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Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce

Questions & Answers

Joanne Ross-Zuj

90 Irvine Street, EloraJoanne Ross Zuj 2014


Political Experience

  • Municipal Councillor 1993-2003
  • Mayor of Centre Wellington 2006-2014
  • Warden for Wellington County 2008-2010
  • Chair of Ontario caucus for Federation of Canadian Municipalities
  • Board member for Grand River Conservation Authority
  • Board member for the Groves Hospital Board
  • Board member for Centre Wellington Hydro
  • Board member or Centre Wellington Communications


  • Undergraduate degrees University of Guelph and University of Toronto
  • Master Degree in Education – University of Toronto


It is an honour to serve this Community and champion my hometown of Centre Wellington.  Our Community has worked together to embrace the many changes necessary for maintaining a high quality of life and managing our growth.

After leaving a very successful teaching career, I committed to a full time opportunity being the Mayor of the Community.  We have seen many changes that are benefiting us now and for generations to follow.

Change requires leadership to manage a smooth transition.  This is not done in isolation but in partnership with so many contributing players.  We have been in a competitive environment for infrastructure dollars and have experience significant success.  Working with The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, an eleven million dollar loan and grant was secured allowing us to move ahead with our waste water treatment plant, a plant that is a state of the art facility utilizing the environmental technology.  Collaborative work with the County of Wellington resulted in a major bridge and road project being completed on Tower Street, thereby enhancing our transportation network and respecting the heritage value of our river.  A partnership with the Grand River Conservation Authority resulted in the restoration of our Drimmie Dam, thus improving our flood management.  Strong leadership and a well-developed network are essential for successful partnerships.

Our municipal corporate structure has completely changed from past practices and my leading our team through this process has resulted in significant savings and greater service delivery to our residents.  Communication is critical, and currently, we are developing more efficient methods for information distribution.  Thirty-eight kilometers of fibre have been installed to bring stable and dependable connectivity to our Community.  A new web site has been created as well as a phone communication system that effectively connects you to the right person to get the information that you need.

As a proud hometown champion, I am seeking your support to continue serving your needs and advancing our infrastructure renewal, managing our growth plan, improving communications and creating economic prosperity.

Business Initiatives

Centre Wellington Council, Mayor and Staff must continually nurture a welcoming environment for business investment.  We are a partner to your success and value all of your efforts and commitment.  As a partner, we are making significant gains in developing strong infrastructure that will accommodate very diverse business investment. Transportation routes, water and wastewater capacity, fibre connectivity, utility savings and adaptation to climate change are all current projects being enhanced in Centre Wellington.

As a strong partner, we connect to and work with all orders of Government and their agencies to assist with the needs for business success.  There is a host of opportunity for education, financial assistance, market expansion and employee training that can be accessed. We are there to make those connections happen for your success.

“Shop Local” needs full community engagement, and we must take an active role in promoting and supporting our local businesses. Working closely with the local BIA committees and the Chamber of Commerce is an essential ingredient for this success.

We must fully engage a strong economic committee composed of citizens, professional staff and council to provide a commitment and support to all businesses.  A  Community Improvement Plan has been developed and must be implemented to provide incentives and encouragement for investing in new and existing businesses.

Our Community is growing and employment opportunities are needed in Centre Wellington.  Attracting new businesses and supporting existing businesses are top priorities that we conscientiously work to strengthen.  A recent business retention and expansion survey has helped us to identify areas that should be addressed, such as utility costs and labour shortages.

It is an honour to serve this Community and champion my hometown, Centre Wellington. Economic prosperity requires us all to work together at building a stronger and more diverse business community in Centre Wellington.


