements are important to them. They want better traffic control and lower speeds to increase street safety. To that end, the city has been extensively investing in traffic calming measures and red light cameras, and in the midst of a city-wide reduction in posted speed limits. We are also preparing to widen and improve Gordon Street south of Edinburgh to Lowes, adding a continuous two-way left-turn lane and separated cycling facilities. Residents want better and more frequent snow ploughing and sidewalk clearing during the winter – a costly challenge as climate continues changing, but one that is on Council’s radar to address next term. Residents also want to see enhancements in recreation facilities – and the construction of the new South End Community Centre will go a long way to addressing the deficiency in such spaces, especially in Ward 6. There are dozens of other services that are also important to Guelph residents across the city, and I remain committed to approaching their improvement and funding with an eye on prioritization, affordability, inclusivity, and good management.

Is Guelph growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough? Personally, I would prefer Guelph to slow down its rate of growth because I think the community is poised for success the way it is at its current size. Since the city is designated for massive intensification by the province under the Places to Grow Act, however, Guelph is required to plan for a minimum population of 208,000 by 2051. That’s a lot of new people in a short period of time! The city’s robust Growth Management Strategy will shape Guelph into a people-first community that will attract great residents and businesses from across Canada. 

What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing? I’m a real estate broker, so I’m familiar with the recent housing roller coaster ride.

Council can do very little to affect the market rates directly for housing since we have no control over how much someone will pay for a home. We do have several municipal levers we can use, though, that has a direct impact on a family’s housing affordability. We can increase housing supply by working with developers to onboard new quality units across the city as quickly as feasible.

We can also expand the number of bedrooms permitted in accessory/basement units; currently it’s only two bedrooms, although I believe increasing this to three bedrooms is a better option (unfortunately, council disagreed with my motion). Also, by allowing semi-detached and townhouse homeowners to increase driveway widths to park two vehicles side-by-side (possible under the bylaw review returning to council in 2023), we can make it easier for larger or multi-generational families to live in more affordable houses that still provide the parking amounts they may need (some councillors apparently advocate forcing these families to move into larger and more expansive detached homes instead). Council’s options are limited, but affordability levers do exist.

What can be done locally about the homelessness issue? Unless Guelph takes the unprecedented step of building and operating our own social housing units, our best opportunity to eradicating homelessness in our city is to work with Wellington County Social Services, community partners, non-profits, and upper levels of government on innovative solutions. These groups have the expertise and programs to advance the battle against homelessness in ways that Guelph staff and Council do not. The city can provide some funding towards homelessness initiatives, of course – as we have done with the supportive housing proposals in this previous term – but the larger capital and operational funding envelopes must come from the provincial and federal governments because it’s their responsibility.

How do we make Guelph an even better city to live in? Moving the city forward in a positive and sustainable direction requires not only two great councillors in your ward, but also an entire forward-thinking, evidence-based, 13-member council that governs responsibly and compassionately. Guelph residents should avail themselves of the opportunity to research candidate experience and platforms in the weeks before the election to ensure they are making an informed vote on whom they want to represent them on Council. And after the election, stay engaged with municipal politics by following council agendas, volunteering to serve on various boards and committees, delegating to Council on matters of importance to you, and participating in other civic opportunities in your neighbourhood. Working together, we can maintain Guelph’s enviable position as a place where everyone is welcome and in which everyone wants to live.

Any link to an election website or social media account?

Web: mark4ward6.ca

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @mark4ward6

Facebook: fb.com/mark4ward6

Phone: 519-829-5137