Dan Douma

Saturday, September 2, 2006

1) What is your opinion of the job that council’s done over the past three years?

Council has been largely ineffective over the past three years. We have continued to grow in a sprawling, unsustainable manner, and we have seen tax increases in the double-digits over the course of this council. They have let our composting plant become derelict, and council meetings have degenerated into petty personal attacks and bickering.

The Commercial Policy that council passed is also a disaster. It calls for new retail development to take place in four large nodes in the city, filled with ‘large-format’ (read: big-box stores) retail. If this policy is implemented the results will be disastrous. It will lead to increased traffic and congestion on our roads, and is a very inefficient use of land. We need to re-work our commercial policy, moving to a model of small scale retail distributed throughout the city.

One thing that council has done right is put the Baker Street parking garage project on hold. Building a concrete monolith on prime downtown real-estate would have been a very poor use of that space. My vision for that property includes a central public library branch, along with street level commercial use, and upper story residential use. Extra parking capacity can be added underground. Our downtown should be for used for people, not parking.

In short, there is a lot of room for improvement on the incoming council. We can change our commercial policy, get our composting plant back on-line, improve transit service, change the way we build our cities, and bring back a spirit of civility and cooperation to council. Guelph is a great city with a lot of potential, and we need a fresh council that will help us realize that potential.

2) Why did you decide to run?

I decided to run for council because I have a genuine desire to make Guelph a better place to live. I want Guelph to be the kind of city that other people know as a great place to live, and a shining example of the right way to build and administer a city. Guelph has a unique character that blends a small town sense of community and friendliness with a big-city cultural scene. I do not want to see Guelph become like many other Southern Ontario cities; a faceless expanse of subdivisions, strip malls and big-box stores. Guelph is a great place to live, but we can make it even better.

3) The Guelph Civic League has highlighted four issues for the consideration of voting students. Please comment on the following:

a) What is your position on the proposed pipeline from Lake Erie to Guelph?

I do not think that a Lake Erie pipeline is a viable option for Guelph’s long-term water needs. Canadians are the least efficient users of water worldwide, so conservation should be our first step in addressing our water needs. After that we can look into cleaning up existing contaminated wells, adding new wells, and increasing our water storage capacity.

b) How will you address issues of development in the city and what is your plan for the continued growth of Guelph?

We can not continue to develop in the same way we have been over the last 5+ years. Low-density residential sprawl is the worst form of development, and we need to put a stop to it. We need to develop according to the tenets of what is commonly referred to as ‘new urbanism’. This means higher-density, mixed use developments that incorporate bike lanes and walking trails. The goal is to have high enough densities to support public transit and local retail options, while ensuring good design that fosters a sense of community.

Regardless of what we want, Guelph is going to continue growing. The province has mandated this in its Places to Grow legislation. Council’s job will be to ensure that this growth occurs in a way that is best for the people of Guelph, not in the way that is best for the development industry in Guelph.

c) If you are elected to council do you intend to lend your support to the continuation of the student bus pass?

I am a strong supporter of the student bus pass program. I took great advantage of this program while I was a student, and I think we should look into expanding the program by offering other large institutions and employers in our city the opportunity to participate.

d) The GCL is concerned about the size and number of bike lanes on Guelph roads, will you push for greater bike access?

Definitely; I think we need to do everything we can to encourage people to get out of their cars and seek alternate transportation. Expanding and improving our bike lane network is an important part of this strategy. Our current network is a haphazard mish-mash of unconnected lanes. We need a city-wide master plan for a well-connected, continuous bike lane network. And it doesn’t have to cost the city a lot of money either. Once we have a plan in place, we can add to our network every time we start a new road resurfacing/painting project, and incorporate additional bike lanes into our regular road maintenance plans.

4) Is there another issue(s) that you think voters should be aware of when considering their choices at the ballet box?

One other issue that has come up numerous times during my campaign is our lack of a pesticide and herbicide control by-law. A draft by-law was brought before the previous council, but they effectively shelved it. The negative health impacts of pesticides and herbicides have been well-documented. For a city that relies on groundwater, it is ludicrous that we don’t have a by-law controlling the release of these toxins into our ecosystems. We need an effective pesticide control by-law that will protect the health of the citizens of Guelph.
This issue is a bit of a political hot-potato, and I already have one message in my e-mail inbox exhorting me to stop any pesticide related by-law, but I am strongly in favor of strictly regulating the use of all cosmetic pesticide and herbicides, and eventually phasing out their use entirely. I am a landscaper myself, and refuse to apply any toxic herbicides and pesticides. There will be strong lobbying by lawn-care companies against any such by-law, but with willingness to change and a little creativity, we can easily find non-toxic ways to maintain the health of our lawns and other plant life.

5) What’s you final message to U of G students?

It has only been a few years since I graduated from U of G myself, so I like to think I understand the concerns of University students. I would encourage everyone to go out and vote in the upcoming election elections (Yes, even if you don’t vote for me… ) because the only way most politicians will listen to your concerns are if they think they could get your vote. Voter turnout among the student population has been very low in recent elections, which leads most politicians to conclude that they can safely ignore your concerns and still get elected.

Students make up a significant portion of Guelph’s population, but have little to no representation in municipal government. If you cast your vote for me, I will make sure that your voice is heard.

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