Questions & Answers

Question submitted by Stephen M. from The All Candidates' Meeting on September 25 to Linton and Ross-Zuj

What is your plan to bring employers to Centre Wellington to provide local sustainable jobs?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
The plan to bring employers and sustainable jobs to Centre Wellington is an evolving process with several components currently being implemented and new ideas being developed to address issues in an ever changing economic environment. Currently, the main objectives of the plan are as follows:

  • Continue to implement the action plans developed by the Centre Wellington Economic Development Committee. This committee consists of business members, council members, and associated government agencies that have been tasked to develop an economic improvement agenda for the Township of Centre Wellington.
  • Partnering with other Economic Development committees for county wide initiatives
  • Implementation of the recommendations developed through the Business Retention and Expansion study conducted by the County of Wellington.
  • Continue to improve and develop infrastructure addressing water management, transportation routes, and telecommunication connectivity.
  • Adopt a community improvement program to provide incentives for refurbishing existing structures and provide assistance in the development of sustainable business plans.
  • Connect businesses and industry with other government agencies to develop partnerships for successful business practices.

Question submitted by Marg Green from The All Candidates' Meeting on September 25 to Mayoral Candidates

What changes do you plan to do if you become mayor?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
In a growing community, change is a necessity. The municipal corporate structure has been recently changed resulting in significant savings and improved service delivery. However, other areas still need to be addressed including:

Adopting an energy plan to address conservation and improved efficiencies to reduce costs and reliance on non-renewable resources.
Implementing a comprehensive accessibility plan.
Improving community communication and engagement through website upgrades, phone communication, and information distribution.

Question submitted by Carrie Jenks from The All Candidates' Meeting on September 25 to Ross-Zuj and Watters

The basketball nets and ice rink boards have been missed by our children since they were removed to host Riverfest.  It saddens me to see the basketball nets laying in the grass – tossed to the side, forgotten about.  But, I must say, our youth have not forgotten about them.  They are missed and our youth are no longer playing as they once had in Bissell, our beloved park.  What is the plan?  Is there a plan to put them back up AND how are you going to let the kids know what you are doing to make this up to them?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
It was part of the agreement that Riverfest would be responsible for taking the nets down and replacing them at the end of the event. The managing director of Community Services is working in conjunction with the Riverfest organization to be certain this situation is corrected.

Question from Darlene at The All Candidates' Meeting on October 1 to Joanne Ross-Zuj

When the Fergus Library is finished do you plan on closing the Aboyne Library?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
The County of Wellington owns and operates the library in Aboyne. My position was publically made clear that that Aboyne Library is to remain open. I will continue to support this position at the County and as your mayor will continue to speak to the value that this library brings to our community.

Question from Mike and Bev McMorris at The All Candidates' Meeting on October 1 to Joanne Ross Zuj

Businesses need to plan ahead.  At the recent debate you mentioned a series of plans for Centre Wellington.  Please tell us how Council was involved and how public and professional input was gathered as input to those plans.

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
Council agreed that a number of plans needed to be developed to guide decision making for future growth in Centre Wellington. All of these plans involved professional and public input that was gathered through workshops, public meetings, surveys, technical meetings, phone communications with stakeholders, and direct consultations. It was the role of council members to actively participate in these information gathering activities in order to ensure that the ideas presented were reflected in the final reports. It is with this information that we have produced a Trail Master Plan, Park Master Plan, Safe Drinking Water Plan, Wastewater Management Plan, and most recently the Community Improvement Plan to only name a few. As an indication of the successful implementation of these plans, we have witnessed a new development establishing tails, building parks, and planting trees prior to building the houses.

Question from Silvana Sangiuliano at The All Candidates' Meeting on October 1 to Kelly Linton and Joanne Ross-Zuj

When the Fergus library re-opens, will you be closing the Aboyne library?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
The County of Wellington owns and operates the library in Aboyne. My position was publically made clear that that Aboyne Library is to remain open. I will continue to support this position at the County and as your mayor will continue to speak to the value that this library brings to our community.

Question from Ron Parsons at The All Candidates' Meeting on October 1 to Kelly Linton and Joanne Ross-Zuj

How would you correct the unsustainable  county budgets?  Ie.  The police budget.  Many people wonder how we are paying a three (3) year police (so called veteran) gets (approx) $90,000 yearly.

