Chamber of Commerce – Candidate Questionnaire – Leanne Piper

Chamber of Commerce Candidate Questionnaire

  1. Question:

Ignoring the current traffic problems caused by the construction, do you feel Guelph is on the right track with its current transportation plan (The Hanlon, Grid System, Public Transit and the new transportation Hub)?

Answer:   Yes.  There are improvements to be made in design and implementation, but the overall direction has solid reasoning behind it.  Multi-modal transportation is essential – bus, train, automobile, bicycle, etc. – in an age of business expediency, commuting, peak oil, and attracting new jobs to the city.

  1. Question:

The current property tax assessment is 84% residential and 16% industrial/commercial, what ratio would you like to see? What strategies should the city employ to reach the ideal ration of property tax assessment?

Answer:   75:25 is realistic and achievable.  Residents would like to see it lower, but we must shift to a ratio that reflects the services provided.   The only way to change the ratio is to attract more ICI businesses to Guelph, not to stop residential growth.  The first step is to ensure we have serviced land available.  We are doing that now, with the Hanlon Creek Business Park, the future Guelph Innovation District and our Brownfield Incentive Plan.   The second step is to provide dependable energy systems, infrastructure and a high quality of life to new and existing business so they are attracted to build or expand in our city.  The Community Energy Initiative is a key part of this strategy, as is our Water Supply Master Plan and Transit Growth Strategy.  We are well on our way – and I am optimistic that another four years will yield the fruit we have planted over the past term.

  1. Question:

What is your tourism vision for the city?

Answer:   Arts, culture, heritage, agri-tourism, food, music.  We have so much to offer, but need to place ourselves apart from other communities.  Let’s capitalize on what we already do best – music festivals, food, heritage.   We have the events in place, let’s expand.  For example, Doors Open brings up to 4,000 visitors every year – but it’s only one day long, so we should create a 3 day event program around it.

Agri-tourism is a booming sector.  We have the university, businesses and facilities to host major events – horse shows, dairy festival, etc.    It would be quite something to bring people into town by making better use of the Guelph Junction Express, as a mode of transportation from in and out of town, but also as a featured experience.   Also, Guelph has a thriving brewing and micro-brewery sector.   Similar to Niagara’s wine tourism, there is value in Guelph poising itself as the centre of brewing and malting in Ontario – revitalizing the “Ale Trail” program.  Create a museum of Canadian Brewing and Malting.  Partnerships with existing private tourism assets (such as Guelph Junction, Sleemans, Wellington Brewery, F&M, etc. ) will make this possible.

  1. Question:

How will you advance your own political agenda in a timely fashion while, at the same time, working with a variety of interest groups?

Answer:  In the first six months of any new Council, it is imperative to create, or reaffirm, a Strategic Plan and most important, to identify the actions and resources required to make it happen.  Then stick to the plan, making adjustments as new information or conditions arise.   The Strategic Plan is only valid if created in collaboration with business, residents and all stakeholders at the table.

  1. Question:

Do you support the directions of the “Prosperity 2020” report? Please explain.

Answer:  Yes.  We are implementing it now and seeing results.  Lessons learned from the past can only help us to improve in the future.  We need to get on with it quickly, as seeds sowed today often take years to yield visible benefits.

ECHO Weekly – Candidate Questionnaire – Leanne Piper

ECHO Weekly Candidate Questionnaire

1) Why did you want to run again for city council?

Guelph is on a forward momentum path.  We are poised to be national leaders on a number of fronts – water conservation, wastewater, community energy, economic development, arts and culture, and more.   We need strong leaders at City Hall to keep us on that path.  I want to look back in 25 years and know that I did everything in my power to ensure Guelph’s sustainability and prepare us for the next generation.  A number of key projects are well-underway that I would like to see completed, such as downtown renewal, urban forest management plan, and urban design policies.

2) What initiatives/achievements are you proud of during the last term?

