The five people running for city council in Ward 6 got a chance to state what they see as the number one issue in Guelph’s south end Monday night.
The five took part in a town hall meeting Monday night organized by the Terraview Drive community association.
The ward is shaping up to be one of the more interesting battles in the Oct. 22 municipal election, given that one of the incumbents, longtime councillor Karl Wettstein, is not running for reelection and another candidate, Lise Burcher, has dropped out of the race.
That leaves incumbent Mark MacKinnon and four other candidates, all women. The city's other five wards have 10 female candidates combined.
Anshu Khurana said safety and security is the biggest issue, listing the most recent statistics that show crime is on the rise in Guelph.
Mark MacKinnon said there is no one answer to what is the biggest issue because people all have their own opinion of what it is.
“We live in a very blessed ward,” MacKinnon said, pointing to the fact that issues in many wards, such as infrastructure, aren’t really an issue in south Guelph.
“We have to look at all issues and come up with the best balance,” he said.
Stacy Cooper agreed with MacKinnon on the variety of issues, but said that mental health issues in the community are affecting all wards and the city needs to take a “proactive instead of reactive” approach to them.
Usha Arora pointed out the opioid crisis that is “an issue for all of us.”
“We need comprehensive strategies from all stakeholders,” including municipal government, Arora said.
Dominique O’Rourke said that south Guelph faces a big question in “how do we maintain our quality of life as we grow.”
Safety, green spaces, affordability, attracting employment-dense businesses and transportation were all key issues to that question.
Much of the evening was taken up with responses to two important but obvious issues for Ward 6: the building of the new South End Community Centre (everyone would do their best to make sure it is in the city budget) and the city’s growth into the Clair/Maltby area (everyone accepts it, but wants it done responsibly).
There are six people on the ballot for Ward 6 but candidate Lise Burcher has announced she is no longer seeking election.
Because she missed the cutoff date, Burcher’s name will remain on the ballot for the Oct. 22 election.
Khurana, a social worker, said that south end services and jobs for youth are other issues she feels are important as the south end changes.
“The south end is not the same,” Khurana said. “It’s important that whatever we have now we should preserve it … I believe in today, not tomorrow.”
Khurana stressed the need for “responsible steps” when it comes to growth.
O’Rourke, a business owner, pointed out that when she bought her current house in the south end she was told a recreation centre would be coming “soon.”
“Eighteen years later we still don’t have a south end rec centre,” she said.
O’Rourke also believes the Clair/Maltby plans are progressing too fast and that making sure the south end has the infrastructure to keep up with the rate of growth is important.
“First set the vision, because it’s going to help us set the priorities,” O’Rourke said of growth.
Arora, a retired nurse, said she wants to make sure the south end’s voice is heard.
“Residents of Ward 6 are most concerned about growth in the south end and how it fits the vision of our city,” Arora said.
“New residences will put a strain on our infrastructure.”
Cooper, a business owner, is disappointed with the city’s concept plan for Clair/Maltby.
“This is not good if this is what they can come up with,” she said. “We can still create a decent tax base without over-intensification.”
MacKinnon, a business owner and entrepreneur, stressed the need for strong, responsible leadership that makes decisions based on evidence, not emotion.
He touted high-density development that will help pay for the infrastructure needs that growth brings.
“Growth does not pay for growth, except it does when it’s high density,” MacKinnon said.
He said it is important for the city’s to create the right policies that guide future decision making.
“Make sure we make the right policies the first time, then update them as necessary,” MacKinnon said.