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
The County of Wellington has recently participated in a provincial review of policing cost. It was evident that a greater fairness in policing cost was needed across the province. The results of a new police financing model are anticipated to be unveiled shortly.

Question from Brent Bouteiller at The All Candidates' Meeting on October 1 to Kelly Linton and Joanne Ross-Zuj

Does Centre Wellington have a Climate Change Resiliency Plan?  If not, will you consider this plan and do you have ideas to include in the plan?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
Currently we do not have a Climate Change Resiliency Plan, but climate change is taken very seriously when addressing new infrastructure projects. There are many examples currently where we have gone beyond minimum standards to address this issue. A Climate Change Resiliency Plan is something that should definitely be included in our future growth plan, and I hope that people like you will actively engage to help us in this process.

Question from Steven Wright, Wrighthaven Homes at The All Candidates' Meeting on October 1 to Mayoral Candidates

Recently in Ward 4 a new home building project was constructed that featured many new technologies and building methods that were consistent with a new type of housing program that sees homes constructed that actually produce and conserve more energy than it uses. In addition it used technology that actually reduces water consumption for flushing of toilets and lawn watering. Seeing that this type of technology and homebuilding is actually less taxing to municipal services would you as Mayor for the Municipality support this type of new home building projects and be willing to support it in the form of tax breaks or an incentive program to help offset costs to homeowners who would be willing to purchase such homes?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
First of all, congratulations on taking on and succeeding with this very ambitious project. MPAC is responsible for the property tax assessment and the municipality is unable to alter this. However, there could be good discussion around the possibility of incentives. We are currently close to adopting a Community Improvement Plan which provides incentives for businesses in the downtown core. The discussion with respect to incentives for housing projects would occur if we were to expand the Community Improvement Plan to include residential properties.  

Question from Fred Hiller at The All Candidates' Meeting on October 1 to Kelly Linton, Joanne Ross-Zuj and Stephen Kitras

What do you forecast for industry in Centre Wellington and what tax relief are we able to provide to enhance industry to locate here?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
Industry requires strong infrastructure and we must send a message that Centre Wellington is open for business. In Centre Wellington we have:

  • improved wastewater capacity
  • an established long term plan for safe drinking water
  • utility upgrades
  • installed fibre optic cable ensuring fast and reliable connectivity
  • housing opportunities for labour forces
  • connections to supporting agencies
  • an established economic development committee

After completing the Business Retention and Expansion survey we discovered that many of our existing business were planning expansions. The survey also indicated areas of improvement and our new Economic Development Committee is working to implement action plans to address these areas where we can improve.

Question from S. Brown at The All Candidates' Meeting on October 1 to All Candidates, except School Board

Micro chip scanner for dogs.  Most dogs have micro chip identification and when I bought my dog licence learned Elora does not have a scanner – why not?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
The Township of Centre Wellington outsources animal control to an outside agency. We have not previously had a discussion regarding a scanner and this will be followed up.

Question from Jeremy Woods, President, Wellington Standard Condominium Corporation No.149 for All Candidates, except School Board

The unit owners and tenants of the Wellington Standard Condominium Corporation No. 149 (The Beckett Centre), at 820 Gartshore Street in Fergus would like to know the candidates’ views of the current Commercial Tax Rates and Classification.  In particular the possible creation of Commercial and/or Industrial Condominium Classifications.  We feel that we are being unfairly taxed – as an example, each of the 26 units are being taxed as if they are stand-alone buildings on their own lots, instead of one building, on one lot, broken into 26 units.  MPAC does allow for this in their assessments, and other municipalities in Ontario have created these additional classes.  By creating these classifications and reducing the overall tax base on these companies, may encourage more of these commercial condo buildings to be built.

Ross-Zuj, Joanne:
Properties in Ontario are assessed at market value by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation on a four year cycle with the next update to occur on January 1, 2016. There are avenues of appeal available to any property owners who feel that their assessments are too high (information is available at With respect to setting a separate class, the Province has delegated this authority to upper tier and single tier municipalities. This means that the County of Wellington is responsible for setting classifications for all properties within the County.