The Community Energy Initiative, Water Supply Master Plan, Water Conservation Plan and Culture and Recreation Master Plan are just a few.  We also cemented GO trains coming to Guelph, brought new green jobs (Canadian Solar) to town, and weathered a very challenging recession.   In addition, we brought in significant infrastructure money and are working to complete five years worth of badly-needed upgrades in one year.   The Market Square and Guelph Civic Museum project are key investments in quality of life for residents and I can’t wait until they are both open next year.

3) Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues?

a) Taxes

Taxes are inevitable.  They pay for the basis services that keep our city humming (roads, snow ploughs, parks, police, fire, ambulance, waste management, etc.).  But taxes also pay for amenities that impact our quality of life – arts, recreation, heritage, etc.  The challenge is to invest wisely and find efficiencies that benefit the community the most.

b) Budget

Lower debt, stronger reserves, transparent accounting, and timely reporting.  The current council has made major change to the way we administer the budget, debt and reserves with new policies in place to ensure our AA credit rating is on solid ground.

c) Transit

On time, on budget, increased ridership, friendly staff, improved technology and better inter-modal linkage.  The Transit Growth Strategy speaks to all of these key issues and I strongly support the growth and efficiency of our system.   The new transit hub on Carden Street will make linkages easier and more pleasant for riders.  My family of young adults (high school and university) and myself are transit users, and know the importance of a dependable system (including holidays).

d) Development/Infrastructure

Guelph’s growth cannot be the same old form.  Densification makes better use of existing infrastructure and creates a vibrant core.  But it cannot be out of scale or character, and requires careful planning, strong urban design policy and creative and innovative partnerships with architects and developers who are willing to make Guelph different than other cities.  As we grow, we must protect green spaces, revitalize our river corridors, preserve heritage, create a new public realm (such as Market Square) and protect agricultural lands.

e) Arts & Culture

Guelph is a hub of creative talent – arts, culture, music, heritage, etc.  We have recently created a partnership with Artscape to explore and expand opportunities for artists of all genres to collaborate, create, perform and exhibit.   We need a new visual and performing arts space for this to happen.   Our cultural assets, including libraries and museums,  help to attract new business and economic activity.

5) What’s your message for voters?

Get out and vote.  Be informed about the candidates and cast your vote according to your vision for Guelph.

Guelph Wellington Seniors Association – Candidate Questionnaire – Leanne Piper

Guelph Wellington Seniors Association

1. What issues do seniors in your Ward have?

Seniors in Ward 5 face the same issues that many wards have. Seniors contribute substantially to our community – as volunteers, neighbours, mentors, and as customers of our many facilities, such as recreation centres, libraries, museums, parks, trails, etc., as well as our economic prosperity.

Accessibility
Our facilities, roadways, parks, trails, sidewalks and city buildings must be accessible to all.

Transit
Dependable, friendly, economical and flexible public transit means that seniors have the ability to travel around the city safely and efficiently. Whether it be by conventional bus or mobility transit, seniors are more likely to remain active and healthy when access to transportation is not a barrier.

Quality of Life
The demographic shift to a greater proportion of “boomers” has resulted in the need for increased active lifestyle opportunities for seniors – recreational facilities, programming, cultural venues and outdoor spaces. We need more opportunities for seniors in Ward 5 -– programs, services and supports – an “Evergreen” South would be ideal.

Aging in Place
Healthy neighbourhoods include seniors who are able to stay in their homes as long as possible. We need to insure that, as we grow and increase density of housing, that we maintain mixed use neighbourhoods where seniors can stay in their current home, downsize, or use their home as rental income, so that they can continue to enjoy their established neighbourhood.

At the same time, we need to plan for additional seniors housing, affordable housing, and lifestyle retirement living.

Ward 5 is very fortunate to be home to the “Village by the Arboretum” where a large population of seniors can enjoy a community focused on their needs. Small pockets of this type of housing form in other areas of Ward 5 can extend the benefit of senior-focused development.

Affordablity
Taxes are an ever-increasing burden for seniors, especially those without employment pensions. It is incumbent on city council to ensure that taxes are spent wisely and benefit the greatest number of citizens. We also must promote and maintain tax payment alternatives (such as payment deferment option currently available) for seniors who are financially burdened. Council must also encourage the development of more affordable housing options for seniors (such as the St. Joseph’s development).