3 Question from Karen Hudson for any wishing to respond  (her 4th question was asked at the meeting on October 1st)

We have roads and bridges in poor repair.  Is there money to repair these, and is it really our money, or are we operating in a deficit?  Is there actually any plan?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
The capital budget for Centre Wellington is $13million. We have 105 bridges with 34 in critical condition and 8 that are closed. Each bridge costs a minimum of $1million to replace. We cannot address all of these deficiencies at one time. We have a 10 year plan that prioritizes our capital projects allowing us to maintain a balanced budget..

What can we do to have influence over the slow progress in the building of a new hospital?  Genuine influence.

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
The Province of Ontario is responsible for building the new hospital. It is imperative that we continue to work with the Ministry of Health to advance the hospital project.

Why did the mayor agree to such an elaborate expansion of the Fergus library?  It needed work, but this is far beyond what is sensible.

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
In the year 2000 the County of Wellington adopted a very ambitious program regarding libraries. They were going to refurbish, renovate or build new library facilities in all seven communities. The Township of Centre Wellington does not own the libraries. The County began construction in 2000 and each year budgeted for each project. The Fergus library was 13th on the list of 14 libraries and it is the most well used library in the County. It was projected to be completed in the year 2014. The library was located on a major storm water outlet that services Fergus. In order for their construction plans to go forward we in the Township needed to update this 70 year old pipe line. The pipeline was destined to be done in the following year but the project was moved up to coordinate with the library construction. The total budget for the Fergus library at the County of Wellington contained 5 million dollars. That does not mean that this is the cost. As of today the actual cost is approximately 3.6 million. The next project is in Palmerston. The library is owned by the County and it is governed by a board of directors composed of councillors from other communities and citizens from Centre Wellington. To address the library at Centre Wellington is out of our sphere of jurisdiction and needs to be directed to the County.

Question from Frederick Schuett, owner One Axe Pursuits for All Mayoral and Township Candidates

What will you do to support small businesses and signage for tourist attractions?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
We are very close to adopting a Community Improvement Plan that will provide incentives for small business and assist them with financial planning. We also need to build upon our partnerships with local BIAs, Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations who partner to champion small business initiatives. We currently have a way finding sign program in Centre Wellington that we will continue to build upon as the budget allows. We welcome all suggestions for improvement in this area that would assist with your business.

Question from Tammy Rutherford for Mayoral and Township Candidates

The Township Of Centre Wellington web page has a Termite Management Area map for both Fergus & Elora, dated May 2012.  There are more than 1300 properties within the boundaries, and there is no doubt the numbers are higher now.  The City of Guelph has a termite management program which was recently presented to the City Of Kitchener in light of the recent termite activity involving just 23 properties.  Do you think our township should adopt a termite management program to prevent the spread of termites?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
Centre Wellington has been actively involved with a termite management strategy for the past three years. We have been engaging top professionals and community member to help us address this serious issue. The Building Department is currently working on a strategic plan for our community and regularly consults council on this topic.

2 Questions from Melanie Cooper, Mosaic Spa for Incumbent Township Councillors

Would you briefly provide us with what you consider to be your top three major achievements during this term of Council?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 

  1. Establishment of a Centre Wellington communications company. With this company we installed 38km of fibre optic cable allowing us to become our own service provider bringing substantial savings to the tax payers. In addition this company will allow the Township to generate revenue bringing further savings to the community.
  2. Securing a $1million grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund and low interest loan for the building of our wastewater treatment plant. This secures capacity for future growth providing clean discharge into the Grand River.
  3. Corporate restructuring. We have reorganized our corporate structure to streamline our operation resulting in greater efficiencies, better service delivery, and significant savings to the tax payer.