2. Do you subscribe to the “Essential Features” of an “Age Friendly City” as set out by the WHO?

Yes, wholeheartedly. An “Age Friendly City” is of benefit to all citizens. After all, not one of us is getting any younger! Investments made today to make our city more age-friendly will serve to benefit future generations.

Leanne Piper
Ward 5 Candidate

Phone: 519-824-9000
Email: campaign@leannepiper.ca
Website: leannepiper.ca
Facebook: Re-Elect Leanne Piper Ward 5 Guelph

Property Rights – Yours, Mine and Ours

Several years ago, when I was a Community Editorial Board columnist with the Guelph Mercury, I published a column examining the issue of property rights. The column was in the context of property owners having the right to demolish heritage buildings.   How do we define the line that is crossed when individual rights and the public good are in conflict?

The discussion is relevant again in the context of a proposed tree by-law in the City of Guelph, so I will repost some of the original column here.

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“It’s no accident that private property rights are not part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Such rights were specifically rejected by the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution because the exercise of those rights could interfere with, or be found in opposition to, the public interest.

Section 7 of the Charter, gives us the “right to life, liberty and security of the person”. The Charter protects freedom of religion, free speech, freedom of movement, and many other freedoms that relate to Canadian values. We have the right to own property and the right to enjoyment of that property.  But when it comes to  rights related to property ownership – there is no “right to profit” or “right to do anything I want”.

Let’s be fair, as a property owner, I do want some rights. But so does my neighbour.  He has a right to enjoyment of his property – he can build a fence, create a garden, sit on his deck, build a pool and a whole lot of other things that I may or may not like. The limitations of those rights are set out very clearly in established zoning and property standards by-laws. I have those same rights, as does every property owner in the city.

If my neighbours property rights infringe on my property rights, we have a problem. If my neighbours pursuit of enjoyment of his property is a risk to public safety or health , we also have a problem. That’s where community standards and public interest come in. Public interest must always trump private benefit.

How do we judge what is in the public interest? Thankfully, we have very clear documents and by-laws about what our community values are to help us assess what is in the public interest. We have our Strategic Plan and another nifty little document called the Official Plan. It is very much like the City of Guelph Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s filled with really strong statements about what our community values. According to the Official Plan, we value environmental stewardship, heritage protection, high-quality architecture, cultural and social diversity and strong neighbourhood character.

Protection of private property rights is not mentioned as a community objective in the Official Plan.  Nor should it be.  It’s not in the Strategic Plan either.

Since when is it the role of a municipal councillor to advocate for private property rights? It should be the complete opposite. The purpose of municipal government is to make decisions based on community values and public interest. The Council Code of Ethics specifically states that members of Council must “recognize that the chief function of municipal government at all times is to serve the best interests of all the people.”

Protection of property rights – for individuals or corporations – should therefore not be part of the debating vocabulary of any city councillor.

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The intent of the tree by-law is to preserve the urban canopy for the greater public interest — air quality, soil erosion, energy conservation, decreased urban “heat island” effect, wildlife habitat, quality of life, aesthetics, etc.  If we collectively agree there is good reason to have a healthy urban forest, then we collectively bear responsibility to preserve it.

No Jefferson Salamander on Hanlon Creek Busines Park Lands

CITY OF GUELPH NEWS RELEASE

Salamander monitoring finds no Jefferson Salamander presence on Hanlon Creek Business Park lands

GUELPH, ON, May 10, 2010 – Results of the recently completed salamander monitoring program indicate no Jefferson Salamander presence within the Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP) lands.

Natural Resource Solutions Inc. completed a comprehensive salamander monitoring program at the site between March 11 and April 30, on behalf of the City of Guelph, Belmont Equity (HCBP) Holdings Ltd. and Guelph Land Holdings Ltd. The monitoring program was developed in consultation with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) Guelph District Office, City staff and Dr. Jim Bogart, Chair of the Jefferson Salamander Recovery Team.

The monitoring program included 5.5 kilometres of drift fencing, 122 minnow traps and 611 pitfall traps to monitor location and direction of salamander movement to and from potential breeding grounds. The monitoring program was undertaken during peak salamander breeding season when salamanders begin emerging from their overwintering sites and migrating to breeding ponds.

Thirteen salamanders were captured and sampled during the monitoring program. DNA extraction and analysis was then performed at the University of Guelph by Dr. Bogart. In all cases, the DNA analysis found no presence of pure Jefferson salamanders or Jefferson-dominated polyploids (Jefferson-dominated unisexuals).

“In consultation with Dr. Jim Bogart and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, we have concluded that there is no Jefferson Salamander presence on the Hanlon Creek Business Park lands,” stated Mayor Karen Farbridge. “We will move forward with our plans to service and develop these important employment lands and grow jobs in our community while ensuring excellence in environmental protection and restoration. In Guelph, sustainability and prosperity go hand in hand.”

On May 7, 2010 the City received confirmation from the MNR, Guelph District that the 2010 salamander monitoring program was rigorous enough to ascertain the presence of Jefferson Salamanders on the site. Based on the results of the program, the MNR, Guelph District also stated that there are no requirements for authorizations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the HCBP and that no agreement or permit under the ESA is required to proceed with development of the business park.

The City will be moving forward with the development of the HCBP subdivision as approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in November 2006. The 2010 salamander monitoring program has provided additional information on the location and movement of other amphibians within the HCBP subdivision. This additional information will be used to consider design refinements and to undertake measures for wildlife protection during construction activities.

Statement from Mayor Farbridge Re: Arbitration Outcome

Statement from the Office of Mayor Karen Farbridge
GUELPH, ON, January 26, 2010

Earlier today the City and the County received Arbitrator Colbourne’s decision relating to the apportionment of prescribed costs for Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program, child care, social housing, and land ambulance between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington.

Arbitrator Colbourne has ruled the method for apportioning costs for Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program will be based on the residence of recipients, which is how costs are currently apportioned; the method for apportioning child care costs will be based on the residence of recipients for fee subsidy and special needs resourcing, and based on the location of the centre for wage subsidy, which is how costs are currently apportioned; the method for apportioning costs for social housing will be based on the prior residence of tenants, a departure from the current 75/25 split; and the method for apportioning land ambulance average call cost will be based on location of calls for four call codes, another departure from the current method of splitting costs based on population.

We are disappointed with the decision.  While we need time to understand the full implications, at this time the ruling raises more questions than answers.

With respect to accountability and transparency for Guelph taxpayers, our concern is the situation is now worse; it’s not premature to say this will be a key task for Guelph’s new social services committee, the striking of which was approved by City Council last night.

Some of the points in the ruling are in contradiction with the recent findings of the Auditor General, as outlined in his December 2009 annual report—an obvious point of concern.

With respect to land ambulance, we do not understand why Guelph/Wellington has now become the only region in Ontario that shares costs based on location of call, which will increase administrative costs for both the City and the County.

While the City is disappointed with the decision, we feel the process has revealed important information with respect to the breakdown of discretionary versus mandatory services provided by the County, and how Guelph taxpayers’ money is spent.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Mayor Karen Farbridge
E karen.farbridge@guelph.ca

Yes, I support the Hanlon Creek Business Park

A friend asked me last week why members of Council have been “silent” on the Hanlon Creek Business Park issue. I suppose I never thought that I was being silent — because Council unanimously endorsed the project. Our collective position is very clear.

The recent events (most notably the on-site protest, injunction, Minister’s approval and the decision to resume work next year) have been widely reported in the media. No one from the media has ever contacted me, or any other member of council that I am aware of, other than the Mayor. The Mayor has the support of Council on moving forward with the HCBP, as evidenced by the vote to approve the site plan.

We are not moving forward blindly. This is a well-planned project that has been through years of extensive consultation and a thorough public process, resulting in environmental conditions that will protect and enhance the land. I attended the public meeting of LIMITS, including a second meeting where I was the only councillor in attendance, and have become well-read on Jefferson Salamander breeding habitat, among other things. I have also walked the site and am familiar with its natural heritage, beauty and features. I am deeply committed to protecting our environment, water sources, public health, trees, air quality, etc.