What have you brought to council for approval, versus just voting on?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
There are numerous issues, ideas, and initiatives that have been brought forward to council throughout this past term. Many of which are the result of a significant team effort. As your mayor, I have been actively collaborating with these teams bringing their initiatives before council. The list of items that I have personally brought before council is very long. However, the success of all these items at council is the result of a substantial team effort that required numerous hours of preparation and open dialogue with stakeholders.

Follow up question from Jeremy Vink for Joanne Ross-Zuj:

In a response to a previous question you stated that the corporate restructuring has resulted in significant savings and improved service delivery...   Could you explain what savings has resulted?  I thought staffing costs were higher, not lower in 2013 from 2014, and money was spent to renovate the office.   Also what changes were made that improved service delivery?  

Ross-Zuj, Joanne:
Below I have included a list of points which I believe answers your question.

Efficiencies from Re-Organization:

- 2013 staffing costs were lower due to a number of vacant positions on hold until restructuring was approved by Council

- Restructuring included an annual budget saving of $151,500 (2013 dollars) – approx. 1.5% on the tax bill.

- A smaller executive team now meets weekly to manage corporate priorities thereby keeping them on schedule and within budget.

- All Corporate priorities are vetted through the executive team ensuring cross departmental coordination and eliminating duplication of work

- A reduced amount of management staff now attends Council, Committee, & Budget meetings which allows more staff time on operations/services

- There is a reduced number of inter department budget meetings and a clearer focus on setting corporate funding priorities at the executive level

- There is now one stop shopping for development with planning, building, and economic development housed in one centralized location. Previously customers had to access different locations to access these staff. Our Economic Development officer is now the first point of contact for all business development inquiries.

- Cross departmental teams are now working on key priorities, for example, the township website, accessibility, and communications

Office Renovations:

- The Township was originally considering the purchase of additional building space to address work space for staff and accessibility issues. However, this is no longer necessary with the new office renovations thus resulting in substantial savings.

- Accessibility upgrades at the existing administration offices were done in partnership with private contributions.

- Work spaces have been made more efficient for staff to perform their work and centralized shared resources reduce numerous duplications that were present in the in previous office space organization.

- Two new meeting rooms and three additional workspaces for current and future staff were developed.

- The area of the Council Chamber was increased to provide a larger public viewing area.

- New audio visual equipment was installed to provide better viewing and audio for people with disabilities.

- A new telephone system was installed with one central phone number providing access to all services. Previously all township buildings were not inter-connected and required customers to call individual locations, which was confusing and frustrating for our customers.

Working together, these changes in corporate structure and renovations to the Township offices have improved Accessibility, Efficiencies, and Communications.

Questions (2) from Steven Wright, Wrighthaven Homes for Mayoral, Township and County Candidates

Nimby Syndrome:  Not in My Backyard or "NIMBY" is a major concern for builders and developers who are faced with community opposition to important new developments including affordable housing, higher density housing mixed use developments and other housing options that provide choice for everyone.  Do you agree that NIMBY needs to be addressed?  If so by what methods will you address NIMBY attitudes in the community?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
The County of Wellington is responsible for affordable housing in Centre Wellington and areas where this growth will occur in the future have been clearly identified.

Places to grow legislation has increased pressures on planning departments to adhere to new rules and density requirements encouraging intensification in existing residential subdivisions and particularly downtown areas whereby often homes and buildings of heritage value exist.  Quite often these older buildings are in jeopardy as a result of requests to demolish so as maximize density requirements when a developer submits new plans to develop these building consistent with the places to grow legislation.  As a councillor do you feel you have the fortitude to resist pressures of the act and vote to deny the requests to demolish heritage resources?

Ross-Zuj, Joanne: 
We have a process for demolitions in Centre Wellington that must be followed and that is overseen by individuals with professional qualifications. We all feel pressures from many Acts established by our upper orders of government, but they are the law and must be followed. We give very careful consideration to all reports requiring demolition. It is imperative that we continue to work with property owners to salvage what can be salvaged and record any historical significance.


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