My support of the HCBP is not in conflict with these values. I truly believe this project is different. I believe this project balances the environment, economy and social/cultural fabric of our community. I do not believe the Jefferson Salamander is compromised by this project, nor the old growth forest or wetlands that protect our water supply. Land uses will be limited to those that do not pose a risk to the site. Significant wetlands and old growth forest areas are not being paved over. This is not a typical “industrial park” that you may think of in other parts of the city. Great care has been taken, and will be taken, to ensure the development meets the goals of the Community Energy Plan. A significant portion of the site has been farmed for the past century. The finished development will have more trees than the current site.

I am hopeful the project will move ahead successfully when work resumes in 2010. When it comes to protecting the natural heritage of our city as a whole, there are still areas that need protection and require public participation and diligence. The city has developed a Natural Heritage Strategy that will unfold over the next year. I encourage members of the community (including HCBP protestors) to participate in the democratic public process related to the NHS.

Sidewalks are For Walking

I’ve been asked by several constituents about my lone vote against residential sidewalk clearing last Monday evening…

I support the city clearing arterial road sidewalks, bus stops, central business district sidewalks and public facilities.  However, I believe residential side streets should be eliminated from the 2010 budget (not this year).  I also support an assistance program for residents who are not physically able to clear sidewalks.

My reasons for supporting the discontinuation of residential sidewalk clearing are as follows:

1.  The quality of sidewalk clearing is not adequate to make the sidewalks walkable.  The current ploughs leave a compacted layer of snow and ice, which is more dangerous to walk on than a sidewalk that has been cleared by residents with a snow shovel or snow blower.  If our goal is to keep our city walkable, we need residents to play a role.   Last year, most pedestrians (including mail carriers and school children) walked on the road, because the sidewalks were not walkable.

2.  Sidewalk ploughs currently dispatched to clear residential streets are not able to meet the established turnaround time for clearing snow.  These same ploughs can be reassigned to clear arterial roads and bus stops faster.

3.  Phase 2 of the Sidewalk Winter Control report will examine new and improved ways to increase the quality of residential sidewalk clearing, ie. using snow blowers vs. mechanical ploughs.  The report states that the use of snow blowers takes a lot more time and resources = the cost will go up dramatically!

4.  50% of residents surveyed (as part of the service review process) indicated they would be willing to clear their own sidewalks, which means we, as a community, can really make a difference.

5.  We are one of three municipalities left in Ontario that still clear residential side streets.  We need to ask ourselves, as we move forward as a growing municipality, if this is a service that is worth continuing, given rising fuel prices and increased development.  Are we creating an expectation that we will deliver a service that is not sustainable?

In the end, I respect the democratic process and the collective voice of Council. The vote passed 11-1 to continue residential sidewalk clearing and therefore, I respect the decision of Council.   We will now move forward with Phase 2 of the service review — to find efficiencies and improvements in delivery of the service.

LP

Mayor Delivers Annual State of the City Address

Mayor Farbridge delivered her annual State of the City address to the Guelph Chamber of Commerce this morning, where she received a standing ovation following her presentation.

The Mayor focused on key achievements within the Strategic Plan, as well as the principles of good governance that Council follows in order to achieve our goals.

The Mayor’s State of the City address presentation is available online at:

http://guelph.ca/cityhall.cfm?subCatID=1835&smocid=2411

LP

Guelph Hydro Business Case BDR Review Summary Available

Findings of GHESIHorizon business case analysis made available

GUELPH, ON, September 19, 2008 – The City of Guelph has received agreement from BDR to allow it to release a summary of its analysis of a business case concerning the proposed merger between Guelph Hydro Electric System Inc. (GHESI) and Horizon Utilities Corp (H.U.C.).

BDR is the consulting firm retained to conduct an expert, independent peer review of the GHESIHorizon business case and accompanying analysis performed by Deloitte.

BDR’s conclusion after thorough analysis is that the business case is fair and reasonable from a financial point of view.

A summary of BDR’s findings are available at guelph.ca.

Click to access Guelph-Final-Presentation-single-electric.pdf